Leslie Froelich and Danielle Krouse both were happy pregnant women, excited for the births of their children.
“No one warned me,” Froelich says. “I didn’t know about the darkness, the loneliness, the sadness that can shake you to your core after having a baby. My idyllic fantasies of what motherhood would look like — you know the kind: the Gerber commercial-looking scene where you rock your little one to sleep in a pristine nursery, humming a beautiful nursery rhyme and blissfully gazing out the window as a white curtain flutters oh so delicately in the breeze — turned out to be worlds away from my reality.”
Krouse says she thought she’d feel a very specific emotion, and what she really felt was overwhelming anxiety.
“I knew I loved my daughter, but it didn’t feel how I thought being a mother should feel,” she says. “When we finally had to return home is when everything fell apart.”
While it’s typical to have a rosy perspective on experiences after the child arrives, it’s not always perfect — or even happy. The “baby blues” and postpartum depression can happen. Families, friends and new moms need to know the signs.
Knowing the Difference
Being depressed isn’t something you would anticipate as a first-time (or even second- or third-time) mom. This bundle of joy sits in your arms and you feel sad. What’s wrong?
Dr. Katherine Wolfe, maternal medicine specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital, says having the “baby blues” is common and up to 80 percent of mothers have mood swings after the baby is born.
“Usually the ‘baby blues’ is mild,” she says. “It usually occurs in the first week and resolves within two weeks.”
Symptoms can include crying, sadness, irritability, and appetite and sleep issues.
Postpartum depression doesn’t resolve as easily.
Depression is more significant and should be evaluated, Wolfe says. Symptoms include uncontrollable crying, lack of enjoyment, and thinking of self-harm or harm to others.
A history of depression and those who have experienced stressful events can be some of the risk factors for this disorder.
“It’s still underdiagnosed,” Wolfe says. “It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times in (a mother’s) life. If they suffer from depression, it can be judged as being a poor parent and not within the norm of expectations.” Postpartum depression screening is a part of routine postpartum care.
Families and other groups can be helpful to spot warning signs and provide proper support and love during this emotional rollercoaster.
“Dads have a large responsibility in co-parenting,” Wolfe says. “Good supportive family can help take off the burden of one person and is healthy for the whole family.”
Treatment for postpartum is done through mental health professionals and counseling, along with antidepressants. Froelich and Krouse are co-facilitators of the maternal mental health support group Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Mom (POEM), which meets weekly in Rocky River.
“Today, I am using my experience to help other moms, via the (postpartum depression) support group,” Froelich says.
Women suffering from any type of perinatal mood disorder (depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc.) — both during and after pregnancy — are welcome to attend the POEM meetings, free of charge, Froelich says. No registration is required.
“Help took time, and resources were hard to find, which is why I felt so motivated to get involved in an organization like POEM once I was on the other side of my perinatal mood disorder,” Krouse says. “If I could help just one mother out there who was experiencing anything like I did, I felt a great responsibility to do so. The support group that Leslie and I facilitate is a safe place for women to come and talk about what they’re going through, while also seeing that it does get better. We are offering the chance for these moms to feel something they haven’t felt in a long time: hope.”