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April 17, 2013

Not just fine

“But something about new motherhood also darkened my worldview and made the thought of those cries more threatening. This is where you may be wondering if I’m just talking about post-partum depression, but the struggles I have in mind are unlikely to raise any significant red flags at the six-week check-up. And while, being raised in a family of psychologists, I certainly asked myself whether I might have PPD, I generally didn’t find that line of questioning helpful.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s an important question that we should keep asking ourselves and each other, and we should seek treatment unapologetically if the answer might be yes. But the problem with that question as our primaryapproach to the struggles of new motherhood is that it suggests that the post-partum experience itself is just fine, unless of course you have a legitimate clinical illness that distorts your perception of it. And the post-partum experience is not just fine. It is immensely, bizarrely complicated. It is, at various times and for various people, grueling and joyful and frightening and beautiful and disorienting and moving and horrible. There’s a lot going on there that will never make its way into the DSM V.”

-from “Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood” by Jody Peltason, whose standout line was “” We thought it would be sitcom-style hard.” Yes, indeed!

2 thoughts on “Not just fine”

  1. And it’s not just the struggle of the relationship between mom and baby, but the evolving grind (and yes, it can be a grind for YEARS) of negotiating with your partner around this new relationship and its accompanying duties. As Joseph Campbell said so eloquently, choosing to marry moves us from simplicity to complexity. I would add that having children once again bumps us up the complexity scale, with a proportionate addition of challenges.

    My two cents is this: My most useful mantra has been “This too shall pass.” And knowing that having children – especially difficult ones – wildly grows our empathy for others and offers us a critical opportunity to learn lessons about ourselves and our place in the world like no other experience I can think of. It can open us up in mind-blowing ways; it is nothing short of a spiritual, mental and personal awakening.

    I am a significantly different person – honestly, better for it – than before I had kids. But, Lord knows, I would NEVER describe the whole experience as easy or sitcom-like. Fascinating, but not easy. xo

  2. Oh, one more bit. I don’t know if you practice yoga, but I started in January and, being a bit Type-A, have also started reading voraciously on the subject. I’m in the middle of “Kundalini Rising”, which may be a useful read for you at this juncture.

    The 24 essays in the book speak about spiritual awakening from a variety of perspectives. What I find most fascinating is how much the ‘symptoms’ of awakening look like textbook examples of mental illness (DSM V). Which then makes me wonder how often we’re mistaking one with the other, as opposed to recognizing – and embracing/supporting – important changes that individuals may be going through.

    So maybe what we call “Not Just Fine” is really “Just Fine” (or even better!) but our culture simply lacks an accepted methodology or worldview to deal with it.

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