I came across a video on Facebook that made me burst into tears and also made me go, “Oh hell naw. I would totally go to jail for this heifer!!”
Being a new mother, whether it’s your first or your 10th, can be both exhausting and isolating, especially within today’s modern society that has contributed to the breakdown of the family, especially the extended family, an invaluable source of vital support for new mothers.
Now, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for any woman to abuse, molest, harm or kill her child and incidences like the above are of grave concern.
Post-partum depression is a very real thing. There is a reason why the postnatal period is also known as the 4th Trimester.
The combination of rapid hormonal changes, social isolation, having to meet the ever-changing needs of tiny new life completely dependent on you for its survival, all while trying to survive, let alone thrive, yourself can be a very painful upward struggle.
There is the very real concern of mothers with PPD harming their babies and it is no wonder then that there are proposals for new mothers to have mental health checks.
However, do new mothers truly need mental health checks?
Here are some of my observations on why there is an increase in PPD among women and how the issue can be addressed.
Rapid Hormonal Changes
After childbirth, your hormone levels start to plummet rapidly and this can be very disconcerting on the system.
A great way to offset the effect of this is through breastfeeding. Oxytocin, dopamine, and other hormones released through breastfeeding act as a form of anti-depressant to boost the mother’s mental health.
Unfortunately, some women find breastfeeding difficult or even impossible due to various factors including a traumatic birth, stress levels within her primary relationship, a difficult pregnancy, financial worries (especially if she is expected to return back to work within 6 months or less), baby not latching on properly and so on.
Every mom worries that she is not doing a good enough job of motherhood and parenting.
However, today’s society places really expectations on women, and mothers in particular.
This can all feel too much to the new mother who is desperately trying to be all things to all people.
The best way to combat this is to focus on your baby first and make his/her needs your priority.
Ridiculous Expectations Of Motherhood
Modern society has lied to women and told us that we can be excel at both motherhood and career.
This is simply not true. It’s akin to telling a person that they can excel simultaneously at being a brilliant surgeon as well as a high-flying lawyer.
You are either a great mother or a great career woman, but not both.
The term Working Mother is as much an oxymoron as the term Feminist Catholic or Virgin Prostitute.
Letting go of these ridiculously impossible expectations will go a long way to preventing or easing the effects of mental health decline in new mothers.
I know this can be hard because everywhere you turn, there is one woman or the other shaming you for not living up to these expectations.
Cut them out of your life! So what if your social circle shrinks?! So what if you lose a few “friends”?!
Your well-being and the well-being of your baby comes first. An unhappy mother results in an unhappy and poorly thriving baby. So, choose – your baby or your “friends”.
Lack Of Post-Partum Support
Following childbirth, the new mother can feel overlooked as all the attention and focus is now placed on the new baby and its needs.
While attending to the needs of the newborn is necessary, a lot of people, medical professionals included, often overlook the needs of the new mom.
They forget that the physical and emotional health of the mother directly affects the baby’s physical and emotional health, as well as its ability to thrive.
When a newborn is not latching on properly, in the absence of an oral defect, the major reason for this is because the baby is picking up on the mother’s emotional and mental state.
If the mom had a difficult birth, difficult pregnancy, long-term struggle to get pregnant, unstable or non-existent relationship with the baby’s father, or is a single mother, it would affect her emotional, mental and psychological well-being, and the baby would pick up on all of her internal stress.
More focus should be given to new mothers, including welfare and social support, financial support if necessary, family support and some form of counselling or speaking therapy, where she can air any concerns and worries that she may have.
In the past, when the family unit was still strong, emotional and psychological support was provided by the female members of the family, including her mother, mother-in-law, older sisters, aunts, grandmas and so on. The extended family would generally come together to provide assistance, help and support in the first few months, allowing the new mother the opportunity to fully recuperate and recover, both physically and emotionally, from the pregnancy and childbirth.
Sadly today, the family unit is fractured or non-existent. Sometimes, family members live too far away to provide any tangible support.
In cases like these, the Church should be there to provide this form of support. There should be groups and ministries within the Church and its parishes comprised of women, mothers and matriarchs mutually supporting each other and acting as a form of extended family to each other.
Unfortunately, a lot of women today do not attend Church or are not active members of the Church community.
Within some parishes or localities, these sort of women/mother-focused groups and ministries do not even exist and with the Church’s focus on encouraging people to build families, I truly believe that more than be done by the Church in this area. Just saying.
No man is an island. Humans are wired to bond with each other and women especially are wired to build and thrive off social and interpersonal relationships. When this is missing, a dis-ease is formed within the body, so it is no wonder that a breakdown of the family, the basic unit of society, has resulted in increasing rates of mental illness and depression.
The above are just some of my observations on the matter. Would you add anything else to the list?
In conclusion, while I do think mental health checks for new moms are a good either, impersonal counselling and handfuls of happy pills are not what new mothers need.
What new mothers need is a family-focused support system, a sisterhood, run by mothers, for mothers, for mutual support of each other and to address the mental, physical and social needs of mothers, ESPECIALLY, new mothers.
St Dymphna, pray for us!
Mary, Mater Amabillis, ora pro nobis!
Mary, Loving Mother, pray for us!
ad Jesum per Mariam