Congratulations on the new baby! Are you suicidal?

by Janelle Hanchett

So a lot of people I know are having babies for the first time. And that got me thinking about the somewhat odd first conversation I often have with first-time moms…”Congratulations! Are you suicidal?”

Okay so I don’t exactly ask that directly. But I almost do.

And here’s why.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was 22 years old, a senior in college, very, very wild, and very very not ready to be a mother. I had the kid because I loved the father  (and by golly I still do) and I didn’t realize how immature I was, because I was immature. All immature people think they’re mature. Bit of a vicious cycle really.

I mean I think that’s why I had her. I don’t really know why exactly. The alternatives just didn’t feel right.

So I began the journey and holy shit was I pissed.

And elated.

And pissed again.

You can read about all that fun here.

So when she finally came out things got a little bit funky. I loved her instantly – would have laid down my life for her the day she was born – could never imagine my life without her. But I was also R.A.G.I.N.G inside, at times. Or at the same time. Concurrently.

It’s really freaking weird. That postpartum depression thing is whack (to use the medical term).

I didn’t know what was happening and nobody mentioned it and I got sicker and sicker. I got so sick I thought if I told the doctor how I was feeling, the doctor would take my baby away. Those were some of the saddest days of my life. Terrifying.

Yep, people, that’s the way it rolled for me.

And then one day my toddler baby daughter cried and cried and wouldn’t sleep and I couldn’t take it one more moment and all those days of sorrow and insanity exploded inside me and I pinched her on the leg in anger. Then I fell to the ground with her in my arms, weeping and begging her to forgive me, realizing in that moment she would probably be better off somewhere else. I had intentionally hurt my baby and I didn’t care if the doctor took her away. (Incidentally, it didn’t even leave a mark on her. But it left a mark on me.)

So I went to the doctor and the doctor said “no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” No, she didn’t. She said “here’s some Zoloft. Take one a day and call me in a month. You have borderline postpartum psychosis but you’ll be fine.”

So I took the pills and I got much better and I survived. The end.

But…given this joyous history, I feel compelled when my friends or even semi-close acquaintances have a baby for the first time (because that first time motherhood is really somethin’) to talk about THEM, as individuals. How are YOU? I can see the baby is fabuloso. But you. Do you want to shoot yourself in the head? Are you wondering when your body is going to go back to normal? Are you searching for your identity?

Are you fucking flipping out?

Because in my case, I felt guilty and insane to have the feelings I had – everybody kept talking about how lucky I was and blessed and whatever – and what am I supposed to say? “Yeah, actually I’m drinking a 1/5 of vodka every night to cover up the fact that I’m really not digging this motherhood thing and if I had my way I’d be shooting pool shit-faced at the pub whilst smoking cigarettes and flirting with my man, as opposed to sitting here at this goddamned mother’s group talking about spit-up and nap schedules and tummy time with a bunch of overjoyed women I can’t relate to and who intimidate the hell outta me because they appear to have been blessed with the mothering gene that I am, obviously, lacking.”

No, I wouldn’t say that.

I’d smile and nod and act okay.

And get sicker and sicker and sicker, alone.

Because nobody talks much about how it sometimes effing BITES to have a kid for the first time. Nobody talks about the death that occurs with the entrance of this new life.


Yeah, I said it. Death.

And if you’re a mother, you know exactly who dies. The old you. The woman you’ve been your whole life. The identity you’ve nurtured and cradled. Your individuality (to an extent). Your freedom (to an extent).

You are a mother now. You live, all the time, just a little, for that baby. Even when you’re not with them, you’re with them. You may be at work. You may be at school. You may be 10,000 miles away.

But you are not alone. That baby is still with you. Your life is not your own anymore. Not entirely.

No matter where you go, you are tied. Forever. Forever.

Suddenly and completely and irrevocably.

And that, my friends, is fucking intense. No matter how “prepared” you are.

Don’t you think?

So we say goodbye to our old selves. The women we were. The little girl who became a teen who became a woman and then, a mother.  Never the same. It takes a little getting used to.

