We’ve been in a de-cluttering frenzy lately as we prepare to sell our house, and one of my recent tasks was going through old paperwork in my filing cabinet. I found our marriage certificate (whoops – guess I had better find a safe spot for that), put our shredder to good use in ditching a lot of stuff, and reminisced about some things I came across in a folder simply labelled “Baby.”
As I sorted through it, I found a batch of paper that was clearly stuff we’d received in the hospital when my son was born – a copy of his footprint (I really need to find a better spot for important stuff), some information about vitamin D for babies and a brochure on postpartum depression.
I have no recollection of ever having seen this brochure before.
I must have seen it, of course, but I’m sure I dismissed it just as I’d dismissed the information about c-sections in my pregnancy books (another whoops). There were probably several reasons I paid no attention to this little beige brochure:
- I assumed I wouldn’t get postpartum depression. I felt pretty competent as I entered motherhood, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. I know better now, and am all too aware that PPD isn’t actually about competence, though in fact women who are high achievers or with perfectionist tendencies tend to be at slightly higher risk for perinatal mood disorders. (That would have been good to know, actually.)
- It’s one piece of paper that was stuck in a folder of other pieces of paper, none of which were my main focus in the first days of my son’s life. Postpartum depression didn’t hit that early for me, and since nothing was wrong I was focused on other new-mother things like figuring out breastfeeding and trying to figure out how to wake up my husband without waking the baby when I needed him to help me put the baby back in the bassinet.
- The brochure doesn’t have the right information for what I eventually experienced. It said nothing about anger, which was how I knew something was wrong (though admittedly if it had I wouldn’t have thought anything of it in those early days either).
Overall, I didn’t know much about postpartum depression at all and, as a result, didn’t know enough to take this information seriously. This brochure just does not provide enough information or the right information about what PPD is and what to do about it. It’s not even a nice color.
I’m not suggesting we need to pounce on new mothers and tell them horror stories about PPD to scare them into awareness. But I think I’m a good example of needing to do more.
For me, postpartum depression set in when my son was a few months old, and I wasn’t caught by the screenings they do here in Canada. I didn’t recognize my anxiety, and I had no idea anger and insomnia were anything other than nasty side effects of sleep deprivation.
I was desperately afraid of the stigma, and the label of PPD, and medication – anything at all related to depression, really. I was just totally uninformed. When a counsellor I saw when my son was about eight months old said she thought I had PPD I actually told her I didn’t want that label, thank you very much, and didn’t want to discuss it. (That should have been her first clue to send the PPD Army to my door…if only there were such a thing.)
What I do know now is that postpartum depression is common enough and important enough that we need to do better. We need to reach women when they’re still pregnant, not when their babies are two days old. Then we need to reach them again after the first week, and the first month, and the first six months. And we need to go beyond that. It’s too big an issue to relegate to a single, tri-fold piece of paper.
A brochure on PPD just isn’t enough.
– Robin Farr
Photo credit (brochures): © robert cabrera – Fotolia.com