A Sea of Despair: Postpartum Pools of Pain

A few months ago I wrote about my struggle with depression and anxiety, and I was taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive response I received afterward.  It took me a long time to work up the courage to tell my story; I was admittedly afraid of what others might think of my decision to publicly reveal such a personal experience. But the kindness and support that followed was so moving that I’ve decided to revisit the topic today.

When I wrote that post, it was intended to be a one-time thing.  I don’t typically take myself too seriously, not on this blog nor in real life, and I’d rather others do the same.  But then something happened that I didn’t expect. Many of you reached out to me after reading my story to tell me how much my words had spoken to you, and that you understood everything I had gone through because you, too, had dealt with a similar struggle. It seemed that, like with many other aspects of motherhood, the difficulties I had experienced were also felt by many others. Apparently, I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought.

According to the American Psychology Association, up to 16% of new mothers experience postpartum depression.  Frankly, I think their numbers are off.  Perhaps a mere 16% actually report their feelings to a doctor, but I’m willing to bet a nice chunk of ladies simply suffer in silence.

With so many of society’s misconceptions about motherhood, it’s easy to see why so many women find themselves adrift in a sea of despair after becoming a parent for the first time.  Having children is rarely all you think it will be and more.  Sure, the highs are high and they feel amazing.  But the lows? Are so very, very LOW.  And you’ll find that these lows often fill the extra-wide gaps in between the fleeting, infrequent highs.

It seems like every time I flip on the TV I see some sappy diaper commercial featuring a mother tenderly singing her little one to sleep, humming soothing lullabies and swaying gently in a pastel-colored rocking chair. Unfortunately, those commercials are total crap.  Because they never show the four hours leading up to that endearing moment where the baby has finally drifted off—you know, the part where mommy’s  precious little angel was screaming and crying inconsolably until mommy “tenderly” considered chugging a fifth of vodka and sawing off her own ears.

For me, the hardest part of becoming a mom was learning to adjust to how shockingly different life becomes after having kids.  I got pregnant in my mid-twenties before I got married, and it was very unplanned.  While some women feel they are ready to settle down and start popping out some little people at that age, I was definitely not one of those women. 

Before I got pregnant, life was like standing on the roof of Rockefeller Center and looking down at the world below—breathtakingly beautiful, wildly exhilarating, enchantingly romantic.  Oh, to be young and carefree, just dreaming all day and playing all night.  Such blissful endless freedom. Nothing but opportunities at your door and time on your hands.

Until one day you pee on a stick and your life changes forever.

It took me such a long time to adjust to my life being so vastly different after having kids that I never even realized I was depressed.  The transition was happening at such a snail’s pace that I didn’t know it was actually changing me, like as a person.  For years I was just living my life in robot-mode, going through the motions, completely unaware that I was dying inside a little more every day.

From the very beginning I should have known I was in trouble, because when they tried to hand my son to me a few hours after my c-section I didn’t even want to see him.  It wasn’t that I didn’t love him or want him, I honestly just didn’t know what the hell to do with him.  What did I know about babies? I was practically still one myself. And that instant connection parents always describe?  That immediate gush of awe and amazement that everybody talks about after they’ve given birth? Yea well, I didn’t get it. Not right away, anyway.  I loved my little boy, of course.  But the fear and confusion and pain in my head were clouding the feelings in my heart.

I got the hang of motherhood quickly, I think.  A lot more quickly than I thought I would, at least.  There are women coping with such severe postpartum depression that they can’t even take care of their children.  Thankfully, that wasn’t me (and my issue technically might not even fall under the actual definition of “postpartum” depression, but who gives a shit about definitions?) Like I said, the depressed feelings I had were growing very slowly over time. Little by little, I was falling deeper into my own sea of despair.  And I was totally unaware that those feelings would culminate after a miscarriage and eventually bring me to a debilitating breaking point.

Some women don’t ever have a real breaking point. In some ways, a “nervous breakdown” is almost a luxury, as long as you bounce back from it. Because it takes you to such a low point that you literally have nowhere to go but up. And then it motivates you to stay up.

Motherhood is hard.  Like, crazy hard.  Every feeling you experience as a parent is magnified exponentially.  You’re not just tired; you’re exhausted.  You’re not just scared; you’re terrified.  You’re not just confused, you’re helpless. You’re not just lonely; you’re the last person on earth!

I wish I could say I had advice for those of you who are still drifting in your own sea of despair.  All I can say is that it will get better eventually.  I’m living proof of that.  Eventually, you will begin to feel more comfortable in your own mommy skin.  Someday you will start to realize that, even though the bad feelings are horrible, conversely, the good feelings are great.  The love you feel is unconditional. The pride you feel is insurmountable. The bond you feel is unbreakable.

Actually, I do have one piece of advice.  Whatever you do, don’t lose track of YOU.  I know that’s easier said than done, because becoming a parent takes over virtually every aspect of your life until you are pretty much unrecognizable to yourself.  But try hard to hold onto as many pieces of yourself as you can, and then use them to make you whole again when you find yourself falling apart.

