Two weeks after I gave birth, I found myself checked back into the hospital. But, this time, my husband checked me into a psychiatric facility and my newborn daughter wasn’t allowed to visit me. Instead, my husband brought printed photos of her, and showed me others on his phone. I remember hanging them up in my shared room, explaining to the nurses why I needed to get back home.
So what led me to the hospital? It was probably the 11 days of zero sleep while trying to navigate the terrifying shock of being a new mother, and the rather painful breastfeeding experience I endured.
Either way, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) followed by about three months of Postpartum Depression (PPD).
We’ve all heard of PPD before. It’s the maternal mental health du jour. In fact, the guilt I had about my PPD was a little less heavy because Chrissy Teigan had recently come out about her postpartum depression around the time I gave birth. But here’s the reality: we (you, me, our nation) do not discuss the large range of maternal mental health (MMH) disorders that exist.
When I was in the psychiatric ward, I was surrounded by people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. But, no one was a new mom and I had no one to reach out to about these absolutely fresh feelings as a mother and wife. Luckily, I’m a teacher and thank heavens I had the summer off because I spent the majority of that time drugged, trialing medications, and trying (“trying” be the operative word) to care for my daughter. I don’t know how I would have survived working, navigating my self-care and care for my daughter.
I wrote about my experience on Scary Mommy and was soon after connected with the facilitator of The Blue Dot Project and 2020 Mom. Luckily, The Blue Dot Project is a maternal mental health alliance based in Phoenix, ready to give mothers support if they need it. I wish that I knew about these local mental health resources right when I gave birth. It felt extremely isolated learning things on my own.
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. You can share your story on social media with the hashtag #realmotherhood and #noshame.
I’m not ashamed of the experience that I went through 13 months ago when my daughter was born. It sincerely made me a stronger and more independent woman. That being said, I definitely don’t wish the psychosis or depression upon anyone, and I definitely didn’t need to suffer as long as I did.
Through this month especially, I hope women know that they have support through navigating the truly unique journey of parenthood.