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Postpartum OCD – Yes, OCD

Courtney

To be clear, I don’t agree with the victim mentality and it’s not my standard default. When I blame others for my troubles, I’m not taking responsibility for my life and my choices. I always look for my part in any negative, or what I perceive as a negative, experience. I'm very rarely a victim. Unless I'm blindsided or assaulted in my adult life, I'm a volunteer.

This was one of the few times in my adult life that I was victimized. If you’ve never had a child or a mental illness, the offense may make little to no sense to you. I ask you to read with compassion and an open mind. 
The morning after I had my baby boy, the on-call OB who delivered my baby came in to check up on me. She was exhausted. My OB was out of the country and all of his and her own patients decided to go into labor on the same weekend.

“Your OB just got back and was already on the news this morning, you know, talking about the woman who threw her baby out the window at California Hospital.”

I felt like I’d been hit in the gut. My subconscious was wide open to suggestion after 36 hours of labor and 10 months off of my mood stabilizer. I’d been through the worst physical trauma of my life and there was now a tiny life asleep right next to me for whose life I was entirely responsible.

The fear and visions crept in immediately. I’m going throw my baby out a window.

I waddled over to the hospital window and stared at the cement three stories below. I was relieved the window in my room didn’t open. I told no one what I was thinking.

Then I found out that the woman actually threw him off an outdoor parking garage. The fear and visions expanded beyond windows.

I found myself terrified once we got home from the hospital. The visions were unrelenting. I duct taped all the windows in our townhouse shut. I duct taped our balcony door shut.

My husband was frightened. My therapist was on speed dial. The fear followed me to the car so I wouldn’t drive with the baby without a passenger. The visions wouldn't stop – they were uncontrollable.
I didn’t want to hurt my baby; I was scared it would be a reflex that I couldn’t control.

My therapist came to my house. We did hypnosis. It helped a little. Kicking and screaming, I went back on lithium three weeks into breastfeeding. I had to stop immediately and my breasts hurt like hell. My normal dosage of lithium didn't even scrape the surface and it now made me sick. Eventually, I had to change meds completely.
My mom had to come into town to take care of the baby and me. Then my sister. I was not OK for a long time.

It took three months for me to get control of the images and fear. Almost five months later, I still have them occasionally, but they go away about as quickly as they come in. It's normal for women to have these images - it's rarely talked about and is called postpartum OCD.
Postpartum depression gets a lot of buzz, but Postpartum OCD? I didn’t even know what it was. Most women won’t talk about it.

I wanted to kill the OB who put this vision in my head. I could’ve gotten PPOCD without the image, but it certainly didn’t help. It’s called implantation. After childbirth, a woman is in a hypnotic state and her subconscious is wide open, therefore she’s open to suggestion and thought implantation.
This is a very real thing. That’s why I’m piping up about it.

I had my checkup with my OB, not the one who delivered my baby, but the one who was on vacation. He’s a nationally known figure in women's health and co-founder of the Beverly Hills clinic I’ve been going to for 10 years.

Here’s how it went:

"How are you doing?"

"I'm having a really hard time with my bipolar and postpartum - "

He cuts me off, grinning.

"You know, if Winston Churchill took meds the Nazis would've won."

Really?

"No really, it's been awful - "

And he cut me off again, telling me more amusing Winston Churchill stories.

I sat there, legs in stirrups, stunned. Dismissed. Humiliated. He was distracted and busy. He didn't have time for my little mental issues and I shrunk away in shame.

The ironic thing is that he was interviewed about the incident because he’s an EXPERT ON POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

He scooted me out of the office. I felt like an idiot.

I then tried to talk with the offending OB, but she was too busy to see me.

What I found ironic was their mission statement: dedicated to caring for the specialized needs of women from early womanhood through motherhood and beyond. We pride ourselves on our patient-centered care. We deem the doctor-patient relationship an important one, and strive to foster the trust each patient has in her physician as a counselor and advocate. 

I most certainly didn’t feel like my doctor was my advocate. Quite the opposite actually.

I left the office determined to never go back.

But the resentment grew. I obsessed about the imaginary conversation I’d have with her. You don’t have to be crazy to know how unproductive it is having conversations with people who aren't in the room.

I can't live with resentment in my heart. I made an appointment with her. 
I prayed about what to say before I went in - I prayed to be kind and not come from a place of anger. 

She came in the room and gave me a huge hug. 

"How have you been?"

"Good."

Really Courtney? 

Ugh. A wave of fear hit me and I dove in.

“Actually it's been really hard. I haven’t been good. I don’t know if you remember, but the morning after delivery you told me about the woman who..."

She remembered the morning clearly. Thank God. At first she didn't see the problem. It was idle chit-chat. Then I watched it sink in.

She sat me down. Tears welled up in her eyes.

"Tell me everything."

We talked for 45 minutes. She apologized a zillion times. She asked if there was anything she could do for me – anything at all. 

“Please be sensitive to your patients with mental illness.”

We hugged for a long time. She thanked me for my courage and for helping her be a better doctor. 
I’ve become her patient. I’m no longer seeing her celebrity boss. Her reaction elicited trust and confidence in me. She went beyond a doctor; she became a human. She took the time to admit her wrong and amend it.
This was one of the first times I’ve advocated for my own mental health. I’m now living a new chapter of this story. 

I’m a mother. I’m stable. And I have a phenomenal OB who will pay closer attention to her patients with mental illness.

Mission statements mean nothing if we don’t live them.

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