Postpartum depression is a silent killer. In the worst cases, quite literally, but in most, it kills a new mother’s spirit, which is almost as bad. This excellent essay by Elizabeth Isadora Gold in The New York Times this week makes me think about all the mothers, much like myself, whose daily struggles, frustrations and regrets teeter on the edge of something more.
A day doesn’t go by that I don’t worry that my worry might be an early sign of anxiety, that could turn into panic and spiral out of control. Becoming depressed as a direct result of having a baby—the greatest joy of my life to date—chemical or not is perhaps my greatest fear since becoming a parent. I credit that fear to the culture of keeping mental illness talk at a hush-hush level, especially when it comes to parents. Gold agrees. “I’ve come to believe that our obsession with birth acts as a scrim for our lack of attention to what happens after.”
We are all obsessed with the JOY of new parenthood that we brush under the rug anything that doesn’t reflect that bright-and-shiny ideal. When you consider that up to 40 percent of mothers experience some form of depression symptoms—and I’m talking from the mild indifference many new moms feel toward the squirmy new baby they’ve not yet bonded with to suicidal thoughts—you’d think we would talk more about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather talk about successful breastfeeding, that delicious smell found only at the nape of a baby’s neck and the momentous accomplishment of sitting upright. We love to share these joyous moments with each other—and we should go ahead and keep on doing that. But we also have to talk about the less-joyous moments. So many women have concerns, fears and questions that might be quelled if we, as a mommy community, did more to make them feel less alone.
There is, of course, a great presence of forums online. Here are a few worth checking out:
And let us also talk to our fellow moms, sisters, cousins, friends, in a way that lets them know that mistakes and doubt are as much a part of parenthood as our instincts to nurture and need to protect.