Every mother has a tale of tribulation to share. The pain and sacrifice are often underplayed, as they take everything in their stride, stay calm, and remain unruffled. Through our #RealMom Series, we hope to be able to do justice to these incredibly powerful stories that we bring to you. After working for two years in the beauty industry, she quit her job and started her own makeup and beauty blog, Zuri in 2012. But this story is not just about her passion. It’s about patience, perseverance, and everything that lies in between twin pregnancy, postpartum depression to undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, and reviving her beauty blog after five years. So much has happened to her, in so little time!
This week we have Real Mom Samaanta Dwivedi, born in Chennai to Mumbaikar parents, and now lives in San Francisco. Soon after completing her education in optometry, Samaanta began working in the optical field but realized that this wasn’t where her heart was. One fine day, she just decided to do what she really wanted to and joined a makeup course.
A new world, new experience, and a brand new twin pregnancy:
I was born and brought up in Chennai. I’d never stepped out of Chennai, let alone Tamil Nadu or India. The first shift happened when I got married. From the southern corner of India, I was uprooted and planted up north. It was a major shift for me–culturally, climatically, and psychologically. It would be an understatement if I said that it scared me. I was full of anxiety, and trepidation. While in the process of getting used to life in Gurgaon, my husband got a job offer in San Francisco, California. And we’d just found out that we were pregnant!
5 months pregnant, 5 suitcases, and 15 hours later, I felt like an alien:
I was 5 months pregnant with my twins when we shifted to California. Moving to the US created a great deal of anxiety and excitement. Anxiety, because I had never traveled overseas before. And here I was alone without any help, in a new city, reason enough to make me super anxious. Without my family around, I felt isolated and my hormones were making it worse. Thankfully, my anxiety made way for excitement, when we landed at the beginning of summer in beautiful, sunny San Francisco. Just as I was soaking in all the positive energies that would help me feel better, the real problems began to crop up.
Relocation to a new country presents different kinds of challenges, especially if you happen to be expecting.Samaanta talks about her life in a new country
In my case, for example not being able to find an obstetrician who would take my case. Without any previous records, they refused to take a patient who was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. One out of ten finally responded, thankfully she was an expert in multiple pregnancies. We went for a check-up, had my ultrasound done and everything looked fine. She told me that I would go as far as the 38th week of pregnancy and it would be a C-section. Honestly, it didn’t come to me as a surprise because I had done my research. When having twins it would be a C-section as they don’t have space to turn, their heads could be up, and several other complications.
I prepared myself, but not for this:
Since it’s usually the norm to categorize a twin pregnancy as a high risk one, we were pepped up for the worst-case scenarios. As days went by things began to get difficult. The tiredness increased and the constant visits to the bathroom were killing me. With two babies fighting for space in my uterus, my urinary bladder was giving way. At one point, the twins were pushing themselves up to my rib cage.
It was excruciatingly painful and that’s when I told my husband that I needed them to be out in no time.Samaanta talks about her painful last trimester
However, my gynec advised me to wait till the 38th week. Thankfully my sugar levels were okay but my iron level dropped. I had to take an iron infusion at several hours’ intervals to avoid dangers due to excessive blood loss.
When the signs talked to me:
Finally, my wait was over and the day of my surgery arrived. While I was taken to the hospital, every red light turned green. That was enough for me to assure myself that everything would be fine. Our driver in fact told us that it was the first time he drove this distance in such a short time. Further assurance that there was nothing to worry about anymore.
Despite mentally preparing myself for the risks of twin pregnancy, I wasn’t ready for the epidural and the chilly OT. Even now I can feel the pain that hit my nerves when the drug entered my veins. The suffering left me wondering why I wanted to have a baby or rather babies, in my case. Eventually, the miracle happened, we were blessed with an adorable duo – a boy and a girl. The moment I saw them, the tears wouldn’t stop. After carrying so much weight for months, suddenly I felt empty. They were born in the 38th week with the normal body weight, they didn’t need to be kept in the NICU.
Double trouble or twice the ecstasy?
To see two adorable faces that solely belong to you, makes you feel privileged. At the same time, taking care of them can take a heavy toll on you. My mother had come to San Francisco to help me with the kids but she had to leave early because her frail body couldn’t withstand the exertion. I was left with two newborns and no one to help me but my husband. Initially, there was a great deal of arguing and confusion about their feeding, burping, pooping, and whatnot.
I had excruciating pain but I knew I would have to get well very quickly since my husband’s paternity leave would end and he would have to rejoin work. Soon, I would be left alone with my two little ones, and no friends or family to talk to.
