Doctor helps young mother to overcome other people's judgment
Sadly, people have a pretty bad habit of judging others before knowing all the facts. They rarely stop to ask what is going on in people's lives that makes them act the way they do.
Júlia Rocha, from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, is a doctor and knows quite well how judgmental people can be. After seeing a patient of SUS (the free medical system in Brazil for those who can’t afford heath insurance or care) and listening to her confession, she had to write about it on her Facebook page:
“HOW MANY NEGLECTFUL MOTHERS DO YOU KNOW?
How many have you actually talked to?
Laura, a 28-year-old, came into my office really nervous. With a shy smile, looking at the floor, she rarely looked at me. Rubbing her own hands, she took a deep breath and said it all at once:
'I came here because my mom said I have postpartum depression.'
'But she said I have everything, though,' and smiled.
'Yes. She says that I have schizophrenia, and that I’m bipolar.' And then she laughed again before continuing. 'Oh, my mother…'
'But what about you? What do you say?'
'Well, I have a bit of anemia… But it’s because of the treatment I did to lose weight. I was like a whale.' She smiled some more.
Laura's appointment was my request. Her daughter, a four-year-old, was showing serious problems regarding her eating habits. She was obese and could barely keep up with her school activities. Her vaccinations had been constantly behind schedule and were only administered when doctors insisted. I considered all of this and I knew I had to meet her parents. We offered the appointment and the mother wanted to come first.
'Besides the anemia, do you have any other health issues?'
'And what about postpartum depression? Where did your mom get that idea from?'
'I don't know, she doesn’t even know me that well to say that. We're not close. I was raised by my grandmother…' (she was quiet) 'I married the wrong man, doctor. For someone who's never felt loved, for someone who doesn’t love herself, for someone who thinks she's fat, ugly, and then comes a guy and says half dozen beautiful words…' (another silence). 'When I got pregnant, I had already decided to leave him. When I knew, I got desperate. I didn't accept it.'
'And how was your pregnancy?'
'Hard. My daughter wasn't growing inside my womb. Even though I was eating, she was still really tiny. All the time they would tell me that my body was rejecting her…' (and here she cried for the first time). 'She was born by C-section. She was in the hospital for a long time. Poor thing. So tiny and having to go through all that.'
'It must've been hard.'
'Doctor, everybody knows that I take care of my daughter really well. I may have depression or whatever, but when she comes home, I manage. Her food is always ready on time, vegetables, healthy stuff. I shower her, brush her hair, dress her, put on her perfume…'
'The only thing that I wanted, but can't do, is to love my daughter.'
BOOM! What a bombshell confession! No chit chat. No sugar coating. Most people would think: bad mother! Evil! She's a witch! How could she say something like that!?
'I act like I love her…' (more crying) 'But I can’t feel it. Because, doctor, I don’t know. I try, I make an effort. I don’t know what to do to love my daughter.'
'Laura, there’s no right or wrong. Taking care of her diet, her hygiene, worrying about her health is also a form of love.'
'I didn't want to be like that.'
'How were you with your mom?'
'So, I didn't live with her. She left me with my grandma. From the few times we were together, we didn’t build a friendship… intimacy… I don't know.'
'Did you get this type of caring that you think you should be giving to your daughter?'
'Never. From anyone.'
'And how was your grandma with your mom?'
'Oh, they don't talk much.'
'And how was your grandma with your great grandma?'
'Wow. They say that that woman was the devil!! She would beat her kids up with a cane. And she would do it to really hurt them. Things that I can't even think of doing to my daughter.'
'Laura, I’m going to tell you something from the bottom of my heart. I don’t mean to offend you or your family. It is out of love that I say this: we can only give what we have. To give love, we need to feel loved. It's like saying to a child that she needs to give me a car. It's not possible. The love I received when I was little inspires me today to love someone else. I didn't receive any hate, so I'm not able to hate anyone.'
She looked at me as someone who appreciates the understanding…
'On the other hand, look at this beautiful story of overcoming hurdles that you’re telling me: your great grandmother would beat up and hurt her kids. Maybe because she learned that this was the right thing to do. Your grandma overcame this violence but couldn’t create a bond of friendship and care with your mom. Your mom already can talk to you and, in her own way, she guides you and tries to help. You are taking a big leap and searching for this understanding. You were able to go through the pain and the days when your daughter was in the hospital. You worry about her eating habits, her clothes, her hair, her perfume. You already love your daughter. No one does that without love. Probably, when you daughter has her own child, loving and caring will be something much more natural to her, because she will remember everything you’ve done for her when she was still a baby!'
Laura was crying. And as she cried she listened to me. She took in what she thought she needed to take in. She ignored what she thought was silly. She’s going to speak to a psychologist and make an appointment with the psychiatrist in our community.
Laura was able to accept the love that I get daily from my family and my friends. The appointment ended and here's the magic: the love that I have in me now is bigger than the one I had inside of me before knowing her.
Thank you, Laura <3"
What a great example of a woman, a doctor and a human being. The world needs more caring people who can walk in someone else's shoes before simply judging.
Well said, Júlia Rocha! Keep up the wonderful work you are doing with all your patients.