Moms Behind Mental Health: Jessica's terrifying lack of postpartum support is eye-opening.

Disclaimer: This is a special edition of the Moms Behind Mental Health series - Jessica Porten did not contact me; I reached out to her for explicit permission to share her story. For more information on maternal mental health, and helping other moms like her; visit 2020mom.


I had a really hard time deciding whether I should post something about what happened last night, since putting it on Facebook wouldn’t help the situation. But I don’t know, I feel like this has to be said out into the world so you can all see how little support mothers get from our healthcare system.

I had an OB appointment yesterday, my first since giving birth 4 months ago (because they kept cancelling my appointments), which is inhumane in my eyes. I went to the appointment alone with Kira. It was at 2:10, and I was not called back to a room until 3:15. A nurse practitioner comes in (one I don’t particularly care for) and I tell her everything my husband told them when he scheduled me the appointment a week ago. That I have postpartum depression that is manifesting in fits of anger, and I want to discuss my medication options. I tell them I have a very strong support system at home, so although I would never hurt myself or my baby, I’m having violent thoughts and I need medication and therapy to get through this. She rushed through my pelvic exam, barely spoke about medication, said she needed to talk to the doctor about my PPD, and left the room.

They called the fucking cops on me.

They had a staff member sit with me for over an hour waiting for the police to arrive. The cops show up and we’re trying to figure out the logistics of how they’re going to escort me to the ER because I have Kira and her car seat. The cops can clearly see I’m of sound mind and that this whole thing is bullshit, so they allow me to drive to the ER with Kira in my car while one cop drives in front of me and one follows behind. We arrive at the ER and I’m checked in, triaged, blood drawn. I am assigned a security guard to babysit me. I wait for over an hour and Scott is finally able to come down to support me (he was watching Luna and did not have her car seat so he had to wait for my dad to get home before he could come over). They finally get us a room, which they only did because we have a baby.

They take me to the bathroom so I can give a urine sample. They make me remove all of my clothes (including my flip flops, which they replaced with socks) and then take them away from me and lock them up. We missed dinner, so a nurse gives us two shitty little turkey sandwiches. I am not seen by a social worker until 10:45pm. She decides she does not need to put me on a psychiatric hold, and they process my discharge.

Not once during all of this has a doctor laid eyes on me. Not once. Not even before they decided to call the cops on me. The social worker hands me some papers and discusses the information in them, telling me she thinks these “will probably be good resources for you.”.

I leave the ER at midnight, my spirit more broken than ever, no medication, no follow up appointment, never spoke to a doctor. This was a 10 hour ordeal that I had to go through all while caring for my infant that I had with me. And that’s it. That’s what I got for telling my OB that I have PPD and I need help. I was treated like a criminal and then discharged with nothing but a stack of xeroxed printouts with phone numbers on them.

I’m still processing all of the emotions that are coming with being treated this way. I’m not exactly sure what to do here. I will say I am deeply hurt and upset, and above all angry and disgusted and disappointed by how this whole thing went down.

Ladies and gentleman, our healthcare system.

EDIT 01/19/18 at 3:38pm - I want to say, I will not be taking any legal action with this. I want this to spread far and wide so that awareness can be made. And then I want to fix this broken system. Because the fact of the matter is, even if I was mentally unstable, suicidal, and unfit to parent (which I am not), the way the situation was handled is not helpful to people. Let’s do better Sacramento. I want you all to ask yourself and those around you some questions.

-Why is the way I was treated standard procedure?
-What can we do to improve standard procedures for all postpartum mothers, but also specifically those at a higher risk for developing PPD and presenting with signs of PPD.
-Who is most qualified to make suggestions for improvements? 
-Who is actually capable of making the changes to standard procedures, and how can we can contact them?

Let’s crowd source ideas and bring about some real change.

EDIT 01/19/18 at 11:06pm - I have some more questions I need to add this list. I may be marginalized as a woman, but I am white and heterosexual and hold privileges in these places. I am scared for our mothers of color and our LGBTQ mothers who seek out help in these situations.

-Why was I let go, when so many others would have been put on a mandatory 72 hour psychiatric hold, and had their children taken away?
-Why do a disproportionate number of women of color who have PPD not receive the services they need, even when they initiate treatment?
-Why are a disproportionate number of women of color who have PPD misdiagnosed?
-Why are black women half as likely to receive mental health treatment and counseling as white women? 
-What can we do as a community to lift up our marginalized memebers and make sure they receive the quality care that we ALL have a right to?!?

I am working with 2020 Mom, the nonprofit host of Federal Maternal Mental Health Lobby Day, and the leading advocacy movement for maternal mental health (MMH) in California. Four bills are being introduced as we speak, and a rally will be held in Sacramento in the next two weeks. Join me at CA’s rally and at the rally in DC this May. I will post the dates, times, and locations of both rallies as soon as I have that information. Learn more at #4Bills4CAMoms

I encourage you to take actions to lift up the marginalized members of your community and use the hashtag #Action4Jessica to encourage others to do the same! Just remember, never post a picture of someone or their children without explicit consent. Thank you all again so much! Let’s be the change!