Pregnancy

Caring For A Baby Is Harder When Postpartum Depression Leads To Suicidal Thoughts

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postpartdum depressionBefore Alyson became a mother, there were much of what she calls “unresolved issues” with regard to her health and well-being. Having been sexually abused as a child, she had a history of suicidal tendencies and depression that she had never properly addressed with a professional. But after giving birth to her first child, Alyson found herself wading through not only suicidal thoughts but also thoughts of harming her child, otherwise known as postpartum depression.

She tells me that her symptoms began the very night following the birth of her son as well as the next day in the hospital. Toxic mantras rushed on quickly as she was weighed with an instantaneous regret for giving birth.

“I remember thinking that I made a huge mistake having a baby and ‘what was I thinking?’ and ‘I wish I could give him up for adoption but my husband would never go for that,'” the mother recalls.

Flashes of perhaps harming her son came in the following weeks as breastfeeding triggered painful memories of her sexual abuse. It pains her to admit feelings for which sadly there is no other public face but Casey Anthony. Disbelief, she says, still sets in when she remembers contemplating what most mothers would never dare to breathe.

“I thought that since I couldn’t give him up for adoption, perhaps if I killed him and made it look like an accident then I could be free of this huge mistake I made. The only thing that held me back was fear of being caught.”

Alyson believed that perhaps returning to work would make her feel better, and when her son reached three months, she found herself again back in the office working with those battling substance abuse. Yet, work overwhelmed the new mother even more and one month after coming back to her desk, she suffered a complete breakdown and was “bawling” to her supervisor. She confessed that she could relate to a client who was suicidal.

Through her job, she was able to connect with a staff psychiatrist who diagnosed Alyson with not only PPD, but also unresolved PTSD caused by her sexual abuse. She attempted to seek further treatment through her local community mental health agency, but was refused because she did not have a documented history of mental illness — a “major fail,” she says. Alyson was then placed on medication by her primary care physician and began attending individual therapy once a week.

Breastfeeding, she says, was what primarily triggered her suicidal thoughts as well as her PTSD specifically because of her abuse. The mother of one tried pumping exclusively with the reasoning that not having the baby sucking on her nipples would put a halt to her dark memories. But pumping left her even more exhausted.

“Breastfeeding was so much harder than I realized and I hated being controlled by my baby via a sexual object,” she elaborates. “Before I gave birth I was all about breastfeeding to the point that I judged other mother’s who didn’t. I never realized that my unresolved PTSD would rear its ugly head and bring PPD along with it.”

Through a combination of therapy, medication, and a firm decision to not breastfeed anymore, Alyson has successfully overcome her PPD — and welcomed another child. After a stint on the medication Celexa, the now mother-of -two was able to wean herself off. But in the third trimester of her second pregnancy, Alyson began to sense that depression was seeping back into her life and started a dose of Wellbuitrin prior to the birth of her baby. Fortunately, she did not experience any PPD symptoms the second time around, which she attributes to medication.

When I ask the abuse survivor what some of the common misconceptions about PPD are, she first and foremost addresses the validity of such a condition.

“That it isn’t real,” she says, “or that they are making things up just to get attention. That if they tried hard enough it would just go away.”

(photo: c.byatt-norman /Shutterstock)