After the birth of my daughter, I didn’t feel like myself. I could easily blame how exhausted I was from the hypertension that forced me on bedrest, the excessive weight gain, the more than 48 hours of labor I endured, or all the first-time breastfeeding woes that left me sobbing at every feeding. As I began locking myself in the bathroom for abnormal lengths of time, I quickly realized what I was experiencing was serious. While "baby blues" are normal, some (like me) experience postpartum moments that’ll convince you you’re losing your mind and, for me, there were times when I think I really did lose my mind.
It’s not easy to look back on those early days of motherhood, because I had no idea what any of it would feel like. I especially had no idea what postpartum depression would feel like. Knowing my history of anxiety and depression, my doctor thoroughly explained all the signs and symptoms and, still, I never thought it could get so bad. Instead of doting on my daughter or confiding in my partner about these feelings, I’d retreat. Instead of wanting to bond with my newborn baby, I felt detached. I often had nightmares about dropping her or rolling over on her even though we didn’t practice co-sleeping. She was a good baby who allowed us to swaddle and sleep train her fairly early on, but my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness (at the time) kept me from seeing or appreciating it all. In the end, I guess I could say my postpartum got in the way of everything I thought, felt, did and even see (or didn't see, as it where). I think back on this time with such sadness and regret, knowing there’s little I can do to change anything now, except try to be a better mother to my daughter than I was during those dark, difficult, postpartum days.
While The American Pregnancy Association describes the "baby Blues" as having “milds ups and downs, weepiness, and stress,” Postpartum Depression (PPD) affects 1 in 7 new mothers with more severe symptoms. Aside from a major change in hormones, those with PPD might experience anxiety, restlessness, isolation, insomnia, and other mental and physical issues. Because of all this, it’s not so easy to fully embrace the early days of motherhood, no matter how much you want to or how hard you try to will yourself to. So, with that in mind, here are a few postpartum moments that’ll convince you you’re losing your mind. Knowing what's could potentially be in store is half the battle. The other half? Remembering it's not your fault.
When You Hear Your Baby Crying, Even When They're Not
If you think you hear crying babies all the time, you aren't alone. When we first brought our daughter home, I'd wake in the middle of the night many, many times because I thought she was crying. Her little wail became so ingrained in my mind, I imagined the sounds even when she was sound asleep.
So, instead of getting the sleep I so desperately needed, I wasted time checking on a baby who didn't even need me at the moment (which only contributed to a lingering insomnia). Every night the cycle repeated itself and, every night, I became that much more convinced she was crying. She wasn't.
When You Have Intrusive, Unkind Thoughts About Yourself...
If you've never had depression and thoughts about hurting yourself before giving birth, but have after, this is another unfortunate symptom of PPD. For me, personally, these thoughts convinced me I was losing my mind.
To be honest, I'd always had self-harm tendencies but post-pregnancy, they definitely worsened. I began to feel as though I deserved to be punished for not being a good enough mother — for not feeling the ways everyone said I should — and, at times, I thought about self-harm as a means to feel something when parts of me had numbed. This is a serious symptom of PPD and it needs serious attention, fast.
[Editor's Note: If you are feeling or thinking about harming yourself, please contact someone immediately. Self-Injury Outreach and Support, and other organizations, can give you the care you deserve.]
...And Even Think The Same Thoughts About Your Baby
Also, if you have thoughts about harming your newborn it can totally make you feel like you're losing your mind. What kind of mother would think this about their own baby?
Me. I did. And I felt major guilt over it.
If you've experienced the same, speak to a medical professional (and your partner) right away. While they typically and usually remain only thoughts, you don't want to take the chance that you might find yourself acting on them. My doctor assured me what I felt, while intrusive, was a normal piece of the PPD puzzle. My hormones and chemical makeup had temporarily changed the way I thought about everything. In other words, I wasn't myself. He put me on medication to level things out and I began therapy and, eventually, the thoughts disappeared.
[Editor's Note: If you are feeling or thinking about harming your child, please contact someone immediately.]