And it’s okay. It’s all exactly as it should be.

But some of us aren’t quite ready for that change.

I wasn’t.

I remember thinking I had ruined my life. Thrown it away. I wished I could just go back to my old body and my old life and my old existence. My old state of being. Selfish? Yes. Immature? Yes. But real. And serious. And true.

So I mention it to my friends. To give them an out, a window of opportunity – a chance to say “holy fuck what did I sign up for? I’m dying here.”

And I’ll understand.

And that time I spent in silence and pain and despair can be put to some good use.

Because in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not one single bit of it.

Plus, I had two more, so it can’t be that bad. In fact, it can be downright lovely. And that’s the real message.


  • jess

    Ridiculously well said, as usual.

    I had ppd with all my babies. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t cry. I was angry. A heinous, righteous, psychotic bitch. Zoloft is my magic medication too, and so with this last kid I had that shit in my cabinet before I hit the 35 week mark.

    Awesome post. Spot on, really.

  • Lisa

    So once again I am writing to say thank you. . . thank you. . . thank you. . .

    In our society women aren’t allowed to talk about anything but the happy thoughts when it comes to their new baby . . their “bundle of joy,” their “precious little boy/girl”. . . we just aren’t supposed to have any other feelings.

    And if we do, we better keep them to ourselves, we are SO lucky if we have one great girlfriend, sister, or MAYBE a mother we could admit them to in our darkest hour and still not get locked up. . .

    I don’t think any of us were TRULY ready. . . I have wanted a baby for a very, very long time. At 31 when I finally got pregnant I thought I was going to die of sadness if it never happened. My husband felt the same but never would have admitted it to me. I have always felt I was meant to be a mother, to love, to teach, to watch him/her grow. . . I knew my parents had a rough time with me but I felt ready for it.

    Then, when she was finally born, I was exhausted and felt nearly psychotic by the time I finally got out of the hospital (I had ended up being induced with Pitocin when I was not really in labor a day and a half after my water broke, but opted out of the edipdural ‘cuz I guess I love pain). I had had only a few hours sleep in the preceding three days and had no idea how to sleep while watching my little one. My hubby was also wiped and I hated him for sleeping peacefully on the pull-out while I held her, but wouldn’t give her over unless I knew he was awake enough to really care for her. The hospital staff was in our room like every 5 minutes doing something, needing some vitals or form signed or some bullshit and I could hardly keep them out long enough to have a few minutes to figure out how to nurse her. At home, I thought I was superwoman, that I could magically care for my little one and myself and refused offers from my Mom and friends to come over and watch her so I could take a break. I just wanted time, given time with her I knew I could figure it out. My husband was working 2 jobs and had to go back to work after 3 days. . . I got mastitis and ended up in the ER when she was 4 days old realizing I JUST COULDN’T DO IT ALL. The baby got colicky and I didn’t sleep but a few hours a night for 5 weeks. Even after the colic passed she was a horrible sleeper and would hardly sleep but 15 minutes at a time unless I held her. Then my husband got all bitchy on me because he said I was “always angry” and “didn’t seem like I was enjoying the baby that much.” Yes he is still alive but it was a pretty close call.

    Sometime during those first 6 weeks I began reading this book, “Laughter and Tears: The emotional life of new mothers” (Bing & Colman). And it damn near saved my life. No, really, mine and definitely my husband’s. I realized, although nobody had ever been willing to tell me this, that I was NOT alone. I was NOT the only mother to groan and roll over and cover her ears for a minute when the baby woke up for the 7th time in 5 hours (I am not exaggerating). I started attending a Mommy group where some of the other mothers DID allow themselves to vent a bit. I tried it out, and I liked it. . . mind you I never said ALL of the things I was feeling. . . (you know the thoughts I am talking about). . . I started reading blogs like yours. I talked to my Sis and gave her the real deal since I knew she would listen. And she did

    And now I know exactly what you are talking about. When I talk to a new mother, I am prepared for stories of joy, umpteen billion pictures of their 5-day-old, and something else. I am prepared to close the door and tell them “it’s okay if you are having a shitty day with your baby and will never figure this mothering thing out. Someday, you will figure it out well enough. Some day, the baby will sleep through the night. Some day, you will be “ok” with the new you. . . until then if you need to bitch just give me a call. I will probably be bitching too.”

