Friday, February 25, 2011

On Caring, Part I: Singapore Curry Noodles

I think I know now why people get the "February blahs."  Though there have been some temperate days, I'm itching to really get back outside again for more than a short walk, and I think I'm itching to do something besides staying at home.  This is entirely unreasonable, I know, given that I am three weeks postpartum and completely sleep deprived, but I'm feeling cooped up.  I guess in many ways, work, no matter how frustrating it was, gave me a place to go every day that offered different challenges and a change of scenery, and our pediatrician told us that we're not to go anywhere with the Bean until she is at least six weeks old.  She's actually a little under the weather as it is, I think ... her nose stuffy and I suspect, listening to her swallow, that she has postnasal drip.

I've been thinking a lot in the past two weeks about community, and the ways in which community has changed over the past few decades.  Most women in my mom's generation seem to remember a time when relatives came to stay with daughters who were new moms, and help them through the first few weeks of newborn life.  While I do know some people who had this kind of help, and we've been lucky to have support, now, new moms seem much more isolated in the weeks after birth, even if friends and family do come by.  And I wonder if that has anything to do with what I perceive to be a rise in postpartum depression.  We're no longer a village raising children and caring for mothers; we're little domestic islands.

I mentioned that we hired a postpartum doula to help out in the first month I was home.  It's definitely a luxury, and we are lucky that we were able to afford it, even if it meant that we had to make some sacrifices to do so, but I wish that it were something covered by insurance, in the same way that prenatal care is covered, so that every new mom could have support.  Having someone help both with breastfeeding issues and with things like folding and sorting the endless piles of laundry, and checking in on new moms regularly, would, I suspect, go a long way towards reducing PPD.  My doula (which means "mothering the mother") is far from perfect--she tends to be a little bit alarmist and to tell stories about the horrible things she's seen in the field, almost looking for problems in our house--but it's still been helpful to have someone be here on a daily basis, keeping me sane by engaging me in adult conversation.

When I had a doula with I., she also made me sit on the couch while she made me lunch, which was often grilled cheese and soup.  This doula doesn't do that, but she does make me take a nap and a walk every day, and she encourages me to eat healthy.  The other day I found five minutes to cook while she was here; I had half a bag of rice sticks in the cabinet, and I'd been thinking about making these noodles for a while.  I'm not actually a huge noodle/pasta fan, but something about these appealed to me ... and it was nice to be in front of a wok, even if for five minutes.  There are endless variations here; vary the spices and vegetables according to your tastes.

Singapore Curry Noodles

6 oz rice sticks, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
1 t. ginger, minced or grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
(optional: something green, like 1/2 c. snap peas)
1 t. curry powder
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 c vegetable broth

Heat oils in a wok on high heat. Cook egg until lightly browned and remove from pan. Add ginger and garlic and saute for a minute or two (add more oil if you need to). Add carrots, onion, and pepper and saute until beginning to soften. Add curry powder and saute for a minute. Return the egg to the pan, and add noodles, soy sauce and broth, and stir until noodles become just lightly browned or liquid is mostly evaporated. Serve!
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  1. I think you are on to something with the PPD and the isolation caused by our current culture. My mom actually thinks I'm making a mistake not being alone with my baby for the first week (my sister is going to come out at least for a few days or so to help). I totally don't get that, why would I be better of toughing it out all by myself? Since your mom is kind of like mine, I would put money on your mom having the same kind of sentiment. SO good to hear you have a post partum doula. I didn't even know those exist. I have a recommendation for a nanny that is apparently a newborn and infant whisperer, and we are meeting tomorrow for the first time. I'm hoping we get on really well and that she can maybe come over soon after the birth a couple of times a week to help out, even if I do just stay home.

    I hope you get a beautiful warm afternoon soon so you can get out a little bit more -- and I hope your little girl starts feeling better soon!

  2. I wish I were closer.

    (And if I were little N's mama, she'd be out and about, carefully contained in a carrier on my chest so that strange people and their strange germs wouldn't be so threatening. I like to tempt fate that way.)

  3. Yeah, I think PPD is something that should be discussed and discussed often. I'd love to kidnap or ahem, baby-nap my midwife into a similar situation because there is something to be said for a sunny disposition and wickedly inappropriate sense of humor. I received your thank you card today. You are such a sweet heart and I hope your job situation presents you with a solution that follows your heart's desires.

  4. That makes total sense. When I had G, I thought I didn't want my mom to help. I was all." R and I can do this, we will bond with her etc." Then seriously after my mom was gone for 20 minutes I called her and asked her to run around and come back which she did . She stayed for a little over a week. This time she plans to stay for a couple weeks. I know I will appreciate it.

    I hope you get to get out soon. Feb is a hard month in my state too.

  5. Very thought provoking, and I think you are on to something. When I had my twins, my parents came out for six weeks to help with everything from cooking, laundry to helping with the babies. It was invaluable, and probably a deciding factor to me not getting PPD. Those noodles look wonderful!

  6. Since I don't have family on this continent and my husband's mother regards us as too competent to ever need help with anything (thanks to my husband's brother who is so bad at everything) I'm unlikely to have any help if Sparky makes it that far. I wonder if we had doulas here that will come? I'm glad yours makes certain you get a nap and walk every day, but too bad she doesn't make you lunch too.

    And I think Eliot was silly; February's a much crueler month (in your hemisphere); you're tired of winter by then and as close as spring can sometimes feel it's still a ways away.

  7. Another one of your thought-provoking posts, Justine. Lots to think about in it and I think you might be onto something. Also, the noodles look delicious. Maybe I'll add this one to the menu plan for next week.

  8. What you say about the rise of post-partum depression and the frequency with which new mothers do not have that support - it makes a lot of sense. I know that some expectant mothers dread the pitfalls of having a female relative come in and take over, but I think there has got to be a healthy balance between this and support. You're right - a pp doula SHOULD be covered.

  9. you so hit it on the nose with isolation & depression. why does our society think moms need constant alone time with their new baby? i may not have wanted to host parties, but helping hands & grown up conversation is nearly always a welcome thing.
    post partum suppoer absolutely SHOULD be covered. yet another way the american health care system is failing families.


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