When will the stigmatization of postpartum depression finally meet its end?
After I gave birth to my daughter 11 years ago it felt incredibly difficult to breathe. I felt overwhelmed with a sadness and bleakness about my life that both frightened me and had me feeling intensely shameful. This was supposed to be the most awe-inspiring and revelatory moment of my life as a woman. It was supposed to shock my heart, body and soul with all these hormones raging with the desire to cuddle and breastfeed my baby with wild abandon. It was supposed to finally solidify my place in this world and assimilate me into this society of women, all my life, I’d waited to become. A MOTHER. Unfortunately those feelings were not the ones I was harboring. Rather I felt completely unqualified to be the full-time caretaker of this little breathing thing. I felt this odd sense of detachment as well. I looked at this baby and felt afraid and anxious- rather than that swooning all encompassing love.
I was also tired; my husband was tired. We didn’t have a baby nurse it was just the two of us. He worked full time and my full time job was supposed to be taking care of our baby-who I’d spent the previous nine months growing and cooking. Except I wanted to scream and beg him not to leave me. I wanted to unload all these crazy thoughts I was having- that I couldn’t take care of a baby, that I’d make some kind of tragic mistake. I worried something bad would happen to our baby. I worried everyone would blame me.
I wanted to run away and in the same breath and thought I wanted to share all these feelings with someone- someone who could take this baby and do a better job raising her than I ever thought I could . But I was so scared to admit that I-one who was blessed with a happy, healthy and normal newborn- could be harboring such grotesque thoughts. I felt like my body was on fire. I also thought I was alone in these feelings, and 11 years ago-I dared not utter this truth out loud for fear a judge would put me in an asylum and ban me from ever conceiving again. And why didn’t I feel I could confide in my better half; my husband? Perhaps for much of the same reasons this Harlem Mother Z”l didn’t confide in hers. She feared his wrath, his blame, his disdain.
So why am I writing this now- 11 years later. Because this poor Harlem Mother seemed to be experiencing all these very same signs- now classified and highly publicized as postpartum depression. And you would think in 2013- this woman would, upon seeing these changes in herself and harboring these thoughts- seek help. You would think her husband and nuclear family would have been clued into the warning signs- before she leapt to her death with her baby strapped to her belly. And yet here we are in 2013 and this woman- and how many others like her- are victims of postpartum depression that goes untreated. And I guess my question is why- why is there is there still so much shame?