Becoming a mother is regarded as one of the most joyful moments in a woman’s life, but for some, motherhood can mean extreme physical and psychological pain.
Doctors report one in seven moms will experience symptoms of Postpartum Depression, also referred to as PPD. The mental health condition presents itself in women after birth affecting them in varying degrees that can last for days or even a lifetime.
One Rogers woman’s desire to be the perfect mother pushed her past the breaking point. She blames post-partum depression for doing the unimaginable.
Amilya Barcenas looked forward to becoming a mom for years and her dream came true April of 2014. She welcomed a baby boy into the world.
“I think she personally put pressure on herself to be the most outstanding mother. She just seemed to have it all together all the time,” says Barcenas’ mother, Kathryn Stiles.
While everything seemed fine for those around here, Barcenas was falling apart.
“I had no clue, no clue,” remembers Stiles.
One year after giving birth, Barcenas found herself living a nightmare. She is currently serving a 6 year prison sentence at the Arkansas Department of Correction after being convicted of trying to kidnap her landlord, a prominent realtor in Northwest Arkansas.
“She wasn’t herself. That is not my daughter,” said Stiles.
During a forensic interview, Barcenas stated she confronted her landlord because she was scared of being evicted resulting in her son not having a place to call home.
A psychiatrist diagnosed Barcenas with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression.
The 29-year-old acknowledges Postpartum Depression isn’t an excuse for her behavior but believes it drove her over the edge. KNWA sent the ADC a request to speak with Barcenas in person but were denied. Instead, we communicated with her through letters.
“Postpartum Depression doesn’t make you a bad mother, it’s normal and it’s fixable and it’s time to have that talk,” wrote Barcenas.
Barcenas’ sister-in law, Nora Landa, understands PPD all to well. She experienced severe symptoms after her first child.
“It was a foggy moment and I think i was just so retired of just rocking her and my husband was afraid to have me in the room with her thinking I would hurt her,” said Landa.
So what exactly is Postpartum Depression? Can it be so extreme to lead a mother to harm her baby or commit a crime?
PPD is defined as depression that occurs after giving birth.
“This isn’t something wrong with them. This is an illness that needs treatment just like any other type of illness,” said Dr. Kristen Markell, an OBGYN with Washington Regional in Fayetteville.
Dr. Markell says she screens women before and after pregnancy for PPD. Doctors estimate one in seven women will experience symptoms in varying degrees that can last for days or a lifetime.
Symptoms can range from intense sadness, to an irrational fear her newborn will be harmed, or worse.
“They can experience psychosis, where they hear things or see things that other people don’t. Or, could be as extreme as feeling suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts or homicidal attempts,” said Dr. Erin Large, also an OBGYN with Washington Regional.
Dr. Markell and Dr. Large say there is plenty of help and resources out there for moms and their families but the first step is to have the courage to speak up, no matter how unnerving it is to admit to having a mental illness.
“We’re afraid, we’re afraid of being criticized because we think we’re supposed to be super mommies,” said Landa.
“We’re not meant to do this alone. We need help from our friends, family, our community,” said Dr. Markell.
Treatment options for Postpartum Depression vary. Doctors recommend first leaning on your loved ones for help, consulting your doctor, and then exploring other options.
“Conservative as counseling or extreme as medication or perhaps an admission to the hospital,” said Dr. Large.
Help for postpartum depression exists right here in Northwest Arkansas, from psychologists to free helplines in multiple languages, including:
Northwest Arkansas Postpartum Depression Therapist, Heather Shy: 479-790-9571
Postpartum Depression Helpline: Postpartum Support International, in English and Spanish: Call: 1-800-944-4773 or Text: 503-894-9453
Postpartum Depression Informative Websites: