Yesterday at work, I helped to host an annual event honoring individuals who have contributed to reducing the rate of infant mortality in our state. The theme of this year's event was how postpartum depression, child abuse and domestic violence impact infant mortality. These issues are related and our goal was to bring awareness to them through this event. We had several great speakers but one in particular stood out: Carol Blocker.
Carol is from Chicago, a retired teacher, a mother and grandmother. At first glance, Carol might seem like just anyone you would meet in passing on the street or in the grocery store. But she is so much more. Carol is an advocate. She is a fighter. She is determined, passionate and relentless to get her daughter's story out.
Carol's daughter is Melanie Blocker-Stokes. Melanie, too, was just like any other woman you might know. Successful in her career, married to a doctor, and a new mom. But something was different with Melanie. Immediately following the birth of her first child (a child she had longed for and eagerly awaited), Melanie changed. She stopped eating and drinking. She became paranoid that her neighbors where saying bad things about her as a new mom. She believed her new daughter hated her and that she was a bad mother. Carol knew something was wrong. But despite repeated attempts to receive help from doctors and mental health professionals, Carol's concerns went unheard. Melanie took her own life, jumping out of a hotel room 12 floors above a busy Chicago street.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Carol finished her speech and took her seat. Melanie's story is beyond heartbreaking. I cannot get it out of my mind and woke up last night thinking about her. I'm deeply saddened that Melanie felt she had no other choice to but to end her life (ultimately to save her baby's life) and leave behind her husband, daughter, mother and countless friends.
Over the last decade, Carol has told everyone who would listen that Melanie's death could have been prevented. The events that transpired in the last months of Melanie's life, were nothing Melanie had control over. She was suffering form postpartum psychosis. A rare (1-2 of every 1,000 deliveries), yet very real, perinatal mood disorder. Postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder make up the continuum of mood disorders that affect more than 30% of new moms. Warning signs range from frequent crying, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, lost interest in fun things, fear of harming or being left alone with baby, and thoughts of self-harm.
Hearing Carol and Melanie's story, I knew I had a responsibility to share. I know that being a new mom can be overwhelming. But these debilitating mood disorders should not take away from what is supposed to be one of the happiest times in life. Sadly, Melanie didn't get the help she needed more than ten years ago. But things have changed, thanks to amazing women like Carol. Help and treatment are available. There are great resources including Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Education for Parents 1-800-311-2229.
If you know a new mom that needs help, get her help. If you are new mom that needs help, ask for it.
Will you take a moment today to help me in honoring Melanie's life by sharing her story? You never know who's life you might save.