September 22, 2020

Priyam Bortamuli on her Maa and being a mum

Meet Priyam Bortamuli, a mum to an adorable toddler and is an individual who is in awe of her ‘Maa’ for having stood extreme odds in life. Priyam is also someone who has worked in the maternity hospital segment and specialized healthcare for a long time. In a candid interaction she shares her precious life moments and memories to Mums and stories. There are many moments where you can see yourself in her story.

“Childhood for me was boisterous, loaded with memories of doing all possible mischief one could think of. Being raised with two brothers and a whole lot of male cousins & close friends who were close neighbors too, I was a known tomboy in the neighbourhood. Climbing trees, to barging through compound wall, to breaking neighbour’s aquarium, in all such acts I was my brother’s partner in crime.

When all my girl friends were busy playing with their dainty Barbie dolls, one would see me in shorts, T’s and boys cut hair roaming around in bicycle with a herd of friends (mind it male friends mostly!) creating nuisance in some or the other house. Two reasons why I never had a Barbie doll – 1) I never really felt the urge of playing with one 2) when I really wanted one, my mom made me realize its an expensive doll, which she couldn’t afford to buy me. I remember her telling me once if you want one, come first in Class! Well that’s the third reason why I never had one!!

While that is one aspect of my childhood, there are memories, vivid memories of the day when I lost my father when I was just 6. He was brought home adorned with flowers, the compound of our house was full of people and I saw my elder brother weeping. I couldn’t understand much then, but realized something has happened to us and I started crying too seeing my brother wailing who was just 9 then. On June 9th, 1988 a new chapter started in our life – we lost our father to cancer.

After that it was Maa who anchored the ship, did everything to raise us up, gave us good education, good quality of life, values, dreams to be something in life and above all patience & perseverance. Childhood, for me is Maa playing the role of a mother & a father. With 3 kids, and one being a special child (my younger brother is a special child), taking the mantle of raising us up, earning for livelihood and giving that extra attention to the third child, all this Maa did without a frown. My grandmother (father’s mother) played a crucial role in our upbringing. She took care of us when Maa was away at work. She became Maa’s backbone in this journey.

My elder brother was always the most understanding one, while I as a child was stubborn, grumpy and wanted to make my way through! However, with time, started realizing the depth of the situation and elder brother had a big role in this. Every time I used to cry for not having something due to financial constraints, he used to make me understand, pacify me and gave his share to cheer me up. It was in 2000 when I was preparing for my under grad program, my elder brother met with an accident. This was one of those moments when  biggest realization came in. I saw Maa, again standing tall, with confidence and faith that this shall pass too.

I am sure it was not a piece of cake to live a single parent’s life, with three children, very less financial backing. But I guess, we were fortunate to have some angels in our life. Our grandma being the biggest source of strength and support for maa. She in fact started staying with us after dad passed away. She actually was Maa’s partner, companion in this journey. Other angels were my dad’s sisters. Probably my mother’s own sisters wouldn’t have been able to give the kind of support they provided to our family. I did see Maa breaking down a few times, in utter despair when things would go wrong, but grandma stood firmly next to her. Guess, that kept maa going.

Maa was strong, determined and had immense patience. When everybody suggested her to sell of the piece of land my dad had bought earlier, to build a house, she stayed firm. She refused to listen to any such suggestion and took the decision of constructing a house in that land. I have memories of going across to construction site after school with maa, where she would stand for hours dealing with the workers. Though small, but we had our own house that Maa constructed.

Working in a woman and child care segment in healthcare, I knew about high risk pregnancy, pre-term babies, have seen babies in the NICU, but never thought for a second I would be in the same boat one day. After a miscarriage when I conceived for the second time, my husband and I were extremely nervous till the 12th week scans. In fact we had not disclosed the news to our respective families / parents just to make sure we cross that 12 weeks milestone. Things were moving fine, but as I stepped into the 3rd trimester my chronic hypertension (BP) started throwing tantrums and on 30th week my doc said they would have to get the baby out. July 10th 2015 my daughter was born and stayed in the NICU for 40 days.

The initial phase was tough. Like every mother-to-be I too dreamt of a full-grown baby in my arms, swaddling her to sleep, going home within 3 to 4 days after delivery. But the most unpredictable thing happened to me. I took a while to accept the reality. While my obstetrician, the neonatologists were of immense support to us, but the fact that I delivered a preemie and the journey for next few months is not going to be easy, kept me pushing away from accepting the reality. However, slowly I started accepting the truth. Everyday in the NICU, I was waiting eagerly for the day when docs would say you could take her home now. This phase of my life made me more patient. It taught me to accept change, control my anger and give time for things to settle. It grew faith in my own self.

In our country there is no system or education on post partum depression. I was fortunate, my Obstetrician guided me all through, but not everyone is lucky. It is typical in Indian society that after childbirth, the entire attention goes to the child and the mother is sort of left to her to cope with her post partum. It is quite natural for anybody to go through PP depression but many don’t realize it for the sheer lack of knowledge and blame it to circumstances or the environment around her.

While there is no definite solution to PP depression but if she is aware of it and prepared to, it will be much easier to handle the situation later. I had PP depression and was on anti-depressant for a few days. I still feel I go through pangs of it sometimes even now. That sinking feeling, seems to be coming back once in a while. Since I am aware and I could identify it earlier, I am able to manage it. Many don’t.

As the famous saying – it changes the world and you for the better! Yes motherhood has changed me to a great extent. It has made me more tolerant, improved me as person. Being a working mum and managing a toddler isn’t easy. Before my daughter was born, work was life. But now, work is a part of life and she is my life. I try and balance it out between home and office. I try not to get work home, even if I have to, get on to that after my daughter goes to bed.

I make sure when I am home I give her full attention and care and keep all my gadgets away. After getting back to work post maternity I have taken a new role at the professional front, which requires a lot more of my time. It is difficult, but I am learning to strike a balance. I am fortunate to have my in laws support me during this phase. But end of the day we have to give that time and attention to our children no matter what support we have. I hope I am able to do better as I proceed further.

There have been a few emotional moments, like when I carried her for the first time after about 25 days of her birth. I had to give her kangaroo care – a method where the mom cuddles the baby on her bare chest to give the baby her warmth. It says it helps in bonding. My baby was too tiny, I was scared. The nurse in the NICU put my baby on my bare chest. I felt like little pigeon perched on my chest, she was that tiny. But the feeling was awesome. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I read the affirmations to her that was written by a friend of mine who is a Reiki healer.

I have grown up with a working mother. And I always thought her work is part of her life until she retired. I guess it does make children independent. Having said that parents should be able to strike a balance with work and home. I have seen couples who work but make sure when it comes to raising their kids they don’t compromise any care. Similarly couples who are working and have hardly time for kids. That distances the child from the parent.

I have also seen stay at home mums whose kids are extremely independent and mature. While, working mothers become an example for the kids to make them realize that work is part of life, stay at home mothers can equally raise confident and independent kids. It’s the upbringing style & values that matter the most.”


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