Last week I opened the Monochrome blog with an explanation of why I wrote a book that opens with a disturbing PPD episode. I shared a little about my OCD Postpartum experience in that blog, and was astounded by the feedback from other mothers who have suffered PPD, and who shared their stories with me. I have been given permission by the following mommas to share these stories, in a two-part blog.
If you are having a baby, just had a baby or are a father dealing with a partner experiencing postpartum depression, I urge you to read on. The feelings/stories shared about the PPD experience are not easy or fun to read, but they are valuable learning experiences. It is time that PPD became a topic of discussion at our pregnancy check-ups. When I had my first and second child, nothing was said about the possibility of PPD. I didn’t know what I was in for or how to fix it. My children are two and four, so it’s not like PPD was a thing that people didn’t know about “back then.” I just had babies! How did I not know what I was going through?
Feeling helpless, terrible and cruel made me wary to speak of my experience with anyone, even a doctor, and especially my husband, who was such a natural father and was clearly head-over-heals in love with our child. How do you tell someone that you have visions of throwing their baby? Shaking her? That you know you won’t but that the terrible thoughts won’t stop coming, and that you feel like a monster? Why is this not a subject that is broached in prenatal care intensively? Why didn’t I, at least, get a brochure? It’s my belief that the subject is too taboo. When it comes to the safety of a newborn, though, should that matter? Shouldn’t mothers feel like they can be heard, treated fairly and helped in their PPD? I think they should. So, moms, dads, and, yes, prenatal care specialists, please experience these stories with us.
Beth Springer: Two Bouts of OCD Postpartum Depression, Never Diagnosed, Prayed for Healing
With my first pregnancy, at the last Trimester, I started having horrible dreams. After my baby was born the dreams stopped but I would have terrible thoughts of harming my baby, like dropping her off the balcony or drowning her, that lasted two months. They would just pop into my head; I couldn’t get them to stop. I was afraid to be left alone with her, and would find excuses to be in public or to go to my mom’s.
It was terrifying. A few months after that subsided, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. The whole pregnancy I stressed because I feared I would have it again. Sure enough, I did. I finally talked to my husband about it. His response was, “Oh, you won’t hurt the baby. You’re being silly.”
This was not something that was talked about, so I didn’t know what to do. I did not know about PPD. So, every time I had a scary thought I started praying and thanking God for making the thoughts go away and for protecting my children. I do not know why, but it worked. Well, I shouldn’t say I did not know why, prayer worked for me. Every time a thought would start to pop in my head I prayed,”Thank you God for removing these thoughts and for protecting my babies.” With in a week, I was doing better, once in a while the thoughts would come, but were always managed with my prayer. I had two other babies after that, but started praying before I gave birth and I did not have it with the last two babies.
I know it is different with everyone. It should be addressed as part of your regular checkups at the Dr.’s. I think more women have it than care to admit. I am not sure what even causes it, but it is the worst experience I have ever had or will ever have. I do not understand why it is not a huge part of your health care during that time. They talk about hemorrhoids but not PPD. I tried to warn my girls, but it is such an awful experience that I think fear of being thought of as a bad parent or mom keeps women quiet.
Laura Jones: First Baby, Cried Non-stop, Saw Herself Hurting Baby, Sought Help After 10 Weeks
Well, with Tori it was really bad. I sat and cried all the time. She was so sick, and cried all the time with me. Andy or my mother in law could get her to stop crying. I felt like she hated me, which I know was stupid, but at the time I was so lost. Sometimes I saw myself hurting her. I never did it, but it scares the hell out of you. One time, I saw myself pick her up and throw her at the wall. I think a lot of mine was I felt inadequate as a mother because I was unable to breast-feed. I was mad at her; she wouldn’t latch on to my breast.
After I went back to work, it had been about two weeks, so Tori was about ten weeks old. Andy said, “I can’t take it anymore! I don’t know what the f#@! is wrong with you but you need to call the doctor and you need some drugs or something. I can’t help you. I can’t live like this, and I will leave with Tori.” Was that the best way to do it? NO. But he had tried talking to me about before, and I just pushed him away, so he felt he had to say and do something that would make me realize there was something wrong.
Sarah Dunn: First Baby, Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
I think a lot of what I dealt with had to do with being a first time mom. I never felt these feelings with my second child, Trenton, but I was lost with Emma, my first. I felt all alone, like the first person who had ever had a baby, and I was failing at it. I loved her so much, but she was a fussy baby. There were days where I didn’t shower or eat, for that matter. It put a huge strain on my marriage, as well, so I think I resented her for ruining the “easy life.”
I do remember a few times, though, when she would cry and I would cry and I would think about putting a pillow over her face, or even just getting in the car and leaving so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I never hurt her, but there were days I just put her in her bed and let her scream because I was afraid that I would if I held her anymore. My problems didn’t last too long. Eventually, all the scary thoughts went away and things were fine. I’m not sure I realized at the time that I had a bout of baby blues. Doctors don’t ever tell you about that, but I am glad that you are shining some light on the subject.
Twitter Response: Postpartum Depression Article Tweet
My eyes well up when I think about those days because they were so dark! I am glad to have survived them.
A few more moms have bravely offered to step up and tell their stories next week, in the second part of “Shedding Light on Darkness.” Their stories are full, harrowing and potent. Please visit the blog next Monday to read these detailed accounts. It is my hope that all these stories will help mothers suffering from PPD to feel at ease. Talk to your doctors, mammas. You’re not alone. If you’re experiencing PPD symptoms, you should also visit the site: Postpartum.Net, which is a wonderful support system for many mothers. I hope that seeking help after the fact becomes a thing of the past.
Beth Springer made the astute remark that doctors are comfortable discussing hemorrhoids with patients, but that a PPD discussion was not addressed in her prenatal care. I’d like to challenge healthcare professionals to take a bolder, more hands-on approach to PPD. Beth had babies in the 80’s, but my experience was similar in 2010. I know many new mothers who were shocked and ashamed of their PPD symptoms; they didn’t realize what they were dealing with when it happened.
After my first child was born, I was made to watch a traumatic video on Shaken Baby Syndrome before being released from the hospital. The information provided by the video was important, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just stared, confused, at the screen. I protectively cradled my tiny newborn, her tiny arms pumping erratically. Her fragility was so frightening that I held her as if she were a crystal vase rather than a flesh and blood being. “Why would anyone need to be told not to harm their baby,” I thought, as I smoothed sparse hair over her squishy head. That video never mentioned PPD, and two weeks later I saw myself (in my mind’s eye, not in reality) shake my new baby. I lay her down on in her cradle, stepped away, my hands trembling, and thought of killing myself.
I’m still here, thankfully. As a bipolar woman, PPD should have been a major concern for my doctors. I have an imbalance already, so it’s hard to know why no one noticed it outside of my private circle, except that I could not bring myself to speak about it. The words were too terrible. Well, here they are. Years too late. But, hopefully, early enough to help other mothers understand that they are not alone. Stay tuned for the final installment of “Moms Speak” next week. Thank you, mommas, for sharing your painful experience. It is my hope that it will help someone who needs the comfort of company and understanding.