There are certain videos that go viral on social media that I choose to ignore. Teenagers setting themselves on fire, trying to choke each other til they pass out, people fighting, etc. I just have no interest in seeing violence – people hurting themselves or anyone else – which is why I was surprised when I caught myself watching a viral video of a mother abusing her child…a baby. She was pounding the baby with a pillow, slapping her in her face with an open hand, pinching her arms and legs and smacking her on her head, all while the baby cried in pain. My heart broke in a million pieces as I watched the mother slap away the baby’s hand as it reached out to her for comfort and consolation. And what pissed me off the most was that there was someone taping it on their phone rather than stepping in to help this poor defenseless baby who was suffering at the hands of its mother…or who I assume is her mother.
I was angry. I was crying. I wanted to go through the computer screen and pound on this woman like she was doing to her child to see how she would like it. I even posted on my Facebook page that she deserved to die. As a new mother myself who has a baby around the same age as the baby in the video, I wanted to save the child and hurt the mother for being so heartless, cruel and evil. I couldn’t sleep last night because the visual was too much for me. My heart was aching and I hugged my son all night long. I think I must’ve planted a thousand kisses on his head last night as I prayed for God’s love to spare that baby any more pain.
But then a little while I later I amended my prayer. Rather than praying for someone to hurt the mother the way she hurt her child, I prayed for God to give her patience. I prayed that God would give her the peace and love and remorse she needed so that she would not abuse her child anymore. I was wrong for wishing her harm, even though as a mother, that was my first instinct. I asked God to forgive me for that thought.
Postpartum depression is real. And while NOTHING excuses what this woman was doing to her baby, we can’t ignore that mothers can go through various degrees of emotional turbulence and vulnerability after childbirth. A study shows that up to 80% of new mothers experience the “baby blues” – an emotional reaction that can begin a few days to a week after delivery and last for weeks…even months. Some moms feel better eventually, but others can suffer from full-blown postpartum depression – and even postpartum psychosis, a severe illness in which the mother may have hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal impulses and a desire to bring harm or even kill their baby. This psychosis requires immediate medical intervention – and that it what I believe the mother in the video suffers from.
And she would not be alone. Many women go through it, but suffer alone because they don’t know where to turn, feel helpless or are afraid to get help for fear of appearing like a bad mother. Some don’t even realize they have a problem – they just think it’s part of becoming a parent. But symptoms include irritability, anxiety or worry, crying, anger, sadness or hopelessness, fatigue or exhaustion and fear of losing control and hurting yourself or your baby. Experts feel that the cause of postpartum depression or psychosis is a combination of hormonal, biochemical, environmental, psychological and genetic factors. If a mother doesn’t get the help she needs, then it can lead to a full-blown clinical condition that needs expert attention.
So what to do if you’re a new mother experiencing any of these symptoms? Speak up and ask for help. If you have a partner, don’t be afraid to tell him that you need a break and ask him to take over with that crying baby for a while so that you can regroup. Just make sure he knows what’s going on. If you don’t have a partner, call a trusted friend or neighbor and ask for assistance. Join a mother’s group, or seek counseling to help you cope.
Also, if you find your baby screaming at night and you can’t figure out how to calm him down and you find yourself wanting to harm him, close the door and let him cry. Go somewhere else, even if for just 5-10 minutes so that you can take a deep breath and then tend to your child. It’s better to have him crying and safe in his crib alone than you doing anything to potentially hurt him.
And be sure to take care of yourself. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Get outside and go for a walk and let the sun shine on your face. Get some fresh air. Call a sitter and meet a friend or family member so that you can give yourself a break. And don’t beat yourself up. You’re not alone in how you feel and just knowing that you’re doing your best may be enough to help you feel better.
However, if nothing seems to help, then call your healthcare provider and see if she can diagnose your symptoms and refer you to someone if you need it. And if you feel like you may hurt your child, then seek help immediately. If you or a mother you may suspect is suffering from postpartum depression, contact Postpartum Support International. Coordinators provide support, encouragement, and information about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and can help you find resources in your community or call Toll-free (800) 944-4773. Babies don’t ask to be here, but it’s our job to love and care for them once they are. Please keep them safe and pray for their well-being.