“Oh yeah! I TOTALLY had postpartum depression,” she quipped to me as she took another sip of her tea. We were meeting over drinks: her tea and I coffee. I figured if I was going to be forced to fulfill the social obligation of a “mom date,” I might as well be caffeinated. This wasn’t the first time that I sat awkwardly in public, chatting with another mom about postpartum depression. “SO did you have it too?” She looked at me as if she were asking about some casual social norm. The lilt in her voice was light, as if she just asked me if had read the most recent issue of O! Magazine or something.
“I did… I do,” I corrected.
She continued, completely benign to the shame that, to me, seemed so apparent in my voice. “I read the other day it is SO common. Lots of women get it and you almost aren’t normal if you DON’T get a little postpartum depression.” She continued, “I am frankly kind of happy I got it. I read it is about your hormones changing, which means it is at least my hormones are working.”
I smiled weakly and nodded. I knew the question was coming. I braced myself for it. I half tuned in to her diatribe about how she treated her postpartum depression with her placenta encapsulation regime that her midwife prepared for her. I glanced at the clock on the wall behind her. I would continue, through the rest of the mom date, to glance at the clock as if my glare could move time along and end this horrendous experience.
Just when I tuned in again, the question came. “So what were your symptoms?”
The color left from the room and I inhaled. I could feel my body tense and I began to speak. My affect was flat as I answered the question. “Well actually, I don’t think we had the same kind of postpartum depression.” She leaned in as I teared up. “I had postpartum psychosis.”
Her eyes widened, “You mean, like the kind where you try and kill your baby? Like the kind of women from scary movies?”
I don’t think she registered the amount of pain her words carried. They left her mouth and pierced my heart. My eyes welled up with tears.
Six months after the birth of my first son, I found myself sitting on my bed in my bedroom. Isaiah was gassy and was getting too much foremilk. As an unexperienced breastfeeding mother, I had no idea. I don’t exactly remember what I was doing. I just know I was to the point where his crying was too much for me.
I looked at him, so tired, so resentful, and I saw a spider crawl across him. I grabbed my pillow and hit him a few times. I lifted the pillow, pulled back the sheets and wildly searched for the spider. It was mysteriously gone. There was no spider.
I quickly realized I had hallucinated the spider, and I was jerked into reality by the terrified screams of my son. I picked Isaiah up, now wailing myself, set him in his crib and closed the bedroom door. I sat in my closet and dialed my husband’s number. “Garrett,” I cried, “I need you to come home. I almost hurt our baby.”
I was one of those women who experienced postpartum psychosis. For people who have experienced postpartum psychosis, some of us still feel like the plot line from a horror movie. When we report our experiences, people conjure up thriller scenes of wild-eyed women doing unspeakable things to their children. The phrase and experience of postpartum psychosis is still used for shock value, as if there aren’t women like me suffering under the burden of the stigma. I still carry the same.
My heartbeat quickens, even as I write this. I am on the road to recovery, my son is a safe, healthy five-year-old boy, and I have had two children since that experience. I am not a killer, not a crazed woman, and I didn’t try to kill my baby.
I am Jasmine Banks and I have suffered with Postpartum Depression and Psychosis.