A Voice of Strength I Didn’t Know I Possessed: Part II of An Interview with Ivy Shih Leung

A Voice of Strength I Didn’t Know I Possessed: An Interview with Ivy Shih Leung, author of “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”

 

In this second part of my interview with Ivy, she shares insight into her Chinese culture and pregnancy and postpartum. Secondly, she delves into her experience with infertility and complications during pregnancy. Finally, Ivy shares wonderful thoughts as to how writing, blogging, and communication can help to end stigma about PPD and create the causes for healing. You can read the first part of our interview here.

 

How has culture affected your writing about your experience?

I don’t feel that my culture really affected my writing about my PPD experience.  Though, I have to say that I am one of the few Asian bloggers I’m aware of.  Unlike most of my Asian friends and acquaintances, I am very outspoken and opinionated.  The Chinese tend to keep their emotions bottled up and thoughts and experiences to themselves.  In general, they are a very proud people.  Everything is pretty much about “saving face,” which means not putting oneself out there when it comes to personal experiences, especially if there is anything in the least bit negative.  As we know from the Western culture, pregnancy and motherhood are supposed to be blissful experiences.  I, on the other hand, have a book that shares ALL my thoughts and experiences while suffering from PPD.  It’s a fairly big deal for any woman to share her PPD story, let alone publish a book about it.  It’s an even bigger deal for a Chinese woman to do either.  

 

What would you like mainstream culture to know about your culture regarding pregnancy and postpartum?

Although I am Chinese and even speak Mandarin fluently, I was born and raised here in the U.S.  As a result, I am very Westernized and do not observe many of the traditions my parents and the generations before them may have observed.  Actually, my mother gave birth here and was not privy to the custom of Zou Yue.  She gave birth in a foreign country with no loved ones around her.  She received less help with taking care of me when I was a newborn than I had when I had my own daughter.  At least when I had my daughter, my husband helped, and my mother and mother-in-law each stayed a week to help. 

Zou Yue is like some of the other mother-nurturing customs observed by other cultures (la cuarentena in Mexico, sarantisma in Greece, Jaappa in India) in terms of observing a 30 or 40 day period of taking care of the mother, so she can take care of her baby and get adequate sleep to recover from childbirth.  Forty seems to be a magical number, a number that has survived through the centuries and therefore has special significance….no doubt it has something to do with the fact that 40 days is the average length of time for a new mother’s body to recover from childbirth and return to a pre-pregnant state.  It’s also why an OB/GYN will tell the new mother, once she’s given birth, that he will see her in 6 weeks.  Each of these traditions involves female family members and friends of the new mother providing her and her baby with care, so that the new mother’s only focus is on getting rest and bonding with/feeding her baby.  They also help around the house and prepare meals.  Certain rituals are observed in which food is prepared a certain way to help keep her body/system warm. She is protected from feeling overwhelmed; hence, visitors are kept away (or kept at a very minimum) during this time. She is told to avoid bathing for fear of catching cold.  All these rituals have the mother’s well-being in mind.  In terms of breastfeeding, female family members are on hand to teach her how to do it. In these other cultures, there is no expectation that the new mother know how to breastfeed instinctively and easily.  There is a reason behind the phrase “it takes a village.”

I have blogged about the importance of social support and how, through the years, we seem to have lost perspective on things when it comes to the community coming together to help a new mother who has just had a baby.   Getting adequate social support—comprised of both emotional support (e.g., shoulder to cry on, listening non-judgmentally) and practical support (e.g., help with breastfeeding, cleaning, errands, laundry, taking care of the baby for a few hours so mom can take a nap or shower) is critical for new moms. Having enough support during the first 4-6 weeks—until a new mom’s body recovers from childbirth and her hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy state—can help keep anxiety levels down, help her get the rest she needs from all the changes her body has gone through with childbirth.

 

When you were pregnant, how was your culture addressed by care providers in ways that were helpful? And what about during your recovery from PPD?

