Postnatal Depression and Newborn Diagnosis
Part of the reason we meet here on Facebook is that we may need more of a community than we can access while raising babies. The isolation moms experience during postpartum depression or following a newborn diagnosis is part of a hierarchy of disconnectedness.
As always, we struggle with comments without context, most especially when our feelings are running high. It is difficult to respond in kindness even though we share experiences in mothering that should teach us better.
A certain number of mothers of babies with Down syndrome have post-natal depression, too. It feels wrong not to acknowledge the powerful and authentic story in Mothering here, and derailing the discussion so curtly was problematic.
Inserting the challenges experienced by mothers of newly-diagnosed children distracts us from learning more about the reality of so many others who are struggling with the same issue.
As always, we struggle with comments without context, most especially when our feelings are running high. I am not unfamiliar with the strong feelings a new mother might have when receiving a newborn diagnosis of Down syndrome. Even though I discovered my OB/Gyn was raising his own teenager with DS when my son was born, it was a challenging and complicated time for me.
Even at my lowest moments, I knew that I was not experiencing post-partum depression, because I had been 'educated' on that condition in a Mommy and Me class with my son's older sister. The parent educator had mentioned the 'baby blues' and the other moms said whether they had felt it (yet) and how long it had continued. About halfway around the circle, someone said that she had it so bad, it was a miracle she made it to the class. For a variety of reasons, most of the other moms smiled, or chuckled, until they saw that she was not smiling. But the most memorable response was from a woman sitting just a couple of seats away from me. She burst into tears, and could not stop crying.
These were two women who actually made it out of the house to our class. Our parent educator was well-versed in the realities of post-partum depression, and was also a practical, kind woman who took care of people immediately.
Too often, when other moms found out my son was born with Down syndrome, they would stop talking to me, or pick their child up and walk away. Some would talk purposefully for two minutes, and then excuse themselves. We don't need to spend time on those who said horrible or patronizing things I found equally offensive. A precious few would smile at my son and compliment him on regular aspects of baby-ness, or comment they did not know anything about Down syndrome but would like to learn. It was only years later that I discovered almost all of them felt like getting up and running away, but forced themselves to stay.
Looking back, I see that the other moms in that class had the same diversity of reactions to the women who obviously had severe baby blues - what I am fairly sure was post-natal depression. In that way, my experience having a baby with a newborn diagnosis intersected with moms experiencing depression.
But it's not the same thing. A certain number of mothers of babies with Down syndrome have post-natal depression, too. It feels wrong not to acknowledge the powerful and authentic story in Mothering here, and to distract from the reality of so many others who are struggling with the same issue.
Moms of new babies with Down syndrome may experience a variety of feelings brought on by the diagnosis, and elements of Olshansky's chronic sorrow may complicate their lives, but postpartum depression very different. There is the same incidence of postpartum depression in mothers of babies with Down syndrome as the general population, so it does them a disservice to derail the discussion and opportunities to understand the complexity of these experiences. We all have so much to learn from one another.
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