Sharon Loewen believes there’s still some way to go to break the stigma surrounding postpartum depression.
Loewen, 35, is a volunteer with the Postpartum Depression Association of Manitoba, and the organizer of the association’s upcoming Baby and Kids Used Toy and Clothing Sale, which will be held at Greendell Park Community Centre (75 Woodlawn Ave.) on Sun., April 14 from 9 a.m. to noon. Admission to the event will be $2.
"The main goals of the event are to raise awareness about postpartum depression, and to fundraise for the association," said Loewen, who is married to Kelly. The couple has two sons — Kason, who is six, and Camden, who is four. "At the end of the day, we want to help provide guidance and education about postpartum depression."
According to the association’s website, postpartum depression — also known as PPD — is "recognized as the most common complication of childbirth, affecting an estimated 15 per cent of families. PPD can happen anytime within the first year after birth."
Loewen, who lives in Charleswood, said the campaign to shine a spotlight on PPD hasn’t come nearly as far as other mental health campaigns, which she attributes to a number of factors.
"The stigma is still very high because there’s a lot of pressure in society to be a perfect or a good mom. I’d love to see moms more openly and freely express themselves and talk to people about how they feel about this, but this isn’t necessarily where we are yet," she said.
In Loewen’s case, she suffered from PPD after Camden was born.
"I felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed, which wasn’t going super well, and any time I breastfed, I felt like I was falling into a hole. It all stemmed from the idea in my head that ‘breast is best’ and now I know that ‘fed is best.’"
At her lowest point, Loewen had suicidal thoughts, and was in a very bad place, she said. "I couldn’t stop crying and feed my child."
She called a "mental health crisis response line" and reached out to the Crisis Response Centre on Bannatyne Avenue for support.
"Two social workers came to my house and talked to me, and eventually I talked to a psychiatrist and we came up with a plan together. I stopped breastfeeding, and I didn’t think it was OK until someone told me it was OK."
Loewen is grateful for the support she has received from medical professionals, as well as her friends, family, and loved ones. Her husband, Kelly, was home for four months with Loewen as she recovered. She got better thanks to a combination of talk therapy and medication, and a key part of her recovery was "not feeling so alone, which helped me move on."
"My advice to anyone in this position is to reach out to someone, which definitely helped me. I give great credit to the WRHA for providing some of the resources to help, and I can now tell people that this doesn’t define me. It’s been quite the journey, and I’ve come a long way."
In terms of advice, Loewen’s message is to open up and share.
"Talk, and tell people how you’re feeling. Tell your doctor and family and friends, because they can look out for you, and help you be prepared for what you need to do," she said, adding her bond with her son Camden became "incredibly close" as a result.
Currently, Loewen is a busy mom who works full-time, and also donates her time to four different volunteer organizations.
RE/MAX agent Olia Skala has also donated a hot air balloon ride as a prize. Every entrant at the event will receive a ballot for a draw.
Go online at ppdmanitoba.ca for more information.
Community journalist — The Lance
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7111