Here's what happened to me: My epidural didn't go well, so after 24 hours of labor I had an unplanned natural birth. While I felt the physical pain, the drugs to control my pre-eclampsia left me emotionally dissociative when my husband put my son in my arms. I didn't really get to connect to him for another day - after I was rushed into the OR for emergency surgery.
Then when I got home I got to stand in the middle of the cold war between my husband and my mother. I spent hours at night wondering where I was going to find a nanny if we didn't get into the daycare we wanted. Then when we got into the daycare, I stayed up for hours at night worried the baby would get swine flu. I've been to war and covered the White House, but was undone by the newborn freak out that greeted each sunset. I mixed formula like other people mix cocktails, trying to find one my son could keep down. I wondered if I would ever sleep the night again, if my body would ever feel like me again, if my mind would ever feel like me again. And a lot of the time I just felt lonely; your friends and family love you, but really everyone has problems of their own.
The nadir came after I sat up all night as my infant made it through his first cold. I just remember sitting on the kitchen floor weeping as my confused, angry husband stepped over me and went to work.
These are not stories I really ever tell, and thankfully they are not things I really think about more, enthralled as I am in a complete love affair with my two year old.
But my story is not uncommon. In fact it is fairly common for women to greet motherhood with some degree of emotional turmoil. But how do you gauge what's going on? And who wants to schlep their newborn into a doctor's office or trust them with a sitter?
Out of that need comes Stork Support, a counseling service started by two Plymouth Meeting parental social workers, Liz Bland and Rebecca Colonna. The service is meant to help women both before birth, especially those on bed rest, and in those early days at home with a newborn. Sessions are about the same cost as a spa treatment ($95 for the first session) and done in your home.
For most women the sessions handle things that sound simple but are really hard: Dealing with the loneliness of maternity leave; dealing with the stress a baby can bring to a marriage and finances; figuring out how to handle household roles and carve out personal, marital and family time; and recalibrating the work life balance.
These kinds of cases can usually be covered in one to three visits. Women who need longer or more serious care are connected to therapy services.
If you want to know more about Stork Support, click on the link here. Most women call for themselves, but Bland and Colonna say they've heard from husbands and sisters. People have even purchased sessions as shower or birth gifts. In fact, if women are not open to talking to someone, Stork Support will try to work with their husbands.
In doing this story I met an impressive woman, Louisa Chen. She radiates energy and spirit, capped off with a great smile. But both her pregnancies, which came back to back, were hard and involved bedrest. After birth, she found herself overwhelmed and trapped in depression. A lawyer, Chen thought she could plan and think her way through this life transition and was shocked at her helplessness. "I had no clue. I just sat there by myself, and I didn't know what I was doing. I just cried."
"Parenting is challenging and it's a huge adjustment, whether it's your first baby or your tenth. Ad it's okay to ask for help, because we all need it," says Bland. "And most likely when you verbalize what's going on to a professional, you're going to realize a lot of other people have felt that way too."
"It's going to be a new normal," adds Colonna. "But there are tangible things you can do, like calling up someone once a day."