Anonymous Mom: I’m Scared I Might Have Postpartum Depression

Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.

I want desperately for someone else to admit they’ve felt this way, but even with the anonymous byline I’m hesitant to write it down.

I’ve had visions of horrible things happening to my baby. Seeing her drown. Falling off the balcony. Getting hit by a car when she’s in her stroller. Once when she was crying uncontrollably in her car seat, I jerked the car into a parking lot and imagined smacking her across the face. Instead, I yelled at her to blow off steam, got out of the car and sat in the backseat to nurse her, crying the whole time.

I’m half-convinced these visions are due to my natural instinct to want to protect her, that perhaps this is nature’s way of preparing me for those unlikely but horrible “what ifs?” I remember reading that we have primal nightmares about getting chased by animals or being whisked away by tornadoes because our subconscious needs to “drill” for this sort of emergency. Is that what my brain is doing?

But I still can’t help but peruse information about Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), wondering if I have some variant of this. Like most women, I had the so-called baby blues when baby was a newborn. I had periods of weepiness over the first several months of her life. I even had thoughts of suicide, reminiscent of my long-gone clinical depression from my teenage years. It was scary for me.

But I never truly wanted to hurt my child. I may have envisioned it, but it was like I was watching my doppelganger do it. It was more like (does anybody else do this?) the way you sometimes get the urge to yell in a library or take your clothes off and start singing from your office cubicle just to see what will happen. Of course you’re never going to do those things, but doesn’t the thought ever just occur to you, and for a moment you fear your curiosity will win over your prudence?

It’s that teetering feeling that frightens me, like something stronger than my adult logic will suddenly take me over. I’ve never fully believed the testimonies of criminals who state that “voices” made them do things, or that they “blacked out,” unless they’re legitimately schizophrenic, of course. It just doesn’t seem possible to do something, especially something horrible, without realizing it.

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  • JSchroeder

    If you fear you might have PPD call a help-line. I think most states have them and if yours doesn’t you can call the NJ line at 1800-328-3838. Do you fear a stigma of depression? I hope not. Talking with someone will help sort out your thoughts.

  • Justme

    Go to a doctor you trust, whether it is your OB or your general practitioner. PPD is terrifying and scary, but it is fairly common and definitely treatable. Check out as well. Katherine Stone does a great job of educating about PPD as well as supporting women who are going through it.

  • k

    see the doctor if you are very concerned, but i can assure you i picture random things that will never happen to, not that i wont to or would ever do them (if the kids ran into the street, if i fell while carrying something and it hurt one of the kids or my husband). either its fairly normally, or we are both messed up. :p

  • alice

    Possible PPD aside, the things you’re describing (the intrusive negative images) are normal. This isn’t saying that you shouldn’t still talk to a doctor about PPD. The fact that you sometimes research PPD on your own is enough to tell you that you should talk to someone.

    But regarding negative images: completely normal. We all wander into daydreams: sometimes you’re the hero, sometimes the martyr, sometimes supernatural, sometimes voilent. It sounds like you’re having a lot of “worst case scenario” images. And it’s clear you’re not comfortable at all having these images. It’s clear you’re exerting energy thinking about NOT THINKING ABOUT these images.

    Which means a lot of what you’re experiencing now could just be ironic psychological processing. (The whole “don’t think about elephants” test: Ta Da! you think about elephants!)

    Is this your first child? And would you call yourself a chronic worrier? What you described could just be simple symptoms of stress, fear, and anxiety. Or obviously something bigger.

    Talk to a doctor. But at least take some solace knowing that not all of your fears means worst case scenarios. Your baby doesn’t have to fall off the balcony and your negative images don’t have to mean postpartum psychosis. There’s a whole lotta middle ground there you can work with. :)

  • Ellie

    OMG I’ve had this exact same thing. I have these thoughts cross my mind, or I have terrible nightmares about things happening to my husband or kids. And I wonder where the hell my brain came up with this stuff. I don’t even have any history of depression or anything. I wonder if it’s a symptom of HUGE sleep deprivation, or hormonal anxiety.

  • anonlibrarian

    Another voice in the choir who wants to tell you that the first few months are hard, you will think about and even do things you think only “bad parents” do (yelling in frustration at a baby), and you will come out on the other side with no harm done to anyone but your sense of self. Forgive yourself. Talk to you doctor. I promise that you’re not alone.

