By Erin Tarr
I remember the feelings. Oh so vividly. First they crept in like a small child in the middle of the night, then they would come in waves – gaining momentum as I allowed myself to be overtaken by the stress and compulsion to Google every single question about my newborn that popped into my head, at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. I was struggling with breastfeeding (women have done it for hundreds of years – who needs a class they said!), missing the safety of my regular routine and work schedule, still hurting from the Stage 4 episiotomy, exhausted (why didn’t I SLEEP in the hospital??), overwhelmed with housework and my inability to get it all done (what WAS I doing all day?), and just in general feeling GROSS and out of control.
Only in retrospect did I recognize these symptoms as “baby blues” or the on-set of post-partum depression (PPD). I convinced myself at the time that I couldn’t possibly be having post-partum depression for the following reasons…
- I was so excited to be pregnant and then have a child – it was amazing, and I loved her so much
- I had a supportive and helpful partner
- I had an AMAZING network of friends who brought meals for a MONTH!
- And last but not least … I was IN.CONTROL. (my personal mantra)
But the truth was, in spite of all these things working in my favor (OK, the first three at least) – I was depressed. And no one knew it but me. And I wouldn’t tell anyone…. because… what would I even say? And what would anyone be able to do for me? I told myself that I just needed to suck it up and DEAL… and maybe Google a few more questions to set my mind at ease.
But that’s NOT the answer. And, lucky for me (and my family), the depression subsided due in large part to the resources above, and I was able to come through it relatively unscathed … but NO ONE should have to do that, and suffer in silence. Because for some it doesn’t get better, it gets worse, and they don’t have the great support system that I had – or even if they do, they also struggle to reach out.
There are a variety of on-line sites and tools including this one from Mayo Clinic to help you determine if you are experiencing the baby blues, post-partum depression, or something more. And, in my experience, if you are to the point where you are questioning this, you likely ARE experiencing some level of PPD. But, once you figure that out … what do you do?
When you go to the Carle or Presence (formerly Provena) Hospital web pages and search for “Postpartum Depression,” you know what you get? NADA. NOTHING. ZILCH. Similar results when you Google PPD and Champaign/Urbana… online resources yes, but not a lot of tangible reach-out-and-touch-you-help, that is really needed when this is what you are experiencing.
That being said, there ARE resources to help.
Start with your hospital’s Social Worker. Both Carle and Presence have social workers who are available to talk with you, talk you through what you are experiencing and point you in the right direction to continue getting the help you need, at whatever level it is needed.
The Crisis Nursery Island of Safety is one of the primary resources for our area that the social worker will likely refer you. In addition to providing a safe place for children up to 6 years of age in the event of a family crisis, they also provide counseling, home visits, support groups and more. Its Beyond Blue Program provides a myriad of services for mothers experiencing PPD and their families. Available 24/7 at 217.337.2730. All Crisis Nursery services are offered free of charge through a grant from the Champaign County Mental Health Board and community donations.
Hellen G. McDonald Counseling has also run 8-session support groups specifically targeted at women with PPD called Baby Bootstraps, most recently in February. It appears that the groups run in cycles however, so moms who want to join a group immediately, or who prefer one on one session, may prefer to see Hellen (who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker), or another counselor from this type of referral list, privately.
In case of emergency situations, there is also the Champaign and Ford County Crisis Hotline Center at 217.359.4141 which is available 24/7 as well.
We hope this list will be of value to mothers (and fathers) who have dealt or are dealing with PPD. You can experience PPD with your first birth or your fifth. It can be one day, week, or month after you have had your child when your first experience symptoms. There is no formula for who experiences it, or when.
The bottom line is that these resources are wonderful, but you have to utilize them in order to get help and get better. Don’t make the mistake I did – talk to someone… anyone, and let them get you the help you need to be the best possible mom you can be – for your benefit, and your baby’s. And caregivers – friends, family, co-workers – be alert to the signs and symptoms of PPD as well. Sometimes even one person reaching out can break down the wall of silence so a mother can gather her strength and courage to ask for help.
Please comment below if there are any resources we missed or that you have found helpful as well. Thanks!
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three-hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (2 & 5 years old), her passions for leadership and education have led her to start “Be the Benchmark” – a coaching/mentoring business for teen and college -aged girls. She also blogs about leadership and motherhood at www.erintarr.com. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of ten years, Adam, works as an Athletic Trainer.