M., a religiously observant woman, was 25 when her second son was born. The maternity leave at home with the baby passed by quickly, and after three and a half months [note: the length of maternity leave in Israel is 14 weeks] she had to return to work.
"I went back to work unwillingly [she says] - I wanted to extend my maternity leave, but I wasn't allowed to. I worried very much. I worried about how the children will cope in daycare, and I was under pressure to arrive at work on time."
The disquiet gradually took over the rhythm of her days. "I went out of the house every morning in great stress, came back in the afternoon stressed, everything was very pressured. In addition, there was a lot of criticism of my performance at work. There were many demands and endless remarks, and I felt I can't deal with it anymore. One evening I came home after a long conference at work, sat down in the living room and just began to cry. I cried and cried, my baby woke up and I felt I can't pick him up. I felt I have no power left. The house looked awful after about two weeks of no laundry being done, no cleaning and no cooking. But I couldn't cope, nor did I want to.
"The next day, I told my husband I have no strength to get up. He took the children to daycare, and I just stayed in bed and didn't stop crying. My husband tried to make me feel better, but it didn't really work, so he called my parents... and my mother said it might be post-partum depression."
Note: I am no expret, but if I may express my humble opinion, a depression that begins several months after birth - just when the mother is pressured to leave the baby and go to work - can hardly be called "post-partum depression". There's no doubt this poor woman was severely depressed, but I would rather say she suffered from "post-maternity leave, back to work" depression.
So what was done to help M.?
"The psychiatrist understood right away work is a huge stress factor for me..."
So far, so good... and...
"And gave me a month of sick leave and a recipe for anti-depressants. Of course I had my prejudices about depression meds, but I decided to try them. In the first two weeks I felt awful, I had terrible mood swings and all I wanted to do was sleep. I was either a zombie or really mad. But after a month I felt much better."
Today, a year later, M. is still on anti-depressants, still sends her children to daycare and still rushes out to her stressful job every morning.
Am I the only one who is outraged by this story? How come nobody told this woman that what she feels is perfectly normal? We are biologically programmed to be with our babies until gradually, very gradually they begin to grow into toddlers and children and young adults, and go on to their own separate lives. We are not designed by G-d to send a 3-months-old helpless baby to the care of a stranger, and feel as though this is the normal course of events!
Sidenote: I realize there are many, many different people in the world in many, many different circumstances. I also realize many women in the aforementioned situation (baby in daycare, stressful job) cope well. However, it is normal not to cope well. If somebody told me I must leave my babies when they are just 3 months old and go out to a highly demanding and stressful job every day, I would likely very soon be depressed. Should I just then go on anti-depressants, or perhaps it is time to revise my life and see what can be changed?
Sometimes people must go on anti-depressants to cope with situations that come to pass, such as the loss of a loved one, sickness in the family, etc. The situation itself cannot be changed in such cases, and if there is no other way to deal with it, medications have their proper place. But consider a woman who is trapped in an abusive marriage with a violent man who is unfaithful to her on top of all. If she goes to counseling and asks for anti-depressants so that she may continue to cope with this sick situation, what will she be told? I am almost certain that the advice she gets will be, take the kids and go and it is almost certain you will be fine!
But when a woman only longs to be home with her baby, and instead is pressured to go to work and so doesn't perform well at her job and doesn't cope well at home, she is given anti-depressants so that the stressful situation can go on.
Try as I might, I can't wrap my mind around this. Why didn't anybody suggest to her, "perhaps you might just stay home?" - I'm not talking for the rest of her life, but perhaps at least until the baby is a toddler. If money is an issue, perhaps an alternative source of income can be found at home (not to mention that daycare and formula cost a lot of money!). But no; this option wasn't even mentioned. Not by the woman herself, not by her husband, not by her mother, not by the psychiatrist and not by the journalist, whose only aim was to show how "there is no shame in treating post-partum depression". No; it was unthinkable that the young mother wouldn't work. It was unthinkable that she might just need to stay home with her baby.
I think it was a lousy example of post-partum depression but, in contrast, a very good example of how modern feminism-infused society places horrible and unhealthy stress on women, children and families.