The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things

Posted on | June 15, 2010 | 23 Comments

If you’re new to this blog, you probably don’t know that I suffer from PPA and/or PPD. You probably don’t know that because I chose not to talk about it other than to put it out there once or twice and drop it.

I didn’t want to really talk about it because it’s not something people talk about. Mental health is just not something you discuss in “proper” company. At least not in my family. So when I said that I was diagnosed with PPA/PPD, I said it with a laugh. Like I always do. But I don’t want to do that anymore. Partly I want to share to maybe help someone else get the help they might need and partly I want to share because I feel like if I keep it all bottled up inside I am going to explode.

Back when I was in college, just after Jennifer died, I had a really rough “spell.” I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to work. I didn’t want to do anything but lie there and think about how horrible the world was. I should not be ashamed of the fact that I sought help and ended up the hospital overnight. I should not be ashamed that I had to see a therapist who dealt with more yelling, screaming, crying and hatred than any stranger should ever have to deal with. But I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I couldn’t just “suck it up” that I couldn’t “make myself happy” and “get over it” or any of the other things that people kept telling me. I was ashamed that I wasn’t perfect, that my life was “marred” with a permanent record of a trip to Crazytown. I was ashamed that I had to let down my guard and let people see just how bad I was hurting.

Having J brought all those feelings back and not being the “perfect” mom made me ashamed. I was horribly ashamed and terrified that people I know would find out I had PPD.

I was ashamed I wasn’t a better mother, a stronger mother, a mother who could deal with all the hormones and mini-tragedies that each day brings. I was ashamed that I had to take medication or risk falling into a hole that I might never emerge from. I was ashamed almost all the time.

And you know what? I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. Because by being ashamed, I make it okay for other people to make me FEEL ashamed. To make me feel that I am less of a mother and less of a person just because I have this disease. So I’m not going to be ashamed any more. I’m going to lay it all out there.. take it or leave it. You wanna know what PPA is about? Here it is.

Before I started my medication, (and yes, even sometimes now) I started each day wondering if that was the day that something bad would finally happen to my child. I woke up in the morning, lay very still in bed, and hoped to God that he was still breathing. When I would get up the courage to look and find that he was, indeed, breathing, I wouldn’t feel relieved at all. I would feel terrible that I even thought he wouldn’t be breathing. Like I was wishing him harm just by having that fear or that I was somehow making it harder for him to just be a baby by worrying so much. So my day started out simply bathed in guilt.

I was afraid to hold J. I held him, don’t get me wrong, but I would feel my heart pounding a mile a minute every time he was in my arms. I couldn’t stop my brain from whizzing through every. possible. scenario whereby I could hurt him. I would picture him slipping out of my arms and landing headfirst on the hardwood floors. I would picture banging him into the side of a door or wall when I was walking. I had vivid images of cars plowing through intersections and t-boning my car right where J was sitting. Everything was dangerous. Everything. My hands literally shook when I held him. Let me be clear that I didn’t WANT to hurt my son… I was simply convinced I was going to. I just knew that the next time I held him would be the time I did something wrong and he got hurt. So the “meat” of my day was cloaked in fear.

So by the time the end of the day rolled around I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t relax. Even when J was sleeping comfortably in his crib, I couldn’t relax. What if someone came through the window and hurt him? What if the crib collapsed and he was smushed? What if Husband left a blanket near the crib and somehow the fan blew it into the crib and onto his head and he suffocated? What if, what if, what if. I would go to bed and cry into a pillow so Husband couldn’t hear me because I didn’t want to put any more stress on Husband. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was supposed to be stronger and better at this than I was. And so each day ended in sadness. That was the cycle of my day… guilt, fear, sadness. Wash, rinse, repeat.

No one ever told me that being a mother could be like that. No one ever told me that it would be this hard.

I was desperate. And yet, if you knew me in real life? You wouldn’t have known. I was the picture of motherhood… smiles, laughs, happy little blog posts about poop and sleep deprivation. Because no one wants to hear about mental illness. Mental illness means there is something WRONG with you… it’s not considered a disease to be helped through, like pneumonia or the flu… it’s something that means you’re “damaged.” It’s a stigma that you are somehow less of a person. So I mostly just kept it to myself. Yes, I made a half-hearted attempt to share. But even then I was embarrassed. I was mortified when I remembered that a partner’s wife reads my blog and even more upset when I thought maybe she would tell him and then everyone would know. I quickly reverted back to happy little posts and tried to mash the feelings down even further. I was medicated. That would fix it, right?


