Perinatal distress (PND) and mental illness in general can destroy marriages and families.
This was heard at Lauren Shapiro’s book launch at Gitlin library in Gardens on Monday August 19.
In her book, titled: Through the window: how I beat Perinatal Distress (PND), Ms Shapiro details the most terrifying, vulnerable and lowest moments that she went through when she was pregnant.
PND refers to depression, stress and anxiety during pregnancy and after giving birth.
Ms Shapiro said the book resulted from her journalling during her pregnancy with her third child whom she referred to as ‘butterbean’ in the book.
She detailed how terrified she felt during her pregnancy, feeling like she was losing control and hurting her child. She said she’d look in the mirror and couldn’t recognise the woman she was, with worn out face, tired eyes and an inability to smile.
“I looked at this imposter woman, this hostage of hormones and I don’t know if she’s worth saving and I felt that disconnected from her,” she said.
Speaking to the unborn, butterbean, Ms Shapiro assured the baby she had thought about her, her brothers and their father.
“I know you all need and deserve a mother who’s loving and supportive and if I can’t be that to you, then maybe you’re all better off without me. At least you could move on and find someone who’s able to give you everything that you deserve,” she said.
She wrote to her that she was scared that she would not be able to love her.
“I want to care for you, but I feel like I’m incapable of caring for myself, let alone others. I feel like the worst mother in the world. I’m so sorry, butterbean.”
Ms Shapiro said she’s always been a fairly open person and known for sharing, but writing this book was not just over-sharing. “This is exposing something so wrong with me, feeling like I was broken, disgusting, sick and useless. I felt so ashamed of myself,” she said
She said to put it out there was hard but she figured that so many women go through this and don’t know how to share it.
“Being a writer, I thought maybe that was why I went through it because maybe I was the one who could experience it and express it even though I knew that there were parts that I thought would come back and haunt me,” she said.
Speaking of judgement, Ms Shapiro said she was worried that it would impact her reputation professionally and people would drop her, thinking she was loopy, unstable and freaky.
“I was, more than anything, terrified that my kids’ teachers would not trust me with my children and I had this fear that they would be taken away from me,” she said.
She said although there’s judgement from people who don’t understand PND, she received support from people, including teachers and family members she was worried about.
She said mothers tend to live in comparison with each other but that was the least of her worries.
“I did think that they would judge me, but the more I spoke to mothers, the more most opened up and stated that they also went through the same,” she said. She said not everyone needs to get so bad to be recognised and be taken seriously.
She said she was blessed to have her husband Warren Shapiro whom she described as the “hybrid of an angel and a saint.”
Ms Shapiro said her husband was with her through it all. She wrote: “Warren often felt detached and helpless, he was the one who received the sobbing phone calls and frantic texts in the middle of the night. He has since confessed to me that he wasn’t the picture of grace and calm that he appeared to be. He was becoming increasingly frustrated and annoyed with me. He wanted to yell at me ‘for crying in a bucket, love pull yourself together, you wanted this pregnancy, you got it, so what’s the problem? Just get on with it.’ He didn’t say that of course, he knew that it wouldn’t be helpful. He knew that I needed him to be supportive and so he tried to be supportive.”
Ms Shapiro said sometimes partners don’t know what to do because they are not experiencing it. She said by including the parts about her husband, she hopes other people can take a bit from that and apply it in their lives.
She said society is becoming more aware of mental illness and hopefully also PND. She said she wrote the book because she wanted people to know that it’s not just post-natal, it can be prenatal.
“If you know three women in your life of more or less reproductive age, it is highly likely that one or more of more of them have or will go through this. You need to know what it is, so that you can identify it and support the treatment of it,” she said.
For details on how to get a copy of the book, log on to https://laurenshapiro.co.za/books/