Opinion – The tragic side of giving birth

through the looking glass

By Marianne Curtis

On July 24, the headlines screamed a first for the province – two children found unresponsive in a tub, and their young mother missing. As the horrific details emerged, many questioned how could a mother allegedly be responsible for their own children’s deaths. Then a relative admitted that Lisa Gibson had sought help for postpartum depression (PPD) and her mother-in-law dropped in daily to check on her.

Two Winnipeg newspapers made the mistake of leaving their comment section open so readers could speak on stories on this tragedy while details were still emerging. The opinions were vast and sometimes sickening. Reading how people felt that if it was a man who’d committed this horrible crime, he would have been crucified, not excused – yes, many felt that PPD was an excuse, not a reality.

Let me tell you, postpartum depression exists – I know, because I had it. I was 19 when I had my first baby, 13 months later came number two. When I was twenty-two I had number 3 and a few years later came my fourth baby – my oldest is now 26. I’ve only really learned about PPD when my daughter gave birth. I watched her like a hawk, she was young and could easily fall victim to it. But it made me look back to when I gave birth – I was not diagnosed with PPD until I had my fourth baby!

Looking back, I had all the classic signs, mostly started by the trauma of birth. My first baby was born via emergency c-section. I blamed myself for that for years. That affected me with every single baby. I felt like a failure on all counts. I stubbornly tried to have my second naturally, and that too ended up in a c-section. I hated myself at this time. The cycle continued with the following two babies.

I remember being so exhausted, or feeling inadequate I would drive along the highway, fantasizing about driving into a hydro pole. After every baby was born I packed my bags and tried to leave; believing that my children were better off without me. We won’t even mention the many times I wanted to hurt myself.

So yes, I was a classic case. I am not sure what eventually helped. I was isolated but I had an amazing mother-in-law and a homemaker once a week. There were no classes for PPD but CFS did offer groups in Steinbach for moms like me.

Looking back, my kids are lucky to be alive. I am lucky to be alive. Thankfully by the time each baby turned a year old, I started to be myself again and I could see how wonderful motherhood was.

Unfortunately it is too late for the Gibson’s; but it is not too late for those that are still suffering around us. PPD is real; not an excuse or a delusion. The stigma of mental illness needs to stop.

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