. . .It's More Than The Blues. . .
What do you think when you hear the word "postpartum"? Search the Internet for information, and most of what you'll find will be about depression. From the "baby blues" to serious PPD (Postpartum Depression), you'll find useful maps of the territory. You might even get the impression that there's nothing more to know about the postpartum period -- no other changes to anticipate but some emotional darkness.
That was definitely my expectation as I approached childbirth. I was going to be depressed -- I just knew it. Vaguely, I recalled a quote in the classic book Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, where a mother reported she was "in bliss" for weeks after giving birth. That would not be me! I figured that woman was probably a spiritually advanced, earth-mother type who chanted Omm as she popped out smiling babies. . . while I, a somewhat reluctant and "elderly" first-time mother, worried about losing my identity in motherhood, and deeper inside, wondered whether I would even be able to love a baby. Oh yes, depression seemed a definite probability.
What I actually experienced in the postpartum time was a total surprise that changed the course of my life. (I hope I've aroused your curiosity, but I'm not going to tell you about it just yet. If you can't stand the suspense, it's all in my book, In The Newborn Year.) The changes I went through aroused my curiosity to the point that I had to find out what other people experienced. I was so puzzled that no one was talking about these things. Maybe the tribe of mothers had been keeping secrets on purpose, so that each new mother would have to make her own discovery -- a kind of initiation!
Twenty-two years later, I still don't fully understand our lack of communication, but one reason for it at least is clear. Taking our cue from the medical world, we've focused on depression as a problem, and put a high priority on getting "back to normal" as quickly as possible. I don't wish to minimize or trivialize the pain of depression; but as a result of this focus, our view of the postpartum period is much too limited. It's like a rainbow with only one color.
The postpartum experience is far richer, more interesting and varied than we've realized. It's more than "the blues;" it's more, even, than just "postpartum," for the bonding time can bring surprising changes to fathers and adoptive parents as well.
In POSTPARTUM RAINBOW, we'll add the missing colors to create a full-spectrum picture of newborn time -- the hours, days, weeks, and months after a baby's arrival by birth or adoption.
Please consider contributing to this project from your own knowledge of the postpartum/bonding time. Mothers, fathers, adoptive parents: was there an unusual experience for you? A change that took you by surprise? Whether dramatic or very subtle -- physical, emotional, mental, sensory or spiritual -- I would love to hear about it. Please share your experience with me if you feel inspired to do so. Let me know whether I may quote some or all of your words, and whether you prefer to be named or anonymous. Thank you!
Click here for the first page: "Connectedness -- The Expanding Bond"
Click here for the second page: "All My Senses Were Heightened"
Click here for the third page: "Changing Mind"
Click here for the fourth page: "The Sea of Emotion"
Click here for the fifth page: "New Spaces In Our Psyches"
Click here to read Rainbow Letters