A few days ago, I was interviewed by a researcher writing an article about Post Partum Depression.
I have written about my experience on I am Doing the Best I can, and she found the post, and wanted to hear more from me what it felt like to be in the midst of those feelings. As Kismet had it, Meghan wrote a fabulous piece on her blog on almost the same day and Julie wrote a little bit about her fears in talking about her post partum depression.
Talking to the researcher brought back the fogginess of the depression for me. The things I noticed after I had begun to return to life. The thin line I walked for three and a half years. The energy I put into hiding my spiraling depression from everyone, until even that effort crumbled at my feet.
And why no one noticed.
When she asked me why no one had diagnosed me, I had to stop and think. Why hadn't they? My disconnect with my babies cues, her failure to gain weight, my mood swings...why hadn't anyone noticed?
Part of the reason, I suspect is that as an educated woman with her degrees in Education, and her jobs as an Infant and Toddler specialist and Director of a child care, they assumed I knew what I was doing. I presented well. I showed up for every doctor's appointment. I could give you Emily's vitals and statistics. Emily was clean and presentable. I was a married woman with a participating spouse. We had two incomes and excellent child care.
Some people suspected, I think. My midwife got a glimpse when she observed a six week old Emily rooting on my shoulder, and said "Oh, I think she's hungry", to which I snapped "She just emptied both breasts 20 minutes ago - She's NOT HUNGRY!" My primary Doctor got glimpses when she would see me for my continual parade of infections and suggest that I needed to manage my stress differently. "I'll get right on that", I would respond.
I couldn't talk with the other mothers in child care...I was the Director. I was the Boss. They were Paying me for my expertise and knowledge. Announcing that I hated my child would have been less than good PR for the business I was in charge of running.
I couldn't tell my husband that I was fantasizing about killing my baby, killing him, killing myself. He would take her away and leave me. Then everyone would know that I was a bad person, a bad mother, a bad wife and a fraud as a Professional.
So I told no one, and I sank deeper and deeper into my darkness.
It was August of 2001 that I decided to seek help. I had bargained with myself for almost four years, and it never got better. "A few more weeks, and then if I don't feel better...", I would think. It didn't. I found myself screaming uncontrollably at a frightened Toddler one weekend when Terrance had gone away for business and realized that I was dangerous. A rational voice whispered "You are a danger to her....", as I fled her room and locked myself in the bathroom. Her mother. Dangerous. To all of us.
The researcher asked me what I thought was something that wasn't talked about in PPD. My answer was immediate.
"You want to kill your baby. You actually have vivid thoughts of killing your baby."
For some, it is the butchers block filled with knives, or the balcony of the hotel. I thought of drowning her in the lake, or getting into a car accident that would kill her and seem an accident. Some mothers have told me their thoughts of throwing the baby from a window, or bashing their head on the wall. It is the ugly underbelly of what we mean when we talk about PPD. It isn't "baby blues", or "feeling low". It isn't being weepy or exhausted. Shit, you don't need PPD to feel weepy and exhausted after a baby arrives. That's the NORM.
No, it's the ugly things that the books fail to mention. The killing fantasies. The anger. The resentment. The blue black hatred of this child that you carried and dreamed of and birthed, who is devouring you. No, that is never in any of the pamphlets.
"What", she asked,"is the thing you wish other mothers could know about PPD?"
"You don't have to feel this way. Motherhood is hard enough without feeling so hopeless, so alone."
For me, it was medications and therapy and the patience of my child and husband as I returned to them. It is talking openly about my experience with PPD. It is lending my ear to other mothers, or friends who are approaching motherhood for the first or multiple time. I am, I tell them, the mother to whom you can say the ugly things. I won't be shocked. I won't be horrified. I won't call the bad mother police on you.
I will hold your hand, and we will make a plan. Together.