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Why are new parents depressed?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Forest, Jul 10, 2014.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    The other morning I heard a terrific radio program about new research regarding the prevalence of depression among new parents. I think that we all know that parenting an infant can be both one of life's most glorious experiences but also one of its most stressful. Via the mind-body connection, it can therefore be a tremendous source of physical and emotional symptoms.

    The host writes, “New parenthood, new babies, come with love and cooing and lots of joy. They can also, for more parents than you might think, come with real psychological challenges.”

    You can listen to it online or download an MP3 here:

    They also recommend the following excellent articles on the subject. Good stuff.

    The Atlantic: How to Enjoy the Often Exhausting, Depressing Role of Parenthood – “Because of all the work and exhaustion that accompany parenthood, it can bring a rise in depression as much as a boost in happiness. A number of studies have found that people are not only less happy after having children, compared to their pre-child levels, they are less happy than their childless counterparts.”

    New York Times: ‘Thinking of Ways to Harm Her’ — “Postpartum depression isn’t always postpartum. It isn’t even always depression. A fast-growing body of research is changing the very definition of maternal mental illness, showing that it is more common and varied than previously thought.”

    New York Magazine: All Joy and No Fun — “From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.”
    Ellen likes this.
  2. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    Feelings of anxiety are often described as a trapped feeling, the perception of being in a place of no escape. I believe there is a moment when the new mother realizes that for the most part she is the sole protector of that helpless new human who depends on her for his very existence. He becomes her "second skin" so to speak. It's not that she doesn't love her precious new lamb but perhaps unconsciously thinks of possible crises and that she would have total responsibility for the safety of the child in case of emergency. Not only are the hormones unscrambling but she is most likely very sleep deprived. Dr. Hanscom puts a strong emphasis on sleep deprivation being a contributor to a central nervous system malfunction.
    Ellen likes this.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Important topic. Thanks Forest.

    And for those of us with TMS personalities of perfectionism, goodism, and our own issues from childhood, parenting is especially stressful emotionally and physically. That first year with my son was the most difficult for me by far.
    Forest likes this.
  4. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    And the arrival of a new child is subconsciously perceived as a threat to our inner child. If we took care of ourselves until childbirth, we start feeling like our own needs should matter less from now on, and this will go on for like 20 years at least... Anything else and we're judged selfish. The're too much social pressure on new parents these days, without a support of extended families and community as was normal in the past. But childfree people are considered even more selfish, so no escape there.
    BruceMC and Ellen like this.
  5. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think everyone hurts because everyone lives by themselves now. Years ago, a house held
    grandparents, parents, children, even aunts and uncles. There was a feeling of family.
    Now everyone lives in different houses, cities, parts of the country or the world.
    Everyone is on their own. No wonder we feel abandoned or lonely. Phones and email
    and Facebook can't compare with family living together. That also can cause problems,
    of course. Relationship problems. But then we learn to all get along, hopefully.

    New parents could benefit from help from their parents and grandparents, also hopefully.
    North Star likes this.
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    I would have given my eye teeth for a supportive family member or two. I spent many days so completely overwhelmed it wasn't even funny. What would make matters worse were the rare time that hubby's parent would drop by and comment about how when they were young parents, they were on their own. (Hint, hint, - tough shit, we're not going to help.) The inconsistency of their stories though made us question….every weekend, they went home to their parents where the grandparents watched my hubby and his siblings.

    Yeah, I dealt with a lot of depression during those early parenting years. Don't miss those days at all! When our kids have kids, we WILL be available to them.
  7. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    I am so WARNING you all -- DO NOT READ THIS POST. I'm not kidding. If you read this post you may very well regret it. The only people who (perhaps) might want to read this post are those who are determined to dig up their psychological weeds by the roots and toss them on the nearest compost pile to wither and die. Even you, brave souls that you are, may regret reading this post... Got it?

    Today, one of our lambs (a little ram, very cute but getting more opinionated and domineering every day) REALLY pushed our buttons. We put up with him for hours while he repeatedly escaped from his pen (we call him Houdini), head butted the dog, chased the chickens, knocked open the gate and sprung the other sheep, and came to the door screaming his little head off, bellowing his demands for grain (yes, the only way to get him back in the pen is bribery, otherwise forget it). This went on without a break from 5 a.m. until around 2 in the afternoon. We put him back a dozen times, secured the fence, he broke out--over and over and over again. This was clearly the first day of the rest of our lives.

    So, (warning: here's the bad part) we shot him in the head, skinned him, gutted him, and have just finished eating his liver. It was delicious.

