After the birth of her first child didn’t go as planned, Paige found herself highly irritable. Shocked and scared after an emergency c-section, the Washington resident didn’t give much thought to the new emotions she was feeling.
But as the days turned into weeks, Paige’s normally calm disposition became more aggressive. The smallest hiccup would trigger her moods, and as her anxiety swelled, so did her frustration.
To make matters worse, Paige was struggling with breastfeeding and honestly felt as though she was losing herself in the process.
“I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t hopeless. I had high anxiety and was very irritable. No one tells you that these feelings are associated with postpartum depression,” she said. “ I was trying to navigate all these new emotions and hormones, while trying to process the fact that my birth plan didn’t go as planned.”
The uncertainly of returning to work after her maternity leave didn’t help her stress.
“I was on edge and that was the furthest thing from who I was,” Paige said. “Being home alone all day with the baby was mind-numbing.”
While her new state didn’t affect her ability to bond with her son, Paige said her boyfriend took the brunt of her frustration.
“He took it with a grain of salt,” she said. “He would give me space, but would often say I’m being mean. That wasn’t my intention.”
Although she often thought about seeking help, Paige never did.
“I’d run through these different scenarios in my head where I’d ask for help. But I knew it was normal to feel different emotions after having a baby, and I didn’t realize that there was more to postpartum depression than feeling sad and hopeless,” she said. “ I didn’t want to take any medication, and I didn’t think there were other options.”
Over time, Paige has learned to manage her emotions and listen to herself.
“I’ve learned to step back and evaluate why I’m mad or frustrated. I have a lot of little pep talks with myself. I know it is easier said than done, but I’ve tried to just talk myself through it,” she said.
Looking back, she wishes she would have reached out for help.
“I think professional help would have been more beneficial for me. I wouldn’t have felt that I was going crazy,” Paige said. “As a new mom, you feel like there is so much that you have to do. You forget to take care of yourself, and that’s important.”
Paige hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage other women to get help.
“I really want other moms to understand that it’s OK not to be OK. It’s also OK to get help. We need outlets and tools to get better.”
Which is why having support during postpartum depression is critical. Recently Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services department received a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and initiated by Senator Camera Bartolotta. The goal is to connect women with those much needed resources. They implemented an awareness campaign called “Maternal Mental Health Matters: EMPOWERED Over Postpartum Depression.”
Several women from Washington County, including Paige, have volunteered to share their stories in an effort to shatter the stigma of postpartum depression and remind women that help is available.
Mary Jo Patrick-Hatfield, Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services mental health director, said they also used the grant to enhance the service delivery system so that Washington County had clinicians and case managers who would be trained in perinatal mood disorders.
“We actually sponsored a three-day training from Postpartum Support International. We had close to 75 participants who would be serving moms and families,” she said.
In an effort to better serve the community, Washington County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is working to assist with early intervention and education.
“We have armed clinicians and caseworkers with the tools they need to help,” Beth Phillips, Washington County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services early intervention coordinator, said.
To connect with postpartum resources in Washington County, you can call Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services at 724-228-6832. All women who experience perinatal mood disorders do so differently, and even though one experience may not be quite as a severe as another, it is still important to reach out for help.
For immediate needs, the Crisis Line is 1-877-225-3567. The services are confidential.
“We care deeply about the struggles that women and families encounter,” Patrick-Hatfield said. “We are committed to helping.”
Sponsored content brought to you by Maternal Mental Health Matters: EMPOWERED Over Postpartum Depression.