Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mommy and Me in the Garden of Eden

Last night I went to a party and asked someone I hadn't seen in several months how things were going since her baby was born in March. Her response?

"Things are OK now, but I went through three different episodes of postpartum mania."

It all started exactly three months -- to the day -- after her baby was born, and she took him on a self-designed meditation retreat. In a cabin in the woods in upstate New York, she bonded with her baby when he was awake and meditated or wrote in her journal when he wasn't.

Eventually, she became convinced she could read his every move. Literally. "I thought he was signaling to me with his hand gestures," she told me. When he waved his hand in the air, she thought he was telling her to write in her journal. So she did. In four days, she wrote 143 pages.

"I wrote this whole religious-ecstasy vision thing about how we were in the Garden of Eden together," she said. "I felt very euphoric and peaceful, like everything was perfect."

But just as it did for Adam and Eve, things turned dark. Her husband wasn't bonding enough with the baby, she decided. Her voices or visions told her to "implode," which she took to mean withdraw into herself and meditate more intensely, making her husband take care of the baby. So when she got home, she told her husband to watch him while she meditated.

She put the baby in his bassinet. Pretty soon, he was screaming. She ignored him. So did her husband, who was on a work call. Then she was screaming and not making sense. Her husband called her mother and his sister and they came over. She was delusional for two days, but they finally convinced her to check herself into a psych ward.

"The thing was, I agreed to go and I signed myself in, but I didn't realize they'd take my baby away from me," she said. "The first three days without him were a nightmare. I was screaming, inconsolable." Her doctor tried to put her on antipsychotic drugs but she refused to take them because she wouldn't be able to breastfeed.

After 10 days, she was released. Then, on the day her baby turned four months old -- exactly a month after the first episode -- she had another Garden of Eden vision in which she and her baby were in paradise. She went back to her doctor and agreed to take the antipsychotics, "but after four days I stopped, because they turn you into a zombie."

On the day her baby turned five months, she had the third episode. "The other two times, I felt very positive, very euphoric," she said. "But this time was bad. I was paranoid." She became convinced her baby was the Messiah and that she had to smuggle him out of New York to another state. "I thought my husband was in on it and that he was going to meet us there," she said.

In the middle of the night she snuck out of the house with the baby. "I kept getting into taxicabs and then feeling scared or upset about something the driver said or did," she said. "Finally I realized I was in a fear state and it wasn't a good place to be, so I just went to a friend's house."

Long story short: She took antipsychotics for about two months, which meant she had to stop breastfeeding. But today she's OK and off the medication.

I'm not a shrink, but I play one on the Internet, and my Google search tells me she had postpartum psychosis, an extremely rare illness that only affects one or two women in a thousand.

On the other hand, it's possible she really did have a religious experience. Maybe her baby really is the Messiah. (He's awfully cute.) If the Virgin Mary were around today, wouldn't we put her in the psych ward the minute she said her child was the son of God?

1 comment:

Goody 2 Shoes said...

dylanbryceThats a little scary that she is taking care of, as well as worshipping, the messiah, so for his sake I hope she keeps taking the meds. I wonder if there was ever a custody issue with this, since these days ppl seem very conscious of kids rights? There was a young woman who stopped in The Middle of Nowhere, NM, to stargaze with her toddler, and they fell asleep, and the kid wandered off....the kid died and the mom went to jail. U know goody 2 shoes always worries about what is right. Love the pic!