Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eyes on Me, Please

Blackish is one of those shows that I intend to watch, but rarely do for whatever reason. For example, while everyone was all excited about the premier episode and it's clever nods to School House Rock and also to Hamilton, I was watching This is Us (because Randall, duh). The same thing happened again this week, but someone posted this clip from the week's episode that dealt with Bow's postpartum depression, and I got lucky to see the entire episode shortly thereafter.

And well, my initial reaction is how significant it is to see this issue addressed on television, especially featuring a black woman. I give show creator Kenya Barris credit for confronting the various aspects of postpartum depression; but (and of course there is a but) it might have been nice if the entire episode had been written from the perspective of a woman going through postpartum instead of how it feels to be the guy watching it happen. Save for the showdown scene between Bow and Ruby, the show was focused on how everyone else dealt with Bow's malaise.

Does anyone else think life for women would generally improve overall if the men in their lives stopped focusing on how our issues affect them?

That scene between Bow and Ruby was shocking and perfectly captured a lot of the angst legions of women probably feel about confronting others when they overstep boundaries. It also addressed how debilitating the anxiety can be for new mothers surrounded by well-meaning people who offer help in the form of judgment (ask me how I know). I certainly could relate to feeling like new motherhood was a bad ride at a crummy amusement park and that the people around me were so much more focused on making sure the kid was strapped in properly. My husband took two months of leave from work, which is absolutely fantastic when one considers how men rarely get that much leave. Yet, he drove me nuts!

I assumed that it was just his exuberance over having a baby, and then all of the anxiety of being a first-time father, so I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was experiencing all of the same euphoria and nervousness in addition to all of the physical and psychological issues that come with having a baby. But somehow, my husband forgot that other stuff.

I will not recount all of my ailments, the issues with breast-feeding, the changes in my body image, the pressure to adjust to my new normal, or the fact that I had no meddling mother or mother in law to offer me any respite. But watching that clip reminded me of how frustrating it was to feel so alone and unsupported. Which you might read and wonder how could she feel that way since her husband was at home for two months??! And my response would be yes, he was physically there to assist with the baby. But I did not feel that he was there for ME.

This is not an isolated experience. I have read accounts shared by plenty of other women that reflect this same reality--how we are there for our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends, etc., but struggle to see how many of those same people are there for us.

Need proof? Consider that when Dre first realized that his wife might have postpartum, he discussed how to diagnose it with his male co-workers. When Dre continued to feel powerless about his inability to solve his wife's issues, he discussed it with his Dad. I'm not picking on him unnecessarily, because he genuinely tried to talk to his wife and offer her empathy. Ultimately, his goal was to return things to normal...but for whom?

I'm not a therapist so I have no automatic answers for how I overcame my own postpartum issues. I sought treatment on my own and received a prescription. I tried to connect with other mothers. I participated in an online community and found a few women in my circle who were very supportive. I wrote. I cried. I prayed. I got my nails done. Eventually, I did have the BIG confrontation with the Hub, and I think he bought me some flowers from the grocery store.

I still struggle with feeling that my issues cause more discomfort for him, instead of feeling sufficient empathy for what it must be like to be me. I know I'm not alone, but no one has invented an empathy machine yet. So until that time, there are other comforts: new shoes, Sephora, Amazon Prime, whatever show everybody is watching, different nail colors by OPI, podcasts and audio books, New Edition, girls' nights, meal delivery kits, and this handy carrier. You're welcome.

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