From despair to joy

A new mom, married to her high school sweetheart, Jennie Silha couldn’t figure out why, when her son Cole was 10 months old, she was sitting in her locked garage with the car running.

“I sat there for a minute and thought this was OK. This is the right thing to do,” Jennie remembers. But when she caught sight of a photo of Cole sitting on the front seat of the car, she turned off the engine.

Her husband, Steve, thought the suicide attempt was merely a case of an overwrought, overtired mom.

What he and Jennie both failed to realize was that Jennie was suffering from postpartum depression.

When Jennie told her lactation consultant what she’d done, the nurse referred her to Diane Semprevivo at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, who recognized PPD and referred Jennie to a psychiatrist.

But finding a way out of the dark hole wasn’t easy. Jennie spent four hours in the psychiatrist’s waiting room, only to be handed a sack of pills and told to check back in eight weeks. Driving home in tears, Jennie felt like a failure.

The medication didn’t help. She remained convinced Cole would be better off without her. She packed her car to leave but stopped to answer a phone call from a friend. Leslie, who had also suffered from PPD, immediately sensed something wasn’t right. She called Steve, as well as Jennie’s mom, and told them to get home fast.

A different psychiatrist was able to work with Jennie to prescribe more effective medication. During her second pregnancy, she was able to keep the PPD under control with medication and psychotherapy.

Steve has become vocal in encouraging men to be sensitive to the difficulties women face after giving birth.

“I don’t want to sound sexist, but when it comes to mental illness most men just don’t get it,” Steve says." … You’ve gotta learn how to be more sensitive and understand what’s going on in your wife’s head. If I had learned (about PPD), I could’ve saved Jen so much heartache.”

With treatment, Jennie says she began to enjoy motherhood the way she’d always dreamed. Her advice:"If you’re having a hard time, don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help.”

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