    And here's the analogy: my animals are, in a sense, my babies. I love them, care for them, enjoy giving them the best possible life. Then, when I've had enough of them, I eat them. Can't do that with children, obviously. Hence the :banghead: , the dawning awareness that there is no way out for at least 20 years, the onset of denial, and "Hey, why am I depressed? My life is perfect."

    I agree that extended family is at least a good part of the answer. If we could have called a lamb auntie and gone off to town for two nights in a jacuzzi suite that lamb might still be with us.

    tarala likes this.
  8. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Njoy….that was a GREAT post! Great analogy. Here's my dark confession.

    I remember, before kids….you know, when I was a parenting expert? my opinions on child abusers. Those evil, evil people! How COULD they?

    After countless sleepless nights with a colicky baby and constant demands….I understood how some people can abuse a child.

    Yes, I understand now. The exhaustion and frustration are unlike any other experience. And I had a loving spouse and supportive friends. I can't imagine being a parent, especially a single parent, with limited resources.

    I'm glad I had enough wits about me that I knew to leave a room when I was hitting my boiling point and never hit my kids in anger. (Well, maybe a cuff up the backside of the head here and there. ;) )

    Ah. Wonderful, horrible, messy and glorious life….
  9. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Indeed, it is, North Star. I am wildly sympathetic with both kids and parents in these desperate situations. I do think that the problem is how far we've strayed from "it takes a village to raise a child". Some pre-industrial societies seem to do it quite well. Kids playing in a jungle clearing while grandma dozes in the sunshine and the parents are off hunting and gathering with their friends. Perfect life! You lose the occasional kid to jaguars but, hey, what can be done about that? Oh right, we can keep them safely indoors playing video games. Blech!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2014
    North Star likes this.
  10. blake

    blake Well known member

    Really enjoyed reading these comments. I find this type of honesty liberating!
    Thank goodness for this forum!
    North Star likes this.
  11. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I guess I missed a lot by not being a parent. I have a big new respect for you folks who had children.
    I've had a few dogs that weren't behaving quite as I hoped, but that's as close as I've come to being a parent.
    Even that was challenging. haha
    North Star and tarala like this.
  12. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    Although I am very interested in this topic I don't have the courage right now to read this articles or to listen to the poadcasts. My mother got very anxious and depressed during pregnancy with me. She really was overwhelmed and thought she would be a bad mother, not responsible enough and so on. Four weeks after my birth she comitted suicide, she jumped out of the window. I guess that was the beginning of my TMS-career. I stood in hospital for months. Even today I am left with chronic feelings of guilt and grief just for "being there". There's always a feeling if somebody just had died and I am alone forever. I guess my father hated me because in his eyes it was my fault. He let me know every single day.
    I don't know if this feeling of abondonment and rejection will ever vanish....does not seem so. Unfortunalely I also lost my aunt who rose me until I was 11 months old what was very re-traumatizing to a young child.
    So every time when it comes to a situation of abandonment (loss of a pet, a relative, a friend) my TMS is skyrocketing. I have a very loving husband and supporting therapist and lovely friends. So I hope, over time, I can "counteract" my old experiences with better ones. But it's deeply ingrained.
    This probably was a bit off topic, sorry.
    North Star likes this.
  13. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well, not to belabor the obvious, but in a new birth, there is an implicit message about one's own mortality - personally threatening things like growing old and dying. Same implicit messages turn up again when their kids reach puberty, which threatens to knock the parents off the top of the pyramid of dominance. But once you have a kid, you just can't go on being an adolescent child of the universe forever. Shucks!

    Remember that Greek myth where the old god Chronos devours his own children? That's one time-honored way out of the dilemma - infanticide. But didn't the Olympians come back and kill the old gods that were their parents? A so it goes . . . on and on and on.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2014
    North Star likes this.
  14. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    {{{{Birdie}}}} That is one of the saddest beginnings anyone could have. It sounds like your mother was suffering from extreme anxiety, depression or another more complex mental illness. This was not your fault. Your father sounds like he couldn't deal with the grief. It may have been easier for him to express anger at you but grief is no excuse for emotionally abusing you. It was not your fault.

    I have been told and have read that if we did not have secure attachments as babies we spend our lives unconsciously seeking the attachment we were originally denied. You are fortunate that you have a loving husband and supportive friends. Take strength from them.

