What we know is that a mom is dead, as are two little children. A tragedy likes this touches everyone who reads about it. The loss of life, the devastation to those left behind is very humbling and sad.
What we think happened -- that Winnipegger Lisa Gibson drowned her two-year-old and three-month-old in the bathtub and then committed suicide in a fit of postpartum psychosis has yet to be confirmed.
There have been reports that the new mother had been diagnosed with a postpartum illness, and that she had agreed to be treated in an "confined facility" but instead was at home with her mother-in-law aiding her with the children. It was most likely postpartum psychosis (which is related to postpartum depression), says a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press from an unamed health expert.
We do know that Gibson had reached out for help, and for whatever reason, that help did not do its job.
In the coming days, the media will be filled with discussions about postpartum depression and personal stories from those who have suffered. Incidents like these bring the illness to the forefront and give a voice to the women who battled depression after the birth of their little ones. For many, PPD is a dark cave that they have to crawl to get out of -- usually with the help of others, as well as medication.
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Postpartum psychosis comes with a mania, paranoia, hearing things and other symptoms that makes it slightly different than postpartum depression. Katherine at Postpartum Progress does a great job of explaining the symptoms of postpartum psychosis in plain "mama" language. It is imperative to seek care and receive care immediately.
I had a friend who had postpartum psychosis and she honestly believed that her hair dryer was talking to her, she thought the world was evil and she needed to save her children from it. She did not hurt her kids, and she did receive the help she needed -- thanks to support from people around her. It is estimated that postpartum psychosis affects one - two in 1000 women.
There is a lot of awareness of postpartum depression, but there is still an unwillingness to truly deal with it. Many new moms are scared to ask for help because it makes them feel guilty, and can compound their feelings of inadequacy. PPD isn't caused by lack of sleep and food, though it is exasperated by it. And most women suffering from PPD are probably not going to hurt their babies.
A better understanding of what postpartum depresssion and postpartum psychosis really looks like is necessary for new parents, and sadly, as well as doctors. There are too few resources and knowledgeable practitioners who can help women quickly -- especially if they live away from urban centres.
Lisa Gibson wasn't evil, she was sick. From what we can tell from the early reports the healthcare system failed Lisa Gibson and her family miserably.
If you feel that you, or someone near you is suffering from postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis please seek help from your medical doctor or a public health nurse immediately. There are many great resources on the web offering support and explanations and this book, When Baby Brings the Blues: Solutions for Postpartum Depression can offer some insight (though real life support is important!). And remember, depressed moms can still be good moms, and will most likely recover.
Want more chaos? Last year my kids wanted to be an inventor, an actor and a police officer when they grow up. Yikes.