I’ve started several posts about the Mother’s Act today. I’ve spent some time reading things that those who oppose it have written, including one of the articles which comes dangerously close to libel against the fantastic Katherine Stone. That’s a line I didn’t expect to see crossed, and it saddens me that it was.
What rattled me almost as much today were assertions that were made essentially suggesting that postpartum depression is not a real medical problem, and that the difficulties women may face during the postpartum period could only come from Western Medicine’s mishandling of pregnancy, labor, and birth. In light of that, I thought I’d share a bit more of my story.
With both of my daughters we faced the real possibility that my husband would be gone during their births So…. I sought out a doula each time. I wanted someone WITH me. Along the way I learned a bit about doulas… I learned about how they decreased the rate of C-sections significantly, about how they often help Mom’s find ways to endure the pain of childbirth without using epidurals or other medications. And you can’t learn about doula’s without learning a bit about the ‘natural childbirth movement.’
When my second daughter was born, I did most of my laboring at home. Our doula was fantastic. She kept me calm and focused. I spent most of the labor on an exercise ball or curled up on my own couch. I took showers to deal with the pain, and to stay relaxed. We actually ended up planning our trip to the hospital around the opening of the military base’s gate that was closest to us. I arrived still minimally dilated, VERY quickly transitioned from 2 cm to 10 cm, pushed for a reasonable amount of time and held my baby girl in my arms just two hours after getting to the hospital (with a total laboring time of 10 hours–I have to get my full credit!). I didn’t get an epidural, or any other form of pain relief. My labor went as close to going ‘as planned’ a labor possibly can.
But as I said in an earlier post, it felt different from the start. I felt panicky with my baby in my arms. When I got home, I found the only time I felt really ok was when I was snuggling my tiny miracle and she was content. Months went by and I attributed my feeling ‘off’ to the anniversary of the death of my mother, to my husband’s deployment, and to countless other things only to find when life ‘settled down’ that I still didn’t feel right.
It took weeks of me looking online for people with stories like mine before I got the courage to call for an appointment. I didn’t have the symptoms I expected to have for a diagnosis of Postpartum Depression. I felt sad, but I didnt’ cry all the time. I was irritable and angry too often. My default setting for life was more negative than positive. But mostly all I could say was that I felt off. I wrote more about how I felt in this post.
I was lucky to see a compassionate doctor who was aware of depression and postpartum depression. When I went to the doctor, I expected to have to convince HIM I had a problem. Instead he listened to my symptoms and my conclusions and spent the next half-hour or so helping me to understand WHY I was feeling that way, and explaining the avenues of treatment available. I left knowing that I had a REAL problem and that HOPE was available. I wasn’t always going to feel like this, and the fact that I did feel like I did WASN’T MY FAULT.
I write all of this for two reasons: 1) Because I had a pretty minimally medically invasive labor and delivery. I was in no way, shape, or form a “victim of Western medicine.” (the fact that Western Medicine, while it can be flawed, can also be a life-saving Godsend is really for another post. In the meantime, go read what Liz at Mother is Not For Wimps says about CesareanAwareness Month). Yet even with this non-medicated, “natural,” doula-assisted birth, I STILL experienced Postpartum Depression. I STILL felt off. 2) Had it not been for me becoming informed little by little, and then having the luck of seeing a physician who both had a clue and gave a damn, I wouldn’t have known I had a problem or believed there was hope to deal with the problem. For me, information was power. Denying the problem left me hopeless. But, armed with the knowledge that I had a REAL physiological condition that could be TREATED a variety of ways left me empowered. And gave me the chance to dig out of the ‘offness.’
The MOTHERS Act was written for women like me. It was written so that women who might not think they fit the mold for a problem like postpartum depression can become informed, and ultimately empowered. It was written to bring awareness to health care providers so that a greater number of them will have a clue and give a damn. It wasn’t written to drug women into mindless zombies or so that health care providers could dupe women into taking drugs they don’t need to pad the pockets of the evil entity known as “Big Pharma.”
Education is Power. Even more, Education EMPOWERS. That’s why I support the Mother’s Act. That’s why I encourage you to speak louder than the opposition. How can you do that? Stealing from the, now infamous, Katherine Stone:
Here are ways to take action:
- Go to the DBSA and sign the petition.
- E-mail Susan Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org and put your name on the state-by-state list of people who endorse this bill.
- Call and write your senator or Congressperson
- Write about the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act in your blog.
- Call or e-mail every one of your organization’s members today and tell them to get up and get to work for goodness sake.
- Join Postpartum Support International as it works to create more and better services and education for the women who suffer.