for the Postpartum Support International Blog
January 19, 2016
You just had a baby. Everyone around you is so happy. And you are too…sometimes. You feel “off” or “out of sorts,” but you’re not sure why. So, you think, “Well, maybe it’s because I’m sooooo tired.” That’s definitely true, but in the back of your mind, you know it’s not quite the full story. You put on a smile for others, but may secretly cry in the bathroom or when you finally have a minute alone. You don’t want to tell anyone how you are feeling for fear that they will tell you, “You just had a baby! You should be happy.”
Right. You would feel happy, if you could.
As these early days go on, you try to keep busy with household chores, feeding the baby, taking care of the baby. It may be hard to sit down to rest even though you are feeling an exhaustion beyond any you’ve ever felt. It’s the kind of exhaustion that makes you wonder if you can even stand up to get the coffee you desperately need. Things just keep getting more and more difficult. You are irritable with your partner and with your baby. Sometimes you get so agitated that very distressing thoughts come in to your head. You get so mad sometimes that you feel like throwing your baby. But you never EVER would. But the thought itself terrifies you. And the guilt at having it overwhelms you. That’s when you put your baby down and start to cry. A deep, deep, what-the-hell-is-going-on kind of cry.
Here’s the thing Mama, you’re not alone. You may really really really feel alone, but you are most definitely not. In fact, what you just read, was a glimpse into my own experience. But, it’s not just me.
About 15%-20% of pregnant and new mothers have these or other types of painful feelings, thoughts, and experiences. And far too few of us get the help we deserve.
I’m sorry that these experiences aren’t talked about in the open more often. But I’m not going to keep my experience a secret, because there is nothing to be ashamed about. We as a society have done a grave disservice to mothers (and babies, partners, families, pretty much everyone really) by keeping these experiences in the shadows. These feelings can go on for years if left untreated. It doesn’t need to be that way!
The great news is that maternal mental health difficulties are totally treatable and respond very well to psychotherapy and other healing modalities. Please moms, don’t suffer alone and in silence. This pain should not be a secret. This pain deserves compassion and healing. There is a community of mothers, professionals, and advocates here to support you and get you feeling like yourself again.
Ways to find professional help:
Reach out, our hands are waiting!
Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., is a psychologist specializing maternal mental health in Claremont, CA. She was drawn to this specialty after going through Postpartum Depression and anxiety with her first child. Dr. Kaeni’s mission is to support, offer treatment, train providers and advocate for women and families who are facing maternal mental health struggles. She volunteers for Postpartum Support International as the area co-coordinator for San Bernardino County. She thoroughly enjoys stigma crushing.