It’s taken me two years, 7 months, 5 days and a lot of courage to finally share my postpartum experience.
I know that every type of funk that comes with postpartum depression is equally as awful due to the anxiety, extreme sadness, fear and rage that accompanies it. I also have mentioned before that I suffer from postpartum depression. The type that showed up for me ultimately shook me to my core and it’s gut-wrenchingly hard, as well as embarrassing, to talk about. Which is probably why I have taken so long to put it down on paper.
I had UNWANTED, disgusting, intrusive and frequent thoughts about hurting my baby actually any baby and it scared me half to death.
Now, I feel like I must clarify this before I go any further, I am a good mother. I am attentive, I am nurturing and I love my daughter more than life itself. The fact that I feel the need to even state that just proves that this topic is not talked about enough. Trust me, I have scoured the internet looking for articles to set my rapid and unruly mind at ease, and, with dismay, often came up feeling more confused and alone.
In my case I suppose calling it POSTpartum isn’t entirely true, thinking back there were some serious warning signs from about 16 weeks. I honestly thought I was just in a bit of a funk because I didn’t feel a “connection” with the tiny human growing inside me. I spoke to a few people and searched the internet and they assured me that it is normal, so I just put it down to hormones.
Halfway through my pregnancy the thoughts started. I would have these vivid flashes of the most gruesome things being done to babies. Mostly small children being raped but also babies being beaten. They would be so real that I would start crying. I remember at one point thinking about those series on the crime channels “The Making of a Serial Killer/Psychopath” and honestly thought that this is my path, I am becoming a psychopath and do horrible things to children and I am going to go to jail and I will not be able to raise my child. I even timelined my 29 years on this planet to try and find warning signs. (I didn’t realize how ill I was -there was no rational thinking)
I told my husband at some point that I was having visualizations of babies being hurt, I was too embarrassed to tell him exactly what I was thinking. Him trying to be as supportive as what he could with the limited information I was sharing, tried to assure me that I was becoming a mother, and it’s normal to be oversensitive. I left it at that and tried to convince myself that it’s just hormones and once she was born it will be okay. also remember at some point during my pregnancy that I was scared that I would harm my baby with what I was thinking, tarnish her innocence, like she could somehow see what was going on in my head. My reality was augmented to say the least. I didn’t talk to anyone because I thought it was just me, and I was way too embarrassed.
The first time I set my eyes on my daughter, I felt like I grew an entirely new heart for her. I’m not sure whether to say the connection was instant for me but I definitely felt honoured to be her mother. I would spend hours staring at the intricacies of her face, the wrinkles in her toes and the details of each little finger. I was in mommy heaven. That is, of course, until I wasn’t.
On the second night in hospital my dear daughter started scream crying. And I remember thinking I don’t know if I can do this.
After we got home from hospital a few days later, I noticed that every so often my flashes would return, but this time my baby was involved. From hitting her head accidentally on the door as I walked down the hallway to her suffocating in her sleep, to me dropping her. Sometimes when they happened, I would experience a visceral response such as feeling sick to my stomach, heart palpitations, sweaty hands or shortness of breath. I think the worst one was when I was alone with her and my husband went to go get something. She was screaming again and I just couldn’t settle her and I got this flash where I took her into the garage and laid her on the floor so that my husband could drive over her. I think that was the moment I realized something Was incredibly wrong and not getting better. After that incident refused to do anything alone with her. I didnt want to go to mommy meetings, I was absolutely paranoid. The thoughts continued, I was exhausted but hardly slept. I hated night feedings, I would literally sit and cry while I fed her. And while the world slept, my brain would be in overdrive, trying to find other happy things to think about so that I can suppress these horrible thoughts.
I became reclusive with those that I loved. I was ashamed of myself. I was convinced that I was a bad person, and, in my darkest moments, thought about ending it all so I could make these horrible thoughts stop. I felt as if my brain had turned on me and everything I longed for in life, that the vision I had of myself as a mother and a wife was quickly dissipating and I couldn’t do a single thing about it.
I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, even my husband or my mother. I feared that they would look at me like the monster I thought I had become, so I stayed silent. I also wanted to “be strong” and I thought that if I asked for help, I would be viewed as weak. So I stayed silent.
About 3 weeks after Mila was born I took her for her check-up and the nurse suggested I see a psychiatrist. At first , when she suggested it I just started crying hysterically, I didn’t have a problem, I wasn’t sick, I was just tired. My husband and family encouraged me to take the appointment.
I was put on anti-anxiety medication and anti depressants and
thankfully after many months of recovery, I am doing so much better. I have learned that those thoughts are not me. I have learned to not give them as much weight and notice the more I speak out about my experience, the more I hear “oh me too.”
I found out that nearly 57% of women who are experiencing postpartum depression also experience obsessive thoughts (source). I guess I haven’t been alone this whole time.
Not once did a professional ask me to my face how I was doing or normalize for me what postpartum is really like for many women. I didn’t know you could suffer from antinatal depression either.
I finish off by pleading with you now, to promise to not be silent like I was. We have to continue to talk, to share, to relate to one another so that we can blur and blend our experiences as human beings, so we don’t let one more new mother feel alone.