Sunday, March 22, 2009

Perspective: Blaming the Messenger (or, in the case of the BBC, the Home Visitor)

Once, I liked listening to the BBC. Now, it's a mixed experience...

This BBC report on post-partum depression (one of the "Am I Normal?" series: link) is interesting in many respects.

Unfortunately, it opens by framing a "controversy" about post-partum depression screening.

The reporter starts with a point of view, "motherhood is being medicalized" (with a tip of the hat to journalistic objectivity, she asks it as a question) and then proceeds to demonstrate the controversy by sound bites from a slew of mothers with complaints about their experience of screening during home visiting, juxtaposed with an interview of a single doctor, who explains what the screening process intends to accomplish...

There is some unintended irony.

At one point the reporter tells us that mothers wanted more information about the post-birth delivery and support during that time, and at another point, muses that many of the events described in the Edinburgh Depression Scale would seem to experienced parents as "par for the course."

How exactly does a new parent understands what's "par" when they're playing on a course for the first time and there's no comparison of performance? Eventually, the interviews do provide insight: for example, a psychiatrist discusses the modern problem of parenting in social isolation.

It's unfortunate that much the focus of the report is on the consequences of labeling PPD an "illness": the reporter sometimes seems not to notice the points about the experience of motherhood that are made in some interviews.

Nonetheless, the interviews provide some interesting insights into the challenges parents face, and the conclusion is important: recognizing and accepting the fact that the expectations of motherhood do not always square with our individual experience of motherhood.

In other words, mothers - and families - need to know that not being normal at times is a normal part of motherhood.

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