The version where you love your baby but hate yourself
Phoebe is a guest columnist here; that means she is a guest, here in my place. So treat her like one. Criticize if you'd like, but do it respectfully.
Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad you found an antidepressant that helps and that you’re seeking a more effective dose.
I hope anyone with similar experiences or concerns will consider seeing a reproductive psychiatrist. Regular doctors and psychiatrists often don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to pregnancy.
For years, doctors told women to go off their psych meds for pregnancy and breastfeeding. The guidance was to suck it up for 9 months because medication might harm the baby.
Now we know this is wrong. There are many psych meds that carry minimal risk to the baby, and going off meds is often a terrible idea for the mother AND the baby. Unhealthy choices aren’t good for the baby. High stress hormones aren’t good for the baby. It’s a myth that suffering for 9 months is the best thing you can do for your child.
I tell everyone, if your doctor says to stop taking your psych meds for pregnancy, see a reproductive psychiatrist. They will tell you the latest research on every medication and explore alternatives if necessary, but they won’t just say “stop everything.”
My original psychiatrist told me to go off *Zoloft.* One of the safest psych meds for pregnancy. Fortunately, my spouse is a psychiatrist so she told me “Yeah that’s wrong. See a reproductive psychiatrist.” And it made a huge difference for me. I kept my anxiety under control throughout pregnancy and the stressful newborn months (when I was terrified of SIDS).
I do think there is a stigma to PPD. Which seems weird because yes it is a very commonly discussed issue, but also it feels sometimes like unless it is incredibly severe, it’s not quite regarded as a real mental health issue in the way other depressions are. There’s sort of the idea that it’s something that privileged women spend their time navel gazing about and underprivileged women just deal with. Sort of like a midlife crisis. Or maybe I only felt that way because of some of the feelings of undeservingness you discuss in your piece. At any rate, PPD with my oldest daughter was one of the pivotal crises of my life. The depths of mental deterioration I sunk to are something I dislike thinking about now, but for how bad it was I recovered very quickly when I got help. For me it was therapy, medication, and a change in circumstances that were making life unbearable for me. In that sense I do think modern life and lack of close social relationships can exacerbate or make more common a disorder that most definitely also has physiological origins.
Thank you for writing this powerful and important essay. I had severe PPD after my son was born. I was suicidal, and I lost so much weight that people thought I had cancer.
This message is for people who might have a friend or loved one suffering from PPD: one of the insidious aspects of the illness is that it makes you want to lie about and hide your struggles. It also robs you of the ability to do anything to make yourself feel better--it all seems pointless. I am alive today because of a few people:
1. My mom, who sat on the phone with me for an hour or more every day and just listened, without judgment and without rushing in to offer solutions, while I cried and spewed out my negative thoughts.
2. My husband, who took charge of a huge amount of the care of our son when I couldn’t, including taking him out of the house in the middle of the night because it was the only way I could sleep.
3. My father-in-law, a psychiatrist, who, when I finally told him I was struggling and asked if he could recommend a doctor, found me a psychiatrist who was the perfect fit, and told me he was going to pay for the sessions and would even pick me up and drive me there every time if that was what I needed.
4. An older, grandmotherly worker at my local Starbucks, who loved my son. I would force myself out of the house every day for a double espresso, and every day she would give me some cheerful, friendly conversation.
If a woman you care about is a new mom, please consider listening to her without judgment, taking care of chores for her, or just offering her a glimpse of normal life. These four people, and what they did to help me through a tough time, quite literally saved my life. You can save someone’s life like this too. Thank you for listening.
Scrolling through old photos today for a project, I saw myself with my young babies and was shocked by how decent I looked. Not that I'm Gisele Bundchen, but I thought *at the time* that I was a hideous husk of the woman I was before. Now I've reached a point of motherhood that includes such self-care practices as painting my nails and thinking about one day possibly joining the Y.
