'I wanted to throw him against the wall': Local mom shares scary experience of postpartum depression

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
“I’d literally stress about everything - from his breathing rhythm to the hygiene of the bottles. I’d doubt everything and question myself on repeat”
“I’d literally stress about everything - from his breathing rhythm to the hygiene of the bottles. I’d doubt everything and question myself on repeat”

For first time mom Kelly Smith* bringing her new bundle home from the hospital was a moment she had fantasised about for a very long time. She envisioned cotton soft baby skin and a fresh baby smell to fill her home with love and excitement.

Little did she know she’d be faced with quite the opposite: a paralysing sense of panic hit her hard.

Smith realised that prepared meals and supportive nursing staff were not part of at-home set-up and that keeping baby alive, while she herself was recovering from a C-section, was an overwhelmingly daunting task.


Must read: The role of group therapy in helping women cope with postnatal depression

Obsessive worry

Her initial symptoms presented as worry – "a constant state of stress," she describes. First it was dust she was concerned with, then it was the temperature of the room and before she knew it, her worry was out in full swing… 

"I’d literally stress about everything - from his breathing rhythm to the hygiene of the bottles. I’d doubt everything and question myself on repeat," says Smith.

Knife phobia

In addition to the constant worry, she also experienced intrusive thoughts that made her extremely sensitive to knives. "I remember having to close my eyes or actually cover a knife with a cloth or a towel, each time I walked past one. I could literally feel it cut into my baby, and was scared that this somehow meant I’d harm him". 

Despite all this, Smith says she didn’t notice anything to be amiss. It took a drastic encounter in which the sleep deprived mother responded to her baby aggressively.

"I remember wanting to throw him against the wall one night. It was around 3 am and when I heard him cry, and a beast came over me - I picked him up with the intention to throw him. Thank God I didn’t."

"My pent up panic and exhaustion could’ve had devastating consequences - I was lucky to gain control in that moment," says Smith.

WATCH The 'scary thoughts' women who suffer severe post-natal depression have

Are you at risk?

Despite the fact that there still seems to be some stigma around post natal depression, it is a very common occurrence and "not the mother’s fault," says Dr Lavinia Lumu - a Joburg based psychiatrist with a special interest in Maternal Mental Health.

She explains that many mothers struggle to adjust to life after a baby and explains that while there are certain risk factors, one cannot peg the condition to one single cause.

"Genetic and biological factors related to the hormonal changes in pregnancy and psychosocial stressors could precipitate the onset of PPD, but it is never the mother's fault," Lumu stresses.

The South African Depression and Anxiety group lists the following risk factors for PPD: 

• Depression during pregnancy

• Pregnancy at a younger age

• Ambivalence about the pregnancy

• Having more children

• A history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

• No social support

• Living alone

• Marital conflict

Symptoms may present differently for different mothers but it is important to seek professional help if you feel you aren’t coping, or if you experience symptoms of sadness for longer than two weeks.

There is no need to feel concerned or ashamed – getting help is as simple as visiting a GP or obstetrician, if you aren’t already a patient with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Your doctor will perform a screening assessment and decide on the best treatment for you, says Lumu. 

Also see: Postnatal psychosis: 8 signs mom needs help urgently

Trusting yourself after PPD

It is normal for moms with PPD to take some time to regain their confidence. Lumu explains that depending on the severity of the condition, and the treatment approach, moms can generally expect to see improvement within two to four weeks.

This is usually the case for moms who suffer from mild depression and who are receiving medication, but the process may take longer if intervention is in the form of psychotherapy. It is important that the patient work closely with her doctor to monitor the condition as there is no on-size-fits-all recovery time frame, but PPD is a highly treatable condition.

For Kelly Smith, it was quite a process, "but working with a therapist was a great help. I didn’t want to be left alone with my baby, but slowly started trusting myself once I began to find my rhythm. Getting to know my baby’s needs and schedule was what I needed to feel more in control. Having support during my recovery really worked wonders for me, and after 6 weeks of treatment I began to feel more like myself.”

Dr Lumu emphasizes that if the mother does not feel safe with her baby, she must be completely honest with her healthcare practitioner. 

"There are cases where the mother may feel suicidal or like she may harm her baby. In these instances it is imperative that the mom not be left alone and be supported by her family until she feels well". 

If you are suffering from PPD, get help by visiting a healthcare practitioner or contact the SADAG 

*Kelly Smith is a pseudonym for a South African mom who suffered from PPD. 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
6% - 203 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
81% - 2620 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
12% - 398 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.