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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Postpartum Psychosis

Is Postpartum Psychosis as Scary as is Seems...

Yes and No. While it is the scariest and most concerning of the PPMD's(Postpartum Mood Disorders); there is only a 5% suicide/infanticide rate. So while that does seem like such a small percentage rate alongside an illness that only occurs on roughly 1-2 births out of 1,000. Does anyone want to raise their hand and volunteer to be in that 5% that end in tragedy?
Yeah, I didn't think so... 



As I read the many stories(well let's face it All the stories) about women coming forward to share their experience with Postpartum Psychosis; I read the same sentiments over and over. They were afraid to be labeled a baby killer or one of "those" women (and it's usually Andrea Yates) who tried to harm their kids. 

Well, there's a reason PPP is considered a medical emergency; and it is because of the risk to the mother and child. The reason women are afraid in part to talk about it for fear of being labeled? We do the labeling. The media grabs ahold of a tragic story to make headlines and we also share those stories. 
Do I agree? Yes, we should share. Change does not come with remaining silent. It's also unfortunately not going to come from a group of moms who had Postpartum Depression and wear it as someone said "like a badge of honor", as though they were part of special group now. 
I have noticed this trend of Postpartum Depression seeming to be the New Trendy thing to have had. I had actually been noticing it for a while now and made reference to it in a blog I wrote titled Postpartum Depression vs Postpartum Psychosis; 1, 2, 3, 4, - I declare... War?. It feels like a clique from high school where you had to pay your dues to get in but if you went too far... well you just weren't allowed to sit at the same lunch table anymore. Yet those same women will ride your coattails and all those who follow by saying "Look at this! See what can happen to any of us if not enough attention is paid" "We could have become one of Those women!"
It's not just the media. We perpetuate this. We turn on one another in conversation. We use the term Baby Killer. That is an awful, derogatory, insensitive term. I cannot tell you how often I hear people use a qualifier of sorts when talking about their illness. "But I would never hurt my children" or "I never hurt my kids"
I for one can say I could have gone my entire life without wanting to be in this "Club". Now that I am though, I do not want to remain ignorant to any aspect of it. I feel as though it is my job to educate myself to the best of my ability and those around me.  

PPP is most likely within the first four weeks after delivery. But it can occur at anytime and the onset can be rapid. Moms' can also have periods of lucidity. Looking back now, I was also ill with Pneumonia so I attributed a lot of feeling "off" to that. But now I can see I was depressed and that should have been a red flag. Honestly my history should have been a big red flag along with my family history etc... but this was Maine in 1999. You practically had babies in a Potato field and kept right on picking Potatoes.
The Action on Postpartum Psychosis has a lot of useful information and a great resource tool as well as Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Psychosis is an Illness related to hormonal imbalances. Often the mom has subtle thoughts and feelings that can become more and more exaggerated if left untreated. These thoughts range from delusions to hallucinations. A new mom may appear overly anxious or paranoid. Close family and friends need to help recognize the symptoms. This time and this illness can be difficult and stressful on everyone. Remember the mom is not doing anything on purpose and does not want to be ill. Likely she may not even be aware of how irrational she may be. The most important thing is keeping mom and baby safe. 

My son, Hunter, would be 15 this coming March. I called him my little fellow. Whatever mementos I had left of his (which weren't much) a small blanket, the little blue card they write the baby's name on at the hospital, an ultrasound photo and a few pictures... Those were lost in the fire in my home on January 17th. Just typing that sentence took me 20 minutes and I had to sit with it. 
People make sweeping assumptions when they hear you are responsible for the death of one of your children. (This is where the name calling (baby killer etc...) comes into play) Also, the Moms who had Postpartum __________ Something want to make sure you know they would Never hurt their children (just so you know they must be a better mother than you, but let them in the club because they too have suffered).
Well for those of us who were not so fortunate to have had "your" experience (and perhaps some extra support around to recognize we needed help) and we lost a child or harmed ourselves or our child(ren). (We all jump on the Andrea Yates bandwagon when it suits us) 
I want to say, I loved my son. My particular illness wasn't not hallucinations. I had delusional thinking. My husband (now ex) did not believe Hunter was his son. We had been separated when he was conceived (although he would still come over for... yes Sex). So after a series of events leading up to the birth of my son, (which you can read here) I became ill and thought I needed to die. I also believed no one would take care of my son, so he needed to be with me in Heaven. I did not want to leave him behind on earth. 
I did not think he was evil. He was not unwanted. I was not angry. I was delusional, because I was ill and I thought I was doing something out of love. 
I used to ask my Psychiatrist every day... How could my brain fail me like that? How could my thinking be so backwards? It did not make sense to me and for years I would revisit that question over and over. There is no definitive, black and white answer. I spent years in therapy and had to ask my therapist for permission to grieve my own son. I did not feel as though I had a right because I had been responsible for his death. 

I am coming upon 15 years now and I have seen progress. I am also keenly aware of all the areas that we still need to improve upon. We have a lot of many talented and incredible women dedicated to making changes. For that I am infinitely grateful. Teresa Twomey; Author of - Understanding Postpartum Psychosis;, Wendy Newhouse Davis; PSI Program Director;, Walker Karraa; Program Co-chair at APA Division 56 - Trauma Psychology (What doesn't Walker do?);, Jennifer Hentz Moyer; Mental Health Advocate and Writer;, Elaine Hanzak; Motivational, Inspirational Speaker and Author..... these are just a smidge of the women who work so hard to make changes. They are a part of what I am grateful for.

1 comment :

  1. I think you're very brave for sharing your story. I'm sure you get a lot of hate from people that don't understand this illness and I'm sorry you went through this.

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