The hard parts of her story have been softened by time and understanding that can only come from deepreflection and intense therapy. And, in the retelling of what she remembers.
“So much of it feels like a dream. There are parts I just can’t recall,” said Tina Lange, who suffered from Postpartum Depression in 2004 after the birth of her first child, a girl named Samantha.
Tina said she doesn’t remember why or when she started feeling poorly after Sam’s arrival, but the anguish was undeniable: “I felt awful, like I couldn’t be a good mom. I was afraid to hold her, to touch her, to be near her,” she said, straining to hold back tears.
Like many women who’ve gone before her, Lange was suffering silently. She says she cried at doctor’s appointments, at baby checkups and, often, randomly. She was told that her husband (they have since divorced) even put a call into her doctor’s office to express concern. But no information was shared about Postpartum Depression, which affects as many as 1 in 7 women of childbearing age. (In Brevard, that could mean as many as 12,000 women have or will experience this mental health issue annually after childbirth.)
After about four months, Lange recalls starting to feel “more back to my old self, brighter.” But the damage to her marriage was insurmountable, despite the later arrival of a healthy son and many hours of marriage therapy.
“I knew that our marriage had changed and I wanted so much to make it work,” she said. But, eventually she and her partner realized there was no turning back.
Tina wonders out loud if having access to services thatwould have specifically addressed her depression and anxiety might have helped. Now, thanks to her tireless efforts, moms in Brevard won’t ever have to wonder the same thing.
Fighting for Moms
In 2018, Tina and a group of female friends who also had suffered postpartum depression got not-for-profit classification for the Postpartum Support Network from the Internal Revenue Service. The women who make up the board today are professional, working moms who have either personally experienced, or understand the crippling effects of, post-birth depression and anxiety. (Full disclosure, I am involved with this organization and have recorded a video about my experience, which can be accessed online at https://postpartumsupportnetwork.org/videos)
The organization launched publicly during the first weekof May 2019 — kicking off during Maternal Mental HealthAwareness Week — and immediately began helping localmoms access the services they need to address and healfrom postpartum depression.
Through an extensive list of community contacts, Tina has assembled a network of nurse practitioners, mental healthproviders and postpartum doulas who all pledge services (some at reduced fees and even pro-bono services) to bepart of the network. Tina is the point person, fielding calls from moms in crisis, checking on their insurance coverage, and following up on referrals. Additionally, she provides materials to the Department of Health, hospitals and other organizations assisting women and children in the community, educating them on the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, and where to turn for help.
During the six months that the organization operated in 2019, more than $5,500 was raised to provide direct support and therapy services to 27 women. This year, Tina anticipates being able to help around 100 local moms.
Aside from helping moms in need, growing the network by adding providers who “touch” moms and babies in the weeks and months after birth is a priority. “We need the Ob/Gyns, Mental Health Providers and even Pediatriciansto all be aware of how prevalent this is and to be trained torecognize the symptoms; We need them to ask moms, even moms who have had a second or third or fourth child, ‘How are you feeling? How is it going?’”
Tina is also working to encourage obstetric doctors inBrevard to adopt the peer-reviewed Edinburgh screening for postpartum depression (called the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale). The simple, 10-question screening helps identify patients at risk for “perinatal” depression with questions that measure feelings, physical symptoms and thoughts of self-harm. Mothers who score high onthe screening are likely to be referred further for clinicalassessment, therapy and treatment.
Or, they can be referred to Tina and the Postpartum Support Network, who will make sure they get the treatment they need, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Every woman who comes to us will receive services that can help them,” she said. If the women are not covered by insurance, scholarships (paid for through crowd sourcing and funding drives) cover crisis treatment.
In between taking those calls to help moms in need, Tina works full time as a Real Estate agent for Cloud 9 Real Estate Group and balances work with time with her happy, healthy kids. Samantha is a beautiful young teenager, learning to drive and helping mom with social media tasks. Alex is adoe-eyed preteen with a mop of hair who loves to watchStar Wars movies and play Rummy with his mom. Often, the three will share time together playing board games, creating art projects or snuggling up on the couch with their pug for movie nights.
Tina feels lucky that she was able to move through the darkness of postpartum depression and is now in a position to create a safe space for other moms who might be wadinginto those waters. “I want every mom to know that if they are feeling bad, or depressed, or afraid, that they arenot alone and they should feel free to seek help – to tell someone they love that they need help,” she said.
Or they can call Tina directly at the Postpartum Support Network and she will pick up the phone to calm, relate,encourage and guide moms to the services that will help them learn to cope with and come through postpartumdepression.
To learn if you are experiencing postpartum depression, call (321) 223-1013 or visit online at www.postpartumsupportnetwork.org
Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.