I struggle to read the stories. Not the ones where the mom made it, got help, survived. I can handle those, like the many you can find here. It’s the ones where she wasn’t helped, and someone didn’t make it, that I can’t handle. It hits too close to home.
This week it was three beautiful little girls, ages 2, 16 months and two months.
I didn’t read the story, but my mom brought it up. She has learned like the rest of us to be so very angry at these stories.
“Her husband was right across the street.”
“I know mom, but she was probably listening to the voices in her head.”
Pause. Loooong pause. Then, “Did you hear voices?”
They weren’t really voices. They were more like thoughts. What if? And one of those was What if I can’t take it anymore? I knew one thing: I wasn’t leaving my kids behind.
Yeah, it’s horrifying. And someday I will have to explain it to my kids. But I keep saying it because you need to know. From the outside I looked and sounded normal. It was my inside that was all messed up and there was a part of me that knew it and was scared and so worked very hard to keep it all bottled inside. The only one who saw a hint of it all was Shea.
And he didn’t know what to do. We thought the baby blues was something that happened in the first two weeks, not something that dogged me for years after my first two pregnancies and then exploded after Annie.
So here’s my contribution to Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s not a story, even though the stories are so important. There is strength in numbers.
But I have a suggestion. A call to action. And it’s easy.
At our local hospital, there are all kinds of classes to prepare families for the birth of a new baby. Sibling classes and daddy diaper classes and nursing classes and labor classes.
I think we need one more. One hour. One person, preferably the spouse or partner. If not, the adult who will be closest to mom after delivery. All the information they need to recognize and intervene in case of a maternal mental health issue.
What to look for (depression, anxiety, withdrawal, inability to sleep). Who to call (first, the OB/GYN; then, Postpartum Support International). What to say (This is not your fault. You will be ok. We are going to get help). A magnet with PSI’s 800 number to stick on the fridge.
So simple. We can grass roots it, one hospital at a time. We’d need just a few women willing to talk once a month on a rotating basis. I would do it in a hot second. For free. Because if we empower one spouse to help one mom beat back the voice in her head saying What if?, then we win.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety after the birth of a baby, even months and months after the birth of a baby, you can visit www.postpartum.net or call 1-800-944-4773 for help. They will help you. I promise because I know. They helped me.