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Postpartum Rage is Common in New Mothers

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One of the most common search terms that brings people to my blog is "postpartum rage" or some variation of it.

"Rage at husband."

"Rage after pregnancy."

"Postpartum depression rage."

"Sleep deprivation and rage."

"Rage after having a baby."

You'll notice that all of these search terms include rage. Not anger, not just depression, but rage.

These mothers are NOT alone.

The definition of rage contains five entries for rage as a noun and every one of them includes a mention of violence. I wish I could say that's not really accurate when it comes to the feelings of rage these women are searching for answers to when they turn to Google and end up on my blog, but I can't. I know, and these women find me, because I wrote about it. I experienced it.

Despite the dictionary definition, most of these mothers are not violent. They don't hit their children (or their husbands). They are not child abusers. What they are is women suffering from a very common illness that affects, by some estimates, up to 20 per cent of new mothers.

Here is my experience with postpartum rage:

Imagine a time you totally lost your temper. When you were so consumed by anger you felt it as a physical thing, adrenaline racing through your body and blocking out all rational thought. When your first instinct, as though it were primal, was to throw something so it would shatter into a thousand pieces and break whatever spell had overtaken you.

That's what it felt like for me for much of my son's first 2 1/2 years.

I was desperately sleep deprived. I had no patience. Anger was my constant companion.

It raised its ugly head when I had spent hours trying to get him to sleep only to have him immediately wake up screaming.

It brought me to tears when he woke up every half hour at night and I was so tired I wanted to die and had no idea how I was ever going to get through the night, never mind the next day.

It added to the exhaustion of trying to cope with and comfort a fussy baby.

It made me want to yell and scream. Sometimes I did.

It left me feeling without hope when he smiled and cooed and all I could think was that having a baby had been a mistake.

For months the inside of my head was screaming because I was so angry and I didn't know what to do about it. I couldn't throw the baby against the wall or out the window, though the physical urge to do so consumed me.

I spent many days worrying I would hit him and yet at the same time was sure I wouldn't. Except one time I did. It was light - just a smack against his thigh on a really bad day when I had nothing left.

It made him cry.

I stood there in horror. And then I scooped him up and held him to me and cried with him.

Even then, I didn't know what was wrong with me. And I didn't ask for help because I was so scared to admit what was going on.

It simmered beneath the surface all the time, a bubbling pot of anger that threatened, every day, to spill over.

When I couldn't take it I would summon my loudest inside-my-head voice and swear - at the universe, at his crying, at mine.

I swore at my inability to cope.

I swore at battling the same things, day after day after day.

I swore out loud some days, to myself, through my sobs, as my tears ran over my words and the guilt and misery and hopelessness that came with them.

I felt massively ripped off in my experience as a new mother. I still resent it. It still makes me cry.

You might judge me for this story. You might tell me I'm a bad mother who should never have had a baby, and who certainly shouldn't have had another after experiencing this. But here's the thing: I'm not a bad mother. I was sick and, because it's not talked about, I didn't know it and I didn't get help soon enough.

Postpartum depression doesn't get nearly enough attention. And when it does, it's often the wrong sort of attention, complete with hyperbole and inaccuracy, as Katherine Stone wrote about in her HuffPost piece "It's Time For Everyone To Get The Facts About Postpartum Depression." And this lack of straight facts that leads new mothers to search the web when they're feeling rage after having a baby instead of asking someone for help.

Since sharing my story on my blog, I've come to realize just how common postpartum rage is. We don't talk about it enough, but I'm trying to help change that. So come on, let's talk about it.