Brooke Shields speaks candidly to ABC News about her own postpartum depression (PPD) experience after the birth of her first child. An edited transcript of this video follows below:
Shields: I was not really aware that I had it [postpartum depression]. It was devastating to my whole family. I had gone through numerous attempts to have a baby and when I did finally have this perfect, beautiful, healthy baby and it all but destroyed me. I couldn’t hold the baby, I couldn’t do anything for the baby, I couldn’t look at the baby. Every time I got near her, even the smell of the diapers of the baby. I would… My knees would get weak. I would… I just cried all day long and I thought I’d made the worst mistake of my life.
And nobody around me had ever seen me falter to that extent. I’ve always been the workhorse, the one you’d go to, just power through things. It all but flattened me.
Why are so many women reluctant to talk about their experiences with postpartum depression?
Shields: I think there’s a huge stigma surrounding postpartum depression. The stories we read about often result from postpartum psychosis– there’s a whole range between postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, and there’s a whole range in between, of how it affects and who it affects and why and the biological aspects of it.
But I think that in society we are taught that being a mother and becoming a mother is the most glorious thing you could ever do, it’s the most natural thing, women have been doing it for a few years (smiles), and we are taught that the moment you have a baby your life gets, becomes focused, you gaze down at your child and all is right in the world.
And what happens, just the biological shifts in a woman’s body, are mentally devastating. There’s so many different things that happen, and so many changes, and we are taught that if you don’t do this beautifully then you are wrong, you are bad, you are not a good mother, you are not a good woman.
Our culture and our society does not support “defective mothering.”
What is “The Mothers Act”?
Shields: Well, I think that in the past, the very recent past, Congress really hasn’t been that invested in anything to do with postpartum depression. And I think that it has been, again, ‘Oh it’s the “baby blues.”‘ I think the idea surrounding all of this is that this is somehow, something we just need not to worry about.
The Mothers Act is very straightforward actually. It deals with the dissemination of information, pre-screening, early-screenings of postpartum depression. Research will be provided, treatments will be expanded.
Women just need to be informed. The power of knowledge is extraordinary.