Katherine Stone will be the first person to tell you that most people don’t know enough about postpartum depression. In fact, she admits she didn’t know much about it either. That’s why, when it hit her after the birth of her first child nine years ago, she was completely caught off guard. She went from feeling “normal” before her pregnancy to feeling like a horrible “monster” afterward. She even admits to having thoughts about being so inadequate that she worried she may drown her son.
Now, Stone is on a mission to help remove the societal stigma that still exists around postpartum depression. She is the writer of a highly successful blog and the founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering more women and lobbying for a better health care system to evaluate, diagnose and treat this disease–a disease that has become a “major health epidemic.”
Read on for more of our eye-opening interview with Stone:
Tell me about your experience. What happened?
It probably started when I was pregnant. I was highly anxious, even more so than most first-time pregnant mothers. But I didn’t recognize that and thought that was normal. I was voraciously reading every pregnancy book ever written, paying close attention to every bit of food I ate, worrying about all the details, etc. But I didn’t recognize where I was heading. After my son was born nine years ago, the first two days were happy, but after that, it started to really hit me.
At first, I was just nervous and worried all the time. I was having trouble eating and sleeping, and I believed I wasn’t cut out to be a mother and that my son would never love me. I would cry all the time. Around 7-9 weeks postpartum, I started having intrusive thoughts, like, what if I accidentally hurt him in some way or what if I drowned him? The intrusive thoughts are not like postpartum psychosis though–they are really “what if” thoughts. You’re not actively contemplating doing these things, but the thoughts are very unwanted.
How long did your postpartum depression last?
These symptoms went on for three months before I reached out for help. It was just so bad, and I was literally so miserable that reaching out for help felt like I was just giving up. I thought they would call the police or the people in the white coats and off I would go, and that was going to be it for me.
With postpartum depression, there are a variety of symptoms you can experience. Some moms will have more of the depression type symptoms; others may have numbness, disconnectedness, anger and rage or things like intrusive thoughts. It’s something a lot of people don’t understand because they have one view of what postpartum depression is (sadness all the time).
Were you aware of postpartum depression at all before this happened?
In my childbirth education class, I distinctly remember my childbirth nurse saying there’s this thing called PPD that I’m supposed to talk with you about, but it never happens to any of my students, so we’re not going to talk about it. Even in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the author wrote, just have a glass of wine. There really wasn’t much education about all of this nine years ago. People now think everyone is getting proper eduction, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
What was the worst thing PPD made you do or feel?
The worst thing it made me feel was that I was a monster. You think you know yourself your whole life and then this happens to you, and it completely rearranges your vision of yourself. It didn’t matter to me the person I was for the 32 years prior. I was convinced that this was really the person I was, and it had been waiting to come out all along. I felt like I was a horrible person and would be locked up because of it.
The worst thing it made me feel towards my son was those moments that I felt like I should never have had a baby. I remember thinking, I made a massive mistake. I was in this place of massive panic, and now I thought, this was the worst mistake I’ve ever made, I’ve become a monster, my life is ruined and so is my son’s and my husband’s.
How did you cope with all of this and having a newborn at the same time?