How Different Cultures Protect New Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett examines how other cultures protect new mothers’ well-being.

Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth—virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear—and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will affect the individual and the family for decades? Suzanne Arms.

As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.

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Ken Tackett

What makes the difference?

Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had a low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers. These cultures, although quite different from each other, all shared

5 protective social structures

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Ken Tackett
  1. A distinct postpartum period. In these other cultures, the postpartum period is recognized as a time that is distinct from normal life. It is a time when the mother is supposed to recuperate. Her activities are limited and her female relatives take care of her. This type of care was also common in colonial America, when postpartum was referred to as the “lying-in” period. This period functioned as a time of “apprenticeship,” when more experienced mothers mentored the new mother.
  2. Protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability. During the postpartum period, new mothers are recognized as being especially vulnerable. Ritual bathing, washing of hair, massage, binding of the abdomen, and other types of personal care are prominent in the postpartum rituals of rural Guatemala, Mayan women in the Yucatan, Latina women both in the United States and Mexico. These rituals also mark the postpartum period as distinct from other times in women’s lives.
  3. Social seclusion and mandated rest. Postpartum is a time for the mother to rest, regain strength, and care for the baby. Related to the concept of vulnerability is the widespread practice of social seclusion for new mothers. For example, in the Punjab, women and their babies are secluded from everyone but female relatives and their midwives for five days. Seclusion is said to promote breastfeeding and it limits a woman’s normal activities. In contrast, many American mothers are expected to entertain others—even during their hospital stay. Once they get home, this practice continues as they are often expected to entertain family and friends who come to see the baby.
  4. Functional assistance. In order for seclusion and mandated rest to occur, mothers must be relieved of their normal workload. In these cultures, women are provided with someone to take care of older children and perform their household duties. As in the colonial period in the United States, women often return to the homes of their family of origin to ensure that this type of assistance is available.
  5. Social recognition of her new role and status. In the cultures Stern and Kruckman studied, there was a great deal of personal attention given to the mother. In China and Nepal, very little attention is paid to the pregnancy; much more attention is focused on the mother after the baby is born. This has been described as “mothering the mother.” For example, the status of the new mother is recognized through social rituals and gifts. In Punjabi culture, there is the “stepping-out ceremony,” which includes ritual bathing and hair washing performed by the midwife, and a ceremonial meal prepared by a Brahmin. When the mother returns to her husband’s family, she returns with many gifts she has been given for herself and the baby. The following is a description of a postpartum ritual performed by the Chagga of Uganda. It differs quite a bit from what mothers in industrialized countries may experience. 

Three months after the birth of her child, the Chagga woman’s head is shaved and crowned with a bead tiara, she is robed in an ancient skin garment worked with beads, a staff such as the elders carry is put in her hand, and she emerges from her hut for her first public appearance with her baby. Proceeding slowly towards the market, they are greeted with songs such as are sung to warriors returning from battle. She and her baby have survived the weeks of danger. The child is no longer vulnerable, but a baby who has learned what love means, has smiled its first smiles, and is now ready to learn about the bright, loud world outside (Dunham, 1992; p. 148).

What American mothers experience

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Ken Tackett

By contrast, American mothers often find that people are more concerned about them before the birth. While a woman is pregnant, people may offer to help her carry things or to open doors or to ask how she is feeling. Friends will give her a baby shower, where she will receive emotional support and gifts for her baby. There are prenatal classes and prenatal checkups, and many people wanting to know about the details of her daily experience.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below….)

https://womenshealthtoday.blog/2017/07/30/how-cultures-protect-the-new-mother/amp/

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We Need to Talk About the Baby Blues, by Stacy Hersher

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I have a confession to make: the first couple of weeks after my baby was born, I was unhappy. Sure, I had moments of pure joy, and I never wavered in my love for my daughter. But I was exhausted, in pain, and had no control of my emotions. I had the “baby blues” — and it was scary.

Between feeding my daughter, sleeping, and eating, I felt like I was reduced to a milk-producing machine. I wasn’t going outside, I couldn’t exercise, and it felt like there was no time to do anything but sleep, feed, and eat in order for us both to survive. Was this my life now? Had motherhood completely replaced everything else that I was? In low moments, I thought about how much easier life was before. I wondered if this parenting thing would ever get easier, and the weight of my new life was heavy.

The emotional roller coaster wasn’t just negative. I also felt an overwhelming love for my baby, my husband, my family, and my friends. I cried any time I thought or talked about the sacrifices my parents had made for me, or how wonderful a dad my husband already was, or how thankful I was for the friends who came by to cook, clean, or hold my baby.

Good and bad, the reality is I was crying upwards of 10 times a day. As someone who prides myself on being pretty level-headed, I wasn’t sure how to navigate these emotions and felt pretty lost and alone. I was hyperaware of my emotions but unable to explain them. And as much as my husband tried to help, there wasn’t much he could do. My heightened emotions were just a wave I needed to ride. Thankfully, because of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law Jessie, I wasn’t totally surprised that this was happening.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below)…

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/What-Baby-Blues-43143736?utm_source=com_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=com_newsletter_v3_02152017&em_recid=180811001&utm_content=placement_7_desc

Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village, by Isa Down

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Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’spersonal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

parent.co/wireless-motherhood-when-social-media-is-the-new-village/

A Mum Suffering From Postnatal Depression Writes Thank You Note To Person Who Brightened Her Day

A great story via “Kindness Blog” about how kindness made a difference to a Mum with Post Natal Depression.

Kindness Blog

A mother suffering from postnatal depression has written a thank you note to a café owner whose kind gesture made a difference to her a day.

The new mother from Australia, appealed to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) to share her note so she could get it seen but asked to remain anonymous.

The woman was staying in a mother-baby care unit for treatment for her depression when she had an encounter in a café that reminded her that..

…”the smallest kindness can make a difference”.

The full letter is below;

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The letter, which was uploaded on PANDA, has prompted other mothers suffering from postnatal depression to share their own stories.

“Cafés were my saviour when I had PND, a reason to get out and feel part of life and not just invisible at home,” wrote one mum.

“It was therapy to me and I now take my five-year-old…

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‘A Monster Ate My Mum’…a book about Post Natal Depression… for kids! A Review from the UK blog “adventures with monster”

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‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ 

by Jen Faulkner

Illustrated by Helen Braid

Priced £5.99

We were sent this very special story book for review by the lovely Jen Faulkner, a sufferer of Post-Natal Depression,  who wrote the book for her children after finding it difficult to explain the illness to them in a way that they would understand and now hopes that the book will also help other families affected by PND. 

Aimed at children from 2-12 years, this rhyming and beautifully illustrated story is written from a child’s perspective, a little boy goes on a hunt to find the parts of his mum that he misses;

‘her smile, her laugh, her spark’

(To read the rest of this review, follow the link below.  “Adventures With Monster” is a UK blog which reviews books and other products for families with young children).

‘A Monster Ate My Mum’…a review.