I recognized her, but not for the reason you might think.
She walked into my office, her two week old infant over her shoulder, infant carrier slung over one elbow, diaper bag with burp cloth falling out over the other elbow. A pacifier hanging from a robin’s egg blue ribbon dangled from her clenched teeth.
“Here, how can I help you?” I offered.
“Would you mind taking him for a second while I dump all of this and get settled?”
“Would I mind?? I thought you’d never offer! There’s nothing better than snuggling a newborn baby.”
“Correction…a sleeping newborn baby!” she replied as she transferred her sweet baby boy to my arms, then started to disentangle herself from all the trappings of her new experience of motherhood.
I helped her get settled and comfortable. As I offered the precious bundle back to her, she waved him back to me. I readily consented with my smile and took my seat in front of her. I gave her a couple moments and quietly watched as she took a couple deep breaths.
“How are you?” I asked.
That was all it took for the floodgates to open and the tears to begin flowing. I stood, picked up the box of tissues from the side table with my free hand, and set them down next to her. She looked up at me through her tears. It told me everything I needed to know.
I recognized her.
I had been her almost 20 years ago. On the outside everything was wonderful: my pregnancy had gone perfectly, labor and delivery went well, and I had what I believed to be the perfect baby. Yet I was not ok. Even when the baby was not crying, I was…all the time…over anything, over nothing. It made no sense. At least not to me.
Her voice cracked as she barely whispered the words, “What’s wrong with me?”
I remember wondering the same thing. Here I had what I always wanted, a sweet baby boy, a loving husband, a beautiful home and yet anyone who could see me behind the closed doors of my home might think I was anything but happy because I cried all the time. Everything seemed like an effort. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone. I felt like a failure. Wasn’t this supposed to be the happiest time of my life? I constantly wondered, “What is wrong with me?” Surely others could see through my masked exterior and wondered the same thing. I had watched the mom and baby shows on the TLC channel…I didn’t resemble any of them. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for motherhood after all. Maybe God made a mistake.
“Oh Sweet Girl, this isn’t your fault. There isn’t anything wrong with you. I know what’s going on.” I assured her.
“You do?” she looked up through the strands of blond hair that had fallen down over her face as she sobbed. The first glimmer of hope finally returning to her tear-stained reddened eyes.
I remembered feeling that glimmer of hope, too. My mother had called one evening to check on me and the baby. “How are you?” she asked. Just as it happened in my office with this sweet new mom, her question made me sob. It took me a few moments to regain my composure before I could explain what had been happening and my fear that I was somehow losing my mind. “Sweetheart, I think you’ve got postpartum depression. Put your husband on the phone.” She explained to my husband her suspicions, and made him promise that as soon as we hung up that he would call my doctor and ask for help, that I didn’t need to suffer any longer.
And having gone through it myself, and being a doctor trained in mental health issues, I was then able to assure this new mother that she did not need to suffer any longer either. Consistent with scripture, I could comfort with the comfort that I had been given.
“What is it called?” she asked, as she dried her tears.
“Postpartum depression. It’s fairly common, but it’s rarely talked about. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause it. But we can get you help for it so you can enjoy this precious baby boy God gave you.” I assured her.
As our time together ended and I helped her gather all her mommy gear, she asked if she could give me a hug. As I released her, she relayed, “I feel hopeful for the first time in weeks. I feel like you just gave me my life back. Thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me. You’ll be in the position to do that for another young mom some day. That’ll be thanks enough. Hang in there. Motherhood is the hardest job there is and the most wonderful and rewarding job there is all at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I think a few years from now you’ll tell me the same thing. You’re going to make a great mom!”
When I experienced postpartum depression, I had never known anyone else who had experienced it. I felt all alone. I would have given anything to hear, “Me too.” Part of what perpetuates stigma is when we don’t talk about our experiences, so they seem more rare than they really are. That’s why I now share my story—to offer help, and hope, and to help tear down the stigma so that others will know real people suffer, and so that those who suffer will know they aren’t alone.
If you or a loved one have had a baby within the past year and just aren’t feeling like yourself, are feeling down, blue, or outright depressed, cry more frequently than normal, have lost interest in previously enjoyable activities, or lost motivation in doing things with others, please talk to your medical provider. You may be suffering from postpartum depression, which is a common medical condition for which there is help. You don’t have to go through this alone. There is help, and there is hope.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
You can also find out more about the book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” below.
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)