Postpartum Aggression

When I was pregnant with Peanut, I was fully prepared to deal with a severe case of postpartum depression once she entered this world. Considering my history of depression, some of which I was still dealing with during my actual pregnancy, I figured I was a shoo-in for PPD. I had extra visits scheduled with my midwife, therapy sessions pre-booked, and I surrounded myself with a great support system–particularly my wonderful husband who had not only seen me at my worst, but also studied up the symptoms of PPD because they’re not always as obvious as regular ol’ depression.

Then I totally skipped over it.

I had a minor case of the baby blues, but it passed quickly. I’ll be honest, I was partially convinced it was all my preparation. I was also partially convinced it was my new attitude as a mother. I thought that when you have a life to care for, you just can’t be that self involved. That’s not fair to the moms who do have PPD or any sort of other mental illness. It’s not self absorption. I, of all people, should know this.

So imagine my surprise when it didn’t skip over me this time.

Originally I didn’t even recognize it. I didn’t feel sad. I thought that meant I didn’t have postpartum depression. Depression = sad, right? Not necessarily. PPD can also manifest itself in anger.

For me, the best way I can describe it is sudden, intense rage. Sadly, it was mostly directed at Peanut. That meant that it was immediately followed my crippling guilt. Both of these feelings are signs of PPD. Feelings of sadness or depression aren’t necessarily required for PPD. Though I think I would have had more sad feelings if I didn’t decide to encapsulate my placenta, which at the time was more for the milk supply benefits than the PPD benefits. I had no idea how much it would help me mentally that I made that decision. I definitely notice a difference in what I can handle on days that I forget to take my pill (just one because I decided to do the raw method).

Without the obvious signs of depression, I didn’t recognize it as such. Instead I was just convinced I had a tyrant for a child and a short temper. It was reasonable enough to think those things considering a new baby puts everyone on edge, but this assumption doesn’t solve anything. It turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peanut being defiant, though really in retrospect not any more so than she was before Twig was born, and me knowing it was coming and exploding in anger when it did. I was screaming all of the time. One day a hanger fell down in her closet and I asked her to bring it to me so I could hang a shirt on it, but she ignored me and started trying to put it back where it went. I started screaming at her. She was trying to fix it and I yelled at her for it. Then and there I knew that this couldn’t be normal.

I started asking on Twitter and it was quickly confirmed that this was indeed PPD. It wasn’t normal. I didn’t have to just keep dealing with it. Somehow, that alone helped me immensely. Just to realize that it wasn’t Peanut’s fault, but my own thing I needed to deal with. I started seeing my therapist again and that’s helped too. I’ve also realized what I need to do to keep myself mentally at my best, which includes, for me, a clean house. Not knowing where things are and having clean clothes and needing to clean the toilet nagging at the back of my mind is too much for me. So my house is back to it’s pre-Twig level of cleanliness and I’m happy for it. Yeah, I could spend more time relaxing or playing if I weren’t cleaning, but it’s what I need to do to stay happy. I think acknowledging what I need in my life to be happy is very helpful.

All in all, the postpartum aggression (as I like to call it) seems to be leveling out. I’ve been taking my placenta pills religiously because days when I miss it are definitely harder, but even those days aren’t explosive like they used to be. I still feel awful that Peanut was at the center of so much of the aggression, but the more I talk about it in therapy, the more I realize it wasn’t actually her or anything she did. I still love my first daughter as much as I did before I had my second and she hasn’t changed. She just got the short stick by being the person who I’m around the most. Luckily our relationship seems to be back to where it’s supposed to be at and we’re both better off.

I guess the end message is that postpartum depression isn’t just depression. If you’re feeling anything that’s doesn’t feel normal, talk to someone. It could be happiness to the point that it’s effecting your life in a negative way and still be PPD for all I know. Don’t let people or yourself tell you of course you’re emotional because you just had a baby. Even if it does turn out to be the baby blues, there’s no harm in talking to someone. Only in our society are women so isolated during the time when they need support the most.

