Post-Partum Depression

I am a sole practitioner with an estate planning practice that I have done for over ten years. I also had my first baby three months ago (at age 41!). Although I have wanted this baby for years, postpartum depression hit me about a month after she was born. I couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t sleep, and felt totally out of control. In the last two weeks, I have started to feel better through therapy and antidepressants, but still can’t concentrate and get organized enough to take care of my cases. I have a lawyer friend who offered to help me but frankly, I am too embarrassed to take her up on the offer. I have a full time nanny so telling my friend I need more help would be mortifying. What should I do?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a particularly paralyzing condition, not only because of the depression itself, but also because of the shame it induces in the mother, who has gotten societal messages all her life that a new baby should be a time of great joy and closer family life. In reality, having a new baby — under the best of circumstances — throws off whatever equilibrium a family had and introduces new physical, emotional and often financial demands. The mother is also further thrown off because of hormonal shifts. If PPD strikes, the situation becomes even more extreme, even life threatening in some situations.

However, PPD is nothing to feel ashamed about. It is a medical problem just as diabetes and the flu are medical problems. I suggest you take advantage of the assistance your friend can offer as soon as possible. One, keeping the PPD a secret will perpetuate the shame and two, allowing your friend to lighten the burden will accelerate the recovery process, as it will reduce the worry and pressure associated with being unable to perform your best. If you still can’t bring yourself to confide in your friend, discuss this with your therapist, who can help you work through your shame.

In the meantime, you deserve a lot of credit for seeking out help; most women with PPD attribute their condition to being a “bad mother” versus to a medical problem. As such, many women never do get help and others only after months of unnecessary despair.

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