State of Mind: Life with postpartum depression
Jen Boydston felt the way most mothers do when discovering a new bundle of joy is on the way.
"I was very excited to find out I was pregnant," she said. "The world had changed once I had him."
But rewind to her first ultrasound.
"We actually found out we were expecting twins."
And in a moment, her world was turned upside down.
"One of them was two weeks behind. [It] had already passed at seven weeks. My son Jackson was the one who survived," Jen said, describing it as a rough start to her pregnancy.
"Trying to figure out, OK, how do you mourn the loss of one while you do still have the one healthy who survived."
Shortly after giving birth to Jackson, Jen sunk into postpartum depression. It's a condition that affects 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads.
"There were days I didn't want to get out of bed," she said.
At Behavioral Health Clinic, psychologist Dr. Stacy Luther specializes in helping new parents cope with postpartum.
"There's a big difference between the baby blues, which is very common," Dr. Luther said. "Everyone goes through that, that's an adjustment period, figuring that out."
Luther explained the condition can be spurred from a history of depression before the baby, not feeling like you can ask for help, different stressors in life and in Jen's case, trauma.
"I did feel like a bad mother," Jen said. "I knew I wanted to be with him and I knew I should be able to build that attachment, and I feel like I couldn't provide that for him, because I didn't want to be with him and I didn't know how to be around him."
On top of that, a tragedy struck her family when Jackson was three years old.
"My husband committed suicide in 2016, " Jen said. "Circumstances lead to different things. So being a single mom raising my son.. circumstances."
Dr. Luther said postpartum depression can develop from pressures new parents put on themselves before the baby and pressures coming from outside their family too.
"Pressure from society to be able to figure it out and function while also adjusting to a new life," Dr. Luther said.
Jackson is now seven, and Jen still copes with postpartum symptoms.
"There are certain triggers every day that really upset me. There are days that I ask Jackson 'Can I have extra hugs today?' He is my reason that I get out of bed."
Luther said symptoms of postpartum can go on for a long time.
"More often than not, it goes unnoticed for a long time," Luther acknowledged.
Today, Jen says reaching out for help for her postpartum was the best thing she could have done and that it's made her a better mother.
"There's a lot of things people don't see that I do behind the scenes. Not only am I a single, full-time mom, I'm going for my bachelors and I'm working toward another associate degree right now," Jen said confidently. "If it wasn't for him, I don't know where I'd be right now."
Dr. Luther added that there's no shame if you do experience postpartum depression.
"It does happen and it's out there, and it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you or that you're a bad parent. There are resources out there that are there to help, because there is hope for sure and there's the ability to feel better and feel like yourself again on top of being a parent."
Dr. Luther says instances of postpartum anxiety are just as prevalent as postpartum depression.
You can find more information and resources where you live by visiting Wisconsin's chapter of Postpartum Support International at psichapters.com/wi