There were days I would look at my darling, precious little son and think to myself “why?” Not that I didn’t love him. Not that I didn’t want him. Just “why.” Why was he there, in my house? Why was he in existence at all? Why was I his mother? Why was he stuck with me? Why couldn’t I be better for him? And all the “whys” and “what ifs” made me angry. I was angry at J. I was angry at Husband. I was angry at AJ. I wanted to scream and yell and throw things because I was just. So. angry.

But mostly? Mostly I’ve realized that I was angry with myself. I couldn’t understand why it was that everything seemed so easy for other people. Motherhood was supposed to be beautiful. It was supposed to be all rosy and glowing like a vintage movie. Motherhood was what I dreamed of… having a baby to care for and love that was part me and part Husband. Having this little life to mold and a mind to cultivate, and an imagination to tend to. I wanted J more than anything in the world. And maybe that’s what made the reality of motherhood so difficult.

Motherhood is not rosy.

Motherhood is three o’clock in the morning, tears streaming down your face, an eight pound baby screaming so loud and for so long that the neighbors are pondering a call to child services, and all you can do is mumble “Don’t hurt the baby. Don’t hurt the baby” over and over and over again like a sick mantra just so you don’t forget and slam your child against the wall for some peace and quiet. Motherhood is wondering when the crying will stop and then wondering, when it does, when it will start again and if everything is okay because why is he not crying??? Motherhood is dreading laying your head on the pillow because it’s so comfortable there and you know you can’t stay long. Motherhood is one more poopie diaper that doesn’t fit into the Diaper Pail because it’s full, only you didn’t know that until you tried to mash it down and poop squirted out all over your hands and into your face. Motherhood is sore nipples, sore arms, a headache and sleep deprivation. Motherhood is learning that your husband or partner is not exactly who you thought he was going to be when you were picturing the perfect life in your head. Motherhood is learning that you are not infallible, you are definitely not perfect and you do not resemble your own mother in any way because you definitely do not remember her storming out of the nursery and screaming “COME AND TAKE THE BABY BEFORE I THROW HIM OUT A WINDOW AND  DEAR GOD YOU BETTER NOT HAVE FINISHED THE WINE OR I SWEAR ON ALL THAT IS HOLY I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE GULLET!!!”

Motherhood is not rosy.

Being J’s mom is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s just different… so very very different than I ever imagined. There are no cookies baking in the oven and dinner perfectly placed on the table. There is no perfectly manicured lawn and perfectly straight house. For me? Motherhood has been about letting go of the ideal and becoming satisfied with the everyday reality of my life. A lot of the everyday reality of my life is learning to deal with my emotions. I have always wanted things to be perfect and motherhood is not… it is most definitely not… about perfection.

I’m trying to learn the art of walking away. The art of realizing when I have reached the point where I am teetering on the edge. Because, yes, I still have those days. I have days where I don’t want to get out of bed. Days where I’d like someone to come and take J to daycare and let me just curl up in a ball and cry. And on those days I’m trying to remember that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to admit that I can’t handle everything. In fact? No one in my life even EXPECTS me to handle everything… no one but me, that is.

I’m really trying not to be ashamed about asking for help. I’m trying to not be ashamed of the days when I say “No, I can’t take another file today” at the office and “no, I can’t give J his bath tonight” at home. I can’t do everything. I am not a superhero. I’m just a mom. And I shouldn’t be ashamed by doing my best, even if it isn’t perfect. And I shouldn’t be ashamed when I have bad days or bad weeks or when my blog is less than funny or when I miss posting for a day. Because I am doing the best that I can. Every day. I am struggling…. every day. I am putting on my big girl panties and making this work… every day. Every day. And that should be enough for anyone, right?

I have PPD. I am not ashamed.

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23 Responses to “The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things”

  1. Krista @ Not Mommy of the Year
    June 15th, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    Motherhood is all of these things. And, as much as we all think we know what to expect, it's not what you picture. You don't know how you'll react, you don't know what kind of thoughts, fears & anxieties will be in your head all. day. long. You don't know what kind of disappointment you'll have in yourself, your husband, your family, etc.
    You should not feel ashamed for any of this. Whether your feelings are the same as most mothers have or because of the PPD, they are your feelings and that's OK.
    I hope talking about it helps you, helps others. And your categories are absolutely true – you are still awesome.

  2. I'm Molly
    June 15th, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    Good for you! It took me 15 years of my own personal hell to not be ashamed that I suffer from bipolar disorder. When I admitted it and accepted it … When I started openly talking about it … That's when my life turned around.

    You're a great mom, hon! You're not alone in this journey.

