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One Mother's Story of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Finding Help

One Mother's Story of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Finding Help

Patricia Tomasi shared in an HuffPost article of a viral Facebook post written by Jessica Porten, a new mother in California, whose Facebook story revealled the police were called when she told a nurse about the intrusive thoughts she was having about hurting her baby.  

In response to Jessica's story, one brave Canadian mother writes her experience in getting help when she was having the same kinds of thoughts. This mother eventually found a health care provider who knew what Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, and how to treat it appropriately.  

I remember the first time it happened. The first time I believed that I could actually be capable of hurting my baby. I was standing at the top of the stairs my first thought was about keeping her safe. I thought, “What if you drop her down the stairs? I’d better hold her tight…” and then it’s like a switch flipped and I thought, “What if I intentionally dropped her down the stairs? What if I threw her down the stairs? Would I do that? Could I do that?” My heart started racing, my arms started to tingle; and I felt like I was going to throw up. I could barely breathe. From that moment, all my thoughts began to spiral out of control. I felt like I could no longer trust myself; and that I was capable of hurting my children. My anxiety was at a level where I thought I honestly would need to be committed. I did not understand why this was happening to me or what had gone wrong in my brain. I saw everything as a threat or a weapon that could be used to hurt my child, and I was terrified that I would or could be capable of hurting them. “What if I got too angry? What if I went psychotic? What if I am not the person I thought I always was? What if I was not meant to be a mother?” The questions never stopped.

I knew right away I need to get help but I was paralyzed by the fear that my children would be taken away from me or I would be institutionalized. I started looking online because I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I eventually came across some information about Postpartum OCD and realized that this was what I was experiencing. I found many cries for help from women but no real success stories or recoveries; and this caused me to fall into a deeper depression, which caused my anxiety about the thoughts, and the thoughts themselves to worsen.


Finding help was hard. I informed my Obgyn at my follow up appointment after birth that I was having higher than normal anxiety. She didn’t really question me much. She just advised that a counsellor would reach out to me. I waited a few weeks, which felt like years; and met with a counsellor who I advised I was having intrusive thoughts about harm coming to my children (I specifically left out that I was the factor of harm I was concerned about). He repeatedly asked if I wanted to, or thought about harming my children. From the way he asked, I knew I couldn’t trust him with my true thoughts. I immediately felt like he wouldn’t understand that although the thoughts were relentless, I loved my children and wanted so badly for their safety. I didn’t know why I was having the thoughts, I never wanted to hurt them. I just wanted the thoughts to stop.


The scenario was pretty much exactly the same at my family doctor’s office. I explained I was having extreme anxiety and thoughts of harm coming to my children. I asked if he had heard of Postpartum OCD, he hadn’t. He said “You would tell me if you were having thoughts about hurting your children wouldn’t you? Then we would remove them and/or take you somewhere for help”. Again I knew that I could’t open up to him. My husband would lose his job if I wasn’t there to watch our children. I thought of a million reasons why I had to keep my thoughts to myself and they swirled in my head. Same story when I met with the nurses at the health clinic for my baby’s vaccinations; and the psychologist I was seeing on and off for years - they had never heard of Postpartum OCD.


I knew I could overcome this. I just needed help. I spent hours daily searching for resources and recovery stories online. I finally found the Postpartum International Website and met with a psychologist who was on their listed of resources. At the time I met with her she was the ONLY health practitioner that knew what I was dealing with. I felt like I finally found a safe environment to share my thoughts and this caused me to see this illness more objectively. In the months I searched for help I had become a shell of the person I was. Now I was able to start understanding that this is treatable, and that it is a condition fuelled by anxiety. I was able to start becoming the mother my children deserved. I was able to start rebuilding myself and my family. I do not know where I would be in my recovery if I was unable to find this psychologist. Our local postpartum resources particularly for postpartum OCD are scarce, if any.


Since receiving treatment I have now found a few stories like mine and realize that there are programs out there to help people like me, but they are few and far between and not available where I am. My hope is that more health providers will be educated about postpartum conditions so that people will not have to go through the long road I did in finding help.