Out Of The Blue

Perinatal Mood Disorders darkened this Okanagan Woman’s days until she got help. Now Tascheleia Marangoni helps other Canadian mothers see the light.

Convinced she was having a boy, when Tascheleia Marangoni gave birth to her first child in 1997, she was surprised, but thrilled. Baby Isabella’s arrival was the first of many unexpected events that would rock the young mother’s world.

Newly married and just 22-years old, she had no idea what was involved in raising an infant. Anyone can read about it—and Marangoni did her homework—but going through the birthing process and bringing up baby is the stuff of real life and Marangoni had a real hard time.

“My heart leapt with every little cry Bella made and right from the beginning, without realizing it, I was worrying all the time about everything.”

Marangoni vividly recalls how guilty she felt exposing her helpless baby to the cold, cruel world on the family’s first outing. When overprotection led to obsessive thoughts about Isabella’s wellbeing and discomfort with others caring for the baby, Marangoni sought reassurance.

“I tried to talk to my mom about it,” she says, “but she was upset I’d married young and had a baby...she didn’t want to be referred to as Grandma, so her position was very clear.” Her husband’s family believed problems were private matters, leaving Marangoni feeling further abandoned and completely terriffed as her obsessive compulsive behaviors spiraled.

“I remember one day looking down at my hands and realizing they were so red and covered in a million, little tiny cuts from washing them so constantly. Running through my head was, out damn spot.”

While some women who struggle with perinatal mood disorders (PMD’s) reject their babies, thankfully Marangoni drew closer to hers. “The one light in all of this was my beautiful baby; she saved me. She gave me a reason everyday to try and be the best version of myself no matter how much of a struggle it was.”

Initially even her husband was defensive, suggesting she was attention-seeking and needed to get used to her new role as mother.

“The further you get down, the harder it is to reach out and to recover,” she says, “especially when your support network doesn’t understand what you’re going through.”

When getting dressed, eating, and leaving the house seemed insurmountable, she recognized she was suffering from depression and sought professional help.

Marangoni attended a support group at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (where she gave birth) and saw a psychiatrist who prescribed antidepressants. When adverse reactions to the meds left Marangoni suicidal, she turned to the Edmonton Family Center, which offers counseling and other innovative services.

Through therapy she began to pick up the pieces—and reach out to others in need.

PMDA Is Born

Having walked a dark road, Marangoni is intimately familiar with excruciating pain, but she’s also proof healing light can illuminate the path for struggling mothers. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the right medications, and a loving

support system (her husband became a wonderful partner) helped her to heal.

In 2010 she teamed up with a psychiatrist friend, running a one-year test project for a support group designed to provide awareness and education for struggling individuals and families. Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness Project (PMDA) grew into a successful non-profit organization, eventually expanding into BC and Saskatchewan.

PMDA offers a large resource website (www.ppda.ca) connecting sufferers with service providers, as well as online connections (including chat forums), especially important for women living in rural communities.

Relocated to the Okanagan, Marangoni works in partnership with the Kelowna Mental Health Association and continues to run PMDA. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work.

Recognizing Perinatal Mood Disorders

Having a baby is a miraculous experience but it’s also an emotionally charged time in a woman’s life. Most feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, and slightly anxious but 10 to 20 % will develop PMD during pregnancy and up to one year after delivery. Sleep deprivation, perceived loss of attractiveness, and sudden loss of independence and identity can contribute to the development of disorders.

If a woman has a history of depression, bipolar disease, recent stressful events, an infant with health problems, a weak support system, financial issues, or an unwanted pregnancy, she is at greater risk.

Baby Blues

Brought on by a sudden drop in hormones after giving birth combined with lack of sleep and overwhelming emotion, 70 to 80% of women develop the baby blues within the first few weeks of delivery. Marked by crying, irritability, anxiety and sleep issues, symptoms generally ease within a couple of weeks.

Post-Partum Depression

Different from the baby blues, post-partum depression occurs in about 10% of births. Symptoms are more severe, last longer than two weeks, and can have significant impact on families. Sadness, crying, depression, loss of interest in usual activities, guilt, worthlessness or incompetence, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, excessive worry about their infant and suicidal thoughts can afflict sufferers.

Perinatal Anxiety Disorders

Panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder can occur, sometimes coinciding with depression. Symptoms might include panic attacks, hyperventilation, excessive worry, obsessive-compulsive activities, restless sleep and repeated thoughts of bad things happening to the baby.

Postpartum Psychosis

This is a very rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery. Symptoms include disorientation, obsessive thoughts about the baby, hallucinations and delusions, paranoia and attempts to harm self or the infant. This condition requires immediate treatment as it can be life threatening.

Ten years after Isabella’s birth, Marangoni was ready for another child. Older, wiser, and well prepared, she welcomed a son—and celebrated when the perinatal period passed without issues.

When her third child— another daughter—came along, Marangoni developed antepartum and postpartum depression and anxiety. Experience combined with local resources, therapy, education and prayer, all helped pull her through. Loving support, medication, regular exercise, a healthy diet including extra vitamin B and magnesium, and letting go of unrealistic expectations, keeps Marangoni going strong.

She admits compulsive thoughts linger in the darkest corners of her mind, but she has learned how to let the light in, largely by helping others— most of all through devotion to her family.

“I have been rewarded with three beautiful children whom I love so much and would not trade for anything,” she says. “A little sacrifice is worth this happiness for sure.”

For more information, visit Marangoni’s site: www.ppda.ca. Tap into a great local resource, the Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna: cmhakelowna.com

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