Brooke Shields seemingly has it all -- happy
marriage, celebrated beauty, critical applause, world fame. Yet, after her
child was born, she fought the "mother lode" of emotional battles: a crippling
bout with postpartum depression.
After giving birth two years ago, actress/model/icon Brooke Shields was not
singing lullabies in the pleasing voice that has earned her rave reviews on
Broadway. Nor was she learning how to swaddle her newborn girl, Rowan Francis,
named for her late father, Francis Shields. Instead, suffering from postpartum
depression, she found herself staring out of the window of her fourth floor
Manhattan apartment, contemplating putting an end to it all.
"I really didn't want to live anymore," she admits frankly. She says that,
during this time, simply seeing a window was enough to prompt her to think, "'I
just want to leap out of my life,' but then the rational side of me [would
say], 'You're only on the fourth floor. You'll get broken to bits and then you
will be even worse.'"
From the outside looking in, the 38-year-old former Calvin Klein model has
everything -- happy family, career spanning decades -- but for Shields, the
painful struggle to get pregnant and the ensuing slide into postpartum
depression after her labor and delivery marks the most tumultuous time in her
Princeton-educated and seemingly savvy about all sorts of things, she still
never knew that feelings of shame, secrecy, helplessness, and despair -- the
classic signs of postpartum depression -- may affect as many as one in 10 new
mothers within six months of delivery, according to the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists. More incapacitating than the "baby blues,"
postpartum depression is marked by severe sadness or emptiness, withdrawal from
family and friends, a strong sense of failure, and even thoughts of suicide.
These emotions can begin two or three weeks after birth and can last up to a
year or longer if untreated.
For the 6-foot natural beauty, the troubling signs of postpartum depression
began almost immediately after she gave birth to her now almost 2-year-old
daughter on May 15, 2003. Her husband, television writer-producer Chris Henchy,
whom she married in 2001 after her tabloid-fodder split from tennis star Andre
Agassi, was supportive if also terribly concerned for his wife and his
"Chris would say, 'Oh, my God, she's crying,' and I would respond, 'Yeah,
baby. She's crying. I wonder what she wants?'" she recalls. "It was like this
weird alien overtook my body and every appropriate response was answered with
the antithesis of what you would assume."
Today, Rowan can cry a mile away and Shields boasts that she can tell
whether her daughter is angry, hungry, scared, sad or just looking for the
family's 7-year-old American bulldog, Darla. "That's the instinct stuff that
you hear about and expect to have on day one," she says.