My pregnancy with my first child was wonderful, I was happy, and we were so excited for him to come into our lives. I spent the whole nine months daydreaming about who he would be and soaking up every kick and roll he would give me. Never would I have dreamed the battle that I had ahead of me dealing with postpartum rage.
You see, I was in labor with him for a very long time. Prodromal labor, they’ve named it.
Whoever “they” are, by the way, could have come up with a name that is less annoying to say when you are waiting anxiously to pop. Mouth full of marbles, I tell ya. But prodromal it was. Every 7 to 10 minutes for THREE DAYS, 18 hours of active labor, an hour and a half of pushing. And there he was—my gorgeous baby boy. I was exhausted but exhilarated.
Those first few weeks were rough, but I assumed a lot of my trials and tribulations were ‘normal new parent’ struggles. I remember at one point being so desperate to get him to sleep that we were trying everything. It makes me giggle to look back on now.
The funniest were speed lunges across the house while holding him. Yes, you read that right, speed lunges. He seemed to like them. He was quiet at least. Now I know he was likely just reveling in our humiliation, enjoying his role as our new tiny emperor.
Then, this cloud seemed to move over me. It was like walking through a fog.
But not a pretty white wispy fog, more like a dark, thick sludge. It followed me, nagged me, pulled at me, and I did my best every day to shake it off, run away from it, ‘fake it til I make it’, hoping it would just give up and leave me alone. It didn’t. It was relentless, and got worse over time, until one day I shocked myself.
Here I am, holding my sweet, screaming little miracle, when suddenly a white hot rage bubbles up inside my belly and I am overtaken by the thought of running his tiny head into the wall of the hallway I was walking for the 300th time that night attempting to get him to sleep so that I could get a tiny glimpse of a break.
It came out of nowhere. It scared the shit out of me. Immediately I brought him to my husband, handed him off, and went to the other room to cry my eyes out. That was the moment that other awful thought came into my mind.
They would both be better off with a different woman in my place. A better wife. A better mother. She would just be… better at this than I am.
This went on, in different severities, for a few months. I felt like the real me was this tiny person, stuck inside my body, watching this all unfold, and postpartum-rage-me was at the controls.
Finally, my husband was able to break through my angry, scary, unfamiliar barrier I had inadvertently built around myself, and introduced me to a local group for new moms that he found online. I didn’t initially want to go.
I can do this—I thought to myself—I don’t need these women to help me. I’m FINE. I’m a good mom. Those groups are only for the women who can’t handle themselves. I can handle this.
But I couldn’t. I knew it deep down, but I refused to tell anyone. I needed help.
So I went. My sweet, completely emotionally drained husband and my precious little baby dropped me off for an hour-long meeting.
That was my turning point. My life was saved that day.
I met women who were going through EXACTLY what I was going through. One in particular was struggling with postpartum rage as well. Her smiling, teary-eyed face still holds a special place in my heart.
There were varying degrees of distress and struggle coming from the other women. It felt amazing to be in that room. I felt heard. I felt cared-for. I felt normal. I didn’t feel crazy or judged. They cried with me. They hugged me. They gave me chocolate.
They DIDN’T give me any advice (a strict policy of this group, as new moms are magnets for any and all advice, amiright?!). It was heaven being with those women.
I still struggled, though with postpartum rage. I felt better, but not back to myself at all.
I knew there was more work that needed to be done, so I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss my options. She listened, validated that what I was going through was normal, and told me that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, and no amount of therapy would fix it.
So, we decided on a medication and a dosage, and I got to it. That was the ticket. I only needed to take my medication for about 6 months before we decided to wean me off, very carefully, and I felt good again all on my own.
I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy.
But, I have come around to appreciating that period in my life for what it taught me. I persevered through some really hard stuff, and came out on the other side a better person then I was before, with a perspective and knowledge that I can use to help and empower other women.
Never in my life have I felt appreciation and kinship like I have with other moms. We need each other. Yes, there is a litany of different parenting styles and not everyone is going to be my cup of tea, nor I theirs, but this crazy journey called motherhood has taught me that nobody has their shit together, and we’re all just muddling through, doing our best to love and raise our tiny humans.