I don’t remember if my OB/GYN and hospital staff asked me any questions, either orally or via a written questionnaire, as to whether I had any cultural preferences that needed to be taken into consideration during or after childbirth.  There definitely was no attempt on the part of my OB/GYN to ask me if I had any preferences for the duration of my pregnancy.  Fortunately, I didn’t have any preferences, anyway.  I just wanted to be treated with respect and care, both of which my doctor ended up failing at. Now, in terms of the GP who treated me during my PPD, he was the ultimate example of a doctor with extremely poor bedside manner.  The way I was treated by him and my OB/GYN angered me so much that I wrote them both letters during my recovery from PPD, telling them that their treatment of me aggravated my already extremely painful experience, they should get with the program when it comes to PPD, and I was dropping them and moving on to doctors who didn’t lack bedside manner the way they did.

 

Infertility and Complications

Can you share a little about your experiences with both?

Without getting into the details as covered in my book about my infertility experience and childbirth complications, I’ll just say that, like more and more women these days, I got married late (at age 36 ), had a dermoid cyst removed a year later to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant and not having it get in the way of a developing fetus, tried to conceive naturally for over a year before being referred to an IVF center where we failed our first cycle (it was such less than optimal experience mostly because the staff and environmental overall were cold and disorganized), and got pregnant successfully via my 2nd IVF cycle at a different center.  What started off as 2 fetuses became only one after a car accident I had about 2 months into the pregnancy.  Other than nausea that lasted my entire pregnancy, some spotting, and overall anxiety that I would carry to term, my pregnancy went well.  I delivered vaginally (with an epidural and episiotomy), but ended up having my uterus removed 3 days afterwards due to placenta accreta.  During my entire 7-day stay, I was constantly woken up for blood work and extremely exhausted as a result.  On top of that, I was starved for nearly the whole time I was there.  Due to my surgical procedure, I was kept in an entirely different wing from my daughter for over a day, and whenever I called for a nurse, no one came.  Some nurses were not nice to me at all.  It was like a living hell for me most of the time I was in the hospital.  To get the full details of my infertility, childbirth complications, and PPD experiences, you can read my book. 

 

How can your experience help the readers of Giving Birth with Confidence?

My hope is that those who read about my experience in my book—which covers a lot, including key statistics and information on the biopsychosocial factors behind PPD (infertility and childbirth complications are risk factors)—will become more knowledgeable about perinatal mood disorders.  I hope that they will also read the growing numbers of blogs of mothers who are speaking up about their struggles with perinatal mood disorders.  Why?  Well, knowledge is power.  With more knowledge, there would be less ignorance and stigma, and motherhood myths will have less of a negative impact on mothers than they do today. I want to see fewer mothers being caught off guard and not knowing what is happening to them, should PPD strike.  Being ignorant and unprepared for it causes unnecessary fear, anxiety, guilt, and inability to appreciate one’s baby. For example, insomnia after the third week postpartum is a common first symptom of PPD. 

My blog is hit numerous times each day via Google and other search engines using words like “postpartum insomnia,” “new mom insomnia,” “insomnia four weeks after childbirth,” “can’t sleep when the baby sleeps,” “can’t sleep six weeks postpartum,” and so on, which means that there are many moms out there who are going through what I went through, in terms of insomnia as a symptom of PPD, beginning at around 40 days.  That’s right, there’s that magical number again!  Had I known about PPD before my daughter was born, I would not have been as scared as I was as to why I had insomnia and couldn’t sleep even though I was exhausted beyond words and even during the times she slept. My fear would not have escalated to full-blown anxiety attacks. I would’ve recognized other symptoms like loss of appetite (I lost so much weight so fast that within a couple of weeks I weighed less than I did before I got pregnant!). As soon as I started to have insomnia, instead of merely taking the Ambien prescribed to me by my OB/GYN, I would’ve immediately known to question it as a sign of PPD and gotten the right treatment then.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20….

 

I would like to thank Ivy for her wonderful work and sharing her experiences and knowledge with Giving Birth with Confidence. To learn more about Ivy, visit her blog at http://ivysppdblog.wordpress.com/.

