MATRITVA- Defining Motherhood Again: A Short Story by Megha S. Gupta

"Over the years we all have realised one fact of the matter that our mothers are the strongest women and our only fuel which makes us take the leap from possible to impossible. To describe a mother would be to write a hurricane in its perfect power or the formation of aurora.

But one fact we always don't see is; what about the mothers, doesn't she also require some assurance, some pure love, some support both physically and emotionally, some care, some space. We always presume that when a woman is entering into the maternal phase, it's a boon for her. As a matter of fact it is but without love, support, care, empathy and help, it's a nightmare for her.

Today I am going to narrate an incident through which for the first time I understood that the boon of motherhood converts to the bane of Postpartum anxiety and depression without love, care and support which she requires. 

15 percent of Postpartum Mothers suffer from anxiety which can worsen into depression, & very few folks even know this because we never talk about it but unfortunately it has always been the elephant in the room.

10 months back

I had this sharp shooting pain in my lower abdomen area for quite a few days so the attending physician advised me to take an USG examination. On the scheduled day, I reached the hospital for the examination. After taking the token number for the test, I sat in the general waiting area which was filled up with all types of patients. I don't know why I have this weird habit of observing people. In the waiting area there were lots of people but out of the crowd there was a lady which caught my eye, she was in her mid thirties, pale face maybe due to anaemia, dull eyes, huge dark circles makes lack of sleep evident, looking haggard maybe due to exhaustion which can be easily appreciated because she was holding maybe about 3 month old neonate. 

Beside her there was a pregnant lady who was holding a pregnancy book and earphones tucked and on her other side seat was empty but lady aside it is kind of guarding that seat which seemed hilarious to me. 

Suddenly the voice of a nurse boomed in the room calling for someone's token number which honestly startled me. I saw an old lady bickering with the nurse, after a few heated moments between them she returned to that guarded seat.

Surprisingly though all the chaos was happening around her, the new mother was completely nonchalant about it, it seemed like she was only physically present here, her mind was tranced by something else. Seeing this the pregnant lady beside her spoke to her, before you condemn me for eavesdropping let me clarify here that I was just sitting in front of them. 

She asked,""Hello sister, are you ok….you seem troubled by something….sister?""

She didn't reply, which wasn't strange to me because I knew she was in a trance, but hormones should be blamed for this lady for being persistent.

""Sister, you shouldn't be holding newborns like this, it is harmful for them.""

When she said that I did notice that the baby's head was falling downward which is harmful for them, which was utterly strange because I have heard new mothers are supposed to be oozing with motherhood but it seemed like she had no care for the baby. My brain compensated me with the thought that maybe she is exhausted which is common for new mothers, ignoring all the red flags I was previously noticing.

She jerked her body slightly while holding while placing the newborn head properly, then only she came out trance and looked at her. The lady pointed at the baby and told her,"" This is how the book says to hold the baby,"" & keeps the book in front of her,"" Sister see in this book it is written what is the proper way of holding newborns"" but when looked up to see a response she found that the lady was staring into space, embarrassingly she stopped talking and again started reading the book. 

After a while, a man in forties came near the mother and asked her something to eat because she hadn't eaten since last night. I knew from the conversation they were having or it's better to say only he was speaking, because his wife didn't give any response to him. He sighed and told her that he'll hold the baby and easily scooped him up. Then I only realised that she was very loosely holding the baby which at that time seemed very irresponsible and uncaring action by a mother towards her child. 

The old lady beside her commented,""Oh sweet mother of lord, these modern mothers don't even know how to hold a child, how to respect elders,"" that old lady is now indulging the people around and started talking in a slandering manner,"" leave the adults, she is not even respecting her husband, not caring for the bud which she only germinated. If the child is not wanted then why should anyone give birth?

I saw by this statement the man got startled & he hurriedly with some hidden emotions said,'' No no Aunty, you're getting everything wrong we obviously want him. It's just she and I had a fight this morning so she is somewhat angry with me."" Even now when this whole drama is happening, the most ridiculous thing I found was the lady's reaction. She was calm and emotionless like water which made me scared and concerned at the same time. Suddenly in the blink of an eye that lady whose name was Suvarna hysterically shouted at that old lady, it was so sudden that the papers in my hand fell down & this time not only me, almost everyone in the waiting area got seriously perturbed.


