This is what I’m posting on my blog? You bet, actually.
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So I got sucked into a Facebook discussion on postpartum depression and anxiety. NPR ran a story on how we need to screen for it. And some matronly old superior-person posted a reply that basically said if all those terrible bottle-feeding moms would breastfeed, this would not be an issue, because Natural[TM] stuff like breastfeeding just magically fixes problems like PPD.
This got me right in my grumble, even though I’m just a dad, not a mom.
I mean, seriously, WTF? Seriously?
Okay, so my wife breastfed and we bought organic and we read parenting books and we rearranged basically our entire lives to try to be perfect and things have not been smooth anyway and she did, in fact, suffer a whole hell of a lot because pregnancy and delivery are a huge stress on the body, and minds are parts of bodies.
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This is a recurring and intensifying thread in American life and Facebook has only made it worse.
The cult of personal responsibility has infected every corner of life, even in things as personal as parenting and breastfeeding. Gosh, your body had an issue of some kind? It’s your damned responsibility, why didn’t you make better choices?
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I want nothing more than to grab these people by the sleeves and tell them:
- You will die someday, no matter how “well” you live, because you are mortal
- Bad things happen to good people and this has been a well-known human trope for millennia
- Both health and mental health (which is a subset of health) are not entirely about your choices
- If Cure X always fixed Problem Y then Problem Y would be long gone by now
Jesus Christ I’m tired of the “if only you’d” brigade:
- If only you’d breastfed
- If only you’d eaten organic
- If only you’d done yoga, or Tai Chi, or…
- If only you’d gone away to an Ayurvedic retreat in Lhasa
- If only you’d drink much more coconut oil and acahi juice
- If only you’d vote progressive
- If only you’d…
If only we’d done the right thing then what? WHAT? WHAT IS AT THE END OF YOUR MAGIC STRING, THERE? We’d never suffer? We’d never be let down? Things would never go wrong? We’d live forever? What, exactly?
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Human bodies are frail and the world is imperfect.
We all will die.
We all will get diseases someday of some kind.
People will always suffer.
Children—CHILDREN!—will get diseases and suffer, too, sadly.
And it won’t even be anybody’s fault.
Some people will be poor.
A meteor may fall . on . your . head . tomorrow and it won’t be because you were bad.
BEING PERFECT CANNOT SAVE YOU OR ANYONE FROM THE METEOR.
PPD happens. It is not the result of choices. It is the result of biology and stress and novel process branches in complex biological systems. And it is treatable. Yet we don’t treat it, or even look for it, which is a national travesty. One amongst millions of them. It does not result from “not breastfeeding.” As a family, we are proof of that. Other things that don’t result from “not breastfeeding” include:
– Teenage rebellion
– Preference for junk food in 5th grade
– Poor math scores in Mrs. Jacobs’ class
– A love for Abba albums
For fuck’s sake. Just FFS. That’s all.
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PPD only affects families that don’t breastfeed, but ought to have?
Come back to me when you live forever, self-important matron lady.