According to Postpartum Progress, it's estimated that around a million women in the United States suffer from postpartum depression symptoms every year. Yet, it's not a condition that's often brought to light in mainstream media.
Father and widower Kim Chen is working to change that.
Nov. 17 was the day he learned his wife, Florence Leung, 32, had committed suicide after suffering from postpartum depression, CBC reports. She had been missing from their home in New Westminster, Canada.
Chen recently posted an extremely moving tribute to the Facebook page "Remembering Mother Florence Leung," which urges anxious and depressed mothers to seek help.
In full, the post reads,
2 months have passed since the Detectives and victim assistance staffs showed up at our home, with the grim look on their faces. I knew immediately what they were going to say before they entered the door. Yes, it was just like the numerous scenes on TV drama when the police breaks bad news, That grim look on their face. Except, as surreal as it all was, this is not TV. This is happening to me. This is real life.
This must be what patients feel like when they hear the dreaded "Cancer" diagnosis. Everything said after the "C" word became obscured and clouded, drowned out by the ringing in the ear. The foundation of my life was taken apart, the plans of the future never to realize. Everything needs to be rebuilt.
It felt like half a year had passed since that day, but in fact it had only been 2 months. I have been living in survival mode: living a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time - exactly like many people taught me to do. Living at the moment is truly the only way to go through this at this stage. As the initial shock and emotional numbness slowly subsides, I'm experiencing more flashbacks of memories from our 6.5 years of happiness, and for now these memories tend to trigger pain and intense longing.
That is why I had not been reviewing our photos and videos the last 2 weeks. I now understand the importance to be kind and gentle to myself, and not to overwhelm myself intentionally. The time will come when I feel more at ease about reviewing and writing about Flo and I, and I look forward to that day.
Our baby boy is growing well and well taken care of, he is at 90th percentile for height and weight, and smiles and laughs a lot! He's beginning to do tripod-sitting, and will turn over soon.
I'd like to share an article about a young mom who passed away earlier in 2016 from PPD. Her personality seems so similar to Flo in many ways.
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. 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 to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option. I will talk more about this in the future.
Thank you everyone for your prayers and continued support, and for your ongoing attention to this Devastating condition. You have no idea how much your comments mean to me.
As mentioned in the Facebook post, Chen confirmed to CBC that his wife's anxiety stemmed from struggles with breastfeeding.
"There were challenges," he said.
One Facebook user commented,
"This is such a huge wake up call for the medical community. I am an RN and struggled myself with breast feeding. I took the breastfeeding course for health care providers (before having my daughter) and thought I could navigate any breastfeeding challenge. I couldn't. Through my journey, I learned that for my baby 'fed' was best.
It is so sad that a campaign created to encourage breastfeeding has had such an unintentional negative impact. As a community we certainly have to learn to see the bigger picture. We need to support our families to be the happiest and healthiest they can be.
I am so sorry for your loss."
Indeed, we as a community should be hyper-aware of mothers suffering from anxiety or depression — as Chen said, these mothers should never feel like they have to bear the burden alone. Additionally, we should be conscious of how certain seemingly positive efforts — such as the breastfeeding movement — can, in fact, be perceived another way. A mother who is not able to breastfeed (or doesn't want to breastfeed, for that matter) should never feel ashamed.
Postpartum Support International details resources for mothers encumbered with the illness, including chats with an expert and an online support group, plus help finding local support.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr, Tatiana Vdb