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Valley peer program helps moms dealing with postpartum depression

Posted at 3:27 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 12:27:09-05

One in seven moms and one in 10 dads will suffer postpartum depression, yet so many families struggle in isolation. I recently opened up about my battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, and wanted to take a closer look at how the power of peer support can help women heal.

Jacklyn Gueyger's pregnancy and the birth of her son, Moses, followed her carefully crafted plan, until a few weeks after delivery.

"It was like a cloud was over me and then I started experiencing insomnia and I lost my appetite," said Gueyger.

Then came the loneliness and intrusive thoughts.

"There were times I really thought, 'Okay, Moses will probably be better without me,'" she said. "I remember stalking the sunlight and asking, is it almost light so I can try to see if this day is going to be any better."

Desperate for help, Gueyger scoured the internet for answers and stumbled upon a 24-hour help line.

"I had no idea who was going to receive the message but I did it, I just knew I needed help," said Gueyger. "Sure enough, not too long after, I received a text message from Elizabeth."

Elizabeth Wood is co-founder of Matrescence.

"We don't become moms like that when babies are born," Wood said, snapping her fingers. "It's a process."

The Naval Academy grad and former nuclear power plant operator now hosts workshops on fourth trimester planning and support, and is a certified peer support specialist. She fields calls and texts from women she may never meet in person.

"It's just another mama that comes alongside and can sit with you wherever you are," said Wood. "Somehow that power of being with someone else who has experienced something similar to you can just change, night and day, the experience of motherhood."

Licensed Professional Counselor Ann Papagalos sees that same power unfold in her work at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale. She holds a free support group for new moms experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. She also runs an intensive outpatient program.

"They'll see how another woman bonds with the baby, so a woman doesn't even have to say anything, she just sees her," said Papagalos. "Often times when something's happening to you, you feel alone and isolated, 'Why me? What's going on?' Then when you hear other people, yes!"

That connection kickstarted Gueyger's recovery. Her son, Moses, is now 10 months old.

"I just really wanted to feel better, not just for myself but for my son and my family," she said. "That was key... finding community."