I guess that's why they call it the blues

By: Alison Dunn Apr 12, 2011
  Editorial
I guess that's why they call it the blues

You will get wet.

That pithy line came from a friend of mine when he became a new dad. If there was one thing he'd learned about parenthood, it's that you will get wet. Milk, spit-up, pee and tears – oh the tears. But the tears aren't always the baby's.

It's so tough adjusting to being a mom. Aside from having to take care of this tiny, demanding creature (or creatures!) on zero sleep, there are also hormonal changes, physical changes, mental changes and much more. When you add that all up, it's no wonder new moms often get the blues.

But what if it turns into something more? It's called postpartum depression and it can happen to anyone.

No woman is immune and the effects of it can be serious. I've met women who tell me their entire personalities changed for a year or longer after giving birth. I've met women who were hospitalized with postpartum depression. These are all women with no history of depression or mental health issues prior to giving birth.

What's troubling to me, however, is not that women get postpartum depression. (After all we go through, carrying babies for nine months, giving birth, then taking care of the babies, it's a wonder more women aren't diagnosed with it. To learn more, be sure to read "Rock-a-bye Mommy" this week on Health Local.) I'm more concerned about the fact that there's still something of a stigma attached to postpartum depression.

I was never diagnosed with it after the birth of either of my children. But that doesn't mean I didn't have it; I'm relatively certain I did. What I didn't do was seek help. I didn't talk to my husband, my mother, my friends or my family doctor about it. I felt guilty about my feelings, and I worried it meant I wasn't a good mother.

I don't think I'm alone either. I think many women feel exactly the same way and therefore we don't get the help we need. It's a real shame, because there is plenty of support available and plenty our doctors, spouses, partners, parents and friends can do for us – but they can't help if they don't know.

A few years back, Tom Cruise famously lambasted Brooke Shields for treating her postpartum depression with medication. It's attitudes like his that keep mothers quiet about their own feelings of depression and inadequacy. Luckily Shields didn't take the matter lying down, and wrote and spoke quite openly about her experiences.

Perhaps if more women do the same, there will be less of a stigma attached. Perhaps we can turn to our friends, family and healthcare professionals and get the support we need. I can't go back in time and change my own experiences, but maybe just by writing this, I can change the experience of another new mother.

Having a baby is a blessed event – and new moms should be able to get the help they need so they can truly enjoy their babies. If you have a new mom in your life, why not take a minute to ask her how she's doing and find out if there's anything troubling her? You could be the difference she needs to beat the baby blues.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.