The guilt trip that engulfed me
Feeding them was a guilt trip for me because I wasn’t lactating much and pumping didn’t help either. So, my kids continued solely on formula and it killed me inside because I could not breastfeed them. “I am not good enough, I am abnormal, I am not able to give them the basics,” the mom guilt seeped in. After three and a half months I stopped pumping because it didn’t make any sense. Kids would wake up alternatively and I was working like a machine. My life was going on a loop which has to be repeated twice. Everything began to look dark. The turmoil of what it did to my body and my mind seemed irreparable. The bliss of pregnancy and motherhood that I had looked forward to had transformed into a nightmare for me.
When everyone praised my luck with my twin pregnancy, I simply couldn’t share their joy and happiness.The moment when Samaanta realised that she had PPD
My eyes would well up for no apparent reason. The guilt of not being able to do the bare minimum for my kids was eating me from within and it felt like the walls were closing in on me.
Fighting postpartum depression:
As adorable as it may seem, a twin pregnancy can be frightening. I know, because I experienced it. I was continually breastfeeding, adjusting myself to their sleep pattern, which was never in sync, and unrelenting arguments with my husband on who knows better. Gradually, it dawned on me that I need to set about tackling this issue. I consulted my doctor and was put on a course of antidepressants.
For seven months, they were my “friends” who kept me happy and elated. I knew I had to part with them someday. Challenging as it was, I made up my mind to fight it out, no matter what. Despite the withdrawals, I gradually felt better. But if you ask me whether it is worth it, my answer would be a resounding “yes”! Today, I feel truly blessed and lucky to have had a twin pregnancy, because I have both a boy and a girl in one go.
Trouble followed me:
Finally, we got into the rhythm of life. My kids turned a year old, started walking, and babbling. My life was back to normal, period. It is my gynecologist who noticed a nodule in my neck, during the annual checkup. She referred me to a thyroid specialist who suggested I do a neck ultrasound and biopsy.
The results knocked over the little world that I had rebuilt with so much care and difficulty.Samaanta- About the crossroads in her life
There wasn’t just one but four nodules, all cancerous. It shocked the life out of us! Out of nowhere a new problem suddenly sprung upon us. The doctor gave us the option of doing a biopsy for all the nodules or removing the entire thyroid gland. I chose the latter option as I didn’t want to undergo the pain of biopsy all over again. I underwent thyroidectomy four years ago. A month later, I underwent radioactive therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells in my body.
Fortunately, the kids were just a year and a half and have no memory of their mother’s surgery. Occasionally, they are curious about the scar from the operation and I tell them that it is a mark that reminds me of the time when I fought hard.
Gender neutrality and my childhood:
Despite trying hard to be the flag bearers of women’s empowerment, our own experiences continue to haunt us. The gender discrimination in my house was clear cut. The notion of girls should play with dolls and wear dresses and skirts, was forcefully instilled in me but thankfully it failed to take hold of my conscience.
One vow I took while pregnant was not to discriminate between my kids, and I stood by it.Samaanta advocates gender neutrality
I give the freedom of choice to my kids. My daughter loves dinosaurs and spiderman. Pink and blue are for my both kids irrespective of their gender.
Zuri and I:
Zuri is the product of my passion, the brainchild that I’ve borne with equal pain and love. Back in 2012, it was rage, the No.1 makeup blog in India. What I least expected was that my passion for makeup would pay me back so handsomely. There was no looking back for the next three years. It was skyrocketing and we were up there. But again, how could things be smooth without any bumps? Zuri started suffering despite having an enthusiastic team with me.
When I look back, had my own physical and psychological challenges not been there, Zuri would have survived. Heartbreaking as it was, I had to prioritize. I had to push it to a corner and mothball it in one part of my mind. It took one day when I was craving to have the feeling of holding the brushes and doing makeup again. There was a great deal of procrastination that delayed the process–I was wary of being swamped with work again.
For a mother, work is more mental than physical and I think it often makes us want to do nothing but hit the sack!Zuri and Samaanta – When the inseparable bond took a toll on her
Do what you love:
My parents didn’t quite approve of the beauty industry.My dad is in the optical business and hence my parents wanted me to follow his path. They felt if I studied optometry, I could work at my dad’s optical showroom. Under his nose!
But he was the man in charge and there was nothing left for me to do! I had all the knowledge but nowhere to apply!
Then my husband came into my life. He somehow magically convinced my parents to allow me to pursue my passion.
I love what I do now. Post the relaunch of Zuri, it feels more relaxing and less work for me. I wake up early and go to bed pretty late, but I don’t feel sleep-deprived or tired because I do it for my happiness. Although the online scene in makeup blog or vlogs for that matter, now makes me feel like I was living under a rock for five years because I am amazed by the fascinating new content everywhere. In this new landscape, I realize that I have to work extra hard and reach where I was earlier or even surpass previous successes.
This is Samaanta for you! A woman who refused to trip over the many hurdles that life has thrown her way! A twin pregnancy, postpartum depression, thyroid cancer, shutting down her hugely successful blog–nothing could break her because she refused to break.