A friend of mine posted this article recently discussing the cultural differences between industrial nations, primarily the US, and third world countries in regards to postpartum care. The United States has startling higher rates of Postpartum Depression over the rest of the world. Of course with all statistics you have to question a lot, especially comparing nations and cultures. Even so, that the United States has a Postpartum Depression rate of over 50% shows something is obviously wrong. A woman shouldn’t have a 1 in 2 chance of developing depression from having a baby. All possible jokes aside about how depressing having kids is, this is a big problem.
Many of us wear our postpartum difficulties as a badge of honor — “my husband had to go back to work in less than two weeks” “I was completely on my own the first week” “the day after my son was born, my husband drove to New Orleans to spend the day in class”. We do this to make ourselves feel stronger, braver. But shouldn’t statements like these be taken more as cries for help? I think the problem is a complex one, deeply entrenched in our industrial-everyone-has-to-work-equally society, thus the true solution is equally complex. That it takes a village to raise children, is absolutely true. But what is a family to do if their whole village works Monday through Friday? Your village members live 20 minutes away? You aren’t comfortable enough with your village to call and say “please help!”? Our societal answer is always to hire someone. Hire a babysitter, use a daycare, pay a doula.
Doula is a wonderful profession, especially considering that the traditional labor doula is now expanding to include postpartum doulas to help at home after the baby is born. The article is correct in saying this is an outpouring of how difficult taking care of babies has become. But is this the ultimate solution? Work harder to make more money to hire someone to help after you have a baby until you can go back to work? Shouldn’t our society be such that help for new mothers is built in?