Some news stories stick with me more than others and the recent upswing of stories of moms suffering from postpartum depression who took their own lives are some of them. These moms needed support. They were desperate and lost and in need of rescue and I can’t help but think that we, the collective mom community, let them down somehow.
We know how hard it is. We’ve been there. We've birthed and experienced the crazy hormones that follow. Words can hardly describe the rush, elation, tears and chaos that launch motherhood. It’s no wonder approximately 600,000 women in the U.S. experience postpartum depression each year.
Clearly, our country’s maternal care model is failing in properly caring for new moms. We’re isolated and left to stumble through early motherhood without skilled assistance. And it’s causing tragedies. Not always death, but also in the loss of moments that should be our happiest. Since a messy healthcare system won’t be fixed overnight, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s up to me and you to care for one another. Or at least instigate necessary care.
You and I can be the helping hands, the encouraging words, and the safe place for new moms suffering from postpartum depression. We may be busy, but let’s face it, nothing should take priority over seeing to the hearts and minds of our friends.
A few brave mamas who have battled postpartum depression are sharing how they could have been better supported in the midst of their suffering. Take note and be vigilant. Laura Burns, who you’ll hear from below, said “I am not afraid to get in there and ask the questions and see where [my friends] are emotionally. If someone had done that for me, I might not have been honest with them, but I would have known who was safe when I was ready to talk.”
Let’s commit to being the safe place our friends need.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
It’s an age-old phrase, but it’s one we need to take to heart because hands-on help is exactly what moms battling postpartum depression need most. Aimee Bell, a mom of one, said that she needed more than, “just words like ‘I'm thinking about you.’ It would have helped more to hear “Let me come hold your baby when you are losing it. Let me come bring you a meal when you literally can’t even get out of bed.'”
Mom of three Chariss Fuhrman echoed Aimee’s sentiments, “I remember a great friend of mine came over one day and I was just sobbing and I kept telling her I didn’t know why I was crying. She was the best and told me that she'd hold my son for as long as I needed. She told me to go take a hot shower and cry as much as I needed. That was all I could have asked for and everything I needed.”
Postpartum depression is real. No mom is going to make up the physical and emotional pain it brings. They want to be happy. They want to embrace the bliss of the newborn days. But, they can’t. And minimizing their experience will only push them deeper into despair. Laura Burns, a mother of two, experienced minimizing and recalls being told, “that I was overreacting to my baby’s colic. And because of that, I was ignored. I don't think I'd ever felt so alone in my whole life. What I really could have used would have been someone who let me talk instead of solving everything.”
You just want to hear that you’re not crazy and that there is an end in sight.
Acknowledge Moms Who Adopt Too
It doesn’t take giving birth to have your world rocked. Abbie Roppo, a mom who adopted twins and later had two biological children, has a unique perspective since she can compare heart birth and physical birth. “You don't have to have given birth to have postpartum depression,” she shares. “I had it worst when my adopted twins were about six months old. I was caring for these two sick babies, and all my friends were single and busy. Having a community of people who really understand the blessing and challenge that parenting is makes such a huge difference!”
Help Them Escape
“The thing that helped me the most was just getting away, having that time to breathe and focus on myself to remind myself that despite all these feelings and emotions, I was still me,” recalls Rachel Wolfe, a mom of four. “I still missed my kids when I was away from them, I still loved them, but I also so desperately needed those moments alone to remind myself I was still human.” Be the one that scoops your friend away for dinner out, a walk, or a coffee break sans children. Motherhood is all-consuming and overcoming postpartum depression can begin with grounding ourselves in who were were before mom life took over.
Guide Them To Resources
Lorna Williams struggled with postpartum anxiety more than depression. She had a number of “gracious older mommy friends” come alongside her and guide her towards healing. Lorna found that “taking extra magnesium, and sufficient vitamins B, C, and D helped. My naturopath helped by upping my bio-identical progesterone to help temper the drop in hormones. Placenta encapsulation can help too! Ensuring you are eating enough protein and keeping blood sugar balanced helps your body balance out hormones more effectively and efficiently.”
Listen and Validate
You know when you’re down and you just need someone to truly listen. Yep, the same is true when postpartum depressions strikes. You just want to hear that you’re not crazy and that there is an end in sight. Tasha Bossio shares, “On days that I felt hopeless—and there were lots of those—my family and friends all listened and validated my feelings while at the same time reminding me of the truth that not all hope is lost and things will get better. It's a weird feeling when your heart knows the truth and your head is everywhere telling you how bad things are and how hopeless life seems.” Speak life to those suffering and make sure they know they’re never alone.
Affirm Medical Intervention
Mom of three Blaire Resare admits she was in denial of her postpartum depression due to pride and embarrassment. Healing and relief came when she bravely chose to be “true to myself and make the phone call to my OB-GYN." “It was a huge relief to have someone on the other end of the phone wanting to help. I remember crying from relief,” she says. For so long society has perpetuated a stigma around postpartum depression and it’s time we squelch that stigma so moms can get help faster.