  3. ~*Jess*~
    June 15th, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

    Oh honey. You are right. It is a disease. It's nothing you've done it's nothing that could be prevented. Just like people get sick, you are sick. And you are in power and I'm so glad you are taking charge. Never ever be ashamed. The asses that make you feel bad are not worth having around you. Because they will continue to bring you down.

    Please keep the rocking law momma-ness going. Don't ever feel bad to talk about things. It's ok. It helps. We aren't Superwoman and it's unrealistic to think we have to be. <3

  4. Nikki
    June 15th, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    Thank you for your post. While I still don't know what the feelings I felt actually were, I know that it helped me so much to read from other mom's who were feeling the same way I was. I was surrounded in real life by mom's who didn't talk about being depressed, their babies didn't seem to cry or not sleep at night, they always had plenty of milk to breast feed their babies until they were 2 years old…they seemed like perfect moms and it made me feel like I was not worthy. You and the other mom's I read make me feel worthy. I know now that babies cry and they don't sleep…why…because they are babies! And sometimes Mommys can cry too (and scream into pillows) and it's ok…why…because Mommys need to be Mommys instead of trying to be superwomen.
    So in all that rambling, what I meant to say was thank you for your post and you are a wonderful mom and a beautiful person!

  5. Rebekah @ Mom-In-A-Million
    June 15th, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

    Rock your Her-Story, sister! Own it, live it, speak your truth! And whatever you need, I have your back.

  6. KLZ
    June 15th, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    I love you so much, you know that? You are so brave – maybe the bravest person I know. Facing up to this stuff and being honest is SO HARD. And you're doing it! Every day, you're doing it. You're so good.

    A big, long distance, virtual hug as always.

  7. Cybil
    June 15th, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    Miss you too!

    I am so glad you are talking about this… so other young Mom's know. None of us can be superwoman – the path to figuring that out is often painful.

  8. Ms. Diva
    June 15th, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    Being ashamed makes it hard just not on us but those we love! Not only do I live with being a manic/depressive but so does Honey!! Thank goodness she loves me enough to help me work through my "episodes"!

  9. D
    June 15th, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    I hope that brave mommas like you who aren't afraid to speak out will hope de-stigmatize PPD, or any mental illness, for that matter. And I totally, TOTALLY feel you on the idea that "everything seems so easy for other people." I feel that way all the time, like everyone else handles their lives just fine, so why am I so often on the verge of flipping out? I constantly have to remind myself that I really have no idea how it is for other people.

  10. thenextmartha
    June 15th, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

    You are a remarkable woman. Don't let having mental illness take that thought away from you. You deserve many claps and hugs for your bravery and love you have written here. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Mommy C
    June 15th, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    I am so glad that you are putting it all out there. Does it feel freeing? I think that all those "perfect mommies" out there are all lying. I think that they are faking it and secretly struggling like the rest of us.

    I want you to know that my sister warned me about something when S was just under a week old. She said to me that one day he would be crying and I wouldn't be able to get to stop and I would picture throwing him across the room to make him stop. She said that every mommy in her playgroup has had this vision flash through their minds for just a split second. It doesn't mean you are going to do it, it is just your stress talking. Then I started reading "What Mother's Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing" by Naomi Stadlen and found out that it is a universal theme amongst most moms. In fact, some therapists believe that these thoughts (along with the anxiety that something else will hurt him) are manifestations of our deepest fears and help us grow into our new roles (or something like that). My story isn't quite like yours, but I am on medication for depression (and have been for years) and I was put on medication for postpartum anxiety due to my fear that something would happen. I too had the car accident scenario play through my brain, as well as the tree falling on the house, the blanket falling into the crib, and many many others that I just couldn't…get…out…of…my…mind. It is so exhausting and even when my husband was there to take over, I still felt like I couldn't ever let my guard down. I am getting better now, but it was really tough.

    So thank you for sharing you story. It is nice to know that another person "gets it".

  12. Amber Koter-Puline
    June 15th, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

    I had very similar intrusive and obsessive thoughts. Unfortunately, I looked like hell on the outside, too, which probably got me help sooner than later. Thanks for sharing so openly about your PPA.

    …and Jennifer…what a tragic story, that hopefully many will choose to learn from in regards to DUI.

    Amber @Beyond Postpartum

  13. Pua
    June 15th, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

    Thank you for that post. It was beautiful.

  14. KLZ
    June 16th, 2010 @ 4:17 am

    Ha! Gullet punching is the best.

    Also? Great title.

