...and I wouldn't wish that experience on ANYONE.
Except that in the aftermath, I've learned so much about myself, about the people around me, about my role as a mother, about chemicals and hormones and the need to take care of yourself.
A friend and mentor is going to our state capitol (and hopefully even further!) in order to lobby for funding for mandatory screening by health care providers for women at their 6-week post-partum visit. I definitely agree that Pennsylvania should be the third state in America to commit to this kind of offering by obstetrician's, doula's, and other practitioners. Below is the personal statement I wrote supporting Senate Bill 39. It doesn't tell the whole story, but maybe I'll share that some other time...
What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, in 2010, I was in the depths of despair – scared and unsure of my future as I dealt with post-partum depression. I felt almost physical pain from the feelings of disconnect and confusion as I navigated a new normal that I was terrified would be a permanent reality for me and my family.
What a difference two years can make.
With my first child, born in 2007, I felt good, healthy, and happy. Hormonal changes did not affect me in severe ways, and I had a good post-partum period. But after my second child was born just two years later, in 2009, it was a totally different experience. A difficult delivery, my son’s stay in the NICU, hormonal changes – who knows what combination of factors led to this post-partum period being so dramatically different from my first. But it was. And in that two-year time period, my obstetrician/gynecologist office had started using a simple but powerful tool that ended up being part of my saving grace.
What a difference a simple form can make.
I vividly recall filling out the Edinburgh Post-Natal Depression Scale. Even in the midst of the hurt and shame and confusion I was experiencing about the way I was feeling, it felt so good to read through the form and honestly check the boxes, giving name to what was truly going on inside me. While I had already started seeking help for post-partum depression, the very fact that I had this form, this tool to clearly acknowledge and name what I was thinking, was in itself a type of healing for me.
What a difference post-natal screening for depression can make.
I was lucky – concerned family, friends, my health care provider and even my pediatrician noticed that I was “not myself”. They realized that I needed help, and assisted me with what I needed to get better, to fight through the depression and come back to myself, to my husband, children, family and friends.
What a difference you can make.
I am lucky to be a patient of a caring and aware group of physicians who are using screening tools to help women like myself recognize and seek help for post-partum depression and anxiety issues. But a woman shouldn’t have to be lucky to have this assistance. Practices should be required by law to provide this truly life-saving service to their patients. It is a simple form, but one that examines complex emotions.
Post-partum depression does not just affect the woman that just gave birth. It affects her spouse or partner, the infant just born, other children in the home, other family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. The state of Pennsylvania needs to take care of all of our citizenry by offering women and their families this basic but essential care. Please fight for legislation to allow for funding, research, and the implementation of mandatory post-partum screening.
Thank you, in advance, for making a difference.