A husband’s urgent plea for women struggling with postpartum depression

Therapy and medication saved my life. But some women with postpartum depression still slip through the cracks.

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“Drive into the lake,” an insidious voice whispered to my mind. My heart began to race, and my hands started shaking.

I was en route to a scrapbooking event at a friend’s house and had to cross the bridge over our town’s lake to get to my destination. My six-month old son, Jordan, sat behind me, strapped into his car seat.

I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. Tears coursed down my face. Instead of crossing the bridge, which was several hundred yards in front of me, I turned on my blinker, slowed down, and pulled to the side of the road.

MORE TO READ: Motherhood defined in 34 seconds (VIDEO)

Then I turned my car around and drove home, where my husband sat in his recliner, watching television. At the sound of the front door, he turned towards me in surprise.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I have to get help,” I said.

This week, I recalled my evening of terror, when I felt tempted to kill myself and my child when I read a widowed husband’s tender, emotional plea for new moms to get help for Postpartum Depression. His wife, Flo, died two months ago, and he recently shared these words on her memorial and postpartum awareness Facebook page, ‘Pray for Flo‘:

“For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are not alone. You are not a bad mother.” You can read the entire post below.

My first thought was (as it always is when I read those stories now): It could have been me.

That’s why I write and talk about my experience. I want struggling moms to know there is hope. My doctor and my therapist saved my life. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

New mom, if you’re reading this and you feel despondent, overwhelmed, or panicked, or if you know something is not right and you fear harming yourself or your baby … please get help. And if you need a lifeline to hold onto, remember: you have a Heavenly Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine. He has put in place doctors, medicines, and therapists who can give you the tools you need to climb out of the pit you are in. And please don’t beat yourself up for being “too emotional” or “not strong enough.”

“Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness,” says experts at the Mayo Clinic. “Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms—and enjoy your baby.”

Do you feel like hibernating until you feel better? For your sake, and your baby’s, try your best to fight against that tendency. Reaching out for assistance can be difficult, but it’s vital. There are no overnight cures for PPD—it takes time—but here are three action steps I urge you to take:

Call your Ob-Gyn or family physician

The same day my physician heard my story, he put me on anti-depressants. When I voiced concern about how maybe getting on medicine was a sign of “weak faith,” he promptly answered, “God made scientists, who created the compounds to help brains function better. And God sent you to me.” After the first few days, I could feel a “fog” lifting. I’m so grateful my doctor took me seriously and didn’t act surprised or shocked. He was (and is) a gift.

MORE TO READ: How Post-partum depression can wrap motherhood in a fog

One other important piece of advice in this area: If your doctor dismisses you or doesn’t listen, get a new one. Period. You deserve to get well, and you can, but you need compassionate people on your team who are willing to hear you. That’s step one to recovery.

Find a counselor/therapist

Another gift was an office full of trained psychologists and psychiatrists, where I received biblical Christian counseling. Not only was I overwhelmed by new motherhood, but I had a genetic tendency—from both sides of my family tree—towards mental illness. Jordan was colicky and very high maintenance, which the therapist saw when I brought Jordan with me during a couples’ appointment. She validated me by noting, “He’s not an easy baby, and you need to stop beating yourself up about it. It’s not your fault.”

How freeing! I’d wanted to be a mom since I was small, and I’d suffered one miscarriage before delivering Jordan. I was filled with fear about “messing up” and caught up in trying to be perfect (and, in my mind, failing spectacularly).

MORE TO READ: The most healing gifts I received after my miscarriage

The best counselors help us see things more objectively and can teach us to re-train our brains. Karen Kleinmen (MSW, LCSW), the author of several books and an excellent blog on PPD, says, “Connecting with a therapist who knows what is going on with you right now provides clarification and essential reassurance.”

If you’re concerned about costs, realize that most counselors work with insurance, especially because PPD is a medical condition. Also, those who don’t take insurance will almost always work on a sliding scale for people of all different incomes.

Give yourself grace

Mothers today have more resources—blogs, books, magazines, support groups—than ever before, but we also have much more pressure. There are multiple philosophies, espoused by well-meaning but overly-enthusiastic people, about every area of parenthood: attachment/non-attachment, breast/bottle, working/stay-at-home.

Mom, please hear me: God gave you, in all your uniqueness, to your child, just as He gave your baby to you. So what if you can’t nurse? It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother. That was a lie I believed for the first few weeks with Jordan. My inability to make enough milk made me stressed out, and it created a vicious cycle. Not only was I wrecked from lack of sleep, I was wracked with guilt.

Kids are more resilient than we think … and if you love your child and do the best you can with what you’ve been given, you’re a good mother. Even better: you’re the best mother for your baby.

You are not alone, and you are so very loved.

Dena Dyer
Dena Dyer
Dena's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Reader's Digest, Woman's World, Family Circle, Redbook, Today's Christian Woman, and more. She's also the author or co-author of eight books; her newest release (written with her husband of 21 years) is the humorous devotional book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples.

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