I am the epitome of a “people person.” All through my single years, I felt enlivened after spending an evening at a party or dinner with friends. I ate up the laughter and applause from audiences any time I’d perform in community theater shows. I loved seeing new places and meeting new people. I was energetic, goofy, and thoroughly enjoyed making people laugh.
Fast forward to my first son’s 1st birthday: my husband and I bought a birthday cake and a pregnancy test at the grocery store. It was positive. We were elated!
But with the birth of my second son came a dark cloud. I wasn’t adjusting to two kids like I’d hoped. I wasn’t bonding with the baby like I wanted. Nothing was right. I was so, so, so stressed trying to juggle a newborn and a one-year-old. If I wasn’t stressing over them while they were awake, I was sobbing to myself in the middle of the night, hounded by the intrusive thoughts of their death or my husband’s death. But I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t sad or full of despair. So this couldn’t be post partum depression, right? All I knew was I used to be such a happy person. I was a happy person, so what was this???
Because now I was always livid. My emotions constantly hovered just below boiling point. I was angry. I was screaming. I wanted so badly to punch a hole in every wall. This compounded with insomnia and a newborn who would not. stop. crying. I was losing it almost daily and freaking out and literally screaming at my 22 month-old toddler who could barely talk in sentences, let alone comprehend that Mommy was upset. Inevitably I’d crumble into a heap of guilty tears, hugging him and saying “I’m sorry,” over and over. When my baby was four months old, I finally texted my husband, saying I didn’t recognize myself and needed to go to therapy. After doing some research, I chose a therapist who specialized in maternal mental health. She knew exactly what was happening.
It was postpartum rage, and I was drowning in it. Considered to be under the umbrella of postpartum depression, but more rare, articles addressing the disorder only just started popping up online within the last few years (I know because they weren’t there four years ago when I was googling like crazy why I felt crazy). Over the next 10 months of therapy, I started to gain crucial insight, including how to recognize triggers, how to cope and deal with rage outbursts, the value of self care, and how to maintain my identity outside of Mother as a “people-person.” As much as I loved my healthy bright boys, I felt so lonely. For some reason it was so much harder to make friends, close friends now that I was a mom. I needed people.
My husband was incredibly supportive and said we should set up our schedules and finances so I could take weekend trips here and there to re-energize myself. I also desperately ached for a creative outlet since performing wasn’t really doable at the time, and signed up for a Beginning Photography night class at a local college.
I began taking short trips to visit old friends who lived in other states and on one occasion, I scored killer plane tickets and enjoyed a whirlwind “Mama Spring Break” trip to Greece with an old friend from college. (I highly don’t suggest a quick turn around trip to the other side of the world but also, it was wild and amazing and exhauuuusting and incredible and I cherish it dearly). Traveling had been a deep passion of mine and it felt so good to be doing it again! Most of all to be traveling with a friend. Both of us were mamas. But for those few days in Greece, we were wide-eyed, excited college kids again, ready to tackle the map and see it all!
Nothing bonds two people like experiencing a foreign country together. You could end up having the worst time or an awful Airbnb, or get lost in a city and not know the language or run out of money ooooor you stumble on the most amazing, charming, cobblestoned seaside town in the history of ever and there’s just no explaining it to anyone else. Either way, doing it alongside a dear friend makes it pure adventure and you’re forever connected in that experience. In between site seeing and over meals, we poured our hearts out to each other about our frustrations and excitements, about our business dreams, about how surreal and amazing it was to be there, about how much fun we had way back when when we were roommates in London, about how amazing our babies are, about how amazing our husbands are, what it’s like to be older with so many more responsibilities and unknowns. We were connecting as mothers and friends. And it was so very healing.
Inevitably, each time I’m away, I always have a very definitive moment where something happens, a feeling strikes my heart, and I always have the thought, “I’m ready to go back now. I miss my kids so much it hurts.” That short time away where I’m able to connect with another woman who totally gets it is therapeutic in every way and I’m so much better prepared to tackle motherhood once I return. I’m literally aching for it. But most importantly, when I’m in the throes of day to day life, I realize simple connections like a phone call or a Marco Polo message buoy me up and help me to keep going and stay sane.
The rage still flairs from time to time to be honest. It But I know how to cope with it now, and know it’s ok to step away for a moment. Remember: Momming is hard! Do it with a friend, take breaks, and look at the scenery when you can!