The New Mom Reality: Everything Isn’t Sunshine And Roses

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maternity-blues-or-postpartum-depressionWhen my daughter was born, and I started to go out among the humans again, there was always one phrase that I never knew how to respond to:

“Wow! You must be so happy right now!”

I would smile and nod if I was feeling patient, or I would glare at them and walk away when I wasn’t. Obviously, I was happy. I was happy to be a mother, I was happy with my daughter, I was happy to not be pregnant anymore. All of these things I knew rationally, but they were definitely fighting for purchase under my other feelings, which were mostly along the lines of making the biggest mistake of my life and how I was nothing but a big fat failure. It took me a long time to realize that I was not the only one, something that Kate Rope is familiar with and wrote about in The Huffington Post:

“Nine months after my first daughter was born (and following a medically-difficult pregnancy), I was brought to my knees by crippling postpartum anxiety. It took one excellent therapist, a very understanding husband, a reproductive psychiatrist, 75 milligrams of Zoloft daily, and buckets of tears to bring me back up to the surface of normal life.

Then I settled in for the sitcom-style bumps and bruises of family life until my second daughter was born. This time, the instant she was out of my body, I went into a hormone-driven panic freefall. My OB beamed at me from between my shaking legs and asked what I was feeling as I looked over at my newborn daughter on the scale. “Overwhelmed,” I said, fighting back tears.”

So often, when we talk about the various degrees of post-pregnancy shittiness-whether it’s “the baby blues” or full on PPD-we sort of swipe it to the side and associate it with other people in order to not have to admit that we are feeling anything other than sheer joy at our new poo factories. I certainly didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about what I was feeling. I dreaded hearing the terms “a little sleep deprived” or “those crazy hormones!” so much that I just stopped talking.

This was a mistake. After feeling all alone for months, by shutting up I managed to make that isolation a reality. I was able to come through unscathed, but not every one can without some excellent therapy and excellent medication. If I had had access to either I would not have thought twice about using them.

Rope has come a long way in her anxiety treatment, and a lot of good has come out of it for her. But she also readily admits that the entire experience has drastically changed the way she looks at new mothers and asks us to do the same:

“Can we all agree to expand the party line about motherhood (and parenting in general) to include topics we don’t like talking about? Like how trying to make a person in this age of high-stress careers and delayed childbearing is extremely difficult and fraught with awful, bloody failure? How growing a person inside of you is an heroic physical challenge that takes an enormous biological and hormonal toll, so it makes sense that it can take weeks, months, years (and sometimes professional help) to return to a physical and emotional equilibrium?”

I know my own experience has changed the way I look at new moms, too. I keep a closer eye on my friends that have just given birth and try and send them morse code signals through rapid blinking that it’s okay if they feel awful. They can talk about it. Or I just come right out and tell them. You’d be surprised how many people are just waiting for permission.

(ImageL Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock)