Postpartum Mood Disorders

by Aubre Tompkins

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article which appears in Midwifery Today, Spring 2017, Issue 121. View other great articles and columns in the table of contents. To read the rest of this article, order your copy of Midwifery Today, Issue 121.]

While this article was still germinating in my mind, I sat down in front of my computer to reach out via social media. I asked folks to share their experience with postpartum depression (PPD) in three words. What happened next was something I was not entirely prepared for or expecting. Immediately, the responses began to flood in; it was a wave of intensity and vulnerability. Here are some examples of what was shared:

Dark Deep Alone

Awake Vulnerable Sinking

Rage Powerless Foggy

Lonely Disconnected Consuming

Zombie Trapped Paranoid

Incompetent Jumpy Disappearing

Overwhelmed Agitated Guilty

Crushing Exhausting Unpredictable

Isolated Confusing Robbed

Shame Hopeless Immobilized

Drowning Frantic Terrified

Racing Irrational Panic

Suffocating Inadequate Numb

Please take some time to sit with these words, breathe deep with their meanings, feel them and move through them. Initially, the heaviness of these words was overwhelming but then as I sat with them, the process became beautiful and fulfilling. One overarching theme of postpartum depression is the lack of awareness regarding how the sufferer feels alone. What happened on my Facebook page was that a group of women stood up and spoke out, sharing and recognizing this side of motherhood. The sadness then transformed into something inspirational. The power of our communities and our shared experiences can and should be uplifting. Putting the harsh reality of this experience into words, writing them out and then sharing them with others can be liberating. Reading and then knowing that you are not alone can be empowering. There is an unfortunate stigma around PPD in our mainstream culture; we need to rise above it, speak out and use our collective voices to support each other through this often misunderstood side of motherhood.

Aubre Tompkins is a CNM serving families in a freestanding birth center. She is also a mother, wife, sister, aunt and daughter. Whenever she has free time you can find her walking barefoot through the woods or swimming in a mountain stream.

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