I consider this post to possibly be one of the most emotionally charged and important posts that I have written to date. Katherine Stone recently addressed this issue and having received a comment here at Unexpected Blessing, I am following suit.
On February 11, 2008, I received notification of a comment in response to one of my MOTHER’S Act posts. This comment blatantly challenged and negated the necessity for the bill and raised an alarmist point of view by claiming that new mothers would become trapped by the system and forced to take anti-depressants, masking the “root” of the problem. This comment also claimed that there is no “valid or concrete evidence proving the existence of such a disorder…” going on to point out that the disorders in the DSM-IV are “voted on….” (see: http://www.acnp.org/g4/GN401000082/CH081.html)
Infuriated with this comment and feeling first hand the ignorance of the individual that wrote this, I remained silent until I could calmly and rationally respond.
First, let me assure you, I have LIVED the valid and concrete evidence that proves the existence of this very disorder. It has disrupted my life, it has disrupted my family’s life, and it has changed me as a person. Through this challenge, I have found my way out of the rabbit hole and I have found many others who have also found their way out or are currently working their way out.
I have also suffered without treatment – because my first doctor decided that I didn’t fit the criteria for PPD – and was refused treatment based on this and the fact that I refused to stop nursing – something I was asked to do WHILE MY INFANT WAS SCREAMING TO BE NURSED! I knew from research and contact with others that I could be treated with medication. I also know now that I needed medication – because I tried to recover on my own but was unable to so, resulting in Progressive Postpartum Depression that continued into my second pregnancy, leading to early delivery and ultimately to my hospitalization when I was unable to do anything but curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth, staring out my window, praying that I wouldn’t do anything to my children.
I believe in this bill because I have lived through the very depths of the condition it is fighting to uncover and remove the stigma of so that the next mother who suffers will not have to suffer in silence, will not have to go to her doctor and be rejected and told to “suck it up” and that this is a normal part of motherhood, something that she should get over, something that shouldn’t be happening because she is more than 6wks postpartum and therefore all her hormones should be back to normal by now. Clearly if a woman is seeking treatment (which by the way, is the HARDEST step), she has a reason to do so. And anti-depressants are not always the answer – there are plenty of other therapies that can be explored and may work for certain individuals.
The point is that mothers should feel as if they can work with their physicians as part of a team and not be disregarded nor dismissed when they finally push the tears and anxiety far enough away to make that plea for help. And let’s not forget that these are innocent victims – the mothers, the infants, the fathers, the families that are plagued by this tragic disease every day. It turned our world completely upside down and does even more to other families. I know I was lucky – I got help, I encountered physicians who were open to my plight and willing to lend a hand to help me climb out of my dystopia, encouraging me to turn and fight, making me believe that I could beat this. And I did beat it. I refuse to let anyone fight this alone as a result. If my story saves just one life, it will all have been worth it. I will fight for women and families to have access to fair and non-judgemental care until the day I die.
Ultimately I am pleading the case FOR the MOTHER’S Act. But I will tell you what I tell any woman in the midst of a postpartum crisis I come in contact with. Educate yourself. Get the facts, get them straight, verify them, and then speak. This is a free country and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone should also be entitled to fair and just healthcare and not be afraid to make that phone call for fear of being dismissed or shrugged off. Postpartum Depression IS real. I have been there. I know a LOT of other women who have been there – it has been with us for thousands of years and yet we still live with the stigma. It is only with openness and research that acceptance and fair treatment will come. Please don’t deny new mothers the access to proper care that they deserve and so desperately need. So many times I have heard of doctors passing on bad advice or being dismissive, even in my hometown I have heard stories of women being told “Well if you’re not suicidal or thinking about hurting your baby, you’re fine” Excuse me??? So you want me to call you back AFTER I’ve done something. NO!!!! Preventive care is the best care – any cardiologist or oncologist would tell you that if this were heart disease or cancer we were discussing. But it’s not. It’s a mental illness. A DISEASE of the mind that these new moms did NOT ask for and want to be free from so they can enjoy their new babies and roles as mothers. Trust me, if we could free ourselves from these bonds on our own, we would.
So go forth, educate yourselves, read the text of the MOTHER’S Act, contact your Senator, ask questions, contact Senator Menendez. Contact PSI (who, by the way is NOT funded in any way shape or form by the pharmaceutical industry!), contact your local mental health advocacy group. But please, before you buy into what these naysayers have to cry from their mountaintops, check out the facts for yourself.