Betty Wright’s daughter talks postpartum depression, mental health one year after mom’s passing
“On Mother's Day, I plan to not be sad,” singer Asher Makeba says nearing the one-year anniversary since the death of soul music icon Betty Wright
A year ago, on May 10, 2020, the world lost a soul music icon, but singer/songwriter Asher Makeba and her four children lost a loving mother and grandmother. For Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Makeba opened up to Take Each Moment Podcast about grieving her mother, Betty Wright, on Mother’s Day, as well as her own journey of motherhood through two bouts of postpartum depression.
“On Mother’s Day, I plan to not be sad,” says Makeba of the 1-year anniversary of Wright’s transition. “We prepare to be sad. People brace themselves for their wedding day. Like, ‘it’s gonna be the best day of my life!’ So I’ve been bracing myself, but not for sadness.”
Mother’s Day, for some, is a day to show appreciation for the mothers and mother-figures in their lives, but for others it can be a solemn reminder of a mother’s love lost.
“Life consisted of me calling my mom and getting the kids to school, or me going by her house to learn something together. So it’s like a culture shock for me. I’ve been in total shock since the day it happened. I was at every chemo visit with my mom. I was there to see the process. Not to mention five years before that I lost my father from cancer. And since December, I’ve been on chemo,” Makeba stated regarding recent preventive measures she’s taken for her own health.
“I have been going through everything to lead me to this moment right here. I never would have imagined that I would have had to take chemo, but I had to go to chemo with my mom to know how to take chemo, and I feel like she’s been guiding me the whole way through.”
However, chemo isn’t the only challenge Wright has guided her daughter through.
“With my first daughter, I definitely suffered with postpartum,” explains Makeba. “I didn’t realize what it was until I was already spazzing out on people, crying over things that used to make me happy. I just completely stopped doing things that gave me some kind of fulfillment. But I was still living in the house with my mother, and she was a great help to me with my baby.”
Makeba’s interview is part of a month-long focus on breaking down various types of mental disorders as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-5.
In another episode within the podcast series, Dr. Alexandra McGlashan explains that postpartum depression falls under the category of an “affective disorder” characterized by dramatic changes or extremes of mood which also include major depressive disorder, dysthymia, bipolar disorder and more.
“I think it’s important that we all look out for our new moms,” McGlashan asserts. “There are questions that we should ask immediately after birth, but then also in the weeks to come, up to at least six to eight weeks or so. If you have a partner or sister or someone you know who gave birth, and you notice that they don’t seem right, take this seriously, especially if they say, I’m not happy, I’m thinking of hurting myself, or I wish somebody else would take this baby. It’s shocking to us, but it’s the illness. It is very real, and it is treatable.”
McGlashan affirms that the support Makeba received from having her mother around is paramount to that treatment.
“My grandmother shared with me that when she gave birth in Haiti, it was normal for the women in the family to take care of the mother for 30 days straight. And, in researching it, I’ve learned that this is an African tradition that unfortunately, I believe we’ve lost here in the States, especially now in modern times,” she said.
McGlashan explains that in this tradition “you’d never leave a new mom alone. Somebody makes sure she eats. They give her baths with herbs and healing leaves. And they attend to that mom. I’m not saying that we all need to do that in this fast-paced world we’re living in now, but maybe tap into a little bit of that, that cultural tradition, and at least text your friends, call your friends. And if you can visit, visit. Just make sure to check in on the women in your life who have given birth.”
In addition to personal support, McGlashan and Makeba both champion the idea of seeking counseling.
“I think a lot of times in African-American culture, we put a lot of things under the rug. We want to pray everything away, but that’s what physicians are for. That’s what these counselors are for,” Makeba said. “They’re here to help heal us. But we shy away from those things, continuing the cycle.”
“After I had [my last baby],” she added, “I had this happiness, and then all of a sudden, it was just like, I was a Debbie Downer again. And I’m like, ‘okay, I’ve seen this before. So what can I do different now?’ My husband was like, ‘yo, we have to talk to somebody, because this is not okay.’ So we reached out to a Christian mental health counselor online, and the funny part about it is it helped my husband in ways that he didn’t even know that it would help him with me on a day to day basis. It made our communication so much better just to tap into how I feel a little bit. You know, for a moment in time, he was like, ‘man, I just didn’t have a clue that you were going through so much, and how sad you really were.’ So I’m really grateful that we went to counseling. I don’t think that I would have gotten out of that and enjoyed my baby the way I do now, if I hadn’t gone to counseling.”
To hear Asher Makeba’s full interview as well as the rest of the Mental Health Awareness Month discussion on affective disorders, personality disorders, anxiety disorders and more, visit www.takeeachmoment.com and be sure to follow on social media at www.instagram.com/takeeachmomentpodcast
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