It’s so easy to lay blame when we see news stories like this one in which a pregnant mother, with her three kids on board, drove her van into the ocean. We cry out “That mom is so selfish”, “Why not leave the kids with someone if you want to take your life” and the always popular “What kind of mother are you?”. Chances are that she was a mom that needed more help than she was getting and she went from a place of clear and rational thought into a place where there was no rational anything. She only had the voices in her head. In fact the police had gone to her house earlier in the day, but didn’t think she was a danger to herself or others, so they did nothing.
I can sympathize.
When my second daughter was just three months old I had to return to work for financial reasons. On top of that I had to drive home for lunch because she wouldn’t take a bottle and going nine hours with no food was not an option. When I was home at the end of the day I would have my youngest constantly on the breast and my eighteen month old bouncing around me. On top of that my oldest refused to sleep alone and if left to cry it out would cry so hard she would throw up. The only thing that was acceptable was if I was in her room sitting on her bed, or in a chair. Looking back I can see that the kids just missed me while I was gone and were craving that contact and connection they missed during the day. I was so exhausted from the long nights and even longer days that it just felt like one more thing on the to do list. The physical toll of having two little ones so close together, coupled with exhaustion and the hormonal side effects from Depo Provera, left me feeling very much not like myself.
At the time I didn’t realize how bad it was and I was too ashamed of the thoughts running through my head to talk to my doctor, or even confide in my husband. While my thoughts mostly centered around the fact that I was sure they would be better off without me, there were some even darker moments. In my more rational moments I knew that the thoughts were just that, thoughts, but as things worsened, those rational moments became fewer and fewer.
I finally reached my breaking point when we flew out to Quebec for Christmas that year. My husband had found out I was smoking again and wasn’t speaking to me. I was in a strange place. I didn’t know the language. The house was always full of visitors and my head was constantly buzzing. I took my husband outside and in between broken sobs confessed that I wasn’t OK. In fact, to impart how desperate I was feeling at the time, I told him that I felt like driving our minivan into the St. Laurence.
Would I have left the kids at home? I would hope so.
Could I have said for sure at that point? Nope.
Things after that point did get better. My husband was more present, even coming with me to the doctor to explain when I couldn’t. I got counseling, got off the birth control that was adding to the issue, and took the time I needed for myself to recharge and recover. I had gotten so wrapped up in taking care of everyone else that I neglected myself. It so easily could have led to tragic consequences. I’m so glad I got the help I needed.
If you suspect someone is suffering from depression in pregnancy or PPD let them know you are there, offer to watch the kids. Find the numbers for the local health line and be present if they need support to call. Too often we blame the mother when it really is a failing of our society. We have never been more isolated, often living far away from family, not knowing our neighbors, and left to fend for ourselves.
If you feel as if you can’t cope, ask for help. Go to your partner, best friend, doctor or if you need help now – go straight to the ER. If you are a family member who suspects a problem then call someone. The list below is of Provincial Health Lines which puts you in touch with a health nurse who will then be able to direct you to the right kind of help.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine, 888-709-2929,yourhealthline.ca
Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia HealthLink, 811, nshealthlink811.ca
PEI: Healthline 811 or 1-800-218-2885
New Brunswick: New Brunswick Tele-Care, 800-244-8353
Quebec: Info-Santé 811
Ontario: Telehealth Ontario, 866-797-0000, health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/telehealth
The Distress Centre of Ottawa 24/7 support, crisis intervention & education services to residents of the Champlain region. 613-722-6914 & 866-996-0991
Manitoba: Manitoba Health Links, 888-315-9257
Yukon: Yukon HealthLine, 811
NWT: 1-867-920-2121 (in Yellowknife, Ndilo or Dettah) Toll Free: 1-800-661-0844 www.nwthelpline.ca