Why Don’t I Feel Happy

Why Don't I Feel Happy

Looking back, I knew something was wrong.
The signs were definitely there.

It had been 8 weeks since my daughter was born.
I was irritable. I couldn’t think clearly or focus on anything. I was constantly worried about my baby. I felt like I would never be a good mother. I was resentful and felt guilty about it. I had terrible thoughts that someday I might harm my baby or myself and this made me think I was going crazy.

“All I could think of was how ashamed I was that I couldn’t cope.”
S.M., Vancouver

I had been told to watch for signs of the baby blues, which are also called the ‘postpartum blues’. I was told that about 4 out of every 5 mothers (80%) experience the postpartum blues within the first few days after the birth of a baby, but normally, the blues don’t last more than a week or two.

Soon after my daughter was born I had mood swings where I would feel happy one minute and sad the next. I was often anxious and worried that I couldn’t take care of my new baby. I didn’t feel I was good at being a mother. I cried often, but I couldn’t ‘pinpoint’ a reason. I felt disconnected from my partner and I had no interest in sex. I remembered having some of these thoughts when I was pregnant but I thought they would just go away after my baby was born. But they didn’t go away.

“I remember my need to appear to be coping well.  No one knew the extent of my suffering.  I would sit and nurse my baby all day and watch the mess pile up around me.  I felt depressed and immobilized by the growing chaos.  I could not find the time to meet my most basic needs—to eat or have a quick shower.  I was overwhelmed almost all of the time.”
B.B., Whistler

Instead of getting better, I started to feel worse. I worried all the time that my baby would be harmed by something. I stopped wanting to go for walks because I would imagine a car leaping off the road and crashing into the stroller. Sometimes it was so bad that I would get into a panic and my heart would race. I would then have sudden thoughts and pictures in my mind of throwing my baby down the stairs. I was so disturbed by these images and what they meant about me as a mother that it would take me ages to fall asleep at night. My body was so tired but my mind never stopped racing. It was hard to get through a day and do even the simple tasks. I felt completely overwhelmed and alone. I could not imagine ever feeling better.

“I felt trapped.  I felt it extremely difficult to get out of the house.  I felt isolated.  I thought I was the worst mother in the whole world and I felt sorry for my daughter, that she had me for a mother.  I felt she was being cheated out of a good Mum and therefore would have a lousy life.  I come from a dysfunctional family and have lived with the results of that.  It was extremely important for me to be a perfect parent, and provide the perfect family.  In my eyes, I was a failure.”
S.F., North Vancouver

I just had a baby. I should feel happy but I didn’t. I knew my feelings were not normal but I was afraid to talk about them. Growing up, I’d been told that people who had problems coping or had crazy thoughts (like the ones I was having now) was a sign of weakness or a problem with their upbringing.

“I felt so guilty and couldn’t tell anyone.  After all, what kind of a mother was I to even think these thoughts?”
A.C., Richmond

I thought that if I told anyone about them, I’d embarrass those around me. I was also afraid someone would say I was unfit to be a mother and they would take my baby away. I knew I had to do something but I was unsure what to do. I was afraid.


Maria: I had no patience

Maria discusses how her anger and lack of patience was one of the first signs that something was wrong.  To view video with written transcript, click here.

Robin: Pressures of motherhood

Robin discusses the unrealistic pressures that mothers put on themselves to be perfect, and how even those mothers who look like they are succeeding are often struggling in their own way. To view video with written transcript, click here.

Brianna: Motherhood myths

Brianna discusses how the images of a perfect mother seen in the media do not reflect the real life, and how the idea that you “should” be happy all the time is particularly damaging for parents with depression.  To view video with written transcript, click here.

NEXT Is this Depression? Anxiety?