The Mask I Wore To Work…

Share your story

The mask I wore to work

By Niti Nadarajah

Our guest blogger Niti bares her heart out on a very difficult topic. She says, "this is the hardest and most personal thing I have ever written. And I have been writing it in my head for more than 2 years... Today will be a hard day as I shed tears and remember what I have lost. But it is important I share my story. It's important that we share our stories. It's important that we start talking about issues that silently and unknowingly impact so many among us every day." 

This article first appeared in LinkedIn here.


Three years ago, I bought a book and read it to my daughter. Three years ago, I went to have a picture taken. Three years ago, my heart broke into a million pieces and I wore a mask to work…

Two years ago, I took that book out again but I didn’t read it to my daughter. Two years ago, I went to have another picture taken. Two years ago, my heart shattered and again, I wore a mask to work...

But this time, the mask was damaged as I had worn it before. If you looked closely enough, you would have seen the small cracks and through them the real me...If you had asked me if I was OK, the mask would have splintered...

And yet I suffered in silence while grief and depression engulfed me. I operated largely on auto-pilot at work, often escaping to the bathroom to cry silent tears. And when I returned home, my pent-up emotions spilt out in an avalanche.

Losing two babies in two years broke my soul. Having to tell my then 3 year old daughter that we were no longer having a baby and that she should stop kissing my belly broke my heart. Having to act like everything was OK while I felt empty inside, while I still felt and, at least in my own mind, looked pregnant, broke my spirit.

support services

My story is not unique. It's all too common. I discovered this when I finally built up the courage to be able to share my grief - so many of the women I knew had their own stories to tell.

But, for some reason, while we talk openly about atrocities committed around the world, about war and death, we are unable or unwilling to talk about pregnancy loss, infertility and stillbirth, experiences which have most likely impacted the lives of many that we work with.

The second time I miscarried, I had just been promoted to my current role. I was trying to establish relationships with a new peer group and credibility as manager of a team I had previously been a member of. I remember vividly going on a work trip three days after I'd had curate surgery to remove my unborn baby. They say flying heightens your emotions - well, I've never cried so much while watching in-flight movies! And those four days away from family felt like fifty. Each day, I put on a brave smile, I fought to focus in meetings and bumbled my way through role-plays and training, I laughed at dinners and drank way too much. And at night, I collapsed in a heap. It was exhausting and eventually, it all became too much...

When I was at breaking point, someone noticed that I wasn't quite myself and asked me if I was OK. The floodgates opened. I didn't need the other person to tell me everything was going to be OK or that I would move past the loss. All I needed was to talk, to cry and to be listened to. After that conversation, my heart felt lighter, my shoulders relaxed and I felt as if I could breathe again. I would never move on completely, but at least I could let go of some of the pain that was holding me in its grip and start living again.

So why do I share something so deeply personal with you?

    1. Ask the question. All too often when we see someone behaving out-of-character at work or suddenly, the standard of their work-product drops, we brush these signs under the carpet and ignore them. Don't ignore the signs. Ask them if they are OK. Sometimes, all a person needs is those simple words, a light touch to the shoulder, a gentle nudge.
    2. You don't need to be a counsellor. Talking about grief is difficult. We often don't know what to say. That's OK. Sometimes, all the other person needs is a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, an ear that listens.
    3. Everyone wears a mask. No-one is immune from personal tragedy, grief, anxiety and/or depression... These issues do not discriminate.
    4. We need to get more comfortable talking about pregnancy loss, infertility and stillbirth. These issues affect so many of us and yet, we experience them in silence. We need to build up circles of trust at workplaces that enable women and their partners to talk about what they are experiencing. When a loved one dies, we tell people what has happened, we take time off and no-one expects us to operate as if nothing had happened. We need to allow grieving parents and those dealing with the heartache of infertility the same space.

Let's share our stories and give voice to experiences that are all too common so that we no longer need to suffer in silence.

Niti Nadarajah (mother of four, including two angel babies and one much-hoped for rainbow baby)

Pregnancy week 18 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
You are starting to feel a little clumsy as your belly has gone bigger. Your breasts may also have gone up a size. You notice a blackish line down your stomach. This is normal skin pigmentation and nothing to worry about. You are likely to complain of backaches and pains.

