It was summer and I sat on the floor leaning on the edge of my newborn daughter’s crib in tears. From the outside I had everything a new mom could wish for, a loving husband, a cooperative extended family, and presents from near and far welcoming our daughter into our world. On the floor of her bedroom none of that mattered, I was in pain and I wanted to die. I cried as I planned my suicide; how I would make sure that it would look like an accident so my husband and baby would suffer less loosing me. I also felt conflicted and guilty I had just survived 30+ days in the NICU since my baby girl had been born as a 32 week preemie. I felt guilty that I wanted to die and my baby had just spent those 30 days fighting for her life. My head full of old hurts and beliefs told me I would mess her up. I would hurt her and guarantee a life of pain for my daughter. In that room on that day I was a woman lost and feeling the choke hold of Postpartum Depression.
I had all the high risk factors of women who are diagnosed with postpartum depression. Childhood trauma, previous depressive episodes, high-risk pregnancy, and “survivor” of the NICU experience. Yet, no one spoke to me about these factors, no one educated me while on my pre-natal visits, my postnatal visits to my OB-GYN or while spending 30+ days in the NICU. Women in our country need information to not have to feel the way I did that day.
I was lucky. A close friend and mentor noticed my changes and at coffee told me I needed to seek assistance. Somehow she knew and asked if I was planning to take my life. I was honest and that is where my story of healing began. It was not easy and finding a professional who could help me with my postpartum depression symptoms was hard. But unlike many women I had the support system and the finances to get better. This story and my journey as a parent brings me to who I am today.
I am an infant/child/adolescent mental health professional and parent expert and I spend every day at my center assisting families and new parents find their authenticity so they can create the family they hope for. After I came out of the shadow of postpartum depression, I got my graduate degree and began my career at Vista del Mar Child and Family services in Los Angeles. There, I developed expertise in child and adolescent development and infant and early childhood mental health, while strengthening my resolve to support families and new parents. I have trained and participated in research studies with Yale’s Minding the Baby, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and Child Trauma Research Program of San Francisco. All of this schooling and experience tells me, and many others in my field, that we have to do more for women and helping them get the help and MOST importantly the information about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
Most new mothers do not recognize the symptoms of perinatal mood disorder due to lack of sleep, readjusting to the new baby at home or the stigma of asking for help as a new mother. Our culture's salient message around a new baby is that mother's must be overjoyed about their child. When reality does not match the expectation most mothers judge themselves. The research tells us that with treatment and guidance from a professional we can protect the well-being of the mother, baby and family. Alternately without assistance poor maternal mental health can have long term and dangerous results to the infant, mother and family.
If you resonate with my story please seek out help. As Postpartum Support International states, "You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well."