When Glenda C. learned that her fourth child was going to be a girl, she cried—and not out of happiness. Although she cannot imagine life without her youngest daughter now, during her pregnancy the news meant only sadness and anxiety. As a survivor of childhood abuse, Glenda remembers, “I just didn’t want to bring another girl into the world to suffer like I did. Somehow I thought boys were safer.” And as the pregnancy progressed, Glenda’s negative thoughts only increased. She had felt low during her other pregnancies as well, but the sadness she was feeling this time seemed much more severe. “I was really down and depressed,” Glenda remembers. “I was having a hard time doing what I needed to do, and I was starting to think about death, a lot. That scared me.” Glenda was concerned enough about the changes in her mood to bring them to the attention of her midwife at the Infant Welfare Society, who recognized postpartum depression (PPD) and referred her to HAS.
At first, Glenda was apprehensive about participating in the program. “There’s a big stigma around therapy for Latinos,” she says. “It makes it really hard to ask for help.” Also, and perhaps more importantly, Glenda found it difficult to open up to new people. “I was pretty isolated,” she recalls. “I didn’t go out much. I mostly talked to my family.” Glenda overcame her misgivings, however, and began individual and group counseling with HAS PPD staff. “I really needed to talk to someone,” she says, “and once I got started, I just talked and talked and talked. I couldn’t stop! Well, I talked and cried at first, but it got better. It was a safe way out.”
At HAS, Glenda learned strategies for dealing with anxiety and self-criticism. She learned to be more accepting of herself and others. She learned to let go of unrealistic expectations and take the rewards and challenges of parenting as they came: “we’re all learning,” she observes. “We don’t come with a manual, with software teaching us how to be parents.” In addition to the insights she gained during her one-on-one counseling sessions—“there were a lot of ‘aha!’ moments,” she says—Glenda also came to see the PPD group sessions as a valuable means of support. ‘The groups really helped a lot,” she states, adding that hearing other participants’ stories gave her additional perspective on her own and that seeing their progress and successes was a major inspiration.
After completing the PPD program, Glenda has continued to maintain the support networks she now realizes she needs. She is an active participant in several online parenting and PPD support groups—“and, of course, I’m addicted to Facebook,” she adds—and is increasingly open to socializing and meeting new people. At the suggestion of her counselor, who was impressed with Glenda’s humor and skill with words, she is also beginning a blog about her experiences. Glenda is making other positive changes as well; she is currently considering a career in medical billing and coding and recently attended an information session at Everest College in Skokie. “I wanted to go, even though I would previously have been afraid. I still get nervous in crowds sometimes, but I think I’m less panicky, more willing to try new things, talk to new people.”
Glenda states that she is extremely grateful for the assistance that HAS has provided her and urges other new or expecting mothers to seek help if they begin to feel overwhelmed. “HAS provides a wonderful and very necessary service,” she says. “You are needed!”