We all tell our birth stories. Beautiful or traumatic, they are told. We can recite clearly how long labor was, what time baby arrived, and how it was to hold him or her. We discuss epidurals and labor balls, nurses and OBs. We lament about exhaustion and contractions. But there is one thing we don’t talk about. Our postpartum story.
People told me I would be tired. They told me I would be overwhelmed. They told me to take it easy and rest. They told me 4 diapers in an hour was normal. They reminded me to eat. They encouraged me to sleep. But there is one thing no one ever told me.
No one ever told me I might think about killing my baby.
That’s tough to write. It’s tough to read. But it’s about as real and as raw as it gets. It’s the truth and it needs to be told. This was my reality. This was my secret. This is my postpartum story:
I have always struggled with a high level of anxiety. Ever since I was a young girl, it’s just been a part of my health I have to manage. My pregnancy and birth weren’t traumatic. I was high risk and had a car accident at 30 weeks, but things progressed perfectly. She was a healthy little babe and birth was pretty textbook. I had that new baby high the first couple days in the hospital. We had a few visitors. We were tired and ready to be home.
That first night home was terrifying. I had a panic attack. I looked at this tiny little human sleeping in her bassinet and panic came over me. I immediately was convinced she was going to stop breathing that night. Convinced as the night was dark. I didn’t deserve her, and she was going to be taken from me. I started to shake and cry silently. Thanks to my husband and my mom, I was able to ride it out and calm down. But that panic never really left.. it was like it’s claws left a mark. It was still lurking.
The next 6 months were a blur to be honest. I can’t really tell you exactly when things happened or about the slippery slope of Postpartum Depression. Depression. That word is so overused. It makes it seem like I just had a bad month on my couch with some hot soup. It doesn’t grasp the darkness that encompassed me for months. It doesn’t explain the vast depth of that darkness. It doesn’t even shed light onto the intrusive thoughts.
I struggled along in new parenthood as most do. We had a very colicky baby, and I spent hours bouncing her on a yoga ball just to not hear the blood curdling screams. Yes, we tried everything from chiropractic care, to lactation consultants, to probiotics. You name it we did it. She was having just as much as a hard time as me. Sleep was non-existent. We didn’t have a schedule, not due to my lack of trying. It was just rough. I don’t remember when things got really bad, but somehow, at some point they did. I spent many long days and nights in tears. I pulled it together just enough when I saw friends or family, or we had an outing. But behind closed doors, I was engulfed in this darkness. I became quick to anger, and almost felt out of control of myself. And the thoughts. The thoughts came without warning. I thought about killing myself. I thought about killing her. I never had the urge. It was more like a movie – like you watch it and the scenes play over in your mind? Like that. I would imagine her being tossed down the steps or out the window. Left in the snow to freeze or drowned in the tub. I would imagine myself driving off a bridge or into a wall. I would imagine throwing myself down the stairs or out the window. It was dark. It was lonely. Most of all it was scary.
I knew I needed some help but paranoia set in. If someone did help me with the baby and I had some alone time, the thoughts swirled relentlessly. And, since she wasn’t with me, I wasn’t sure if I did do something to harm her. I was paranoid that someone else would hurt her. I accepted less and less help, because it was the only way I could “control my reality”. I wanted to tell someone but who could I tell? They would take her from me. I wasn’t a fit mother. I couldn’t even tell my husband. What would he say? Would he not love me anymore? He was already stressed with work and upset the house was always a mess. I couldn’t burden him with this too. Most days, I dreaded the night time. That’s when it was the worst. And one night, 3 am, bouncing on that god forsaken ball, I found a blog. A blog that gave a name to what I was experiencing. Intrusive thoughts. The tears came flowing as I read more and more. I was normal. I wasn’t a bad mom. I wasn’t alone. There was help. I needed to get to help. Finally I did, and slowly began to heal. I went back to work and our baby grew. It’s been 2 years and I am just now able to talk openly about it. It’s made me fear having a second child, to go through that darkness again. But the worst part about it was the silence. The loneliness. The empty. I am here to break that silence. End the stigma. If you are struggling with this, YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM. Get help. Tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence as I did. She and I made it out alive, some don’t. If you are someone who can’t grasp their mind around this, and want to say something negative, keep it to yourself. You encourage the stigma. We have to support parents. In an age of internet trolls and parent-shaming, no wonder we suffer isolated. It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you are local to Maryland, contact me and I can connect you with the resources you need. If you are elsewhere, please reach out to a trusted family member or friend. Show them this and say, “this is me and I need help”, if you can’t get the right words out. You don’t have to suffer. There are places online to find local support like here and here. Parents deserve kindness and support. It will take time to heal. And hang in there. It will get better.
- For more information on Postpartum Depression, including national help lines: The Mayo Clinic
- More PPD Stories & more
- Postpartum Support International
Mary can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.