This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
Two months ago, Kim Chen literally received the worst news of his life: His wife Florence died by suicide. Florence, at the time, was a new mom struggling with postpartum depression. Now, Chen is raising their son on his own, and recently opened up about his experiencing by writing a powerful message to all new moms, insisting that they are not alone–and aren’t failures if they cannot breastfeed.
This past Tuesday, Chen shared the post on Remembering Mother Florence Leung, the page honoring his late wife:
“Two months have passed since the detectives and victim assistance staffs showed up at our home, with the grim look on their faces. I knew immediate what they were going to say before they entered the door. Yes, it was just like the numerous scenes on TV drama when the police breaks bad news, that grim look on their face. Except, as surreal as it all was, this is not TV. This is happening to me. This is real life.”
The foundation of my life was taken apart, the plans of the future never to realize. Everything needs to be rebuilt.”
There is a glimmer of hope, however, when Chen talks about his son:
“Our baby boy is growing well and well taken care of. He is at 90th percentile for height and weight, and smiles and laughs a lot! He’s beginning to do tripod-sitting, and will turn over soon.”
However, the end is absolutely devastating, as he calls out to all moms:
“For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are not alone. You are not a bad mother.
For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother. Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to “exclusively breastfeed”, even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes. Apparently the hospitals are designated “baby-friendly” only if they promote exclusive-breastfeeding. I still remember reading a handout upon Flo’s discharge from hospital with the line “Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby for the First Six Months” , I also remember posters on the maternity unit “Breast is Best”. While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEED to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option. I will talk more about this in the future.”
Suffering from postpartum depression is not unusual either–the real problem is many women don’t actually get the help they need. According to the CDC, postpartum depression affects 1 in 8 women. Symptoms include anger, withdrawal, lack of connection to the baby, worrying about harming the baby, and feelings of guilt and failure.
This is why Chen’s message is so important, because it is highlighting the fact that there is undue pressure put on mothers to be perfect–creating unreal and dangerous expectations.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, please seek help. Visit Postpartum Progress or Postpartum Support International. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
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This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.
Joanna Valente is the former Staff Writer at Kveller. Joanna is the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Xenos, and Marys of the Sea, and received an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. You can follow @joannasaid on Twitter and @joannacvalente on Instagram.