Monday, December 28, 2009

Post Partum OCD

Almost everyone has heard of Post Partum Depression. Not the psychosis that drives women to throw their babies off bridges or drown them in their bathwater. But that is a real thing too. Post Partum Depression is that feeling, after the baby blues time-frame has past, that leaves a woman feeling unable to cope. She may be afraid to be left alone with the baby. She may feel overwhelmed and incompetent. She may even feel like she could, not would, harm herself or her baby. Some women are sure, because their baby is crying when they come near that it's because they aren't good mothers and therefore can't soothe their kid. I am more apt to think it's because when mom comes around they holler to eat. Some women are so depressed that they can't get out of bed to feed their babies at all. Or they feel that they are trapped: that they must care for their baby, but don't know how they will. It happens because of hormones and sleep deprivation and a past history of depression. Sometimes it seems to happen for no apparent reason, other than the birth of a baby, and that can be cause enough.

What a lot of women don't know and may never even have heard of is the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that seems to be associated with the more commonly described Post Partum Depression. Just imagine checking on your baby, over and over and over, to make sure that he is still breathing, so that along with the expected sleep deprivation that is part and parcel for new parents, mom can't sleep at all, for checking on that baby, even when he's asleep. Imagine, checking over and over again to see if the monitor is on, or the doors are locked or the stove is off, the smoke alarm is operating. Imagine, worrying, endlessly, everyday that something is physically wrong with you, so that you won't be able or be around to take care of the baby. Imagine worrying, all the time, about everything that could ever go wrong. From terrorism to a diaper rash, that means you aren't cleaning that baby's bottom well enough, so you do it over and over again and again. And imagine the spiral down and the deep shame, because Post Partum Depression is so little talked about, that you can't begin to share these thoughts and behaviors with anyone. For fear of being thought crazy. And that fear can become the most obessive thought of all.

Post Partum Obessive Compulsive Disorder is as real as Post Partum Depression. And it is just as much not your fault. It can be addressed and treated. It doesn't mean that you are a bad mother or an incompetent mother and it doesn't have to last forever. It just needs as much press as Post Partum Depression, so women will speak up and get help and share this information so other women know it's real too. If you think that you have Post Partum Depression or Obessive Compulsive Disorder, speak up. And get what you deserve. You deserve to be heard and respected and treated so you can get on with just the typical day- to- day business of all that being a mother entails. That is enough for any one woman to handle.