Six months pregnant and standing at the kitchen counter of her Washington County home, Kate knew something was very wrong. The baby boy growing inside her that she tried so hard to conceive was absolutely fine. It was her own overwhelming feeling that shocked her to the core; she wanted to pick up a knife and stab herself in the stomach.
From the outside, the young, beautiful nurse looked picture perfect. But the deep emotional suffering continued even after her baby was born. Still, she kept the suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety bottled up for months, worried that telling her husband would horrify him.
Eventually she did tell her husband. He knew something was wrong. He could see the detachment in her blank stares when the baby was crying.
“I just remember feeling overwhelmed,” Kate said. “I wanted to hurt myself and the baby because he was constantly crying. Trying to pump, breast feed and bond while I was home by myself all day was terrible. He screamed all afternoon and at certain points I felt like he was not my child.”
In a quiet moment, alone on her couch, Kate opened her Facebook mobile app and honed in on a post from a high school friend. With each blink, her eyes focused. She began connecting more of the words on the screen to her racing mind. And suddenly, a similar story of postpartum depression helped her begin to unravel a twisted knot of emotions that had kept her from bonding with her son for far too long.
The post was made by a fellow McGuffey High School graduate; a self-assured, outgoing and beautiful realtor named Darby. In it, she detailed the Hallmark movie-style moment after childbirth when the nurse places the newborn baby on the mother’s chest.
“I was so anticipating this moment. I was ready to jump into motherhood full force,” Darby said. “But suddenly, I’m lying there with my baby on my chest and thought to myself, I feel no connection to this child. I remember asking myself why am I even holding this baby?”
Darby felt nothing.
“I wanted to make myself cry,” she said. “I tried to push tears out so nobody thought I was a bad mom. How could I not be so full of excitement and love? It made me feel like a horrible person.”
She remembers that a few weeks after her baby was born, while driving with the baby in the car, she thought about driving her car into a telephone pole.
“If I could just hit that telephone pole, everything would go away,” she said. “I would be gone, the pain would be gone. I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone anymore.”
What stopped her was the thought of hurting the innocent baby in the back seat.
She didn’t tell anyone, including her doctor. In fact, she admits to lying on the postpartum depression screening that she was given in the weeks after childbirth.
Darby’s mother sensed something was wrong, and encouraged her to read the book, “Down Came The Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression,” by Brooke Shields.
The book helped her to realize that she was in fact suffering from postpartum depression. It took her nearly a year to feel better. That’s when Darby decided to speak out about what she went through.
“I posted a long paragraph about not feeling connected to my child. I was worried about how it may be perceived. But I was hoping that I could help someone else. God gave me the power to get through it and there was a reason,” she said.
Within hours, the reason became abundantly clear. Kate, on the brink of hopelessness, reached out via Facebook.
“I honestly think she saved me or at least my sanity,” Kate said. “She told me I would get through it, but first I had to accept that it was real and that I was not crazy. She encouraged me to get a support system in place.”
With help from her family, friends and physicians, Kate was finally able to bond with her son after more than a year of suffering. At that point, she felt not only true and adoring love for her child, but also a sense of relief. Today, she hopes to be part of the support system that so many other women need.
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 Kate and Darby, volunteered to share their stories, helping to shatter the stigma of postpartum depression and remind women that help is available.
Mary Jo Patrick-Hatfield, WCBHDS’s 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.
Postpartum depression has become more prevalent.
“As many as 1 and 5 mothers suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety. We have armed clinicians and caseworkers with the tools they need to help,” Beth Phillips, WCBHDS’s early intervention coordinator, said.
To connect with postpartum resources in Washington County, call Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services at 724-228- 6832 or the Crisis Line at 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.