The second time I thought about suicide was in high school. The bullying I endured in middle school taught me that you can do two things to avoid bullying – fight back or become a follower. I became a follower which led me to make stupid decisions. Decisions I didn’t want to face the consequences for, and I began to think suicide would be an easier way out. Again, I felt hopeless and believed there were no other options. Thankfully, a friend intervened, and I got help.
The last time I thought about suicide was the early postpartum months after my oldest daughter was born. The pressure to parent perfectly nearly broke me. There’s a lot about my daughter’s first few months of life that I don’t recall because I was in a fog. I remember thinking that she would be better off with anyone but me as a parent. It took me nearly 5 years to get pregnant again because I was scared to go down another dark path.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for women up to one year after giving birth, but we don’t talk about it. In fact, research has shown, the risk is highest for women 9 to 12 months after giving birth.
One key factor has always been present during moments of suicidal ideation, a feeling of hopelessness. Compound that hopeless feeling with sleep deprivation, ever increasing demands of parenthood, hormone fluctuations, attempting to maintain work and life “balance,” and the postpartum period can become dark, fast. Moms, we are not okay.
I don’t want to take my postpartum struggles or mental health struggles to the literal and figurative grave, and the first step to changing that is by saying … I need some help.
The second step is seeing your provider. Even if you think you may be experiencing the “baby blues” – tell someone. You are not crazy. You are human. You have emotions, feelings, and HORMONES.
We must continue to talk about and normalize postpartum mental health disorders, lobby for better and more access to mental health care, and love on moms through that first year – the hardest year.
If your friend has had a baby in the past year, check on her. Don’t just ask about the baby, ask about her. If she’s struggling, offer to take her kids for an hour so she can go to therapy. Listen to her without offering advice or telling her things like “this too shall pass.”
Moms, if you’re within the one year postpartum range, be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Ask for help if you notice yourself heading down a dark path. If you’re ashamed to talk to your partner or friends, call a hotline, talk to a stranger. Just tell someone!
Being a mother is unique because it’s simultaneously the most difficult and most rewarding position one can hold. Nothing can prepare you for it, and nothing can really prepare your for the emotions that come along with being a mother. Know that whatever range of emotions you’re facing, you are not alone. You are not defective. You just may have a broader range of feelings than what you capable of coping with alone. Your life has value and your are important.