Friday, October 17, 2008
Are You a New Mom? Do You Feel a Bit Down?
I gave a brief mention of The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty in a previous post; but I want to dedicate a WHOLE post to it because I really loved that book.
It's going down as one of my favorites.
Just as a little side note: I returned to Powell Books and got a few more treasures including Moriarty's other book Three Wishes.
I bought a few nonfiction goodies including a book about Daisy Bates and the famous Tracks by Robyn Davidson. Where I really hit gold is with Janette Turner Hospital. They had a BUNCH of her books and I think I bought a copy of each. After I bought it, I started to think....Oh no. I hope I like her books. I loved Oyster, but what if that was a total fluke? I am a complete pushover for books about weird cults.
Oh, I also got the Tony Horwitz book about Australia. I loved his book about Captain Cook; Blue Latitudes.
Anyway, back to The Last Anniversary. I laughed out loud so many times when reading it. I'm horrible at book reviews so I won't go on and on. Otherwise, I'll end up sounding like a third-grader doing a book report.
The characters were good....
My favorite part was when.....
I will say that the book reminded me a little bit of Anne Rivers Siddon's stuff, but with a little more humor. The setting and storyline reminded me of Siddon--well except that Siddon writes about the southern United States and Moriarty was writing about New South Wales. I guess I would say if you added a little bit more chick-lit humor to Siddon and placed her in Australia; you'd end up with Moriarty.
The book wasn't all giggles. It dealt with some serious topics--the main one being postpartum depression. I personally though the book dealt with the issue in a very sensitive and realistic way. But my opinion might not be shared with others.
The book did give me a lot of deep thoughts about the topic. I thought about when I first became a mom. I remember having this fear that I'd be one of those ppd people. I wanted so badly NOT to be one of them. I remember a certain family member expressing concern that I might have ppd, and I felt embarrassed about it. Ashamed.
It's that whole mental illness stigma.
My feeling though is that postpartum Depression is really a ridiculous idea for the most part.
What is it like being a new mom?
a) You're totally lacking in sleep.
b) Your parents and in-laws are at your house and down your throat.
c) Your husband is tired and cranky.
d) You might have stitches in precious areas that seem ready to split apart as soon as you take your first crap.
e) your bleeding in a way that no period has ever made you bleed.
f) You're getting conflicting advice from books, magazines, and every single person you encounter. It seems one wrong turn and your baby is either going to die or be totally emotionally screwed up forever.
g) Your breasts are probably sore.
h) You can't go out and catch a movie at the last minute like you used to.
i) You're suddenly responsible for someone's life and have to learn new skills.
j) Your hormones are changing.
k) You oddly still can't fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
New motherhood can be a total nightmare.
I think we should worry about postpartum joy rather than postpartum depression.
I encountered a new mom who was all full of smiles. She seemed so at ease. I was like...woman, what the HELL is wrong with you??????
My feeling is that new moms should be allowed to feel completely down in the dumps without being told they suffer from this postpartum depression thing.
BUT I do think there IS a point where postpartum depression becomes a mental illness. The question is how do you separate normal new-mom blues/depression from the type that needs intervention?
In The Last Anniversary, the depressed mother doesn't bond with her baby. She doesn't like her new son. She has no positive feelings towards him. She has horrific fantasies of harming him. These feelings lead her into feeling abnormal and guilty, so then she becomes even more depressed.
I felt really like shit after Jack was born. I did. I look back at it as being one of the worst times of my life. But I think what saved me from being horribly depressed is I was madly in love with Jack. As soon as he was born, I loved that human being more than anyone else I've loved in my entire life. It totally downplayed any other feelings of love I've had previously in my life.
I don't know how I'd ever manage those first months if I didn't love Jack so much. I think I would have become very suicidal--maybe even homicidal. Motherhood during those first few months can be incredibly hard. Jack was a high-needs baby so it made things even harder for me. Oh and did I forget to mention.....I've never been a fan of babies. I'm just not that type of girl. I like children. I do NOT like babies. But I LOVE Jack and I loved him at every age. Although I will say I'm incredibly grateful to be done with the baby and toddler stage.
Anyway, I haven't read all that much about postpartum depression, but I did read Brooke Shield's postpartum memoirs and she also talked about lacking feelings of love for her daughter.
So, I'm wondering if not-bonding-with-your-baby plays a part in postpartum depression. Could this be why some new moms do okay with it all and some don't?
Then I guess the question would be why do some mothers bond immediately and why do other mothers take a longer time?
Psychiatrists and science folks would probably put the blame on hormone imbalances. I do think that has merit and would play a significant role.
On a spiritual level, (since I'm all into that) maybe it could involve past-life relationships. Maybe Jack and I knew each other in a past life and we already had a bond. To be honest, I loved Jack a LOT before he was even born. I had some bleeding early on in the pregnancy and I was absolutely devastated about it--terrified of losing him. As the pregnancy progressed into the later stages, I was incredibly eager for him to be born. And it's not that I was terribly uncomfortable with being pregnant. I just REALLY wanted to hurry up and meet Jack. Maybe there was a part of me that was waiting to have him be part of my life again.
Maybe some moms end up with babies that they were enemies with in a past life. On a subconscious level they might know this, and therefore not love the new baby. Maybe when the baby sucks on their nipple, they have an urge to slap it and vent out all their past life anger. But then eventually maybe the mother loses the past life angers and begins to love the baby. Perhaps, psychiatric drugs and/or counseling can help speed this process along a bit.
I went and talked to Lord Wiki about the issue. He says that there's a correlation between postpartum depression and inadequate social support. There's an evolutionary psychological viewpoint that says there really is no postpartum depression. It's just in the past (or in other animals) when we moms lacked support, we'd reduce investment in the child. I suppose this could include infanticide or abandonment. These days, it's less socially acceptable for humans to do this, so these moms simply might WISH to abandon or murder their child. Having these secret feelings must be terrifying and I'm sure it totally depletes their self-esteem.
We need more support for new parents.
I think one of the most important things we can do for new moms is to take some of the pressure off of them. They do NOT need to be glowing and full of smiles after the baby is born. It's okay for them to feel like shit. It's also okay if they don't fall madly in love with the baby right away. Maybe the worst part of this lack-of-immediate-bonding is the guilt it induces. We tell pregnant women that they will immediately fall head over heals in love. Maybe if they're told that this doesn't always happen right away, at least they'll feel less guilt about it.
So....to new moms I say:
It's okay to feel like total shit and miss your child-free days.
It's okay if you don't love your baby right away. It WILL happen someday--hopefully before your child leaves for college. But if by chance it hasn't happened by then, uh...well, absence does make the heart grow fonder.
To people who know new parents, I say:
Please spend less energy trying to label the new mom in your life as having ppd and spend more
energy giving her the support she lacks. Go to the store and pick up groceries for her. Cook a meal for the family. Praise her for her new parenting abilities (new moms get so much criticism and advice. Praise would probably be VERY welcomed). Bring your tools over and help her put together the new baby swing. Give her financial help if needed.
Okay, I'm climbing down from my soapbox now. Ha ha. Joking! We all know I NEVER get down from my soapbox. I live up here.
P.S-If you ARE one of those moms who were super happy and at ease after your baby was born, please don't ever talk to me again or read my blog. No, I'm joking. I can be tolerant. The world is made up of all different types of folks.
If I keep repeating that, I may be able to still love you.