Catherine Cho, 31, mother of a two-year-old son Cato, has published her memoir, Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness , detailing the scary symptoms like paranoia and hallucinations which she experienced soon after giving birth.
The London-based mother has shared the details of her terrifying experience with postpartum psychosis in the memoir.
In her memoir, she has reconstructed her sense of self, starting with her childhood as the daughter of Korean immigrants, moving through a traumatic past relationship, and on to the early years of her courtship with and marriage to her husband, James.
The book has revealed that her husband James Choi, 37, had to admit her to a hospital’s psych ward. Her husband was forced to take this extreme step because she started hallucinating about her son’s eyes turning into the eyes of the devil.
‘I’d thought I would reclaim my body after birth, but instead, it was now a tool, something to sustain life,’ she wrote in her memoir. ‘In the blur of those hours, I stopped thinking of myself as having a name; I was a body. I had no identity, I was just a number on the marker board and a set of vitals.’
When Cato was two months old, they visited Catherine’s in-laws in the US, and her condition went from bad to worse.
‘We had been in my in-laws’ house for only a few hours when I realized something didn’t feel right,’ she wrote in an essay for The Guardian.
‘I could hear a noise, a tinny buzzing and beeps that sounded like monitors. “I feel like we’re being watched,” I said to James. ‘
I started being unable to sleep at night. I’d wipe my tears with the palms of my hands while I fed Cato, trying to keep them from falling on his cheek. I felt helpless and enraged, but confused and doubting. I had been selfish to make this trip. I was endangering Cato. I hadn’t thought about James’s family and their anxieties, she wrote.
When Catherine started screaming and yelling about being in hell, calling Cato ‘the Chosen One,’ James had his parents watch Cato and took Catherine to the hospital — where she hallucinated that the receptionist was a demon.
She is now pregnant with her second child. She is afraid that she may face the same problem again after giving birth in November. However, this time round, she is prepared for this.
‘I feel very secure in myself in being able to recognize if things aren’t going well,’ she said. ‘And knowing so much of that external noise that had really impacted me the first time, I’ll be much better prepared.’
A research project including partners from iPSYCH, had revealed that out of every thousand mothers, one or two will suffer a postpartum psychosis, but psychological vulnerability in connection with childbirth does not necessarily follow them through the rest of their lives.
The study which was based on a systematic literature review and a meta-analysis of published articles within the field, was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, in April, 2020.
According to the study, women with isolated postpartum psychosis could probably do without treatment for psychiatric disorders — though, of course, with the exception of the period immediately after childbirth.