As modern moms, we should all be grateful for the insane amount of awareness that is now around mental health and specifically postpartum depression. Back when our parents were young it was simply, “grab a cocktail and pack of smokes, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” Today, doctors and peers are decidedly more aware of feelings, anxiety, and depression. All of which can hit you smack in the face when you are pregnant or right after you have just entered into the unknown world of motherhood.
After my first child was born in 2015, my spouse noticed that I wasn’t quite myself. And boy was he right.
My daughter was born in April and my next eight weeks of maternity leave were supposed to be an amazing time of bonding with my daughter and figuring out this whole motherhood thing. They were not. It was an unusually rainy spring here, and maybe that was a contributing factor, but I was pissed! Not just irritable, but straight up angry.
One morning my cat wandered into my newborn daughter’s room, and I found myself having a fit. Not a small bought of weeping, but kicking and screaming at her like a professional NFL coach after a bad call (insert Mike Ditka). Disclaimer, my cat has claws and likes to snuggle. I slipped into a fit of rage, worried that she might scratch my daughter, or worse, never come out of the room, which is entirely ridiculous. What the hell was wrong with me?!?!
And who was I angry at who? Everyone.
- My daughter for being born. I wasn’t bonding with her, and all she did was cry and sleep and eat. Plus, she won’t even look at me. What a brat.
- My friends for asking me “How does it feel to be a mom?” It sucks. I hurt everywhere, I don’t sleep, and I don’t recognize the person in the mirror. Yeah, it’s super!
- My husband. Because he gets the whole “dad” thing and works all day and then comes home and kicks ass with our newborn. Yes, I married a good one.
- My doctors. For asking me how much I cry. Scream yes, cry no.
- Myself, for thinking I could ever actually pretend to be a parent. Why didn’t anyone tell me I would suck at this?
Insert postpartum depression.
At first, I was insistent that this person raging around our house wasn’t me. I had always been optimistic, confident, and ready to take on a challenge. “Depressed” was just a phase that happens after a bad breakup in college, easily remedied by a night out with the girls. But that was fifteen years ago. Adulting is a lot harder than that!
Now I was a Mom, and I was so angry. I set up an appointment (at the request of my fantastic husband) with a counselor and wandered into a Postpartum International support meeting near my house. What I found out was that postpartum depression could take on many forms. For me, it manifested in rage. Not only was this uncharacteristic of me, but it was also straight up scary.
Through a few months of meetings and some light meds (thanks, doctors), I was able to appreciate my path to motherhood. I began to giggle with my little girl and carried around small aromatherapy bottles for a good whiff when I needed to settle down.
My daughter is now 2 1/2, and she has a chubby little brother who is just six-months-old. My family photographer recently told me in our newborn photo session that I looked “whole.” That there was some sense of completeness about me that came from having them both in my arms, vying for all of me, all of my attention. Was I the crying, over-emotional, and depressed face of postpartum depression? No. But it was how I became a mother. It was precisely how I became the silly, imperfect, intensely devoted, working mom that I am. And I’m not mad about it.