Baby Blues: The Isolation Of Motherhood Makes My PPD Worse

shutterstock_109655861Baby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

Motherhood is many things: primal, competitive, loving, complicated, necessary  But one of its many definitions doesn’t make itself obvious until you find yourself caring for a little one of your own. In Western culture, motherhood is undeniably, desperately isolating.

It’s no surprise most mothers suffer some form of baby blues or depression early on. The whole ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth is idolized and romanticized and fetishized. Many women, including me, simply aren’t prepared for the barrage of opinions, religious beliefs and assumptions that come from close friends and complete strangers. For nine months, people are buying you gifts and giving advice and rubbing your belly like it’s going to grant them three wishes. Oftentimes, you feel like a princess, and like the world just wants to hoist you up on its shoulders. But also, sometimes, the attention is too much, and you long for the days when you could disappear in a crowd.

I enjoyed some of the pampering, but I was getting tired of being defined by my belly. Even people who knew I was a writer and a working artist stopped asking about these things in favor of discussing my pregnancy. I remember one conversation that made me feel like I was under a hot interrogation lamp, with two younger girls firing question after question — many of them extremely personal (do you pee yourself all the time? Have you had your bloody show yet? I don’t even know what that is, I heard it in a movie…)

It’s funny in retrospect, but at the moment, I kind of wondered if anyone cared about anything other than my babymaking.

I thought surely I would be viewed as an individual again after giving birth. As it turns out, once I had a newborn to pass around, the same people that were so tunnel-visioned on my pregnancy became tunnel-visioned on my baby. I got what I wished for: people stopped bugging me. But with that came isolation.

And it didn’t go away, not after a few months, not after a year and a half.

I kind of thought that becoming a mother meant I was part of “the club,” that now I’d have this instant connection with other mothers or have a sudden passion for mom groups. As it turns out, we’re all supposed to kind of hate each other. Or at the very least, be envious of each other. I used to try to chat up the other moms at the playground, but realized as months passed that this isn’t the standard protocol. It seems like moms where I live, especially seasoned moms of multiple children, kind of just keep to themselves.

Even the people I used to work with (when I was a server and bartender) are estranged from me. Chalk it up to conflicting schedules and sudden illnesses, but I think I’ve had a total of four actual “playdates” with other families. There’s one lady I sort of look to as the Alpha Mother, who I bombard with questions through text messages when I’m worried about something. She’s been very helpful and even offered a helping hand when I’m depressed, but for some psycho reason I never actually give her a damn call.

It’s the same with my cousin’s wife, who is so wonderful and sweet and big sisterly. We have met up a couple of times, but do I ever call her when I’m down? When my lamentations are something only a fellow mother could understand? No. Instead I just continue to be a weepy, lonely mess in front of my confused, toddling baby.

I know that part of my reluctance to reach out is just my postpartum depression holding me hostage. But I think there’s something in the nature of motherhood in our culture that prevents these connections, too. I think there’s an underlying sense of competition, no matter how strong the friendship between two women, that often prevents us from seeking solace in each other. All of my heartfelt conversations with other mothers seem to oscillate between comically passionate agreement and quiet tiptoeing over our differences. Even after a “venting” session, I walk away worrying I’m being judged.

Like I said, this could be my postpartum depression talking. There could be mothers out there who don’t feel like their friendships with other mothers are riddled with landmines. But this is how it feels for me, and it’s a shame, because who knows how many of my friends are isolated, too, living silently with their own depression.

(photo:  Fifian Iromi / Shutterstock)

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    • Blabby

      Is anyone else exhausted by these articles? You have PPD– please get some help. See a therapist, take some medication, do something to actively help yourself and your baby. I read the previous article as well about how the author is not intending on seeking treatment– so frustrating and sad. Imagine how much more present and happy you could be in your life, for your partner and your child and for YOURSELF, if you got some professional help. There’s no shame in it– only a world of possibility awaits. End rant. Thanks.

      • Justme

        I understand your frustration with the author – to a certain extent. I’m sure dealing with her PPD is even more frustrating for the author’s loved ones and especially the author herself.

        But when I read articles like this, I don’t get frustrated with the author but instead I am relieved. Yes. I was not alone in my anxiety, anger and depression after the birth of my daughter. And even though I’m “healed” from my bout with PPD two years ago, some other woman is out there and she is in the midst of the storm. She is reading Amanda’s article and nodding her head in agreement and relief, so glad to find someone else that understands how she feels.