  15. Steph
    June 16th, 2010 @ 11:51 am

    ((((HUGS)))) Big, big hugs to you for being so incredibly brave and awesome!! I have chronic depression. Not the same thing as PPD. Believe it or not with my history I didn't have PPD. I have no idea why, my doctors thought I would. Even now, my kids are much older and I have those days. More so since the fire. I learned long ago with Joey to walk away, close a door between us and count to 10. It was hard to learn that. I wanted so much to be perfect and have things the way I wanted them but I couldn't so I had to accept that and deal with it. That's my coping mechanism on days when it's all too much. You're an amazing mom and J is a lucky kid!!

  16. Stacey
    June 16th, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I have been dealing with those same fears of my baby getting hurt since my son was born…and now again with my daughter. Those vivid visions about the car being hit, or stumbling and dropping him….ditto. They are horrible and frightening. I have found myself completely exhausted at night, yet still unable to sleep soundly. Right now I'm dealing with the terror of my daughter succumbing to SIDS. She sleeps in my room in her pack & play, but I am waking up about every hour and a half to check on her and make sure she is breathing.

    And I am taking medication. And maybe that just isn't enough. Most days have been much better than before medication. But, like this latest SIDS obsession, I have little relapses.

    I began doubting myself, saying that I was just a crappy mother who couldn't deal with her children because my symptoms weren't as bad as some others. That maybe I didn't really have PPD, I just couldn't *hang*. I figured that all mothers obsessed over their children, that all mothers were hypervigilant and constantly thought about all of the "what ifs" all day long.

    Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone. That just because I don't want to hurt my kids, doesn't mean that I don't deal with the crippling fear of accidentally hurting them. That my decision to seek out help and take medication was in fact the right one. That I am not the only one who thought my husband would be reacting to children differently than he does. And that even though I don't get much support from anyone at home, that at least I can find others out there, who *do* understand.

    You are amazing. Your family is very fortunate to have you.

  17. Grace
    June 16th, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

    THANK YOU. Seriously. You are brave. You are real. You are shedding even more light on such an important topic. I hope the decision to lay it all out there is one that you never regret. It will open up even more doors for healing!
    You rock momma!


  18. Laura
    June 17th, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

    Oh how I wish you'd included your NAME on your 'About Me' page, because I feel like I know you somehow. I stumbled across your blog while checking out the fun on 'Mommy of a Monster.'

    This post is true, genuine, and speaks to a thousand things every other mother on the planet is afraid to say. I did a funny little take on guilt last month (because humor is how I deflect embarrassment) and I was shcoked at how many mothers claimed the same shame.

    Thank you for being brave. Thank you for stepping outside of your personal safety zone to remind people that mental illness does not make a person defective. Your son and husband are ridiculously lucky to have you.

    Do not be ashamed, pretty mama. Greatness is never achieved by playing it safe…

  19. Kristin @ Ellie-Town
    June 18th, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

    Lots of hugs!

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  20. Liz
    June 18th, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

    I'm sorry to hear all this. As if motherhood isn't hard enough, then hormones get in the way. I admire women who don't feel they need to pretend motherhood is all roses and butterflies all the time.

    Also, great use of the word 'gullet'.

  21. Cori Benson
    June 20th, 2010 @ 4:36 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. i have a similar one, and wanted to shoot you an email. So please watch for an email from me!!

  22. Andrea
    June 29th, 2010 @ 1:38 am

    Thank you for this post. I have suffered from depression for several years, and, I, too spent the night in the hospital for it in college. When I found out I was pregnant, I stopped my anti-depressant. When my beautiful daughter was born, I never felt that moment of overwhelming love and "this is the most amazing thing ever" that everyone told me I would feel. I didn't feel that connection, that this baby was 'mine'. I didn't have thoughts of wanting to hurt her, and I did everything I needed to to take care of her, but motherhood was not what I thought it would be. I knew it would be hard, but I thought I'd have some wonderful instinct take over and it would all be okay. Instead, I felt like the only thing I could do 'right' was breastfeed. I would try to do the things the books suggested, but when they didn't work, I felt like a failure. I thought I was not meant to be a mother.

    Finally, I spoke with my doctor and got started on medication. I am so much better and am able to appreciate the amazing blessing that is my daughter. But, no one else ever seems to have felt this way (no one that I know anyway). As a professional, I don't like to talk about any of this for fear of having people lose respect for me. To have a lawyer publicly discussing this helps take that stigma away. Thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of us, and I hope things are well for you.

  23. Robin
    February 6th, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Okay, I realize this is a way old post but I think it’s one of my favourite posts ever. And now I want to go and read more and find out how you’re doing now.


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