My Postpartum Nightmare by Ariella Schulman Razak
My whole week has been spent, like many mothers in Israel, in the shadow of the tragedy involving a mother who many now believe was suffering from postpartum psychosis. I do not think any benefit can come from sharing the details of what happened in this article or in your comments.
But the whole week I have been feeling this pain, remembering the suffering of the families and of the mothers, including myself, who have in the past or are presently suffering postpartum.
If you are struggling emotionally following the birth of a baby, there are a few things I have to tell you. First of all, that I love you and Hashem loves you too, as much as a father loves an only child born in his old age. As someone who has been along that same rocky path that you are now on, you are my sister.
I would also like to tell you that many, many mothers have scary thoughts postpartum that they are going to hurt or even kill their babies. As a general rule, while extremely upsetting for the mothers experiencing them, except for a very small percentage* of the 1 in 1000 mothers who suffer from postpartum psychosis, these depressed or anxious mothers never follow through with their thoughts. You love your baby and he will love you. Your baby is safe with you.
I would also like to tell you that there are things that you can do to make it easier. While postpartum was quite traumatic after my earlier pregnancies, it mostly disappeared following my later pregnancies. Here’s 8 changes I made in my life that helped me to overcome postpartum depression and anxiety.
I would also implore you to get help. Even a single meeting with an excellent psychologist or a psychiatrist can sometimes completely alter your outlook and situation. For mental-health referrals as well as subsidized treatment, for women living in Israel, I highly recommend contacting Nitzah: The Israel Center for Maternal Health (during office hours call 02-5004523, or leave a message any hour of the day and they will get back to you within 24 hours at: 02-5002824). For mental-health referrals in the US, the US, or Israel, contact Relief.
Thank you to Ariella Schulman Razak, a brave mother of 5 who has chosen, in response to the recent tragedy, to share her own personal struggle with post-partum depression, the most powerful accounts I’ve ever read. The following account contains some graphic images and may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.
MY POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
By Ariella Schulman Razak
There, I’ve said it. Postpartum depression. Those taboo words. Not to be spoken. Not to be felt. But it’s there.
Everyone speaks of how beautiful motherhood is. How cute their babies are. How wonderful it is (and it is).
No one really speaks about how tiring it is. How overwhelming. How challenging. How exhausting. How lonely. How Lonesome. So you go out and put on your happy face because being a new mother is amazing. Except when it isn’t.
And here’s my story. I have 5 children. Each pregnancy got progressively harder, but I would bounce back within days of giving birth.
Comes along pregnancy number 5. I wished I could die. I did not want to carry this child. The pain. the pain was indescribable but I had to push on. Right, there’s no choice, there were other children to care for. A house. A husband. And so I did it all knowing that after those 9 months of hell I’d be myself again.
And then I went into labor. Not just any labor. Back labor. There are no words to describe the excruciating pain. But labor is labor and it would pass. And NO, I do not want medication or an epidural. And so I labored on. Crying. Wishing to die.
And then he was in my arms. My sweet, tiny, helpless baby who did not mean to hurt his mama but whose existence did. And I wanted to love him. But I hurt. So badly. Still. Slowly, Oh so slowly, the pain subsided and I was able to go about my daily routine. But I hurt. But still there was a house to take care of. And children to feed. And a husband. And a baby. And so I did.
“How’s your baby?” they’d ask. “A baby.” Or, “he cries so much.” (please help me) I can’t get him to stop crying (please take him from me, give me a break). So this is what the other women feel like. This is what it feels like to be post-partum. It’s hard. It’s not just getting back to yourself a few hours or days later. It’s hard. I hurt. (please help).
But no one hears. Smile (please help). He doesn’t stop crying. It’s not normal. I can’t do this. And out to the park we go. Push the kids on the swing. Take them down the slide. Smile. Call the teachers. Clean the house. Make another supper. Take the kids to therapy. Smile. Don’t forget to smile. And I hurt. And he doesn’t stop crying. They want to know why I’m not on top of calling the teachers. Or doing the exercises prescribed during our sessions.
But I can’t. Don’t you see how hard it is for me to get up out of my bed. To get the kids out. To cook. To come to therapy. To go to the park. All with his crying. Please stop crying, baby. Please. (Please help me. Please. ) Oh, he doesn’t cry so much. Maybe it’s just you. It’s your fault he cries so much. Maybe if you’d put him down he’d learn. But he cries so much and this is the only way he stops. I can’t hear him crying anymore. (Please help me. Please take him.) I don’t see the smiles. Can’t hear the laughter. All I hear are his cries. And mine. The tears don’t stop. So this is what after-birth is like. This is hard. Just snap out of it. Get back to yourself.
I can’t. I can’t do anything. Except get the kids to school. And make supper. And take them to therapy and the park. And smile. Don’t forget to smile. (I want to kill myself) (I want to die) (I don’t want to wake up) smile (I want to stay in my bed and cry) and he cries (all I want to do is cry) don’t forget to smile. Haha, who ever would’ve thought that having a baby is this hard (please help me. please take my kids). He’s so cute (I’m going to kill him). No, I can’t do that right now, I’m not back to myself. This is taking much longer than I expected. (PLEASE, I’M BEGGING YOU, HELP ME, hear what I’m not saying). It still hurts (I hurt). Yes, he’s still crying, haha (please make him stop.) (make me stop)(I’m crazed. I’m gonna lose it) take more pictures of the kids. why don’t you take more pictures of the kids (through gritted teeth) smile! (tears)smile, I said smile! why won’t you smile?
Please, my heart hurts. My head hurts. I want to smash someone’s head. I want to feel the blood running through my fingers. Don’t hurt the kids. Hurt yourself. Don’t hurt yourself. How can you do that to your kids. They don’t deserve it. Hurt yourself where they can’t see. Don’t hurt yourself. If you start, you won’t stop. Cry. Scream. Shout. Make it stop. Please make it stop. I can’t anymore. And don’t forget to smile. This is my fight song. Fight, damn it, fight. You’ve always fought. Win this. You don’t have a choice. Prove I’m alright song. Prove you’re alright. Make it alright. Take a pill. I don’t want to take a pill. Take a bottle. Go to sleep. Don’t wake up. Fight. Fight…fight. If not for yourself. Fight. Fight for them. Take a pill. Fight. And don’t forget to smile.
*According to Psychology Today, approximately 4% of women with postpartum psychosis kill their children.