Lisa Gibson and postpartum depression

The recent tragedy in Winnipeg reminds Jennifer Pinarski of her own battle with postpartum depression.

1PostpartumDepression-July2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

On Sunday, a Winnipeg news story I had closely followed since Wednesday came to a tragic conclusion. The body of 32-year-old Lisa Gibson was recovered from the Red River. Lisa had disappeared last Wednesday after police found her three-month-old son and two-year-old daughter close to death in their home. Her young children passed away shortly afterward, leaving behind a grieving husband — and a tight-knit community with more questions than answers.

Postpartum depression (PPD) isn’t real! Why didn’t she ask for help? How did her husband not know what was going on? Reader’s comments on the story have ranged from cruel to clueless and, unless you’ve actually been in that black pit that is PPD, no one can truly understand how dark those days can be.

I understand.

During the first month of my daughter’s life, I thought she’d been switched at birth. With wispy blonde hair and blue eyes, she looked nothing like me. Technically, I didn’t see her birth and when her APGAR scores were low the nurses rushed her to the NICU. I didn’t actually hold her until an hour after delivery. When Gillian was returned to me I saw nothing in her delicate features that I recognized and I emotionally rejected her. I breastfed her on demand and took care of her physical needs, but something inside of me cracked after she was born. It wasn’t until the middle of the night a few weeks later, when it was as if a switch flipped, that I fell madly in love with my baby girl.

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Three years later, I’m still ashamed to share this story. When the time comes to tell her about my experience, I know it will be something my daughter will find hard to understand. After all, how can I explain to her that, for four weeks after she was born, I was suffering? That I spent weeks talking to my doctor and adjusting to my anti-depressant medication, trying to feel better and connect with my family? It was an ugly time that I still don’t clearly understand.

PPD and postpartum psychosis are both factors that police are considering with regards to the Gibson case, and the family is understandably requesting privacy during this difficult time. Could Lisa’s story have turned out differently? For that matter, could my own story have turned out differently? There’s no way to really know. But what I do know is that the more we share our own stories and lend a hand to new parents, the less alone mothers like Lisa and myself will feel.

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