I see a lot of women for post-partum stuff. I say stuff because it’s almost never just straight depression. Often it’s anxiety, high high levels of anxiety. It’s anxiety that something’s going to happen to the baby, anxiety that something will happen to their partner, anxiety they are going to be bad parents, finances, work, etc. They often can’t sleep and they often feel very irritable. They love their kids and they feel horrible that they are so anxious and irritable. Then they feel even worse when they ask how long it’s going to last and I tell them maybe a year. Because honestly I’ve seen it last that long. Medication can take the edge off, and help with sleep, but the mood stuff can literally last a year. I don’t sugar coat it.
When I was post-partum I was breastfeeding premature twins and recovering from a C-section. So yeah. I was a little nuts. I was anxious I was tearful and I was literally overcome with this new emotion of love for these little beings who were completely dependent on me. Literally. They were allergic to formula. Breast milk was the only option.
I’ve thought a lot about that time period and I see Mom’s through it, and then they have toddlers and that brings a whole new level of crazy. Toddlers still wake up at night when they have to pee or when they peed through their diaper or if they get scared or if they are sick. So literally we still don’t sleep through the night ever and now we have these bigger beings who are still dependent on us but who are trying to be independent at the most inconvenient moments.
So these mom’s come in when they have toddlers and are like “I’m still crazy.” They are less crazy then before. They are sleeping better, maybe having sex with their partners, and less anxious but still emotional. Still crying at Peter Pan if they have boys and worried about their girl becoming too girly or too feminist. The more I’ve thought about it and the more I’ve experienced it the more I think it’s not just about being post-partum.
I remember talking to a friend when the boys were a month old and saying that I couldn’t even internalize the immense amount of emotion I experienced in the last month because it would break me. I went from having a partner who I loved to having not just one but two little people who were stealing my heart piece by piece from the time they were implanted in the womb. I think over the past two and a half years at random times pieces of that intense love hits me and is slowly internalized.
Over time I am processing the love of a mother for her son. Times two. But it’s not that it ever becomes manageable. I just become more accustomed to having it around. Because I’m always afraid. Afraid something will happen at daycare, they will fall off the big slide at the playground, they will choke when they eat an apple, and I don’t know, a million other things. The fear and anxiety can be overwhelming if I really pause and think about it. The fear for their futures and for their relationship with each other and with us.
New Mom’s I think see other mom’s and maybe their own Mom’s and see them being totally calm and collected and not obsessed and anxious over everything having to do with their child. Because with time it becomes less present, less intense, perhaps more manageable. But even at my age I know if I’m upset and I tell my mom she will be upset too. So it’s not like getting through the first year makes everything all better. It just maybe makes the intense emotions less intense, perhaps better able to be compartmentalized. But then the damn kids start moving and all these new anxieties start.
In general as humans we aren’t good at vocalizing how we feel and emotion can be seen as weakness. But I know Mom’s are having them, because I am, and because they are in my office crying every day.
Instead of pretending life is great and going by the facebook family of four smiling with no problems, maybe start talking to other Mom’s about real life. Real feelings. Because you will likely find validation and that the addition of a life to a family let alone two at a time is hard, intense, and literally can make you feel crazy. And that’s okay.