Memories flood my social media account everyday. As I look fondly at a photo from last year of me and my four-month old baby, I am guessing that it did not ever hint the turmoil I was suffering inside. Who would ever know? I was all smiles, and mums were supposed to be exemplars of strength.
I never really talked about it. First, because I was too unsure of what I was going through. Second, because I was afraid that no one would completely understand. Since this was my second child, I was expecting to feel familiar emotions. After giving birth to my first, I felt the baby blues, but I was too busy groping with the responsibilities of a new parent that I was able to cope well and quick with my staggering emotions. And then I was pregnant with my second when my eldest was just six months old. That was when my world turned upside down.
Fast forward 40 weeks, and I was holding a new baby in my arms. I knew there was something wrong with me since that day. I wasn't sad or lonely; instead, I was resentful and angry. I was angry about many things, big or small. I was even angry at the thought that my baby didn't look a bit like me! I was angry at people even if I knew they were not completely at fault. I was angry at our circumstances. And worst, I was angry at myself!
I kept all of these to myself to the point where I felt like I was a ticking bomb, ready to burst at the slightest motion. I struggled to balance my responsibilities as a mum and as a wife along with my pent up rage. I feared that I reached the verge of my sanity. The worst thing about it was when I end up shouting at my poor little girl over spilled milk or crayoned walls. I did not like the way things were turning out for me so I decided to bail myself out.
The first thing I had to do was to acknowledge my feelings. That emotion that I was trying to conceal and that burned me from within—anger. It was hard to accept at first that I was angry, because I didn't know why I was angry or that it was normal to be angry.
I dug up the internet for answers and I came across an article about postpartum rage written by Carolyn Wagner, maternal mental health therapist from Chicago. In her article, she highlighted that although there is already a rise in postpartum depression awareness, one of its symptoms receives very little attention, and that is postpartum rage. It may be prompted by a seemingly minor annoyance, or it may bubble up out of nowhere. Most women who struggle with it find it quite unsettling.
Wagner also said that anger is not just a feeling but an important signpost, alerting us to a more difficult feeling. Most often, these are the feelings that we don't really want to deal with, and so we shove them away and feel anger instead. Her theory suggests that anger has underlying feelings to it.
This helped me shed some light on my own emotions. I began to examine what prompted me to becoming angry. Perhaps it was the feeling of being overwhelmed with so many new responsibilities, or the anxiety of not being able to give my best for my family, or maybe it was just the feeling of guilt about numerous mistakes.
Soon, I was able to reconcile with my own emotions. Thanks to my family and friends who always gave a helping hand, even in times when I least expected. Somehow, I was comforted at the thought that I was not alone in the battle, and that this battle should not be faced single-handedly.
If you are ever experiencing symptoms of postpartum rage, I suggest that you reach out to people that you trust instead of keeping it all to yourself. In the craziness of motherhood, we often neglect our own selves. Take comfort that you are not alone, and there is always a way out.