Real Life Is…. An Interview With Mom, Postpartum Depression Survivor, and Photographer Melissa Miller

As happens between women who have experienced postpartum depression (PPD), we find our ways to each other. Out of seemingly nowhere — an email, a conversation — some sort of connection is formed and coincidence creates opportunity to share the extraordinary journey of motherhood with a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD).  In this case, Melissa and I were introduced to each other!  I watched her photo project, “PPMD“ and my heart was so moved. She captures the essence of the beauty and bravery of women who have walked through hell and back — not only recovering from PPD, but growing from it. What Melissa brings to Giving Birth with Confidence is the real story of a real mom realizing her creativity as an essential part of the healing process following postpartum depression.  I am honored to know her, and introduce her to you!

 

When did you realize you had postpartum depression?

This is actually a tough question for me.  Not for emotional reasons but because I think I was in denial or maybe even unaware I had PPD for a long time.  Postpartum depression came about after the birth of my 2nd child.  I am also beginning to realize I may have suffered with depression while I was pregnant with her too.  After she was born I made excuses for my depression and anxiety that it was due to lack of sleep and my daughter being colicky.  It was on a visit to my daughter’s naturopathic pediatrician that my having PPMD came out.  The doctor had been concerned about me when I brought my daughter in and it was during one of the visits that she addressed her concerns with me.  Although I felt there was something wrong with how I was feeling, I was still in denial about admitting I had postpartum depression.  I was scared to admit it.  I tried confiding in a few people and the look on their faces told me they didn’t understand and they were now scared.  Some even suggested taking my kids.  I clammed up.  I didn’t say another word.  Again, I was grateful for my daughter’s doctor.  She is also a midwife.  She was the one person I could speak to without judgment and I owe her so much.     

 

How did your photography and creativity help your recovery?

Photography became my voice.  I remember days when I would be crying, anxious and filled with so much emotion that I didn’t know what to do. I could pick up my camera and in a way, detach myself from it all.  All of a sudden I was looking through my viewfinder and looking at life around me in a different way.  It is difficult for me to express but at that moment it helped me, it helped lift the anxiety and depression for just a minute.  It broke the cycle.  At other times I couldn’t express to people how I was feeling so I used my photography to express emotions in other ways.  Not specifically just my emotions and voice, but others too.  I couldn’t talk about what I was feeling because I didn’t feel anyone would understand.   As I poured myself into my photography I found myself wanting to do more, to learn more, so I went back to school.  It is funny how, in life, there are really no accidents.  If it hadn’t been for my picking up the camera as a way to stay creative being at home with my kids I wouldn’t have had this incredible gift to use while dealing with my PPMD.  And, if it hadn’t been for my having PPMD I wouldn’t have gone back to school and if I didn’t go back to school I wouldn’t have done my project, “PPMD.”

 

Walker: Tell us about your current photo project, “PPMD.”

 My project. Well, as I mentioned about no accidents in life, I was sitting in my Assignment and Editorial class and the topic of our final assignment came up.  We had weekly assignments throughout the 10 weeks of class while also working on a final assignment to be presented at the last class.  The instructor mentioned the best projects are those we can connect with.  I don’t know how it came out but all of a sudden postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) popped into my head.  I also immediately questioned how I was going to present a photo essay on postpartum mood disorder.  I had no idea but presented my idea anyhow.  My instructor loved the idea and encouraged me to include audio.  So, I decided I was going to take photos of women who had or were currently struggling with postpartum mood disorder.  I was going to pose them in their homes and then ask them to provide me with an experience, memory or something else of significance that related to their own experience with PPMD.  I was encouraged to have 10 images for my final and this meant 10 women.  I had no idea how I was going to find that many.  

