Motherhood

The Hardest Two Months of My Life

In an effort to be authentic, I’d like to talk about something difficult I went through as a new mother. A year ago, I went though the worst two months I’ve ever experienced. I never mentioned it on the blog. I couldn’t; I was too overwhelmed. But now that a whole year has passed, I want to share my experience with you…

Flashback: Toby was eight months old. It was a chilly January in New York, and we had just had a blissful Christmas vacation. But suddenly I started feeling bad. Out of nowhere, my mind started obsessing and worrying about inconsequential things; I had trouble sleeping (I’d wake up in the night and feel gripped with anxiety and fear); I began feeling very down, like that heavy feeling you get in your chest when you’re sad about something. Why? I had no idea. But I knew it wasn’t good.

Over the next couple weeks, I felt worse and worse. I felt guilty because I had a wonderful baby, a loving husband, and a great life on paper, yet I was inexplicably falling apart. Although I had loved taking care of Toby since he was born eight months before, it suddenly seemed exhausting to look after a child. I dreaded hearing his cries in the morning and having to get out of bed and face the day. I felt utterly overwhelmed and exhausted. Work projects seemed especially intimidating. Even the smallest work decisions seemed like insurmountable obstacles, and I was quickly moved to tears. I felt certain I would disappoint the people I was working with and for.

My self esteem plummeted, and I felt completely overwhelmed. I would read other blogs–Oh Happy Day, Swissmiss–and think, how are these women doing so much? How can they handle everything–job, family, life–and get it all done and seem so happy? What is wrong with me? I wondered.

Through my sad eyes, I read blogs and saw strangers on the street and just assumed everyone had a perfect life. When I told that to Alex, he swore to me that everyone, without exception, had their own true story, their own struggles, their own flaws, worries, concerns; everyone is human. And then he said, “Look at your own blog, after all. People would have no idea that you’re going through this. You come off like you’re handling everything effortlessly.” That was true, I realized. (I mean, look at this post, for example; I was feeling terrible and insecure that day. It’s the type of event I would have normally loved, but instead I felt self-conscious and lame.)

To explain my sadness and worry, I looked at my life and tried to point to something—my career, right? It must be ending, I figured. Everyone would surely stop reading my blog and it would just fade away; people would stop hiring me for projects, and I’d never get work again; I convinced myself of these things. And I was a bad mother—I didn’t know if I was making the right choices about sleep, food, discipline, everything. And I was a bad wife—I was suddenly boring and cried a lot. Alex would get sick of me. My friends would stop hanging out with me, I would be alone from now on, and then how would I fill the endless days? My mind took on crazy scenarios, and life felt so bleak.

When you’re feeling down, you often compartmentalize it, right? You have to get out of bed in the morning, so you try to take a deep breath and get through as much as you can–working, going to dinner with friends, watching TV. You try to put your sadness out of your mind and put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t want these feelings to bleed into my whole life, so I tried to keep them bottled up as much as possible.

At the time, I wasn’t able to mention my sadness on the blog. Even now, I don’t know what I would have said if I had written about it. And I didn’t want to admit–even to myself–how lost I suddenly felt. It was disorienting and inexplicable, and I felt like it would never end. My sadness felt like my new way of being.

(I *almost* mentioned it in this post, which I wrote right after I was feeling better again, but I couldn’t. It was still too close to home.)

Although I try to keep Cup of Jo as honest and true as possible (and am always happy to share personal things), I wanted to keep the blog separate while I was depressed–and keep it a place where I didn’t have to think about my sleepless nights and strange sudden deep sadness and self doubt.

Even most of my best friends had no idea. I told Alex (of course; it was obvious to him), my parents, my sister and brother, and just a couple friends. I remember my sweet friend Jason took an afternoon off work to come hang out with me. I barely talked. I kept thinking that he must think I was so boring and wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore.

It came in waves. Sometimes I’d feel better, almost like myself again. Other times, I’d feel so overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness that I’d feel like I couldn’t move or breathe.

Honestly, it’s hard to think back, but here are a few of the tough moments I remember:
* One evening, I was crying on the phone with my sister Lucy, while holding Toby. I looked up and saw myself in the mirror and thought how sad I looked, and how worried Toby looked, even though he was still so little.
* My mom came to visit, and I sat on the sofa and looked at the floor and could barely manage to whisper, “I am so depressed.” I would just lie with my head in her lap and she would stroke my hair.
* I was walking down the street with Alex and Toby on a sunny day, but it felt dark to me. And, even though I adore them, I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be anywhere. And Alex said to me, “You’re so sad, you can barely walk down the street.”
* I was walking to a work meeting on a snowy day. The whole world felt grey. I just wanted to lie down on the street and fall asleep. It was hard to keep moving.

