Guest Columnist

Shining a light on maternal mental health

(Fotolia/TNS)
(Fotolia/TNS)

I knew postpartum depression was a possibility when I became a mom five years ago. But I didn’t know how hard it would be to find help.

After an exhausting, 24-hour, unmedicated labor, my son was born. Except we weren’t expecting a son — at 18 weeks, the ultrasound technician had told us we were having a girl.

Not only were all of our baby clothes and supplies pink, but my husband and I had been bonding with our daughter for most of the pregnancy. We were thrilled to have our son, but as time passed, I realized that I was grieving a baby girl that never really existed.

My inner monologue was a constant stream of hateful thoughts about myself. I didn’t have health insurance, so I went to urgent care and a nurse prescribed a 14-day supply of antidepressants until I could see a doctor for a longer-term refill.

At the follow-up appointment, the doctor focused on the fact I was co-sleeping with my baby and lectured me on the dangers. I began to cry. Here is a doctor, I thought, validating that I am a terrible mother.

Luckily, the antidepressants worked. I found a full-time job with insurance and then a family doctor and a therapist who were educated about PPD. Together, my therapist and I worked through my grief of losing a future with a daughter.

When I became pregnant again, my therapist helped me make a plan: what to do and who to call if I started feeling symptoms of PPD after the new baby arrived. PPD returned. This time, though, I knew where to turn for help.

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I now work at The Crisis Center, letting people all across Iowa know they can turn to us when they need emotional support. I wish I had known about The Crisis Center when I was experiencing PPD and didn’t have insurance. If I reached out to their 24/7 hotline or online chat, their volunteers would have listened, validated, and provided resources — strategies my first doctor was never trained to use.

Every year, in April, The Crisis Center holds Shower The Crisis Center: a drive for baby items they distribute in their food bank. This year, they are also shining a light on maternal mental health. Mothers deserve to know they are not alone and they can receive non-judgmental support from a trained volunteer. If you need to talk, please call 1-855-325-4296 or log on to IowaCrisisChat.org.

• Liz Orton is outreach coordinator for the Crisis Center in Iowa City

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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