My post-partum depression made me lose it with my kids
Caring for a baby and a small toddler is ridiculously difficult for anyone, but for someone like me who has struggled with depression and chronic illness… it was daunting. I remember some days completing basic duties like diapers, nursing and meal prep left me feeling battered and lifeless. I loved my little girls more than anything, but there were times when I hated being a mother.
It was a Thursday. The morning routine with a newborn and a 17-month-old was labor intensive: diapers, breastfeeding and breakfast for big sister… hello, multitasking.
Strapped safely into her high chair with food on her plate, I figured the firstborn was squared away, so I'd have time to sit down and nurse my cranky and desperately hungry baby. Boppy in place, nursing bra unclipped and one starving baby slurping down breast milk — check.
Three minutes into nursing, the interruptions begin again.
“Mo’ milk,” demanded big sis.
I struggled out from under the pile of nursing accoutrements and topped off the sippy cup.
Back to business and three minutes later…
Up again, and then… back to nursing. Within minutes, my busy firstborn was opening and closing the drawers in the kitchen. Out came the rolling pin and colander, the napkins scattered in a blizzard of paper and I was getting pissed.
Requests turned to stern warnings, which morphed into yelling, yielding zero results. She was undeterred and continued on her mission of destruction.
I was up again, and the storm that had been brewing inside me unleashed a burning fury. Rage came over me and my face turned red. It was an out-of-body experience, and I don’t remember the words that came out of my mouth. I only remember grabbing her arm, yanking hard and screaming into her face at the top of my lungs. My sweet 1-1/2-year-old girl. Letting loose only fueled my anger and I violently booted our trash can across the kitchen, papers and food spraying from the launched vessel as it soared in slow motion, crashing into the counter. I chucked her little plastic shopping cart down the stairs of our tri-level house and watched it break into pieces.
Ever so slowly, I turned my head to look at my sweet girl. The fear on her face with dripping tears shattered my heart, and I willed my body not to crumble into the floor.
I ran to her, scooped her up and repented for my sins.
“I’m sorry, Mommy’s sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I held and rocked her as she cried, briefly pondering how strange it was that she wanted comfort from the person who just scared the shit out of her. I cried with her, and so did her baby sister.
It was all a big mess.
I called my husband as soon as I got a hold of myself and pleaded for him come home. I needed help — my resources were depleted and I needed a break.
When he arrived, I briefed him with downcast eyes. He wasn’t sure what to say — I silently retreated to our bedroom and closed my eyes under the haven of my fluffy down comforter. When the storm passed, we called my doctor, and they chalked it up to post-partum depression, but I knew there was more to it.
The loss of autonomy and identity that come with being a mother can bore into the soul of a woman, provoking irritation, depression, sadness and resentment. The juxtaposition of personhood and motherhood is one of enormous complexity and leaves many women feeling out of place and disjointed in their new and coveted role.
In hindsight, I realize I was undergoing an identity crisis of unfathomable proportions and the wear and tear of raising small children left me vulnerable to bursts of extreme emotion.
Six years have passed, but time and again, caring for two kids just 17 months apart has challenged my temper, my emotional stability and my general wellness. I work hard to be a good parent and finding the right antidepressants was huge. Hormone normalization and putting my kids into childcare two days a week gave me space to nestle into my new identity.
Being a parent doesn’t exclude me from the normal gamut of human emotions and kids have the uncanny ability to get under the skin of almost anyone. Stocking my parenting tool kit full of useful strategies has saved me from more than one mommy meltdown.
My tools include a handful of parenting books that have helped me find ways to discipline my kids while preserving my own sanity. Continued therapy is a must, but most of all, the continued pursuit of authentic happiness and identity is what lights a spark of joy. I am more than a mother — I am a conglomerate of life’s adventures and by honoring this fact, I have space to be a better mother.