Saturday, March 20, 2010

Courage is Contagious

Part One

I've been participating in a discussion about Post Partum Depression/ Post Partum Anxiety over at F&F Live started by the courageous Kate Wicker and also over at Kate's blog. There are a few things I feel as though I need to say here in this safe, comfortable space. Maybe I need to get them off my chest or maybe someone needs to hear them.

Some of you already know that I struggle with an anxiety disorder. I've been through some really difficult times and still have moments when I recognize that certain corners of my mind are like a bad neighborhood that I shouldn't be allowed to wander in alone especially at night. While I was not diagnosed with PPD specifically, my most recent problems did begin when my youngest was 6 months old, although that wasn't the only contributing circumstance. Looking back on all of my post partum experiences, I can say with a good amount of certainty that I was suffering from various levels of PPD/PPA during all 4 with the most notable instances occurring after babies 3 & 4.

The discussion over at F&F has included stories of triumph over this illness using different prescription therapies like progestrone or anti-depressants. Women have also admitted to feeling as though their pride and fear kept them away from accepting the chemical intervention for longer than was good for them. That just breaks my heart. There is a certain stigma attached to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, which PPD/PPA is classified as and that needs to change. We need to do whatever we can to destroy that prejudice, especially in Catholic circles.

Why especially in Catholic circles? Because the guilt we inflict on ourselves can be overwhelming. As faithful Catholic moms, we are all trying to live a truly pro-life lifestyle and we are taught by our Church that children are a blessing to be cherished, welcomed and treasured. It's the Culture of Death that says babies are a burden, motherhood is a millstone, parenthood is something to be endured. When you find yourself sad, crying, miserable, angry, or anxious after giving birth to this helpless creature whose coos and gurgles bring you no joy, the guilt is crushing. 

Have I given into the culture of death mentality? I am a terrible mother. I am unfit for this noble vocation. Everyone else can handle motherhood just fine, why can't I? Was I just fooling myself? Am I going to break my children and damage them forever? Don't they deserve better than me? If I just prayed more, if I was a better Catholic, if I was a better person, I wouldn't have this problem.

Every woman thinking thoughts like these whether you have a newborn or not needs to know... that's not really you. That's not who you are! If you've recently had a baby, it might just be your brain's response to a chemical cocktail gone wrong. There are ways to come out of that fog. Ways to find your real self again. There are a whole host of ways these days to treat this illness, one of them is bound to work for you. I pray you have the courage to get the help you need and the support of people you trust. It's a tough road, but it's worth it!

(Next post I will talk a little about what worked for me.)


  1. Thanks for posting this, Charlotte. I don't know what to say just that you give me hope. I'm looking forward to reading your next post.

  2. I think it's also hard for all moms to differentiate between depression and just plain exhaustion. It's highly likely that I was suffering from PPD after the birth of my 4th. But my husband was deployed and my 3 other children were 5, 3 and 2. I felt like I was drowning, but nobody suggested PPD and even if they had, I had no husband to step up and say, "I am not going into work today so you can go to the doctor." Also, I'm pretty sure I thought PPD could only be treated with drugs not friendly to breastfeeding moms. It never occurred to me that maybe all I needed was some hormone cream.

    Of course, I'm a strong, perfect mother in the eyes of many women, so that only perpetuates the notion that if a mom is struggling, it's just a matter of not yet having the hang of it. Maybe we all need some education in recognizing PPD, knowledge about alternative therapies, and a willingness to step up to new moms and suggest meeting at a park for a walk with the kids or watching them while the mom works out or sharing our own struggles if we see them barely keeping it together.

  3. God bless you, Charlotte. I know a lot of women struggle with these things, and you are good to help them out.

  4. Love to you Charlotte. I know I've definitely experienced depression after Matthew in July. I have never "known" panic attacks until now. I am still praying for God to be with me at all times. Hugs to you

  5. I think anxiety is the "hidden" part of pp disorders in the sense that so many doctors don't recognize it as related to giving birth. That is how my trouble with pp disorders has always manifested itself. I can't watch medical mystery shows near the birth of my babies, either before or after, because of the amount of worry they provoke in me that I am about to die in front of my children. Just knowing the weight of the responsibility entrusted to you is enough to fear for the baby you love if something were to happen to you! A mother is, after all, irreplaceable in a profound way.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!