My Bout With Postpartum Depression
I thought it was fake – I mean like for nine months she’d receive attention; people fawning over her, wanting to rub her tummy, talking to her belly, doing midnight grocery runs in response to her latest cravings, and even aiding her to sit down by fluffing up her pillows! It was bliss, right? Then suddenly nothing, She gives birth to the baby she was carrying and now the baby hogs up all the attention she was getting. What is she to do? Yep, feign an illness and give it a name – POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION – new moms everywhere will be able to regain the attention of their friends and family. I really thought this was the case until I encountered the beast and had to acknowledge it was not ‘make believe’. IT WAS REAL!
In 2003, I gave birth to a beautiful babygirl —not to toot my own horn but she really was beautiful; my 9’2 light-skinned chubby bundle of joy with a head full of hair looked like the kind of baby you’d find displayed in the “Cute Kids Magazine”. Infact, by 2009 she wasn’t just in a magazine; she was on the cover of the January’s issue of “The Parent Paper” with a whole three page spread of her inside titled, “Career Counselling For Kids”. Yes siree, I am a proud mom! However, there was a time when my pride of motherhood was overshadowed – a time where I smiled to hide the stress and loneliness I endured.
I wasn’t one of those moms that received the ‘pregnancy attention’ and I didn’t have a strong support system after I gave birth either. I was a strong independent mom throughout my nine months; even up to my six month of pregnancy I was taking my rollerblades to Eastside Park to get exercise in the empty basketball rink. The day my daughter and I left St. Joseph’s hospital, after her birth, we moved into an attic rental to begin our journey of life together. I wore my smile like a blanket and everyone believed I was enjoying motherhood while I cried inside with constant fear that I was somehow going to ruin this innocent child’s life. After all, up to that time in my life everything I touched apparently turned to dust why would this be any different …my constant fear lead to overwhelming stress which in turn incurred gnawing thoughts of suicide. My inner voice would whisper, “Your alone. No one cares about you. Your a failure. You know she deserves better.”
When my daughter was about four months old, I woke up one morning to perform my usual routine – wash my face and brush my teeth before making her a bottle. While I was in the restroom brushing my teeth, I kept wondering why the toothpaste was dripping from my mouth …why is it I couldn’t retain the toothpaste in my mouth like usual. When I looked in the mirror, I was immediately horrified! My face was disfigured. I was experiencing hemiparesis of my right facial muscles. The doctors later diagnosed it as Bell’s Palsy; nerve damage caused by stress. They prescribed steroids in hopes of strengthening the facial muscles and an eyepatch to protect my right eye from the strain caused by light. My thoughts of suicide became even more rampant but now they were accompanied with homicidal thoughts as well. I soon concluded the best solution to my failure at motherhood was a bathroom submersion for both my daughter and myself.
I remember the day I was in the bathroom filling the tub with water to carry out my plan; my daughter had been about six months old at the time and was on the bedroom floor surrounded by her toys when the phone began ringing persistently. I reluctantly answered it because truthfully I wasn’t trying to hear anything anyone had to say at the time; My plan was set in motion and I simply wanted to carry it out so my daughter and I could be at peace.
(Before you broach familiar statements I have heard countless times before, “I don’t comprehend why anyone would want to take their baby’s life! If you want to kill yourself, go ahead and do so but leave the innocent baby alone”, allowing me to respond. After dealing with the hemiparesis, the inner voice began informing me that a family history of suicide would impact my daughter’s growth negatively and that she in turn would eventually commit suicide. In my troubled mind I was saving my daughter from the future emotional and mental agony of suicidal depression.)
When I finally answered the phone it was an older sister on the other end of the line. She was crying and relaying the story of her friend who wanted to commit suicide. My sister had no idea what I was in the process of doing but her tears and story stopped me dead in my tracks. By the time she stopped crying and hanged up the phone, I was sitting on the cold tiled floor of my bathroom just staring at the receiver in disbelief. She made me realize I was not alone, and no matter how dismal life gets there is someone who cares.
Today, my facial defect from paralysis remains evident in my smile and the variation of my eyes …my right eye is more enlarged …and I still sometimes struggle with fear but I’m grateful I didn’t succumb to my ideations. I get the ultimate pleasure of watching my daughter grow into an intelligent young lady with a 4.0 GPA in Highschool. She has bright plans for the future, and I’m here as her proud mom, to support them all.
MENTAL ILLNESS IS REAL; BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT ALONE.
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