Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know
New mothers with postpartum depression can feel very alone. But at least 20% of new mothers experience it. Here's how to cope.
Tina Merritt, now 39, of Virginia Beach, Va., had heard of postpartum
depression when she was pregnant seven years ago. But when she gave birth to
her son, Graham, she expected nothing but joy as she and her husband welcomed
the baby boy who would be the first grandchild on both sides of their
families."It took me a while to get pregnant, and it was a huge deal for
everyone," Merritt says."I worked right up to the end of my pregnancy and felt
great. I'd planned so long for this baby, I really thought everything would be
Of course she did, says Michael Silverman, PhD, assistant professor of
psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Most women
have bought into the belief that when you give birth to a child, you
immediately feel love like you've never experienced. [But] for many women,
that's not reality. They feel that they're defective, that something's wrong,
and they can't talk to anyone about it."
Instead of the picture-perfect motherhood she imagined, Merritt found
herself terrified of taking care of her new son, worrying she would make a
mistake. She describes the first year or more of his life as a big fog. "I
don't remember much at all. I don't remember how old my son was when he
crawled, don't remember him taking his first steps or eating solids for the
It wasn't that she didn't want to care for her son, Merritt says -- she just
didn't feel that she could. "I thought my husband or my mother-in-law could do
it better, that I was supposed to be this perfect mother but I couldn't be,"
she recalls. Merritt's husband took on most of the child care, and she returned
to work when Graham was 6 weeks old. "That was the one thing I could do right.
I could work. Before that, my husband would come home from the office, and I'd
be in the chair in my pajamas holding the baby -- exactly where I'd been when
he left. I was so afraid to be alone with my son. He was 2 before I even took
him to the grocery store by myself."