The Current

Isolated and invisible: Meet the moms writing about the secret agony of postpartum depression

Teresa Wong and Amanda Munday both struggled with postpartum depression, a condition reported to affect as many as 20 per cent of Canadian mothers. Both women have written books about their experiences, from their feelings of inadequacy, to difficulties breastfeeding, and even being admitted to a psychiatric ward.

‘No one could tell that anything was wrong. But deep inside I was feeling so numb and so foggy’

From debilitating anxiety to extreme sleep deprivation, these Amanda Munday and Teresa Wong chronicled their experiences with postpartum depression in new books. (Shutterstock)
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After the birth of her daughter, Amanda Munday completely stopped sleeping — but not because of a crying baby.

Debilitating fears that her daughter would die overnight kept Munday awake. This extreme sleep deprivation ultimately led to her suicidal thoughts, she says. 

"I wanted to watch her breathing. I felt like it was my duty to stay awake and make sure that she wasn't going to die in her sleep," explaining that she couldn't even rest when her partner or mother would take care of the baby. 

"I would lie there with obsessive thoughts that I couldn't sleep. She might die." 

Nine days after her daughter was born, Munday was admitted to a Toronto psychiatric ward.

The provincial guidelines for psychiatric assessments allow a doctor to hold a patient in a facility for up to 72 hours. Munday stayed for 18 days.

"I could start to distinguish intrusive, obsessive thoughts with reality and see that they were separate, but that only came after many nights of full sleep," she told Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current.

In Day Nine: A Postpartum Depression Memoir, the new mom chronicles her experience with postpartum depression.

Amanda Munday, right, told Anna Maria Tremonti the story of her postpartum depression in the CBC Toronto studio. (Alison Masemann/CBC)

Not alone

Between 10 and 15 per cent of new mothers in Canada experience clinical postpartum depression. Across the country, there are various resources are available for new parents who are experiencing depressive symptoms.

Like Munday, Teresa Wong didn't feel right following the birth of her daughter. She sought the advice of her doctor, who appeared to brush it off.

"I told her that I thought I might be depressed and she said 'No, no, you've just got the baby blues and what you really need to do is go out for more walks and get some sunshine and you'll be fine.'"

Wong's postpartum depression, she theorizes, was triggered the day she gave birth. She experienced a postpartum hemorrhage, which required urgent care, and wasn't in a condition to see or hold her newborn for several hours after giving birth.

'Day Nine: A Postpartum Depression Memoir' came out March 30, 2019 and 'Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression' was released April 1, 2019. (Dundurn Press/Arsenal Pulp Press)

"When I woke up finally a few hours later I just realized that I was completely inadequate as a mother," she told Tremonti. "I just felt like I was way behind and that I had no real instincts."

Those feelings of inadequacy snowballed, and soon Wong was walking around in a daze.

"Deep inside I was feeling so numb and so foggy — like I had lost myself," she recalled. Wong wrote about this entire experience in her book Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression.

The author sought the opinion of a different doctor when her daughter was roughly six weeks old, and a combination of medication and counselling ended up working as an effective treatment plan for her.

Both mothers agreed that having a clearer picture of the physical and psychological effects of birth and motherhood might have better prepared them for what was to come.

Teresa Wong's postpartum depression was brushed off by her doctor. It was when she sought a second opinion that her treatment process began. (Ken Hurd)

"In those nine days before I was admitted into the psych ward I looked online and looked for writing, like 'Where are the other parents who are struggling with this?' Because I really felt there was so much shame in admitting that it's hard that I could not find any rating on it," Munday said.

Wong emphasized the importance of empathy and access to support systems. "Having people around is a big deal. People who understand," she said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact any of the people or organizations listed here, or go to a mental health walk-in clinic in your area. If the situation is urgent, go to the hospital emergency department.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Émilie Quesnel. Produced by Alison Masemann.

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