I didn’t want to tell my Mom I had postpartum depression. I knew I needed to share my diagnosis , for many reasons. I wanted to explain that who I had been the last year wasn’t who I wanted to be. That there was an underlying issue. Not to make excuses for myself but to offer an explanation. It’s just not a fun conversation to have.
I also needed to apologize, to try to make things right with the people I loved. Not for having postpartum depression, but for how my behavior had caused pain. Impatience, irritability, and rage are all symptoms of PPD and not usually part of my personality. In the year after Little Darcy was born, however, my mother was often on the receiving end of my wrath. I remember innocuous phone calls that started with conversations around dinner plans that ended with me visibly shaking, furious. I don’t think I spoke that way to my mom even when I was in high school, at the height of puberty as she started menopause.
I needed to tell my Mom I was sorry for how I treated her, that I love and respect her and should never have taken my frustrations out on her.
But I didn’t want to tell her about the PPD.
Not because I didn’t think she’d be supportive. Not because I was worried about her reaction. Because my Mom is Super Mom.
When my therapist asked me to describe my childhood in a word or two, I answered “charmed.” Both of my parents worked tremendously hard to give my sister and I time to be little, to explore, to wonder, to learn, to play. My girlhood was untouched by cancer, car accidents, divorce. It was filled with family campfires, music lessons, Pinterest-worthy birthdays before Pinterest even existed. My Mom balanced her marriage, a marketing career, book club, our home, volunteering, and so much more—all while showing my sister and I that we were her top priority.
I remember one Girl Scout tea party when my Mom was twenty minutes late—she had been at a visitation for someone I didn’t know and I was devastated that she had missed seeing me play Fur Elise for the thousandth time. I only remember that incident because it was unique. Every other time, she was there. Always early, usually with brownies.
My Mom and I look a lot alike. We act a lot alike. We answer the phone the same way and hang up with the same lilt in our “bye.” We both like order and routine. We’ve been known to dress in the same outfit. We’re people pleasers. We did well in high school, salutatorian and valedictorian of our classes. We graduated with our bachelors degrees, despite abandoning our first college campuses after the first year. We have the same freckle in between the same toes on our left foot.
You get the idea.
I always thought that I would be the kind of mom my Mom is—only a little better, because I had her to learn from. How could I not be like my Mom, when we both had our babies 3 ½ weeks before they were due?
At that point, admitting I had PPD still felt like I had failed. Telling my Mom meant I had to be honest just how hard this super mom-thing was for me, that I had been desperately acting the part and that I couldn’t do it.
Still. I told her. And I apologized. I don’t know how I thought she’d react, but I was unprepared for her response. She was able to put into words exactly what I had been feeling: disappointed, because I had this precious, healthy baby and I was still unhappy. Guilty, because I had a supportive, involved husband and I still couldn’t “get it together.” In a fog. Basically, everything I described in the post Thriving or Surviving?
In the conversations we’ve had since, my Mom and I have come to realize that we’re alike in this, too. Only she didn’t get a diagnosis and treatment. She pushed through and did the best she could, with the support of my Dad and our extensive extended family.
Realizing my Mom wasn’t Super Mom was a relief. It took away the pressure I felt—my Mom had been through this, and our childhoods still had a fairy-tale quality to them. I could be a good mom, even if I was a mom with PPD. I just needed my own Mama to show me that.
Have you ever put off telling someone something and it ended up being a positive experience? Would you share this diagnosis with others? Comment below!