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.
Editor’s Note: We want to make sure parents can always find the mental health support they need as they raise their children and navigate life’s challenges. Click here to read our post on Parental Mental Health in Champaign-Urbana for more on this topic.
Only in retrospect did I recognize these symptoms as “baby blues” or the onset of postpartum depression (PPD). I convinced myself at the time that I couldn’t possibly be having postpartum 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 online sites and tools including this one from Mayo Clinic to help you determine if you are experiencing the baby blues, postpartum 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?
There ARE resources to help.
Start with your doctor. Call — or get a supportive family member or friend to call — your OB or your primary to get evaluated, if possible. They often have information regarding counselors in the area who specialize in postpartum anxiety and depression. Carle’s website provides a list of local resources for emotional and behavioral difficulties; other assessments; crisis hotline info; and more.
Check with your hospital’s social worker. Both Carle and OSF 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 least effective path to help? Making a cold call to a psychiatrist’s office. While you may in fact need to see a medical doctor to address your mental health, psychiatrists usually have lengthy waiting lists for new patients. A new mom in crisis needs someone to persist on her behalf; your OB, primary physician, or social worker can be enlisted to cut through bureaucratic red tape if that’s what’s needed.
Sistering CU: While not limited to mothers with postpartum depression, this is a fabulous resource for moms experiencing PPD. Sistering CU is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that puts volunteers in homes of new moms to help them out – whether that’s to give moms a break from baby or to address parenting concerns.
The Village: Again, not limited to mothers with postpartum depression, The Village provides support for topics such as infertility, birth trauma, parenting, caregiving and more. Reach them at 217-262-9975 or thevillagecu.com.
The Crisis Nursery Island of Safety is one of the primary resources for our area that a social worker will likely recommend to you. In addition to providing a safe place for children up to 6 years of age in the event of a family crisis, Crisis Nursery also provides counseling, home visits, support groups and more. Its Beyond Blue Program provides a myriad of services for mothers experiencing PPD and their families, including parent-child interaction groups; support groups; respite hours; and more. 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.
In emergency or crisis situations, here are statewide crisis numbers including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Locally, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you can visit a regular emergency room or the walk-in psychiatric assessments (no-cost, confidential, available 24/7) at Pavilion Behavioral Health (800-373-1700).
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 you first experience symptoms. There is no formula for who experiences it, or when, or for how long.
The bottom line is that these resources are wonderful, but you have to utilize them in order to get help and get better. Make sure you 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.