    And I often do 😛

    The punchline is, my poor Sis got pregnant. . with HER first. . . when mine was a month old, and I felt horrible for telling it like it is. . . but whaddya know, even if it shook her entire world, and she sometimes has really shitty days too, at least she was a little more ready for it!!

  • Sara

    When my mom had my oldest brother, it was the beginning of the 70s and still a time period where if you told someone you were sad while holding your newborn baby, they looked at you like you just told them you wanted to eat your arm. She and I have discussed how it affected her, being 21 years old, miles away from her entire family, only married a little over a year to a man who had no clue about children (still doesn’t but now it’s kind of endearing). Oh and my dad was out of the country more than he was in it, traveling for work and her newborn had EXCESSIVE food allergies and couldn’t keep anything down. I can’t believe she went on to do it two more times. Clearly suicidal.

    Husband and I have 1 year and half left in our 4 year plan. It might end up being longer, because I am incredibly selfish. I like my one on one time with Husband, drinking till all hours of the night, spending my extra money on crap I don’t need/will use once like a toddler. When that changes, I’ll take the shovel and save everyone some trouble and dig the hole myself.

  • Kristi

    Thank you for being that person for me who let me freak out for a moment (about a year ago). I will never forget how dark that felt but how good it was to know that someone was there for me.
    So well written!

  • Teresa

    And this is why we are friends.

  • Jennifer

    Perfect post. I had PPD with both my kids and ended up hospitalized. It was literally the worst time in my life when it was supposed to have been the best part of my life. I volunteer in Labor and Delivery these days and I can see e shell shocked look on so many new mothers faces. I want to reach out and tell them it will get better.

  • eringirl

    Women who have multiples are at some ridiculously higher risk of having PPD. I was super sensitive about it happening. In the end it never happened, but there were oodles of other things I felt went unsaid, so many things that women don’t talk about, ways that we fail to support each other. Thank you for saying things that need to be said and supporting women who need to be supported.

  • Momtothree

    Hmm, never did the meds, but looking back, that could’ve helped. When number three was born, the pediatrician did the day 2 checkover on him, and casually asked if I had any health issues while pregnant. I mentioned that I had been on antiobiotics twice for pneumonia and that I had been worried about coughing so much, thinking it had been bad for my son. I was whisked off back to my room while the doctors finished the medical exam, and next thing I knew, I had a box of masks delivered, a special yellow bin and things got weird. Basically, they thought I had TB, and I was put into semi-isolation. Not allowed to wash my baby at the nursery when other mothers were around, required to wear a duck-mask at all times, batteries of blood tests, shots, etc. Add to this a toxic mother-in-law who ran around telling everyone I did have TB, it was my own fault, and that my baby was going to be taken away from me (friends started calling me at the hospital), and the fact that I had two tinies at home WITH HER, it amounted to despair. Dh was a useless d**k, sided with his mother (we’d been sleeping in seperate rooms since he told me he wasn’t ok with the pregnancy, which had been an accident) and I started to feel like I was really on my own with the baby. I had one visit in my room from a psych-nurse who did the rounds. She said something like “I’m sensing a lot of anger here”. No kidding? Turns out I didn’t have TB, I was just run down with the two kids, the housework and a husband who wasn’t helping on any level. On day 6, I put a sign on my door at the hospital saying I really wanted to go home, since the docs wouldn’t give me a straight answer, and I kept telling them I wanted to leave. A nurse came in and told me off, said she thought I was fragile! Even today, I feel like they robbed me of the first week of magical time with my baby. I had difficulty with breastfeeding because of the stress, I was crying a lot. So ppd, well hell yeah, I guess. Thanks for writing about such a sensitive subject. Not even the midwife on the maternity ward was prepared to give me any sympathy, so where do you go for understanding?

