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PPD and Women’s Health In A Heathen Context

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There is a growing voice of Heathens that have been working to publicly bring to light a disturbing long standing trend in the Heathen community. In part, it is the emphasis on procreation. This is seen throughout many cultures and is indeed part of the Abrahamic over-culture as well. It is not anything new to hear people say they have felt pressure to have children. Those who do not have children by a certain point in life often end up being looked down upon. Why wouldn’t they want to have children? Countless individuals don’t even stop to think about infertility struggles, the weight of various financial responsibilities, mental and physical health issues, and abusive situations before even posing these inquiries. Much less thinking that maybe someone simply doesn’t want to have children and is happy with their life, or the promise of a future they desire without children. It is unfathomable to some to think anyone could be happy without offspring. This is all seen in Heathenry as well as the mainstream culture. However, in Heathenry, it is often those who claim they wish to preserve the “white race” that are pushing women to be broodmares.

 

Example: The AFA calls for making 'white babies' in a Facebook post.

Case in point…

Long ago as a baby Heathen when I was young and single I was approached online by multiple individuals to be a vessel for white children. To join Asatru communes they claimed to be forming in order to create ‘pure’ communities (all in the Midwestern United States oddly enough). To make Teutonic babies to command the next generation of Heathens. To make little Vikings to “take back” the world. In a post I made recently, I stated that this was why I married a non-Heathen. Partly jokingly as I had no control over who I fell in love with; partly in all seriousness as this trend of focusing on whiteness and procreation in Heathenry was and is disturbing.

 

Eventually, I did marry and have children long after these initial requests. Not because I felt pressure to procreate but because I wanted children. I wanted to be a mother for no reason other than I wanted to have children to love unconditionally and experience part of my life with. To learn and grow from myself and to do so for them. So I had them and I was happy. Or so I thought.

 

There is this dark cloud that looms over many mothers that have just given birth. We rarely talk about it, especially in the Heathen community, where women are often pressured to be as strong as a Valkyrie. Every woman is some kind of shieldmaiden and weakness isn’t tolerated. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away however and many of us are dealing with hardships beyond the normal everyday difficulties of being a parent.

According to postpartumprogress.org: “11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. If you settled on an average of 15% of four million live births in the US annually, this would mean approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone”.

Based on my personal experience, and how difficult it was to speak up about my hardships, I think this number may be even higher simply due to how many cases go unreported. Some may be afraid to tell their doctor they are having difficulties, fearing that their children may be taken away instead of getting the help they need to persevere. Thinking their thoughts of running away or contemplating ending their lives (it’s more common than you would think) will hurt their chances of receiving help rather than help them. Or they are told their hardships will lessen and don’t “sound” like what many call simply “PPD.” I know for me I also had good days and weeks before my life felt as though it was falling apart again. So when I did seek out help I felt fine at the time of my appointment. The doctor felt satisfied and sent me home with a $40 bill for a 3-minute conversation. Little did I know how much worse it was going to get.

 

When I talk to others they almost all feel alone. In the world we live in now many of us don’t live in the kind of communities where we can find support close by. Most of us don’t live in villages where we all know and interact with each other on a daily basis more than just basic pleasantries. It has been discussed on many forums I am part of that a lot of us yearn for a “tribe” of sorts. For something that once was but is no longer. Some call it a longing for sisterhood. Though the issue of calling one another “brother” and “sister” in the Heathen community has been pointed out before. A topic I won’t discuss here. Now, before anyone argues about this I am not saying this kind of support doesn’t exist for some. It’s just not common in my experience and from the cries of many I see online and in person. Or those that bring themselves to discuss it.

 

For a religious community that pushes procreation and kin so fiercely, I am at a loss as to why there is so little support for women. Not just for PPD as I mention here but in all aspects of our lives. We are an important part of this community. If you don’t want to drive us away (like some have been) we need to be supported and appreciated other than just a pat on the head for creating life, etc. There is so much more to us than holding the mead horn and making babies. This focus also alienates our non-binary brethren. Though I have a feeling those who care so little about its cattle…I mean women…care even less for anyone who doesn’t fit in their worldview.

I personally feel that we need to stop fighting about lore and focus on living Heathenry if we want it to survive. By survive I mean to say ‘be more than books and online arguments’, and grow as a practice. For years I knew little of practicing Heathenry and more of myth as the information for even practice was disputed so heavily I had no idea what to do. Or was afraid of being torn apart for not doing it right. Many of us have scorned other religious groups but I see more support programs and community in them than I do Heathenry. Bitching online about the correct root word for a practice isn’t helping us grow and thrive in my opinion. Not all of us must be scholars. To start with we can focus on helping one another. Build supportive communities online and off, create programs on dealing with grief/depression/etc in a Heathen context, show our women they are valuable and wanted here as equals, et cetera. That’s how I see the possibility for a strong future for Heathenry coming to be. Especially, as I see more of us are creating families (through blood or not) and need more than to sit around shouting over lore.

 


PPD is more than just feeling “sad” for many of us. I often see comments focusing on that and not understanding what the big deal is. Not looking past that and seeing how can it can consume lives and even cause physical pain through mental exhaustion. If you are curious about PPD and wondering what some of the symptoms are this article goes in depth about the experiences one may have, CLICK HERE. I am no doctor and this article is not meant to diagnose any illness/state of being or prescribe any treatment. Please see a medical professional for an official diagnosis if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression. You are not alone. You may feel alone but you’re not, I speak from experience here. 


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