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A Mother’s Identity Crisis: How I Lost And Rediscovered Myself Through Motherhood

My family, friends and colleagues used to describe me as fun-loving, energetic, adventurous, independent, ambitious and a big-time foodie. But not anymore. Not after I became a mother. I’m now a boring, stay-at-home mum, occupied 24*7 with my twin boys, not having time for anything else.

Well, I wouldn’t say they are wrong. For the past 10 months, I have been leading an isolated life, away from people and social activities. Once in four months, I get a chance to go out of my home, for an hour or two. I’ve been taking care of the household chores and the babies all by myself. Imagine how exhausting it can be! There are clocks everywhere in the house – in the kitchen, washrooms, balconies and bedrooms. I need to be active, alert and on my toes all the time. If I get 10 minutes for myself, I feel like I am on top of the world.

Representational image.

My pregnancy wasn’t a planned one. We wanted to wait for a few more years. I clearly remember the feeling inside me when the test reports showed positive. I was crying as well as smiling. Crying, because I wasn’t prepared for the new responsibilities. Happy, because I love kids and there would be a baby in my home. And a few days later, when the ultrasound scan showed there’s not one but two lives growing inside me, I wasn’t sure how to react. While the doctor was super-excited to give me the news, I wanted to run away somewhere. I was scared. Several thoughts were running through my head… The responsibility and expenditure would double. However, with time, I started enjoying the pregnancy phase. The heartbeats, the cute movements, the not-so-hard kicks inside my swollen belly – a truly magical feeling!

In July ’17, the tiny babies (we call them Puhor and Niyor) entered the world. Experiencing the first moments of the miracle of life will never be forgotten. And in the blink of an eye, life changed. With that one final push, I became a mother.

While for many, it can be a seamless transition, this new phase of life changed me. And I wasn’t sure if I liked the change. The lack of sleep, the ill-fit clothes, and the dark circles below my eyes were more-than-subtle reminders that I had fallen so far from the girl I used to be.

Motherhood wasn’t as smooth and easygoing as I had expected it to be. (Representative image)

Before you judge me and call me names, I would like to clarify that I love my babies more than anything else in this world. Staring at them is still my favorite pastime. I enjoy watching each change and make sure to celebrate each milestone. I stay awake all day and night to calm them, play with them, feed them and change their diapers. I fight hard to nurse my babies even though my body fights equally hard against producing milk. I want the best for them – always.

But I also want ‘me’ – the adventurous, independent, fun-loving ‘me’.

Everyone enjoying a holiday in the hill station to beat the heat – that used to be ‘me’. Now, I have responsibilities. There are two little human beings who depend on me for survival and security.

Parenting isn’t what I thought it would be. It is no walk in the park. I find myself challenged to make decisions about how to proceed in a variety of situations. Where I was decisive once, now, I feel paralysed.

I lost myself when I became a mother…

But wait! That’s not the end to my story. This is a work in progress.

My mother made me realise that in reality, I haven’t lost my identity. I’ve just had a major change in my life – and now is the time to redefine my identity, to get over the negative feelings.

I’m not worthless if I cannot keep earning that 6-figure income. I’m not a bad mother if I cannot be as good a mother as mine was. My life is not lacking if I cannot go on a holiday and relax at any given moment.

With two infants of the same age, I cannot live the way I used to live. My mother helped me realign my goals and expectations with my new reality.

I learned to be kind to myself. I joined driving classes on weekends. I am almost done with my debut novel. I go out for movies when the kids are fast asleep at night. I engaged myself in a new hobby – gardening. I’m working on my dream project – taking the first step to becoming an entrepreneur. I am doing things I love. I’m happy. I’ve found the old ‘me’.

Featured image source: istock
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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