I should also point out that my main goal was to create a project that would not only empower women who had experienced PPMD but to also educate people about PPMD in hopes of eliminating the judgment and stigma associated with it.  I didn’t want women to be scared, like me, to share their experiences and I wanted all women to get help and to not be ashamed.  I want women to look at these photos and hear the voices and say “hey, I am not alone,” and “these women don’t look crazy; I am not crazy either.”  I used my resources and emailed my local parents community yahoo group and the staff at the non-profit I volunteered for.  I was overwhelmed at the responses I got.  I had over 15 people respond.  It also awakened me to how many women suffer PPMD.  I scheduled time to meet with each woman without my camera.  I wanted to connect and hear their stories.  This was the most amazing experience.  I cried with these women, I laughed with these women.  I heard their stories, I shared mine.  We were not alone.  It was amazingly cathartic for me and for them.  I have received many thank yous, because for most of us, it was the first time we were able to share our stories without judgment.  The horrible things in our heads we were able to laugh about.  We knew they were not reality and we just needed to be heard.  My project shares the voices of the women and their portraits capture them in a way that is reflective of me and my experience.  This project has only just begun.  My dream is to share this project worldwide. To travel and meet with women and then photograph and audio record them.  At this time I am unsure how the project will continue to grow but am still going to school and this project is an active part of my education.  

 

 

 

Melissa Miller is a photographer, student, wife and mother of two living in Seattle, WA.  Photography came about as a way to explore her creative voice.  She’s done work for Open Arms Perinatal Services, PALS Doulas and Thrive by Five’s “Love.Talk.Play.” campaign.  She is currently enrolled at Photographic Center NW where she is taking classes and continuing her personal project, “PPMD“ on the subject of postpartum mood disorders.

Healthy Birth Blog Carnival #6: MotherBaby Edition

We’ve hosted Blog Carnivals for each of the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices at our sister blog, Science & Sensibility.

This time, we’re bringing our 6th Blog Carnival to Giving Birth with Confidence.  As usual, the bloggers offered up such insightful, thoughtful contributions and I believe yet again that we have one of the best collections on the topic out there on the internet!

Why does keeping moms and babies together after birth matter? Because separating moms and babies is harmful.

Kimmelin Hull at Writing My Way Through Motherhood and Beyond writes:

The research on this issue is crystal clear: babies do better in the first minutes, hours and days, the more time they spend in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. Their breathing and heart rates remain more stable. Their body temperatures fluctuate less. Ditto for their blood sugar levels. They cry less and they nurse and sleep better, too.”

Danielle at Momotics also reviews the harms of mother-infant separation and suggests that her baby’s 30 hour stay in the NICU for management of blood sugar instability may have been preventable if the hospital had allowed for skin-to-skin contact instead of routine separation. She also points out that skin-to-skin contact exposes newborns to normal bacteria on the mother, which can protect them from getting sick from hospital-acquired bacteria.

All of this just from putting our newborn’s baby against our own? Kristen at Birthing Beautiful Ideas says it simply (and beautifully): Women have superpowers!

Perhaps babies have superpowers, too. The power, that is, to protect their mothers from postpartum depression. Lauren at My Postpartum Voice discusses the amazing health benefits for preterm or low birthweight newborns who experience “Kangaroo Care” — skin-to-skin contact with their mothers in the neonatal intensive care unit. Research also suggests that Kangaroo Care offers protection or relief from postpartum depression. Lauren reports on a study in which no mother developed depression during their Kangaroo Care stay.

Research aside, what about common sense? From the baby’s perspective, the “maternal environment” represents a familiar landscape in which to feel safe and avoid distress (which has well-documented physiological effects.)

Danielle at Informed Parenting describes the moments after birth from the perspective of the baby held skin-to-skin:

Then suddenly he is enveloped in warmth, laying wet and slippery on his mothers chest. He hears it- the beating of his mothers heart. He hears her voice, so clearly for the first time. He knows what he needs and he seeks out that attachment, the physical bond to tie them back together. Little toes flex and dig into his mother soft belly as he wiggles and squirms forward, his little mouth open and questing. The sound of her voice draws him forward. Her arms support him in his journey. In a feat of strength and coordination that is truly amazing he reaches his goal and re-establishes their physical bond. As he suckles her nipple, drops of liquid gold land on his tongue.

Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting describes a similar scenario, and then contrasts it with the far more common scenario:

You are being pulled away from the one smell and feel you knew to again another entirely different setting. They prick you and it hurts and they rub you down and put stuff in your eyes, it stings even more than the light! You are starting to feel very desperate, very helpless.