  • Alycia

    You are an absolute genius. Thank you for writing what you do. I didn’t have PPD, but it took me a hot minute to completely bond with both of my kids…and they were both planned.

    It made me feel like the most terrible mother in the world that I didn’t see this aura of sunshine and happiness surrounding my kids. I saw sleepless nights, sore nipples from breastfeeding, and babies whose cries made me want to jab sharpened pencils in my ear so I didn’t have to listen to them anymore. Nobody wants to talk about stuff like that at the playgroups.

    Thankfully, I no longer want to jab sharp objects into my head, and the kids are great. Keep writing what you do. There are a lot of us out there who feel the same way, but do not say it so eloquently and with such humor!

    • Lisa

      Alycia – that was the thing that bothered me the most. . . people make you expect that the SECOND your baby appears, you will be fully in love with him/her, and nothing else will matter in the world – pain, fatigue, the sense of not knowing WHAT the hell you are doing, those will all pale in comparison to that instant perfect love. Maybe it happens that way for a lot of women, I don’t know. And when it took me a “hot minute” to fully fall in love with my baby (and yes it DID happen, it happens over and over again every day!) I found myself wondering if I was cut out to be a mother after all. And then the doubt began creeping in elsewhere. . . . it was only when I realized that love happens in its own time, and that my experience is what matters to me, only then did I realize it would be ok.

  • Kateri Von Steal


    This made me laugh and cry a little.

    I completely identify with this post.

    And, even though Emry is 4… I still have those moments of complete anger… of what happened to my life… and than I tell myself to cut it the F out, and do the dishes!

  • Michelle

    So well written. Thankyou for the truth. It is a death…most certainly, not that something else takes it’s place, but you do mourn what you lost for sure. Great post.

  • sarah

    this post deserves a million freaking gold stars! it took me four months to ask for help after my first was born. and actually it was my husband who basically forced me into the doctor’s office and to talk about what was going on. i hate how women are made to feel horrible if they aren’t over the moon in love right from the very second the baby pops out. i basically went through the emotions for about 4.5 months before i really felt anything for my son. i hate saying that now, but it’s true. wouldn’t give him back now for anything, but at first…well, let’s just say it was a difficult time.

    thanks for being a voice of reason!

  • Victoria

    Genius…genius!! I had PPD with my first one…felt like hell, and sometimes I have minutes of reliving those moments when both of my kids push me to the edge. Thank you for giving voice to reality!

  • MomofOne

    Thanks so much. Why don’t people talk about it? I mean, really? You have this beautiful new baby that is so precious, how are you supposed to admit to anyone that you just can’t handle it. Had a really hard time the first few months. Told my doctor I didn’t think I could take care of the baby, “Oh, yes you can. You’re doing fine.” No, seriously…I can not take care of the baby! I made it through…medication, family, friends, and it gets easier. Now,two years later, I look at this little one and think, Oh my god, I love you so much; you are amazing. I want to have another one. But, can I go through it again? How did you have two more and make it through???
    Absolutely love your honesty!

  • Caryl

    I had PPD. Nightmare 101. And a lot of my friends are therapists and nurses. Do you think any of them even picked up on the fact I had PPD even when I told them I wanted to chuck my kid like a football? Nope. Thankfully my doc got it and things went from really shitty to ok to good to ‘back to normal.’ Still have shit days but not like the beginning. New moms need reality, not bull shit. Thanks for telling it like it is.

  • Shar

    I just wanted to tell you that I awarded you with the Versatile Blogger Award!

  • Annie

    Thank you for writing about this.

  • kim

    This post is just another reason why I love you so. Perfect, Janelle.

  • Shan

    Girl, I could have really used this a year ago. Or six months. Whatever. Thank you.

