Penciling, because that is best I can do on the subject, but I can’t really blog on other things until I try to put together what I’d like to say on this.
It’s a situation complicated by the clash between what we expect to happen and what actually can happen. I thought Amy‘s story did a good job of rendering the one against the other in her experience… I don’t know if it was written intentially that way, or that is just how it tends to fall naturally in our mind.
Birth is supposed to be joyful as an event, but… I mean to be the best possible mother …but… my body…the circumstance… me… what is happening and why isn’t the way I was led to believe it would be? the way I hoped it would be?
This can happen in various circumstances, but giving birth to your children is one of those huge milestones of life. When we struggle with how that unfolds for us, it is so huge. Crushing, if it doesn’t go as planned, many times.
We are individuals, we bring in individual strengths and weaknesses, often the sort we have no conscious control over. So if depression postpartum hits you hard, with or without complicating factors, it is a serious matter for you and those you love, and that new baby dependent on you. But often times you are helpless.
Before I say anything more, I just want to say that everyones birth is unique, even each birth that the same woman has- each is a unique experience. Birth is a natural process, but one of those that carries the possibilities of risk. You have to face that. With or without medical help you cannot guarantee the outcome 100% . And that has nothing to do with you- you just try to get all the odds in yours and the babies favor, and this is what I’d like to look at.
I have had ten different births, in different circumstances. Some were very different from the others, one had severe postpartum depression, one had none. I can’t compile any sort of “finding” from this, I can just share some of what I think.
I think that support makes all the difference. Loving support is a major factor in outcomes for women on many levels in their birth experience and their mothering. I am convinced of this.
Unfortunately, we isolate women, we expect unhuman strength: pop those babies out and get on with the business of life. The real business, and ignore your need for recovery, ignore the fact that interventions may have seriously interfered with your bonding, and be a man about it.
That is right…be a man… pretend you don’t have the needs you do from the complete body and emotion experience you have just gone through. It wasn’t always this way, but we don’t dependably have the love and support we need. And I don’t mean from the main man- he may give all he can and it still isn’t all that is needed. We need other women, some who do practical things, some who do emotionally meaningful things. And we need someone to share with when we feel we are going over the edge.
Most of us get by without the ideal levels of support, but the more we have the richer all our families are for it.
The better off the children are.
And this can entail simple things. A hired doula for a couple weeks. A helpful friend to do laundry, ones mother. This was ( I don’t know if it still is) a part of the success that the Netherlands had with lower infant mortality. The mothers had a helper at home, after the birth.
Hospital births have interventions that interfere with birth and bonding, but no one practically expects American women to change from hospital birthing for the most part. It should be compensated for, however. The old time Church ministry of lovingly prepared meals for the family are one thoughtful support. Breaking off the false face of being the perfect mother from the get-go might help, too. Maybe just whatever comes from an organic relationship of wanting that woman to be successful in her mothering- simply an openness of attitude around her.
And that makes me think… that at birthtime, we ought to make it all about her. More than someones wedding day- which is that one day that is supposed to be all about her; on the birth day of someones baby we ought to make it a honeymoon time of being all about her: her comfort, her celebration, her tears, her feelings. Sort of an account from which she can draw as her life becomes all about her baby for a time. We share in the tremendous effort and joy that brought forth a child into the world- we gather around as community.
Can we do this? Is this too hard? We have strapped on so much luggage for the new mother. It is surprising that there is desire to go through the reproductive process at all…it must be that our hearts have more say than we realize.
In postpartum depression, however, some of what we need to give is a listening ear, a space where the fears can be shared, and the disappointments expressed. I believe that support will do much to dissipate the power of depression, but if an individuals need is more than can be dealt with in this way, at least the support can help in the healing process.
Much of the business of life is in the daily details of relating…. and not in the boardrooms and public image. We are not machines, we are not resources to be spent, we are women. In birthing, we give much of ourselves and we need some recovery. We need encouragement and nurture in learning to love and allowing the blossoming of our maternal instincts.
That is the reality. Celebrate with the happy, embrace the despairing…. isn’t that wisdom?