By Jody Kerzman
Julie Skaret’s eyes light up when asked about her daughter, five-year-old Taylor.
“She’s very adventurous. She’s a typical little girl I think. She’s shy sometimes and sometimes she’s really outgoing,” says Julie, with a smile. “She is everything. She’s the reason I get up every morning and go to work. I live and breathe for her.”
Julie and her husband, Steve, had a difficult time getting pregnant, and that struggle made the anticipation of Taylor’s birth that much more exciting.
“We were so looking forward to meeting our baby. The day I had her was the happiest day of my life,” says Julie. “I remember holding her that rst day and thinking I’d never been happier in my entire life. I remember thinking this was just an amazing feeling and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed and content.”But on her second night in the hospital, something changed.“I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling anxious and just not right. I couldn’t really explain it, but chalked it up to the fact that I had just had surgery and anesthesia and I’d been laying in a bed for 24 hours. I thought this is probably just the way a person feels when they’re cooped up in a hospital bed after having surgery. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and taking some walks to see her in the nursery and trying to keep my mind occupied and I couldn’t.
“I went home on day three and by that morning I was an absolute mess but I was hiding it. I had a brand new baby, it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I shouldn’t be having the thoughts and the feelings I was having. And I was so ashamed of it. I didn’t know what to do or what to say,“ remembers Julie. “We were taking our baby home that day. Our families were there and taking so many pictures. I look back on those pictures now and I just looked dull. I just felt dull. I wasn’t me.”
Once they got home, Julie started slipping away even more. She spent most of her time lying on the couch, letting her family feed, bathe, and hold her daughter.
“I just couldn’t get into it.”
The next day, she finally confessed her feelings to her mom. She encouraged Julie to get medical help. With her husband at her side, Julie shared how she was feeling, and the nurse practitioner assured her her feelings were fairly common in new moms. She was assured these feelings would soon pass.
But the very next day, Julie’s feelings were even stronger.
“I remember hiding in our bedroom and crying and screaming into my pillow so no one could hear me. I thought I should just go back to Ohio with my parents and let my husband raise Taylor alone. I didn’t think I could raise this baby. I thought I was a bad mother for not wanting to engage with her. I had lost all joy in having her, this baby I had prayed for for so long. “
After two trips to the emergency room, Julie was admitted to the psych unit.
“My husband and my parents were with me and they put us in a little room where a security guard watches you so you don’t hurt yourself or others. Then I was taken upstairs. My family was crying, and they had to leave with my baby. I was sitting in a room going ‘how did I get here?’ I remember they gave me some medication and that started working immediately. I was finally able to eat and take a shower. The cloud was lifting.”
For Julie, that medication that made all the difference. Within a week, she was back to herself and able to enjoy her daughter. She’s been medication-free for four years and is now ready to share her story, in hopes of helping someone else.
“I feel strongly that I have experienced something that needs to be talked about,” says Julie. “As ugly as it can be, it has to be talked about. “
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
Julie’s willingness to talk about postpartum depression is unusual.
“So often you hear moms say they didn’t know it would be this way,” explains Dr. Sara Kenney, a licensed clinical psychologist with CHI St. Alexius. “Everyone has this kind of perfect Hallmark story of how birth, delivery, and taking your baby home and caring for your baby is supposed to go. We don’t really talk about the fact that you can have anxiety or trauma and moms are not getting the help they need. I believe if they know they can get help, they will feel so much better.”
That’s why every woman who gives birth at CHI St. Alexius hospital is now being screened for depression one day postpartum. Anyone who scores high gets a consult from Dr. Kenney.
“We go over the risk factors, talk about what they’re experiencing, offer suggestions, and set them up with ongoing therapy or medication if needed,” Dr. Kenney explains. “I want moms to understand that they are not being singled out. We are screening every new mom. I also want them to realize that postpartum depression is very common and they’re not the only one struggling.”
In fact, Dr. Kenney says, one in seven women will experience postpartum depression. One in five will have some sort of mental health issues either while pregnant or postpartum. And it can happen to dads too. Ten percent of new dads struggle with depression after bringing home a new baby. Even adoptive parents can battle postpartum depression.
“The changes a new baby brings can be overwhelming for all parents,” explains Dr. Kenney.
Dr. Kenney also makes time to do daily rounds in the NICU at CHI St. Alexius. She visits with new parents – moms and dads – and lets them know help is available.
“I just want them to know that if they do start to struggle, help is available,” says Dr. Kenney.
TURNING HURT INTO HELP
Julie gets teary eyed when remembering her struggles, and her cries for help. But knows it all happened for a good reason.
“I feel very strongly that God gives us everything we have for a reason. I’m a point now where I can finally call my struggles a gift. I struggled, and I hurt, but now I’m using my experience, my gift, to help others and to let them know it’s ok to talk about this.”
She has started journaling her experiences. Her journal includes the details of her emergency room visits, her time in the in-patient psych unit, and her feelings of indifference during those rst few days of motherhood. Writing it all down is good therapy, she says, and someday, maybe her journal will be a source of inspiration for another mom facing a similar situation.
Julie has also started a Facebook page to help other moms: “Postpartum Depression — you’re not alone.”
“One of the things I wanted most going through my experience was to be able to really talk to other women who were experiencing the same thing,” says Julie. “I didn’t have that. That motivates me now to talk.”