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  • Mom Rage: When Crying Over Spilled Milk Is The Only Option

    As a perinatal therapist and as a mom myself, I am grateful to have a career I love, working with amazing parents. I am also fortunate to be surrounded day in and day out with stories of birth trauma, medical trauma, and transitional issues as a new child is brought into the world.

    Fortunate? Yes. That word was used intentionally. I am fortunate to be reminded daily, via clients’ stories, of how the journey into parenthood turns your world upside down. When I am reminded of how complex and humbling the transition is, it keeps my own experiences fresh. It helps me to not minimize the visceral feelings that cloud a new parent’s ability to stay objective.

    Although I could write a whole book about the physical, emotional, and spiritual transition into parenting, I’d like to focus on one main topic for today’s blog since I was inspired by someone’s recent unfortunate incident involving loss of breastmilk.

    That topic is “Mom Rage” and yes, it is a real thing. It is also not irrational. Moms in particular tend to experience this as they go through pregnancy and as they recover in their postpartum period. Mom rage is a combination of sensations. It is rage that erupts from deep within. It is a culmination of grief from coping with feelings of loss of control, anger due to not feeling seen in their struggles, and overstimulation from being both needed all day and not getting their own needs met. You could probably add more to this list if you have experienced it yourself!

    Mom rage can erupt with issues that may seem small or insignificant to an outside observer. My own mom rage also led me down the path of specializing in perinatal issues. I will never forget the first time I spilled my own pumped breastmilk. The angry tears that flowed felt like they came from nowhere and everywhere at once. Like a ruptured dam, a boiling current rushed through me. After breastfeeding and pumping difficulties, I could not believe my own clumsiness caused the spill of this liquid gold. I recall my husband being frozen in place not knowing what to do or how to help. The poor man didn’t know what to do with a newborn and he knew even less about how to handle these new feelings that I couldn’t describe to him. He tried to make light of the situation by saying not to worry, because I can always make more milk. Wrong move. I cried even more. My mother in law who was helping us at the time showed a softness I had never seen before in her. She pulled him away and told him to give me space because “new moms are extra sensitive.” She was right. She didn’t have to use clinical language like we do as therapists. She had the wisdom that can only come from feeling similar experiences. They walked away and closed the door, and I held my baby tight and rocked him in a rocking chair. In retrospect, I think the rocking was more for me than the baby! But I needed that time and space. It gave me time to think, re-frame things, finish crying, and even laugh. I remember thinking, “Oh so this is where that saying of don’t cry over spilled milk comes from.”

    The past, non-mother version of me would also have had trouble fully empathizing with the feeling. But now this blind rage paradoxically helped me see things clearly. Sometimes all you can do is cry. Just like babies cry to get their most basic needs met, new moms crying and letting it out is also a signal to figure out what your needs are. Not everything has to be fixed right away. Being seen and seeing others is invaluable. Learning to give myself grace has helped me give my children grace as well.

    Do I regret that moment of rage? Absolutely not. It opened up a new thought process in my brain that evolved into a specialty in perinatal issues. I was lucky to be a therapist and have self-awareness of what was happening. I was also lucky to have support, even when there were growing pains along the way.

    But I value those visceral feelings that feel so far and yet so near when I am in a session. I am grateful that when my clients come in with their own stories of rage, I can authentically and wholeheartedly say: You are not alone.