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Pride and Postpartum Depression

depressionMy husband married a woman who had the ability to laugh things off, to be spontaneous, to work hard and get ‘er done.

And then I got pregnant, had a baby, got pregnant, had a baby, and so on five times in a row. My five kids are aged 5, 4, 3, and 1 year old and two months old. For six years the woman my husband married has been gone. Instead I have been exhausted, grouchy, and nauseous. I have also been quick-tempered, irrational, irate, demanding, and annoyed.

I would talk to my husband about how I knew I needed help but then I would do nothing. I wouldn’t tell our family doctor or my midwife. I refused to pick up the phone and make a call where I would have to admit that this problem was beyond my control, that I was beyond my control. Because of my stupid, selfish pride my whole family suffered. For five long years they had to live with a ticking time bomb, never knowing what would set me off.

Something finally happened this past August – a line was finally crossed – and I knew that it was time I had to do something.  There was no more pride, I was ashamed of myself for allowing it to come to that point, and in my shame I contacted my midwife who promptly started me on medication. I also took a look at my days, identified the times and situations that triggered my anger, and sent an email out to friends asking them to spend 9am – 1pm with me so I was never home alone with the children.  It looked like playdates or special visits from grandma to my kids but it allowed me to nap, clean and organize my house after our newborn’s arrival, and to chill. It’s embarrassing to say that I needed a buffer between me and my kids for a few weeks but until I acclimated to the medicine it really was for the best.

Earlier this week my husband called home from work and asked if he could play racquetball with a coworker that evening. Without hesitation I cheerfully said “yes”. Last month I would have said “yes” like a martyr. Yesterday my one year old poured graham cracker filled  water from a cup to her plate to the dining room table and instead of yelling like a maniac I laughed, wiped her hands and the table, and redirected her. Life is so much better in our home now because it seems the saying is true, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”

I shared with my blog readers I had postpartum depression and since then many have contacted me to say that they too have had or are currently struggling with PPD. To them and anyone else who may be reading that has PPD I want to say this:

Don’t do what I did. Don’t make your family suffer. Enjoy your motherhood, your marriage, your home life. Set your pride aside and get help now before you have nothing to be proud of.

May the Lord bless us all today. Amen.


Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have five children: one in Heaven and four more wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She was a cofounder of The Behold Conference and she blogs at A Knotted Life.
Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have five children: one in Heaven and four more wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She was a cofounder of The Behold Conference and she blogs at A Knotted Life. - See more at: http://www.ignitumtoday.com/2013/09/13/pride-and-postpartum-depression/#sthash.TJxfGEOw.dpuf

  • 6SoulsN7yrs

    Beautifully said. Thank you for this. God Bless you and your family.

  • catherine

    I have 2 daughters- 7 years and 7 months. Since having my second baby I’ve felt overwhelmed and totally incapable of taking care of my whole family. My house is always a mess and I go off at my husband and I truly don’t know if I’m being crazy or if he’s just being insensitive and causing me to act crazy. I don’t feel sad for no reason or have dangerous thoughts; I just feel buried by all of my responsibilities and demoralized and alone. Just want insight from another catholic mama open to life.

    • TK

      Hi, Catherine. I have nine kids and have had post-partum depression as well as what you’re describing. I think it’s very normal. A lot of it depends on temperament and personality. (I say that because some people just don’t get it.) I’m in my mid-40’s and my youngest is 3 now. We may be done having babies, but maybe not. :0)

      A lot of factors are likely contributing to your stress. One thing I know for sure is that your husband is incapable of “causing” you to act crazy–or act in any manner. Only you have any real control over your emotions and behavior. It’s a matter of self discipline, and if you’re like me and were raised by people who were raving maniacs when they got upset, you have a new skill set to learn. :0) Your marriage is absolutely your greatest resource in overcoming the hardships you’ve described. You need to work to maximize it. What’s likely happening is that you’re allowing your negative emotions to vent in the direction that seems safest–toward the only person in the world who has vowed to love you no matter what. It’s not a conscious decision we make, but it happens this way as a default way too often.

      My advice is that you find an online support group of Catholic moms. I’ve used support groups online and it something you can do any hour of the day from the privacy of your home. It’s free and anonymous. Just be sure to find one that’s populated by good, Catholic women. I’ve been in some that I needed to leave. Also, once you’ve participated for a while, you’ll know who to ignore. :0)

      I also recommend that you begin to consider seeing a therapist for talk therapy. There are probably some things stressing you that have been with you a very long time. They’re so much part of your life’s emotional background scenery that you can’t identify them as problematic. Also, there are very likely some communication skills you can learn to make life a less stressful.

      One little skill that helped me was when I felt myself ramping up was giving my feelings words. (I learned this in therapy.) For instance, “I feel really overwhelmed right now because it’s bed time, the baby is dirty, the first grader won’t get ready for bed, the dishes need to be washed, and I’m missing Downton Abbey again! I feel angry because I feel my husband should be helping me more. I wish he would understand that I need his help.” See? Not as simple as it sounds in the heat of the moment. It can give you clarity and it’s also a healthier way to vent some emotion than getting aggressive against your husband. Basic words for expressing emotion are: sad, mad, glad, or scared. Use those to begin with and get more sophisticated as your practice.

      It’s very hard raising children. Try to take care of yourself and find some support. Once you start moving in the right direction and mastering your emotions as well as becoming your own mental health advocate, things will begin to improve.

      May God bless you.

  • Casey

    I have experienced 5 prenatal depressions and not postpartum back to back for the past six years (I only was healthy for my first child). We have been overseas missionaries for all of those six years which adds to the stress and difficulty in healing. I know I struggled with pride and just plain ignorance for a while, but now I struggle with fear. I am not sure if I am really improving. I fight hard for the basics like sleep, healthy diet, vitamins, exercise, etc. I am so afraid of not getting better yet so afraid to go on medication as I live in a tiny village in Cambodia where I cannot receive medical care. I really thought I was the only one who had experienced so many multiple depressions. it is good to know I am not alone. I am so tempted to ask my husband to get a vasectomy so we never have to go through this again. I am afraid we are going to lose our job (which means our entire life – our home, work, and country) if I cannot beat this… Prayers are appreciated.