Tragedy in Boston: What You Need to Know About Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders by Heather Dadurka
Content Warning: Maternal Suicidality, Infanticide, Child Death, Psychosis
I do not want to be writing this. In fact, I almost didn’t. I thought up every excuse I could to not write about the recent tragedy in Boston. A tragedy that happened to one of us. Lindsay Clancy. A mother.
Everything in me recoils at the public consumption and regurgitation of these recent devastating events. I read and hear the chatter of "she went crazy," "what a monster," "she deserves to die," "how could any real mother do this" – an endless echo chamber of uninformed, knee-jerk remarks. I want to curl into a ball under a blanket and not face the deep well of hatred spewing about this mother. The types of whispered remarks every mother facing mental health challenges lives in fear of hearing. The kind of talk that keeps mothers quiet while suffering. However, I keep repeating to myself she is one of us, and it’s heartachingly true.
This mother who undoubtedly dreamed of being a mother. Who likely reveled in picking her children's names and delighted in every “first.” This mother who dedicated her career as a midwife and labor and delivery nurse to helping other mothers birth their own babies. This mother whose symptoms may have been overlooked, as so many of ours are, by her medical team. She is one of us. This mother who may have assumed this was just “baby blues” or fluctuating hormones and it would all even out eventually. This mother who may have seemed “fine” to friends and family. This mother who likely suffered in silence until her symptoms became so overwhelming that they caused a break in reality. This mother who needed support, resources, therapy, medication and intervention before her condition reached the level of being a medical emergency. This mother who allegedly murdered her children and attempted death by suicide.
This mother could have been me. This mother could have been any of the one in five of us who suffer with PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) annually. I was one of the lucky ones; I got help. That is the single difference between her story and mine.
This is not the fault of the mother. Postpartum psychosis is a treatable medical emergency that falls under a spectrum of illness called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. PMADs affect one in five birthing people and are the No. 1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth. This rate increases to one in two for people of color. Death by suicide is the leading cause of death among new moms and typically occurs six to 12 months postpartum. The great news is that PMADs are treatable. The fact that many new parents struggle alone due to stigma and lack of information around PMADs is devastating. The fault here falls at all of our feet. The onus is on us, as a society, to do better. There is systemic, legislative and cultural change that must happen. This mother and her family were failed by systems that should have supported her.
What next? How do we help prevent another tragedy like this from happening to another one of us? We start by speaking up and telling our own stories. We empower others by removing the stigma around mental health issues, perinatal or otherwise. We listen to others' experiences without judgment. We share information and resources, like the ones listed below. We work to educate and train more providers on screening and treating PMADs. We arm our communities, families and friend circles with information about perinatal mental health.
And when a mother says she is fine, ask again. Keep asking.
For information about PMADS or to get help, please reach out to one of these organizations or your health-care provider. You are not alone.
- Postpartum Support International
- Postpartum Support Virginia
- The Postpartum Stress Center
- National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-943-5746
- National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988
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