Midwifery Care deeply values the postpartum time period. We watch as new identities are forged and the relationship between babe and family forms. We also see the family begin a process of learning how to be in the world as a new unit.
When talking with folks about midwifery care, I often get the question, "What do you do about postpartum?". When I clarify this question with them, I realize that they are referring to postpartum depression, rather than the period of time following birth. This is the most common reference that is made to the postpartum time period especially with folks who are not yet parents.
It is true that depression and mood disorders can form in the postpartum period, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. And it is also true that many families struggle with emotions around parenthood that don't seem 'acceptable' in society. When we look at the ways that our culture neglects caring for newly postpartum families, it is not surprising how common postpartum mood disorders are. We leave families unsupported, disconnected, and questioning how to fit in as their new selves. We ask them to reintegrate into a busy and unhealthy life style soon after birth, and imagine that their capacities for work will be the same while offering no space for their new identity to come out.
We need more spaces where families can gather and share honestly about all the ways that parenthood can be hard and isolating, as well as empowering and enlivening. We need spaces where new parents are heard and held with love and compassion. Space for deep and honest connection is a missing ingredient in the postpartum time for many new families. While this will not be the only change necessary to better support new parents who are at risk for developing postpartum mood disorders, or struggling to integrate the less joyful experiences of parenthood, it is certainly a beneficial step.
It has been such an honor to hold space for new families to come together through the Bay Area Homebirth Collective at Oakland Birth + Wellness. It is beautiful to watch families connect over struggles that they imagined were unique to them, and share anecdotes and lessons learned with each other. It is so important to know that we are not alone in this process.
We will continue to host this group and welcome all postpartum families with babes in arms to come and participate. While we are not a group with a specific focus on working with postpartum mood disorders, we understand that this is a common experience for new families. If you feel that you need more individualized support, always reach out to your midwife or another supportive health care practitioner. Postpartum.net is a great place to start if you are lacking the resources to get started.