It was needless to say that everybody got seriously flabbergasted. Honestly, speaking for me, the more concerning thing was her uncanny change of mood or better to say her alarming anger burst.

In between this chaos the baby woke up and feeling the distress in the air started wailing which I think acted as a fuel to his mother's anger. She turned towards her husband and shouted while pointing the baby,

""STOP CRYING….STOP.….MAKE HIM STOP,"" by this she covered herself and started chanting the same words.

Again that lady started obloquying her,"" Oh Good Lord of heaven, how are you letting this sinner breath, she should burn in pits of fire of hell. Tell me who condemns their own child, their own blood like this. I think evil spirits have grasped her, listen son if you want to live then make sure to take her to the priest otherwise she will ruin your whole family or worse put an end to that innocent's life.""

Fear & worry was evident on her husband's face but to calm the whole scenario he defended,"" NO…No, she is okay I mean she's just a little ill, that's it. Everyone please calm down.""

Suddenly we heard sobbing & this was Suvarna, I was extremely surprised by her downfall of emotions, it was so bizarre for me to see someone having this frequent mood elevation and depression but I also got annihilated by her heart wrenching sobs. She sobbingly spoke,"" Now I am ill to you Mahesh, before he was born I was okay in all those situations we faced together and now I'm crazy, just like this old hag said I'm evil. Everything was going just fine before he was born…."", & gradually she became quiet which scared me as I was expecting another outburst from her but she weaned off. I don't know why I had this gut feeling that this time the burst won't be controllable.

Maybe due to her habitual instinct that old lady again started, which was definitely not a good sign,"" See, just see everyone how this insolent child of God is acting. Archana(the lady who was guarding old lady's seat) you know in my town there was a similar case, there was this young lady she also gave birth to a boy and……oh dear God give this child strength, that young lady got possessed by evil……got crazy and painfully tried to ambush her own blood. Can you imagine that!""

Archana said,"" Oh GOD, what happened after that?""

Old lady in a very mocking tone said,"" What will happen, that wench was thrown out of the village & you know what surprisingly that evil young lady was also acting similar to her.""

The other lady gasped, I definitely didn't like it because being a woman herself, the woman was insulting the womanhood which was very awful but the very next thing that happened was expected by no one.

Suvarna stopped sobbing, lifted her head from lap and said,"" You're absolutely right, I should do the same thing.""

Saying this she started getting up calmly which was cent percent not a good sign and in the blink of the eye, she lunged towards her husband who was holding the neonate if it wasn't for two nurses near and a compound boy near she would have seriously hurt the baby, & this I definitely can't imagine, she was continuously thrashing & animalistically shouting,"" LEAVE ME, I'LL END HIM AND MY MISERY BOTH. I WAS OKAY WITHOUT YOU, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO COME IN MY LIFE, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE INCREASED YOUR MISERY BY COMING IN MY LIFE….AHHHH……LEAVE ME ALONE…….""

Seeing this I rushed to call the doctor, fortunately he came with me after hearing so much shouting and chaos. I rushed him towards the couple & tried to briefly explain what's exactly going on. He hurriedly called for someone and instructed,"" Sister, quickly sedate her with 2 mg Diazepam……..hold her tightly….& everyone calm down..go back to your seats. You'll be called by token numbers."" He then took a quick glance at Suvarna and said,"" Please maintain decorum of the hospital, please be seated…..Sisters please admit her to the ward and take the baby to Paediatric department…..monitor both of them..……..Who is her family member.""

Her husband said,"" I'm Mahesh, her husband, Doctor.""

""Please follow me..…….Sister May please take the baby to the NICU and do his proper check up and submit a report to Dr. Ashish, tell him Dr. Mahendra has sent it…..also after examining.."" 

""Suvarna, sir, her name is Suvarna.""

"" Yes, Mrs.Suvarna, send her reports to me and according to your choice Mahesh choose one witness of this event which can give a non-biased explanation. Remain seated here, I'll send for you.""

