At this point, we have all heard of postpartum depression (PPD). And just in the last year or so, experts have come to recognize that PPD can manifest as an anxiety disorder (postpartum anxiety, or PPA), with debilitating symptoms like obsessive thoughts and panic attacks.
But there’s another facet to the postpartum experience that no one seems to be talking about yet: postpartum rage. Many women experience feelings of intense anger, betrayal, and full on explosive rage in the postpartum period.
So, why are so few of us talking about this?
Think about what postpartum is like these days. We give birth (which is no small undertaking), and are supposed to recover from that and learn how to care for a baby—often with almost no time off from work, and very little support or help at home. Our body, minds, and souls are transformed, and yet there is no village to care for us, no one to speak to about the powerful emotions, physical changes, and hormones that are rushing through us.
Many of us enter motherhood virtually alone, and are expected to “do it all”—and do it perfectly—from the get-go, with no sleep. No wonder so many of us feel downright infuriated, boiling with anger, and ready to snap.
Well, one fierce, incredible woman is here to give voice to these very real, very common feelings that no one else seems to be addressing. Meet Molly Caro May, a writer and mom of two based in Montana who recently wrote a memoir about her experience with postpartum rage.
In her riveting book, Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage Into Motherhood, Caro May chronicles her rough, somewhat traumatic entrance into motherhood and the accompanying feelings of pain, grief, and outrage she experienced as a result.
Her book is so highly relatable and gorgeously written that you will find yourself instantly transported back to the rawest feelings and experiences of your own postpartum period—and you will feel relieved that someone out there is willing to be 100% honest about what it’s like.
“For me, postpartum rage was as if a train that had always chugged along in me suddenly got so much steam power it sped up, overtook all the tracks, ripped them up and could not stop itself,” Caro May tells Scary Mommy.
Caro May definitely had her fair share of difficulties following the birth of her first daughter. She had a thyroid imbalance that took months to be recognized and get treated. A traumatic vacuum birth resulted in pelvic dysfunction and severe bladder incontinence for Caro May, which meant that she had to wear pads everywhere she went because her bladder was constantly leaking.
“It was emotionally and physically debilitating,” says Caro May, of the bladder incontinence. “It’s like having your period every single day and having to remember whether you have a pad in your bag. I stopped wanting to go on hikes with friends. I wore clothes that would hide my body; I became self-conscious and worried that I smelled like urine. I felt untouchable, even for hugs by friends.”
And yet, as Caro May tells Scary Mommy, so many women experience intense physical changes like these after birth, and no one seems to talk about that.
These bodily changes and hormone imbalances—coupled with extreme sleep deprivation, identity adjustments, and relationship stresses—left Caro May feeling enraged for a great deal of her postpartum period. “My anger about it was a giant monster,” she tells Scary Mommy.
And while Caro May’s story may not be everyone’s story exactly, so many of us can relate to the feeling that new motherhood hit us like a ton of bricks, and that we were gravely unprepared for that, as well as everything that came next.
“I think the postpartum period along with sleep deprivation magnifies what women already inherently feel before children. Every person has a tendency toward some emotion when s/he is out of balance,” says Caro May. “For me, it was anger, and the grief beneath that anger masks.”
So what can we do about all this? How can we move through these intense feelings, get professional help if we need it—and most of all, recognize that these feelings are valid, however intense and out-of-control they may seem? For so many of us, there is a feeling of not being able to talk about the anxiety, depression, and rage that mark the postpartum period—like there just isn’t a space in our everyday conversations, daily life, or culture for it.
Caro May—who is a true heroine for being able to give voice to these feelings in her compelling, brutally honest book—has some thoughts about how we can all begin to contribute to the conversation.
“We open up the conversation exactly like this: with interviews, more press around these issues, more events, more art made about it,” she tells Scary Mommy. “It’s the only way. The powers that be and the current societal structure we live in is never going to say, ‘Oh dear women, please tell me about your experiences?’”
They sure as hell won’t. It’s in our hands, women.
And if 2018 and the current political climate has taught us anything, it’s that now is the time to give voice to all of our feelings—as women, as mothers, and as the strong, righteous members of society we truly are.
“When one woman speaks her truth, 10,000 or more other women are called to do the same,” says Caro May. “Now, in the media, we are seeing the phrase ‘female rage; all over the place, as women come out with their sexual assault stories. The phrase is becoming more common and that opens the doors for normalcy. If someone sees that phrase enough times, it becomes (in that person’s brain) this real thing that exists in the female experience and then—boom—there is space for more conversation about it.”
Amen to that.
I don’t know about you, but I AM READY. I am ready for all women to come forth and speak their truths, however raw, angry, and ferocious they look. There is no need to apologize. There is no need to sugar coat. The only way we to get through it is with support, and we have to tell our stories to achieve that.
And for you new mamas out there: your feelings are real. It is as harrowing, exhausting, and enraging as you think it is. But you’ve got this. And those of us who have been through it and gotten to the other side are here for you. You deserve to be cared for, listened to. But most all, your feelings—even the darkest, loudest, most intense ones—are valid, real, and more common than you realize.
You are not alone, and it’s going to be okay.
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