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Mothers with infants find postpartum support through group therapy

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SEATTLE -- Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications of childbirth according to the CDC.

More than 600,000 women will face postpartum depression every year and that’s exactly why some local moms are finding comfort in group support, through a program called Listening Mothers.

Erin Bernau is a clinical social worker and a group facilitator for Listening Mothers, an organization dedicated to helping moms during postpartum. The focus is taking care of yourself, so you can take care of your family.

I think, for me, the most touching groups are when people are really willing to be open and to share and be vulnerable,” she said. “Find some self kindness, some self compassion.”

Julianna Rigg Hillard was a participant in a group with her second child, Hannelore, who is now 10 months old. She says Listening Mothers allowed her to let down her guard and stop worrying about the little things.

In her group, she never had to worry about saying, “Oh I’m sorry my baby’s crying. Oh no, she has to eat, or he has to eat. They just pooped. Or whatever.”

By participating in Listening Mothers with a group of women going through postpartum emotions, even postpartum depression together, she said she could relate to new mothers who were facing the hard moments that come with a huge life change.

“The good parts are really amazing and the hard parts are really hard. And sort of what makes them hard is that you hold on to them, and it makes them feel like they last forever,” Hillard said.

Facilitators are all trained therapists and teach a technique called mindfulness.

“Mindfulness can be a single moment of taking a deep breath it doesn’t need to be a complex meditation practice,” Bernau said. “I had a mom say a great moment is after you buckle your baby into a carseat and you close the door. You’re walking around to get into drive and you’re able to realize I have a moment here to really breathe.”

Bernau said taking that moment to breathe is not selfish or a bad thing. It is necessary for every mother.

“I often think about it on the airplane when they say put on your own oxygen mask first,” said Bernau. “If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we aren’t going to be there for our babies. Moms who are able to care for themselves are able to more fully attach with their babies; to be present in their families.”

Yaffa Maritz, the founder of Listening Mothers, said it is an organization open to all mothers with infants, whether they are battling postpartum depression or not. Because facilitators are trained therapists, they can more easily detect if a mother has postpartum depression and needs additional medical help.

Karin Matthews, a Listening Mothers facilitator, battled postpartum depression after her pregnancy. She says it is hard to tell the difference between the "baby blues" and depression, but your medical care provider can help you distinguish between the two.

"It doesn't really feel that different from what new parenting is," Matthews said. "I'm not sleeping, I'm not eating, my daughter is tongue-tied, my daughter's not feeding, the relationship is strained because he's also not sleeping."

If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or know someone who is, consult your doctor. You can find more support and information here.

To find out more about a Listening Mothers group near you or the Community of Mindful Parenting, visit their website.