Good mothers have scary thoughts.¹
I know this now.
Mothers with Postpartum OCD are extremely unlikely to ever act on their thoughts.²
I know this now.
I didn’t know this then.
It was fall 2014. My 3-month-old was a great sleeper, breastfeeding was going well, and we had found our groove and were adapting to Life with A Baby. Everything was fine. Well, mostly fine – as long as I stayed away from certain places and avoided certain things.
Every once in a while, the thoughts would come. The scary, disturbing, intrusive thoughts. I would be walking downstairs with the baby and very clearly see her falling out of my arms. I would be driving somewhere and see my car swerving into oncoming traffic. My house had a loft with an open space where you could see down to the main floor, but all I could see was her being thrown over the edge. I didn’t go in that room any more.
This wasn’t normal. I wasn’t depressed – I knew what to watch out for and I didn’t have any of those symptoms. These horrible awful thoughts seem to come out of nowhere and I couldn’t make them go away. I knew in my very core that I would never do anything to harm my baby, but I was afraid to tell anyone what I was feeling because I didn’t think they would believe me. After all, most of what we know about Postpartum Mood Disorders comes from extreme cases of psychosis on the news. I knew that wasn’t me, but what if other people thought it was?
So, I secretly took action – I called someone. I spoke to a counselor that specialized in postpartum mood disorders. I met with an incredibly kind and empathetic person who helped me understand about Postpartum OCD. Wait – OCD? Isn’t that checking and counting and organizing? Yes, it can be. But it can also be those dark, scary, intrusive thoughts.
She also told me that this is temporary, it can be treated, and most importantly: you are not a risk to your child. Thank god. This is what I had wanted so badly to hear. She told me that because I knew the thoughts were wrong and because I was absolutely horrified at them that there was a very low chance I would ever act on it. Just hearing that made me start to feel better. She also referred me to a weekly peer support group and that helped too.
I told my partner, but I didn’t tell anyone else.
When I had my second baby I told my midwives, but I still didn’t tell anyone else.
I didn’t get the disturbing thoughts after my second baby. Occasionally a scary thought would come into my brain (I think this happens to all of us sometimes). But I would acknowledge that it’s a thought – not an action. I would say (sometimes out loud) ‘this is an intrusive thought. It is not how I actually feel’ and it would go away. This time around I’ve never had to hold my daughter extra tight or avoid certain situations.
And now I know a lot more. I know that good mother’s have scary thoughts. I also know it’s ok to ask for and seek help – that also makes you a good mother.
It’s now time to share this experience with others. I’m sorry I kept it a secret, but I was ashamed. I’m not anymore. It’s not a weakness or a flaw. It’s part of my story and it’s a lot more common than we know.
If this is your story too: I see you and you are not alone.
It feels good to talk about this ‘out loud’ in public but if you’re not there yet – and I wasn’t there for a long time – talk to someone you trust.
If you’re not even there yet – the Postpartum Stress Centre has a cool anonymous board where you can speak your secret
If you’re ready to go further there are lots of places to get help. Postpartum Support International is an amazing resource that offers support both online and by phone.
If you’re local to the Guelph area, the program I used was the Guelph Community Health Centre Postpartum Mood Disorder Support Services: (519) 821-6638 ext. 320
We don’t have to suffer and if we are suffering we certainly don’t have to do it alone. It’s time to start to speak our secrets! You will be surprised at how many people can relate and share the same secrets.