The 5 Stages of Postpartum Depression Grief for the Mother I Expected to Be


Getting postpartum depression was sort of like a death for me. It was the death of the perfect and perfectly happy mother I thought I would be when my baby arrived. You’ve seen her countless times on Pinterest boards and in Instagram photos. You’ve heard about her from friends, strangers and celebrities who make motherhood look so easy and tell you it’s the most magical experience, where you feel nothing but overwhelming love, joy and the constant desire to spend every waking minute with your new baby.

You see her posting Facebook videos of herself, hair blown out, face fully made up, carrying her baby in that soft cotton sling every mom seems to own while she simultaneously purees her own baby food, designs the stickers she will use for those adorable monthly picture updates, and preps an organic meal filled with protein and vegetables for her and her husband to eat once she’s had her fill of breastfeeding, bonding and reading time with her little one.

I thought I would be her. I had planned to be her during my whole pregnancy. I thought every mom I knew and followed was like her. Then I became a mom and learned I was nothing like her (it took me a bit longer to realize no mom is like her because she doesn’t exist) and that fairy-tale version of motherhood I sold myself died with her.

Here are the five stages of grief I experienced as I slowly learned to accept my postpartum depression and let go of that perfect and perfectly happy mother I thought I would become.

1. Denial

There is nothing wrong with me. How could something be wrong with me? I have a healthy baby boy. I am healthy. My husband is wonderful and so hands-on. My family takes turns coming to visit and help. We have a baby nurse. My baby is so freaking cute. He is so loved. What could I possibly feel sad about? I’m sure it’s just hormones. Everyone says childbirth throws your hormones out of whack. There is nothing wrong with me. I’m just exhausted. I did just labor for 24 hours, push for two of them, and have a C-section. There is definitely nothing wrong with me. I’m just recovering from major surgery and the sleepless nights. All new moms feel this tired. I’m just overwhelmed because I’m now responsible for the life of another human. I never want to leave the house because it’s nerve-wracking. I don’t want to talk to my friends and meet other moms because I’m too tired. I just have to get used to my new normal. Yes, that’s it. There is definitely nothing wrong. I just need some more sleep and I will feel like myself again.

2. Anger

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME. WHY DON’T I HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THAT ADORABLE BABY IN THE NEXT ROOM? WHY DO I SUCK AT BREASTFEEDING? WHY IS THIS SO EASY FOR EVERY OTHER MOM I KNOW? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY IS EVERYONE ELSE SO GOOD AT MOTHERHOOD? WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE LOVE BEING A MOM? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME I COULD FEEL LIKE THIS? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT HOW HARD THIS WOULD BE? ALL THOSE MOMS ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK ARE LIARS. I HATE YOU PINTEREST FOR MAKING ME FEEL LIKE AN INCOMPETENT FAILURE. WHY DO I WANT TO PUNCH ANYONE WHO TELLS ME TO GO GET MY NAILS DONE AND SIGN UP FOR SOME MOMMY AND ME CLASSES?

3. Bargaining

Please make this anxiety
go away. Please let me sleep past 3 a.m. and not have debilitating anxiety when I wake up. Please give me the courage to leave the house with my new baby. Please stop making me feel like I made a terrible mistake becoming a mom. Please don’t let my husband hate me for putting him through this. Please don’t let my baby know his mother can’t take care of him and doesn’t want to. I will do anything if you make this anxiety stop. I just want to feel normal. I want to be good at motherhood. I want to love being a mom. Just make the anxiety and crying stop. I’ll go through the motions. I’ll put on a happy face. I’ll walk my baby to the park. I’ll sign up for those mommy and me classes. I’ll take medicine. Just make the anxiety and sadness stop. Let me sleep through the night and fall in love with my son. Please…

4. Depression

I can’t get out of bed and I don’t want to. All I want to do is sleep. I can’t stop crying. I walk circles around my neighborhood ugly-crying on the phone to my mom. The baby nurse is still here caring for my son because I can’t. I lie in bed binge-watching “The Good Wife” when I should be bonding with my son. The guilt is overwhelming. It makes me even sadder. Does it even matter? I obviously suck at this whole mom thing anyway. When I’m not sad or crying, I feel indifferent. I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. I still haven’t answered my friends’ texts and emails. I don’t have the energy. I don’t want to talk about my new baby. My OB and mom have mentioned postpartum depression. Is that why I feel like this? I don’t really understand what that is. I was so happy and excited to be a mom during my pregnancy. Now I want to go back to the hospital and be taken care of and not have to take care of a baby. Maybe I’ll get sick or hurt so I can just stay in a hospital bed and sleep.

5. Acceptance

A therapist just diagnosed me with postpartum depression. She explained what that means and pointed out all the risk factors I had before I gave birth. She’s not surprised this is happening to me. She took the blame off me and told me I’m not a failure or a terrible mother. She told me she sees moms like me all the time, that I’m not alone in how I feel. She said words like psychiatrist and antidepressants and that I will get better with the right treatment. I want to know when I will get better. I want to know exactly what to do so I can feel better. She said it doesn’t work like that but I will get better. I don’t really believe her but I feel a bit lighter and I can breathe. I made an appointment for the same time next week. And the week after that…

To feel less alone and connect with other moms who get it and are brave enough to share their struggles, join the MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD Mom Crew and follow @motherhoodundertood.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

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Getty Images photo via kieferpix


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