Mental Health.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

When we took Bert to the children's hospital at 4 days old, we sat in the emergency room from about 9 p.m. to almost 6 a.m. After we were finally admitted and taken to a room, Joe and I fed Bert, ate some breakfast ourselves, and, thanks to a very nice nurse, were able to settle in around 8:30-9 a.m. to try and get at least an hour or two of sleep. The next thing I knew, I was being awakened around 10:30 a.m. for what appeared to be a very pressing matter: a lactation consultant wanted to see me. I tried to explain that we had seen a lactation consultant already a couple days earlier and received high marks and Bert was a champion eater, but I was pretty much forced to see this woman anyways. Of course, I was exhausted, worried, and irritated, but I tried to be nice even though I felt like it was a big waste of our time. But something important occurred to me mid-day that same day. 

In our stay at the children's hospital, we saw nurses, pediatricians, and this lactation consultant, but do you know what was never offered to us or even brought up or discussed?

A mental health professional.

Think about it: you have two brand-new parents with a four-day-old baby with many health issues unexpectedly in the children's hospital. The mother of this child already has documented mental health challenges and, like all new mothers, is at risk for post-partum mental health issues as well. To me, it's a no-brainer that some sort of mental health professional should be provided to us as parents. But no one ever came.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 9 women experiences post-partum depression. Additionally, these statistics vary by state, so in some states that number is as high as 1 in 5 women. (Source.) Post-partum mental health challenges can lead to everything from hopelessness and irritability to thoughts of harming oneself or one's baby. I think we can all agree that this is such an important issue -- as is general mental health in the United States, not just post-partum -- and it's important to closely monitor all new mothers. I would think maybe it's extra important to monitor mothers whose babies are experiencing scary health issues.

I feel fortunate because having dealt with mental health challenges for years before pregnancy, I already know signs to watch for in myself as well as have medication and a counselor who has known me for almost a year. But what about women who may, thankfully, have never experienced any sort of mental health challenge before and, therefore, don't know what to look for or understand what is going on with them?

I don't know what the solution is, and I don't pretend to. It was just something that hit me after how important it seemed to be to the hospital that I see a lactation consultant, yet my mental health -- and Joe's -- was never discussed or asked about.

Finally home after two hospital stays.

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