WHen You're Either Crying Constantly Or You Don't Feel Anything At All
Again with the hormones, unfortunately. Being a woman is pretty tough, especially postpartum when your hormones literally take over your entire body. If you want to feel something, the hormones tell you to feel nothing. If you want to get through the day without sobbing over a diaper commercial, think again. Instead, you're going to cry all day long and for no discernible reason.
As previously mentioned, it's relatively normal to have some post-delivery blues and feel a little out-of-sorts. However, if you're on the extreme end, either way (I was on the numb end of things), talk to your doctor immediately.
When You Prefer To Be Alone Instead Of Bonding With Your Baby
It can really mess with your head to know you should want to bond with your baby, but you'd rather be left alone. Everyone tells you it'll pass and you'll bond in no time but, in the moment, it doesn't feel that way.
I've always been an introvert and semi-loner so it didn't seem all that out of character for me to retreat. It wasn't until I noticed that I didn't want to be around the baby at all, that I realized I needed to ask for help.
When You Can't Remember Something That Happened A Few Minutes Ago
Did you breastfeed? Change a diaper? Is it time to bathe the baby or yourself? Or maybe you already did all of those things, you just can't remember. Everything is a fog those first few postpartum weeks and as you adjust to life with a new baby and as you struggle to find normalcy within your own mind.
You might feel temporarily insane but this, too, shall pass.
When Hallucinations And Reality Combine
Due to lack of sleep from the new baby, and combined with PPD, your brain does some pretty unreal things.
Personally, I hallucinated dropping my baby, talking to people who weren't there, and thought I saw people in the house when there was no one. If you want to talk about losing your mind, give birth to a demanding newborn and try to thrive on zero sleep, then see how your brain responds. The good news is, you'll all sleep through the night at some point and (hopefully) the hallucinations stop.
When You're Angry At Unreasonable Times
During that weird PPD phase, there's a lot I wish I could go back and change about the way I reacted to to things. Because of the overwhelming emotions I felt on a frequent basis, I would get upset at meaningless things; a single piece of paper on the counter that should have gone in the trash (even if I was the one who put it there) or a minuscule drop of water on the floor or, and at one point, missing a show I forgot was on.
Yes, pregnancy rage makes you unreasonable and illogical at times, but PPD is pregnancy rage on steroids. I realize now it was another part of the hormonal disruption I was experiencing, and have apologized to my partner many times since.
When You Don't Really Feel Like Your Baby Is Yours
It sounds ridiculous and everyone will tell you it's all in your head (because it probably is) but you might feel like your baby was somehow switched with another at the hospital or that maybe you never had a baby at all, because this one just can't be yours.
There's a disconnect that keeps you from attaching and, yes, you're usually pretty aware of the fact that it sounds like you're losing it when you try to articulate that disconnect out loud. However, it doesn't change the fact that you think it's true.
For a couple months I felt this way about my daughter. I doesn't mean I didn't love or care for her, but she didn't look the way I thought she would and, to me, she eerily felt like someone else's baby. To be honest, sometimes I still feel this way (mostly when she acts up because, duh, I was the perfect kid so she couldn't possibly get it from me, right?).
You Think About Running Away
Somewhere in-between the crying and the numbness, the disconnect and the intrusive, hallucinogenic thoughts, you might wonder if everyone would be better off if you weren't here. You'll sink so low and you'll truly believe you've lost your mind and you'll convince yourself that no one will understand. So, you'll daydream about running away from it all. The guilt and worthlessness is just too much and you might convince yourself that if you don't get out of there, something bad will happen or you'll really go off the deep end.
You should always tell your doctor and your support system and seek the help and treatment you need and deserve when you find yourself feeling or thinking or experiencing any of the above, but rest assured I lived through them all and (in my opinion) I'm a better mother because of them.
The mom-thing is hard. Maybe (read: probably) even harder than you imagined. If you talk to a professional and get the help you need, all these postpartum moments that make you feel like you're losing your mind will pass. Once they do, you'll look into your baby's eyes with a new a renewed clarity and realize that the hell you went through? Yeah, it was totally and completely worth it.