By Catherine Wayland
I know you spent months preparing yourself and your home for the beautiful homecoming of a new baby. You dreamt of pastels and soft, fuzzy blankets to swaddle your sweet babes. So why do you feel so anxious, so dark? Why are you so flat, when everyone else speaks of joy and coos into your stroller? Maybe you have something more than Baby Blues? Maybe you have Post Partum Depression. I did with my first baby, Jax. And because of those feelings, I felt I had failed. I was supposed to leave the delivery room with my baby and my “best mommy” award to live happily ever after. Then someone handed me a picture they had taken of Jax and I. It was a gift from a loved one to put in my baby keepsake box. I looked so sad through my fake smile, and worse, Jax looked sad too. I knew I had to do something. If this article mirrors your sad smile, please keep reading New York City mamas, because help is on the way.
In order to write this article, I needed to be ready to have some people in my life know this fact about me. So here goes I, Catherine Wayland, AKA “Mama” am outing myself. I had Post Partum Depression!!!!!! God, that feels liberating. Right now you are either laughing at me saying, “What’s all the fuss?” Or that sentence feels very scary.
There are many, many women that like me, who are embarrassed and ashamed to admit that they need help. If you are one of those women, this is my love letter to you. You are not alone. You are beautiful. You are allowed to be all your emotions and mental states. Not just the nice, comfortable ones. Post Partum Depression is a very real and potentially dangerous condition. Most importantly, it is a common condition that is still not talked about enough.
First let me shock you into outrage and passion so that you can either “out” yourself or support someone who is suffering this condition. When I was pregnant, being the excited thorough Mom-to-Be that I was; I signed up for birthing courses at one of the top 10 birthing hospitals in the country. My husband and I took every class they offered. But there was nothing on Post Partum Depression. Every prenatal doctor’s appointment was with a team of 5 OB/GYN physicians. No one ever brought up the subject.
When I began to think something was wrong when Jax was six weeks old. I had joined two different Mommy groups of over 30 women hoping to find support. We talked diapers, bottles vs. breast, and even colic, but no one mentioned Post Partum Depression. I turned to my books, they were about caring for baby, and there wasn’t anything about caring for the mother. Finally, I stumbled on a book that saved me.
It was a gift from a girlfriend, tucked into a bag of hand me down baby clothes. Thank you Cyn. I love you. You have no idea what you did for me that day. The book “Laughter and Tears: The Emotional Life Of New Mothers,” by Elisabeth Bing. It sells in paperback on Amazon.com for under a $1.00. It should be a $100 it’s so valuable. If you get your girlfriends anything for a shower gift, let it be the one gift. The book had a reference section with a listing for PSI – Post Partum International (www.postpartum.net). I called them in California in the middle of the night. I was scared, shaking and was suffering from diarrhea.
They called me back and gave me information for a coordinating group in New York City. Let me tell all you wonderful Big Apple Mamas about The Post Partum Research Center of New York, Inc (www.postpartumny.org). It was co-founded by two Long Island women, Emily Sampino and Sonia Murdock in 1998. It is the first organization of its kind that supports peri-natal mood disorders! Thank you Sonia and Emily. Thank you. In particular, thank you Sonia, because you returned my call personally. The Post Partum Research Center operates mainly as a telephone support group or helpline. Women act as volunteers for this non-profit organization, donating their time and caring to mothers in need. When they started in 1998, they had 100 calls in the first six months and now they serve thousands. The PRC of New York website is itself a wonderful resource with links to chat rooms (www.ppdsupportpage.com), live video-fed interviews of moms (Substance Television Program/NY1 copyrighted material), reading suggestions, etc.
I think the other very important function that PRC of New York does is Promoting awareness, especially among health care professionals. Again, I have delivered in two different states with two very prominent OB/GYN groups, and no one mentioned post partum depression to me.
I hope this article and love letter to my mamas helps a little too. If you can’t tell already, I am passionate about the subject of Post Partum Depression or PPD. As most people who are passionate about something, it is because PPD is a personal, lived experience for me, Catherine Wayland. I no longer feel shame over it; it has become one of my proudest memories. That day on the phone two years ago, Sonia Murdock helped me win the “best mommy” award. I got off the phone and called my primary care physician for an appointment. After telling my doctor my symptoms and concerns, he ordered anti-depressants and referred me to a therapist.
Within two weeks I wasn’t just going through the motions of being a mommy, I had fallen in love with motherhood. Jax started to smile and people noticed how he had “blossomed.” Jax and I were finally on our road to “happily ever after.” Nine months later when Jax was a year old, I was able to get off the medication and discontinue therapy. For my second child, Brody, it’s been smooth sailing so far. But PPD can strike anytime in the first year of childbirth. This time if it happens, I have resources like Post Partum Research Center of New York, Inc at my fingertips. And now you do too sweet mamas.
So much love to you,