Guest post about how deeply sad 'Keeping Up Appearances' is please! (On watching it for the last time properly a few months back, I found the stuff with the Major genuinely disturbing - I have near endless pity for Hyacinth, she's kind of the British Peggy Hill!)
'Twitter was for the people who were in the game, who counted."
This is the for sale baby shoes never worn of the 21st century.
I have known quite a few women that have gone though postpartum depression but none of them directed their anger or depression at the white male patriarchy. Maybe there are two topics here to discuss?
This was fucking spectacular. It speaks to the postpartum depression I experienced (and, likewise, had been sort of unsure about whether it "counted" as such) much more than anything else I've ever read. Perhaps it's cliche to say, but good lord, I feel relieved that I'm not the only one.
Hatred of the patriarchy ... I'm constantly beside-myself that people can engage in racial hatred, yet somehow delude themselves that they're not in-fact racists, despite practicing racism. Would it be unracist to hate Chinese people if we coined the term Sinoarchy?
Goes to show you, the easiest people to delude is ourselves.
i'm going to do the thing that mr deBoer asked us not to and type something peripheral but certainly off-topic.
i adore Maltz Bovy's writing and Rosenfield's as well.
that is all.
In hindsight (more than a decade and a half later), I was probably dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, but it just didn't feel like a relapse soul-crushing depression I was used to, there were all kinds of situational things I could use to excuse it (no financial cushion because I'd ended up with an expensive high-risk pregnancy, weeks bed rest, and a lot of income loss, as I wasn't able to work a full 40 a week, etc.), and I could explain away the anxiety, after all.
This: "What I want from life but don’t have is salient, not what’s objectively going well. The parent-acquaintances who prefer one another to me I think about, not the ones who’ve asked for my contact info so we can meet up for coffee. I become immature, caring a way I had not thought I was capable of, past age 12, what people I don’t particularly like think about me. I am an unpopular middle schooler but one who is well into her 30s"
That is painfully, painfully familiar. I was emotionally fragile and petty, and, I will shamefully admit, I'm still bitter about the tiny slights and my ignored awkward efforts at asking for company or help, where my desire to not be a burden or a bother probably made them invisible efforts to the people outside my head. I loved my baby (and still love my now-teen), she was the absolute best, but man, I spent too much of her babyhood feeling like an isolated, pathetic failure with no social skills.
Except for the part at the end about antidepressants (I’m not on one now, maybe I should be, who knows) I could have written this, my experience with my first was so similar - thank you for sharing! My second baby was extremely challenging, she had colic and reflux so dealing with that combined with PPA and some PPD was very intense. There were a couple times when I had mental breakdowns and was basically on the precipice of psychosis. Thank God I never hurt my baby, but coming *this close* to doing so was the most horrifying, terrible moment of my life and something I never could’ve imagined before I was there. It feels deeply shameful but I still tell people about it because it can really happen to anyone, and it’s important to be prepared. If you (‘you’ person reading this comment, it sounds like Phoebe is already past the worst of it) are struggling with PPD/PPA, make a list of people that you can call (friends, family, a neighbor) to come ‘spell you out’ for awhile in the event you feel you are about to snap. And a plan for keeping your baby safe, even if that means just leaving them in the crib to cry for 10mn while you step away and calm down. The post partum stuff is a real mental health condition and it’s better to recognize the seriousness and respect your own limits BEFORE you reach them, than to lose control and do something you will regret forever. Fortunately it is a mental health condition that passes - you WILL get through this and everything will get better!!
Thanks again for your writing Phoebe, and Freddie for sharing!
Thanks for writing this. My girlfriend worries deeply about the experience of birthing a child, I worry deeply for what her mental health and her outlook would be after the fact (and y’know, while being pregnant too). I think she may appreciate your perspective.
Hang in there Phoebe.
No matter who you are, no matter what your circumstance, deleting your social media accounts is an indisputable, unalloyed good. In at least one way it seems your depression did you a favor.