It was about two months ago that detectives showed up on new dad Kim Chen's doorstep to tell him his wife Florence Leung was dead—an apparent suicide caused by postpartum depression after the birth of the couple's first child.
It's every family's worst nightmare, and now Chen is opening up about the harrowing experience and speaking about the pressures on new moms in a raw and emotional Facebook post.
"2 months have passed since the Detectives and victim assistance staffs showed up at our home, with the grim look on their faces," he begins. "I knew immediately what they were going to say before they entered the door. Everything... became obscured and clouded, drowned out by the ringing in the ear. The foundation of my life was taken apart, the plans of the future never to realize. Everything needs to be rebuilt."
Since that moment, Chen says he's been living in survival mode, one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. "Living at the moment is truly the only way to go through," he reveals. "As the initial shock and emotional numbness slowly subsides, I'm experiencing more flashbacks of memories from our 6.5 years of happiness, and for now these memories tend to trigger pain and intense longing. The time will come when I feel more at ease about reviewing and writing about Flo and I, and I look forward to that day."
So sad. And yet even in the midst of his grief, Chen decided to reach out with an important message for all new mothers, especially those experiencing guilt about breastfeeding.
"For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings," he writes. "You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother."
Chen says he still remembers seeing posters in the maternity unit announcing 'Breast is Best,' and reading a handout from the hospital with the line 'Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby for the First Six Months."
"While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEEDS to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula," he admonishes in his post. "And that formula is a completely viable option."
He's so right. It always breaks my heart to hear about a mom battling postpartum depression, and I applaud Chen for sharing such brave and honest words in an effort to make a difference. The bottom line is that the pressure to breastfeed can sometimes seem scary and no woman should be judged or made to feel guilty for not doing it—whether she can't or simply chooses not to.
There are so many new mamas out there feeling lost and isolated, and what they need is love and encouragement and kindness. Here's hoping Chen's post will bring more awareness to PPD and help start an important dialogue.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).