From the mother’s perspective, we yearn for closeness with our babies, to take in every detail of their newborn bodies. After all, we’ve worked so hard to grow and give birth to them.

Molly at first the egg writes that while the yearning instinct is deeply primal, yearning is not part of birth when mother and baby are kept together. With gorgeous pictures from her own birth in 1981 and her son’s birth in 2006, Molly shares,

My mother had to yearn for closeness while she fell in love with me. I am so grateful that, twenty-five years later, my newborn and I got to have it.

Kori at Babble.com’s Band On the Diaper Run, who as one-half of the band Mates of State, just hit the road for their summer tour with kids in tow. She shares a powerful testament to the importance of a strong support network to keep her working family together. Her story begins with her yearning for closeness just after her first daughter’s birth:

I shouted across the room, with a strong, primal urge, “Give her to me..I want to hold her..I need to feed her!” Until finally, she was in my arms. I didn’t even recognize my own voice, the words just came out. I needed to have her with me. They really couldn’t ignore me.

And from the family’s perspective, keeping mother and baby together in the hours and days after birth helps them develop a rhythm together and begin to bond and grow as a family. Lauren at Hobo Mama wrote:

Sam, Mikko, and I stayed together from the time we entered our room, three hours prior to the birth, until we all exited as a new family two days later, and it was absolutely the best way I can think of handling it.

boheime at Living Peacefully with Children believes that both birth and bonding are easiest when the mother feels well cared for, and can simply be with her baby to find the right rhythm. She relies on her very willing husband as her primary support for both.

With the birth of each child, he has taken off 2-3 weeks from work in order to cook, clean, and help out however I need him. It’s because of his support that I have been able to focus on getting to know each of our children, establish breastfeeding with them, and not feel as though the entire house has fallen apart.

With so many documented harms from mother-infant separation, not to mention the primal urge for mothers to hold their babies, routine separation of mothers and babies is a mainstay of modern obstetrics, and may give rise to the epidemic of breastfeeding problems.

Sheridan at the Enjoy Birth Blog remarked that her students who have given birth before are among the most surprised that mothers are “allowed” to have their babies with them right after birth. She writes:

It is shocking to me how many moms who are taking my Hypnobabies class for the 3rd or 4th baby and they are amazed that they have the option of keeping the baby on them for an hour or two.

After participating in many hospital births, Carol van der Woude at Aliisa’s Letter also had an awakening about how unnecessary hospital routine are. She describes the first time she saw a home birth:

My wonder at the miracle of birth was renewed. I watched as the baby emerged and the umbilical cord was left intact. The pulsating cord delivered oxygen to the baby as he made the transition to life outside the womb. The baby was placed on the mother’s chest, skin to skin, for warmth. The infant was comforted and stimulated in his mother’s arms.

Lamaze educator Nicole VanWoudenberg who blogs at A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That was in fact one of those women who didn’t know about the importance of immediate and close contact after birth until after she had had several babies. She describes her first and last births. After her first birth:

They cleaned her up, weighed and measured her, gave her the vitamin K shot, the eye ointment and whatever else, I was stitched up and approximately 45 minutes later, I got my burrito-baby. Seriously, she was diapered and all wrapped up in towels!! I did not know better, and left her like that while “bonding” with her. Did I have breastfeeding issues? Absolutely. Are the two connected? Absolutely.

For her fourth baby, born at home, she recalls:

I didn’t wait 45 minutes to receive my son. I birthed him and brought him up to my chest, for skin to skin snuggling myself. And there he stayed while we marveled at the wonder of birth, and his appearance! I only let him go while I got out of the pool to birth my placenta. As soon as I was settled on the couch, he was back in my arms, skin to skin – starting to nurse. He breastfed the best, and the longest of all four of my children. Are these two things connected? Absolutely.

Molly at Talk Birth discusses the Birth-Breastfeeding Continuum in her post. She writes:

New mothers, and those who help them, are often left wondering, “Where did breastfeeding go wrong?” All too often the answer is, “during labor and birth.” Interventions during the birthing process are an often overlooked answer to the mystery of how breastfeeding becomes derailed.