Baby size

Week 18 size guide
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a small Cucumber (roughly 13-14 cms long and 180 – 190 gms).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Your baby is keen to hear. Talk to your baby! Baby is fully developing as either a girl or boy and his/her nervous system is maturing rapidly. Baby can now yawn and have hiccups.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Your blood pressure gets a little lower than it usually is. Don’t get up abruptly from a chair or sofa as you could feel dizzy. 
  • Don’t compare the size of your belly with other pregnant women. It varies from person to person. Just make sure all is going well at your antenatal check-ups.
  • Use a foot rest to raise your feet slightly when resting. It helps with back pain.
  • When standing, place one foot on a low stool when possible to take some pressure off your lower back.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, combat constipation with added fiber, and avoid straining when you go to the bathroom.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. Is my weight gain okay?
  2. Am I at high risk for any problems during pregnancy?
  3. My feet and ankles are swelling up. Is that okay?
  4. Is my baby’s growth okay?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Have a foot stool to raise feet.
  2. Have folic acid supplement and prenatal vitamins.
  3. Book antenatal appointment with doctor.
  4. Share with others your feelings and talk about what is happening to your body.

Questions you may have

“I could not feel my baby move at 18 weeks. My doctor told me it is completely normal. She also told to not try to count my baby's movements until at least 30 or 31 weeks!”

“I was offered a scan called an anomaly scan for my doctor to look at my baby in detail to see if there is anything unusual about his/her development and appearance. I was also told that I don’t need to have it if I don’t want to.”

Pregnancy week 20 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
You are glowing with happiness and bursting with energy and you are obviously pregnant! You can feel your baby’s movements. You notice physical changes. Your nails and hair are growing faster! You get hot and uncomfortable and get headaches in crowded and poorly ventilated places.

Baby size

Week 20 size guide
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a Sweet Potato (roughly 24 cms and 300 gms)

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Your baby is getting more active each day - kicking, punching and turning around and sucking his/her thumb. Vernix, the coating that protects your baby in the uterus is developing. It also helps your baby ease through your birth canal at delivery.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Go for walks to unwind and relax. Invite a friend to join you in your walks. Walking will keep you fit.
  • When you are casually sitting do foot exercises. This can prevent leg cramps.
  • Rub your calve muscle hard and pull your toes upwards if you are woken up at night with sharp pains.
  • Chew on sugarless chewing gum after meals. This could prevent heartburn.
  • Take frequent fresh air breaks if you are in a stuffy room. This can help prevent headaches.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. What are the dos and donts in 2nd trimester of pregnancy?
  2. Which screening tests are important?
  3. I notice spotting at times. Is that normal?
  4. I am sad more often than being happy and the feeling is not going away. Do I need to see a specialist and get extra support?
  5. Am I gaining the right amount of weight? My belly is not as big compared to other pregnant women!

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Check options for wellbeing sessions.
  2. Have folic acid supplement and prenatal vitamins.
  3. Book antenatal appointment with doctor.

Questions you may have

“It is not unusual to have some worries and fears. Don’t put too much expectation on yourself. Be realistic about what you can do. Relax when you need to. Spend time with others who make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. 1 in 10 pregnant women experience some form of depression. Talk to other expectant mothers. If you are feeling constantly bad or your mood is coming in the way of your day to day functioning talk to your GP.”

“I cried at the silliest of things! I went to the shops, saw baby clothes and started crying! It is common to have mood swings and get emotional. It’s those pregnancy hormones!”

Pregnancy week 21 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
You are beginning to look very pregnant! You may see stretch marks all over your stomach, hips and breasts. You feel unsure on your feet and may lose your balance as your bump gets bigger. You will have an increased appetite too. Feeling anxious is common – the responsibilities of an expectant mother can be overwhelming.

Baby size

Week 21 size guide
What to expect
Your baby is a s big as a large Banana (roughly 25 cms long and 350 gms in weight).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Your baby is moving around a lot now! The arms and legs are in proportion and movements are coordinated. He/she has learnt how to sleep and tastes what you eat – spicy, sweet!

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Do pelvic floor exercises – this will help strengthen muscles and ligaments and prevent leakages later when you cough, laugh, cry….
  • Have frequent healthy snacks.
  • Drink plenty of water and have high fibre foods – to prevent gassiness and constipation.
  • Get gentle back massages for backache.
  • Talk about your feelings with family members and friends who have had a baby. – it is quite normal to feel anxious.
  • Discuss your fears about pregnancy and motherhood with your husband.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. Why am I having such swollen feet?
  2. Is it okay to do gentle yoga exercises?
  3. What should be my weight gain target?
  4. Is it okay to do hair removal or beauty treatments?
  5. Do I have to continue with my iron supplement tablets?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Express feelings with husband and ask for his support.
  2. Take a 30 minute walk each day.
  3. Record weight and blood pressure on the Kushal app.
  4. Schedule a week 21 ultrasound.

