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We need to talk about postpartum rage—and why it happens

As a therapist who does a lot of work with new moms, I am thrilled that awareness is rising about postpartum depression. Women are more informed than ever about what to be on the lookout for after baby arrives: sadness that lasts beyond the first two weeks, difficulty sleeping when baby is sleeping, intrusive thoughts, excessive crying and trouble bonding with baby, just to name a few symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.


But there is one symptom that still receives very little attention: postpartum rage.

What on earth am I talking about when I say “postpartum rage”? I’m talking about overwhelming anger. Anger that is so intense it feels like it shouldn’t even be called just “anger.” The kind that sneaks up on you and before you know it, you are exploding.

It may be prompted by a seemingly minor annoyance—a load of dishes that your partner forgot to start the night before, leaving you without a clean coffee mug in the morning, or a red light when you’re trying to get home with a crying baby in the backseat. Or it may bubble up out of nowhere—your mom calls to ask how your day is going and suddenly you’re screaming about the awful night before and your certainty that tonight will be even worse.

Postpartum rage can be quite unsettling for women struggling with it. One thing that can be helpful is to understand a bit about where the anger is coming from.

To start with, I generally tell moms that I don’t believe that anger is a feeling. I know as a therapist that’s kind of a weird thing for me to say, but let me explain. I believe that anger is a sign post, a big old red flag alerting us to a difficult feeling. A feeling that we really, really don’t want to feel or deal with, so we push it away and “feel” anger instead. The more intense the anger, the more intense the underlying feeling.

In the case of postpartum rage, I often find that the anger is alerting us to feelings of being overwhelmed, resentment at not being appreciated or acknowledged by those close to us, isolation from our usual social supports, uncertainty about acclimating to our new life as a mom, and guilt related to our perceived failures in mothering.

Whatever prompts it to appear, postpartum rage generally comes with a sense of being out of control of your anger. It just doesn’t feel like you, but you feel powerless to control it. In fact, you’ve tried to get a handle on it and you just can’t. No amount of deep breathing is getting you out of this one.

So what can you do?

First, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. This is actually a rather common symptom of postpartum depression and anxiety, but one that very few women talk about. It seems safer to talk about the feelings of sadness than the acts of anger. Everyone expects a new mom to be weepy and overwhelmed. They don’t typically expect her to drop f-bombs and scream when things don’t go as planned. So even though you may not have heard of other moms struggling with postpartum rage, let me assure you they are out there. Lots of them.

Next, it’s important to assess if you have other symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. If you do, or you’re unsure if you do, it’s important to reach out for help. You don’t need to suffer through this alone. Your OB, midwife, primary care physician or therapist would all be great places to start exploring options.

It can also be helpful to begin tracking your episodes of postpartum rage. Where were you? What was happening? Who were you with? What time of day? How tired were you? How were you feeling? If you can begin to notice a pattern, or situations that tend to bring out the rage, it can help to clue you in to what the underlying issues are that are being expressed in your anger.

I also encourage all new moms suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, but particularly those with postpartum rage, to find ways to reconnect with their bodies so that they can start to become attuned again to the messages our bodies send us about our needs.

Our bodies are remarkably skilled at telling us what’s going on. Muscle tension alerts us to stress we had overlooked. Increased heart rate can tell us that a situation is starting to get overwhelming for us. A general feeling of weariness clues us in that it’s time to prioritize rest.

But in the craziness of new motherhood, we often lose touch with ourselves and therefore we miss out on these important signals. If you can get in touch with these signals, they can help give you notice that you’re getting stressed so you can employ coping skills—and ask for help!— to get back on track before things get too overwhelming.

Bottom line: postpartum rage affects many, many, many new moms. You are not the only one out there losing her you-know-what on a regular basis. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or something you just have to deal with. There are lots of treatment options if you’re able to take that first step and let someone know you’re struggling. Reaching out is scary, but it’s worth it.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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