Battling the baby blues
She woke up crying, had trouble sleeping and found little motivation. Sue McRoberts was experiencing postpartum depression.
Having postpartum depression puzzled her because the feelings came only after the birth of two of her three children -- the oldest, Katie, now 8, and the youngest, Bennett, 23 months. She escaped the illness with her second child, Andrew, 5.
McRoberts, who said she is very religious, was unable to find a Christian book on postpartum depression to help her. Finally, while looking in bookstores, a clerk suggested she write a book to help other women.
McRoberts had never written a book before and was leery of the venture, but she decided to give it a try. The result was "The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depression," which she will be signing and speaking about today in Cape Girardeau.
McRoberts, a Missouri native who now lives in Minneapolis, Minn., said she was scared the first time around since she was unfamiliar with the symptoms and didn't realize what was happening. The second time she experienced postpartum depression, she became angry.
Postpartum depression is an illness mothers sometimes experience after giving birth. Common symptoms include insomnia or sleeping too much, little motivation, anxiety and feelings of worthlessness, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Women experience postpartum depression for many reasons. Hormone changes before and after birth can cause chemical changes in the brain to trigger depression. Other risk factors in someone's life can also contribute to the illness, the AAFP said, such as stress from divorce, death of a loved one, previous miscarriages or having had prior bouts of depression.
Postpartum depression can last for a few weeks or months. However, the illness is treatable through medication, support groups and counseling.
"I am a Type A personality used to getting things done; but then I cried all the time and even simple tasks were impossible to accomplish," McRoberts said. "I became angry the second time I had the illness because I felt like I was a bad mom. I tried to wish it away. I was in denial, thinking it would disappear on its own."
McRoberts never became angry with God, though. She said her Christian community was invaluable in helping her cope with her illness. They prayed, women e-mailed her and others called and sent cards. She believed in God because she knew he cared for her, she said.
"I never prayed I would get better because I thought I would always have to live with my frame of mind," McRoberts said. "But I knew that regardless of what happened God would always be with me."
McRoberts said one thing really helped: She wrote Bible verses on cards and kept them with her. They encouraged her because she never doubted the Bible, she said.
In fact, dealing with postpartum depression changed the way she prayed. Scripture, then, became a part of her life. She repeated verses that assured, "God will never leave me, never." "God is my helper" was within another passage. As Scripture became a part of her prayer life, it became more personal.
Scripture was so personal, she used it to name her book: "But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." Psalm 3:3.
Her book brought her personal experiences to the public light.
"I began writing the book 'The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depression' during my illness. I wrote it as a tool to help others since there seemed to be no Christian books available on that subject," McRoberts said. "I loved writing the book. It seems people are more open now to talking about postpartum depression."
McRoberts strongly advises women experiencing postpartum depression to "above all, seek help!"
McRoberts speaks at various churches and organizations about her experiences with postpartum depression. The book is available online and in stores.
McRoberts claims Missouri as her home state. Her brother, the Rev. Mike Parry, lives in Southeast Missouri. He pastors Fruitland Community Church and staunchly supports her efforts.
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