Over the last several months, a topic that we are all going to be hearing tons about in the coming months and years has repeatedly presented itself to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a good reason for that —- I am meant to do something about it.
It can occur up to one full year after having a baby, and can strike moms as well as dads. I recently learned there is also a genetic component to post-partum depression.
I have heard some harrowing and heart-wrenching stories of absolute mental suffering. Of highly accomplished women who suddenly did not want to hold their babies, of new moms who could not go to sleep for 4,5,6 days straight, of perfectly capable women who cried and anguished as their husbands got ready to go to work, of once-elated moms who battled inner voices and heightened and irrational anxiety, of newly-anointed grandparents who arrived at their child’s door with suitcases in hand and did not leave til everyone saw the light, of PPD medication that does not generally kick in for 6, sometimes 8 weeks after first taken, of husbands’ who felt like their wives had left them though they are still there in body, of women who are ashamed of themselves, of once-vibrant women who think suicidal thoughts, of moms whose only place to turn is a mental institution.
These are but a sampling of the stories lived by the women I have met. And it’s only going to get worse, I’m told by those professionals who work to ease this suffering everyday. Why? Because many women are having children at an advanced age, an increasing number are using fertility treatments of some sort, and because depression, even post-partum depression is a taboo topic.
One of the most poignant statements made to me by a mom who suffered severe post-partum depression was — that she would never want her baby to know how much she suffered from the time he was 3 months and up until he was 18 months. It wasn’t about her baby. She loved him dearly, despite the fact that for weeks the sight of him would make her tired, agitated, frustrated.
It is a lonely, dark place that women are asked to navigate by themselves, if they so choose. Don’t. Don’t do it. Ask for help, get help, find help.
The one constant theme that keeps coming back within each of these stories about post-partum depression is — “I thought it was just me. I thought I’d get over it.”
Resources for women suffering from post-partum depression in Canada are abysmal. The U.S. is better.
The bottom line is that it shouldn’t take the celebrity power of Marie Osmond or Brooke Shields to put the story on the map. The number of women suffering from PPD plus the number of new PPD-sufferers in the wings should be enough to move and rally resources, services, help and support, especially peer support.
Talk to any of the doctors who treat PPD in their practices. They are completely overwhelmed. And one can only assume, mentally exhausted by the stories they hear and the anguish they see.
it doesn’t make sense that these families are made to suffer on their own for the most part.
If you cry for no logical reason, or a friend with a new baby seems deliriously happy — ask questions, get help.
One more reason that pre-natal classes should be made mandatory anywhere that childbirth is permitted. And that PPD should be a chapter in the childbirth class and pre-natal reading that all moms and expectant dads should pay attention to.
No need to be alone.