“I didn’t have postpartum depression with my first child, just the baby blues for about two to four weeks. But with my second child, things were considerably different,” Connie said.
Both of Connie’s pregnancies had been planned, and she thought she knew what to expect for her second child. She was relaxed and excited and ready to add another member to their family. After going through labor for 24 hours, she gave birth to a 9-pound boy, and soon after went home.
But once she was home she began to feel peculiar. “I started to get these very bizarre thoughts in my head very early on.”
When her son was 2 weeks old, he developed a lung infection. He recovered, but his doctor told Connie that if the baby had been born premature, he surely would’ve been killed by it. The difficult thing for Connie, however, was that she had been experiencing her baby’s death almost every day since she had given birth.
“I would get these visions of my baby burning in the oven, or drowning in the bathtub, or him falling out the window of our 19th-floor apartment. Then I’d get these physical symptoms, my heart was in my throat, my stomach was churning, my knees were buckling, and suddenly I was having a panic attack; and this was happening on a daily basis.”
These thoughts persisted for 15 months, and began to affect her relationship with her children. “Here I am trying not to have these thoughts and be a good parent, and literally thinking about my son dying, I would see his casket, I’d be in a cemetery burying my son every day. I didn’t understand why I was doing that. I found it so tough to bond with him, as much as I loved him, it was so tough to watch him die every day, and I felt so bad.”
Connie avoided her family, focusing on her job or her studies. But eventually the stress reached a breaking point and Connie hit her 2-year-old daughter. She decided she needed help. The only place she could think to turn was the emergency room at the local hospital, where she sat in the waiting room for six hours and cried.
Through a friend, she was put in touch with a therapist, and that therapist helped to open dialogue between Connie and her husband, so Connie could finally tell him about all the thoughts and feelings that kept her so isolated.
As she continued with therapy, and began to learn more fully about postpartum depression and understand what was happening to her, her life slowly got better. The most important thing she learned was that she wasn’t alone, “To learn that I’m not the only one, to know that I’m not this horrible person that I felt like for so long ... it was amazing the people that were there for me.”
Connie is proud to share her story and to know that there are many forms of support available for women now. “There has to be some intervention, it won’t get better on its own. It takes so much energy to keep things inside that you don’t have enough energy for your newborn. You need to do it for yourself, for your health; you need to realize it’s a mental illness.”
Connie's Video | Video Transcript | La Historia de Consuelo