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May 15, 2012

On the baby blues, that space in between

The unhappiness I felt during my early days as a mother has been diagnosed as post-partum depression by such authorities as complete strangers and the back of book in which my essay “Love is a Let-Down” was published. And I’ve fought this label from the get-go, resenting the neatness with which it packages my experience. I think calling every difficult time in one’s life “depression” undermines the experiences of those who actually do endure this disease, and I maintain that my unhappiness was born from one salient point– life with a newborn was hard and crappy, and I am not very good at adjusting to change.

So I was thrilled to hear an interview on post-partum depression this morning on the radio, for a variety of reasons, actually, because the conversation was very interesting, but in particular because the doctor spoke about “the baby blues”. Of course, we’re all familiar with the term, but I was pleased to hear it delineated. She describes the baby blues as feeling “down and teary”, and the difference between it and PPD is that the former goes away in a matter of weeks (and it did!), and that it is so common that it’s not even classified as a disorder. It’s a period of adjustment, she says, which is what I’ve been saying all along. It was the whole point of my essay, which some readers missed and others resented. My friend Heidi says something similar to this in her blog post “Sometimes It’s Just that Becoming a Mother is Hard”.

I am a huge fan of in-between spaces in general, but I like this one in particular– this space between the blissed out new mom (who does exist! I’ve ever met a few of her) and the mom with PPD. The thing is that all of us are normal, that all of us need support from friends, family and our communities to make it through the early days. And it’s by acknowledging the various degrees of experience that every new mom will be able to find the support that she needs.

3 thoughts on “On the baby blues, that space in between”

  1. Anna says:

    I think as long as we’re willing to give mothers (and all people, for that matter) the leeway to decide for themselves when it crosses the line into something they know is past their range of ‘normal,’ we’ve also got room for more just general support for anyone who’s just experiencing a difficult time in their lives that they’re struggling to deal with in healthy ways. More support! More support for everybody!

  2. Kathy says:

    Lately I’ve been trying to analyze the experiences of women at different points in their lives, trying to make sense of changes in my life. Your essay made me think that sometimes less analysis is needed, and perhaps we just need to tell the stories and accept each other’s experiences in their fullness.

  3. Lindsay says:

    I am a big fan of this way of thinking. For 5 years I have been trying to explain what I went through after my first was born and “post-partum anxiety” didn’t really cover it and the general response to this was “take medication” but it wasn’t about that. It was about adjusting to this new, can’t turn back, life flipping over normal. It took a while. 5 years in and another baby later I am so glad to see I wasn’t the only one.

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