Love In The Time of Postpartum Depression

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postpartum depressionIs it possible to love your baby and simply NOT love the logistics that go into having a newborn? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

This is, perhaps, the myth that is most voiced and de-bunked early on in my work with new moms.  Moms who are struggling with postpartum depression feel so much guilt for not being well.  They judge themselves up and down and around the block for dreading the night time feedings, for questioning whether or not they “should have done this,” for feeling claustrophobic when holding their babies all day, for not enjoying breast feeding, and for wanting – more than anything – a full night’s sleep.  Each mom who comes to see me for support postpartum is afraid, at least initially, that I will think she is not cut out for motherhood and that she is a “bad mom” for not loving the early weeks and months to pieces.

It is so easy for each of these moms to assume that they are the only ones who feel frustrated and (yes, I will say it) often devastated by the new responsibilities and life changes that come with being a parent.  And yet, truly, most moms do feel this way at some point.  In fact, a number of experts out there have described childbearing and becoming a mother as a psychic trauma, and an existential crisis.  I mean, this shock to the system is real for almost everyone and is especially severe for those women who are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety.

No matter how much they love their little ones.

So, try this on for size: you can absolutely love your little nugget to pieces and also not love being a mom right now.  You don’t have to love changing diapers at 2am, muddling through the often unpleasant trials and errors of breast feeding, and bouncing your baby at all hours of the night.  You don’t have to feel appreciative every moment that your baby fusses, or cries, or screams for the umpteenth hour in a row.   You are allowed to wonder why the heck you did this.  You are more than welcome to wish you were on a peaceful tropical island far away from all of your responsibilities.  You are allowed, most certainly, to be afraid and to wonder, how on earth, such a little being has the power to control the lives of one or more competent and well-meaning adults.  You don’t have to know what to do, or how to soothe, or which baby rearing books to believe.  None of these things cancel out your love for your baby.  None of them.  Moms who are struggling postpartum love their children just as much as those who are not.

I know that I am preaching to the choir here.

But still, no matter how much the moms in my office know within themselves that they love their babies, they still wonder if others will doubt this.  It is a sort of either-or mix-up.  As if the rule stated that you either love your baby and everything about being a mother, or you don’t love motherhood and therefore must not love your baby.  And how unfair and inaccurate this is!

So, my friends, this holiday season I am hopeful that you can be kind to yourselves and allow a bit of fairness back in to your perception of what you are going through.  You get to choose whether or not early motherhood resonates for you and, even if it does not, you can be thankful for that baby who rests (or cries) in your arms.  Love most certainly DOES exist in the time of postpartum depression.

Kate Kripke, LCSW

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About Kate Kripke

Kate Kripke is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) specializing in the prevention and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She is also a Colorado state coordinator for Postpartum Support International. Kate lives in Boulder with her husband and two daughters and writes an eponymous blog.

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  1. Excellent post.

    When DD was a newborn, I actually had a relative judge me rather harshly for mentioning that I didn't really feel like giving DD a bath. No major complaints, just said I wasn't in the mood. And I got ripped to pieces for not relishing every. single. second. of being a mom and was told I was horribly ungrateful for not delighting in those responsibilities.

    Needless to say, this person has yet to have a child. But their judgement was real and harsh, and I felt it.

    I've also had others (yes, more than one), tell me that since I wanted children so bad, they interpret this as meaning that I ENJOY changing diapers, wiping poopy butts, bathing, cleaning, even disciplining. And if I so much as slip that it's not all sunshine & roses, I get a "but you wanted kids…" comment.

    Judgy people suck.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I am well now, but I was ill with PPD/A for nearly 2 years. And at the beginning, I thought maybe I had PPD/A because, deep down, I didn't really want to be a mom. And because I didn't feel well, I didn't feel like taking care of her because I could barely function myself. I actually said "I don't want to be a mom" and felt guilty for it.

    But now I know it was just part of the illness. Of course I didn't feel like doing the routine "maintenance" that is required with a newborn. Of course I still loved my baby. I just wasn't able to think clearly enough to understand all of it.

    Thanks for making all of this clear so that other moms experiencing PPD/A know that their feelings are normal and experienced by others.

  3. This is so true. Society leads you to believe that babies are nothing but cuteness and fun and when you're pregnant you are told to "enjoy every minute because it goes by so fast" so then you feel guilty when you don't enjoy it all. When I had my psychiatric evaluation and the counselor asked me my understanding of my conditions I said "I know it's stupid, I know I love her so I don't get why my mind is telling me that I don't want her". I did feel as if a bomb was dropped into my life and even birth alone can be traumatizing.

  4. Amen!!!!

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  1. [...] if you don’t love early mom-hood that you must not love your baby?  If so, come visit me at Postpartum Progress.  We are breaking this all down. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", [...]

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