Sunday, June 13, 2010

Behind the Iron Mask: Postpartum Recovery is a Family Affair

When we pledged our sacred vows to love, honour and cherish in sickness and health; we could never have imagined the test we would receive.

As the three Authors of The Smiling Mask, our journeys through motherhood began with fear, isolation, and social pressure only to be reborn with powerful healing for mothers everywhere as we exposed our truths.

Thankfully, we were supported by our spouses in our darkest hours. Relying on our husbands to hold on, while we floundered in our deep holes, was at times an exhausting endurance race with no end in sight.

The Smiling Mask documentary features spouses Darren Bird and Ward Paterson who provide intimate detail s of what living with mental illness looked and felt like.


Darren’s Experience:
Darren was coping with extreme stress after the birth of Katherine and was challenged to remain strong during the life and death situation his family experienced. “When it really got challenging and scary was when Tania’s blood pressure spiked enormously and was put on stroke watch, it really started to hit home. I had a little girl in the intensive care unit and a wife in the intensive care unit.”

After Tania’s health improved, her psychosis began and Darren had to admit her into the Psychiatric Ward, under false pretenses. After experiencing such an intense ordeal, their marriage survived only to be that much more solid. Tania speaks about their struggle with love and gratitude, “I contend lesser men would have left, but not my husband.”


Ward’s Experience:
Ward and Elita didn’t recognize her struggle with PPD until the symptoms had become severe, causing them to finally seek help.

Ward explained candidly, “The endless nights of little sleep compounded day after day after day and then heading to working and the demands of that, catches up to you and you become a little irritable. It’s tough to fault anybody.”

After battling with PPD for eight months, Elita hit rock bottom and Ward encouraged her to seek counselling as he admitted that he was going to have his own nervous breakdown. The two of them sought counselling, together, which was immensely helpful to the survival of their marriage. Ward explained, “We had little patience with each other and little things would set us off. It was really mayhem.”


Curtis’ Experience:
Curtis and Carla O’Reilly, unfortunately, endured the longest amount of martial stress being four years. Although their marriage didn’t survive, they have remained friends and co-parents for their son Cameron. “The horrible secret and difficult illness that plagued their lives is under control and Curtis believes they are much stronger people for going through it.”

Curtis offers this advice for fathers dealing with PPD, to be open to taking on more parenting responsibility, and suggests taking Paternal Leave. “We can’t just leave it to the mothers to carry the load, especially dealing with mental illnesses. You can’t gamble with your child’s life.”
“We should not take anything for granted and we should appreciate our lives and the people we share them with.” Excerpt from The Smiling Mask, 2008


After watching the documentary, one will only admire the strength and heart of each husband who held their families together during such damaging circumstances.

Today, The Smiling Mask team celebrates the fathers who carried us in times of sickness and cheered us in times of triumph as we destroyed the mask of PPD. Thank you to Darren, Ward and Curtis. Thank you to all the fathers who remain iron, though tarnished, you continue to remain valiant.

Carla O'Reilly
Author & Inspirational Speaker

No comments: