New mothers often hear about the joys of having a baby, but for many new moms, the days following the birth of a child are the hardest of their lives.
A phone line is acting as a life-line for women suffering from postpartum depression.
A smiling mom holding her beautiful new baby girl-- it's the image of what Rena Ciolek knew motherhood was supposed to look like. But behind her smile, she says she was scared and lonely. But even she wouldn't realize the seriousness of her depression until about a week after she gave birth, on a night now burned in her memory.
"I put her in her crib, I called my husband, I said 'get home right now,'" Ciolek recalls.
It was one of the first nights she was home alone with her newborn, as her husband works nights. It was midnight, she was exhausted, and her baby wouldn't stop crying.
"I will never forget, I was holding her and there was a pillow behind her head. And I just thought, that if I put that pillow on her face, she'll stop crying," she said.
Rena had learned about postpartum depression. She knew to call her husband right away
"He came home and the next day I immediately got help," she said.
And she also knew what to do when with her second daughter, depression hit again.
"I don't deserve these two beautiful children, I should just not be here," she said.
She called a fellow mom who had been through the same thing.
"It's really scary to say 'I'm thinking about taking a whole bottle of pills.' It's super scary to say that to somebody."
But she found the courage and she survived. Now she is the person on the other side of the line, helping new moms through her experiences.
"It's really just a listening ear and saying, 'I get it, that's tough, I remember that, it was horrible.'"
She's one of about two dozen moms who volunteer as peer support for SSM Health's moms' line.
"Moms are often told, 'that's just normal, you just feel bad but it will get better,' and it does get better, but it often takes support."
That support comes from moms who know what it was like to need it. The line also helps connect moms with professional resources so they can seek medication and other treatment.
Connecting with people who would listen saved Rena's life, and now she hopes to save others and show them that some day, their smile will be genuine, and once the darkness passes, their babies will some day be their greatest source of light.
Any mom who needs help may call the moms' line. The number is 314-768-MOMS.
SSM also hosts a peer support group for moms. You can learn about it by calling the line.