On the outside, Allison Goldstein had it all. The thirty-two-year-old teacher had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was a loving wife, sister, and daughter. To those who knew her growing up, “she was amazing.”
But deep down, Goldstein, pictured below, was fighting a battle that no one knew about. She was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).
According to NBC 12, the disease eventually got the best of her. After dropping off her daughter at daycare, she drove to a deserted area and took her own life.
In an email, she explained the pain she had been enduring, and apologized to those she was leaving behind:
“I'm so sorry that I didn't know how to describe this pain and seek help.”
Goldstein's sister, Mallory Hudson, says she never saw it coming; to her family, Goldstein was a smiling, happy new mom. But the disease made Goldstein feel like anything but. Hudson explains:
“The disease that it is lied to her. It twisted so many of her memories about being a new mom, a wife — so many things — it just lied to her. And it's awful, it's scary, and it happens and it happens so much more often than we realize.”
Hudson is right. Between eleven and twenty percent of new moms experience PPD each year, and during the first year postpartum, suicide is the leading cause of death.
Oftentimes, like in Goldstein's case, no one realizes just how badly the mom is struggling. Hudson notes:
“I mean without a doubt, you did not see this completely normal new mom just fall apart so quickly.”
Goldstein's mom, Carol Mathews, says, "I'm so mad at her,” but realizes that the disease overtook her. And if it can happen to her, Matthews says, it can happen to anyone.
As a result, the family is opening up about their tragedy, hoping to bring awareness to PPD.
About half of the women who are diagnosed with PPD have never experienced a depressive episode before, and some may confuse it with “baby blues.” Speaking with Independent Journal Review, Adrienne Griffen, founder of Postpartum Support Virginia, explains the distinction:
“Baby blues is now the normal adjustment period. Almost all women — about 80 to 85 percent — who have a baby go through the baby blues that lasts about two to three weeks. But if it gets worse or it doesn’t clear up, then we start to get concerned.”
The National Institutes of Health adds that unlike baby blues, where the symptoms are more mild, with postpartum depression the “feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself or her family.”
Common symptoms of PPD include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness.
- Feeling overwhelmed or overly anxious.
- Mood swings that include periods of extreme sadness and uncontrollable crying and excessive irritability, anger, or agitation.
- Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed.
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions.
- Overeating or under eating.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
Griffen says that, often, the anxiety rests around the baby. She recommends paying close attention to these symptoms:
- Feelings of doubt about ability to care for the baby.
- Fear of being left alone with the baby.
- Thoughts about harming yourself or the baby.
Speaking with NBC 12, Hudson notes that in Goldstein's case, there were no red flags, no “big alerts.” But sometimes, the signs are there, and friends and family can dig a little deeper to find them. Griffen suggests taking a closer look and asking new mothers how they are really doing.
“Really listen when a mom is maybe saying things that make it look like she’s asking for help. Take the opportunity to say how is it really going.”
Something important to look out for, says Griffen: can the new mom sleep when the baby sleeps?
“If they can’t that is a big red flag.”
NIH notes that if it seems like a friend or family member may be suffering from PPD, they should “encourage her to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.”
For those having suicidal thoughts, call the twenty-four hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Though Allison Goldstein was unable to get help before it was too late, her memory will continue to live on for her family. They are hopeful that by sharing her story, by bringing light to postpartum depression, they can save the life of another new mother who is suffering.