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Paige and Bjorn Bellenbaum pose while on a skiing trip with their two kids, Max, 9, and Ella, 7.
When Paige and Bjorn Bellenbaum had their second child, they knew the symptoms of postpartum depression — and were able to push back against it. Originally published on November 2, 2015 11:22 am The definition of postpartum depression is broad. After Paige sought help for what she learned was postpartum depression, the Bellenbaums say they feel stronger now. The symptoms can range anywhere from feeling exhausted and disconnected from your baby to paranoia that someone else might hurt your child or, even worse, that you yourself might do your baby harm. While this wide-ranging spectrum makes it hard to diagnose, the CDC says between 8 percent and 19 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression.
A decade ago, Brooke Shields kicked off a national conversation when she talked publicly about her own depression after the birth of her first child. Drew Barrymore wrote about her experience in a new memoir, and actress Hayden Panettiere recently checked into a treatment center for postpartum depression.
But when Paige Bellenbaum and her husband, Bjorn Bellenbaum, had their first son, now 9, there was not as much awareness. Click on the audio link on this page to listen to the full conversation.A few months after an easy conception, Paige and Bjorn were excited to find out they were having a boy. And while Paige stressed out a lot during the pregnancy, she didn't overthink what would come after giving birth. Paige vividly recalls, during the first few weeks, wanting to feel that unconditional love that had been described to her but feeling only pain and emptiness after the physical trauma. They didn't want any family to come in to help, so after that first week, Paige was all alone with the baby. And I was always trying to convince Bjorn in the beginning that there were problems and we needed to go to the doctor and take care of it." Bjorn says it took him time to realize Paige needed help because he lacked perspective. It's worth noting that she's a social worker and part of her job is to be able to spot signs of depression in other people.
I was walking toward the corner with Max in the stroller, and I looked to the right and I saw a bus coming.
And I looked at the bus and I had this impulse out of nowhere to throw myself and Max in front of the bus and just end it. I had to do something to save myself and to save my son." So she took a cab to Manhattan's Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, where she was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression.


Because I knew in that moment that I didn't want to lose you, either, and that we were going to figure out a way to do this together." They had a girl, and everything was different this time. They knew the signs of postpartum depression and they knew how to push back, but only because they had been there before. Paige thought if more people knew what signs to look for, more moms could get help earlier.
Last year, she helped write a new law in New York state aimed at educating more families on symptoms of maternal depression.
It also gives pediatricians a process to screen and refer new mothers who might be struggling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the symptoms can be anything from feeling exhausted and disconnected from your baby to a paranoia that someone else might hurt your child or, even worse, that you yourself might do your baby harm. Because the spectrum is so wide, it can be hard to diagnose, which is why it's hard to measure how many women suffer from postpartum depression. A decade ago, Brooke Shields started a national conversation when she spoke publicly about her own depression after the birth of her first child.
Just a few months ago, actress Hayden Panettiere checked into a treatment facility for the disorder. The people we're going to introduce you to today aren't celebrities, but they have made a conscious choice to share their very personal experience with postpartum depression.
PAIGE BELLENBAUM: My name is Paige Bellenbaum, have a wonderful husband and two great kids, soon to be 7-year-old and 9-year-old. And while Paige was full of anxiety during her pregnancy, she didn't think a lot about what would come after giving birth.
BELLENBAUM: What I thought, which is what I think most women think unless told otherwise, that having a child was going to be a magical, wonderful, beautiful experience and that when I had him, they were going to lay him on my chest. When I think about how traumatic that felt to me, the one thing that I do remember that softens it is that - and correct me if I'm wrong - I think Bjorn was pretty much speechless by the experience. And it always makes me sad, you know, to hear your side of it, that it was such a traumatic thing, and you felt so alone.
MARTIN: This was the beginning of the gaping hole that would develop between Paige and Bjorn and the vastly different way they experienced early parenthood. BELLENBAUM: I remember them putting Max on my chest and wanting to feel that feeling of unconditional love, and I didn't feel anything. BELLENBAUM: I think that set us up for this distance between us because it really wasn't that.


BELLENBAUM: It took me a long time because it seemed - I didn't have any perspective, you know? And my brother kept telling stories of his wife, who made him go out in the middle of the night to buy a baby scale to have their daughter weighed before and after every feeding to make sure that she was getting stuff. I was scared of him because he was this human being that I couldn't soothe, that controlled me. And in the morning, when Bjorn would get up for work, I would beg him not to leave and cry and cry.
And I remember you made me - you would make me these Nutri-Grain waffles and put a little bit of syrup and strawberries on top. And I think it was your way of trying really hard to give me something to make me feel better. BELLENBAUM: I did not ever say to him that I hated myself or that I thought I was a failure as a mother or that I, you know, at that early stage, was contemplating taking my own life. I mean, I - you know, I had my own sort of anxieties, obviously, with having - being a father. BELLENBAUM: Even I, as a trained clinician, was unable to notice the symptoms that were happening within myself because I was so far gone. MARTIN: One day in the fall, when the baby was around five months old, Paige took Max for a walk.
Nothing could - I just - I couldn't really feel the breeze or - I just noticed that I just, you know, I didn't know who I was. And I looked at the bus, and I had this impulse, out of nowhere, to throw myself and Max in front of the bus and just end it. And as the bus passed, I remember looking at my reflection in the windows of the bus and the faces looking back at me but seeing my face and being like, who is that person? They spent some time talking to me and said that I needed to get on medication immediately. And I remember one afternoon sitting with you in the living room and saying, I don't know if I can do this again; I don't know if I can have this baby - and you looking at me and saying, I love you. And that I will never forget because I knew, in that moment, that I didn't want to lose you either and that we were going to figure out a way to do this together.



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