‘The most dark, black hole you can imagine’: Massachusetts moms open up about postpartum experiences

BOSTON — The tragedy in Duxbury involving a mother of three accused of killing her three children has opened up a dialogue about the mental health struggles that many new mothers face.

According to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, one in five women will experience a mental health disorder during pregnancy or in the first year following childbirth.

Boston 25 News sat down with two mothers who are included in that statistic.

Both said they felt compelled to speak up about their experiences to reach other mothers out there who are suffering in silence.

“I would liken it to being in the most dark, black hole you can even imagine,” said Julie Diminico, recalling what she experienced 32 years ago. “You’re looking for a ray of light, but you don’t see it. Not for a very, very long time.”

Diminico said the horrific reports about Lindsay Clancy allegedly strangling her three kids and attempting to commit suicide instantly brought back painful memories.

“It brought 32 years ago back to me. I’ve been emotional since the story broke,” she explained.

Diminico recalled painful thoughts of harming herself and the daughter she brought into this world.

“I was driving one day, and I realized something was seriously wrong with me,” she said. “I got off the highway with her and drove home and said to my husband, I need help. Something is really not right with me at all.”

She described many obstacles in getting help, starting with her first visit to a postpartum depression specialist.

“Within a ten-minute appointment, she handed me a script for Prozac and said take this and call me in a month,” she said.

Decades later, her daughter’s best friend would go on to experience her own struggle with postpartum mental health.

“It’s scary when you have those thoughts,” said Nicole Pelley, mother of a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. “You don’t want to say anything to anybody because you don’t want to be judged.”

Pelley, who works as a nurse, told Boston 25 News that she experienced severe postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of her son.

She said she suffered silently for about eight months before speaking up.

“A wire goes loose in some of us. I knew what I was thinking was wrong,” said Pelley. “You catch yourself thinking things like that’s not right. I shouldn’t be angry at my baby.”

Pelley and Diminico each said they feel lucky to have made it through to the other side with the help of family support.

In the decades that separated their postpartum experiences, they feel the stigma around mental illness for new moms has not changed much.

They both believe postpartum mental health care continues to be inadequate in Massachusetts.

“If you think of how frequently we follow up with the baby, why aren’t we following up that frequently with moms?,” questioned Pelley.

Some lawmakers and advocacy groups in Massachusetts have been focused on increasing mental health screenings for new mothers in recent years.

While a woman typically has one obstetrician visit six weeks after giving birth, a baby typically has about seven visits to the pediatrician in their first year.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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