I was always a person who had to have everything together. Failure was not an option in my book. Neither was asking for help. Then I had a baby.
I was — or I should have been — ecstatic to embark on this new journey. But why was it so difficult? It’s hard to understand how the body that just birthed an entire, beautiful human being can turn on you so effortlessly.
I recall struggling with myself silently, and being scared to look weak in the eyes of my family. I am genetically wired to be good at this. Why is it so difficult? Why am I so scared to speak up?
This continued well past my six-week postpartum appointment. How can six weeks be enough time to know exactly how I’m doing? Physically, yeah maybe. That’s enough time to assess if the stitches had healed, and if your uterus had shrunk, but what about mentally?
‘How are you doing in regard to the baby blues?’ my doctor asked. Baby blues? What’s that, I thought.
Lindsay Clancy, a mother charged with killing her three kids, suffered from postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis. As a new mom to a 10-month-old baby boy, it might shock you that I would say this, but I understand and empathize with how her brain and body feels.
I suffered from postpartum depression and rage and I told no one, too.
I didn’t understand why I was so angry, constantly fighting with my son’s father, and becoming disgusted with who I saw in the mirror. I was engulfed with feeling alone, and couldn’t understand the dark and negative thoughts.
Oftentimes, new mothers struggle with asking for help, seeking compassion and an open ear. It’s hard to not be the one to do everything. Roughly one in seven mothers suffer from postpartum depression, but by some estimates, if you include the cases that go undiagnosed, it may be one in five mothers. Postpartum psychosis (the diagnosis Lindsay Clancy received) occurs in approximately one to two deliveries out of 1,000.
A few more weeks went by and I disclosed to my doctor that I wasn’t okay. I was met with: “Really? We usually see postpartum depression earlier in new mothers.” Why yes, you do. For those who are able to acknowledge what’s happened to them, or swallow their pride and speak up. See, the thought of using antidepressants is scary. Especially when you’re genetically wired to do this so effortlessly. Questions like ‘How will my body respond’ ‘Will things really get better’ ‘Will anyone judge me if they knew I was on medication’ all went through my head.
After the death of Lindsay’s three kids, Cora, Dawson and Callan, women of TikTok began expressing solidarity, and taking a stance on postpartum depression, psychosis and rage. TikTok’s showing how mothers often suffered in silence empowered other women to speak out regarding what they were going through as well, and spread a pinch of empathy toward the situation. It even offered new perspectives for what some may not even know they’re going through. It’s because of efforts like this, from other women who have suffered, that I now understand that this is common.
This May has been Maternal Mental Health Awareness month. We need to continuously be offering more than judgment for women whose bodies have endured experiences we can’t even describe. And recognize that six-week postpartum check ups, with a cookie-cutter checklist, and periodic check-ins from your child’s pediatricians are just simply not enough. It takes your body roughly six to eight weeks to physically heal from postpartum. But the conversation should be about how long it takes your body to heal mentally and spiritually as well.
We need to continuously offer mothers help and support; check in frequently with new moms, and as a society, make sure this conversation isn’t so taboo, and learn the signs.
- Severe mood swings
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Recurring thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, death or suicide
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Difficulty bonding
- Crying too much
If you’re a mother, you can empathize too.
A new maternal health hotline has also been established for mothers or pregnant people who are struggling with their mental health. Anyone in need of assistance can call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746. You can call or text to receive support from trained counselor.