Speaking My Postpartum Truth

By Kristi Rapp, MMHI Board Co-Chair

Trigger Warning: intrusive thoughts

My son Grayson was born in June of 2011. For many women, the day their baby is born is one of the happiest days of their lives. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. The minute Grayson was delivered, I did not feel connected with him. I didn’t want to hold him or look at him. I didn’t want to bond or do skin-to-skin. I didn’t want to care for him or snuggle. I remember the nurse and my husband asking if I was OK and I said yes- that I was just tired. In reality, I was full of fear and anxiety. This wasn’t what I felt like after my first son was born, so why did I feel this way now?

Grayson was born two weeks early and I did not feel prepared. We had just moved into our new house, nothing was unpacked, his room wasn’t set up. I just felt incredibly overwhelmed by all there was to do and couldn’t stop worrying. When we were discharged home from the hospital, Grayson would not latch on to breastfeed- likely because he felt my anxiousness, but I remember feeling like breastfeeding was a breeze with my first son, so again, why was it hard this time? Why wasn’t I good enough this time? The more frustrated Grayson became, the more frustrated I became, only complicating the situation.

Kristi & her beautiful family

I cried all the time. I was moody, never slept, didn’t eat. And then, I started having intrusive thoughts. I pictured drowning Grayson in my parents’ pool. I pictured myself turning on the oven and then putting him in it or dropping him on purpose. I pictured smashing his sweet, little head on the corner of my coffee table. I could go on and on and while I knew these thoughts “weren’t healthy” I could not stop them from coming. I was terrified but told no one. I was afraid of the judgement and of people thinking I wasn’t a good mom.

I had my six-week postpartum check and I lied to my OB. I told him I felt great, and everything was fine. Meanwhile I was miserable and continued to go deeper into the darkness. I lost a significant amount of weight because I completely stopped taking care of myself. At that point, I was just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum. My poor husband knew something was up, but I continued to insist that I was fine.

When Grayson was six months old, I finally called my doctor and told him the truth. I got to the point where I truly could not see a way out of my feelings and that scared me enough to act. I didn’t want to die but I also felt so stuck and didn’t know how to make anything better. I was immediately scheduled with a psychologist and was also started on antidepressants and anxiety medication. I’m so thankful I made it through that time and that I was able to get the help I needed. Many women aren’t as lucky.

Postpartum depression and anxiety are REAL. Did you know as many as one in five women suffer from these disorders making postpartum depression (PPD) and other perinatal mood or anxiety disorders (PMADs) the number one complication of childbirth? We also know that PMADs can impair mother-infant bonding which may adversely affect a baby’s brain development, increase risks of child abuse, neglect, and even maternal death (Postpartum Support International).

Moms Mental Health Initiative had not yet become a reality when I went through this with my son. However,  I was lucky enough to work in a health care facility and have access to providers that most women don’t have access to and I am still so thankful for my care team. Ten years later, I am now co-chair of Moms Mental Health Initiative and we work tirelessly to help women who are going through similar situations. #youarenotalone

Read how Moms Mental Health Initiative came to be