My Postpartum Nightmare by Ariella Schulman Razak

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.

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.


  1. Yep, that was me. I ended up in a mental hospital for over two months. But my kids and I are safe and I did emerge. There’s no shame, it’s not something any of us *tried* to do, or failed to do. Nor does it mean I’m not a loving parent, a successful woman now. Hugs to any of you who are going through this, and to those who survived.

  2. Thank you for opening up and sharing this with us, Ariella. Sending you big hugs. And to all those moms who are scared to open up — sending them big hugs, too.

  3. Ariella Razak

    omG! this is so hard and strange for me. to have my private thoughts up where people can read them! two things 1. thank G-d I am no longer in this dark place. I am okay and my children are safe!. 2. if this piece helps even one woman out there than exposing myself in such a raw fashion will have been worth it. if you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression reach out. even when you feel like you can reach and let someone grab hold and help you. my thoughts and prayers are with each and every person out there.

    • Thank you for sharing this Ariella. I can imagine just how difficult it must have been to write those words down, remember those feelings, and then to submit it to the world. Stories heal and stories save. Thank you for sharing your story and trusting that this is a safe community. I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety and I can say to anyone reading this that may be going through it now or is afraid that it will “come back” in subsequent pregnancies: you will be ok. You will laugh from pure joy again. You will LOVE those kids and your husband again and not just tolerate their existence. There is help out there and many, many people who love you. It’s ok to not always be strong and not always be perfect and its REALLY ok to ask for help. I love you, Jewish Moms.

  4. Sarah, thank you very much for sharing your experience so that we can understand better.

    This is the challenge… to hear what isn’t said. How to do that?

  5. Listening is an art.
    We usually just want to share what we feel & relate what the other is saying compared to what we have gone through.
    1. look at her body language.
    2. listen to her voice.
    3. ask her if she has any help…family, friends, neighbors, husband to try to get the whole picture. Is she sleep deprived? hungry? in Pain?
    4. Maybe the baby has an ear infection or something else we can not know about unless we see a doctor.
    5. I’d like to help you, where do I start, any one helping you with meals??
    6. Can I hold your baby for a few minutes?
    7. But 1st try to listen to her situation, talk softly, say” Oh”, I hear you, that must be hard, frustrating, seems like you are having a hard time coping now.
    8. Don’t judge. 1st listen & then he she share with you, you might want to try to focus on what you can help her with, then tomorrow get more help, husband, therapist.Offer to go with her to a dr or therapist or call for her. Keep listening to her.
    9. go to her home to offer your help, if you can for 1 hour.Look & Listen & smile at her, hug her, give her a back rub, foot rub. sing quietly.
    10. Keep focusing on solutions. Keep listening & davening & getting help.

    • Yes, thank you for this. This seems very important, for women in the community to listen to the new mothers and be sensitive to their needs.

    • Ariella Razak

      thank you for your response. so many people have asked what they can do/say when they’re uncertain what someone is experiencing.

  6. Thanks. That is helpful

  7. I had an experience of feeling I was losing it during and after my last pregnancy…BH I discovered that taking off processed food from my diet and getting enough veggie protein really helped. Melave Malka with hamotzi and something warm, and saying “chamim bemotzei shabbat meleguma” is a sgula for getting out of bad moods/depression (melugma is healing in aramaic.) I saw it on this hidabroot video and it’s bH worked wonders. Exercise also really helps, but you aren’t always up for doing it…u can always try the sgula, nothing to lose! Kol hakavod, Ariela, on putting yourself out there!

    • thanks milka, can you give us examples of veggie protein? never heard that idea about eating something warm at melave malka– interesting

      • Sure! Veggie protein as in peas, chickpeas, lentils, all beans…I boil them in water and then blend them, add spices, and then cook in the oven w/ oil as patties. Much tastier than just baked beans! Chickpeas can be roasted in the oven spicy,it’s amazing- I don’t recommend soy at all as that can cause hormonal imbalance in a lot of women, and that’s not we’re going for…:-) Bracha and hatzlacha!

  8. thank you so much ariella for your courage !

  9. Miriam Adahan

    I urge all mothers to find out if they have MTHFR deficiency. This genetic defect, which affects 40% of the population, means is that B vitamins are circulating in the blood stream but are NOT getting inside the cells. The result is agitation, fatigue and excessive sensitivity -both in moms and babies! To get the enzyme, you need to take HERO’S FORMULA from VITABENS from 3 months before the pregnancy. It contains METHYLATED B9 and B12. NEVER TAKE FOLIC ACID – only the methylated B will get inside the cells! Take probiotics the entire pregnancy, as probiotics produce B vitamins in the gut. Lastly, avoid all white flour/sugar!!!! Each time we ingest toxic foods (or put them on our skin) we lower the level of B vitamins. I am happy to send my e-booklet called B-HEALTHY to anyone who writes to me. My life changed when I found out that I had this deficiency. I myself am 80% blocked. DOCTORS DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THIS, AS THEY PREFER GIVING PSYCH MEDS, WHICH IS FAR MORE PROFITABLE.

  10. Rochel Black

    I just found this article while perusing the JewishMom website. My great-grandmother was institutionalized in the early 1900’s for trying to kill her baby. At that time the medical authorities really did not have the tools and medications we have now, and she ended up living in the institution, and dying there, many years later. We do not even know where she was buried. The baby was placed in an orphanage and grrew up separately from his older sister (my grandmother) and the other brother, who sadly died in a wagon accident in North Dakota in 1915. At one point my grandmother was in an orphanage as well, and then she lived with her father (hence the North Dakota part), who had a store set up there for the farmers. Eventually she was living with her father’s sister in law, the aunt, in Minnesota. Maybe my great-grandmother had Postparum Depression, maybe she was Schizophrenic or Bi-Polar but it is all a very sad story. Thank G-d doctors are more attuned nowadays, and people are a bit more open about admitting they need help. And thank G-d for relatives, good friends and neighbors, who can help shoulder the burden. It does take a village!

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