Thursday, June 5, 2008

Post-Partum Depression - Take 1

Here is a topic that I have soooo many ideas about. This means that I will try to think of some of them now and then remember others of them and come back with Take 2. Why is there such a rise in Post-Partum Depression (PPD)? What causes this? Is it just that we are diagnosing more?

I'll answer the last question first. Yes, there are probably more accurate diagnosis of PPD now than in the past. Does that mean that the same number of women suffered from it as today but were never diagnosed? I don't believe that. With so many women being bad off enough that they need medical interference to cope with and grow out of their PPD, it is unimaginable that the same number of women suffered PPD as badly as women today do and they just made do. This is my belief so feel free to disagree. I don't hear a lot of the older generation, though, talk about crying every day and feeling like they just couldn't manage to go on or do anything or that they didn't bond with their children for a long time from so much pain and resentment.

So... if it is something that has grown, why? In no particular order...

1) Women aren't raised to be mothers anymore, they are raised to be workers. In the past we lived tribally and all the women and girls would gather and work together. This means that the girls got to observe and help with the raising the children. When it was there turn they had a good idea of what they needed to do and how. As we moved into societies, we still lived in a village type of setting where the role of little girls were to help their mothers take care of the family home. They would often help with the little children during gatherings. I am a big fan of getting paid equally to a man for the same job and definitely like having the right to vote, but I sometimes feel like the feminist movement threw out the baby, literally, with the bath water. In the act of trying to teach little girls to be independent women who can earn a wage and take care of themselves, we stopped teaching them how to be mother's and what that will mean in their lives. It is a completely selfless existence that is very hard to achieve when you are taught to think of only your self/goals/dreams/etc. It is okay to have both. There is no need to leave out the education and independence so that you can learn to be a caretaker and there is no need to leave out being a caretaker so that you can learn to be a worker. These educations can co-exist. When you are suddenly faced with your baby, you are left wondering.. What now? I don't have the first inkling of how to go about taking care of such a needy little thing. What about my needs? Don't I get any rewards or praise for this job? It is very daunting to suddenly find yourself being the main person responsible for such a precious gift and yet you don't have the first clue as to what you are doing. This is why there is such a demand for parenting books now. My mother and mother-in-law laugh about how they didn't get any manuals on what to do with children. Knowledge, as they say, is power, or I like to say, empowering.

2) Speaking of tribal life... That was a built in support system. You never were a mother in her own home trying to figure it all out by yourself. You were a women amongst many women all helping each other out. Our modern day version of this is a play group, which is helpful, but can really only do so much because at the end of the day, we all end up back in our little cocoon (house) with a crying baby who is crying as we are sleep deprived and guessing at what could be wrong. Even when we moved to villages, our homes were often open to each other all the time because everyone in the village was friends with everyone else. Your neighbor could walk from their yard to yours and help at any time. Even not that long ago in US history we would have immigrant ghettos that would make it that everyone had a feeling of closeness and connectedness based on where they came from. This meant that everyone helped everyone else out and children were often raised by the community. It was no big deal to let your child go down and play with the other children and have your next door neighbor come by, see them doing something wrong, and they felt free to tell them to stop and to drag them back to their parents for punishment. Nowadays, we just don't know our local communities that well. We make our friends and they can live a 15 minute car ride away from you. You also don't feel comfortable in the same way that we used to in asking for help on a regular basis. We all feel like their is something wrong with us if we can't handle it. I believe this is partially because of the lack of connectedness of our communities. If we saw ourselves as a part of something instead of as an island, we wouldn't worry so much about what impression we were making by asking for support. We would know it was there for the asking.

3) Back to not being raised as mothers, the other side of that coin is that we are raised to be workers. For those women that chose to become stay-at-home moms (SAHM), this is a really difficult transition. If you are taught that your self worth comes from how much you make and the status of your position, then what happens when you can't answer the question of "What do you do?" and you don't feel you are contributing to the family income? You are left wondering, "Who am I?", "How can I define myself?", "Am I a dependent woman now instead of an independent one?", "Will my husband still love me if I am dependent?", "Will people still respect my intelligence if they here I am a SAHM and I don't have a respected employable position?" It is hard to define yourself by certain parameters all your early life only to have to redefine yourself all of a sudden through a time that is already charged with so many questions and doubts.

4) Women are also having children much later nowadays which has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, we are more responsible over all, able to provide more since we have had time for ourselves and our husbands to establish a career and home, have a lot of wisdom to impart from having lived such a full younger life, etc. Unfortunately, this comes with a price. Since we have established our lives so well, we also often times, love the life we have established and find it really hard to give it up. Many a first mom has had the thought (even though they love their baby from the start), "What have I done?", "I loved our life!", "I had so much freedom!" You have established a wonderful relationship with your spouse, your friends, your family. Your traveling, enjoying going out late with friends, taking all sorts of "me" time, and wham... all of that is gone. Of course in the end, after some time, you realize that while there is less "me" time and you aren't free anymore, you have traded up, not down. At first though, you have a screaming baby, not a playful toddler full of kisses and laughter, and this little baby just has all these needs that it demands be fore filled with near to no reward. Your life before baby starts to look pretty rosy for a while there.

Okay... there will be more to come for sure, but it is late and time for me to get some of that much needed sleep that mothers never seem to get! :)