by Lita Simanis, LCSW
November 23, 2015
When I meet someone new and tell them that my work focuses on postpartum depression, I often hear “that must be so hard” or “so sad.” Depending on the circumstances, I will, at the very least, respond with something like: “Not at all! I get to meet newborn babies and congratulate grandparents and see moms as they get better and heal, and that is pure joy.”
If I have the opportunity to discuss it more in depth, I will talk about the times of deep, intense grief, like when our community loses a mom or a child to the monster of a perinatal mood disorder. Or the days when I want to shout to the world “we must stop sexual trauma!” because my heart is heavy after hearing yet another new mom share her tragic rape or molestation experience which has led her to me, because she feels so anxious and disconnected from the child that she has borne and loves. I might share the scary moments when a husband calls to say that “something is wrong” with his wife because she is not making sense and has not slept in 4 days. Or the frustration I feel when I meet women who have been woefully undertreated or mistreated or simply not been heard when they sought help.
I share this side of my job not to feed into the perception that this work is hard or sad. I share it in order to inform, educate, and empower. I want everyone to understand that perinatal mood disorders are real, scary, dangerous, and sad. Why in the world is it that for 15% of women, what is supposed to be the happiest time of their lives instead becomes the darkest, most terrifying, and sometimes most deadly? The scientific answers include: hormonal changes, sleep disturbance, pain, stress. Understanding why we are designed this way eludes us, and may remain a mystery.
But there is much joy for the families who make it to the other side and can embrace wellness. I call perinatal mood disorders “manure.” Yes, manure is poop, and while a parent is slogging through a perinatal mood disorder, it can feel like wading through a septic wasteland. But, manure also helps beautiful things grow, and I am blessed to see beautiful things come out of this manure every day. It is officially called “post-traumatic growth,” (not manure), described as positive psychological change that comes out of adversity or difficulties. Maybe that is why we are designed this way, to understand the depths of darkness in order to really appreciate the light, or to be able to guide someone else through the muck, or to finally heal the wounds that have been open for too long.
I am grateful to all of the families I have worked with for allowing me to walk beside them and be a part of their journey. This walk is not hard— it is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
Lita Simanis, LCSW
My “official” bio is HERE, but the real deal is that I’m a Mom to two amazing boys, 15 and 9 years old. I experienced postpartum anxiety and intrusive thoughts after my first was born, following a long and difficult delivery, and a surprise return to the hospital for our new baby less than 24 hours after coming home. My husband, Marty, my parents and OB providers were amazing and supportive, but I wish I’d known about PSI and support groups back then. My family is very involved in the Latvian community in Chicago, and likes to travel whenever we can. I’m a fan of mindfulness, humor and chocolate.