Six years ago when I became a mom for the first time, my mind was certainly not thinking about a Postpartum Mood Disorder. And I was certainly not thinking about having to discuss it with my newborn daughter when her sister and brother were born. Yet there I was – staring down delivery for the third time and the very real possibility of relapsing- and I had these two darling little girls depending on me. Suddenly it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about them. About their security, their safety, their happiness, the very stability of their world depended on how my husband and I explained the possibility of mommy experiencing a Postpartum Mood Disorder.
We did not talk about it a lot when our second daughter was born. At least I don’t remember talking about it a lot. I may have mentioned something briefly but at that point, I hadn’t become an advocate or blogger. I had not educated myself as much as I had by the time my pregnancy with our son. I had not come to embrace the realization that Postpartum Mood Disorder affects the whole family. Once I embraced that fact, I realized there was no way I could avoid having a discussion with our daughters. I should also say that our oldest daughter really saw a lot of strife she shouldn’t have with that second episode of Postpartum. My husband and I would yell and scream at each other with her just in the other room. We were both frustrated, scared, and really not putting ourselves first at all. Postpartum will do that to you – completely consume you if you allow it to do so. Our communication had hopelessly broken down by the time our second daughter came home from the hospital.
Somewhere in the second trimester of my third pregnancy, my husband and I began to talk with our daughters about Postpartum Mood Disorders. We did not use big clinical words even though we don’t believe in baby talking the kids.
We told them that sometimes, after moms have babies, they get sad. And sometimes they get angry. But it’s not the mommy’s fault. Not the daddy’s fault, not the baby’s fault and not the big brother or big sister’s fault. That it just happens. And if it does happen, mom goes to a doctor to talk about what’s going on so she can get help and get better.
Then we brainstormed ways they could help mommy if she got angry or sad after she had baby.
My favorite response was from our oldest: “I could make you happy by tickling you so you’ll laugh.”
That’s my girl – curing Postpartum Mood Disorders one tickle at a time!
I’ve since talked with the girls about what I do and why I spend time on the computer and the phone. I remind them about how some mommies get angry or sad after having babies. And then I tell them that mommy makes herself available to these mommies so they don’t have to be sad or angry alone. I tell them that mommy helps these mommies find the help they need to get better so they can be happy with themselves and with their families. They both seem to understand very well what mommy does and appreciate it.
Making the decision to share my postpartum journey with my kids was not easy. But given my history and the high chance of relapse, we felt we had to share with them what may happen after their brother was born. One day I may share with them this website and let them read everything that happened. I’ll answer any questions they may have. It’s important to me they understand that there is no shame in any kind of mental illness. But until they are much older, I don’t feel they need to know very much. I certainly don’t regret having shared with them what I have thus far. For me, sharing with my kids will be showing them that it is possible to get through the toughest parts of life. I sincerely hope the phrase “I give up” is never in their vocabulary.
So let’s get to just talking. Will you ever share your Postpartum Story with your child? Have you already shared with your son or daughter? What did you tell them? Will you tell them the whole story or just bits and pieces? Why would you tell them your story? Why would you choose not to tell them if that’s your decision?
Let’s get to just talking!
Hmmm… you have got me thinking. I did not have any more children (you can probably guess one of the reasons why). I haven’t talked to my daughter about it because I think I felt such guilt around my feelings (or lack of) for her. She is now 8. Maybe when she is older. Thanks for the sharing and getting me thinking about this.
I had a hard time making the decision to have more children. In fact, we started trying for our second, stopped for awhile, and then started again. And our third was not planned at all but we love him to pieces. He really keeps me giggling most days – even when he’s grumpy!
It’s a hard topic to broach with your kids but an important one nonetheless. Remember, we only have to tell them as much as we deem necessary. In my case though, one day, they may come across this blog and read quite a bit about how mommy felt so I’ve got to do what’s best for my situation. I wish you peace as you think about this and decide whether or not to tell your daughter and how much to tell her.
Yes, we shared in a similar manner with my son while he was age 5, now 6. We said that after our daughter was born that Momma got sad and sick. And now she is getting better. He responded that he remembers, and it was “probably because the baby came out funny, but now we are all ok.” This is how he remembers it. However, whenever I am really tired and need to retire to bed early, they both check on me often. I know this is part of it. Reassure them I am fine and accept the hugs and give them back. It is a bittersweet feeling, when it happens, but I know they love me and that I them.
I know that bittersweet feeling. I can’t clean the house without my husband asking me if I’m ok. (I cleaned a LOT when I had severe postpartum). I’m grateful he’s so in tune with my signs and symptoms but as you said, it is kind of bittersweet.
I only have the one little guy but I do plan on telling him what happened. I think it’s important that our children know…create awareness!
I just have one son, and I haven’t shared anything with him since he’s only 18 months :). I think I will someday especially if he has kids so he can be aware for his new family’s sake. But I think it will come up before that. I’m trying to become more active with awareness here in Arizona so I think he will want to know why it’s so important to me.
I tried to prepare my son when I was pregnant with my daughter that my mood and feelings might be a little bit whacky when she’s born….he was 4 so we used his type of talk. I didn’t want him to wig out if he caught me crying or something!
When they are older, I plan to have conversations with them about it . For my son, I want him to be aware in case his “wife” goes through it, they’ll know what to look for. For my daughter, obviously so she’ll know she may get it.
I’m loving this theme of creating awareness in our children. There is such a real possibility that down the road they may face this very situation. And I keep telling myself that my experience is all the more valuable because of the lessons it will allow me to pass on to my children. That very attitude is one of the things which has allowed me to be grateful for going through such hell.