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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

When baby brings no joy



As the mother of a seven-month old, I’m thankful I never struggled with postpartum depression. But unlike Tom Cruise, I don’t need convincing that the disorder is real. A new study by Childbirth Connection shows that the numbers of women dealing with postpartum depression is more widespread than previously thought.

Nearly two out of three mothers, some 63 percent of women surveyed, said they experienced some degree of depressive symptoms. Only 20 percent of those women had consulted with a physician. Researchers polled the women on seven areas: shifting emotions and sleep disturbances, anxiety about the baby, loss of sense of self, mental confusion or parental guilt and suicidal thoughts. There are many signs for postpartum depression, including those listed above and others, including thoughts of killing your baby.

Here's the bottom line of this report: New mothers need help and LOTS of it. Even Mommas like Brooke Shields -- who was the target of Cruise's comments after she wrote about her struggle in the book, "Down Came the Rain" Mom_brookeshields_2 -- and Gwyneth Paltrow, realized that they were suffering from this disease. It has even been reported that Angelina Jolie is battling postpartum depression.

I was fortunate to have my mother and mother-in-law alternate weeks at my house for the first month of my daughter’s life. Their support was a godsend. While my husband was at school finishing his doctorate, my mother-in-law spent time with my newborn so I could take a shower or wash my hair. My mom, a night owl, watched the baby for an hour or so while I took a nap. In the days following my release from the hospital, she cooked healthy meals so our family could eat well, and I could maintain my strength and energy for breastfeeding.

After the grandmothers headed back to Georgia, a local network of “sisters” kicked in. They called, visited and urged me to take walks and get out of the house during my extended maternity leave. For me, isolation was not an option. And for that, I’m grateful.

Before having my own baby, I abided by a self-imposed etiquette rule that it’s inconsiderate to bother new moms in the early months of a baby’s life. Now, I realize that for most new moms, taking a phone call is not a bother but a welcome opportunity to engage in adultspeak. An invitation for lunch, even if declined, is a lifeline extended by a soul who has been there and done that.

Now, of course, if the depression is deeper than just a need to get out and be among adults, then you must seek professional help for the sake of your baby -- and yourself.

I’ve stopped making excuses for not checking in with people because I fear being inconvenient. A call or an announced -- please do call ahead -- visit could be just what the new mom needs to feel engaged. I see it as my responsibility as a newly-inducted member of the sisterhood of mothers.

-- Sherri Day

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:56am]


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