In 1997 I had just been given a severance package from a struggling non-profit. Because they were struggling, they offered me a combination of money and office supplies and equipment which I gladly took because I had decided to start down the road of entrepreneurship. I had always had great jobs since I was 15 years old. I grew up in a two parent, middle-class home that for the most part supported my adventurous ways. I had completed college, partied as hard as any other twenty-something, paid off my credit cards and was about to turn 30 years old; my obvious next move was to focus on a career. I even parted ways with a great guy because we “were not going in the same direction.” What I did not know was that I was also pregnant.
In May of 1998 I gave birth to a beautiful 9-pound, 7-ounce baby girl. It was a happy and admittedly scary moment. Being the Type “A” personality that I am, the idea of motherhood being overwhelming or anything close to it had never crossed my mind. I really thought that I could approach it as a learning situation. I had all the books about what to expect. I interviewed everyone close to me that had children. I had all of the baby supplies, clothes, birthing class. My birthing plan was ready. What could I possibly have to worry about? And furthermore, if anything arose that I didn’t know, I was certain that I could figure it out or find someone to help me figure it out. Right?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I was so very wrong! Once I left the hospital and took my bundle of joy home everything changed. Nothing went exactly as I thought it would. I went into what I now know was a deep state of postpartum depression. I was having thoughts of suicide which I refused to share with anyone because I was Wonder Woman. At one point in time I remember my baby screaming and for the life of me, I could not figure out why. She was clean, feed, burped, and had napped prior to eating. So why was she screaming? I couldn’t figure it out. I became hysterical. I called several people only to find that they were not there. Finally, I called my favorite cousin at work and told the secretary that it was an emergency. Now keep in mind that she was in New York and I was in Maryland but I didn’t care. I burst into hysterics, weeping and crying for help. She talked me through it and convinced me to see my doctor.
This is 1998. At that time, there was not a lot of information about PPD. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of controversy about whether or not it was a “real” problem or something that new mothers went through because their hormones were still out of whack. I knew my issues were real. I was afraid for myself and for my daughter.
Upon visiting my doctors I was patted on the back and told that I had “the baby blues” and that “a lot of new mothers go through this. But, you’ll be ok.” Okay? I needed more than to be okay. I went to therapy. I cried on the couch, went home and still didn’t feel any better. At some point I was given medicine because the psychiatrist said I was bipolar. Of course I again called my cousin for advice, who told me to try the medicine and see if it helps. I did, and it didn’t. Finally after many trials and errors of changing doctors and medication, a friend referred me to an amazing OB/GYN. He sat me down. Listened. And explained in a way that no one else had. I felt validated. I was confirmed and I knew that he would help me.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago in Chicago at the BlogHer Conference. I met an amazing workshop presenter— Katherine Stone —who shared her story of PPD and the amazing road that has become her mission. As I stopped her in the hallway, my eyes filled with tears because I had to say “thank you.” By sharing her story, she empowered me to share mine fifteen years later. Not even my mother knew the severity of what had happened with me as a new mom. I wish that there had been a community of PPD mothers, doctors, advocates, and bloggers to help me then.
For years I have only shared my story behind close doors or in whispers with young moms who remind me of myself. But today, I am sharing my story here to say thank you and that I now know another resource to send young mothers to when they are struggling.
Postpartum depression is no longer something to be ashamed of or to be belittled about. It is something that we can share our stories about with one another and find compassion and possible solutions. We have come a long way.
Sherri Goodall is a successful single parent of an only child. She resides in Maryland where she works in Marketing for a national retail chain. She is a new blogger and can be found on www.TheGirlfriendFiles.com.