When 32-year-old Florence Leung gave birth to her first child, she didn’t know what to expect. Of course, she may have read a book or two, and she probably received a ton of solicited (and unsolicited) advice, but Florence began her parenting journey as most new moms do: excited, anxious, clueless, fearful, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived.
Unfortunately, Florence would never make it out of this new mom phase. Shortly after her son’s birth, the New Westminster mom began struggling with postpartum depression. When her son was two months old, she went missing, and just before her son turned three months, her body was discovered.
Florence Leung’s postpartum depression caused her to take her own life.
Now her husband, Kim Chen, is sharing Florence’s story — and his own — on social media in the hopes of helping other women who may be hurting or struggling; who may feel trapped and believe suicide is their only way out:
For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother.
Chen’s words are of particular importance because this is exactly how postpartum depression makes many moms feel: overwhelmed, crazy, angry, afraid, and alone. You feel as though you’ve made a mistake, a terrible mistake, and your child deserves better.
You don’t just feel like a bad mom, but the worst mom ever, and I would know. I struggled with postpartum depression for 16 months, and I only got help when I was having suicidal thoughts. When I was making plans to take my own life.
But Chen doesn’t just speak out about postpartum depression; he speaks about the damaging effects of the “breast is best” mentality. How this, coupled with postpartum depression, can cause a woman to feel inexplicable guilt — and like a failure:
Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to “exclusively breastfeed,” even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes. Apparently the hospitals are designated “baby-friendly” only if they promote exclusive-breastfeeding. I still remember reading a handout upon Flo’s discharge from hospital with the line “Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby for the First Six Months,” I also remember posters on the maternity unit “Breast is Best”. While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEED [sic] to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option.
Chen’s point is spot-on because breastfeeding is hard. Damn hard. And while you may be “lucky” — your milk may come right in and your baby may latch right on — the act itself takes a huge toll on a mother. A physical toll, an emotional toll, and a mental toll. And this stress, coupled with a postpartum illness, can leave many women feeling suffocated or trapped. We feel damned if we do and damned if we don’t because we are hurting our children.
Many moms believe that, by giving a bottle, we are failing our children.
But that is not true. It couldn’t be further from the truth, and whether you are struggling with breastfeeding, PPD (or PND), postpartum OCD or anxiety, know that you are not a bad mother. You are not a terrible person, and you are not beyond help.
No matter what you may be thinking or how you may be feeling, you are not crazy and you are not alone.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time adjusting to life after childbirth, please reach out for help — even if you do not know what to say or how to say it. Postpartum Progress is an excellent place to start, as is Postpartum Support International. You are worth it.
© 2016 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Sammiches & Psych Meds