The Bunk About Bonding
Are You At Risk?
Remember, you may be at higher risk for postpartum depression if you or members of your family have experienced depression; if you have a difficult labor and delivery or a C-section; if you are adopted; if you have had an abortion or miscarriage in the past; or if you are a victim of rape or incest.
The important message here is that whether or not you suffer from postpartum depression from "baby blues," the mild sadness and anxiety that comes a few days after birth, to a more serious form your health and well-being cannot be denied. Attend to your needs as best you can and stop worrying about bonding. Dads, partners, grandparents, and friends can satisfy and comfort babies until storms calm for Mom and illness remits.
Nothing in the baby literature tells moms that sometimes, it's all right to put ourselves first or that often a baby's health depends on Mommy attending to her own health. A mom, who was both a homemaker and pilot's wife, once sat across a café table from me and whispered that it was okay to let a baby cry, for hours at a time, if it came to that. "When my husband was away, and I had no help for days on end with a toddler and a newborn, I learned that sometimes, I had to put myself first. I could not stay up all night every night, soothing an inconsolable baby. Sometimes I had to put my own health before hers so I would turn off the monitor and go to sleep. It was the scariest, most radical thing I'd ever done. And no one but my husband ever told me it was all right to do that. So now, I tell every new mother I know."
Amid bumbling and delays, babies can and do bond, despite the fact that moms are human and have needs, too. Corny as it sounds, Teresa says postpartum depression was "the best, and the worst, thing that ever happened to me. Of course it has made me more sympathetic in my work. But it also totally changed my outlook on parenthood, so that now I don't sweat the small stuff. I see my girlfriends killing themselves trying to maintain order in their homes, and I think, 'Just sit down in the mess and enjoy your baby.'"
From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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