In 1995, my wife and I had our first child, her name was Gloria. Till this day, I love her more than anyone in the entire world. She is the only reason why I get up in the mornings.
About two weeks after the birth, my wife became enraged. She was complaining about smoke in the house and started crying and throwing objects around the house. She told me to leave the house or she would divorce me. I left and returned after an hour hoping she would have calmed down while I was away. As soon as I returned, my wife threatened to go outside with our child who was not wearing any warm clothing on that cold day. I told her that if she did not calm down and stay in the house, I would call the police. I was left with no choice. As soon as I dialed 911, my wife ripped the telephone cord, and it cut my hand. The police showed up. It took the presence of three police officers to calm her.
After the police left, I held my wife for two hours straight until I was convinced she was better. Never again did my wife exhibit that type of behavior until our second daughter was born. But, with our second daughter, it was a hundred times worse. I did not want to relive the memories of the past. This was the reason why I was not ready to have a second child. It took us seven years before we had our second child.
I was not aware my wife was pregnant with our second child until my mother bet me on Thanksgiving Day 2001 that my wife was pregnant. That day, I will never forget. While my wife was carving the turkey, she had threatened my brother with the knife while saying and I quote “I love Ron, but I want to kill your brother”. My wife was so out of control that her sister and mother had to restrain her. Our first daughter who was seven at time was crying and screaming. A month later, my mother and brother moved out of the house, because my brother feared that my wife would kill him in his sleep. This was a precursor of things to come.
During the next nine months, Emma worked three jobs. She had driven 1900 miles a month and averaged 3 1/2 hours of sleep a day. Emma was under a lot of stress. She was also addicted to Capuccino mocha blast ice cream, which she would eat at least three a day. She refused to let the Gynecologist know about the ice cream because she loved it so much. Emma ended up putting on a lot of weight; at least 65 pounds. She did not have any complications during her pregnancy.
While at the hospital, the nurses tried four times to deliver the baby, without any physician present. On the fourth attempt, our daughter was apparently too large for a vaginal delivery. Her head got stuck in the birthing canal and within the next five minutes, my wife was rushed in for an emergency Cesarean operation. Our daughter was born on August 10th, 2002.
Emma stayed in the hospital for the next three days. Not less than two days after coming home, all hell broke loose in our house. A visiting home nurse checked on the status of my wife on day two. I told her that my wife was experiencing postpartum depression. After hearing that statement, my wife lashed out, ‘no, I am not’. All the nurse could do was to give my wife her business card in case my wife wanted to talk. After the nurse left, my wife threw the card in the garbage.
For the next two weeks, Emma was in a depressive state of mind. She would just sit for hours in the morning sitting on our couch just staring into space. Many times her sister and mother would sit beside her and converse in their native language. I knew something was wrong, but I just let it pass. Eventually, my wife did get up and tried to be more active.
My wife was very emotionally unstable. She quickly became enraged. She was very irritable, irrational, hostile and threatening. I was very fearful of her actions. Nothing seemed to please her at all. Trying to talk to her was a waste of time. It only made matters worse. She would clean off the kitchen table by throwing everything in the garbage. She demanded that I get hundreds of dollars from people so she could go out and buy nonsense items. Just going to the store proved to be a great challenge. She would get upset at what time I left, what I had purchased, how much I paid for the item, where I had parked and what checker line I went into. Her most infamous line was that no one was listening to her. If I were to list all of her irrational actions especially those within the first two weeks, it would sum up to over a hundred events.
When we had visitors in our home, my wife was fine but as soon as her relatives left our home, my wife slipped back into her rage stage. She was very upset that I had invited her relatives over. Some days we would have over twenty. I never invited anyone but my wife would not believe me. I am glad they came because my wife had the support she needed from her family.
I tried everything that I could think of to calm her down but nothing seemed to work. Then one day, my wife took a dowel rod and threatened our eldest daughter with it. I quickly grabbed our daughters arm and pulled her away. We went upstairs and barricaded the bedroom door because our daughter thought that her mother was going to come after her with the dowel rod. I went back downstairs and told my wife that I cannot take it anymore and I would get you help tomorrow. Our daughter stayed at my mothers’ home for the next two days. She was fearful of being with her mother.
Not knowing exactly where to turn to for help, I tried speaking to her gynecologist. He was of no help. He just gave me a business card of a psychiatrist to call. I called that number but only got a recording telling me to call the delivery hospital. I ended up driving to the hospital where I spoke with a social worker who instructed me to call the police. I ended up driving to the police station and told them of my wife’s actions and how I was referred to them by the social worker. The police came over to our home and spoke with my wife.
Her relatives whom knew nothing of her actions the last two weeks started yelling out to my wife to divorce me. My wife and I along with about a dozen of her relatives sat in the hospital for nine hours before being seen. All I wanted was for my wife to be back to her normal self. While at the hospital, I went into detail with the physician of my wife’s actions. He appeared to understand everything I said. He then tried calling around at mental hospitals where my wife could taken in. He told me that there was no vacancy in them. I found out later that the psychiatrist was only a second year resident who had only been in America for three years. No one else saw my wife.
After speaking to the physician, a cousin of my wife stormed into the emergency room and told the physician that I was crazy and that I made up the entire story of my wife’s actions and for the doctor to discharge her. Her cousin’s husband had threatened my life three times at the hospital. I was in total shock. I could not understand why the family did not support me. I could not understand what it was that I did to upset so many people at one time.
After about twelve hours, my wife and I went back home. It took my wife thirteen months to make a near complete recovery. Those thirteen months were a living hell. My wife accused me of throwing rice at her relative’s homes, threatening her sister life, flirting with everyone’s daughter etc… On a day in May 2003, I had three little girls in our home crying and screaming because they thought they were going to die from a tornado. The siren was located across the street from our home, but my wife barricaded the basement door. Thank God, the house was not on fire.
Through all the hell at home, I suffered from 28 panic attacks and ended up in a hospital for two weeks. I was very upset that I was unable to get my wife help. I had tried a second time to get to get her help, but due to the ignorance of people whom I entrusted for assistance, no one ever told me to contact those who specialized in postpartum disorders.
Another social worker took it upon herself to call the department of children and family services (DCFS). Unknowing to me, the second social worker told DCFS that my wife had physically harmed our children. I do not know how she could have misunderstood me. My wife had only threatened our eldest daughter. I wanted to seek help for my wife, because I feared that she would harm them later if I had done nothing at all.
In December 2002, I did learn about PSI from a newspaper article, but it was too late. The damage of the past had already materialized. I have since lost all contact with my extended family. I was ostracized by the people whom I thought loved me as much as I loved them. For the next two years, I began to educate myself on postpartum disorders. I wanted to know why I was unable to find help and why my wife’s relatives offered no support. I also needed to know for sure if in fact my wife did indeed suffer from a postpartum behavior mood disorder.
To this day, I remain very active as an activist and advocate for this debilitating illness and for the women who suffer and for the families whom are torn apart because of it. My research showed that the reason why I was unable to find her help was because of the ignorance of health care providers whom were at a loss of where to turn to for proper care.
My wife’s family offered no support because the illness is highly stigmatized within the Filipino culture. The mere mention of the word ‘mental’ is taboo in her culture. If my wife was diagnosed or even treated, this would have brought great shame upon the family.
In September 2004, I had the honor to speak to 37 nursing students at a local college on postpartum disorders and how stigma can prevent one from getting treatment. I have attended many seminars and spoken to many people.