- YOUR CAREER WILL NEVER WAKE UP AND TELL YOU,THAT IT DOESN’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE
– LADY GAGA
Having had a working mom all my life, those are the words I was raised to believe, Those are the words I lived by and the two pink lines on a white stick wasn’t going to change that. Especially, when I had been doing what I loved for so long. I had been flying as an airline pilot for 10 years without a break. Ask any pilot about their job and they would tell you,”IT GROWS ON YOU”. The uniform and you become inseparable. Hence the plan was clear, I will join back after 6 months of maternity.
It was a planned baby. I am with an amazing partner (I do wonder how it got so lucky), my soulmate, the love of my life! Goes without saying I was looking forward to having a baby with him. So I was honest with him about my fears of being off flying, the long break and that I needed a system in place before I headed back to flying. For those of you who do not know, here’s how it works in my line of work-
As soon as you confirm your pregnancy, you are off flying. Its not acceptable, medically and probably rightfully so. After you have delivered the baby, the standard maternity leave of 6 months applies. If one hasn’t flown for a certain period due to medical reason, one has to go for a medical, post which you are considered “Fit to fly”. Another problem was the skill. Like any other skill-based job one needs to be “in touch” with flying. If you aren’t, you have to undergo training and checks before you go back to your routine flying. Both aspects worried me. It’s not like I was the first pilot to get pregnant, but we are all wired differently. I am wired to be a planner and a thinker. I think a lot and plan a lot!
I was sure of one thing, if I were to join back as soon as 6 months, I was going to need all the help I could get. The pregnancy was far from easy. I had HG, the baby was slightly underweight, and the c sec did not help. But with my amazing family’s support and help, me and my baby were thriving by the end of fourth semester. When I say family, I mean my folks, my relatives and my in-laws. Both sides having working moms. Doctors, who joined back as early as three months, which was kinda reassuring.
WHAT DID NOT HELP
The fourth trimester hits you like a rock. At least I felt so. Throughout my pregnancy, all I heard was “ it’s God’s gift to women”. Its miraculous. A beautiful journey! once the baby is here, you would forget all the pain. You’ll be overjoyed.” The last part was true. But the rest, I had difficult time believing. Nobody told me about how hard the first three months were gonna be. The sleepless nights, the pain from the c sec, the latching, the breastfeeding. I always thought it would all come to me naturally. At least that’s what I was made to believe. Nothing could have been further from the truth. it took incessant effort. Like your mind and body is pushed to the limits. You can’t complain coz a) everybody’s gone through the same thing. b) the baby needs you. Not to mention the cocktail of hormones your mind is. The postpartum depression which is very much real. The truth is, if someone told me I would be going through all of the above to have a baby, I would without a doubt still want the baby as much. My point is I would have been a little more prepared mentally. I feel as women, we are conditioned to think that talking about our discomfort, or doing something for ourselves is selfish, that selfish is bad. On the contrary, its important to do so for your mental health. You can only take care of someone else, if you take care of yourself first. My mom has never used the word sacrifice. It is not how it should be. If you have made a sacrifice, it means you dint want to do something but you had to. Instead you should be wanting to do things. For yourself, as well as others. Now that I think about it, it would pain me to think that my mom wanted to do something and I am the reason she could not. Same probably applies to our kids.
WHAT DID HELP!
By the end of the fourth trimester, me and baby were relatively settled. We were healthy, and I had my fitness from my OB. I though to myself, if I wanted to be in my uniform by 6 months, I need to start working now!! I took my best friends sage advice, that the more you wait to start working on your body, the harder it gets. She was right. So out came the workout gear, the dust was off the dumbbells. I was already a part of an online community of moms who workout. I noted down the diet tips, got onto a diet plan keeping in mind that I was still feeding my bub. So I had to be mindful of not cutting down on the calories too much and eating nutritionally dense food. As a working mom, the above might feel irrelevant to you. But it was a crucial and necessary step towards what one would call normalcy. For me it was baby steps towards getting my life back, not to mention the good effect exercise had on my overall mental health, especially after the dreadful postpartum low. Next 2 months I surrounded myself with positive people. People who would appreciate my choices and offer help and support. I also had to hit my flying books. If someone told you pilots don’t need to study, don’t believe them. Thousands of pages, checklists, procedures, that’s a pilot’s bread and butter. I sat down and studied as much as I could. I practiced chair flying, where you sit alone and run different scenarios through your mind and how you would react to it. Its a good practice tool.
At 4 and a half months, I was ready to join back. I know that some of us are blessed to have bodies that snap right back after a baby. Like nothing had ever happened. For me, it was not the case. “You would shed all the weight quickly” they said “as you are breastfeeding.” that did not work either. But I did fit into my old trousers,albeit barely (SMALL WIN). That made me happy. There was although one more thing to be sorted. WHERE WOULD THE BABY BE WHEN I AM FLYING? Neither my parents nor my in-laws were local. We had found a good nanny. We were so far happy with her. But like Akshay Kumar said once, “ Even the back up should have a back up”. My husband’s company offered daycare. As it turned out all our friends from his workplace had their babies going to the same daycare. I still remember the day I visited Sandeep’s office. All his friends said the same thing. “Ishita! don’t worry about a thing here. We are here for her. All of us. Incase there is a rainy day, we got this! You go fly.” It was really really heartening. That day I realized, I would never shy away from asking help. Ever!
At six months, I was got my medical clearance. It was unnerving. Your body has been through so much.Any parameter could be off I thought. But it was all good. It was a major hurdle cleared. After that, there was no looking back. I connected with some amazing women who had been through the process of joining back. Some amazing women who made it all look like a cakewalk. As I joined back I was awarded a “6e ambassador” award. I was released online as a trainer. I remember so vividly, the day of my first flight. As I wore my uniform, I gazed at my c sec scar, it felt like It was a battle scar. A symbol of pride and my journey as a mom so far. I couldn’t wait to be in my favourite place, the beloved cockpit. I kissed my baby, and as I boarded the company cab, I had but one thing in my mind, that my baby is safe and healthy, so I am gonna go out there and give my best today and everyday.
This article has been authored by Ishita Bhatia