You hear stories on the news, every so often, about a mother killing her children. There was one who drove her car into a lake or pond, with her children strapped into their car seats. Then there was the baby who would not stop crying and crying and crying and crying and crying, until ultimately the caregiver shook the baby so hard that the baby died. You watch those things on the news and your heart sinks. How in the world could someone do such a thing to such a tiny, innocent being? How is it possible? What could possibly have been going through their deranged mind?
In some bizarre way—which angered and disgusted and frightened me—I understood how they could have gone so far as to believe that hurting a child was their answer. The war in their mind must have been raging too…and they lost!
I didn’t want to lose. I was trapped in a terrifying battle of split-second decisions, and losing a battle meant I could lose the war.
It’s terrifying to think that you might let a torturous thought or a vicious voice in, and not have the power, the strength, or the control to overcome it—losing control of what you know is right and wrong, good and bad, helpful and punishable. Faltering for a mere split second decision could seal your fate in guilt without forgiveness, forever.
– Excerpt from Reclaim the Joy of Motherhood
Yes, there were moments – at my darkest, most frightening point – where I had fleeting thoughts of hurting my children, or hurting myself. It pains me to relive those moments, to remember what that felt like. The fear, the frustration, the confusion. What is wrong with me?
If only I knew then what I know now: Many women with Postpartum Depression have thoughts of hurting their children. Almost none of them would ever, ever actually do it.
It’s so terrible that the news focuses on the very worst of human experience. Every day, there are billions of mothers around the world, giving their love and their lives to their children. Not newsworthy. Every day, there are millions of women struggling with PPD in silence. And out of all those millions, every few years, a woman with what is called “postpartum psychosis” (a separate condition from PPD!) snaps and does something unthinkable. That’s the story we see on the news.
If only I had known this, I am sure I would not have felt so ashamed or alone. So that’s why I am telling you. If you’ve had these thoughts, you are not alone. You are not a danger to your kids. And you are not to blame for what is happening.
I was reading the news the other day and I saw this headline: Does Kate Middleton Have Postpartum Depression? Well, does she? Statistically, there is every chance that such a high-achieving, perfectionist woman would be feeling some emotional pressure post-baby. But that doesn’t give the media a right to speculate. It made me sad that, even though we are making such strides toward a culture of understanding and openness around PPD, the media is always going to do what it does best – create a scandal.
It doesn’t matter what you see on the news. Your experience is your experience, and you know yourself better than anyone. Don’t let scandalous stories and inflated speculations tell you how to feel, or tell you who you are. Listen to your heart above all, and your trusted friends next. The media has no bearing on your life.
With Love and Mommy Hugs,
photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net