  • Elena

    I cried reading this, because I did die when my daughter was born. As much as I love her there is a little part of me that is pissed that no one sees me anymore as an individual. I sit at playgroups and no one is able to have a conversation that doesn’t involve their children. It is as if I have no other interests apart from the foods my child eats, what words she is saying and what activities she likes to do. It is sad but when people actually look me in the eye and ask how I am doing, I stare blankly back at them because I don’t know how to respond I am so rarely asked that question. Thank you for putting into words what so many women are feeling.

    • MIcaela

      Thanks for this post. I think there needs to be more openness about PPD.

  • Lesley

    Thank you so very much for this.

  • Katie Vyktoriah

    Once again, amazingly fantastic post. I was lucky enough not to suffer with Post Partum Depression, but I spent my entire pregnancy TERRIFIED of doing so. I’ve had several severe issues regarding depression throughout my life (literally since I was a toddler) culminating in being forced into a hospital due to a suicide attempt 6 months before I got pregnant! When I brought up my concerns to the midwife (okay, when my boyfriend brought up HIS concerns to the midwife, which felt like a total betrayal at the time), she said, “Oh it’s okay. If you get depressed, we will put you in the hospital for a few weeks so we can supervise your interaction with the baby and ensure you are fit to parent.” Excuse me?? What? So my options if I am unlucky enough to suffer PPD are: 1/ Admission to hospital against my will or 2/ …..

    I was absolutely gobsmacked. And then when I had the baby, I was obviously overwhelmed, as all new mothers are, by the lack of sleep, constant feeding, recovery from birth, etc. And I was scared to ask for help (even from my boyfriend or my mother) because I was convinced they’d throw me in the hospital immediately.

    ‘Twas horrible!

    But in the end, I calmed the fuck down, realised I wasn’t actually DEPRESSED and thanked my lucky stars for my little man.

    But it definitely made me afraid to say anything regarding how I might be feeling. So it’s nice when other women share their experiences and can make you feel a bit better about your own!

  • Guilt-be-gone

    Thank you for writing this so openly. Nursing has been really painful for me (for the full 9 months I have nursed my daughter). Nursing sessions often ended up with me “throwing” the baby rather harshly to her father or on the bed while scary thoughts of hurting her were crossing (haunting) my mind.

    Just as you say, « It didn’t leave a mark on her. But left a mark on me ». I have beaten myself up really hard for that (even literally in the most psychotic episodes of this story).

    Two years latter, I am quite comfortable in my new identity as a mom. But still, all the guilt I felt at that time made me think I didn’t deserve my wonderful child and shouldn’t be allowed to have other kids.

    Now I realize I am totally rightful in my desire to be a mother again so we are trying for a second one. What I wish to do differently this time (among other things) is to tell the image of the perfect mother breastfeeding in peace with a glorious smile on her face to go fuck herself. If breastfeeding is painful like that again, I’ll quit. It’ll make me sad, but I won’t allow it to make me feel guilty.

  • Sara

    I do the same! I try not to ask about the baby, and ask about the mother instead… What a great friend you are! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Kate

    Thankyou so much for this.

    I recently visited my workplace on an errand with the perpetually cranky bub in tow.
    My coworkers oohed & aahed appropriately & one enthusiastically gushed ‘so are you enjoying it?!’.
    ‘No’ fell out of my mouth before any attempt could possibly have been made to stop it. Not that I would have. Because its the truth.
    I was met with a quiet ‘oh’ & a slightly shocked expression & I instantly felt guilty (again yaaaay) for expressing my feelings of general misanthropy when it comes to my experiences so far of motherhood. Like I should have lied, worn the appropriate strained smile & replied that everything was peachy, every day is a joy & that this is what I was just BORN to do.
    But I’m sick of pretending. It’s shit. Really shit. A lot of the time. I’ve only had one friend, rather conspiratorially at a 1 year old’s birthday party, admit that sometimes caring for a baby is just fucked up. She cut the tired platitudes of ‘it gets better’ and laid it out there that ‘this is now & it sucks hairy ass’.
    And I loved her for it.

