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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Postpartum Psychosis - Paranoia and parenthood

Today's story is anonymous, which I think in itself is of significance. There is still so much negative stigma and judgment related to postpartum mental illness that this individual felt more comfortable not sharing her name. I am extremely grateful that this message is being shared today, regardless of whether or not there is a name attached to it. I hope this will help increase understanding that sometimes when mothers harm their children or act irrationally, it is not entirely under their own volition. It is by no means an excuse, but it could be what triggered the behavior.

Most of us are familiar with the baby blues, a passing sadness that strikes 50 to 75 percent of new mothers after delivery. And most of us understand postpartum depression, a sadness post delivery that lingers for weeks or months for an estimated one in every 10 new mothers. But a more serious form of disorder that strikes up to one in every 500 is postpartum psychosis…triggering severe agitation, confusion, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, mania, and possible thoughts of suicide or murder. I am one in 500.

After the birth of my daughter I was so happy to be a new mother. She was a healthy and beautiful. I took a million photos, dressed her in cute outfits, constantly text my husband about every new thing she was doing...there was a problem though. She was never a good sleeper. She would wake up just about every hour of the night wanting to be held, fed, binkied…She was colic too. Cried for hours and hours into the night…One month stretched into four and there was no improvement. I had tried everything (co-sleeping, vibrations, white noise, warm baths, etc.) and nothing seemed to work.

I became majorly sleep deprived. I was a walking zombie. I had constant headaches, blurred vision, was moody, nervous, and achy. I tried to remain positive, hoping it would be better the next night. I prayed to my Heavenly Father to fix it. I begged to have her sleep or make me stronger. But I remained in a constant fog, in a dream-like state, slowly losing the sense between what was real and what was not.

I started hearing things. I heard music and people talking. It was like the radio or television was on and constantly following me around wherever I went. There were many times I’d peek out windows, listen through walls, or step out my front door to see if I could find the source and confirm to myself I wasn’t crazy.

I started having thoughts. They all involved extreme distrust in others and fear about any harm someone might bring upon my baby. I thought someone was going to steal, hurt, or even kill my baby. I questioned every person’s intention and decided whether or not I could trust them. I even thought my husband was incapable of keeping her safe.

I started seeing things. I saw people in the corners of my eye but when I looked they’d disappear. I’d hunt around the house looking for them. I was so sure that behind that door or inside this closet I’d find them hiding. And I’d need to stop them before they would hurt my baby.

Then one night I woke up from my bed shaking beneath me. I sat up and looked around but didn’t find anything there. I was certain an unknown entity was playing tricks on me. Finally my husband convinced me that it was my own body.

It was here I decided to seek help. I had waited in denial on my condition much too long and action needed to be taken now before it was too late…

At the psych hospital I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. I was given medication and after much convincing I allowed my family to step in and help. I am extremely stubborn when it comes to things (I think) I can do myself. I had to recognize that I needed their help to get better. I had to learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable and not be “put together” all of the time.

Most importantly, I had to learn how to rely on the Lord. I had to learn that even in the darkest moments I was having I could call upon Him and He would strengthen me beyond my own weak capacity. It was hard to acknowledge that there was something I wasn’t capable of doing on my own. It was very humbling to acknowledge before Heavenly Father that I was struggling and that what I was capable of doing wasn’t enough. It really solidified the power of the Atonement, that I could cry out in my grief and pain and receive help. It also was comforting to know that Christ, by the power of his Atonement, had made up the difference and was there to plead my cause with the Father.

With my second child I again find myself struggling with sleep...yet I feel the reassurance, love, and support of my Heavenly Father. There have been countless times when I’ve cried out for the strength to continue because I had nothing left to give and I was strengthened. At times I would cry out, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m so tired of it all!” and I could literally feel His arms around me and feel the love and comfort pour into me. I have also felt the request from Him not to give up, to keep trying and the promise that He would help me.

For those struggling with postpartum issues I tell you that you are not alone! You are not strange, weird, or “messed up.” This illness strikes ANYBODY and happens to women more often than you think…

D&C 122:7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

 I can't read this account without tears in my eyes. It is honesty. It is motherhood. It is the postpartum that I think many women experience in secret shame. Please know that you can get help. And you can be the parent you strive to be. I know this woman is a wonderful, loving, capable person. Her postpartum experience does not make her any less deserving to be a mother.

If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact me and I'll gladly include it in this series (livytay at gmail dot com).


  1. Bless her heart. I wish I could hug her for going through this. I wish there was more understanding and love.

    I am struggling with pregnancy depression and felt so alone because there is so much information and awareness for postpartum depression that this kind of blind sided me. Although just from sharing with friends it seems it's far more common than I thought. Such a hard time for women! When people come out and share their stories I think it really helps others feel less alone and more connected and like it's okay to seek help. She is so brave for sharing!

  2. I have definitely felt underwhelmed by the lack of support for this and other trials suffered during pregnancy/postpartum. It's like, if you're not grateful and ecstatic all the time, you are a horrible parent who's hurting everyone who wants to trade places with you in a heartbeat.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this story. I've had postpartum psychosis. I feel terrible for anyone who goes through it....But it is so nice to hear that I'm not alone and to actually hear from someone who can relate--who also heard things and saw things, and who even also felt the bed shaking!


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