This post has been sitting in draft for ages. If you count a blank page as a draft, that is.
It’s hard to know what to say. This is a very touchy topic and I’ll have to admit to some stuff that I’ve admitted to very few people. Plus it’s sort of buried because I’ve dealt with it – for the most part anyway – and I don’t want to dredge it back up again. And also because there are things I actually have no memory of.
I want to write about this, though. Postpartum rage is part of my experience. And it’s a term that ranks high in the list of search terms that bring people to my blog.
I wrote about it very briefly before but I didn’t really say much about it. Just that I experienced it and that it’s actually a common symptom of depression. A lot of moms experience it as part of PPD.
But the subject of rage and anger after having a baby is coming up more and more in conversations with people. So many moms I know are experiencing this. I can’t fix it for them, but I can let them know they’re not alone. So here goes.
Imagine a time you totally lost your temper. When you were so consumed by anger you felt it as a physical thing, adrenaline racing through your body and blocking out all rational thought. When your first instinct, as though it were primal, was to throw something so it would shatter into a thousand pieces and break whatever spell had overtaken you.
That’s what it felt like for me for much of my son’s first 2 1/2 years.
I was desperately sleep deprived. I had no patience. Anger was my constant companion.
It raised its ugly head when I had spent hours trying to get him to sleep only to have him immediately wake up screaming.
It brought me to tears when he woke up every half hour at night and I was so tired I wanted to die and had no idea how I was ever going to get through the night, never mind the next day.
It added to the exhaustion of trying to cope with and comfort a fussy baby.
It made me want to yell and scream. Sometimes I did.
It left me feeling without hope when he smiled and cooed and all I could think was that having a baby had been a mistake.
For months the inside of my head was screaming because I was so angry and I didn’t know what to do about it. I couldn’t throw the baby against the wall or out the window, though the physical urge to do so consumed me.
I spent many days worrying I would hit him and yet at the same time was sure I wouldn’t. Except (oh my god I’m going to admit it) one time I did. It was light – just a smack against his thigh on a really bad day when I had nothing left.
It made him cry.
I stood there in horror. And then I scooped him up and held him to me and cried with him.
Even then, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And I didn’t ask for help because I was so scared to admit what was going on.
Having an infant is hard. I just kept waiting for it to get better, but – for me at least – that didn’t happen.
As my son got older and started to lack cooperation at the worst possible moment – writhing around in a poopy diaper, for instance – I found myself wanting to pin him to the table and force him, bodily, to lie still.
It simmered beneath the surface all the time, a bubbling pot of anger that threatened, every day, to spill over.
When I couldn’t take it I would summon my loudest inside-my-head voice and swear – at the universe, at his crying, at mine.
I swore at my inability to cope.
I swore at battling the same things, day after day after day.
I swore out loud some days, to myself, through my sobs, as my tears ran over my words and the guilt and misery and hopelessness that came with them.
I felt massively ripped off in my experience as a new mother. I still resent it. It still makes me cry.
When I went back to work when my son was 11 months old, I thought it would get better.
To be continued...