When I was pregnant with Peanut, I was fully prepared to deal with a severe case of postpartum depression once she entered this world. Considering my history of depression, some of which I was still dealing with during my actual pregnancy, I figured I was a shoo-in for PPD. I had extra visits scheduled with my midwife, therapy sessions pre-booked, and I surrounded myself with a great support system–particularly my wonderful husband who had not only seen me at my worst, but also studied up the symptoms of PPD because they’re not always as obvious as regular ol’ depression.
Then I totally skipped over it.
I had a minor case of the baby blues, but it passed quickly. I’ll be honest, I was partially convinced it was all my preparation. I was also partially convinced it was my new attitude as a mother. I thought that when you have a life to care for, you just can’t be that self involved. That’s not fair to the moms who do have PPD or any sort of other mental illness. It’s not self absorption. I, of all people, should know this.
So imagine my surprise when it didn’t skip over me this time.
Originally I didn’t even recognize it. I didn’t feel sad. I thought that meant I didn’t have postpartum depression. Depression = sad, right? Not necessarily. PPD can also manifest itself in anger.
For me, the best way I can describe it is sudden, intense rage. Sadly, it was mostly directed at Peanut. That meant that it was immediately followed my crippling guilt. Both of these feelings are signs of PPD. Feelings of sadness or depression aren’t necessarily required for PPD. Though I think I would have had more sad feelings if I didn’t decide to encapsulate my placenta, which at the time was more for the milk supply benefits than the PPD benefits. I had no idea how much it would help me mentally that I made that decision. I definitely notice a difference in what I can handle on days that I forget to take my pill (just one because I decided to do the raw method).
Without the obvious signs of depression, I didn’t recognize it as such. Instead I was just convinced I had a tyrant for a child and a short temper. It was reasonable enough to think those things considering a new baby puts everyone on edge, but this assumption doesn’t solve anything. It turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peanut being defiant, though really in retrospect not any more so than she was before Twig was born, and me knowing it was coming and exploding in anger when it did. I was screaming all of the time. One day a hanger fell down in her closet and I asked her to bring it to me so I could hang a shirt on it, but she ignored me and started trying to put it back where it went. I started screaming at her. She was trying to fix it and I yelled at her for it. Then and there I knew that this couldn’t be normal.
I started asking on Twitter and it was quickly confirmed that this was indeed PPD. It wasn’t normal. I didn’t have to just keep dealing with it. Somehow, that alone helped me immensely. Just to realize that it wasn’t Peanut’s fault, but my own thing I needed to deal with. I started seeing my therapist again and that’s helped too. I’ve also realized what I need to do to keep myself mentally at my best, which includes, for me, a clean house. Not knowing where things are and having clean clothes and needing to clean the toilet nagging at the back of my mind is too much for me. So my house is back to it’s pre-Twig level of cleanliness and I’m happy for it. Yeah, I could spend more time relaxing or playing if I weren’t cleaning, but it’s what I need to do to stay happy. I think acknowledging what I need in my life to be happy is very helpful.
All in all, the postpartum aggression (as I like to call it) seems to be leveling out. I’ve been taking my placenta pills religiously because days when I miss it are definitely harder, but even those days aren’t explosive like they used to be. I still feel awful that Peanut was at the center of so much of the aggression, but the more I talk about it in therapy, the more I realize it wasn’t actually her or anything she did. I still love my first daughter as much as I did before I had my second and she hasn’t changed. She just got the short stick by being the person who I’m around the most. Luckily our relationship seems to be back to where it’s supposed to be at and we’re both better off.
I guess the end message is that postpartum depression isn’t just depression. If you’re feeling anything that’s doesn’t feel normal, talk to someone. It could be happiness to the point that it’s effecting your life in a negative way and still be PPD for all I know. Don’t let people or yourself tell you of course you’re emotional because you just had a baby. Even if it does turn out to be the baby blues, there’s no harm in talking to someone. Only in our society are women so isolated during the time when they need support the most.
Did you have postpartum depression? Did you experience anger and guilt as symptoms of your PPD? How were your other children or loved ones effected? What did you do that helped you cope?