So many of you know that ABC's Private Practice episode last evening included a storyline of a woman suffering from a PPMD. ABC consulted with Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress before they shot this episode. They would not tell her much about the details of the show or the character, but did share that it featured a woman suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. So, I invited everyone in my Facebook community to watch, and they all invited everyone in their community to watch. Some were hoping to spread the word about PPMDs. Some were hoping to educate not-so-empathetic or understanding family or friends about the truths of PPMDs. Some were just glad that a storyline that didn't involve a woman killing her kid/s was going to be portrayed.
Well, I think we all sighed a bit of disappointment and then later a little relief as we watched the saga unfold. Woman-Rachel takes her baby Cynthia into the Dr. office after a fall in the tub. She states that the baby fell out of her exhausted arms and she just wants to have her checked out. As she begins to share the story it becomes apparent that she is sleep deprived...She repeatedly tries to rationalize the fall, repeating the doctor's statement about how normal it is for a new mom to have a minor "accident" with her child. (I know I did- when L. was 3 months old I passed out while holding him after getting up too quickly and then at 5 months he fell from our very high changing table while I was changing his diaper. Both times were super scary, but I know now that babies are resilient and that most moms have some sort of similar scary "Aha" moment- a fall from a bed, accidentally clipping off the tip of the finger while trimming nails, etc.) Anywho, Rachel begins rambling at a fast and furious pace about how little Cynthia is sleeping and how even when she is sleeping Rachel can't sleep. She is unable to fall asleep and is having racing thoughts. She is obsessively watching infomercials. She is constantly breastfeeding to try to make it work. The actress did a terrific job of portraying a woman in the hell that is a postpartum mood disorder. She was spot-on in her delivery of the combination of adoration and loathing that you have for your child and being a mother when you are sick. The writers did a great job of including the many symptoms that accompany Postpartum Anxiety. BUT...they fell super short of educating the public when they went the traditional path of including an attempted harmful act to the child. WHY did Rachel have to hold the baby under the bathwater when she fell? What made those writers compelled to turn severe Postpartum Anxiety into Postpartum Psychosis which is so much more rare and already so over-dramatized and associated with stories of mothers taking their children's lives and/or their own? I have extreme sympathy for those families and the mothers...from Andrea Yates to Jenny of Jenny's Light, I know how much this illness can change you and allow you to do things that would be unthinkable while well. But, come on! This was a great opportunity to go down a different path. To talk about something more common and educate a population of Americans who are VERY unsympathetic and completely filled with rage. Below each and every national media article about postpartum psychosis you see hundreds of comments from angry people who do not understand postpartum mood disorders. They chastize the women who suffer and offer no sympathy. They make statements like, "How could she do this to a helpless child? She was not sick, she was just selfish." Those of us who have suffered or know someone who did know better. But look people, MOST Americans are not educated and need to be. Let's utilize the means that we have to help them to learn...to understand...to see the full story and to find their way to a place where in America routine screening, referral and treatment are no longer options but mandatory steps in the postpartum period.
I think ABC lost an opportunity here to shed light on a real and prevalent illness for their selfish desire to get ratings and viewers from the more dramatic and interesting spin that just one aspect of the story illicited. Oh well. At least it got people talking about PPMDs.
Lauren Hale at Unexpected Blessings shares her thoughts about the episode here.
Here is the link to the PSA that ABC posted to their site. They had promised to air a mention of the web PSA after the show last night. Unfortunately, it seems that they chose to spend their air time playing and replaying a plug for the 3rd and last Grey's/Private Practice show next week. Shame on them.
Lastly, you know that another ABC drama, daytime's General Hospital has been protraying the character of Dr. Robin Scorpio as having some postpartum issues. Yesterday's episode seems to be leading to a "miraculous recovery" without treatment for Robin. Yet another lost opportunity if ABC sends the message to its viewers that PPMDs will get better on their own, with time, or if in the case of Robin's situation when your daughter gets sick and almost dies and then gets better when you hold her. I totally believe in the power of a mother's love to help heal her child...but seriously...you don't put your baby in a tree in a blizzard one day and then later on that day get totally well just because.