Baby Blues: I Can’t Be Honest With My Mom About My PPD Because She’s A SAHM Martyr

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postpartum depression supportBaby 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.

I’m having a hard time letting go of what happened that day at the mall, when I hesitantly told my parents that I have PPD.

I explained how depression was hindering my ability to really enjoy my daughter. I didn’t ever get a break from her (at this point, I was a SAHM most of the time, and my husband worked 60 hours a week). No one else, including my parents, was willing or available to watch baby regularly so I could get some alone time. It was killing me.

After a few words of sympathy from my dad, my mom’s response was simply, “Just remember, I stayed at home with you girls for your whole childhood, and we didn’t have help from any friends or family. I did it all on my own.”

Conversation shut down.

Even if I’d wanted to, there’s no way I could have opened up further. Fine, you win, you did it all by yourself. Maybe you suffered more than I did, and I just don’t realize how great I have it. Maybe I’m being a pansy for letting all of this get to me. Or maybe being a SAHM came naturally to you, and you’re wondering why I didn’t inherit the gene. I’m a woman, right? Am I not supposed to just ooze maternal aptitude?

Postpartum depression is foreign to my parents, especially my mom, who had always longed for a baby and finally succeeded in getting pregnant with me after eight years of infertility issues. I’m sure she can’t even fathom why having a baby—such an incredible bundle of joy— would trigger a mood disorder. But if I could somehow remove the stigma of depression from society (right, let’s just take care of that real quick) and get my mom to do some real soul-searching, I think she might admit that she actually suffered from depression, herself.

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  1. KABS

    March 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I’m sorry your mother isn’t able to open up and talk honestly with you. You’ve made me appreciate my own mother even more. Though I don’t have PPD, I did have a raging case of the baby blues for the first few weeks of my daughter’s life. It made me feel to much better when my mom told me as I sobbed that when she went to get infant me, crying in the crib, she momentarily thought, “You know, I could just toss her out the window and it would be quiet.” Not that she’d have ever done it (as she says and I know), but it made me feel better to know the thought passed, however briefly, through her mind.

    • Andrea

      March 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      When my sons were little and I had a 2 year old and a nursing infant and not a moment’s peace, I used to fantisize about getting into an accident. Nothing that would permanently damage me, but serious enough so it would require me to be bed-ridden for a few weeks.

      I know it;s crazy, but I felt so lonely and alone.

    • Erica

      March 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      That is so familiar. I used to fantasize about throwing myself down the stairs so I could have some ME time at the hospital. I was absolutely depressed for the first 2 years of my babies’ lives. Things do get better as the kids get older and stop screaming at you, have their own interests, and play alone.

    • Shannon

      March 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      I had the SAME fantasy while my PPD was terrible, I used to think car accident but I was never without my infant in the car so instead I thought maybe I’d get pneumonia or something that would require me to be in the hospital for awhile.

    • Valeri Jones

      March 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

      I didn’t suffer from PPD, I don’t think, but I did have the Baby Blues during which my son was colicky and would scream for hours on end at night. Many sleepless nights were spent pacing the floors with him in my arms, squalling at me if I paused for a second. There were many times I thought, “I could just throw him out into the yard and get a good night’s sleep.” Of course, this thought was always followed by tearful remorse for even thinking such things, so much so that I STILL feel guilty about it. But it is nice to know there are other mothers out there who have had those same fleeting thoughts.

  2. Ana

    March 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Ugh, this makes me so frustrated for you. My mom is much the same, only a career-driven feminist, so her version of the martyr act is “Well I had 2 small children, worked, AND earned my Masters Degree”. I have depression due to a chemical imbalance, and when I tried to explain how it felt to her several years ago she actually said “everyone feels sad sometimes” and “try to think positive”. I don’t think she was trying to be hurtful, she just had no idea what depression feels like. Hang in there. I think having a job will help. Once I stopped nursing I felt a great deal of freedom as well.

  3. Rachelle

    March 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    All I can say without going into my own very complex relationship with my mom is that we have similar situations. Not identical, but still very similar. (((((hug))))

  4. rebecca eckler

    March 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    My parents only “found out” that I had PPD after I published it in my book, “Wiped! Life With a Pint Sized Dictator.” I didn’t even bother telling them, because I knew they wouldn’t understand. I’m convinced my mother was also depressed when I was growing up, but it took THREE doctors just to figure out that PPD was what was happening to me (in 2003,) so I can’t imagine back then, people even knew it really existed. Once, I told my mother I was depressed and she suggested that I talk to her “artist” friend, because as my mother explained, she was “square” and I was “round.” This is what friends, spouses, and shrinks are for!

  5. sarah

    March 12, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    a brave and powerful essay. all anyone wants in this world is to be understood. wonderfully put.

  6. Rebecca

    March 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    My mom is the same way.even now that her kids are all grown up and out of the house she doesn’t want to get a job or anything.i have 3 little ones i stay home with and if i even hint at the thought of getting a part time just to get out of the house she goes crazy listing all the reasons mothers should never work.and she also likes to pull the”i didn’t have anyone to help me” line if i complain about anything. I don’t have PPD, but it still gets overwhelming sometimes..

  7. Holly

    March 14, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Hang in there. My mom is all about “life is amazing and all sunshine and roses!” Even through her cancer and my illness that caused two years of hell. I was treated as just so weak for ever complaining. Sigh. All I can do is hope to be honest with my future children and thank god for my friends and husband. You are brave to admit imperfection. Life is not photoshopped.

  8. smishsmash

    March 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I don’t have PPD, but lady I hear ya. Everytime I try to vent a bit to my mom about anything baby related that’s hard for me, EVERY TIME, she just starts in on the whole “Well, you only have one baby, I had TWINS” spiel. I don’t have any close friends in my town with babies to talk to and apparently I can’t talk to my mom either so all my frustrations just get bottled up inside to fester. It’s not fun.

  9. Lily

    March 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    My mom was very honest about her struggles being a SAHM (sometimes a bit too brutally honest, IMO), but this article reminds me completely of my MIL. While in the depths of despair, one night my MIL told me that a “good mom will take care of her baby all through the night and not ask her husband who works full-time for help.” At that moment, something switched off in me, and although I stopped expecting my husband to help, the resentment against him started to grow. Now that my son is 18 months, I often have PTSD-like flashbacks of my sons first several months, which can be triggered by something very minor that my husband says.

    My point being: to all mothers, never allow someone to tell you how to be a good mother.

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  12. My Oubliette

    April 16, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I know I’m super super late on this, but I wanted to send my best wishes for your continuing recovery – depression is no joke! – and that you have found, or will find a way to honestly communicate with your mother about this serious issue. *Hugs*

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