I HAD POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND I NEVER – NOT EVER WANTED TO HARM MY CHILD.
Yes, that’s what I said – read it again! I had postpartum depression and I NEVER – NOT EVER wanted to harm my child.
Lately with the recent tragedy of Lisa Gibson Postpartum depression has been in the news a lot. Unfortunately, the facts about this illness are not being reported properly. The fact is Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum psychosis (PPP) are not the same. I have met many parents who experienced PPP, who spoke up, asked for help receive treatment and have taken excellent care of their children.
I’ve had calls from moms and dads worried because they saw somewhere that this is common, that most people with a PPD will harm their child, that this is average.
FACT: the majority of people with a post-partum mood disorder does NOT have thoughts of harming their child. We sometimes have irrational thoughts and some of those include fearful thoughts of something happening to their child and taking that child away. However, rarely are the thoughts that we would actually do something.
For example, when my daughter was about 4 months, I fell on the stairs the night before. I immediately started thinking about what if Katelyn was in my hands, what if I had fallen on her, what if… this irrational fear that my daughter who I love and cherish could be have gotten hurt played out in my mind in many ways. It led to irrational thoughts where I could picture myself falling down the stairs with her in my arms. This resulted in me spending a whole day on the main floor of our house until my husband got home because I did not want to be alone – in case I really did fall with her in my hand.
Do you see the difference? It’s not that I wanted to hurt her, it’s that my anxiety that something could happen to her led to irrational behaviour.
I fell in love with my daughter the moment I saw her – with this love came a fear that I had never experience before. The realization that this was real responsibility was overwhelming. The fact that I was responsible for keeping this child alive was overwhelming; the loneliness of not having any peers around that I could connect with was overwhelming. The anxiety that I could lose the most precious thing I have EVER had was overwhelming and all of this contributed to me developing postpartum depression and anxiety.
Guess what, before you comment or report on what a postpartum mood disorder mean, learn the facts!
Just because a mom or a dad has a postpartum mood disorder it does not mean that:
- They do not love their child
- They have thoughts of harming their child
- They have attachment issues with that child
I included dads who are often left out of this discussion because the fact is 1 in 10 men in Canada will experience a postpartum mood disorder www.lifewithnewbaby.ca
Most often it is the LOVE for that child that pulls us through Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. It is our goal to be a better parent, a protector, a good role model that pulls us through. It is the fact that in the void that becomes our world our child is the ONLY good thing, and we hold on to that and cherish that. We experience the love that our baby gives us, we hold onto it, and we try each day to be better and do better for that child.
I cannot give you someone else’s story – I can only share mine. While I was in the deepest pit of sadness, loneliness, isolation, fear and anxiety it was my love for my little girl that made me reach out and find out what was wrong. It was the love for her that made me go see my doctor; It was the love for her that made me seek counselling. It was my LOVE for her that inspired me to create Life With A Baby www.lifewithababy.com I created this peer support network because finding peers is what saved me. Peers was what I needed in my situation. After learning that peers support reduces depression by 50% I knew that I wanted to do something that would prevent others from having to go through what I did.
I get extremely frustrated with the News, and the media in general for reporting only the bad! Postpartum depression does not come up unless something negative happens. The Media does not share the positive stories of what experiencing a postpartum mood disorder sometimes accomplish.
The fact that the media and News only speaks about postpartum depression when something bad happens contributes to the freaking stigma that parents who are experience this illness have to live with! And to make matters worse – often time the information that is reported about the illness is wrong! Is it because people are more likely to read about a negative, scary story? I don’t know.
I’m curious as to why the conversations are happening only after a tragic story? Why is this?
If we want to paint an accurate view of what postpartum mood disorder is like, we need to share the GOOD and the bad, just like everything else in life.
Guess what, it was a horrible experience – it was despair at its worst. Yet, if I could go back – I would not change it. If I changed that experience there are other things that would change, the life I have today would be different. I have two wonderful, healthy, happy children. I am truly content with my parenting and I feel blessed. My postpartum journey led me to here – I would not change that.
This is what the Best Start Maternal Newborn Centre had to say:
some parents experience irrational thoughts and may see repetitive pictures of harm in their minds eye, even without any other symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder. Apparently this happens to about 40% of new parents (dads included) mostly during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first few weeks or months postpartum. The theoretical thinking behind this is that parents need to adapt their protective system to protecting themselves only to now being responsible for a little life as well. A lot of things can happen and these thought flash into their minds. Sometimes it is linked to common tasks or circumstances (what if I dropped my baby in the bath, what if I dropped my baby when I am carrying her/him downstairs?) Sometimes the thoughts get more irrational, for example while cutting vegetables for supper, they may see a knife hurting the baby. Often the more they struggle against these thoughts, the more often they appear seemingly unprovoked and out of nowhere. How do we know it is a “normal” parenting response? I don’t think we can ever be completely complacent. A good assessment by a skilled professional would be very helpful here. In the meantime, getting someone to talk about these thoughts and images is very powerful. It does a couple of things. 1) it makes the parent realize that the thought, picture is irrational and they often confirm that they would never act on this. 2) it makes the parent realize that this happens to others as well. It has been shown that after parents talk about these thoughts and images there experience of them will lessen. That all being said, a good assessment by a skilled professional is probably a good idea.
Guess what? When we talk about postpartum challenges only after a tragedy it leads to creation of negative stigma, it increases fear in new parents, it makes the mom or dad who was going to ask for help think twice about it.
And remember, we all LOVE our children and want the best for them – even the moms and dads who are having a difficult transition to parenting.
Founder of Healthy Start, Healthy Future and the Life With A Baby program.