Questions you may have

“1 in 2 pregnant women generally feel anxiety at this stage. It is common. I was asked not to get worried about worrying! I spoke to a close friend about her experience when she was pregnant. That helped.”

“I felt the same! It’s because our baby is growing rapidly in size and our muscles which help with balance are relaxing to provide space. I also find it difficult to do things that I like doing – sleeping on my belly!”

Pregnancy week 22 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
Your body in week 22 - You are likely to be quite preoccupied with your body – those aches and pains! Your breasts may start to leak a little pre- milk – this is normal. You may also see some skin changes – darkening around your nipples and dark patches on your skin. Piles and haemorrhoids are not uncommon and can be painful.To know what changes take place week by week click here.

Baby size

Week 22 size image
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a Bell pepper/Capsicum (roughly 27 cms long and 410 gms in weight).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Baby listens eagerly and tries to make out the different sounds. He/she now knows the difference between light and dark. Shine a torch on your belly and see the reaction! Baby keeps grabbing his or her tinny ears. The lungs are developing in preparation to breathe once born.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Have frequent health snacks like fruit and cut up and cleaned vegetables – helps to cope with your increased appetite.
  • Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day – helps prevent dizziness.
  • Exercise regularly and encourage bowel movements to prevent constipation.
  • Make sure you are having your prenatal vitamins.
  • Get to know your baby – try to identify baby’s different movements – kick, punch or hiccup? That will help cheer you up.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. Do I need a whooping cough vaccination?
  2. Should I add a magnesium supplement to my diet?
  3. I am getting a lot of aches and pains. Is that normal?
  4. I notice some spotting and am having pain. What should I do?
  5. Is everything okay with my pregnancy? Do I need to be concerned about anything?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Make sure you have some relaxation time. Watch your favourite TV shows – not just think and talk about your pregnancy.
  2. Do not sit or stand for long periods of time or keep your legs crossed.
  3. Record your weight and blood pressure on the Kushal app.
  4. Learn some soothing yoga based relaxation techniques.

Questions you may have

“I was told it is quite common and happens because of the changes going on in my body. Becoming dehydrated is also a common cause of dizziness. If it carries on for long check with your doctor to rule out anaemia. Low blood sugar is not common and is easily manageable.”

For questions related to COVID, please click here.

“It could be your uterus is practising for delivery! These are called Braxton-Hicks contractions and they are not dangerous.”

Pregnancy week 23 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
As your bump grows you might be feeling increasingly anxious. You may also seem to forget things easily – often referred to as pregnancy brain! You may start to get rib pain as your rib cage expands and your breasts could leak colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk you produce after giving birth, which is thick and usually a golden yellow colour and essential to help your baby fight off infections. If you notice dark pigmentation in your skin, it could be sunburn.

Baby size

Week 23 - size guide
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a Grapefruit (roughly 28 cms long and 475 gms).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Baby is practising breathing and his/her heartbeat can be heard with a stethoscope. Baby also  begins to rapidly gain weight and kicks around a lot. You will notice your tummy moving! Baby’s brain is developing and he/she starts recognising your voice.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Practise relaxation techniques to overcome your pregnancy worries – yoga is a good de-stressor.
  • Slide a pillow between your legs and rest with your knees bent when you sleep – this should give you a good night’s rest.
  • Keep a bottle or glass of water always by your side.
  • Make sure you are getting your extra dose of vitamins and iron supplement
  • Avoid face makeup with chemicals to cover any dark discolouration that you may get. These disappear automatically a few months after delivery.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. I get tired very easily; feel weak, breathless and dizzy. What is the problem?
  2. I get a lot of upper back pain. What should I do?
  3. How do I stop the burning sensation I get when I go the bathroom?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Book antenatal appointment with your doctor.
  2. Have my iron supplement and prenatal vitamins
  3. Have 8 glasses of water a day.
  4. Make sure to have an extra pillow between your legs when you go to sleep.