        So perhaps these articles are exhausting to you, but to other women, they are a lifeline – a signal that they are not alone in their terrifying post-birth journey.

      • Amanda Low

        Thank you, Justme!

      • Amanda Low

        You have the option to stop reading this series if you don’t like it!

      • CrazyFor Kate

        Wow, that’s kind. Has it ever occurred to you that millions of people out there have depression – postpartum or otherwise – and are interested in reading these experiences? If the author chooses to seek treatment, then that’s great – but it’s not our call.

      • Amanda Low

        Thank you! :-)

      • LoveyDovey

        That’s assuming everyone has the money or insurance to cover either.

        My husband is military, which normally means I would be able to get help through Tricare. But because of the sequestration, that’s at risk of being cut, meaning I wouldn’t be able to get as good of care as I need. Sure, there are probably free or low-cost programs around, but that’s assuming that I qualify for them, and that I could even get into them if they’re overloaded.

        And as others have stated, it helps to know I’m not alone.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I had this issue. I was under-insured but didn’t qualify for medicaid and the free or low cost options where I was living were difficult to get into and only open at inconvenient times (I needed to keep my job or I would lose the insurance I did have). I was only able to get the help I needed after I moved back to my home state and started a job with a more flexible schedule.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        Let me ask you a question. Let’s say that you had a flesh eating bacteria destroying your arm. The surgeon walks in and says: it will cost you 5000$ to get rid of the bacteria. Would you pay the price? Of course you would in order to save your life. A lot of people see the cost of getting treatment as an obstacle and an excuse not to get help. However, it’s your life that you’re talking about. Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health. A lot of research has even demonstrated that when you have to sacrifice money for your therapy, you are a lot more serious about it – the price you pay makes the therapy valuable, and you invest yourself more fully than if you get free therapy.

      • LoveyDovey

        “Let’s see, do I pay for therapy this month, or do I feed my kids this month?”

        Also, go Google up the story of a woman who went into the emergency room and asked the doctor to reattach one of her breasts that got eaten off by cancer- it’s NEVER that simple.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        way to take my statement and run with it ;). There are always ways to make therapy work. Cut out certain activities, the cable bill, the cell phone bill. There are many organizations who charge according to your income. There are therapists that charge more and some that charge less. There are free support groups, and counselling groups. In the end, there is always a way.

      • LoveyDovey

        How about getting the time off and finding someone to watch the kids so you can go? Also, the cell phone bill? For some people that’s all they have for communication.

        Once again, you’re trying to prescribe a course of action as if it’s simple and fits everyone- it doesn’t.

        I’ll use myself as an example again- yes, I have insurance, but right now it’s up in the air if it’ll still cover what I need, and on top of that we have one car, two kids and my husband is often gone all day with it. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but even with coverage it’s still a lot of wrangling to get the help I want and need.

        And I’m relatively lucky to have what I have given this economy. There are people out there who desperately need medicine whose job doesn’t cover it, who can’t afford to take time off from work to see someone or they risk losing their job, or they don’t know anyone to watch their children.

        It just irritates me to see someone who has no clue how hard it is for some people to get even basic help try to give advice as if they do. I’ve been horribly poor and fighting to get the most basic of assistance, both for mental and physical health. I know how hard it can be.

        I’m not saying you’re trying to be obtuse, I know you’re not, but please be more mindful of limits in experience.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        i just think that you just proved me right. it’s hard, but it’s possible. when you’re not doing well and want to get better, you would literally sell your arm to make sure that your family is happy. 8 weeks of sacrificing and switching up your cell phone to a home phone to save money to go to therapy doesn’t sound that horrible to me. And scheduling your therapy when your husband is home isn’t bad either. Did you know that I actually make a living helping people figure out how they can make things happen? perhaps i just see opportunities and openings where there are none.

      • Tea

        I’m not a mom, but I see these as a great resource for other people with depression, not even just PPD. I think sometimes the articles are a little more ranty/this-is-my-life than information filled, but It can be a really big deal for someone to be open and vocal about dealing with mental illness. It’s not beneficial to just clam up about it, even if you seek help and then clam up. I’m sure a lot of folks are empathizing with her struggles. Mental illness is rarely brought up, and PPD can be heavily stigmatized, sometimes even more so than normal depression depending on your audience.

