I am taking a look at the story of Christmas. Please note this is a humorous exploration of how and why Mary might have suffered from postnatal illness. The sole purpose is to raise awareness of postnatal illness and how it can affect anyone. Hopefully it will shed some light and raise a smile. There is no intention to offend.
The ‘Needs Perspective’ says that if our emotional needs are met in balance we thrive. When we cannot meet those needs we struggle with anxiety, depression and other stress related illnesses.
If we look at Mary’s life from a ‘Needs’ perspective, it is very likely she had postnatal depression.
What do we know about Mary? She had been travelling for days, to register in a city many miles from home. She seemed to have been travelling alone with Joseph, who was not best pleased that she was having a baby by someone else. At the end of all this she gave birth in a stable with only Joseph and the animals for company.
Let’s just check through the physical and emotional needs and see how they might have been met.
It is unlikely that she had easy access to Food and Drink, They would have been relying on ‘takeaways’ and snack food
Mary didn't know the area and was probably not feeling at her most comfortable after a long journey and a long labour so Movement would have been quite limited.
Sleep would have been hard to come by, lying on straw and surrounded by large animals and intruded on by endless visitors - shepherds, wise men and the like.
Security, Mary must have been feeling very insecure, a long way from her home, keeping away from the hooves of the Ox and the Ass and then hearing that Herod planned to kill all the babies in his kingdom.
Control, if a new mum ever felt that she had no control, then Mary was that Mum, she was far from home, and had no control over what she ate, when she slept, and who might visit.
Attention ALL the attention was going on Jesus, Yes he was cute, and had come to redeem the earth, but no-one seemed to bring Mary any presents, or even take much notice of her.
Emotional Connection Mary and Joseph’s relationship had been rocky beforehand, and now he seemed just to want to hang out with the shepherds.
Mary was many miles away from her Community, she must have felt as if she had been cast out from her tribe, they had been acting a bit ‘off’ with her before she left home..
You might think that giving birth to the son of God was quite an Achievement, and maybe it was, let’s hope Mary was proud of herself, and could say at the end of the day “I’m glad I did that”. But maybe it all felt far bigger than she could cope with.
I don’t remember hearing much about Respect for Mary in the early weeks, and she wasn't to know then that she would have millions of artists sculpt and draw impressions of her for more than 2000 years to come. Maybe the angels showed respect, hopefully they smiled encouragingly at Mary and sang quietly.
Whatever Mary had believed in before having Jesus there must have been a huge shift in how she met her need for Meaning and Purpose, It is hard enough for any first time Mum to make the change, but Wow - what a responsibility she was going to have to bring up this child to be near perfect, and she of all Mums knew that God would be watching her to make sure she got it right!
The moment that Mary gave birth to Jesus must have been the last moment that she had any Privacy at all. Just imagine the moment she held her tiny babe for the first time the angelic hosts proclaiming all around the world. Soon everyone felt that they had some right to visit when they like, bringing inappropriate gifts and expecting to watch her baby’s every move.
Of course this is written with a degree of poetic licence and with my tongue firmly in my cheek as I do not know what Mary’s experience truly was. However in this story we find that Mary had difficulty in getting many of her needs met at all and Achievement and Meaning and Purpose were met far too well! This would have caused a lack of balance, and as I said at the top when needs are not met, we become stressed, anxious and depressed. Add to this surging hormones and traumatic labour and post natal illness can quickly ensue. Hopefully Mary, like most new mothers found a way to meet her needs and didn't suffer too long with postnatal depression or anxiety.
It can take days, weeks, months and even years to regain balance after a significant life change like childbirth. As humans we always seek to regain equilibrium and to meet our needs but often we need help from friends, relations and professionals.
If Mary could have suffered from perinatal illness so could we all. If this story helps one woman to start talking about her feelings and getting the help she needs, this blog has played it’s part.