By Gina Coopersmith
By some estimates, up to 80% of women experience a phenomenon called postpartum or baby blues, characterized by extreme sensitivity, moodiness and sleep problems. For as many as 15% - 20% of new mothers however, the problem begins within a few days of giving birth, and continues to grow worse for weeks or months. In rare cases (1-2 out of every 1000 deliveries), postpartum depression can progress to the point where a woman develops confused and disorganized thinking, or even hallucinations about herself or her child, possibly to the point of contemplating suicide or harming her baby. (U of M Depression Center).
I remember having the strangest worries when my second child was born. She was healthy and I was embarking on a new adventure as a stay at home mother (I worked with my first). I was looking forward to spending time with my children, volunteering in my son's preschool class, going to mommy and me groups but that isn't how it happened. I was overwhelmed by so much and felt like I accomplished so little. I remember worrying that someone was going to take my daughter and I made sure her window was locked every night. I would check on her all the time. The crying was the worst! I felt sad so much of the day and struggled to get work done around the house. It would lead to this awful cycle where I was sad, then I wouldn't do anything around the house and then I would feel even worst about how effective I was as a mother and wife. I didn't cry all the time and so I just thought I was struggling with the adjustment. I didn't notice all the little things I was doing until I stopped.
One fall evening, I opened my daughter's bedroom window to let some fresh air in during and realized what I had been doing all along. [With this new awareness] I took her out more often, enjoyed my children and was able to get stuff done.
Raising infants and young children is so isolating. Going out isn't always as easy as it seems and when friends are in the same boat with kids at home it can seem like you will never be alone with another adult again. The responsibility of raising a child into a well rounded successful adult can be daunting especially with all the "advice" our society gives to mothers and media messages about how happy and wonderful being a mother is.
The things that made all the difference were the support that my husband and family offered me to help. They listened, acknowledged that I needed time alone and encouraged me to rest and focus on all the aspects of parenting and family-hood that brought joy.
I remember my midwife reminding me to care for myself.
I remember being so much more supportive to other moms once I had moved passed my depression. I listened better, offered to watch their kiddos while they took a shower, held babies while momma ate and so on. I noticed many moms sigh at the relief that someone would do something for them. That they still mattered and people cared about them, just like they cared about their new baby.
For immediate help with PPD please call 1.800.PPD.MOMS or for more information about Postpartum Depression visit www.postpartum.net
One of the ways Gina is paying it forward is as a founder of the Livingston Postpartum Support Group. As a mom and a professional working with parents and their babies and young children Gina was eager to create something new when she and a group of other local professionals, who all serve on the Great Start Collaborative Social Emotional Health subcommittee, began talking about the lack of support for new moms within our county. Gina is joined by four other professionals: Jeri Lea Kroll, Jennifer Lange, Barb Walentowski and Pat Murphy in founding and facilitating the group. Meetings are free and are held at the Howell Library on the second Friday of every month at 10am . Moms, babies and older siblings are all welcome. For more information please contact Gina Coopersmith (517.214.7272 / firstname.lastname@example.org)