Maybe you think your loved one hasn't been acting like herself for a while now and you've been encouraging her to seek professional help. Or maybe you're annoyed or angry with her for not responding to motherhood the way you or someone you know did or the way you think she ought to. Maybe you didn't even believe that depression was an illness at all until now. And, finally, maybe you're curious: You're really happy with the new baby, so why isn't she? After all, she's the new mother - she should be the happiest of all. You may be asking yourself, "What's wrong with her? Doesn't she realize what a great blessing has come into her life?"
Lucky as she may be to have her new bundle of joy, a mom with a new baby may, in fact, realize the nature of that great blessing but may be completely and helplessly void of joy due to depression. But with the help of another blessing in her life - that is, you, her loved one - she can be set on the road to recovery much faster. The fact that you've picked up this book is a good sign for the new mom because even if this is the only chapter that you look at, you'll get a good idea about what she's likely feeling and thinking. And as you gain clarity about what she's experiencing, you're bound to be better motivated and equipped to help her get the support she needs.
Showing your understanding and unconditional support
It's critical for you to realize that your outward reaction to your loved one's PPD diagnosis is important because it can affect both how she feels about herself and her ability to move firmly onto the path of recovery. Remember that she may be feeling ashamed and therefore worried about and vulnerable to possible judgment from those people she's closest to.
You may feel the urge to offer your opinion, to go into judgment, or to criticize her, yourself, or the doctor who gave her the diagnosis. Hold all that in and wait until you understand more. Any sort of negative judgment on your part will only aggravate and exacerbate the bad feelings she already has about herself. Instead, simply say something like, "Interesting. It's good to know this condition has a name. Thank you for telling me. As you learn more, I'd love to hear about it." And give her lots of reassurance that she'll get through this time just fine - support and reassurance is what she craves and needs.
Stay calm and be open to her sharing. Encourage her to talk, but don't push her to do so. The more you listen in this way, the safer she'll feel with you - and the safer she feels, the more open she'll be. But, if she chooses not to share much, don't take it personally. Her unwillingness to open up to you doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. She simply may be a private person in general, or just not ready to open up to anyone yet.
Excerpts from Chapter 16: "Helping the One You Love"
Postpartum Depression For Dummies by Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D.
Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D. ("Dr. Shosh")