        I don’t find these exhausting at all, I usually just want to send all the ehugs I can manage. Besides, I’d rather hear some thought provoking, or even just empathy invoking heart felt writing than another celeb craving/baby bump/baby names/celebrities can breed too!

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        I agree that people need to be able to find support and understand that they are not alone. However, I too have issues reading this series… a- because Amanda has not been medically diagnosed with PPD and could have a ton of other medical conditions that are leading her to feel depressed and b- because I don’t know if she’s that good of an example to look up to. It would be great to read a woman’s struggle to get out of PPD by going to see a doctor, seeing a therapist, actually being able to fight the feeling of isolation. For example, hey, today I felt completely alone and I actually did what i feared and called my friend, and this is how i feel now. This is how i did it. These are the challenges I faced. Sometimes I feel as though the author uses her PPD as a crutch, an excuse not to get better.

        Motherhood is only a competition when you surround yourself with competitive moms. The author seems to have great people that she can reach out to, she just doesn’t.

      • LoveyDovey

        Depression is different for everyone, and she’s probably at a different point in it than you are. Don’t judge her for not being just like you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        there isn’t an iota of judgment loveydovey. I am stating my reticence in reading a series that is meant to be inspirational and relatable. go attack someone who actually could qualify for jerry springer ;)

      • Tea

        Those are pretty good points.

        I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t talk about something because you’re not a good example. I’m not a good example of a person with albinism, but still blog about living with it and raising awareness even if I don’t fit the most typical mold. I’ve blogged some about male on male sexual abuse as well as child abuse in the past, and I’m not the best example for these either because I’m still very skittish and I’m not a fully functional person for it (Which is the expectation of being an abuse survivor, people like to think you got better completely and don’t still have issues), but I tend to be of the belief that anyone’s personal experiences matter and may aid someone, especially if you’re honest over it.

        THAT being said, I feel like I’m taking back some of my previous points because you raised a good one. I had actually not realized she wasn’t diagnosed. I just assumed/filled my own experiences in the blank ” Oh, yeah, that sounds depressed, you should see a therapist or I can give you some drugs.” – Family doctor.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I understand what you are saying, I had PPD and PTSD for years (the PTSD due to a separate event) and I felt much better after treatment. But writing such a negative comment isn’t helping anyone and perhaps writing these articles and connecting with women in similar situations IS a form of therapy for the author. I don’t find these exhausting at all, but rather refreshing, It’s not every day that a woman is so candid about this subject.

      • ali

        It’s not always right for everyone with PPD or just plain ol depression to see a therapist or take medication. There are many ways to cope with those feelings. If she doesn’t feel she needs to get professional help, that’s her prerogative. You can read all of her articles, but you still are not in her mind. It isn’t even always about shame. Plus, this article is more about her feeling isolated as a mom. I think many moms could have written this article, without them being depressed. Our culture keeps moving towards interactions via technology as opposed to in person and that can be isolating for everyone.

      • AP

        Newborns mimic a lot of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA. Unpredictable sleep interruption, fecal assault, extreme social isolation, and repetitive unending loud noises.

        Anyone would be miserable under those circumstances. Why do you think the wealthy always have a nanny on staff?

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        wow really when they wrap their little finger around yours, when they smile at you and coo at just 2 months. when there is someone needing you to takecare of them…you are comparing that to ca…I am so over this site…………………………..

      • Justme

        So what you’re saying is that you NEVER felt on edge from no sleep and a seemingly unconsolable baby?

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        no actually I haven’t…why is that so hard to believe.

      • Justme

        Wow. Mother Superior, right here on Mommyish.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        This needs to be a Thing!

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        um I am not saying I am superior. that is just how I feel….some people really love all aspects of parenting. everyone is different. The only thing I feel strongly about is people complaining about there kids and then they either don’t get help, or have more kids. I always wanted kids, I went to school and got a job helping kids, and now I have them. I new what I wanted and I enjoy the whole experience. As a mom I don’t understand why you are mocking me. I also said there is nothing wrong with women having alone time either, so stop already. I like being a mom…wow that is sooo crazy.

      • Justme

        I always wanted to have children and I love my daughter…but that doesn’t mean that it’s sunshine and roses all the time. There are days, times and moments of parenting that are exhausting and frustrating. Expressing these emotions is healthy…pretending that everything is perfect is not. The mentality that women should love every minute of motherhood and that they are doing something wrong if they don’t is very harmful.

