After pushing for what felt like hours, he was finally here.
I was tired.
I was amazed at what I’d done, amazed at this precious miracle of a tiny person.
But I was so, so tired.
The weeks went by. We settled into a routine, and things seemed to get a little easier.
I was cranky. I was sleep deprived. And I cried. A lot. I couldn’t remember if I had taken a shower, and I couldn’t remember if I had eaten lunch today, or the day before, or…
But when people would ask how things were going, I’d tell them everything was fine.Im fine is a big fat lie. #ConnectTheDots @MMHCoalition Click To Tweet
I mean, clearly, it wasn’t. But I couldn’t tell people I was struggling. I couldn’t explain why I didn’t want to leave the house anymore. I couldn’t tell them that even though I looked happy and excited on the outside, I was only pretending. Inside, I was absolutely terrified.
I wish I had known that I wasn’t alone.
One in seven women have postpartum depression in the first year after birth. Maternal mental health disorders can include depression, anxiety, and in some women, delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking–symptoms of a rare disorder called postpartum psychosis.
A few days after my son’s birth, I had an episode of psychosis. After a trip to the emergency room, I knew that everything was not fine–and that I needed to get help.
Unfortunately, only 15% of women with postpartum depression ever receive professional treatment. The stigma that surrounds mental illness can keep women from getting the help that they need.
“In the United States, the vast majority of postpartum women with depression are not identified or treated, even though they are at higher risk for psychiatric disorders,” said Katherine L. Wisner, MD, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences and obstetrics and gynecology at professor Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s a huge public health problem.”
The National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health is helping to support mothers with Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. Since being founded in 2013, NCMMH has fought to raise awareness of maternal mental health disorders and impact change. In 2016, they helped to create the Bringing Postpartum Out of the Shadows Act. If funded, states around the nation will receive federal grants to develop programs for screening and treatment of maternal mental health disorders.
Across social media, women (and men!) will be sharing their personal stories with daily messages, videos, and images to start a dialogue about maternal mental health. Follow the hashtag #ConnectTheDots and @MyMommyVents on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to join the conversation.
When you ask a new mom how she’s doing, pay attention. “I’m fine” may be a big, fat, lie.