Kmom at The Well Rounded Mama reviewed the research surrounding “Baby-Friendly” practices, points to a study that reported only 8% of babies actually experience the six Baby-Friendly practices, and then examines breastfeeding issues in women of size. She writes:

The role of aggressive birth interventions in the lower rate of breastfeeding among obese women typically goes conveniently unexamined in the research. Breastfeeding failure is blamed solely on fatness, when in fact, the high level of interventions in obese pregnancies and births may also play a significant role.

Laura Keegan, author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy writes about the birth stories of women she works with in her practice. “A common theme in all of these stories has been the shock from the denial of contact with their babies or the importance of having that yearned-for close contact at birth,” and asks, “How many breastfeeding problems could be prevented if we facilitated this close contact at birth?”

 

Hobo Mama and her babe.

 

So, why are women and babies separated? Usually for routine care. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sheridan at the Enjoy Birth Blog is one of several bloggers who remind us that nurses can do everything they need to do for a healthy baby with the baby in the mother’s arms. She writes, “I understand that nurses have jobs they need to get done, checklists to mark off, but this time is so precious and these routines can wait!”

Fortunately, a new video has just become available to train hospital staff to incorporate skin-to-skin contact after both vaginal and cesarean births. Jeannette Crenshaw reviewed it on Science & Sensibility.

Both sections begin with health professionals teaching pregnant women about immediate skin to skin care prenatally, and on admission to the hospital—which “sets the stage” for immediate skin to skin contact as a normal part of the birth process. After the vaginal birth, the clinician immediately places the baby on mom’s abdomen. After the cesarean birth, the nurse immediately places the baby on mom’s chest, above the sterile field and drapes, as the doctor continues the surgery and the anesthesiologist monitors the mother. The baby’s father is at mom’s side in both segments…Both sections show competent nurses assessing the newborn, providing care, and supporting the mother and baby as the baby moves through the 9 stages of skin to skin.

Also on Science & Sensibility, I discuss a new vital sign for nurses to document after birth, the duration of skin-to-skin contact. I argue that this data may help hospitals comply with new Joint Commission perinatal quality standards.

If hospitals are serious about improving their exclusive breastfeeding rates, they should get serious about measuring the duration of skin-to-skin care. A new study in the Journal of Human Lactation demonstrates a strong dose-response relationship between skin-to-skin care and exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge.

The Nurse Blogger at At Your Cervix looks at how weighing babies can be done more humanely, when the time comes (after skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding). She vows to start weighing newborns in the prone position on soft layers of blankets and states the expected outcome of her new approach:

newborns in the prone position while being weighed, lying on soft blankets, will be more content, with decreased startle reflex, as evidenced by reduced or absent crying.

Let us know how it goes, At Your Cervix!  Or better yet, publish your results!

Dionna at Code Name Mama points out that circumcision is another common reason mother and babies can be separated, and is not medically necessary.

The reason that American medical associations (and the vast majority of medical associations worldwide) do not recommend routine infant circumcision is because it is not medically necessary. And as the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice Paper #6 details, “experts agree that unless a medical reason exists, healthy mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated after birth or during the early days following birth.” Consequently, unless there is a medical reason to circumcise your newborn son, it is inadvisable to agree to this unnecessary medical procedure.

Cesarean surgery is another major contributor to mother-infant separation after birth. But if this Blog Carnival has achieved anything, it has been to get the blogosphere talking about the fact that skin-to-skin contact is possible immediately after cesarean surgery. A powerful video emerged and was passed around in several of the bloggers’ contributions and on Facebook and Twitter:

Kathy at Woman to Woman Childbirth Education asks, “If you had a C-section, were you able to have your baby put skin-to-skin in the operating room? Did you even know that was a possibility?”

CPN at Cesarean Parent’s Blog got skin-to-skin contact with her baby after her cesarean without even asking for it, and didn’t know what a gift it was until after learning that this is not standard practice. She compares her experience to the typical experience in “reality” TV shows about birth, noting that OR staff do not just separate babies from their mothers for assessments, but for “silly things…, such as having foot prints taken, diapering, and tight swaddling, all before baby gets to meet their mom.”

