Funny how a topic like postpartum depression can be such a lightening rod for discussion. But I think that’s a good thing – and half the reason I write about even the not-so-pretty things that go on in my life: because I think discussion is good. I think awareness is good. It’s useful to me to write because it helps me sort things out and feel less alone, and I like to think it’s useful to someone else out there who might be struggling the same struggles.
I really didn’t expect anyone to have any instant answers for me, but I appreciate everyone’s input. And it’s silly to think that anyone is going to be able to accurately diagnose me over the internet. I’m keeping my eyes open to whatever it is I’m going through, rest assured.
A friend of mine posted this on my Facebook wall:
Although the length of the postpartum period varies cross-culturally, the notion of a 40-day postpartum is common in many non-Western cultures (Lauderdale, 1999;Nahas et al., 1999). In almost all non-Western societies, 40 days after birth is seen as necessary for recuperation. Among most non-Western cultures, family members (especially female relatives) provide strong social support, help new mothers at home during that period. The new mother’s activities are strictly limited, and her needs are taken care of by (typically) female relatives and midwives (Holroyd et al., 1997;Nahas & Amashen, 1999).
For example, in Guatemala, a traditional midwife visits the mother every day or two, for up to 2 weeks after birth, to check the baby’s cord, to massage the mother, and to wash the families’ clothes and linens, so that the new mother may rest (Lang & Elkin, 1997).
Chinese women believe rest is essential after birth. During the customary 30-day postpartum confinement, female relatives or live-in helpers perform household activities for the new mother (Holroyd et al., 1997). The new mother must be confined to her home during a 30-day postpartum period and must perform a variety of avoidance rituals (Holroyd, Katie, Chun, & Ha, 1997).
In India, postpartum confinement typically lasts up to 40 days. This seclusion is to protect the new mother and her infant not only from evil spirits, but also from exposure to illness, because both are considered to be in a vulnerable state after birth (American Public Health Association, 2001).
In the Middle East, resting 40 days after having a baby is customary in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine (Nahas & Amashen, 1999;Nahas et al., 1999). During this 40-day period, someone comes to the house or stays with the new mother to take care of the baby, the house, and the other children, so that “all new mothers have to do is rest” (Nahas & Amashen, 1999, p. 42).
Very interesting. Kinda makes me want to move to a different country. I would be very interested to know how the rate of PPD in those countries/cultures compares to the rate of PPD in western culture. It seems that other countries maybe have more reverence for the profound changes a woman goes through after giving birth, and a deeper respect for what she and her new baby need. Here in the U.S., it seems that overall, we expect women to get over it and bounce back very quickly – and we’re more interested in treating PPD than taking measures to prevent it. Even being in the throes of postpartum-ness myself, I’m still a product of western culture: I want to feel like my old self NOW, and accepting help is very, very difficult for me; I hate being needy.
I’m riding a lot of ups and downs right now. I’m actually not sleep-deprived; I get a decent amount of sleep at night because Scarlett sleeps next to me, so I barely have to wake up to nurse her. The tiredness is more from being physically and emotionally drained every day trying to meet the needs of seven kids, take care of the house, etc., and then the resulting guilt for knowing I’m short-changing everyone. I might spend a good part of the day feeling okay, feeling like maybe I’m getting a handle on things, and then it can all unravel very quickly when, say, the baby wants to be held, and while I’m holding her, Finn pitches a fit, so I ease the baby down in the bassinet to go to Finn, only to have the baby start crying as soon as I put her down – and that cycle might go on for a solid hour or more. Or, I might dissolve into tears when Michael takes the kids out and I get the baby down to sleep and suddenly I’m left with peace and quiet that I don’t know what to do with. Or my 15-year old might leave for a four-day camping trip and I might find that I’m really going to miss him.
I’ve been thinking about things that would help me feel better overall, in no particular order:
- If my kids would be just a smidge (okay, A LOT) more cooperative and well-behaved.
- Walking. I really need to start walking again – I think the fresh air and exercise and endorphins would do me a world of good. I’m going to shoot for starting next week, just short walks and working my way back up to the 2 – 3 mile walks I was doing before I got pregnant.
- More time with Michael. I miss us time.
Boy, a baby sure can throw a monkey wrench into things, huh?