After that everybody got down with their work and I was also called for my examination. When I returned from the examination, I found Mahesh standing in the corridor. Upon seeing me, he walked towards me and said,"" Thank you very much Miss, if it wasn't for you at last maybe the consequences would be more detrimental.""

I stopped him by saying,"" No, absolutely not it was our duty to help another person. Don't worry brother, elder sister and little pie will be alright.""

He hesitantly said,"" Miss I know it was very presumptive of me that I told the doctor sir, you will be the one giving the onlooker statement to him. I'm sorry but can you do this favour to me……I think you'll not call my Suvarna evil or crazy."" From his voice it can be easily assumed that he was on the brink of crying, that's why I agreed maybe because of pity or sympathy I had I really want to help them as much I can.


We entered the designated room, the doctor signalled us to sit down and offered water but we both declined. Mahesh asked about his wife and baby's condition, doctor sir calmly told him that baby is doing fine & Suvarna is a little bit unstable but after getting treatment overnight she will get stable and to make her more better he has to first diagnose what happened exactly to her.

Doctor sir asked me to first explain what happened outside. I tried my best to explain every minute detail in an unbiased manner so that there would be no error in her diagnosis. Both the men calmly heard me, the doctor from time to time was noting something on his notepad and the husband had a grateful expression because of my neutral description of the scenario. After hearing me, he started to ask him about her wife's mental, physical, emotional, living, familial status and her relation & interaction with the baby. He seemed reluctant & I thought that was my cue to leave. When I was getting up from my seat, Mahesh asked me to stay back because the doctor had said that his wife wants the only person who was concerned for her other than his husband in the room, the person who saved our baby should know that she is not evil or crazy, that it's just something happening to her which she can't explain.

I looked at the Doctor, he said,'' When both the patient and her family need you to be here, then I have no issues. After all it will be better if I get a second opinion from a psychology graduate.``

I was surprised for the nth time in the day but before I could say something, Sir continued,"" Don't be surprised your research mentor is my elder brother, that's why I had read your works & saw you for multiple times. That's why I know you,"" after that sir turned towards Mahesh and calmly yet strongly said, ""Mr.Mahesh, if you want your wife to be treated accurately please tell me without any worry about her relations with the baby, you, your family, her emotional status, anything that you see relevant with your wife's condition.""

Mahesh took a deep breath, paused for a while seemed like he was collecting his thoughts and started speaking, 

"" Suvarna and I had an arranged marriage almost 12 years ago…….our married life…… I won't say that we were very happy but we managed to live with each other, back then love was a liability for us, still by God's grace I found my love in her, maybe she even found that solace in me. 

All of my family lived together, I mean we have a big joint family so everyday was not a festival there. We all have differences………differences of thoughts, wants, rules, values but everything is going okay or it seems to be okay. Suvarna…she was trying to maintain the demands, wishes and sanctity of the house.""

He stopped and sighed, Dr.Mahendra encouraged him by saying,"" That's right Mahesh, every family has its own disputes so if you are uncomfortable with that & if it is not relevant to your wife's condition you can skip that.""

""After every marriage it is not a hidden fact that the pressure on women for child bearing increases and unfortunately we are unable to have children for 11 years. We tried many times…..Suvarna also got pregnant several times….but may be almighty had different plans for us, we lost our child. 

Five years ago, Dr. Parekh(of the same hospital) told us that Suvarna's body won't be able to make it through another pregnancy, so we should think of other ways to have a child like adoption, surrogacy. 

We talked about this to our family but they refused……trust me sir they are not backward people but….they do have some conservative beliefs which don't match with the currently changing world.""

He paused again but this time sir waited because it was evident that he is struggling; we all know that some facts or issues are always in front of us, the truth of the fact is that we are even aware of it but we don't accept it which is the most tough part. After a long pause he spoke again,"" After knowing her condition, the agony on her increased, it seemed like this one revelation had stepped up her torment. Known….unknown person started slandering her but she maintained decorum of a woman, never spoke up, never refuted,never……..said anything""  by this, his thread of patience broke and he started crying. I will be lying if I say I wasn't emotional because what he was saying is very common, it is at least seen in one out of the ten families, all the blame of not having a child falls on the woman alone, be it the family or society.