Did you have postpartum depression? Did you experience anger and guilt as symptoms of your PPD? How were your other children or loved ones effected? What did you do that helped you cope? 


9 thoughts on “Postpartum Aggression

  1. For me, the anger and rage are signs of post-partum anxiety. I’m not sad or depressed, but I am anxious. Things bother me that normally would not. The kicker is I did have ppd with my first (but in retrospect, probably ppa like this time) . I prepared this time, encapsulated my placenta, and it was smooth sailing until about 5 months out. Then the anxiety snuck in and slammed me. I knew something was wrong when I was screaming at my older kids and raging around for really no reason at all. I blogged about my very difficult decision to go on meds here (it took several more months for me to make that decision). You are SO not alone mama and I have found myself feeling very grateful for social media this time around because 11 years ago when I was in the trenches, I was so very alone.

  2. Reading this really made me feel like less of an anomaly. After my son’s birth I experienced everything you described, especially the inexplicable anger. Ingesting my own placenta as well helped me manage the emotional roller-coaster for a time but once that was done I was back to being zany again. I’ve recently realised that I had PPD that took over a year to move past and I am still dealing with the emotional repercussions of being in that state for so long without help. I am now finding healthy ways to cope with the roots of the anger instead of letting it boil over and it is a difficult process. I am also being tested for various dietary deficiencies that could be contributing to it as well as my hormone levels. So far I’ve speculated it is a combination of both psychological issues and physiological. The therapy is helping anyways and I am finding ways to take care of myself properly so that I can be the parent my son needs me to be. It is not easy dealing with it but very worth it.

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  4. I googled Postpartum anger, and found this.

    Yes. I randomly freak out when the house is dirty…but I can’t seem to find the strength to clean it. I was on Zoloft, now I’m on Citlopram or something…I dunno. Therapy so far has been less helpful than I had hoped…I am terrified. I scare myself, and I no longer feel safe around my baby.

    The shame I carry with me makes me want to die…and my fear is that I will someday hurt him.

    • Do what you need to do to feel better. Did you encapsulate your placenta? That really helped me. If not, I’d look into some herbs that would help mimic that effect. Could you hire a cleaning service every once and a while? Or maybe you know someone you could ask for help cleaning? Or even multiple people doing small things. If it makes you feel any better, while I still have bad days, things are much better now. It probably look me 4-ish months to get really better, but I got there.

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  6. I am so glad I read this. I feel less alone in this journey!!! All of the above applies to me (except the placenta pills, didn’t know about them,but if I had another child, I’d definitely want to encapsulate mine). After two kids I realize that lactation hormones make me prone to PPD very easily. The sensitivity, the out-of-the-blue crying, and oh yes the ANGERRR. My daughter was 22 months old when my son was born. The terrible twos were a very unwelcome challenge to balancing a newborn and, subsequently, work. I also was screaming at her to discipline trying so hard to be an authority figure, and she is a stubborn toddler, which is good because she perseveres, but bad if she doesn’t learn to listen. And the constant screaming sets my spirit off balance.

    I am going to therapy right now with a psychologist who specializes in postpartum issues, and it has helped a lot. On my last pregnancy I was given Citalopram after weaning which helped considerably, but I haven’t weaned my son yet, so no happy drugs for me. But again, therapy has helped me understand the biochemistry behind PPD and pregnancy and lactation. We women are rigged to protect young, it’s a primal thing. The hormones make us sensitive on purpose. And hormones affect us all differently. Some people can’t even recognize themselves. It’s not just a mind/attitude thing, again, it is also biochemical/physical.

    I encourage any mom who feels any of these feelings (sadness, anger, anxiety) to seek help, whether from your obgyn, to a therapist if you can. And give yourself plenty of time to adapt to your new family dynamics. Just because your maternity leave ends in a few weeks it doesn’t mean you necessarily will be all ready and calm and recovered. Find your path in the most peaceful manner you can, so you can be good to yourself and your family 🙂

    • I’m so happy that this post has helped other moms realize they’re not alone! I’m happy that you’re seeing someone and getting the help you need. I know that seeing a therapist helped me tremendously!

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