Family Speaks Out After New Mom With Postpartum Depression Took Her Own Life
by Lynn Shattuck
Her family had no idea she was suffering.
“She was a phenomenal mother, daughter and sister. She truly
was a beautiful, beautiful person. I want people to understand that despite her
excellence in motherhood and devotion to her husband, she had an illness,” says
her sister, Mallory Hudson, tells mom.me.
Allison Goldstein was an award-winning elementary school
teacher with a 4-month-old baby girl and a supportive family. She appeared
happy even to those closest to her. Her family was blindsided when one day in
late June, she dropped her baby off at daycare and then took her own life.
Goldstein, 32, was battling with postpartum depression, which only
became clear to those closest to her via an email explaining why she’d chosen
"I'm so sorry that I didn't know how to describe this pain and seek help," Goldstein wrote in the email.
“She called me every day and asked for advice and to talk.
It never really alerted me to anything that wasn’t a new-mom question. She was
just that good at keeping it to herself,” says Hudson.
If you’ve never experienced depression, it’s hard to imagine
how and why someone with a young child could take her own life. We live in a
culture where becoming a mother is supposed to be one of the highlights of our
Which is part of the problem.
“Isn’t it just so amazing?” people asked me in the early
weeks and months following my son’s birth.
And it was! A tiny person had come out of my body! When he
smiled for the first time, I felt like my heart might explode. I’d wanted—so badly—to
become a mother, and suddenly, I was.
There is light at some point. The days get easier, the
nights get easier, the sleep gets easier. There are resources. Let someone in.
But the sweetness of new motherhood was overshadowed by the
sinking, hollow feeling inside my chest—by tight, anxious thoughts that
wouldn’t allow me to sleep, even in the small windows of time when my son slept.
I’d gone through periods of depression before, which I’d known put me at higher
risk for postpartum depression. But I’d never experienced such lows while also
caring for a newborn 24 hours a day, during what was
supposed to be one of the most exciting times of my life.
Before my postpartum depression, I'd never experienced the type of dread that washed over
me when I saw the morning light stretch across our wood floors as my son and I
came downstairs each morning, knowing there was an entire day ahead of us to
somehow fill. I’d never experienced fantasies of being hospitalized just so I
could sleep. I’d certainly never been struck by intrusive, mad thoughts—like
giving up this longed-for baby for adoption, or even worse, hurting him.
Goldstein's death is devastating in so many ways. Because her
daughter won’t have memories of her. Because her husband, parents, sister and
friends are grieving while also wondering why she never said a word about her
battle. Because she was a sensitive, gifted teacher and giving woman, and the world was better for having her in it.
“She found the good in everyone, she always was positive, never complained,
never bothered or burdened anyone with anything. She was just trying to keep it
to herself,” says Hudson.
But mostly, it’s devastating that Goldstein didn’t get to find
out what I did—that it gets better.
That there’s help. That she wasn’t alone. Up to 22 percent of all women in the U.S.
face a perinatal mood disorder—an umbrella term that covers maternal mental
health issues ranging from depression and anxiety during pregnancy to
postpartum depression, OCD and psychosis. That having postpartum depression is
no more something to be ashamed of than having cancer, or diabetes, or any
other physical disease.
Perinatal mood disorders are something that some of us just
get, just as some of us get preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or anemia.
Even being educated about postpartum depression and using
resources—like support groups, therapy and medication—didn’t shield me from
the shame I felt while I had postpartum depression. I told only my husband, my
parents and a few close friends what I was really going through. I felt ashamed
because I wasn’t enjoying new motherhood. I felt guilty about the thoughts that
throttled through my head about hurting my baby boy. It was only after I’d
fully recovered that I started speaking up to more people about my experiences, because maybe
it would make other people dealing with depression and other perinatal mood
disorders feel less alone. Maybe it could help somebody else.
Which is exactly what Goldstein's family wants to do.
“There is light at some point. The days get easier, the
nights get easier, the sleep gets easier. There are resources. Let someone in,”
Hudson urges other moms who are experiencing something similar to what her
sister went through.
Besides sharing their private tragedy with the media in
hopes of helping other families struggling with perinatal mood disorders, Hudson,
a NICU nurse, is planning to start teaching birthing classes where she’ll educate
expecting parents about these issues. Hudson and her parents are also working
to promote legislation to provide funding for perinatal mood disorders.
“There were over 1,000 people at her visitation," Hudson says. "Allison was
truly amazing. And we want other moms to understand that they are, too. This is
not who you are as a mom, as a wife, as a person—this is a disease and it needs
to be acknowledged as a true illness.”