Her most befitting introduction is that she is a patient-friendly doctor. She is known for her compassionate approach toward patients. With over 23 years of clinical experience, a significant part has been at PGIMER Chandigarh and leading hospitals like Fortis, Max Superspeciality as a Senior Consultant; she is a firm believer that all mothers must find their own happiness and not pressurize themselves too much-be it for weight loss or work! Here is an interesting column in which Dr Ritambhra Bhalla (head of Gynecology at Cloudnine Hospital Chandigarh) shares her own story and her tips this Mother’s Day 2022.
Mother’s care- both mental and physical health
Pregnancy and childbirth is a journey, a new beginning not only for the mother but also for the entire family. Pregnancy, especially for first-time mothers, is filled with mixed emotions of happiness, anticipation, physical discomfort, anxiety and fear. After childbirth, when they struggle with breastfeeding, the thoughts that invariably come to mind are “why do I have to do this?” But the moment the baby smiles, frustration just disappears!
There are only two mantras; the first is to have patience, and the second is knowing that time is the best healer. The key preparation for a comfortable pregnancy, labour and postpartum lies in striking a balance between physical and mental health and hormones which play a significant role in modulating this.
Although it is an individual’s innate personality to respond to stress, everyone can build or strengthen the capacity to bear physical or mental stress.
The post-delivery phase is a complex and stressful phase where women experience pain, sleeplessness, and difficulty adjusting to a new stage of motherhood with cranky you and cranky baby. The mothers are encouraged to have a proper healthy balanced diet with at least two fruits a day and lots of fluids. I strongly discourage mothers from thinking about weight loss and dieting. Soon after the childbirth, almost everyone asks, “doctor, how will the tummy go in?” my standard reply is. It has taken around nine months to form it, have patience; let nature do its bit, and then we shall see.”
Women who develop a habit of exercising during pregnancy find it easier to maintain their weight and are more capable of adapting to the emotional stress in the post-delivery period.
Mental stability comes with a balance of physical disability, tiredness, sleep deprivation and poor diet. Post-delivery, one must eat, drink and sleep with the baby’s schedule.
The best way to catch sleep is to sleep when the baby is sleeping. Prioritize on yourself as you are the most important person; you are a superwoman who can procreate, hence pamper yourself. This improves the happiness quotient and maintains mental stability.
Pregnancy is a crucial period in any woman’s life, and positive family support and strength are essential for her healthy physical and mental status. Unfortunately, it is seen that often women go into a state of depression if the husband is not there with the mother and the baby. Fortunately, husbands of this generation are keen to learn and be trained to shoulder the responsibility of newborns and provide emotional strength to their wives.
Striking a decent work-life balance
Balancing roles is a very challenging task for a mother. The employer gives you maternity leave, but when things start to settle and you start enjoying motherhood (since the child responds to your actions), you are supposed to join back! Citing my personal example, when I delivered my children, we had shorter maternity leaves, and as is the case with most new mothers, I requested my head of department for an extension of my leave. She gave me my first lesson on work-life balance. “Each of us has delivered a child (working women). You cannot sacrifice your career for something normal for all of us”.
In the quest to become super Moms and perfect mothers, mothers are willing to sacrifice, but this often ends up in regret later on. It’s important to realize that life is not meant to be perfect; the key is to bring the best out with happiness and peace. Learn to settle for imperfection if it gives happiness and peace at the workplace and home. Women who can prioritize correctly succeed both at home and professional front. The key is not to prioritize what is on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. We have to learn to delegate responsibilities at the workplace and at home. We have to learn to train juniors to share our workload to spend some time on ourselves. Be a little selfish and learn to ignore some imperfect things. Meditation and exercise should be part of help “Me time”, and this, at least three times a week, helps the mothers rejuvenate, which in turn maintains a healthy atmosphere at home and improves performance.
Your fitness mantra
I have been brought up in a Gandhian institute and stayed in an ashram, so Yoga has been ingrained into me since childhood. Thirty minutes of yogic asanas followed by 10 mins of meditation gives me flexibility, mind-body connection and my day is made. On the days when I miss out on Yoga, I have realized that my happiness quotient and positivity are much less.
The other passion, yet to be fulfilled, is dancing – there is no age to learn. One day, I hope to learn some form of dance – Bharatnatyam and Kathak- but today, they have not reached my priority list and are not yet executed.
I try to avoid junk food, eat a healthy diet with two to three types of fruits every day and have an early dinner. This is the best I have been able to achieve so far.
Being an Obstetrician, the greatest challenge is odd working hours and being unable to set a proper sleep and no meal time but believe me, once we prioritize things, it’s not difficult to achieve. As one age, the significance of health and being healthy is realized. It’s never too late to begin, and everyone should start by taking tiny steps toward being healthy. This worked for me to achieve small goals and targets toward a healthy future.
Overcoming Challenges in Life
My daughter was born prematurely with low birthweight. Despite being a qualified gynaecologist, I refused to hold her and feed her. She was only slightly bigger than my palm. However, we could not postpone her shift from the neonatal ICU, and she was handed over to us. My husband is a physician, and together we would take turns to stay awake and watch over her. With our medical background, we were aware that an entity called APNOEA where the child stops breathing suddenly; fortunately, such a thing is rare. However, you cease to be a doctor or think rationally when you are a mother, and I was petrified. It was a skilful exercise to feed her tubes and change them gently without peeling off the tender skin. My heart would cry out when she would have 20gms or lesser weight gain despite my best effort in feeding her. Sometimes when she would have recently pooped before weight check, a daily routine in NICU, it would be even less than the day prior. Time is the best healer; she is a young lady now.
The second challenge I faced was when I had a second child. Being a professional woman wanting to be perfect in every respect took a toll on my health. I tried to strike a balance between my workplace PGIMER, where the job of a Junior Consultant was very demanding, and the mother in me was not willing to compromise on anything at home. Trying to stretch myself, I developed cervical spondylosis and was out of circulation for nearly a month. It was then that I realized the importance of prioritizing. I realized that I was the one and only mother my children had while at PGI; there was no dearth of doctors. So I quit my consultancy and decided to work only four to five hours a day, spending most of my time with the children. God has been kind to have helped me with this decision.
So, my advice to all mothers is that life is beautiful. It may not be perfect, but imperfection makes it more vibrant and challenging. Trust upon yourself; a mother’s heart is the purest place. Follow your instinct. You are the best and most beautiful mom for your kids, so working towards your happiness is not wrong. Learn to design a perfect and practical day for yourself, full of health and happiness. Exercise meditation and maintain a healthy diet.