Faithful friends, readers, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls,
It’s been such a long time since I wrote on HHLL. Let me first say that it’s not you; it’s me. Since Seabass began kindergarten last year, I’ve been writing, writing, writing…just not here. My freelance writing biz has really taken off, which makes me very, very happy.
But I’ve missed you. Oh so much!
About six months ago, Jake ran into a longtime acquaintance and asked after the guy’s new baby. “The baby’s great,” he said. “My wife, however, is a mess.”
It turned out the baby’s mother – a well-adjusted, normal and otherwise healthy person – was in the depths of extreme postpartum depression. It came out of nowhere, and the family was very scared.
When Jake told me about them, he asked if he could give my number to his acquaintance, for obvious reasons. I said yes, of course, and fifteen minutes after he forwarded my contact information, I received a call from this desperately ill woman.
From her voice I could tell she was heavily medicated. She shared that her parents were in town to help with the baby, whom she hadn’t spent much time with. When I asked if she might want to meet at my home, she hesitated. “I don’t think I want to be seen in public,” she said. And then I remembered myself: isolated, lethargic, and numb. She asked if there was any hope for her, and I saw that hope was more potent than any medicine. “Yes,” I said. “There is so much hope for you.”
I wish I could say that our conversation magically sparked some kind of healing that brought this precious woman back to life. The truth is, yes, we connected on a deep level, but she eventually had the courage to allow herself to be hospitalized. And thank goodness! She finally received the specialized care she and her family needed.
Perinatal mood disorders are on the rise in San Luis Obispo County. According to a Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA) survey from 2012, SLO women report postpartum depressive symptoms at a rate of nearly 20 percent – that’s one in five women, a rate that’s four percent higher than the rest of California. Simultaneously, services to help these women are seeping away, sometimes gradually and other times all at once. And this, all in the town named “Happiest In North America.”
In my own life, I can finally see my old self emerging from the fray of early motherhood. My six-year-old Seabass is going into first grade next year (!!!) and almost-four-year-old Sweet Chuck is embarking on her final year of preschool. They are still a buttload of work, but they’re typically a lot of fun, too. Nothing beats riding bikes to the farmers’ market, playing games together or dropping them off for school, seeing their own lives and choices unfold.
With my gradually-gained freedom, I’ve decided to stand up for the women, men, and children who suffer at the hands of PPD. I hope you’ll join me this Saturday, June 18th, at 9am, for a hike up Cerro San Luis in honor of Climb Out Of The Darkness, a fund- and awareness-raiser for Postpartum Progress. Survivors, sufferers, and supporters of those affected by PPD from hundreds of cities in five countries across the world will climb together that day – the longest of the year – to bring awareness and support to the PPD community. To find a climb near you, please click here. And if you’re in San Luis Obispo, please be sure to register for this first annual event in our area! It’s completely free.
Why should you support Postpartum Progress and Climb Out Of The Darkness?
- Because more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.
- Because only 15% of the nearly 1 million women who get these illnesses in the US alone each year ever get treated.
- Because suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the first year postpartum.
- Because there’s very little funding to raise awareness and reduce stigma of maternal mental illness.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at the mountain…