I've been thinking about depression again recently, and thought maybe I should write here and share some of my thoughts.
I have a three year old and a three month old. Its strange going through this whole baby thing again with a second child, I end up remember a lot about what it was like with my first. With both children I was depressed during pregnancy. With my first I was really badly depressed afterwards too. I was offered drugs but declined them. Instead I threw myself into learning about depression, about natural solutions. I held off getting pregnant the second time until I was sure I was stable and had been for a little while. Then the pregnancy depression hit and I cried tons.
Now my second child is three months old. I look back at the last three months. I think the things I had learned before have helped stay off the depression, although I'm still watching myself closely. I think about how things are different this time than with the first child. When my first child was a baby I still hadn't made any "mommy friends." My friends were all university students, busy with their studies and careers. They would come and visit lots and oogle over my baby but their lives were so different than mine was becoming. I had tremendous sense of failure because I still viewed that academic world as being more important, more valued than a life at home. I thought they had lives, and value, and that I was just a leach living off my husband. Those weren't thoughts I expected to encounter. I had, after all, wanted to get pregnant and stay home with my child. So why, I wondered, did I suddenly see no value in what I had choosen? It was an uphill battle for me to convince myself fully that what I was doing was important. I had to learn to disregard all the people who said that daycare is just as good. I had to disregard all the comments about how women need careers and to be fullfilled or else they'll be bad mothers.
I also had to learn to cook. Cooking has been my salvation. My brother gave me a book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross and about the same time I started reading the book Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaison. Both books emphasis that the mind cannot work properly without proper nutrition. I started to increase the amount of fat and protein I eat. I took some nutritional supplements. Those helped tremendously but the other way that food helped me is it started to teach me to value things differently. Fake food doesn't really satisfy a person. It can't nurture them. Modern substitutions for real food don't work. Nor can "fake" lives keep us sane.
I don't know how I can really explain that idea about fake lives, other than to say that there are things we need as humans that we don't always get anymore. Motherhood these days can be so confining. We can end up isolated, alone and undervaluing ourselves. Our society tends not to value children and it definately doesn't value close relationships between adults and children. Expectations of mothers are impossibly high and parenting advice makes it sound like we're going to mess our children up if we are not perfectly good and happy and attentive. I guess what I mean by fake lives is that we've so lost track of what we, our children and partners need that we keep trying to fullfil our needs with the wrong things. The artificial world of motherhood I lived in the first year with my first son - the isolation, the outrageous expectations, the lack of support - was not one that can support life anymore that powdered soup mixes can.
My life now isn't all that different than it was three years ago. In many ways it is more stressfull because I have two children who need me, my husband is writing his thesis and his future job prospects are all up in the air right now but in many ways it feels richer now, the way a real chocolate cake with egg and butter tastes richer than the storebought foamy stuff. What has changed? I've learned to value myself. I've learned to take charge of my day, to plan the type of projects one can realistically do with two kids, to make sure I have regular contact with other friends.
When I talk to other mothers who are having problems being at home I often hear two options being considered. One is drugs. The other is going back to work early. I want to comment about both of those.
A mentor I once had told me that anti-depressant drugs work great as a crutch to help people when they're at their lowest, so that they can make the changes they need in themselves and their lives. Nutritional supplements worked like that for me, but I know drugs tend to be more available. The sad thing is when either ends up being used to ignore or block the problems. "Postpartum depression" is this nice little label we can use to suggest the problem is all in our minds and not also in our lives. A great feminist book I read commented once that psychology and pyschiatry are anti-feminist, in that they tend to make the political personal. Don't let that happen. Take the drugs if you need them, but don't let that be all you do. Be skeptical about the idea that the problem is all your mind or a chemical imbalance or hormones or whatever. The chemicals affect our minds but our minds and lives also affect the chemicals, if that makes any sense.
As for going back to work. There seems to be an idea somewhere that only certain women are "the type" to be good at home with their kids. Everyone else just doesn't have the patience, or is too ambitious, or needs more social contact or stimulation or whatever to be good with kids. So leave the kids with the professionals and go back to your own profession. I think it is fine if mothers work either because they have to or they want to, but I don't like the premise that there's only one type (the dumb or drugged type) that is good with kids and everyone else needs more in their life than a life with kids can offer them. In this career oriented society mothers at home don't get road maps for how to develop a rich active life but it is still possible.
:) There. That's my big rant. Part of it was typed one-handed while I rocked munchkin #2 with numerous intruptions to interact with #1 too.