But I would never hurt my baby

I think the phrase, more realistically, is "But I would never hurt my baby... would I?"

Now, please understand, I speak only for myself. I can't put words into other sufferers of postpartum mood disorders.

I was reading a blog the other day written by a woman who survived postpartum psychosis. Her baby did not. It was such a hard post to read, but at the same time, kind of refreshing. In her blog, she kind of called out all of the postpartum depression survivors.

She said that women who have survived postpartum depression like to boast about how they survived - like it's a badge of honor. She said that those same women often say how they don't like to be compared to the radical stories in the media and on the internet, because, "they would never hurt their baby". They went through the suffering and the emotional pain, but don't (or won't?) admit that it could be possible to harm their child. I think her point in saying this was to show how women who actually have hurt their children are ostracized by the same community they are supposed to be a part of. That somehow, they are less, or that maybe they chose to hurt their child, where the other mothers would never think of such a thing.

Depression is a mental illness. No one signs up for depression. The same thing is true of psychosis. It is a mental illness. Just because one mother has one type of depression or anxiety does not make her in any way "better" than another mother who has a different type. Illness is illness. 

Last year, I was in the depths of depression and anxiety. I was having a steady stream of intrusive thoughts about hurting my baby all day long. I was also struggling with self harm. I would be in this thick, thick fog of anxiety and all I could think of was cutting. Or hitting myself. Or banging my head against the wall. Or strangling or suffocating myself.

In the midst of this fog of self abuse and loathing, I was trying to manage my household. I was getting kids up and dressed, feeding them, bathing and putting them to bed. My son James loved to take baths. He was two at the time. He loved baths, but he refused to lie down in the water. He was terrified. When I would wash his hair, it was a struggle. It was always a struggle. I would talk to him, reassure him, try to calm him, tell him what to expect. Nothing would work. If I poured water over his head, he would scream and maneuver out of the way. It became a wrestling match.

One evening, as I was struggling with James, I held his body down in the water. His head was above water, but he was flailing as if I was trying to drown him. He had this look of panic on his face. And I just checked out. I thought, just hold him under. You actually could drown him. This is exactly what it would look like. You're practically doing it right now. Just do it. I was mortified by my thoughts and even more mortified that I almost gave in to my thoughts. I calmly rinsed his hair off while he was still thrashing around, but inside I was shaken. 

So shaken that I stopped giving my kids baths.

Another time, I was playing with one of my boys at bedtime. We were playing peekaboo and kind of wrestling with a little pillow. I think it must have been James. He held the pillow over his face and did peekaboo. Then I held the pillow over his face. For about two seconds two long. 

Now here's the thing. Did I feel like I was myself? Yes. Did I have the thought of hurting him? Yes. Could I have done it? Yes. 

Was it me? Or was it the depression and anxiety?

Now that I am out of the fog and out of the dull eyes and constant intrusive thoughts, would I ever think of smothering my kid with a pillow and even entertain that thought? NO! Would I ever think of drowning my kid in the bathtub? Again, NO! 

How could I blame anyone else for having those same thoughts? For acting on those same thoughts? Especially when the line between thinking and doing is a blurry, hazy line. A line that is so confusing, and you are so tired and so dull and so joyless that all you want to do is be nonexistent.

So even though I am a postpartum depression and anxiety endurer (I won't say survivor yet), I will check myself next time I say, "But I would never hurt my baby." I want that to be true. In my sane mind, it is true. But under the influence of a postpartum mood disorder, I can't really and honestly say that it was true.


** The blog I mentioned above is located here : http://www.survivingppp.com/

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