Thursday, April 27, 2006

Our Yellow Wallpaper

Several weeks ago the New York Times published an Op/Ed piece on Bed Rest. From the essay:

Over a century later women are still prescribed the equivalent of the rest cure for obstetrical complications, but now it is recommended before birth. It is a standard means of treating just about any pregnancy-related problem in the United States. Women at risk of preterm labor, women with too much or too little amniotic fluid, women with placenta previa (where the placenta implants on or near the cervix), women with pregnancy-induced hypertension, women whose fetuses are judged to be growing poorly, women with multiple fetuses and women with chronic health problems are all likely to find themselves on bed rest. Indeed, doctors prescribe it for about one in five of all pregnant women, or around 750,000 women a year.
She goes on to describe her own frustrating, numbing account of bed rest. Then she comments on the near absence of research on bed rest's efficacy.

Who doesn't know someone put on bedrest? But is it helpful? Certainly anyone who has spent days, weeks or months confined to a horizontal position for the benefit of her fetus knows it is no picnic. And no amount of loaned novels, DVDs or craft projects makes the time pass pleasantly.

The editorial refers to a short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Written in 1892, it is a fictional account of Gilman's own bed rest. That it was prescribed to deal with postpartum depression makes the account all the more wrenching.

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?
Remember, this was written more than 100 years ago. For many women, little has changed.


I don't feel as if it was worthwhile to turn my hand over for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.
And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.

The story is only 17 pages long. I recommend anyone who works with, or has an interest in postpartum women read it. It's a study in what NOT to do.

8 Comments:

Blogger Sandy said...

You can read it online here: http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman/The_Yellow_Wallpaper/The_Yellow_Wallpaper_p1.html

A very creepy story!

4:51 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Thanks for the link, Sandy.

12:54 PM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

I must read it!

Hh

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Masterpiece Theater did a program of it in the 90's. It haunts me to this very day, seriously. You won't trust your husband or your doctor as you did before.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Whoa, having experienced postpartum depression three out of four times, I'm almost afraid to go read this.
But I am!

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Okay, that was SO Edgar Allan Poe...

Great, creepy story!

I'm glad I read it - and written 100 years ago...amazing

9:14 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Creepy is a great word to describe it. I keep thinking about it and it makes me shudder.

9:00 AM  
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5:29 PM  

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