Using Postpartum Psychosis For Shock Value Hurts Moms

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I’m so happy to have as our guest today my friend, Warrior Mom and postpartum psychosis survivor Jasmine, who blogs at The Brokins and also happens to be a rollerderby girl (so cool!).

“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.

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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Comments

  1. I’m very proud of you Jasmine for sharing this story. I know how scary it is. Please know you’re among friends and we understand and support you. Also, can I just say I’m a little surprised at how flippant your mom date seemed to have been about her own PPD, and your experience as well?

    • I don’t think she really understood the impact of postpartum depression. It was like a badge of honor for, some kind of special entrance into a club or something. I’d venture to say she had “baby blues” but I am trying not to judge her experience.

  2. Mothers are made all sorts of ways and through all sorts of trials and each one of us is unique. Jasmine thank you for sharing this so other moms know they aren’t alone.

  3. Blessings to you Jasmine. You are a wonderful mother.

  4. Thank you, Jasmine. I am Jenni Chiu and I have as well.

  5. It surprised me when her “mom date” said she was “frankly kind of happy she got it”….??? While I came out of my experience stronger, braver and more tolerant with a greater understanding and knowledge of mental illness, I am not at all glad I “got it”. Jasmine, stay strong and keep doing your thing!!

  6. Thanks for sharing your story…so someone soon won’t have to sit across the table from someone who doesn’t get it.

  7. Oh, Jasmine, I’m so sorry. How difficult that must have been! So glad you’re okay now.

  8. Jasmine – thank you for opening up. By sharing your story you are now allowing other mothers to be a “me too”. That is a huge gift for so many that can’t yet speak beyond that. xo

  9. Thank You Jasmine for sharing a little but of yourself and your story with us. You are a strong and courageous woman. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone in our experience.

  10. Thank you for sharing this story! It is one that needs to be shared over and over again. So glad you had the strength to take care of you and your family, you truly are a warrior mom Jasmine!

  11. WOW. I mean, WOW. That mother’s response was so completely insensitive and inappropriate I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it. You’re quite the big person for trying not to judge her experiences. I would say she has a very low EQ (emotional intelligence). Completely unaware of herself. And I also can’t help but conclude that she did not actually have postpartum depression. I’m sorry, but anyone that is so CASUALLY grateful for it, must not have had that bad of an experience.

    I admire you for putting yourself out here so boldly and bravely. There are plenty of us who do not judge you the way she did. I know for a certainty that I am no better mother than you are.

    • thebrokins says:

      Thanks so much. I am still in the same social circles as this individual. She is kind and warm, she is just clueless. A lot of her worldview is about framing things in a very sterile Christian view. She will say things like, “I can handle it because of God.” I admire her faith, however it can lead to her (and admittedly other individuals) to dissociate pain and place suffering in a light that means there is little grieving. I can’t speak to her experience and I am trying to be gracious about it. Suffice it to say she was homeschooled and lacking in social graces ;)

  12. Hi Jasmine — Thank you so much for writing this — you have made it much easier for other moms to be honest. All of us, all together, help reduce the shame and fear. You’ve added a lot with your courage. Also, you are a fabulous writer.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this blog Katherine, and for writing it Jasmine. You might like to see a very similar article I wrote in the UK challenging the way in which our TV and print journalists report on postpartum psychosis.

    http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/postpartum-psychosis-mental-illness-after-childbirth

  14. Such an important post by such a generous writer. Thank you Jasmine.

  15. thebrokins says:

    Thank you so much, Ann.

  16. People always speak of the joys of motherhood and seldom speak of the things that contradict that …life is not all sunshine and roses but that should be ok to discuss, right? Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    • thebrokins says:

      Thank you Arelis. I appreciate the comment. It has always been striking to me why it seems taboo to talk about motherhood in any kind of “bad light”.

  17. Thank you for sharing your story openly and honestly. I didn’t have postpartum depression or psychosis, but I was coping with my Father’s terminal illness during my pregnancy and his death a year later.

    • thebrokins says:

      That had to be so hard to navigate. I am sorry for your loss and thankful you made it through that experience. Pregnancy and new motherhood is enough without all the extra. Love to you, Joyce.

  18. Luz Franco says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am not the only one.

  19. Thanks so much for sharing. Honesty is hard to come by anymore and this will definitely help others.

  20. Wow! Thank you so much for your honesty and bravery in speaking up. I’m so sorry you had to go through such a negative experience with this person. I’ve noticed the same thing about the inability to accept that PPMD isn’t just some lack of faith or symptom of a besetting sin or something and that you can’t just pray or sing it away.

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  1. […] Mom Jasmine shares her experience with postpartum psychosis, and how people further stigma when they tell psychosis stories for shock value. (Bravo.  […]