I Felt Punished for My Honesty

[Editor’s Note: Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from a mom who felt like she was punished for being honest about her feelings and struggles in the hospital. -Jenna]

I Felt Punished for my Honesty

During my pregnancy, I worried that I was going to develop postpartum depression. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. Additionally, I have a master’s in counseling and knew no one is immune.

I endured an emergency c-section, a baby who cried non-stop in the hospital, developed a 102.7 fever, and wound up the in the NICU. Would anyone cope well? I struggled with breastfeeding because my milk was delayed. I also developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. My baby lost 10% of her body weight and I felt awful.

Nurses overheard me telling my husband that I felt like a failure. Before my daughter wound up in the NICU, a kindly nurse suggested I let them take her to the nursery so I could rest when I revealed I was struggling. And feeling overwhelmed. The next day a different nurse was one duty and was judgmental when I requested for a little break.

All of a sudden my midwife came to my room, demanding that I agree to give my daughter formula, and that she would not leave until I agreed to formula and to go on anti-depressants. I felt shocked and said I wanted more time to see if I could breastfeed. Since she was in the NICU being nourished by donor milk, I felt I had time to make this decision.

The nurse again reiterated she would not leave until I agreed and stated, “You are too stressed out to breastfeed. Look what happened, your daughter wound up in the NICU!” I agreed, further convinced this was my fault.

The nurse then called in a psych-consult. I explained the situation to the psychiatrist who encouraged me to go on medication, but not if I wanted to breastfeed. I told him I hoped that breastfeeding would still work out, and I thought most new moms in my situation would be struggling a bit.

I felt like I was being punished because I was honest about how I was feeling and asked for help. I felt shame that, as a counselor, I had a psych-consult on me. I felt that the professionals’ reactions to my honesty were coming from a risk management perspective versus a place of help and support. I envied the women who were “smart” enough to suffer silently because they were not punished or made to feel like a bad mother for wanting to breastfeed or asking for help.

My daughter was fine, and once she was properly nourished, she was released with a clean bill of health. I felt traumatized by the experience and was completely stressed out trying to breastfeed. I felt terribly guilty that because I could not manage my stress, she wound up in the NICU. I had no confidence and was afraid to be alone with my daughter.

It is hard to say if I would have developed postpartum depression if it were not for my experience in the hospital. My daughter is now three-and-a-half years, and I feel it has only been recently that I can think of the experience without getting teary eyed.

As a counselor, I have been trained about the importance of being honest with my feelings and asking for help but the help I received felt punitive and hurtful. Three and a half years later, I have an awesome, healthy, and feisty little girl and continue to be honest about my feelings so other moms don’t feel so alone.

~NRB

About Jenna Hatfield

Jenna Hatfield is the Online Awareness & Engagement Manager for Postpartum Progress. She is an editor and award-winning writer, having won a SWPA Media & Mental Health Awards in 2012, among others. She is an everyday mom to two boys and a birth mother involved in a fully open adoption with her daughter. She makes her home in Ohio.

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  1. This is so discouraging to hear! I am a Perinatal Social Worker at a hospital in California. I am so sorry for your experience! That is not how it should be!

    • Hello! How is your experience as a Perinatal Social Worker? I am studying to become a LCSW, with a specialty in Perinatal Mood Disorders. How has your experience been in California?

  2. I went to see my Doctor to get back on meds for depression. Due to a scheduling issue I was seen by another nurse practitioner/doctor (an older lady), instead of my usual doctor. I stated that I had been through post partum depression before with my previous pregnancies, and that I would like to get back on what I knew worked for me. She started grilling me and acting as if I was a bad mom for asking for help. At one point she even stated “Well then, you need to find someone to pick up your kids from daycare. I’m going to have an ambulance take you to the hospital for a 72 hour hold. This will stay in your permanent record forever”. The fear that I immediately felt, and all because I asked for help! I told her NO, that I was on my way to pick up my kids now. She gave me a prescription (not one that works for me) and I quickly left with a followup appointment with my regular doctor 3 days later. When I saw my Doctor later that week I asked for the prescription, that I know works for me and she prescribed it. I also made sure to have it notated in my file that I absolutely don’t want to be seen by the other provider ever again.

    • Heather King says:

      JA, I’m so sorry you had this experience. It’s awful. Unfortunately there are providers out there that just don’t get it. I want to make it clear that her threatening response is NOT common, so that other moms know that they are not going to have to be hospitalized simply for asking for medication for depression. Yes, it does happen sometimes, but if anyone is fearing that it might happen, it is best to see a doctor you know and trust already or to look up a doctor that specializes in postpartum mental health. They get it.

      I say that for other moms reading this, and I do realize you had no control over this sequence of events and bad experience. I wish this would never happen. SO frustrating. I’m so glad you had it noted to never see that provider again. It is also perfectly acceptable to make a complaint to the clinic and ask for better education around mental health.

      Peace to you!

  3. courtneynovak says:

    Thank you for sharing! This is why we have to educate all the personnel who work with new moms, from the psychiatrists to the ob’s receptionist and everyone in between.