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Breaking the Silence: A Journey to Normalize Maternal Mental Health

May 28, 2024 09:49AM ● By Amanda Danaher

When Verdi Jones, a local postpartum activist and author, had her first child in 2020, she experienced postpartum depression (PPD) for the first time. Like many new moms, she was surprised by the way she felt toward her newborn.  

“I didn’t even want to be near him. He's crying and I didn’t have the motherly instinct to be there, to figure it out, to help him,” says Jones. “I was literally running from my kid.”

Her experience led her to write the book “The Part They Left Out,” which spotlights the challenges she faced during her postpartum journey and how PPD is a reality for many women.  

“I feel like postpartum depression and maternal mental health needs to be talked about a lot more,” says Jones. "It's important for me because I had no idea what was going on with me."

Sarah McClelland, lead therapist and owner of Counseling Services of Virginia in Fredericksburg, specializes in perinatal and postpartum mood disorders. She has seen first-hand how difficult it can be for new mothers and emphasizes the importance of support.

"Having babies is hard, and I don't know that we talk about that as much as we should. I don't think women have the support they need,” says McClelland.

Jones has turned her past struggle into a platform for change by raising support and awareness for maternal mental health.

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness month in May, Jones, in partnership with the Mommies and Mimosas Club, hosted the Fredericksburg’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness 5K Walk/Run at Old Mill Park on Saturday, May 5.  A portion of the proceeds went to the Postpartum Support International Organization, a non-profit focused on increasing awareness about maternal mental health around the world.

As awareness grows, McClelland challenges our community’s perceptions of postpartum mental health.

"Almost all moms have scary thoughts...this is also something people don’t know about. It’s very common," she says.

She believes that taking significant strides toward openly discussing postpartum mental health can be healing for women.

“It’s important to see the normalization of those scary thoughts that almost all moms have…that they are just passing thoughts,” she says. “They don’t have to pay attention to them. They don't mean anything at all. Just because a thought is there doesn't mean it's true.”

McClelland further adds that bringing postpartum mental health to the forefront and fostering a culture of openness and non-judgmental support is the first step we can take to helping moms.

"There's so much controversy and so many mixed messages about what moms should and should not be doing,’ said McClelland. "It’s important to just support women [to] find their own way.”

And people like Jones are doing just that. Jones and many others just like her are not just raising awareness but are opening up the conversation and creating a model of support for moms and their babies.

“It’s uncomfortable for women to admit the way that they feel after they have a baby,” she said. “My hope is to make it just normal to have a conversation about how you feel and not be embarrassed or feel like society is frowning on you.”


Here are a few ways to help a new mom who may be struggling:


Remind her it’s okay if the house gets messy. If you’re able, hire a cleaning service to come in to assist with chores or offer to help yourself.

Remind her that postpartum doulas are a great support.

Bring a meal, stock the freezer, or coordinate a meal train for a week or two.

Show up to hold the baby so mom can take a nap

Run errands, do grocery shopping, or go with mom for her first outing with baby, which can be intimidating.

Bring mom a glass of water and food. Remind her that it’s okay to take care of her own needs too.

Provide childcare for older children in the home or take them out for fun so mom and baby can rest together.

 Ask mom "What do you need?  What can we do to help?" Listen, be available, reassure, inspire self-confidence through encouragement.

Reach out to professionals with concerns about wellbeing.


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