I left work early one day and hurried to my daughter’s house to visit with my 1st grandchild who was only 3 weeks old. As I pulled into the driveway, I was so excited to see my daughter sitting on the back porch. Although we have always been close, we had not spent much time together recently, so I guess I was also looking forward to visiting with her as well as my grandson. As I got out of my car and walked up the gravel path, I got a better view of my daughter. My heart sank. She was sitting in a plastic deck chair holding her head in her hands. She was wearing a blue and white checkered gown (one I had actually given her several years ago, so the blue was somewhat blue-gray-faded and the white was a bit yellowed.) Her long brown hair (usually beautiful and shiny) looked dull and matted. It was piled half-way upon her head, barely clasped with a spring clip on the top. On one side of her face, strands of her hair that had missed the clasp hung down covering part of her face. When she heard me walk up, she lifted her head from her hands, looked at me and started bawling. She cried for a full 4 minutes without stopping. She said, “I can’t do this. Mama, I can’t do this. I don’t know how to take care of a baby. I don’t know what to do when he cries and won’t stop. I haven’t had a shower in 3 days. He is up all night and all day. I’m trying to nurse but it isn’t working. I don’t know how to do that. I think he’s hungry and I can’t satisfy him. Ben (her husband) is working all day, then comes in, changes clothes, and goes back out to deliver pizzas till midnight, just to be able to buy diapers. Mama, they are so expensive. I feel like a failure as a mother. I don’t know what to do. I can’t keep going like this. What am I going to do?”
My heart was breaking...I knew my daughter was a loving, caring, smart, all-together type of person. How could she be suffering from Postpartum Depression? This did not seem like her at all. But what could I do? I simply loved her through it. First, I took care of my grandson while she took a shower and a nap. I then encouraged her to get out and get physically active, and also to specifically schedule time with friends. After all, she had the perfect babysitter…me! The next few months were pretty tough, but with help she soon became her “old self.”
Sometimes, the experience of being a new mom can be a bit overwhelming. You are not alone. In fact, over 50% of ALL moms experience “baby blues” symptoms. And over 12% of all postpartum women experience some of the symptoms of postpartum depression, including feeling sad, intensely anxious, worthless or incompetent, and feeling inadequate to cope with an infant.
When these “overwhelming feelings” get out of control, please know there IS help. You may feel like you are in a dark tunnel headed to a horrible end, but be encouraged….there IS a light at the end of the tunnel! And the tunnel is not as long as you think! In the meantime, you can help yourself by being physically active, spending fun time with friends, eating healthy foods, and being intentional about relaxing. Hope Clinic for Women can also help. We provide postpartum counseling on a sliding scale making this affordable for anyone. Please consider seeing one of our professional counselors who can provide an assessment and counseling through this difficult time. If needed, our Nurse Practitioner can prescribe medication to help as well.
Postpartum Depression does not have to keep you down. With the right help, you too can make it through the tunnel where there is light abundant at the end!
Marie Gilland, LMSW is the Client Program Director at Hope Clinic for Women. She has 7 years of experience in Counseling. Marie received her master's degree in social work from the University of Tennessee and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Tennessee State University. She previously worked as the Child Welfare Program Coordinator at Catholic Charities in Nashville, TN. Marie has lived in the Nashville area for 37 years and has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.