We welcome Jodi Hitchcock, MSW as our first Guest Blogger of 2011! If you would like to be a Guest Blogger in 2011, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Living in the North East, the passage into a new year is often a bittersweet one. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping, eating, visiting and overall merriment, we enter into the dreaded long months of winter in its fullest. Although we have had a substantial amount of snow and cold for several weeks now, it does not seem as foreboding when you are in the midst of the holiday cheer. Come January 1st, winter feels as though it will never end.
This feeling was never more intense for me than the first winter after I had given birth. My first birth experience, my daughter who was born in October 2000 at 36 weeks gestation and after a very traumatic delivery, left me feeling a range of physical and emotional pain I had never felt before. At that time, given what I had been through, my family, friends and doctors all dismissed what I was experiencing as “normal” and “to be expected”. As a 23-year-old first time mom, who was I to question all of these wise and worldly individuals? They told me it was normal… so it must be normal! It was ok that I cried constantly, that I felt overwhelmed by the needs of my new premature baby and that I could not sleep without horrible dreams of her delivery (yet all I longed to do was sleep). It was “normal” that I was absolutely terrified to walk down the stairs with my baby because I was certain my arms would go limp and she would tumble down the stairs. I was living a nightmare… that I was assured was “normal”. I wanted desperately to feel the sun on my skin and to breathe fresh air. Unfortunately, where I live, sun is MIA for about 6 months of the year… and I was right at the start of that 6 months. Bundling up my new baby for a crisp walk was not an option since she was considered to have a weakened immune system and she had difficulty maintaining her body temperature. So in we stayed… a prisoner in my own home is how I felt. I loved my baby, I think, but I also resented how her birth had left me feeling.
At that point in my life, I had vaguely heard of postpartum depression (in news reports of Andrea Yates-the mother who killed her 5 children *). I knew that I was not capable of harming my baby, so the thought that I could be experiencing the same thing that she had never crossed my mind. My doctors never mentioned it or screened for it… so it all must be normal, right? WRONG!! After 2 more children… and each postpartum period worse than the others… I finally got what I had desperately needed in the beginning; answers, a diagnosis, acknowledgement that what I was feeling was not normal and most importantly, treatment.
As a social worker, I have been able to use my horrific personal experiences by dedicating my career to the perinatal population. I have spent the past 6 years researching, studying and working with women and families who have experienced perinatal mood disorders (PMD’s). My goal is to help eliminate the shame, the judgment and the fear of those suffering from PMD’s and to help educate the perinatal professional community so that women are able to receive help as soon as possible. I am excited to spend 2011 as a guest blogger on the Child Birth Today site and I hope to offer some insight, both personally and professionally, on perinatal mood disorders.
*I now know that Andrea Yates did not have postpartum depression, but did have postpartum psychosis. This is a much more severe mental illness that can lead to infanticide and/or suicide and is extremely rare.
About the Author:
Jodi K. Hitchcock, MSW is a mother of 4 amazing children (ages 10, 8, 6 and 16 months) and the stepmother to a wonderful 14 year old. She currently works 24 hours a day as a stay-at-home mom to those lovely children. In addition, Jodi works as an independent consultant providing perinatal support, education and outreach to mothers, couples and families experiencing PMD’s. In addition, she conducts training seminars and provides outreach education to other perinatal professionals. After experiencing a variety of PMD’s during and after her pregnancies, Jodi is able to provide a unique combination of personal and professional knowledge to the people she works with. Jodi especially loves to work with pregnant women who are experiencing or are at risk to experience a PMD so that she may empower them through education and prevention techniques so that they may have the best possible birth experience!