'Alma Mater' means Sweet Mother: Going back to school (again)

I got into grad school! Again!

Let's hope I go, this time. That would be good, seeing as we're boarding a flight to Vermont (where Goddard College is located) tomorrow. And when I do, let's hope I like it.

Goddard College, my new 'sweet mother'. 

You see, in my young life I have applied to:
University of Toronto
University of British Columbia
Simon Fraser University
Concordia (twice! what was I thinking?)
University of Lund
University of Stockholm
University of Coventry
Parsons School of Design
NYU (two programs!)
...and a few others I can't remember (Goldsmith's? Did I actually apply there or did I just think about it?). I got into some of these schools and I attended a Master's in Visual Studies at one of them, for a brief stint. I wasn't sad to leave.

Anyway, I hope never to apply to grad school again – or at least not for a few years. I'm sick of writing personal statements (yes, it's actually possible to get sick of talking about myself), sick of paying for transcripts that don't express anything except my ability to parrot information (sorry University of Toronto, but you were a poor, poor excuse for an education), and sick of writing sycophantic emails to professors whose work possibly 'dovetails nicely' with mine.

The good thing about this school is that it's self-directed, rigorous, interdisciplinary, and they host things like the 'Occupy! Activism Conference'. Featuring none other than the man who wrote The Looting of America, Les Leopold.

Les get... dangerous!

Oh, and they were also the hosts of the 'Alternative Media Conference' of 1970...

This photo, 'Kiss Kiss', taken on campus by Robert Altman. Yes, the Robert Altman.

I'll be doing a MA in Counseling Psych. I've been working on a diploma in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for what seems like forever (actually, 7 years) and I'll continue to work on (finish!) that. But I wanted to study something different, something more specialized, something that would give me more of a direction in my therapeutic practice. You. I want to study you.

Because motherhood is incredible, right? It's difficult, it's joyful, it's philosophically unreasonable like a three year-old who won't get dressed; it's lonely, it's stressful, it's ecstatic and confusing. Like any major life change, it's a time rife with the potential for mental illness. Except with this one, you add in a dash of sleeplessness (OK, make that a [un]healthy portion: I've slept through the night since June 2010 a grand total of... once!), reams of social judgment (I don't really use disposable diapers, just when the cloth ones are all dirty or we're traveling or for sleeping in at night... I swear), a history of stigmatization alternating with adulation (in a bad relationship? blame mom!) and a variety of methods of social isolation (Pop quiz: to which of the following is it socially acceptable to bring a baby? a) a restaurant, b) a work meeting, c) an exercise gym, d) a bar. Gotcha!).

SBJ at Havana in Vancouver: One of these is not like the other...

And yet we're surprised when a mama says she feels down after she has a baby. Depending on our political orientation, we're surprised she wants to go back to work, or we're surprised she doesn't. We're surprised that Post-Partum Depression exists and that women literally go crazy (psychotic, hearing things, seeing things, harming themselves and others, letting the toddler wear his socks into the bath) when they're home alone with a newborn.

Given the high occurrence of mental disorder around this time in a woman's life, and the negative consequences for her, for the baby, and for everyone else when it occurs, this should be a well-established area of psychological inquiry. The DSM-IV (the psychologist's/psychiatrist's major diagnostic tool) includes, after all, disorders in [male] erectile dysfunction and [male] premature ejaculation. Support and clinically validated treatments for women with pregnancy and parturition-related mental illness are, please excuse the pun, a no-brainer. But it isn't. There's hardly anything.

There is not, to my knowledge, a single graduate Psychology programme that studies issues related to pregnancy and childbearing. So I have to make my own.

And that's probably what you'll be hearing about a lot on here, over the next two years. Yes, I'll still be writing about life, love, parenting and poop (and lavender!). But I'll be using this space to distill and expand upon the topics I'm studying.

Lavender-filled knitted poop. For the linen cupboard. 

At the moment, these are some of the questions I'm looking at:

  • Why do Western women, despite having comparatively high levels of nutrition, experience the highest incidence of 'insufficient' breast milk production in the world? What is that like for the mother, and what can we do about it? 
  • Despite the many life-changes pregnancy brings (from lack of sleep to decreased anti-depressant dosages due to fetal health concerns), there is currently no pregnancy-specific screening measure for depression. How can we develop one that acknowledges the many difficulties of pregnancy without pathologizing it? 
  • And social networking sites now host the ubiquitous online 'forum', where pregnant women and mothers share information about pregnancy and childbearing. How do these new technologies impact women's real-time relationships and their attitudes toward social science?

If you've got some information on - or an opinion about, or (better yet!) an experience with - any of these topics, let me know. I promise not to psychoanalyze you, too much.