Postpartum depression came barreling into my life after the birth of my third son. For months I blamed the debilitating sadness, the racing and completely irrational thoughts, and general indifference towards my baby on typical things like lack of sleep, baby blues and hormones. After all, taking care of three kids under age 5 brings with it a host of stressors. But it was only when all of those things came to a whopping crescendo of panic that I realized I had more than the baby blues, I had textbook PPD.
I had postpartum depression after my third child was born
At the time, PPD was still not being as openly discussed as it is now, and resources were few and far between. Aside from the conversations I was able to have with my mommy playgroup friends who, like myself, were deep in the trenches of taking care of babies and toddlers, I felt like no one truly understood my feelings. That brought with it so much shame and embarrassment.
I felt disgusted at myself for not blissfully enjoying these new baby moments. It wasn’t until Brooke Shields released her PPD memoir in 2006 titled, Down Came the Rain, My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, that I felt truly heard, and for the first time, unashamed of the ambivalent and less than loving feelings I had been having about both motherhood, and this perfectly healthy baby I held in my arms.
Simply feeling heard and validated had a tremendous affect on my eventual recovery from PPD, and it also helped to prepare myself and my family in the event I suffered again in subsequent pregnancies.
I entered the parenting teens years with the same blind faith I had entered parenting
I think I entered the adolescent parenting years with the same blind faith I had when first having babies, so it should have come as no surprise that at some point I would be sucker punched again with the very real and harsh realities that motherhood has the ability to shock us all with. And it did.
While it seemed everyone around me was always fully and happily engaged with their teens and enjoying these independent years immensely, I was dumbfounded, discouraged, and depressed on the mom sidelines wondering how any generation before us actually survived the teen parenting phase. I couldn’t understand why nobody was talking about how hard this all was, how one day your sweet and agreeable teenager can morph into an angst ridden, eye rolling, stubborn shell of a human that you don’t even recognize.
Why weren’t other parents talking about how hard this was
Why were none of my peers sharing the hardships they were having at home? Why had the once ease of conversation about the difficulties of parenting been replaced with petty talk of which Ivy League college everyone’s perfect kid was applying to? Had all of my friends who had struggled mightily at earlier phases of parenting suddenly been granted the luxury of perfect teenagers?
Obviously, the answers to all those are multi-faceted and numerous. But let’s start with a really important and physiological one. In mom terms, my body was going through a combination of sudden emotional changes (raising teen stress), and hormonal fluctuations (peri-menopausal) all at once, and it was doing the same thing it had done after having a baby-it was spiraling me into a form of depression.
Add to that the fact that the intense busyness of raising teens, and the ensuing lack of time to nurture friendships, during the teen years makes us feel both isolated and disillusioned. It’s becomes harder to connect with peers and that lack of connection, and the support it provides, makes us feel worse about our own struggles and more ashamed.
Have you ever looked at your teen and thought, “I don’t like you.”
And speaking of potentially shameful feelings, have you ever looked at your teenager and thought in your heed, “I really don’t like you right now,” because I have, multiple times with each of my teenagers. Do I love them? Fiercely. But at times their roller coaster behavior is actually NOT likable? Nope, and yet saying that out loud is borderline blasphemous for some, especially when feeling that way is something we feel pressured to hide away in our emotional closets-lest we seem like a failing parent, or a mother who can’t handle adolescence.
I, for one, am no longer ashamed to say there were many a day, and years for that matter, where I felt duly unequipped to handle raising teenagers. And whether that happened because of developing nagging depression, in spite of it, or because that phase of parenting caused it, it really doesn’t matter.
My feelings were still valid, and the only way I made it through those years was because I was finally able to reconcile all of my feelings could be true at the same time. More importantly, I wasn’t the only mother out there feeling them.
Moms, it’s OK to NOT love the teen years. There is no shame in that. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed with raising good humans in these unstable times. But what’s not OK is feeling alone on teen parent island without a raft. If you don’t reach out to friends, peers, therapists, or your health care provider about what you’re going through, well, you’ll struggle to get off that sad island.
And nobody wants to feel the way it feels to raise teens forever, because that is 100% not an OK feeling.