Suffering in Silence: My Journey with Postpartum Depression
By Kristen Marshall, MS, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist
I wanted to have a baby so badly. After a few months of temperature charting and general obsessing over getting pregnant, I was thrilled when those two pink lines showed up on the test.
I never thought much past sitting in the rocking chair with my happy baby and gazing at him adoringly.
I was completely delusional. Nothing I envisioned could be further from reality.
A week after being at home with the baby, I distinctly remember staring out the window, crying and thinking,"What did I do? Our lives are ruined." I became consumed with guilt because… what kind of mother has those kinds of thoughts? I remember looking out that same window and for the first time in my life thinking, "I can't live like this. I want to die."
After a lifetime of dreaming about being a mom, I was miserable. With the guilt came the shame. Although I had been sent home from the hospital with pamphlets about the "baby blues" and tips on how to handle them like, "sleep when the baby sleeps" and "get fresh air," what I was feeling was so beyond that. I believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me. There was no way I was going to admit to anybody how I was feeling. High anxiety and paranoia became a part of my life. I can remember walking the baby along the water when I was overcome with the idea that someone passing me was going to grab the baby from the stroller and toss him into the water. My body reacted to these thoughts as if this event was actually taking place. I became short of breath, started shaking, and tears rolled down my face as I steered away from the water.
Two years later, I was once again thrilled to see those two pink lines on the pregnancy test. After all, now I knew what to expect. It was going to be so much better this time! I was an expert! Baby #2 came home and I vividly remember becoming furious during Listerine commercials. I was insanely jealous of those people about to go to bed with the knowledge that they were going to sleep all night long. When my second child was three weeks old, my concerned husband said to me "You have always been eager to take a shower at least once a day. When was the last time you showered?" Those words hit me hard. He was right. I needed help.
Babies # 3 and #4 were not part of the plan. My postpartum depression grew worse following each birth. After my fourth child was born, I was driving down the highway and trucks were flanking each side of me. The baby was in the back screaming, and I remember thinking, "These trucks could crush us and this will be all over. I won't have to feel this way anymore." I told my therapist and I ended up in "partial hospitalization." Postpartum depression landed me in a program with a van that took us all on supervised field trips on Tuesdays? What? Talk about reinforcing the erroneous belief that I was an atrocious human being.
Most of the people closest to me in my life still don't know the extent of the pain that took over. Through much trial and error, I found a doctor who worked with me to find the right combination of medications and counseling. However, I will never forget suffering in silence because I was not informed about the dark side of having babies. In retrospect, I wish that postpartum depression had been addressed right from the start. Mandatory education and research-based screening for new mothers, along with a strict protocol for follow-up, has the potential to change the parenting experience, including mother-baby bonding, and overall quality of life for many, providing light through the darkness.