After calming down, he again started,"" When I got hold of the situation, I suggested I go for adoption but the hard fact of retaining bloodline is engraved in people's minds. A year before we finally decided to go for the last time via IVF. This time God heard us & it was successful but our decision was heavily opposed by elders but over the time when they knew it was a boy, they accepted ironically. By God's grace delivery was normal but after the delivery something in Suvarna changed.

She didn't ate properly, didn't care of herself……..or the baby, she always staring into space, sometimes she is angry, sometimes anguished, sometimes crying hysterically while………blaming our baby, she was not even sleeping, she was annoyed by baby's crying, started blaming herself for everything. All this made me scared so I approached the elders of the house about what to do. They said she is going through a phase which all mothers go through. She will be good as new in a few weeks. I shouldn't have listened to them…….I should have taken her to the hospital……..I should have cared for her more…."" 

He choked on his own cry filled with regret, guilt, pain, misery which are deleterious for us. We sat in silence giving time for his grievance because it is important to throw out or lessen this emotion from our system, then only you will be ready to rectify your mistakes.

After some time, Dr.Mahendra spoke,"" Mahesh you need to get a hold on yourself because from now the path will be more tough. The years of her suppressed emotions, pain, torment has made her extremely vulnerable. This vulnerability is making her weaker emotionally; the love, care, support….. she was voided with over the years has made a crater inside her which can only be filled by assurance, love, sincere care and lots of support…….Based on the whole picture I got & also from her today's episode……..Mahesh your wife is probably suffering from Postpartum Depression which has progressed over these months making her to lose control over herself.""

""Postpartum Depression, what is that Doctor sir.""

""The elephant in the room for the postpartum mothers which was never talked about over the years, either it is suppressed by social taboos, conservative beliefs or lack of people's understanding of this.""

Dr.Mahendra signalled me to continue, I started talking in a manner that wouldn't make him frightened more,

""Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens mostly after 

delivery because during pregnancy the pregnant body has higher and changing levels of the hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and other supporting hormones which affects bodily functions, emotions and mood of the pregnant woman gravely. It affects up to 15% of people & is preceded by Postpartum Anxiety which has more incidence in postnatal mothers.

People with postpartum depression experience emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, fatigue, guilt, anxiety and may have trouble caring for their baby.

But don't worry brother, Postpartum depression can be treated with medication and counselling. Getting plenty of rest and enough sleep is most important. Eating healthy meals & maintaining a healthy diet to promote healing. Exercising everyday bit by bit…..because it increases the hormones that are required by the body for healing.""

Dr.Mahendra nodded at me and explained to Mahesh more specific & critical points for taking care of Suvarna.

Present time 

10 months have passed after that incident, I personally never got the chance to talk with that couple again but sometimes Sir used to give me some updates on them. I was in my office when I suddenly a message popped up in my phone, it was Mahendra Sir. He messaged me that she's about to be discharged from the counselling centre after getting clearance and also he sent me a video which was recorded by brother Mahesh where Suvarna was affectionately playing with her son. The smile on both of their faces made my heart warm, the giggle of the baby & the motherhood oozing from Sister Suvarna made me relieved. 

I thought that there are so many mothers out there who want to be understood, want to be cared for, want to be supported, want to be unbound from chains of conservative beliefs, and want to speak up for themselves.

My trance broke when the telephone rang, I picked it up & responded,"" Hello, Thank you for calling MATRITVA.…an organisation for helping new mothers. I'm Sanshita alok, how may I help you?"""

About the Author

Megha S. Gupta(pen name) is a medical student, to whom her mother is her inspiration to write. She is a budding writer and photographer with a few digital publications under her belt, including MockingowlRoost and California Poppy Times, and she has recently made her photography debut. Flora Fiction has published her first graphic anthology. She has co-written nine works. She has won the Writefluence writing competition and came in second place in the ""ANIMAL RIGHTS"" LIVE ANIMAL MARKETS ESSAY CONTEST."" Aside from writing, she has a deep interest in theatre and an innate desire to travel. Her first solo book- Veritas: Entwined triangle of chill, thrill and hidden tenebris is slated to release in November.