postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthDear New Mom:

He was my second son.  Having already had 4.5 years under my parenting belt, I had no worries or fears that I could indeed endure another “first year.”   I could handle the nursing, waking of all hours, the physical demands of another human being.   I had gone through it before without any issues and would get through it again.

That’s what moms do.

It was on day two of my 2nd son’s life that something was different.  He screamed.  He screamed in a “Hey, I was warm and cozy and now I’m not so sure about all of this light and cold so DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT NOW” sort of way.

He continued that sentiment 19 hours a day for the next six months.

The first few months  I tried relentless swaddling, nursing, rocking, skin to skin, co-sleeping, not co-sleeping, sound machine, bouncy seats, swings, balancing on one leg with a banana on my head and sock puppets on my hands.

Nothing worked.

I handled it well, until I didn’t.   I can’t tell you exactly when that shift happened, but it did.

I think it was about month five of this so called “extended colic.” By that point, the physical and mental exhaustion was just more than I could humanly handle.

My husband started sleeping in the basement so he could function at work.

I had become so isolated from friends and family due to the 19 hours a day that I had to hold and bounce my child that the calls and visits became scarce.

I felt incredible guilt for my five-year-old.  He had to exhibit more understanding and patience than what is expected of that age.  “Honey, I can’t right now, the baby is crying,” was heard over and over.

When I did catch up with someone I might hear, “I don’t know how you’re doing it.”

The truth is I wasn’t doing it very well.

Months of being beaten down by the screams and the sheer lack of sleep took over.

One night, as I was holding my baby in the dark of my room, I drifted off into a vision of me placing him in our backyard pool.  I could see him falling to the bottom peacefully.

As soon as I had that thought, I immediately startled myself, put the baby down and hurried to my husband who then took over duty.

That wasn’t the only time, that wasn’t the only vision.

I need to mention that I never ever once put my baby in any danger.  Not even close.

But the thoughts, the hallucinations.  They were there.

It’s been five years since that first year.

As I reflect now, it’s obvious that I needed help.

But here’s my point: This was my 2nd child.  This was five months in.  At some point there was a shift in my mental state.  I know this now.  But then?  I didn’t.  I just didn’t know or just didn’t have the mental ability to connect anything.

If you would have asked me then if I was depressed, I would have said no.

“I’m not crying all day, I’m taking care of my children. I’m not just lying in bed.”

If you asked me how I was doing, I would have said I was getting by.

“I’m getting my kids fed, getting my son to school on time.”

If you would have asked me then if I need help, I would have said no.

“You can’t help my child stop screaming.”

I don’t know what could have been said or asked that would have resulted in me getting help on my own.

I believe in educating women about postpartum mental conditions like postpartum depression.  Maybe most women can be self-aware enough to know something is wrong and then follow up by getting the help they need.

I needed more.

I needed people around me to know.  I needed friends or family to be aware of warning signs, things to look for, steps that they could have taken to get me the help I needed.  Maybe a code word that when said I would have known that something wasn’t right and they were letting me know.

I believe that postpartum mental health education needs to go beyond one’s self.  It needs to include your mom, your girlfriends, and your partner.  It needs to start before you give birth.

Educate the people who know you best, who you feel safe with, the people that you trust.  They may be the only ones to recognize that something is wrong.

They may be your only chance.

Educate yourself.  Educate those around you.  Get help.

~ Jen Hajer


Jen Hajer blogs at but you can find her mostly on Twitter @TheNextMartha and Pinterest or making cotton candy.

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