Recently, this POST has been all over my Facebook and I knew I had to comment on it. Please go and read that post and watch the news clip, and then meet me back here. My prayers are with Allison's family, especially her sweet baby girl and husband as they grieve over awful loss.
The American Psychological Association states that 1-in-7 women will experience postpartum depression after having a baby. When a healthy new baby is brought into the world, there's so much smiling going on. I remember all too well smiling for the camera and pretending like I finally had more joy in my life than I ever thought imaginable. Sadly, for myself and for so many other new moms the smiles do not tell the whole story. Off camera, something else is going on.
There's nothing in life to prepare a new mom for the amount of change she will face once baby arrives. There are the ever-fluctuating hormones, there's breastfeeding, the exhaustion that comes from sleepless nights, physical pain recovering from birthing a child, and the fact that you now have a little human to keep alive. For many moms, this leads to postpartum depression; something not to be taken lightly.
Allison, this new mom, suffered from postpartum depression and she sadly lost her life to it. On the outside though, she seemed to be doing just fine. Her friends and family even repetitively asked her if she was doing okay. This could lead someone to think, Well, what else is there to do in order to find out if someone is silently suffering alone?? How do you know the truth behind that white smile? Although I don't have a clear answer for it, I do know what helped me.
Each day brings it's own set of challenges and like the wind you never know which way it will blow. There were some days where I desperately needed someone to talk to and then other days when I just needed time alone without a care in the world. What I appreciated the most is when my family and friends checked in specifically with me and not just on my baby.
Questions that can help are simple:
"How are you healing?"
"Do you need to get out of the house while I stay here with the baby?"
"What time of the day is the most difficult for you?"
"Want to get out of the house and come over?"
"Hey, it's okay if you aren't feeling yourself yet. Do you want to talk about it?"
Allison in one of her emails to her family said she did not know how to explain the emotional pain she was experiencing and this is something that really resonated with me. I clearly recall sitting outside on the curb trying to find reasons why I could not experience any joy and nothing would come to mind. I simply did not feel myself. As an extrovert, the hardest thing for me was feeling trapped. I felt guilty telling people that I did not want to spend all day cleaning up and nursing my baby and instead wanted some socialization and freedom from it all. Any mom who deals with postpartum depression will experience it in different ways. Some like to talk about it (like I needed to), some keep it in, some are ashamed, some do not know they are experiencing it.
If you are going to be a new mom or if you know someone who is having a baby soon, please learn to know the signs. Know that it is okay and common to experience postpartum depression and that there is help available. Some may need medical help or just some medicine, others social help, etc. Whatever the remedy, this is not something that needs to be gone through alone. It was not until I voiced and cried my heart out to my mom that I realized what I was suffering from PPD and that a lot of other women around me were going through something similar. The smiles in our newborn photo shoots, my happy Facebook posts, and happy demeanor did not tell the whole story. I cannot speak for Allison and do not know the severity of what she went through, but if there is a way we can make postpartum a more talked about topic then maybe we can help more women walk together in this. No one should have to be alone. We are not alone.
Did you or does someone you know suffer from postpartum depression? Did you experience PPD with any of your other children? What helped you the most to talk about what you were going through? What was the most unhelpful?