Postpartum Depression

Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2013

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the article “Man defends wife who stabbed baby; Postpartum depression becoming more widely understood…” I am 89-and-a-half years old and want to share my experience, which I’ve never talked about before.

Our first baby was stillborn; a year-and-a-half later, I bore a beautiful baby girl. When I got home from the hospital, my husband, who was a minister, explained that he had to supervise a summer work camp for our denomination’s youth. This meant that I would be home alone for that first week.

I had never handled a baby before because my parents would not let me take baby-sitting jobs. After five days the baby was still crying so much, I was exhausted. That day, I decided that I would turn on the gas at night without lighting it so that the baby and I could sleep. Fortunately, the parsonage we lived in was large, and a small apartment was rented to another couple, who invited me upstairs for dinner. We finally managed to get the baby to sleep, and their invitation obviously saved my life.

I never told my husband about it even when another minister friend tragically lost his wife. A week after their baby was born, the wife jumped off the roof of the hospital and died.

I share my story now in the hopes it might help someone else.

Bernice Klosterman, Evanston, Illinois

That’s a True Story if I ever heard one.

8 thoughts on “Postpartum Depression

  1. Wow i am so sorry for your experience and loss but I am glad you and your daughter survived. PPD is so aweful. I had 3 boys and had some depression after the 3rd. But I have known ladies who have had PPD really bad and thought of all kinds of things. But luckily made it through.

    • I should be clear, the above story isn’t mine. It’s a letter to the editor I read in the newspaper and wanted to share. Yes, PPD is very real and very horrible. I think the U.S. needs to follow the lead of some other countries, like Norway, where new parents have a lot of in-home help and a lot of time away from work. And we need to recognize that PPD isn’t just “the blues.”

  2. I completely agree with you, Jessica, but here in the US, there are simply too many people for Norway’s model to work. It would be nice, as new parents, if there were networks in-hospital which one could reach out to, or informational pamphlets handed out after the birth, which offered numbers / counselors / in-home help that people could reach out to. Even though PPD knows no economic boundaries, money will always play a big factor in this issue, lower-income mothers with or without the father’s assistance are going to have a harder time dealing with PPD, since they cannot afford to hire help. I think one of the biggest regrets I had after I was pregnant was not networking more through my pregnancy. If one realizes, as busy as pregnancy is, that you only have nine months to begin building up networks of people to help you with your baby, it would be helpful to start even before getting pregnant! It’s difficult with the new model of family: Grandma’s aren’t living with us anymore, family tends to be more spread out and further flung than ever. So, take the numbers down of those you had parenting classes with, or took Momma Yoga or Lamaze with… offer to babysit and set up babysitting exchanges so that everyone gets a well-deserved break! Offer a should to cry on… you never know, you might be saving someone’s life.

    • Yes, completely agree. A new-mom group I attended was a huge help.
      If I remember right, I did receive a folder from the hospital with all that information (including the mom group info). The problem is, when you’re at home and immersed in caring for a newborn, it can be hard to reach out. And loads of good and well-meaning advice is dumped on pregnant women. Do this, do that, etc. And the onus is on the mother. It’s overwhelming; and also can be easy to underestimate the “get help” advice when you’re in the glows of pregnancy. I think our culture needs to change (see below). 🙂

  3. Wow, Jessica, that is a terrific story. Bless that woman for sharing such a personal tale. And you for finding it and passing it on.
    It took becoming a mother for me to understand just how deflating the experience can be, both physically and mentally. I recall my total exhaustion after my son’s birth and realize now that it continued for some months, multiplied by sleep deprivation. Women certainly need to be aware that those first few months can be overwhelming and that accepting help or seeking help is okay. I think my own mother’s help for a few weeks was all that kept me from keeling over, and I will never forget her support.

    As a nation, we seem to be driven to exceed our limitations – workers here take fewer days of vacation than in most European countries, for example. I think it contributes to an unhealthy perspective as far as overall health goes. And our sleep suffers for that attitude. So much pain and turmoil can be mitigated by a good night’s sleep!

    • That’s the thing: no one can really prepare you. So yes, I couldn’t agree more, our culture needs to change. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve grown more and more impatient with our whole attitude toward over-extending ourselves–We glorify working ourselves to death and we shame those who can’t or don’t want to handle that much stress. It’s completely maddening.
      Sleep deprivation changes you, it beats you down. There’s a reason why it’s a form of torture!

  4. I was very intrigued by this post. As a woman who is looking to start a family within a year or so I found it relevant. I’m glad to be educated on this topic, seeing that it is a very real affliction that has only been given its limelight in relatively recent years (the story of the 89 year old woman proves this is true). I tried to find that article, but my phone had trouble formatting it. I’m going to try on laptop.

    Also, I just read your comment above (about spreading ourselves thin and being praised for it) and I agree completely! All of this falls on women too, there seems to a be a stigma no matter what we do…stay at home mom or working mom.

    • I’m not sure when it happened, but yes–if we sleep 4 hours a night, raise kids, and run a business, we are admired. We should be told we’re crazy. It wasn’t all that long ago that even middle-class families had a helper–a maid or a nanny–living with them. It was a given. Now that would be considered spoiled and over the top. As if the parents, especially the mother, can’t handle it.

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