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Postpartum Psychosis Survivor (Pinay Mom NYC)

January 9, 2012

Hearing things that weren’t there was bad; keeping silent about it was worse.

For months after my daughter was born via C-section, I felt miserable and pathetic. I had been so independent prior to giving birth at 31; then I saw myself as this needy, ugly thing, financially dependent on a husband who was suffering through his own depression. I feared he didn’t love me. With my family 3000 miles away, I watched the laundry and dishes pile up. Worst of all, I heard things.

Not voices, per se, but laughter–a quiet, but biting mocking laughter that seemed to arise whenever I was tired, alone, and trying to breastfeed my baby. I also sensed a hand pressing down on top of my head, as if trying to break in through my skull. I’d scream, waking my baby and alerting my husband to something terribly wrong. Eventually, I told him. A neuroscientist by training, he was familiar with what was happening to me and assured me that I wasn’t “crazy.” I did some internet research and found that I was experiencing post-partum psychosis. Well, great, I thought. Now let me get back to adjusting to motherhood, thank you very much.

Only the adjustment to this new role, this new body–this new life–still shook the very core of my sanity. And I kept trudging through, silently. I loved my daughter. I hated my life.

When she was 10 months old, I tried to kill myself using the unused painkiller meds prescribed for me after my C-section. A fight with my husband triggered off what I had been quietly plotting to do for months. I swallowed four pills before he wrested the remaining meds out of my hand and flushed them down the toilet. We talked throughout the night. I decided to seek professional help. I decided to live.

Searching for a care-provider that took my insurance was humiliating. The bureaucratic run-around and telephone-tag belittled my condition, making me feel even more guilt and shame for my experience. Did no one realize that post-partum depression with psychosis required immediate medical attention? I went to the one place that could definitely spot a life-threatening condition when they saw one. I checked into the ER with a simple note: I am going to kill myself. That was the beginning.

It’s been 9 months since I voluntarily committed myself for a three-day stay as a psychiatric patient in the very same hospital in which I had given birth. 9 months of reflecting, re-prioritzing, and cleaning-up. 9 months of getting to know my daughter and getting re-acquainted with my husband and myself. The last 40 weeks haven’t always been easy. But they’ve helped me to acknowledge and accept my husband’s love, and to nurture my family, my career and my needs–no matter how difficult. I love my daughter. I love my life.

I urge everyone out there to question why the physical and psychological toll of motherhood should bring about so much shame, so much silence. It needn’t be this way. Stigma and silencing are often just symptoms of ignorance. Most people don’t recognize that we mothers can love and adore our children and still feel intense pain transitioning into our new lives. Transition can be brutal. But what hurt me and my family more was keeping quiet about it until it was almost too late. Who benefits from maintaining the stigma–the ignorance–around post-partum psychosis? What false ideas of motherhood does this stigma uphold? If people took seriously the personal and medical havoc brought on by motherhood, imagine how we might change maternity policies, healthcare, career-planning—our idea of womanhood, itself.

My daughter is napping in my arms as I write this. Soon she will wake, and the silence will be over. I can only hope.

Thank you for reading.

pic 1: Me a couple months before my 30th birthday, and about 8 months before getting pregnant.
pic 2: A week before giving birth.
pic 3: I took-up pole-dancing as a way to reclaim my body. Here I am attempting a (flawed) outside leg-hook, 15 months post-partum.
pic 4: My little monkey!

~Age: 32
~Number of pregnancies and births: 3 pregnancies, 1 birth
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: 1 daughter, 19 months

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11 Responses to “Postpartum Psychosis Survivor (Pinay Mom NYC)”

  1. kris Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 10:47 am

    You are strong and beautiful! You are awesome for sharing this. Thank you.

  2. Catherine S Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    This is very, very similar to my own experience. Transitioning to motherhood was(and sometimes still is) the most difficult experience of my life. I think it is a combination of a greater cultural issue of unrealistic expectations of mothers, and lack of support both through our families and communities. It is sad that it often takes new mothers being suicidal to take action, but it took that for me as well. I hated being a formerly confident, powerful, strong woman and feeling like I begging the people around me for help. It all fell on deaf ears to my family, friends, and even my husband. He took my unhappiness personally, and was angry and refused to help. I have tried and tried some more to see my first son’s infancy in a positive light and I just can’t do it. The silver lining is that my experience with my second son was very different which was such a relief! I still had some emotional ups and downs, but it was not.at.all like the first time. So, there is hope for women who have PPD/ Psychosis. It doesn’t always have to be that way.

  3. Anna Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    This is an amazing story and I ADMIRE you greatly for sharing this! So many women have the same exact struggle and are so afraid to share when sharing may be the key to their freedom and help with postpartum! Your body is beautiful and I am so glad you are embracing that!

  4. Mina Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for being brave enough to choose to live, fight for your own needs, and share the experience with the rest of us. I am honored to have read your story. Peace.

  5. Jo Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    This is a well-written piece.

    I too have felt this way and it is an awful place to be, at what should be one of the happiest times of our lives.

    Only now when my children are 5 and 3 am I getting the help I needed and each day is still difficult for me. I am not a ‘natural’ at being a mother.

    I feel a great sadness when i see a newborn now, that I couldn’t enjoy the experience and I’ve lost that opportunity. The earlier once seeks help the better. It may take a while to find the best way to cope, especially without family support. For me, it was a good counsellor, anti-depressants and for my children to become more independent.

    My heart goes out to anyone in this position. Please don’t feel afraid, recognise where you’re at and seek help early.

  6. Sara Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I had PPD with my daughter, now 21 months old. It was not as bad as it could have been, due in part to the incredible support I got from my husband and parents, and OBGYN, who at my 6 week check – up identified it and gave me the information I needed to get help.

    It was a dark place for me, a usually up- beat, glass – half – full type of person. Crying, feeling anxious, feeling needy all the time. Not a fun way to be, and it prevented me from fully enjoying my daughters fleeting first few weeks.

    I applaud you for sharing your story. There is NO shame in PPD or PPP. You cannot control it, you just need to have the strength to get the help you need, as early as you can.

    I

  7. Jeannie Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you for writing this. It helps everyone to realize that these conditions are real and can be treated.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  8. Sarah Says:
    January 12th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story!!!

  9. April Says:
    January 12th, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    I think your experience is similar to what my friend’s wife went through. Their son is now about 3 years old. When he was about a year old the mother was going through something strange (for lack of a better word). Thinking someone would steal her child, that someone meant her harm etc. Really scary stuff. I don’t think post partum depression is a shame. Keeping quiet can do a lot more harm. Thank you for sharing your story.I wish you a good recovery. .

  10. Tosha Says:
    January 13th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    You are beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing! We as women should not be ashamed or afraid to talk about & get help for these real & serious conditions. What is shameful is the health care system that will do everything they can to get out of helping us get the care we need & deserve!

  11. Rachel Says:
    September 30th, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    ???thank you for being so brave to share. I’m desperately trying to find someone who has been through post partum psychosis that can answer some questions and help my family understand.please email me at rjdelta@yahoo.com. any help appreciated. Thanks.

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