  • Serena

    I just want to say thank you so much for your honesty. I am a first time mom to a 4.5 month old daughter, I discovered your blog about 3 months ago & I’ve been slowly reading it from the beginning.

    I always knew I wanted to become a mother and honestly thought it would come to me naturally. Fuck, I was such a naive idiot. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done, from the sleepless nights to the HUGE lifestyle change to the saggy, stretch mark belly.

    Your blog is absolutely amazing. I identify with so many things you talk about and find it so comforting to know I am not alone in my feelings. Again, thank you. You rock.

  • VERA

    Thank you, reading your post helped me in the dark hour..

  • Michelle

    As I write this my daughter is upstairs, wide awake in her crib. I’ve been trying to get her to nap for the past hour and a half, and I want to kill myself.

    I should see a doctor, but I’m scared, and I’m not ready.

    your post was really reassuring to read, and made me feel a lot less horrible. I often talk to my husband during the hard days about how I’m having a hard time mourning the loss of our old lives. And while I’m in love with my child, and don’t think I would trade for a life without her. I hate my life sometimes.

    Thanks for writing such a personal post. I bet that it’s helped a lot of people.

  • Suzanne

    Before I had kids I worked in marketing for a hospital and got to know some of the OB nurses. One of them told me that one day I might get pregnant. And if I did, I might have shocking thoughts –like dropping junior from a balcony. She said if I did, I shouldn’t worry; lots of women go through this, they just rarely talk about it. It is something that is normal and can be dealt with.

    Fast forward a few years. Junior is screaming, I’ve had no sleep. My husband asked me if I enjoyed folding laundry — he assumes so because I am doing it all the time. Motherhood isn’t exactly as I had imagined. And I was ashamed.

    I called my doctor bawling and she says “Oh, Suzanne. I think you might need a happy patch.” That was it. A patch stuck to my butt cheek managed to level out some of my seriously out of control hormones. My life was still upside down, but this helped me deal.

    I often think of Nurse Vicki and I wish she was still in my life so I could thank her. I’ve since learned a lot about Perinatal Mental Health and worked with a group of women to put on a conference on the topic. More work needs to be done, but at least we are talking about it.

    Thanks for your post. Been there.

  • Nokomis

    Man, I wish this had been available for me to read in the depths of my despair. I had full on post partum psychosis, and thank god I had family to take my son for nearly his entire first year while I battled thru horrible psych care and CPS visits from trying to find said psych care.

    In the end, I started supplementing lithium and paid out of pocket for long distance EMDR treatments. I managed to find my way out of it more or less on my own, but if i hadn’t had family to care for my son, I shudder to think what may have happened.

    I stayed silent about it for years.. it wasn’t until my second son, with an entirely different experience, that I realized how dramatically we’d been traumatized. That’s a whole other story.. but it ends with the message that birth rape is a real fuckin thing, and it happens far too frequently.

    But hey – silver lining – the PTSD it left me with qualities me for medical cannabis pretty much everywhere. ????

    We all need to talk more about this shit. Nobody should ever have to face that terror alone. So thank you. Thank you so much.

  • Pissed

    I felt intense rage after my son was born. The newborn stage was magical and surreal for me but it was also painful. Sometimes I felt like taking a knife or my husband’s gun and killing myself. I was under and still an under a lot of pressure. Quite frankly, no one has my back. No women reached out and offered to make me soup or tea, or to watch the baby
    so I could shower or sleep. No one. I thought, “where are all the wise women? Who can help me?!?!” I literally begged my husband for help!
    My husband gave me the hardest fucking time. I literally was back to cooking 3 days postpartum. He was upset that our son had to sleep on my chest the first few weeks of his life. He still holds it over my head. Well I dont give a fuck! Those moments I spent with our baby were so priceless and beautiful to me! It was the only time I experienced true peace.

    Now, I’m not saying it was all bad…however it was so rough for me. I still feel intense rage. Now whenever I see a young girl or woman who is pregnant I will reach out and do anything in my power to make sure she has help.