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I spend my days advocating for maternal mental health now, but I did not always feel the way I do now.
A year ago I came to the realization that had I not gotten Postpartum Anxiety & Depression after the birth of my daughter eight years ago; I probably would have been a perpetrator of stigma around this disorder.
There was a conversation online where someone posted "Who has time for postpartum depression?". The online community went nuts attacking this mom, and at that moment I realized that could have been me. I completely understood where she was coming from.
I find mothering joyful; I love being out and about with my kids. I find they are compatible with my personality and for the most part easy to manage. I've have a lot of patience, and my kids are well behaved; we can take them anywhere. I find it easy to travel with them whether it's a 21-day trip road trip or on flights. They eat well and they sleep well. Because of all the reasons listed above, parenting is relatively easy for me. If not for the experience that I had, It would have been hard for me to understand how someone could become depressed after the birth of a baby that they wanted.
Before my experience, I thought postpartum depression was something people had just because they read it somewhere. If they didn't know they could have it, they wouldn't have gotten it.Being Jamaican, where mental health is something that is hidden and not talked about much in our culture, I believed that Postpartum Depression only happened to wealthy white women who were bored with their lives and didn’t appreciate what they had.
There were many myths I heard about Post-Partum Depression (PPD) before having my daughter. The two that stuck in my mind the most was that PPD meant you did not love your baby, and Black women did not get PPD. While I was pregnant, I read about Postpartum Depression, but I just glanced it over. I'm Black; I'm strong. It won't happen to me. Moreover, I have everything I’ve ever wanted, and I have a lot of things planned for my year of vacation. Who has time for Post-Partum Depression?
When my daughter was born, I loved her with a passion. I fell in love with her right away, and I wanted to protect her from everything. I worried that something might happen to her, and I started becoming anxious about something bad happening to her. So you can imagine how shocked and confused I was to hear the words “I think you have postpartum depression.” How could I have PPD if I love my baby?
The thing was, though, I loved my baby so much I was scared I to going to lose her somehow. I loved my baby so much I spent a whole day on the first floor of my house because I had an irrational fear that I would fall the stairs with her. I loved my baby so much; I was worried I would die and wouldn’t be around to protect her. I loved my baby so much I feared almost everything; a fear that I did not know existed was born within me. Here was the baby my heart had wished for, and all I wanted to do was to love her and protect her from ever being hurt. And then, that thought: what if something happened to her?
Fear coupled with that fierce love I had for my daughter would be the beginning of something that pulled me deep into a very dark and lonely place that I had to fight with all my might to climb out of. There are days like today when I remember those days and I am just filled with gratitude and joy that I took that very first step in asking for help. And I didn't allow stigma to stop me from reaching out for help.
I remind myself, and everyone who will listen that the most important thing to understand is that PPD does not discriminate, your race or socio-economic status does not matter. And it does not mean that you do not love your baby. Like other disorders, there is a spectrum. Now I spend my days trying to prevent other mothers from experiencing what I went through, breaking down stigma towards postpartum depression, and helping others reach out for help.
When I see someone perpetuating stigma towards mothers who reach out for help, I remind myself that that person could have been me. They are not trying to mean; they simply don't understand. And I take the time to educate them on the disorder instead of telling them how wrong they are. Unless you or someone you know experienced Post-Partum Depression, it is hard to understand how a mom can be sad and depressed after the birth of a baby. Education and awareness around the symptoms and risk factors for postpartum depression makes a big difference in a new mom knowing she is not alone, and it's OK to reach out for help.
To learn more about Postpartum Depression and coping strategies we have a list of resources at Postpartum Depression Resources