Questions you may have

“I was advised to try to give up the habit of drinking tea and coffee. Too much tea or coffee in pregnancy is linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. If you can’t give up, try not to have more than two cups of tea a day!”

“That is because of your baby kicking and moving. It is a sign that baby is well!”

Pregnancy week 24 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
 Aches and pains appear anywhere in your body – that's because baby is moving a lot. You are likely to be putting on weight – your baby is growing! Belly may be big enough for you to have a protruding naval! You could be having sleepless nights and may not have enough desire for sexual intimacy.

Baby size

Week 24 baby size
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a large Pomegranate (about 30 cms long and 575 gms in weight).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Baby if born now can survive outside the womb  with the right support! However, your baby still needs you and has to be nurtured in your belly for another three months. His/her arms, legs and head are in proportion. He/she responds to soothing voices when your husband or you rub your belly.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Try natural remedies for sleep like meditation or hot milk before bed.
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands so that you don’t get swollen and painful wrists.
  • Straighten your legs and move your ankles and toes in circular movements to avoid cramps.
  • Soak your hands and feet in cold water or apply ice packs if they get red and itchy. Also avoid wearing socks.
  • If you are keen to keep your hair in control rub a tablespoon of coconut oil in your hair after shampooing!

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. Do I need to get a test for diabetes?
  2. At times I see things blurred. Is this normal?
  3. I have lower abdominal pain. I also feel a little feverish and chills. Do I have a serious problem?
  4. I am having white discharge and irritation around the vulva. What can I do?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Have your folic acid supplement and prenatal vitamins.
  2. Book an antenatal appointment with your doctor.
  3. Schedule to get a glucose test done.
  4. Discuss having a birthing plan with your husband.

Questions you may have

“Weight gain differs from woman to woman. On an average women gain 10 -14 Kgs during pregnancy. In the second trimester women generally gain 400 – 425 gms a week. If you are concerned that you are not reaching the target weight gain your doctor advised ask your doctor for advice. I checked with my doctor.”

“I was offered one in my second trimester. Whooping cough can kill and the vaccination provides protection during the first few weeks of the baby’s life. It is very safe for mother and baby. You should consult your doctor.”

Pregnancy week 25 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
You are starting to feel uncomfortable because of simple things that you may not be able to do easily, like bending. You are also likely to get back aches and feel clumsy with movements. That is because your uterus is growing rapidly. It is the size of a football! You are likely to be puffy and swollen in your face, hands and feet and your fingers may feel numb and tingly.Your hair looks thick and lustrous – enjoy!

Baby size

Week 28 baby size
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a small Eggplant or Aubergine (roughly 32 cms and 640 gms).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Baby is getting hiccups and sticking out his/her tongue! The brain, lungs and digestive system are quite developed. The first bowel movement has taken place. Kidneys are functioning and baby can pass urine!

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Sit up straight when you eat, eat small and healthy meals, cut back on tea or coffee to prevent indigestion problems – heart burn, nausea, distension.
  • If your vision seems blurred try not to worry too much – it will pass off after delivery.
  • Carry on doing pelvic floor exercises, have lots of water and food rich in fibre to help with constipation.
  • Maintain oral hygiene – brush your teeth at least twice a day. Periodontitis, a serious infection of gums has been linked to premature birth and increased risk of pregnancy related serious illnesses.
  • Use moisturiser or calamine lotion if your skin feels itchy.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. My face, hands and feet feel puffy and swollen. I also get splitting headaches. Can this be due to high blood pressure in pregnancy?
  2. I get this tingling sensation and constant urge to move my legs. Could this be due to iron deficiency?
  3. My wrists hurt and I can barely move my fingers. Can acupuncture help?
  4. I often think that I don’t deserve to be happy! I think I have depression?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Get weight checked and assessed.
  2. Have folic acid supplement and prenatal vitamins
  3. Book antenatal appointment.
  4. Ask how to prevent depression after birth.

Questions you may have

“Birth plans are personal. It is about thinking through what you would like to happen during your labour and after the birth. I planned where I wanted to give birth, what kind of pain relief I would like, discuss about caesarean section and what should I be looking out for in my newborn. I was advised to discuss my birthing plan with my husband, how he could help and to be flexible as all may not go as per plan!”

“Normal daily hair loss is suppressed by pregnancy hormones. Enjoy the look for now. After delivery you will shed quite a lot - all the hair that does not fall now!”