  • grossjames

    Totally normal. I’ve always been a pretty happy, carefree person. Nothing bothered me. I was a middle school substitute teacher while going through college, and I loved it. That should say pretty much everything about my nature pre-baby. But then I had a daughter. And I totally understood how people shake their babies! Granted, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan doing a not safe job, I was far from any family member, I worked a full time job teaching, and I was doing it all alone, which made it a million times harder. I was miserable. I would cry on my way to work. I don’t know how I held it together during school. What pulled me out: not my husband coming home (which, when he did when my daughter was 5 months old, actually made things worse. He did not come home and start pulling his weight. I now had to take care of not just the baby but he husband, too, increasing my workload.) Talking to “friends” did me no good (except to lose friends, as I learned quite quickly how judgmental people are when it comes to raising children.) I began prioritizing myself by making it to the gym every day after work. I realized that being miserable, I was not being a very good mother. So I left her at daycare an extra hour and went to the gym after work before picking her up. Did I feel guilty about it? Of course. But I realized that by going to the gym that extra hour, we may be losing a tiny bit of quantity time together, but gaining waaaaaay more in quality because I was so much happier.

    Exercise saved me. Endorphins will be your best friend! And it’s all natural, safe, has no side effects. I highly suggest finding a way to get some exercise in. Find an hour a few days a week where someone else can watch the babe and you get go run, go to the gym. Or possibly get up an hour early, or go to bed an hour later, or take an hour of nap time to do a DVD in the house, or any number of body weight exercises (squats, pushups, situps, lunges…) Don’t justify NOT doing (the house needs clean, dinner needs made, coupons need cut, laundry needs done, I need to sleep). Nothing is more important than your happiness. Exercise will also give you more energy, counteracting that lost hour of sleep if that’s what you chose to do.

  • Guest

    Like others have said, go to your doctor if you continue to feel this way, but also know you aren’t alone. I know I’m always much, much more frustrated, angry, impatient and emotional when my needs aren’t being taken care of – when I’m tired, hungry, haven’t exercised or taken any time for myself. Your child is so important, but if you aren’t taking care of yourself, everyone has a hard time. Decide what works for you – exercise, reading a book, taking a walk, indulging in your favorite show – and make time for it. Also, give yourself a break – your baby is obviously fine – and remember each day is a new chance.

  • Andrea

    Oh honey, I pray like heck that you are reading these comments. Yours isn’t an embarrassing confession or a dark secret or anything you should be ashamed of. Please read the kind comments of these posters. You are not alone and what you are experiencing is not uncommon. Take care of yourself.

    • Andrea

      When my babies were little, I used to have this recurring fantasy that I would be in some kind of accident. Nothing that would kill me or permanently damage me, but enough so that all that would be required of me is resting and getting well. I was so beyond exhausted and sad and isolated; it was all I could think of that would give me the sleep and rest I craved without feeling guilty. Don’t be ashamed, just get some help. Praying for you.

  • PPD is real

    I had the baby blues and they where bad, scary and depressing but no I never thought of hurting my kid just that I wanted to return him. Those thoughts bothered me immensely. I remember when he cried I froze up and was filled with terror. I couldnt understand why that was happening and it made me feel like such a failure as a mom. Slowly it started to fade and in about four weeks those feelings fadeded and that was a relief. PPD is very real and the thoughts you are describing should not be ignored or kept secret. Any mother that has those thoughts should vent them right away so the people around her can be vigilant and make sure she gets help. There have been mothers that act upon those thoughts therefore, not all women can control them as well as you did. But it is “normal” but can also be very dangerous.

  • Blueathena623

    Your 5th paragraph perfectly, beautifully sums up an issue I’ve been trying to put words to ever since my son was born 9 months ago. The worry that, as you put it, curiosity will win over prudence. I have these thoughts of me hurting my son — like weird situations, like putting him the deep freezer and him freezing to death, or leaving him in a hot car to die. There is no violence behind the thoughts, I don’t feel desperate or even stressed, but there is this worry that someday I’ll — to use much cruder phrasing than you did — just become stupid or something and decide to actually go through with it. This is not a logical fear, because again, I’m not depressed, not stressed, never been a violent person, but there is that fear that curiosity will win. It’s a very odd feeling. The only thing that makes me feel better is that I’ve had variations of these weird thoughts my whole life (huh, what would it be like if I just crashed my car right now? What would it be like if I set my house on fire?) and I’ve never once had even an ounce of temptation to actually follow through.

    Thank you for your post.