The morning arrived with a row of check-ups, matrons and nurses visiting the new mother and baby to help them form a new routine that involved baby care, nursing, feeding, knowing what the baby needed, and attending to Nandini’s scars and suture line.
Nandini was quiet and co-operative throughout the routine. She neither asked questions nor did she complain of pain or discomfort. Instead, she shook her head with every instruction as if she understood it well. Manik was keenly focused on her face and her blank expressions while she shook her head, agreed to instructions, and held the baby. He was the only one to notice that Nandini wasn’t even listening properly to what was being told to her. It was, as if, the world was passing by her and she was standing as a silent, non-participating, non-interested spectator from a different planet.
He held the baby in his arms, carefully wrapped in soft layers of linen, and stayed quiet, listening to every single guideline the doctor and the nurses pointed to, because he knew that she would need them, later. At least, one of them should properly note down the advice given to them.
When the doctor left their room, after asking the nurse to dress Nandini’s sutureline, Manik slowly lowered the baby in her crib and rushed out of their room to follow her.
“Excuse me, doctor!” He called from behind, startling the doctor.
The doctor stopped, and asked, “Yes, Manik! What happened? Is there something you need to ask?”
“Doctor, I am really worried about Nandini. I need to know if the way she is behaving is normal for a woman after delivering a baby.”
Manik told the doctor in detail about how Nandini had been crying after the delivery, she had never been weak or with an unstable mind, so it worried him more. She had mentioned that she thought she won’t be a good mother. In fact, she regretted planning and having the baby. She wasn’t really keen on attending to the baby, didn’t eat anything since yesterday, and didn’t sleep too. She wasn’t sharing much with him, though before the baby they had been best of friends and shared everything with each other. She looked sad and lost all the time. Her behaviour both puzzled and worried him now.
“Is this normal? Does every woman behave like this?” He had a knot between his brows when he spelled his worries in a nervous voice.
The doctor touched his arm to assure him and said, “Not everyone notices these subtle changes, Manik. People think and assume that a woman is over-reacting. So, I’m really glad and proud of you that you perceived these changes in her behaviour so early. And for your question, the answer is –No! Not every woman feels like that. Pregnancy and delivery are both blessed and equally overwhelming moments of a girl’s life. While most women handle it beautifully, a lot of us are not able to deal with it because of hormonal issues. The sudden fall in certain hormones after the delivery, the life-threatening complications that she faced at the time of labour, the surgery, and not having her family around due to Covid has overthrown her balance and rocked her confidence in herself. She is going through a crucial phase right now, feeling crushed and devastated.”
Manik could feel his heart sinking. He pressed his lips inside and drew a huge breath, shaking his head side to side, as if unable to believe this. His Nandini was the strength and support system that kept him strong on his feet. She was someone who kept his family as a close-knit unit and was the backbone on which they were all emotionally dependent for their smiles and their peace. How could she crumble like this?
This was not possible.
Was Nandu even capable of losing her mind? Wasn’t she too tough for her small frame, as he always teased her? Wasn’t she too resilient in the most difficult of storms they had seen together?
How could she feel defeated?
The doctor could understand what Manik was feeling. She knew both Manik and Nandini for long. And she had seen many couples going through this phase. She calmly said, “It happens, Manik. A sudden drop in hormone levels does that to even the most stable, organized, and strong people. On top of that, there were sudden complications. Imagine, what she must be going through – clueless herself – about why she is not able to instinctively feel the bliss of motherhood. Why she feels detached from everything around her. These are called ‘baby blues’…”
“Baby blues?” Manik was completely at a loss of words. Torn at how Nandini was going through this tough moment. And immensely thankful that he was around her when she was at her lowest. No matter what happened, he knew that he could pull her out of every trough in her stability.
“Yes. Baby blues. Doesn’t happen with every woman. But not uncommon either. I see a lot of girls facing this situation, soon after baby’s birth.”
His lips trembled when he spoke on a dried throat, “She’ll be fine, right?”
“She may! She may improve from here. But she might worsen too. If it grows more, this situation may turn into postpartum depression. Which is more severe, more worrisome and more difficult to treat. The sadness and depression if last for longer may have long term negative effects on psyche and personality.”
Manik was about to panic. But he calmed himself and asked nervously, “Then, why don’t you treat her right now? We can’t let it worsen.”
“No… We won’t let it worsen. I’ll arrange for counselling sessions for her and will ask our visiting psychiatrist to have a word with Nandini and begin her treatment asap. Don’t worry. We will do our best.”
The doctor patted Manik’s arm and left, assuring him that she was going to do as much as she could in her capacity to help Nandini heal.
Manik dragged his heavy steps back towards the room. Yes, the doctor had asked not to worry and assured that she will treat Nandu. The psychiatrist and counsellors will have a word with her too. There was nothing to worry. Obviously not.
The doctors knew their job and they will take care.
When he reached the room, the nurse had finished her work and was waiting for Manik to be back with Nandini and the baby, before she left. After Manik entered, he thanked the nurse. The nurse smiled and left the room.
“Hey! Where were you?” Nandini asked in a faint voice. Her throat cracked and each word seem to leave in a tough, laborious effort.
Manik walked closer to her bed and tapped his fingers on the edge of her bed, wondering what to tell her. The fact was that he had never made excuses for anything, ever, before her. She had never stopped him or asked questions if he wanted to go and have drinks with his friends, even if once a month, or spend a random Sunday watching cricket with his friends, or when he had to visit any of his relatives which didn’t get along with her, or take his mother to market. He had never said a lie because he had never needed to. She knew him and understood him. He told her everything he went through, felt, or thought. Lying to her didn’t come naturally to him.
Nandini looked at his face. Everything about that look worried her. Holding a distinct frown, she asked, “Manik… what…?”
He cleared his throat and said, “I… I followed the doctor…”
He shrugged, swayed his lower jaw side to side, and blurted in one go, “I was worried, yaar! For you!!! I wanted to know whether all girls tear up like this after the baby is born or you are a special case.”
She was glaring at him, shocked at what he said. After a moment, she rolled her eyes, clueless about whether she should yell at him for no reason, just because she was feeling strangely irritated at her situation, or be kind to him because he took it as far as consulting the doctor, or whether she should smile because he was so adorable and cared like no one else in the world could ever care for her.
The response was not in her hand. It wasn’t possible that he was around and she wouldn’t smile. Unintentionally, she faintly smiled, and whispered in a soft voice, “You are so hopeless. What did the doctor say?”
His smile widened when he found her smiling. It didn’t matter, even if she had smiled faintly. That was enough to fill his heart with hope. He sighed.
“She said you are special. I always knew, you were!”
Next Chapter – Chapter 8