Because your baby needs you. And in the end, the only one who can really save you…is you. ❤


**Update** It has been pointed out to me that I should mention if you are feeling this kind of depression that you should see a doctor.  This is absolutely, 100% true.  I didn’t go for a long time, and I probably could have saved myself a LOT of pain if I had.  While I do believe that you’re the only one who can save yourself, I think professional help will pinpoint how to do that.  And sometimes you may even need the help of medication because you can’t really do it on your own–this was the case for me at my lowest point. And it’s perfectly okay.  There are a thousand excuses not to go, and I’d know because I used them all.  But you’ll only be fooling yourself.  Thanks to aviets at Mom Goes On who pointed this out to me!

Hockey Basics for Parents

I will start off this entry by openly admitting that I’m not AT ALL a big sport person.  I don’t play and rarely watch anything sports-related.  However, I make an exception for one sport and one sport only: hockey. And if you currently have a pulse and live anywhere near New York, then you know our Rangers are vying for their chance at the Stanley Cup for the first time since ’94.

Oh, 1994. I’ll never forget when they won that year.  Overjoyed fans everywhere took to the streets, cheering, screaming, and celebrating. Horns blared and sirens sounded–the world around me seemingly erupted into a cascading sea of red, white and royal blue.  It was unforgettable. I was just eleven years old and I didn’t know much about hockey, but I knew that something pretty damn huge happened that day.  And I’m ready to see it happen again, now twenty years later.

Unfortunately, the LA Kings are currently leading the series. Tonight could be the end for our boys in blue.  But sometimes you gotta have a little faith, right?  Here at Highchairs and Headaches, there’s enough to go around.  Maybe I can even bring them a little extra luck.

This blog entry is dedicated to my brother, who is definitely the biggest Ranger fan I know.  This is for him, not just because he proofread the whole thing to keep me from sounding like an idiot, but moreso because he single-handedly helped mold me into the Ranger fan I am today.  And if they win, I’m pretty sure he’ll be so excited that he’ll buy my kids their own Ranger jerseys so they can stop stealing mine.  Hint, hint.


Now, this is not exactly ESPN, so don’t think I’ve suddenly switched gears on you. I won’t be getting very technical, nor will I start talking about players or other teams (but feel free to leave a comment letting me know if you agree that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the hottest men in sports…or alive).   There’s a good chance that many of you reading this don’t even understand the rules of hockey. And if so, thanks for sticking with me. In my opinion, most sports are way too complicated.  But hockey doesn’t have to be.  Why, you ask?  Because, my fellow moms and dads,  it has finally been put in terms you can understand!

Below is a list of common hockey terms, translated into a language that anyone with children will easily understand.  Read on, soak up some hockey knowledge, and then watch the Rangers kick some King ass tonight!  LGR!

Icing – when you trip over a Lego and it goes flying across the kitchen, through the dining room and ends up in the living room.

Off Sides – when you trip over a Lego and YOU go flying across the kitchen, through the dining room, and end up in the living room.

Face-Off – when there are two hungry kids but only one chicken nugget left.

Body Check – action taken by a child against their parent after witnessing the parent attempt to dispose of a broken toy.

Penalty Box – where your child is likely to end up after that body check.

Attacking Zone – any area outside your child’s room after bedtime.

Zamboni – like the vacuum cleaner, if it were on ice.  And drivable. And had a really cool name.

Breakaway – when your child gets out of his own bed and makes a quick beeline for yours.

Neutral Zone or Center Ice – the area where the most Nickelodeon shows are watched and the most toys are usually strewn about. Often referred to as the living room.

Fighting – every other minute of your life since your second child learned to steal toys from your first child.

Hat Trick – when a potty training child pees on the couch for the third time in the same day.

Minor Penalty – when your kid drops his crayons in the toilet.

Major Penalty – when your kid drops an f-bomb in the supermarket.

Roughing – typically ensues once a player loses the chicken nugget face-off.

Overtime – when your child is up after his bedtime.

Sudden Death – when your child is up after YOUR bedtime, and it’s a battle to see who closes their eyes first.  Note: parents never win in sudden death.

Interference – when you’re trying to give medicine to your sick child and she slaps it out of your hand before it reaches her face.

Power Play – when one kid is in timeout and his sister hears the ice cream man coming……

Shorthanded Goal –  …..and she gets her ice cream but her brother gets nothing.  I know, that would be pretty mean of mom or dad.  But you don’t win a game of hockey by being nice.  And you don’t win at parenting that way, either.

Misconduct- when your child commits an offense punishable by at least one week without TV and/or dessert.

Tripping –self-explanatory.  See here for more info on the worst “trip” I ever took.

Butt-Ending – Basically, this is just getting poked with a stick. Kind of how you ended up with kids in the first place.

And that concludes our hockey lesson.  It also concludes any discussion of sports on this blog, pretty much ever again.