The postpartum period is a potpourri of emotion. You have the relief of making it through labor, the joy of meeting your long-awaited baby, the fear that comes with not being a seasoned parent yet. It’s incredibly intense all of the feelings you are able to contain in such a vulnerable time.
For many mothers, however, there is another serious affliction that can place a haze over everything else: Postpartum Depression, or PPD. According to the Center for Disease Control, PPD affects on average 15% of women who give birth every single year (and that statistic doesn’t even include women who miscarry or have a stillbirth). Of that 15%, only 15% of women suffering will receive professional treatment.
Pregnant women and new mothers in the United States are supposed to be screened for the signs and symptoms of PPD, and even if not faced with the crippling reality, we are told what we should do if we find ourselves weeping regularly, becoming excessively angry, or even have thoughts of harming ourselves or our baby. Many women aren’t, however, or don’t believe that what they are going through warrants a professional.
In the case of Jessica Porten, however, she took heed of her symptoms and went to her doctor to ask for help; sadly, she was “treated like a criminal” instead.
Jessica had just given birth to her second child, Kira, four months before, and knew her situation warranted a special visit with her doctor. Having had several appointments cancelled by the OB office, she was thankful to finally get in to see a Nurse Practitioner. She went in knowing exactly what she needed to say: “I have postpartum depression that is manifesting in fits of anger, and I want to discuss my medication options,” she shared. “I tell them I have a very strong support system at home, so although I would never hurt myself or my baby, I’m having violent thoughts and I need medication and therapy to get through this.”
The NP reportedly rushed through her pelvic exam, mentioned needing to talk to the doctor about her PPD, and left the room.
They called the police on her. Just like that.
#Action4Jessica #4Bills4CAMomsPlease read the latest updates 🤗I had a really hard time deciding whether I should post…
An employee of the hospital came to sit with her for almost an hour until the police arrived and they began discussing the logistics of how to transport her to the ER with her car seat in tow. According to Porten, the officers could see she was of sound mind, so allowed her to drive herself and her baby there in her own car, with them following close behind.
When they arrived, the hospital assigned her a babysitter as they drew blood and began a long waiting process. “They take me to the bathroom so I can give a urine sample. They make me remove all of my clothes and then take them away from me and lock them up. We missed dinner, so a nurse gives us two little turkey sandwiches. I am not seen by a social worker until 10:45pm. She decides she does not need to put me on a psychiatric hold, and they process my discharge.”
What makes this whole situation even more frustrating? Jessica was unable, at any point, to have face time with a physician. “Not once during all of this has a doctor laid eyes on me,” she writes. “Not once. Not even before they decided to call the cops on me.”
Porten was in the hospital with her newborn for 10 hours, and left “more broken than ever.” She was not a danger to herself, and not a danger to her daughter. What a devastating experience for a postpartum mother, who came seeking relief from her intense emotional affliction, to go through.
“No medication, no follow up appointment, never spoke to a doctor. This was a 10 hour ordeal that I had to go through all while caring for my infant that I had with me. And that’s it. That’s what I got for telling my OB that I have PPD and I need help. I was treated like a criminal and then discharged with nothing but a stack of xeroxed printouts with phone numbers on them.”
There has been no response from the hospital since Porten’s post went viral, but she is using her fifteen minutes of fame as a platform for change. If mothers are to feel comfortable sharing their scary feelings and seek help, we need to know that we are safe, and that relief and recovery is on the forefront of everyone’s minds. Having depression is not criminal. Thank you, Jessica, for boldly sharing your story. We hope that you find the medical support you need and deserve in this difficult time.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.