Can we help our friends with postpartum depression?
1/26/16: A gov’t-appointed health panel recommended screening for depression “during pregnancy and after giving birth” for the first time, highlighting an under-addressed issue among women. Is there a spiritual support we can each offer the new moms in our lives?
It’s been a five year whirlwind since college graduation. Between new cities and new jobs, I’ve also attended more weddings than I ever imagined I would. And while I’m still catching up with wedding registries, I feel the next stage of life approaching. Here come the babies!
It’s been beyond fun to go shopping for the tiniest clothes ever as baby announcements and baby showers have become a regular part of my life. Talking with friends as they anticipate the arrival of new little ones has been a happy and unforgettable experience.
This is why my heart was heavy when I learned that as many as 20% of women experience depression or anxiety during or after pregnancy. In a recent CNN article, Kelly Wallace pointed out that while the stigma around mental health issues is decreasing, most moms who need help still aren’t getting it, especially those in low income communities. Wallace suggested that integrating mental health care into women’s health care is one natural way to provide better support.
But as friends who interact with these moms-to-be on a regular basis, is there also something we can do?
Yes. We can be there for them.
In my own life I’ve found I am able to help others best when I start from a spiritual basis. I pray to see my friends from a divine perspective, not as flawed, inadequate or “in over their heads”, but as cared for by a mothering Love that is always guiding and supporting each of us.
Samantha Vance experienced firsthand the healing impact of this divine Love in the midst of her own struggle with postpartum depression. She recounts how a friend, a Christian Science practitioner, helped her through this time: “She encouraged me to turn away from the false idea that I was separated from God and instead to realize God as my eternally present Father-Mother, caring for both me and my newborn son.”
As Samantha continued her spiritual journey to overcome feelings of deep sadness and even suicide, she came to the realization that the negative thoughts weren’t inherently hers. She wrote,
“I became more diligent about immediately rejecting every morbid and depressing thought that came to me, and to turn my thought to knowing that God [Love] was divine intelligence and the source of every thought I had. That wasn’t always easy, but within a few months, I started feeling like myself again.”
When Samantha became pregnant with her second baby, the doctors encouraged her to take medication to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of the depression. Yet with the support of that same friend, and sacred texts they were both proactively turning to (the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”), she learned to lean on divine Love to give her the support she needed. She gained more and more confidence in her spiritual approach and was completely free. She never experienced the effects of postpartum depression again.
CNN’s Kelly Wallace confides that while she used to post on her pregnant friends’ Facebook walls comments like, “enjoy this magical time”, she now avoids making those comments because of her awareness that the experience does not feel “magical” to all expecting mothers.
I love her compassion and will take that sensitivity to heart. But I also feel there’s more we can do. We can all show up for the moms in our lives not only with openness and love, but with a prayerful conviction that it is natural, even our divine right, to be healthy and happy before, during, and after childbirth.
Where it is welcomed, we can also share the news of a divine support we can lean on in every moment to help us overcome dark thoughts. Now, when my friends ask me for advice or share concerns about their pregnancies, I listen with love and pray earnestly for divine Wisdom to share a healing message with both of us, before I say anything. It really seems to help.
If we spiritually see our friends as naturally strong, able, and cared for by Love, we can be an actual force for healing in their lives, just like Samantha’s friend was for her.