TMC nurse named Mrs. Arizona; heightens awareness of postpartum depression

Sarah Barrett.jpgSarah Barrett has been a nurse for more than six years, specializing in serving new mothers and babies.

And even though she helps screen new mothers for postpartum depression, it didn’t occur to her that the sadness she felt and the guilt she carried as a result were rooted in her own struggles with depression.

It wasn’t until she took the screening tool herself that it all clicked into place for the mother of three.

“My score was through the roof,” she recalled of that day in the spring of 2017. “It took seeing it in black and white to help me understand what I had been feeling.”

Barrett, who was recently crowned Mrs. Arizona and will compete in August in the Mrs. America pageant in Las Vegas, will spend a year traveling the state to bring awareness to an issue that many women are afraid to share for fear of being judged.

“I knew when I entered this that I wasn’t going to be afraid to say, ‘This happened to me,’ and to be an example,” said Barrett. “It can happen to anyone and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad mother. It means you’re human and it’s time for the community to embrace and support these women.”

Barrett competed in pageants in college, gaining confidence and interviewing skills as she shared her platform then about pet ownership.

Then came marriage and three children. The first two, her girls, weren’t easy – she had pre-term labor with both, although she made it to term. But her son came four weeks early. “The medical side of me and the logical side of me knew it wasn’t my fault, but as a mother, I felt like I had let my family down,” she said. She cried alone in the hospital the next day, with her son in the newborn intensive care unit and missing her daughter’s fifth birthday party. Driving home from the hospital with an empty car seat was excruciating.

Sarah CrownedBarrett said she pushed down the feelings and resumed her life, only to have them all come crashing in again on his first birthday, when she saw the familiar social media posts that pull photos from a year ago. Seeing him so small and intubated sent her into a tailspin.

She got used to crying in the bedroom, wiping her eyes and putting on a smile for everyone else. Her marriage was strained. “You can’t meet other people’s needs and take care of them if you’re not taking care of yourself,” she said.

It was hearing a friend’s story that left her reaching for the screening survey. “It was so eye-opening for me. All this time, I thought I was alone and there was something wrong with me.”

It was only later she found that in many cases, postpartum depression is triggered by the unexpected: if a woman had planned for a vaginal birth but ended up with a C-section, for example, or if the baby comes early or if there was an unplanned diagnosis. “You formulate the perfect birth in your mind and then when you go home and it’s not that perfect birth, it can be really hard.”

She found healing in the pageant process. “The more I shared my story with women about what I went through, and the more they reciprocated back about what they went through, the more it helped me heal. So the bottom line is don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who you trust.”

Barrett credits TMC for screening every new mother and for its robust weekly postpartum depression group, as well as for its mandatory class for new moms before they go home that touches on everything from properly installing car seats to symptoms of depression to watch for.

Click here for more information about our postpartum and pregnancy depression support group.

She wants to ensure more health providers screen new moms and wants to bring more awareness to support partners, who need tools to share what they’re witnessing. “You want to be careful about how you open those lines of communication: How are you feeling? How are you coping with being a new mother? I know it must be hard getting sleep right now.”

Barrett said her marriage of 11 years is stronger than ever, and she’s found joy in being with her family. She’s also proud of her new role. “This is something we decided to do as a family, so I got the OK from all of them that we would do this. It’s been an amazing experience to be surrounded by these women who are passionate about a cause and involved in making a difference in their communities.”

Need more information about our Postpartum and Pregnancy Depression Support Group? Click here. 

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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