Breaking the 'Good Mom' Myth
Postpartum depression is a condition that is rarely discussed. This mom of three gives a first-hand account of her personal experience and path to recovery.
By Jasmine Banks
Motherhood has a lot of myths. One of the most prevalent myths is concerning that “magical moment” where everything just clicks. When you see your baby for the first time and just fall madly, uncontrollably in love, and it’s all smooth sailing from there.
These myths put a lot of pressure on new mothers, and on top of that, many must navigate opinions and judgment from friends, family and strangers online even before their bundle of joy arrives. There are a lot of “good mom” myths out there that cause shame for any feelings that don’t align with the masses.
Most women who experience symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders often hide their symptoms and suffer in the dark. Who wants to admit they have feelings of anxiety toward their baby when they are already being judged about so many other aspects?
When my first child was born six years ago, I found myself having increasing fear. As I sat in his nursery to rock and breastfeed him, my mind drifted to thoughts of imminent danger. I imagined all kinds of scenarios of how he could be harmed. Those thoughts started to appear more frequently, and interfered with my daily life. I told myself these fears were normal concerns, and pushed down the gut-wrenching concern that something was very wrong with me.
I spent time with other new mothers, and that feeling grew stronger when I heard them explain their “love at first sight” bond with their child. I did all of the things a new mother who loved her child would do, but there was a detachment that plagued my relationship with my son.
I had intrusive thoughts that he would be hurt. I avoided public places because I was terrified to drive in a car with him. I had repetitive visualizations of him being hit by cars. I became preoccupied with the idea that he might drown somehow. I couldn’t stop crying most days, had no desire to take care of myself, and felt constantly hopeless. I reasoned that there was something wrong with me on a fundamental level instead of realizing that I was suffering from postpartum depression and OCD.
As it turned out, there was a name for what I was experiencing, and I was not alone. In fact, conservative numbers estimate that 1 in 7 moms experience a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. Mothers are afraid to speak up due to the stigma around maternal mental health and a society that perpetuates motherhood myths that the experience should be nothing but joy and sunshine. Whether it’s their first or their fifth child, moms experiencing a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder fear they’re just bad moms.
I realized what was happening to me after finding PostpartumProgress.org, and I reached out to my health care provider for help. I nervously admitted what I was experiencing to my family, and was met with support.
It took a year of active therapy to maintain recovery from postpartum psychosis with OCD features. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorder is not just the temporary hormone drop often dubbed “The Baby Blues.” These syndromes and disorders are nasty mental illness conditions that need significant attention and support.
Today, I enjoy complete freedom from these symptoms. I went on to have two other healthy pregnancies with the help of a treatment team who understood my mental health medical history. I turned those moments of suffering into triumph when I joined Postpartum Progress, the very organization that helped me so many years ago.
To help reduce the stigma around this illness, we need to work toward creating a society where moms feel comfortable talking about their own unique motherhood experience. Mothers shouldn’t be shamed or judged for their feelings. Moms with postpartum depression are good moms. So are moms experiencing postpartum anxiety, OCD, psychosis, bipolar or PTSD.
A new mom may experience intrusive thoughts, suicidal ideation, insomnia, rage or crippling fear. These moms could use support and encouragement as they work to regain their mental health. Many may be struggling to reach out for help and don’t know what’s happening inside their head and body. Postpartum mental illness doesn’t define a person’s motherhood, but it is serious, and there is a way through it.