If you don't believe in miracles, this story just may change your mind. A Manhattan mom jumped from her eighth-floor apartment window with her infant son strapped to her chest. The woman, who landed on her back, died from her injuries, but the 10-month-old survived, only experiencing few scratches. It's probably the one bright spot in this horrific tragedy that has so many people asking, "Why?" It seems that police may already have the answer to that. Cynthia Wachenheim left behind a 13-page, handwritten suicide note that indicated she was suffering from postpartum depression. Some may say that's no excuse for attempting to take her helpless son's life too, but what people have to understand is that she was battling a very real illness that afflicts about 13 percent of all pregnant women and new moms.
In a letter scribbled on small pieces of paper, Wachenheim reportedly talked about failing as a mother, not being happy, and then detailed her deadly plan. She also apologized to her husband for making him suffer, acknowledging that he was going to think she was evil. She even referred to postpartum depression on the last page.
A few hours before she jumped, neighbors say that she was heard having an intense argument with her husband, who stormed out of their two-bedroom condo. And according to police, she was despondent because she thought her baby had cerebral palsy, even though doctors said there was nothing wrong with him. They also said she was taking antidepressants.
This paints a very different picture than her friends described. She was thought to be "wonderful," "devoted," and easy to work with. However, in the months leading up to the suicide, one neighbor said the usually "friendly" Wachenheim seemed stressed out all the time, but still noted she loved her baby. But this is what postpartum depression can do. It can change your behavior drastically. It can make you feel and act like a completely different person.
What is so heartbreaking about this tragedy is that it might have been prevented if she had received the help she clearly needed. One source said that she was actually supposed to see a therapist, but skipped the appointment. While her crime is uncommon, the experience of postpartum depression is one many expectant mothers and moms can relate to. The signs include:
- Feeling restless or moody
- Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
- Crying a lot
- Having no energy or motivation
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Having memory problems
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don't go away
If a mom is down, it's not always just a fleeting bout of baby blues. For many women, they need the help of a qualified doctor. As this story demonstrates, it can be a deadly illness. If you or anyone you know shows signs of postpartum depression, get help immediately. You don't have to suffer through it alone.
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Did you experience postpartum depression? What helped you get through it?