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By Liz Orton, Outreach Coordinator at The Crisis Center
Having a degree in psychology, I knew that postpartum depression was a possibility when I became a new 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, but had existed to me.
When my son was 9 months old, we moved to Cedar Rapids to be near family, thinking it would ease my sense of isolation, but PPD followed.
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.
“Here is a doctor, I thought, validating that I am a terrible mother.”
—Liz Orton, Outreach Coordinator
At the follow-up appointment, the doctor asked lots of questions. She 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.
When I got home, I looked for a free support group. It was a peer group–there were no trained professionals–and I was the only new member. I introduced myself, sharing that I was struggling with PPD, but the group never asked me questions or gave me an opportunity to speak.
Again, I left in tears. How many times did I need to ask for help before someone would hear me?
Luckily, after just a couple weeks, the antidepressants started working. I found a full-time job with insurance and then a family doctor and a therapist who were educated about PPD. They both told me they were sorry about my experience but proud I kept trying. Together, my therapist and I worked through my grief of losing a future with a daughter.
When I became pregnant again in 2016, 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. Sure enough, PPD returned (even though this time the ultrasound was correct). This time, though, I knew where to turn for help.
I now work at The Crisis Center, letting people all across Iowa know they can turn to us when they need emotional support of any kind. I wish I had known about The Crisis Center’s services 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.