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When he was growing up in the 1970s, my youngest brother (now 45 years old) had the benefit of exceptional instruction, along with a fine example of role modeling, from three older sisters—it was character forming, although not in the way we might have desired.

A far cry from Beaver Cleaver, in those days he more closely resembled the wry laugh of a morbidly mature Danny Bonaduce (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Danny_Bonaduce) in The Partridge Family (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Partridge_Family).

In the 1980s, however, we realized that it was far worse than that—he was all that Rodney Dangerfield (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=VwZAIO7q9v8) (if the imagination wasn’t beggared by the thought of it) might have been as a boy of 10-or-so years of age.

As teenage girls, if our behavior was erratically undulating in the emotional undercurrents of our monthly cycles, and therefore apt to be a fraction more fractious than usual, our “little” brother responded without mercy.

“Take a pill, will you?” he’d say in his Rodney Dangerfield-child-voice, with one eye on the front door, ready to bolt, in case a shoe happened to take flight in the direction of his head.

And then he would wonder why he ‘got no respect’.

Now, about a quarter of a century later, I’m bemused—and less than encouraged—to realize that not much has changed. My little brother still thinks he’s Rodney Dangerfield and men like Tom Cruise (his relative contemporary in more than age) still think a gal should “take a pill” (http://serendip NULL.brynmawr NULL.edu/exchange/node/1871) when her hormones are competing for the Bucking Bronco Cup.

Unlike my brother, however, Tom Cruise lacked the seasoning and foresight to stand near a door when, in 2005, he went on the Today Show (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=cc_wjp262RY) and said over-40 mom Brooke Shields should have taken vitamins (rather than antidepressants) to deal with her postpartum ordeal—one that she was so profoundly affected by that she wrote a book to aid her sisters in suffering.

C’mon Tom. As a scientologist, espousing the belief that the human race was birthed by aliens exploding around a volcano (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Xenu), you could do with ‘taking a pill’ yourself—a close encounter with the anti-psychotic kind.)

As it turns out, Brooke was more than just a random case of over-40 mom postpartum mental illness.

According to a Swedish Study published in February 2009 (http://www NULL.news-medical NULL.net/news/2009/02/10/45753 NULL.aspx), moms over 35 were nearly 2 and a half times more likely to develop postpartum psychosis than mothers under 19. (Could it be that, unlike the younger kid-moms, we got an inkling of what we were in for?)

Rashella McCabe, (http://www NULL.rebirthdoula NULL.com) a practicing doula for the last 5 years (based in Indiana), with an MS in Clinical Psychology, works with many new older moms and feels the research is borne out in her experience.

“Since women in their 30’s and 40’s tend to be more independent and have their lives pretty well ordered” she says, “the sudden change in their lifestyle—along with the loss of independence—has the potential to cause great stress and even depression.”

McCabe goes on to point out that the likelihood of increased anxiety for older mothers during pregnancy is exacerbated by the medical establishment—a process that augurs an uncomfortable ride after birth and a lack of postnatal bliss.

“This group is also put through a lot more medical intervention—many more tests may be performed and there are often suggestions of abnormality in the baby or danger for the mother.”

She continues: “This can be a difficult thing to go through, as it can be physically taxing and cause unnecessary stress before, during, and after pregnancy.”

Rashella McCabe might as well have been writing the journal for my pregnancy when I was, at the age of 44, carrying my now vivacious 4-year-old daughter, Lizzie. Retrospectively, it is a heartbreaking postpartum post-mortem on that pregnancy to say that there was little room for joy when I was so riddled with fear.

If I could re-write those months, I would be rubbing my belly as if it were a shiny new apple, ripening from a seed to one day become a tree that would shake the earth and touch the sky, long after its ancestors had departed—just like the young (fearless) mothers do.

However, McCabe adds to the growing (yet still tentative) groundswell of public and healthcare recognition of the unique assets of midlife motherhood—our undiscovered maternal toolbox—which means that we bring more to the table than your average mom.

“The flip side is, of course, that older women tend to be more stable in their lifestyle and financially secure” she enthuses.

“In addition, they are often much more mature than younger women and may even have more patience with the children.”

But the biggest surprise is found at the bottom of the proverbial Crackerjack Box:

Rashella McCabe is a mother; and she’s 30 years old—yet she offers an intriguing insight that just might be the bridge between generations of motherhood, young and old, and the key that may join us all as a community of women in the circle of life.

In summary, she says: “I had both my children fairly young and I have to say…if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to get educated, know what birth is all about and all the issues surrounding it; talk to as many women as you can who have gone before you.”

That just might be the last word with shoe-less Rodney Dangerfield—and if it is, it has  my utmost respect.

Note to readers:

Rashella McCabe’s blog: http://rebirthdoula.blogspot.com/ (http://rebirthdoula NULL.blogspot NULL.com/) Email: rebir‌thdoula@‍email.com (reb‌irthdoula null@null ‍email NULL.com)

For support:

MomsBloom was born to bring volunteers and families together to provide physical and emotional support to any family with a newborn – free of charge.  http://www.momsbloom.org (http://www NULL.momsbloom NULL.org/)

2 Responses to Midlife Postpartum Depression Gets No Respect

  1. From Midwife to Midlife Mom | Flower Power Mom Blog (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/wordpress/?p=946) says:

    […] weren’t enough, she suffered severe post-partum depression following the baby’s birth—a condition known to have higher incidence in older mothers. Yet, the experience that has enabled her to recognize the symptoms and offer compassionate support […]

  2. The International Laundress (http://imamomgetmeoutofhere NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    mid life post-partum depression? hmm, I thought it was wild kids.

    xo

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