By Cassie Shortsleeve| May 6, 2020
"This is Real Women, Real Bodies: Your destination for trusted health and wellness advice, reflecting the untold experiences of people like you. This month, we’re exploring maternal mental health, including the myths and misconceptions surrounding motherhood.
As soon as she delivered her daughter in 1983, Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Orange County, CA knew something was terribly wrong.
She started seeing horrifying images of someone stealing her newborn, a nurse suffocating her baby, or she envisioned herself dropping her baby, seeing the head smashed and blood on the ground.
When she returned home with her daughter, even innocuous objects around the house — the microwave, a vacuum cleaner cord, the dishwasher — seemed like potential weapons. Every 15 seconds or so, she’d imagine someone or something hurting her baby. Worse, with little, horrifying video clips on replay in her mind, she’d see that she was the perpetrator.
She didn’t tell her husband what was happening. She didn’t tell anyone what was happening. Instead, she spiraled into deeper, scarier thoughts. Her pain continued for years. “I missed the infancy and toddlerhood of my firstborn,” she tells InStyle. “It was just one long nightmare."
When she experienced similar symptoms after having her son a few years later, a psychologist made her feel even more scared and confused by making incorrect assumptions about her own childhood, predicting a negative bond for her and her baby. Her ob-gyn dismissed her experience as normal.
She gave up trying to find help. This would be the rest of her life, she assumed. She became suicidal.
What Bennett didn’t know at the time — what she came to understand in years to come — is that she was suffering from postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)."
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