Birthing Goddess also wrote about the care of mothers and babies after cesarean birth, including the importance of a “Baby Moon” and plenty of support during the longer recovery.

As much as I wish every woman to experience a truly undisturbed and gentle birth, I also know that as of today, close to one out of three women in North America gives birth in the OR. It is up to us to demand things to change for the sake of our children, up to us to bring back a more humane and healthy perspective on birth. Hospital policies can be changed, but the consequences of risky practices for our children can’t. As a community, we can also support our fellow moms who have gone through a difficult birth, help them adjust to motherhood and their new babies, without judging, with compassion and care.

All of these bloggers agreed that, until our system changes, women who want skin-to-skin contact with their babies after cesarean birth need to speak up and ask for it. At Stork Stories…Birth & Breastfeeding, the OB nurse/change agent author writes about how she made immediate skin-to-skin contact happen in the operating room after a mother gave birth by cesarean:

“Give him to me, give him to me! He has to be ON me! You just took him OUT of me, now he HAS TO BE ON ME!” She was literally trying to sit up. Anesthesia was drawing up meds for her (that was his answer). I said “OK here he comes!” So I didn’t ask anyone’s permission this time….. just held that naked baby in one hand, snapped open her gown with the other and helped him move in. I asked for a warm blanket and looked up to see the other nurse and doctor staring at me. I said “Seriously… she’s exactly right, he does belong ON her!”

A system that pits babies’ needs against those of mothers give poor care to both.

Molly at the Citizens for Midwifery Blog muses about the phrase Maternal-Fetal Conflict and discusses the need for terminology that accepts mothers and babies as interdependent:

I think it is fitting to remember that mother and baby dyads are NOT independent of each other. I have written before about the concept of mamatoto–or, motherbaby–the idea that mother and baby are a single psychobiological organism whose needs are in harmony (what’s good for one is good for the other).

The blogger at Thoughtful Birth discusses bonding as an act that involves both the primitive brain and the rational brain, and happens easiest when the birth and postpartum settings facilitate the woman’s integration of the two.

Certainly the ability to override the physical is an amazing skill that allows a woman to overcome a traumatic birth to bond with her baby, or even to bond with an adopted baby. But when we take it for granted that a mother will use her powers of reason to bond with her baby no matter how much we abuse their relationship, we ignore the way the emotional, physical, and spiritual sides of ourselves participate in the birth and bonding process. Pregnancy and labor involve neurochemical and physical changes that make it easier for us to be mothers, and that emotional and hormonal dance does not end with labor.

Michelle at The Parenting Vortex suggests that what happens in the moments right after birth remains a mystery to many pregnant women, but these moments represent a major life transformation for both the woman and the baby, who now become separate but interdependent beings. She writes:

Reforming birth practices in countries where birth has become a highly medicalized event means recognizing birth as a multi-dimensional, life changing event for all members of the family. When birth is recognized and honoured as an emotional, spiritual, transformational AND biological process, then the importance of keeping a new baby and mother together will become more apparent.

Weekly Reads: Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Depression runs in my family, but I have been fortunate never to have experienced it personally. I do, however, know women who have lived through postpartum depression, including members of my family. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious — and very common — disorder. Women who experience a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD), including PPD, need to know that they are not at fault and they are not alone. If you’re in the postpartum period and experiencing issues, contact your doctor or midwife first. If you’re pregnant, take some time to learn more about PPMDs and become aware of the signs and symptoms.  

Fact sheets, local support groups locator and resources. @ Postpartum Support International  

How to find the right doctor for postpartum depression. @ Postpartum Progress  

Learn how to spot the symptoms. @ Lamaze for Expectant Parents

One woman’s raw account of dealing with PPD and finding little successes, including a tip that may help you too. @ Heir to Blair

From his perspective — a husband’s account of his wife’s struggle with PPD, including a comparison of the first and second time around. @ blurb~o~mat

Do you know that dads can experience PPD too? @ Washington Post and Postpartum Men