“Why are you crying?!? What do you need?!?” I pleaded with my baby to somehow answer me. But when she didn’t, my anger quickly morphed into full-on rage. I tried to calm her, every way I knew how, but with slightly more force than was necessary. I shushed her, I swaddled her, I held her on her side, I gave her a paci to suck, I swung her… all with a rigid, almost robotic motion. She screamed louder.
“I just checked your diaper!” I yelled. But I figured I’d check it again because we’d been at this “witching hour” for awhile now. I was so beyond angry and overwhelmed that I could have thrown her across the room.
And then it hit me.
This isn’t how you treat a helpless newborn baby. This isn’t normal. A baby’s cries shouldn’t make you so angry, so full of rage. The guilt set in and after I finally got her calmed down, I collapsed into a pit of despair. I melted to the floor, a wave of intense darkness washed over me and the negative intrusive thoughts that followed marinated in my mind before I even understood what I was thinking.
You are a horrible mom. You’re not good enough. You can’t even figure out what your own child needs. You are a failure. I wanted to crawl into bed, escape everything with precious sleep. I wanted to pack my bags, get in my car and never look back. They’d be better off without you. They’d be happier.
I was paralyzed. My body so heavy, so weighed down by the enormity of the invisible load of motherhood, by sleep deprivation, by the loss of control, by a state of utter exhaustion, rage, guilt and defeat.
No one really knew what was happening with me. I hid it pretty well. I only let my rage show in the middle of the night when I was up for midnight nursing session and everyone else was sound asleep. My husband thought my increased irritability during the day was a symptom of sleep deprivation, which I’m sure it was… but it was so much more.
I actually never knew rage could be a symptom of Postpartum Depression (PPD). But after having thoughts of legitimately longing to abandon my family, I did a quick google search and discovered, sure enough, it was.
What They Don’t Tell You About PPD
Postpartum Depression isn’t cookie-cutter. It doesn’t always happen right after you have a baby. For me, it presented about a week after my postpartum checkup where, per the norm, they had me take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale questionnaire. I happily circled answers that made it seem like this parenting thing was a breeze. So I flew right under the radar. Maybe I was in denial, or maybe my symptoms hadn’t reared their ugly heads yet.
PPD also doesn’t always consume your every waking moment. I actually had good days. This threw me off so much. I thought PPD was supposed to consume your life 24/7. What I didn’t know is that it is totally normal to have a good week, then a bad week. Or a good two weeks and a bad weekend. Or a good day and a bad month. Symptoms fluctuate with your circumstances.
But here’s how I knew I needed help:
- I didn’t feel connected. To my baby, to my spouse, to myself. But especially to my baby. Through the endless days and nights of constantly trying to calm a screaming child, I wasn’t able to just ENJOY her. I felt so disconnected and detached from her. Instead of feeling a bond, I just felt resentment.
- I was easily irritated and angered. As I mentioned previously, my anger turned into rage as the days passed by. The littlest things would set me off like the sound of my dog’s toenails clip-clip-clipping against the hardwood floor. Or the sound of the dishwasher running while I tried to have a conversation.
- So many mood swings. One minute I felt fine, and then out of the blue, I’d be drowning in anxiety or flying off the handle with rage or sobbing uncontrollably. It started getting to the point where it interfered with my ability to function.
- I lost interest in everything. I didn’t want to do anything, with anyone, anywhere. I started feeling like nothing mattered and it would just be better to stay in, where I didn’t have to pretend to care.
- I wanted to escape. I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I wanted to drive in a car and never return. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to somehow leave my overwhelming life.
- I thought my own children and husband would be better off without me. This was when I KNEW something was wrong. I could justify all the other symptoms, say they weren’t that bad, that maybe I was just exhausted and it was the sleep deprivation… but thinking your family would be better off without you… That is NOT a normal thought.
Admitting the reality of the severity of my symptoms was embarrassing.
I felt so much shame and regret for all the rage I had. But luckily my husband and family were supportive. I decided it was imperative to seek professional help. However, the thought of seeing a therapist was extremely intimidating. I felt scared that they’d laugh and say, “Hunny, welcome to parenthood. Suck it up!” But, I faced that fear and after attending therapy and starting medication, my world changed. Suddenly all the obstacles that looked like insurmountable mountains, dwindled into hills that were easily scalable. Through therapy, I learned coping strategies to combat the intrusive thoughts and handle my triggers. And eventually I started feeling more like myself.
If you feel like something just isn’t right, know that you are not alone. In fact, 1 in 7 women experience Postpartum Depression. It can affect any woman, regardless of income, age, race, culture or education. And it is NOT your fault. Please, don’t try and face it alone. Reach out to a loved one, join an online support group or schedule an appointment with a medical professional.
***For more resources on Postpartum Mental Health, check out: Postpartum Support International. You can also call the PSI Helpline at: 1-800-944-4773 (#1 En Español or #2 English) or TEXT: 503-894-9453 (English) or 971-420-0294 (Español)***
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
Image from Unsplash.com