        I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher and I love my job…but does that mean I can’t ever complain about my students lack of effort or a uber meddling parent? No. And the same rule applies to motherhood.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        if I am happy being with my kid everyday and I don’t need to complain, I am not going too. The little things don’t get to me like they get to you. sounds like ur just a jealous person who cant get over that….I am not pretending everything is perfect, but I am happy and I don’t have to say otherwise. I am done with this convo, I have nothing to prove to you. I am over this…annoying

      • Justme

        I’m not jealous…I’m realistic.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        Realistic for yourself, not for me……….f off

      • Justme

        You kiss your babies with that mouth?!

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        f off is a nice way of putting it trust me. You would look so much better if you didn’t judge people who think differently then you. you sound so miserable, and I really hope you are not a parent. The only things I have ever read from you is complaining and talking about the bad parts of parenting. you are a Debbie downer and are extremely negative. watev meds you are taking are not working!

      • Justme

        Then you haven’t read very much. I adore my daughter and love being with her – but that doesn’t mean that everything is wonderful all the time. I think when people put out the impression that parenting is always easy than it can be harmful to the people that don’t find it always easy – they feel like they’re doing something wrong. I just find it refreshing to be open, honest and clear about things. Not enjoying every moment of parenting has nothing to do with my ability to parent or how much I love my daughter.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        By me saying that I enjoy being a parent and don’t sweat the small stuff, that is in no way harmful to anyone. Everyone is different, and entitled to there opinion. You are act the harmful one because you seem to get bent out of shape that someone does not feel the same way you do, and are implying I couldn’t possibly feel the way I do. We can go back and fourth forever. I feel the way I do and so do you. that is what these comments are all about. You do you! I didn’t intend to make anyone feel bad, I was just sick and tired of this site making people like me feel like I am wrong for not needing a break from my kid.

      • Justme

        Unfortunately, you were the one who said, and I quote:

        “THIS IS DISGUSTING….YOU WANT ALONE TIME OK…BUT DREADING SEEING YOUR DAUGHTER AFTER 8 HOURS. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE…WHY DID YOU EVEN HAVE KIDS IF YOU DONT WANT TO BE WITH THEM.GROSS!”

        And this was on an article where a woman was pouring her heart out about her struggle with a very real and very debilitating mental illness.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        Yeahhhh and I already said I was wrong for the way I came
        across. I also didn’t realize she would be reading my comments. I just started reading this site, and did not really know how it worked. I realize now she has written a lot of articles and has been going through a hard time. I reacted
        because it seemed to me that she left her daughter the whole day, and then did not even want to see her. You don’t think her daughter can pick up on that, and feel sad after wanting to see her mom the whole day and feel like she’s not wanted. Then I kept reading and it didn’t seem like the author wanted to get
        help.PPD is a tricky thing because you are depressed I get it, but you also have a child and should try everything in your power as a mom to either get help, or not let your child feel the effects of it. Her child is an innocent in all of this, and it’s frustrating to read someone not doing anything about it.
        Also if you write on a site, you should expect to hear ALL sorts of responses. Now I see she works for this site, she probably expects to hear all different opinions.
        But the only thing I will agree on again is I should have worded it differently!

      • Justme

        Yes. This is a response I can understand and respond to.

        That’s one of the fears of mothers with PPD – that because of something out of our control, we are damaging our children for life. That our husbands and children are better off without us in their lives because of the damage we are causing. Oftentimes it’s the women with PPD that are MORE aware (or make up) of the potential damage from their disease.

        In the midst of PPD you don’t always want to get help nor do you know what kind of help you need – sometimes you don’t even realize that you HAVE it! I think her series of writing so personally about PPD is her form of therapy, as is reading the encouraging comments about how people understand where she is and that it won’t last forever. Not all healing from PPD has to come in therapy or pill form, nor will the healing be instantaneous and forever…like anything else, it is a process.

