It isn’t medication…
A friend of mine gets paid to talk women out of taking medication.
No, that’s not her real job title. It’s not even IN her job description, but she works in social care and discovered it as a serendipitous sidebar to her services.
These women are not at death’s door denying themselves treatment.
They are new mothers.
Ok, older new mothers.
AKA women over thirty-five.
Prime fodder for drugs wouldn’t you say?
If you’re a mum you may recognise their symptoms:
- Unrelenting physical exhaustion from creating another human being and feeding it on demand, every few hours, 24/7.
- Brain fog from sleep deprivation, hormones re-adjusting and stress of caring for, and generally worrying about, said human being, who may or may not sleep, eat or function as expected.
- Feeling alone and isolated due to suddenly spending a lot of time in a one on one situation with someone who sleeps a lot and has little or no conversation.
Are you nodding your head remembering that sleep-deprived craziness? The strangeness of your loose belly and organs wobbling inside as they move back into place. The tears and frustration over breastfeeding and the all-around overwhelm of dedicating the next eighteen years (minimum) to this child.
Motherhood. A perfectly natural process that apparently has become a medication situation.
Motherhood Is Dangerous
I’m not saying having kids isn’t dangerous for your health — it really is 😉 — but can thousands of years of human evolution really be wrong?
Yes, our female ancestors had kids younger than us, but today we are healthier, smarter and live longer. So why do we need drugs to get through what our mothers and grandmothers did naturally?
Let’s look at what’s changed.
When my mother had me, she stayed in the nursing home where I was born, for a week.
A whole week.
She was fed and cared for so she could feed and care for me. No work to do, house to clean, shopping or cooking to do.
Now that’s my kind of holiday.
By the time she had my brother, some eight years later, it was a few days rest and then back to looking after 3 kids.
Today it’s common to have a baby, get the social media shot and head home, as if having a baby is like popping out for a skinny latte. One friend of mine was discharged in a matter of hours and found herself in the kitchen making the family supper, before passing out.
Our ancestors respected the healing process required after childbirth.
If they didn’t they died.
Why Older Mums Are More At Risk
If you’re over thirty-five, you’re considered of “advanced maternal age” (nice huh?) and professionals will outline a series of health risks, mostly for your baby.
What they will not tell you is that, as you are older and have most likely had a career, financial independence, hopefully, lots of fun, travel and yes dammit, a life-giving a lot of this up will be a shock.
You may love your little one beyond belief, but you may also grieve for what you no longer have. Freedom.
This can be depressing.
You are used to doing what you want, getting sh*t done and handling a pretty amazing existence. Now you’re at the mercy of a little lawless thing who will not acquiesce to your action list.
Yes, it’s tough, but does it justify medication?
Why Drugs Aren’t The Answer
I once read something by Christiane Northrup, where a new mother came to the eminent OB-GYN after childbirth, frantic because her milk hadn’t come in and in complete new-mom overwhelm and doubt.
Dr Northrup instructed her to go home to bed and have family, friends and neighbours (basically anyone) bring her food and care for her, for seven days.
On following the instructions the new mom’s milk came in within 48hrs and she successfully breastfed her baby.
No drugs, just love and care tenderly applied.
There is no doubt that the process of taking care of women after childbirth is messed up, but offering moms anti-depressants is not a solution.
Here’s what they really need…
The Truth About New Older Moms
They are not prepared…who is for parenting?
And often not supported as their partners work long hours, away from home. They are left feeling isolated, unsure and wondering what’s happened, while simultaneously trying to live up to perfect motherhood.
These women are not depressed, they are in shock.
When they go to their doctors they want permission to be messy for a while, to let go of their organised, under control, life-as-it-used-to-be and ask for support while they feel shitty.
They are not asking for a tablet to numb them to the greatest adventure of their life.
Motherhood is more than glossy parenting magazines and baby massage classes. Motherhood is a post-partum party where no one should worry about cleaning up, or even getting up, and all to-do lists are temporarily trashed.
Pre-baby statements like:
The baby won’t change my lifestyle
Need to be seen as the utter BS they are.
How One Woman Solves The Problem
My friend the social worker, sits with new mothers who are overwhelmed, lonely and desperate. Over cups of tea, she offers reassurance. She promises them that in a few weeks, or even months, when the baby starts sleeping, when their bodies recover from childbirth, when they’re more rested, a new kind of “normal service” will resume.
The fog will start to lift. Their focus will return and the shine will shine again.
And it’s all ok.
She then sets them up with a volunteer who visits them, talks to them, makes them more cups of tea and reminds them that, yes they are mothers, but they are also human beings.
Her moms rarely end up taking anti-depressants. They take a dose of love and support instead (with far fewer side effects.) And they get on with the heavy lifting of healing and mothering.
The Real Anti-Dote To Motherhood
I’m sure there are situations in life where anti-depressants are necessary. I just don’t believe new motherhood is one of them. Rest and recuperation, support and sisterhood, care and community are the antidotes to exhaustion and overwhelm.
When mothers are prescribed anti-depressants for a natural process this does not solve a problem — it causes one. Detaching women from their emotions and drugging them out of their connection to their bodies and themselves, is a long-term strategy for ill health.
Medicating women through motherhood happens only when we forget to revere the process. Yes, it is exhausting, but it is also empowering, and as women, we have the remedy right in our midst.
New mothers, old mothers, Grandmothers. We are powerful, especially as a tribe, supporting each other.
Reach out, rise up and put the kettle on.
My friend is living proof that a calm, loving, knowledgeable woman, armed with a cup of tea, can cure anyone.
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