Be Mindful of a Mother's Mental Health

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
(Getty images; Photo illustration by Barry Falkner)

My newborn baby's cry was a hot poker to my brain, piercing it in precisely the right spot to flood my nervous system with rage and anger. I knew the response was irrational but felt powerless to stop it.

Motherhood was supposed to be joyous, but nothing had ever made me so out of control and broken.

My husband encouraged me to share my struggles with my doctor. With the help of medication, meditation techniques and supportive friends, I gradually wrestled my postpartum depression (PPD) into submission.

It's estimated that one in 10 mothers suffers from postpartum depression, although there's also research suggesting that it's probably more common. Like many mental health conditions, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

More than the "baby blues," postpartum depression is longer lasting and interferes with daily life. Some mothers feel overwhelming sadness. Others can't stop crying. It's mood swings, uncontrollable anxiety, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, rage and, in the worst cases, thoughts of harming herself or her baby.

While the majority of farmers are male, women fill vital roles on the farm and in farm families. If you only think of motherhood as a happy and fulfilling experience, it could be easy to overlook or dismiss the struggles that come with it as "just hormones."

Hormones are powerful forces in the body and mind, and there are many ways to manage them. Medications can be incredibly helpful. Some women may be hesitant to take them, especially if they're nursing, but the science shows they're safe for mom and baby when taken as prescribed. Behavioral therapies have helped me stop the flood of emotions before they get out of control.

As we dive deeply into issues related to mental health in this issue (Progressive Farmer, May 2024), I hope sharing a little about my experience helps you see or understand a piece that you may never experience yourself. But, if you look around and think about your experiences, you probably know someone who has shared my struggle.

Early identification and early treatment are crucial to preventing PPD from becoming a long-term condition. If you or someone you know is struggling, please discuss it with your doctor. It changed my experience with motherhood, and now I can celebrate the joyous moments. It's still hard, but it's no longer clouded by irrational rage.


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