Mother’s Day is just around the corner and in that spirit, we welcome Aspire Counseling to the blog! Aspire Counseling is committed to meeting the mental health needs of all Montgomery County residents, regardless of income. Their programs reach out to patients at the most critical junctures in their lives: when they become parents, battle an illness, or face aging. In particular, their Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program offers in-home therapy to expecting and new mothers battling post partum depression. Read more about their program and how to get involved here:
When Mother’s Day is Not Happy
Sunday May 11th is Mother’s Day. If a mother, you may receive breakfast in bed, a homemade card, flowers or a text message from your college son with “Happy Mother’s Day!” And yes, mothering can be a “happy” experience. It can also be hard. Sleepless nights, tantrums, juggling schedules, laundry, negotiating, reminding, etc. are no fun and can make for, at times – an unhappy experience.
One in five women will experience an even darker side to motherhood: pre and/or postpartum depression (PPD). Low income women have triple the chance (45 – 55%) of developing PPD compared to women in middle and upper income families. Low income women are also most likely to be uninsured. Finding affordable mental health treatment is often impossible.
Aspire Counseling, a mental health non-profit organization based in Gaithersburg Maryland, runs Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, a community based program that provides free home based mental health therapy to low income, uninsured and under-insured pregnant women and new mothers with pre-natal and post -partum depression. Our bilingual therapists travel to the women’s homes — or wherever easiest for the mother (playground, community center). This way she does not need to find childcare, arrange transport, or leave the house which can be a completely daunting and overwhelming exercise if depressed.
Eighty five percent of the women we serve are foreign-born. Many come from countries where they would be considered “crazy” if depressed. Seventy percent have experienced physical or verbal trauma in their home country. The trauma is often horrific: repeated childhood sexual abuse, gang violence, physical abuse by parents or partners, and rape. These women have not bad choices. They have been dealt a difficult hand in life and want to rise above it — for themselves and their child.
For example, “Jane” was referred for help when she experienced symptoms of pain and paralysis after her baby’s birth and medical tests ruled out physical causes. Most of Jane’s family stayed in El Salvador when Jane came to the US. Her pregnancy was fraught with depression, bad thoughts, and remorse about having left her family behind. Jane’s feeling of paralysis spread. Her anxiety skyrocketed. Her marriage was at risk. After 13 therapy sessions, Jane’s pain and paralysis had almost entirely disappeared. She was able to use “positive self-talk” and relaxation techniques to decrease anxiety and increase her sense of control. Her marriage improved. Jane still grieves her separation from her family in Central America, but she has begun to go church, where she sees other mothers from El Salvador.
The program has been running for over twelve years and treats more than 100 low income uninsured women each year. Nancy Ebb, program founder, recalls the very first client, “She was so anxious she stayed awake all night holding her baby to make sure nothing bad happened. She, and the baby, were listless.” In 2013 the award winning program helped 111 women. One hundred of the 111 women were uninsured and would have had no source of mental health care were it not for Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.
Home visitation means therapists can make a real difference. Ninety percent of the women we serve through the program get better and learn tools to combat depression in the future. When a mother’s depression lifts, babies “wake up,” come alive to their surroundings, and begin to thrive. Effectively diagnosing and treating postpartum depression restores the mother-infant bond, and avoids cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems that can arise in children of depressed mothers. Mothers who are available to their babies read their signals, keep them nourished, and teach them to laugh, explore, and trust the world around them.
If you know a family member, friend, or neighbor with a new baby this Mother’s Day, take the opportunity to bring them a cooked meal, offer to run errands, or just let them know it is okay to feel tired, overwhelmed and unsure. If they need more help, are unable to sleep when the baby sleeps, continually crying and are listless, call Aspire Counseling Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program manager, America Caballero on (301) 978 9750.