Recently, I read an article about Allison Goldstein. Allison, of Virginia, committed suicide after silently suffering from postpartum depression. The first thought that crossed my mind was “How could she? How could she leave her beautiful baby girl to grow up without her mother?” In the next instant, I reflected upon my own memories of what it feels like to have postpartum depression. I didn’t necessarily want to leave this earth and my baby–but I sure got close enough to that place for it to scare me–and I don’t scare easily.
Having postpartum depression was dark and hopeless. It was the loneliest I have ever felt in my entire life.
It took me longer than I would have thought to reach out and ask for help. And, that desire for help did not come from within. My mother urged me. When I did finally talk to my midwife, she said just the wrong thing. That closed me off from disclosing my biggest fears. She prescribed me medication. Thankfully for me, it started to make a difference about two weeks later. I sought out help soon enough to bring me up out of the darkness, and no harm came to me or my baby. Allison never reached out for help. Her family had no idea that she was suffering. Sadly, they lost her, when her daughter was only four-months-old.
Because I work in the “baby world” and I am an open book, I often share my postpartum depression story with other women. Many women speak openly to me. Today, I spoke to a mom of a four-month-old who had been diagnosed with postpartum depression just two weeks ago. She explained to me that her “darkness” did not begin right after the birth. It showed up unannounced months later. Unable to recognize her own depression, her mother also urged her to ask for help. Thankfully, she got the medical treatment she needed and began to feel like herself again.
“When am I going to feel normal again? When will I be happy?”
These are common questions I hear from mothers. I can’t answer that for them. It varies greatly, depending on severity and treatment. I came out of the darkness relatively quickly after I reached out for help. However, I didn’t achieve my previous level of happiness for many months. It was an extremely long journey–I remember feeling like a dark cloud was always lurking behind me. I stayed on medication for several years due to the stress level in my life; I was petrified of it coming back. After my daughter was born, I started medication again preemptively. I did not enter into full-blown postpartum depression that time. But I was frightened that I could feel it at the fringes, trying to seep in.
Awareness and acceptance of postpartum depression is slowly improving.
We are more aware of postpartum depression and how common it actually is. Postpartum depression affects two out of 10 women. Health professionals screen and have resources for us. Mom’s groups, led by professionals, understand the symptoms and know how to make the right referrals. (Check out a postpartum support group at Families First in Portsmouth.) We are headed in the right direction; however,we are not there yet. When a tragedy such as Allison’s suicide happens, I realize I could do so much more to help other moms who are suffering.
If I could go back and talk to Allison, this is a list of things that I would want her to know:
- You are not alone.
- There is hope; we know how to treat this.
- You don’t have to suffer in silence.
- That dark place you are in is not truly your life. It is a false reality.
- Your mind is playing tricks on you making you believe that you are not a good mom.
- You are a good mom who loves her baby.
- The unicorns and rainbows of early motherhood are a myth. They don’t exist. Hollywood and the media paint motherhood as only blissful, but it is a lie.
- Motherhood, especially for new moms, can be tough. It may be one of the toughest times you have ever experienced. Sleep deprivation alone can feel like torture.
- Your family loves you whether or not you are happy or sad.
- Even though you may feel like you can’t bond with your baby right now, there will be plenty of time for that.
- Not everyone loves the newborn stage or breastfeeding. Depression may make it that much harder. Even though you may be doing it for all the right reasons, you may feel like a robot just going through the motions.
This is not your “new normal.”
- Your mind may be going places that scare you to your core. You will not always have these scary feelings. You are not going crazy.
- You need help, every mom needs help. The “village” raised children together for a reason. You don’t have to do this all by yourself.
- You are a new mom. You love your baby. Your baby needs you forever.
- There are medical professionals, counselors, and most importantly other moms who have been through this too; we can help you.
- Break the silence despite how hard it seems. Tell someone that you are sinking, that you need help. Don’t sugarcoat the truth. Tell someone how you are feeling and end the sentence with “I need help.”
Postpartum depression is not the baby blues, which is often characterized as hormonal changes that resolve after a short period of time. Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that needs to be addressed immediately.
Please share my post to help more women who need support.
Postpartum Health Resources:
- More than Words Counseling Services PLCC – Epping and Dover, NH
- New Mama Project – Peaceful Postpartum Online Retreat
- Postpartum Progress – list of postpartum depression symptoms
- Families First – Portsmouth, NH: Mother to Mother Postpartum Group