I can think of no sadder story than the one of the Clancy family that broke last week in Duxbury, MA. Being local, it hit close to home. And I myself being a mother who suffered from postpartum mental issues, it has triggered strong emotions in me. I could not stop thinking about that family all weekend, and engaged in many discussions with other women over IG about this story, including some people close to the family. And I will say this – EVERYONE in this story is a victim. EVERYONE. Those beautiful children, the husband, their entire extended family, friends, co-workers and important to note vocally, Lindsay herself. There is not one singular person to be sad for, we can and should be sad for every single person touched by this horrible situation.
A mother killing her children is horrific. Make no mistake about that. It is one of the most heartbreaking scenarios I can think of. But what’s also heartbreaking is thinking about the knowledge that awaits Lindsay when and if she wakes up. Not much is being confirmed about this story in the press, but it is clear from Patrick Clancy’s incredibly graceful, emotional statement and insights from others – Lindsay was not in her right mind when this happened. This was a psychotic break with reality caused by post-partum mental disorder. And before we delve into this discussion, we need to define what Post Partum Psychosis is in contrast to Post Partum Depression and Post Partum Anxiety, as they are vastly different. A psychologist who messaged me specifically asked me to call out how RARE PPP is in contrast to how common PPD and PPA are. This is not a case of “the baby blues” (I hate that term) – this is a true psychotic episode in which the person most likely has no idea what they are doing. There are true murderous monsters in this world, I’m not naive to that obviously, but I truly do not believe that to be the case in this scenario. It is very clear from all the information we have, that this woman loved her children, and that is what makes it all the more gut wrenching. I can not imagine a living hell worse than her current reality.
As I’ve mentioned before, I suffered from PPD/PPA with both kids, although I didn’t really realize I did with Henry until after the fact, as many women do. I’ve been in treatment for General Anxiety Disorder since I was a teenager, so I assumed it was just “amped up a little” after having a baby. But it was way more than that. And then with Emma it hit full force and I was aware of what it was. Having lost so many pregnancies before her, which made we worried the entire pregnancy, in combination with having a toddler, running a busy business AND being in the thick of a isolating global pandemic at the time of her birth – it was a ripe time for it to manifest. And it did. And I immediately asked for help. I stopped breastfeeding after 3 weeks (GUILT) because I needed to go back on medication that wasn’t safe for breastfeeding. I hired extra help, even a night nurse (EXTRA GUILT), but it literally saved my life. I had a therapist (who doesn’t take insurance, as many don’t), amazing doctors and an incredibly helpful husband. That is to say I had every possible privilege known to man at my disposal, and my children were DESPERATELY wanted – and yet it was still very hard. And it unravels me to think about the fact that many/most women do not have the same options.
And what gets me deep down is the knowledge that Lindsay DID get help. She was actively getting help, despite chatter to the contrary. She was a labor and delivery nurse – someone well versed in post partum care and the realities of mental disorders and easily able to access care. To read comments in news articles from people assuming she didn’t get help and just killed her children because it was “too hard” makes me absolutely go blind with rage. First of all, how dare any of us assume anything in this situation. It’s beyond words. This is a tragedy from start to finish and the only thing we as humans should be offering up is support, an attempt at understanding that there are things we will NEVER understand, and prayer (if that’s your thing).
The pressure on new mothers to be everything to their children and families along with the absolute rollercoaster of hormonal shifts in the post-partum period are sometimes insurmountable and sometimes just a blip. Some women never feel anything but bliss and a little exhaustion, others are able to weather the tough days and night without issue, while others spend hours crying in the bathroom because they can’t figure out why they can’t bond with their baby and if they will ever feel like themselves again. And then sadly, there is a VERY SMALL percentage who become very ill. But all women deserve to be cared for without shame or guilt. All women need extra support and guidance through the early years of a child’s life. Not just a pamphlet as you leave the hospital suggesting you call this number if you feel sad – but real, pro-active, attentive care. If you or someone you love is struggling with any post-partum issues you can start here. But we need more than a helpline, we need some REAL CHANGE regarding the care of women after giving birth. It’s a huge sacrifice physically, emotionally and mentally and creates real medical issues that deserve attention and policy change.
I ask that at this time, we all just send love and support to Patrick and the Clancy family as they navigate the unimaginable road ahead. Check on your friends. Check on your family. Love your babies as best you can. It does get better, but only if we care for one another.
Given the nature of this topic, any comments that are deemed cruel or deeply insensitive will be deleted at my discretion.
The post The Unthinkable. first appeared on Elements of Style Blog.
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