I gave birth to my son in March. He was my second. My daughter was only 13-months old. My husband and I hadn’t planned on having children back-to-back, but, as the stale cliché goes: The show must go on. And it did. I tried my hardest to be a better mother than I was the first time. With my daughter, I cried and slept, cried and slept, cried and slept. If anyone asked to my hold my sweet beautiful baby girl, I’d jump at the chance to give her away, only fearing the time she’d come back. I thought I was terrible mother. But, I never knew.
My infant son, my toddler girl. I would do right by them. I would be motherly, I would be nurturing, because we all needed that. They deserved it, they were babies. For three months, I was a machine. I was my own assembly line. I fed, changed diapers, played, repeat. I never knew my emotions were running on fumes. I never knew I was about to have a break down. I never knew that each day my body gave me clues to the arrival of something spectacularly destructive.
One day, it was racing thoughts. I tried to “Google” it, but that was no help. Another day I was hit with mania. Elaborate and dramatic happiness, untouchable excitement. Nothing could stop my high. Then came the talking. The endless run-on sentences I blurted out one night. Words flying out erratically—a high speed chase, with no one who catches up with them.
Then the voices. The horrible, sinister, evil voices. The ones that scared me so much, I had to leave my house. I told my husband it wasn’t safe. The voices warned me—guaranteed me, even. Death would be my end if I stayed in that house. We all left. My husband, my children, me. Lost, we went to my in-laws and eventually I went to the ER. The voices scared me so much, that I began to trust them, because I was scared to turn against them. The whole time I wondered, what is happening to me? Why am I hearing voices? What is going on? Why am I in the ER? How can a doctor stop this? But, I never knew.
It wasn’t until the next morning when I woke up in a psychiatric hospital (I was suicidal and they feared I might become homicidal) that I was told I had Postpartum Psychosis. What? I heard of Postpartum Depression, but psychosis? I know the word, but all of them put together? Why wasn’t I ever taught about it? How come I never knew?
Well, to the mother who never knew, this is for you. Postpartum Psychosis is not your fault. You are not damaged goods. It’s not a stigma, it’s an illness. Most books devote one paragraph with four sentences to it. But that will change. My job, after five years of dealing with the ups and downs of psychosis and depression, is to teach the public about postpartum mood disorders. And we all will hold up our heads high and know that we are not just 1 in 1000 women, but we are devoted mothers with names.
My name is Alison. And I am a mother who now knows.
Alison Parson is a narrative non-fiction writer and public speaker. Her main job is being a stay-at home-mother to her two children ages 5 and 6. Though a tough New Yorker, she currently lives in the laid back South with her husband and children and loves being known for her quirkiness and humor. Follow her on Twitter at @msmoodymommy.
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