Pregnancy week 26 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
As the third trimester approaches you feel more tired, quite clumsy and uncoordinated – you are having to carry a lot of extra weight. You get of leg cramps and just feel like curling up throughout the day. Your belly button is likely to be protruding out now and the line downwards starting from your naval is quite dark. You just feel like snacking – avoid that!

Baby size

Baby size week 26
What to expect
Your baby is as big as a Sweet Papaya (roughly 34 cms long and 740 gms in weight).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Baby’s eyes are opening, blinking for the first time! The brain is developing and processing information – listening and responding to sounds. Fingernails have grown. He/she might be feeling a little cramped in your womb.Baby has quite a bit of hair this week.

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Allow more time to do your usual activities – like when you have to walk to the bus stop.
  • Remain active as you are likely to feel like staying put and not moving.
  • Get to know your baby’s movement patterns. Learn how to track the frequency of movements.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you touch foods like raw meats, egg, poultry or fish.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them, even the ones you will peel. Avoid raw eggs.

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. I can’t feel my baby’s movements as strongly. Is that okay?
  2. Why am I kicking in my sleep?
  3. My eyes feel dry and irritated. Is that normal?
  4. I normally get migraines. But it seems to have increased a lot in pregnancy. What medication can I take?
  5. Do I need to have a birthing plan?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Make a daily activity plan.
  2. Practice good posture.
  3. Get your weight checked and assessed.
  4. Have your folic acid supplement and prenatal vitamins.
  5. Book Ann antenatal appointment with your doctor.

Questions you may have

“Rubbing my muscles where it hurt helped. I also made it a point to do ankle and foot exercises when I got into bed. Pulling my toes upwards also helped.”

“It’s best to talk to your doctor. Also share how you feel with your husband or your close friend. It helped me. Try to take away negative thoughts from your mind. Don't suppress positive thoughts actively.

Having thoughts like I don’t deserve to be happy suggest that postpartum depression may be likely. Your doctor will suggest if you need specialised help.”

Pregnancy week 27 wellness guide

Your Body

changes in the body
What to expect
You are feeling tired and need naps during the day. You could also be feeling quite short-tempered and outspoken. Worrying a lot more about what’s best for you and your baby.Your feet are swelling up and you will find putting on your shoes difficult. Your skin around your belly feels stretched, dry and itchy.

Baby size

Baby size_week 27
What to expect
Your baby is the size of a Cabbage (roughly 36 cms long and 840 gms in weight).

Your Baby

Pregnancy weekly guide - baby size
What to expect
Many developments have taken place. Baby’s lungs are capable of breathing. Baby’s organs are maturing and his or her skin is not as wrinkly. Baby is nearly a foot long and two pounds in weight – double of what it was four weeks ago. Baby can now recognise your husband’s voice. Ask him to speak to baby. Baby responds to your eating too spicy food by hiccupping!

Taking care

Mission pageTaking care 2Our services page
Tips
  • Sleep on your sides and not on your back. Some recommend sleeping on your left side. Sleeping on the back can double the risk of stillbirth.
  • Sleep with your feet elevated.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for a long time. If your feet are swelling excessively consult your doctor.
  • Use a cool damp compress to relieve heat rash.
  • Place cool cucumber slices under your eyes for puffiness under the eyes, especially when you wake up in the morning.
  • Look on the bright side of things – most of the discomfort you are experiencing will pass off after delivery!

Ask your doctor

Pregnancy weekly guide - ask your doctor
Questions
  1. During any activity I feel quite breathless and can’t talk at the same time. I feel my heart pounding too. Is that normal?
  2. My feet are swollen to the point that I can’t squeeze my feet into my shoes. Is that normal?
  3. Have I gained enough weight? Should I be doing anything more for a healthy pregnancy?
  4. Should I be attending special classes in preparation for delivery?

Your to do list

Todoicon
Action points
  1. Make sure you sleep on your sides.
  2. Support your bump with a pillow and another pillow between your knees when you go to sleep.
  3. Record your weight and blood pressure.
  4. Learn some soothing yoga based relaxation techniques.
  5. Ask your husband to put his ears against my belly to hear baby’s heartbeat.

Questions you may have

“Changing my diet helped. I stopped Cabbage, Raddish and such had more of Spinach and carrots. I was also asked to drink plenty of water and opt for smaller meals.”

“You act out intuitively when pregnant. After all you have to take care of yourself and your baby. Setting boundaries is good. It’ll help later too.”