        I don’t think the comments to her articles are telling her that “yeah, stay away from your kid – that’s perfectly fine” but instead that what she is going through is just part of the process of PPD and will eventually dissipate (except on those days when you get a sweet Happy Hour invitation). We’re not supporting a mother neglecting her child, we are supporting a woman who is hurting, confused and trying to dig herself out of a hole.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        Well said. I understand what these articles are about now,
        and I feel really bad for saying that to a woman hurting. I can admit when I am wrong, and I hate the way I came across. I understand how she feels, because I am at the other end of people judging me for taking off of work to spend all my
        time with my son, and am seven months preg with a girl. People judge all kinds of women, and I guess I took it out on her because I felt this site bashes stay at home moms. I plan on going back to work when my kids are in school and I really enjoy being with my son and it bothers me when people say there is no way you could enjoy it all the time. I really do! I guess as long as the women isn’t hurting or abusing her child people shouldn’t judge other moms for their choices no matter what they may be. I also got insulted because after my first stupid comment people on here called me country fried beauty queen and whatever., I don’t even know what that means, but I figure it was them looking at my Facebook pictures seeing my blond hair and calling me stupid. I feel to attack me on my appearance and make judgments by my picture made me think my comments were justified because I was not being a two year old making fun of someone’s pictures. Anyway like I said before I have now read all of this writers articles and I feel bad for my comments, and that she is hurting. All the other women with their comments were just superficial and stupid. I am not in any way stupid or fried out, or anything country. I live in NJ and have a degree, so to basically call me trash was out of line. Normally I wouldn’t even bother caring about internet crap like this, but I realized I was hurtful and want to rectify it, because I am a nice person and am actually very liberal, and in no way a sanctimommy. Now I realize you are a mom too, so I will end my long reply with happy mother’s day!

      • YoyoMah

        Stacy Shain…please go sterilize yourself. Then walk out in front of a bus. Thank you.

      • Ordinaryperson

        I’m thinking maybe writing these articles and sharing what she’s going through might be her way of “dealing” with her depression, and if it’s helping her then she should keep on going. I’ve never been to counselling, but I assume it doesn’t work for everyone, and if writing is working, good for her.

    • Amanda

      I’m not exhausted by these articles because I can relate. New motherhood, especially when you have very young children, is extremely isolating. Right after I had my first, things were fine because my husband was unemployed and with me all the time. When he got a job 5 months later, we moved to a new city where I had no friends and I was so very, very lonely. I had no tools to make friends. I had always been in school or working, that’s how I made my friends. Suddenly I was a stay at home mom alone for many hours a day with just a little baby, who I adore, but I was so very, very lonely. I don’t know if I necessarily got depressed, but I ate. I’m an emotional eater, and in the months after we moved to the new city I gained a TON of weight, because food was how I coped with the loneliness. Since then, I’ve lost some of the weight and added a second baby, but now I have two girls two and under, and I’ve had to consciously work to dig myself out of isolation. It hasn’t been easy. And I can totally identify with the mom’s keeping to themselves… I’ve always made friends easily, but something about trying to connect with other mom friends has been very very difficult.

      • Amanda Low

        Thank you! I’m sorry you experienced this isolation too…but it’s comforting to hear I’m not the only one.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I could have written this comment! When I had my oldest and then again with my youngest we were forced to move away from NYC where I’m from for work and it was so isolating. I’m not the best at making friends because I am kind of an introvert and making friends with other mothers is even more difficult for some reason. We finally moved back to NYC in October so I have my old friends back but it’s still hard due to conflicting schedules. I’m glad things are getting better for you, things do seem to get better as the kids get older too. *Hugs*

    • thethreeamigos

      I’m definitely at this stage. I have a baby, along with a 3 and 6 year old and I have NO ONE! I don’t even have a cousin’s wife or old friend. When I’m down I have no one to call or text. My husband is the worst – don’t bother HIM with stupid problems like being a mom….his life has REAL issues. That’s what he tells me. I am very isolated and very lonely. I haven’t had a job in over 7 years and can’t find one. I’ve been trying. Added to it, I don’t have a car and my husband won’t help in the least. I did manage to get to one job interview a few weeks ago and had to take two of my kids with me. I didn’t get the job. Obviously. Husband won’t give me a cent to use – groceries come from my mom and she’s on a very tight budget. Anyway – I’m in a bad place today and as always, telling it to an anonymous group on in the internet.

      • LoveyDovey

        I’m so sorry. That’s horrible that he controls the finances like that- if working from home is an option, here’s a list of legit opportunities to try:

        http://armywife101.com/?s=legit+work+at+home

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        You’re in an abusive relationship, dear.

    • Sonja

      I completely agree. Why do we all have to be so hard on each other? At the end of the day not one of us is any better than the other we all share the same feelings even though none of us ever will admit it.

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