    Sending you peace and happiness.
    North Star, tarala and Ellen like this.
  15. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Birdie, I am so sorry to hear what happened to you. Not off topic at all. We are here to share and work things out, to whatever extent we can. It is great to hear you have so much support, now, from your husband, therapist and friends. The best thing is that you are able to appreciate that help. That's impressive. I had a dear friend who had a similar history. First, his mother gave him away (age six months) to a relative he called "fat aunty" (very lovingly!), then she took him back at age two, then she dropped him off at an orphanage at age five and he thought he'd never see her again, then she picked him up again two years later. In between all these traumas, his life was pure chaos on a scale that is almost unbelievable. He finally married a lovely lady (fourth marriage) who simply took good care of him emotionally for the rest of his life. This allowed him to make good use of the resources he had available (Jon Lee books and tapes were among them). Still, he didn't entirely recover. I would be surprised if anyone did. But he did become a truly great human being. One of the very best I've ever known, that's for sure.

    Like a lot of people on this forum, I believe there is something going on that makes this existence meaningful. A reason why the Universe (God, the Creator, whatever you like) sets us up for certain lessons. I was an atheist at one time but after a couple of years it stopped adding up for me. Hard to explain why but it gradually dawned on me that the time had come to start exploring the mysteries of life, not just denying their possibility.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. I've experienced three deaths in my animal family in the past 24 hours. One was my doing (we murdered a lamb), then my best loved doggie died very unexpectedly, then a fox got one of my lovely chickens. I am reeling, at the moment, with sadness. I was a kid who prayed every day that my parents would die but they didn't. I can't imagine the sorrow you have experienced.
    North Star likes this.
  16. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Walt, yes you missed a lot. Smarter than me, for sure. I had two babies in diapers at one time. I was 21, almost feral, unbonded to any human being, yah -- I was a great mom, I was. Not! Like my mother before me, I kept them clean, fed them, and said I loved them even though I had no idea what that meant.

    I have a friend who thinks she may have missed out by not having children but she has channeled all that talent (and she has plenty) into an extraordinary life as a helper. I think the world is lucky she did that.

    Bruce, how could you?! You've shattered my life's dream by saying "you just can't go on being an adolescent child of the universe forever". No! Bad, bad, Bruce! fingersinears ;)
    North Star likes this.
  17. Birdie

    Birdie Peer Supporter

    yb44, what came immediately into my mind when I read this was "I do have an attachment, I am attached to my pain, haha". But what seems to be one of my typical farcetious statments maybe contains a grain of truth?

    Njoy, that's what I belive, too. And sometimes the only thing that gives me some hope when I am overwhelmed with live. I am so sorry to hear you lost some of your pets :(
    Sounds if you really had a rough time, too. A child who wants his parents to be dead really must suffer badly.
  18. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, you can, njoy, but then your kids will accuse you of being "irresponsible"! Darned if you, darned if you don't . . .
    North Star likes this.
  19. blake

    blake Well known member

    I can relate to your story Birdie and to your comments, njoy.

    My mother did not commit suicide when I was born, but she had severe post-partum depression, which over the years became full-blown psychosis. I have absolutely no memories of her being loving in any way. The best image I have in my mind in that she was a walking dead. That's how it's always felt to me. She was there without being quite there. What I should say is that I,m angry about it. But what I really feel is deep hatred (njoy, I can totally relate to praying for your parents to die - I did that too).

    I started getting tms when my son was about two. And I think part of the reason was realizing what it meant to be a mother and everything I had missed out on by not having one. It's huge never having had someone encourage you in any way or show you compassion. I hurt so much sometimes because I feel so disconnected. I don't know if there is a way to get over pain that starts at birth. But I think njoy is right about the answer having something to do with the spiritual aspect of life.

    Thank you so much for posting your story birdie. I can't tell you how helpful it is to learn I am not alone. And thank you njoy for your wise advice. I,ve read a lot of your posts and you really tell it like it is. Love that!

    Warm regards,
  20. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Well, that's a relief, Bruce. I wouldn't want to get it right, once, and spoil my glorious record.;)

    Birdie, I've had many foster kids over the years and my childhood was no worse and perhaps better than many others, assuming these things can be judged and rated.

    I reacted differently, though. Most of the kids yearned for their parents' love. I must have too because even as a young adult I kept coming back which made no sense at all. But any yearning I might have had was unconscious. In my conscious mind I disliked them, hated them even. I'm sure this was a defence against feelings of rejection, abandonment and self-loathing. It still bothers me to say I might have yearned for my parents' love--I don't want to admit it! Much too vulnerable.

    Update on the animals: we've found ourselves the sweetest puppy. She's an Australian cattle dog, Maremma (sheep guardian dog) cross so she's perfect, in theory. Our surviving older dog won't have one thing to do with poor puppy. The sheep love her but she's scared of them. The chickens are suspicious and unlikely to warm up because of recent encounters with the fox (the little black "dog" wasn't a dog, oops) which has attacked again and injured another chicken. Now I'm worried there might be fox kits but, really, do we need more foxes around here? No, we don't.

    This hobby farm experience is getting way too real.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014

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