Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tragedy in Pelzer and PPD

This story has had me depressed all day. An 18-year-old mother from Pelzer killed her daughter by stepping on her (accidentally or otherwise). The little girl was six months old, a month younger than Suzi, so to me it's personal.

The comments left underneath the article mostly consist of pleas for divine retribution (and earthly retribution) against Danielle Bowen. One person thinks "somebody should beat the hell out of her," but she is undoubtedly already beating the hell out of herself. She had spoken to a family member about depression, but (if this was indeed child abuse) evidently didn't get the help she needed. A lot of people unintentionally brush new moms aside when they come forward with concerns about depression, saying things like "oh, honey, it's just the baby blues!"

When I was still pregnant, I remember standing in Jennie G's talking to Vicky and saying, "I don't see what you'd have to be depressed about; shouldn't having a new baby be the happiest time in your life?" She just shook her head in a you'll-find-out sort of way, and I did find out. We closed on our house May 31, the same day we left the hospital, and had to move out of an old rented house and into our beautiful new house during my first postpartum month. One night right before we moved in, Jordan and I went to tape around the walls in Suzi's room to prepare it for the lavender paint we'd chosen. For some reason when I saw the dark, empty house I imagined myself there alone with Suzi and was terrified. We had two things we'd dreamed of for years: a precious baby and a perfect little house that was ours and all I could do was sit there and cry. I tried to explain it to Jordan but didn't want him to think I'd gone crazy. I loved Suzi so much and was scared to death that something would happen to her. I'd heard stories about women with postpartum psychosis killing their children, or distracted parents leaving their babies in sweltering cars to die, and wondered if those things could happen to me. Every day there was a heartbreaking new story on the news to reinforce my fears. I tried to tell myself this would not happen to our family, but that's hard to do when you're alone in a house all day with nothing but your thoughts and a baby. I talked to my mom and Jordan but neither of them seemed to think it was a very big deal.

The first thing that helped me was Brooke Shields' book, Down Came the Rain. I had Jordan run into the bookstore and buy it for me because I was too embarrassed to get it myself, and then I read it in private. Brooke Shields is such a beautiful woman. While other celebrities were living their closeted lives, she took her most painful and intimate memories and put them in a book for the world to read so new mothers might not have to suffer the way she did. I can't imagine the courage it must have taken. I had been hesitant to mention my feelings to the doctor, but her story encouraged me to do it. Finally I went for my six-week appointment with the OBGYN and told him I'd been constantly anxious and didn't like Jordan to leave for work in the morning because I'd be left alone with my baby. He prescribed something which helped for a few months and now I am fine without it.

Every pregnant woman, new mother, and anyone who knows one should read Down Came the Rain. And if a new mother ever comes to you and says she's depressed, don't just tell her it's the baby blues. You are not a doctor. Hand her a phone and make her call her OBGYN, who may refer her to a psychiatrist or psychologist if necessary. It may not be serious, but there is too much at stake to wait and find out.

It's so tempting to judge a mother like Danielle Bowen, but you never know what she has been through. We need to pray for the whole family, who are enduring extraordinary pain, and especially pray for Danielle. When I was a child and people used to hurt my feelings, my mom told me not to worry because "God would take care of them." He'll take care of this too.


Vicky said...

This is a sad story. I thought about it often too yesterday. Not to mention the one with the four kids being thrown off an 80 ft. bridge from their father who was mad at the mother. I would be surprised if PPD doesn't affect a mom in some form. I was alittle depressed with Nolan, but I was even more so with Braydon. I cried often after having him. I never could pin-point what was wrong or why I was crying. I wish I had thought to read the book you suggested. Thanks!

Theresa said...

Dang Jenny, you are quiet a writer. Thanks for the beautiful post and your words of encouragment.