Out of the Blue
Brooke Shields discusses her painful struggle with postpartum depression.
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"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.
She claims that she had no mother's intuition at all.
Friends and family were quick to dismiss her sorrow and disinterest as a case of the "baby blues" that would disappear with some much-needed rest. But her sadness escalated rapidly into postpartum depression. Shields found herself crying more than Rowan did, and she says she suffered a mini-breakdown on her first post-pregnancy job interview to do a commercial for Bright Beginnings infant formula. She was plagued by feelings of self-doubt and self-harm. And if thoughts of suicide weren't frightening enough, Shields also suffered disturbing visions of seeing her daughter flying through the air, hitting a wall and then sliding down it, although, she is quick to clarify, she was never the one throwing her.
The words "postpartum depression" didn't mean much to her at first, but they finally hit home when a virtual stranger told her about the guilt, shame, and reclusiveness that were connected to postpartum depression -- the same symptoms she had struggled with since the baby was born.
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Exactly which mothers will develop postpartum depression is not fully understood, but risk factors do exist. In Shields' case, these risk factors may have been red flags. They can include a complicated or difficult labor. Rowan was delivered via an emergency C-section with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. In addition, Shields' uterus herniated during the surgery, and she lost a lot of blood. Her doctors even considered performing a hysterectomy (the removal of a woman's uterus) if the bleeding did not stop. Fortunately, it did and her uterus was successfully repaired.