Now that we know she’s got a great sense of a humor, on a more serious note, actress Brooke Shields went to Capitol Hill this week, pushing Congress to pass the “Mother’s Act,” legislation introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that would provide funding for education, screening, treatment, and research for postpartum depression.
What do you think? Is it the government’s role to step in and help fund education about postpartum depression? If not, whose role is it? Why can’t the medical community focus as much on new parents’ mental health as they do newborn care? I mean sure, you’ll be the best parent on the block if you know how to operate one of those plastic bulb snot suckers they send home with, but what about advice for transitioning into your new role as a parent? What about some frank affirmation that you might not really love being a parent the first few weeks? I certainly don’t remember any child birth class material or nurses telling me to take all the help we could get and run with it like it was the last pack of newborn Pampers on the planet.
Thankfully I was advised during the final weeks of my first pregnancy that being a “mommy martyr” was a bad idea and that despite all the commercials I’d seen on TV through the years, babies weren’t all sunshine, lullabies, and cooing. There were long dark nights of marathon pacing and bouncing, making up incoherent lullabies because I’d run out of words, and serious critical analysis of bowel movements. Like so many mothers before me, I relied on the sage advice of my mother, my mother-in-law, my sisters, and girlfriends who were already mothers. But what about mothers who don’t have family or who are isolated from friends and family? Maybe they’re a single mom or maybe their spouse is in the military and stationed abroad? I realize how fortunate we are to have a support system and both sets of grandparents nearby.
I don’t really think I had true post-partum depression, but for someone who is a former anal retentive planner and perfectionist, motherhood slam dunked me into a guessing game that made me doubt my parenting abilities. You can have everything in your baby’s nursery color coordinated, but you can’t really anticipate what those early weeks of parenthood will really be like. Will your baby sleep all day and stay up all night? Will they chill out in their bouncy seat or freak out? Will they find soft classical music soothing, or will they prefer the white noise of the vacuum cleaner? Or, like Caitlin and Amelia, will they love the sound of the hair dryer? Yes, even as babies the girls loved anything remotely related to primping.
I had an unexpected emergency c-section with Caitlin. I was physically wiped out and was anemic due to losing so much blood, my incision was very painful the first two weeks or so, and my body was like a freak show game of hormone Russian Roulette. Things got easier and easier and before I knew it I’d mastered taking Caitlin to the grocery store all by myself. Oh sure, you can laugh, but if you’ve ever been a rookie parent, you know what I’m talking about. By the time Amelia came along I was more prepared, relaxed, and I didn’t pack a 20-pound diaper bag stocked with every infant remedy from our medicine cabinet every time we left the house.
Life in the motherhood is great, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.