One afternoon, while taking a walk along the Hudson River, I told my mom, who was visiting us, that I wished that Toby had a different mother. He deserved more, I thought. I felt like such a failure: I had always wanted to be a mother. I always had baby fever. I always looked forward to having children. But now that I had a sweet, curious, beautiful baby, I suddenly couldn’t handle motherhood. I felt exhausted and inept. I hated seeing or reading about families with more than one child, because that meant that they could handle having a baby…and even choose to have another. What was wrong with me? I didn’t want Toby to be affected by this weighty sadness I was feeling.

Writing down these words feels strange now. That time feels so far away from me, now that a year has passed, but it was so rattling and all-consuming at the time. I felt like a totally different person. I thought it would never end.

Of course, I had ok moments, too. I felt some relief when watching TV in the evenings. I liked having friends over, as long as I wasn’t expected to talk much. Every Saturday afternoon, Toby and I would go to the Upper West Side for a playdate with my friend Leigh and her two sons. Hanging out at Leigh’s apartment was cozy, she’s easy to talk to, her boys were charming, Toby loved playing with their toys, she’d make a delicious lunch. Leigh had no idea that I felt so bad. I once told her that I felt overwhelmed by “the juggle” of everything, but I only mentioned it in passing. (She was shocked months later, when I told her the full story.) It was a relief to hang out with her and NOT talk about it. I still felt sad underneath, but I enjoyed those days and found them refreshing and bolstering.

But overall, for six weeks–from late January to early March–life felt really, really dark. I couldn’t bear thinking about the future. Every day felt long and exhausting, and I couldn’t imagine making it through all the days ahead of me.

My mom, my sister and Alex kept telling me over and over: This is a clinical depression, not your life; you must have some sort of chemical imbalance, some sort of medical reason why you’re feeling like this. But I didn’t believe them; I thought I was just sad because I was lame and going to fail in life, but a tiny part of me held a flicker of hope that maybe they were right. With their encouragement, I started seeing a therapist, and she gave me tools to help with anxiety, but overall I remained overwhelmingly sad.

The funny thing about depression is that you don’t know that it’s depression—like, chemical imbalance in your brain, or a hormonal crash. You just think it’s your actual life–that your career really IS ending, that you really ARE a terrible mother, that your husband really WILL stop loving you, that friends DO think you’re boring. At any time in your life, if you just start feeling bad in your mind and mood, you can always come up with a random reason to point to–oh, it’s my job! Oh, it’s my dating life! Oh, it’s my looks! Oh, it’s just me being an awkward person! When you’re depressed, you don’t realize that your life actually is fine–you’re simply sad because you’re depressed. The depression is the reason for the depression.

After about six weeks of feeling so low, a funny thing happened: I woke up one Tuesday morning, and it was over. Just over. It felt like I had been swimming in a pool, and suddenly—woosh!—I had resurfaced and my head had come back out of the water, and I could see the bright sun and breathe in the fresh air again. It felt like waking up from a bad dream. Suddenly, I was myself again. That Tuesday morning, I woke up, the sun was shining and I felt happy again. My depression had just…ended.

And the crazy thing was: I got my period the very next day, for the first time in over a year and a half–since before my wedding day, since before I found out I was pregnant. It was as if my hormones had finally figured themselves out, and boom! I was back to normal. And that’s the first time that I realized what had happened. Suddenly, I looked back at the situation and slapped my forehead with the realization: Of course! My depression was related to weaning.

Here’s what had happened, I realized: In late January, I had decided to wean Toby from breastfeeding for a number of reasons, so I quite abruptly weaned him within a week. But instead of feeling liberated, I began feeling tired and sad and went into a downward spiral. The timing of the beginning of my depression (weaning Toby) and the end of my depression (getting my period again) lined up perfectly.

Next, I researched depression related to weaning and it all made sense. I’ve also now spoken to many other women who have been through the exact same situation–including the wife of our friend C., whom he described as getting “hit by a mack truck” when she weaned their baby.

A lovely Cup of Jo reader, who went through the same thing, had written to me: “When some women wean, they experience a depression similar to postpartum depression, because of the drop in the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. (Studies have shown these hormones produce the same kind of ‘feel good’ as cocaine or ecstasy.) So, when I weaned, I was having a hormonal crash, similar to a withdrawal. It was something my counselor didn’t catch until I told her—and it was something I really hadn’t heard about before. There are tons of online articles about the benefits of breastfeeding and about postpartum depression, but unless you are really looking for ‘weaning’ and ‘depression’ on google, you won’t find much. This is unfortunate because I suspect many moms just chalk it up to lack of sleep, not adjusting to the new situation, or a plethora of other things…If I had known that depression was something to look out for when weaning, it would prevented a lot of turmoil (my husband wouldn’t have felt as helpless, I could have taken more proactive, preventative measures, etc.)”

And I agree: Even though there’s a wealth of information about postpartum depression right after you have a baby, it was virtually impossible to find information about depression related to weaning. But now that I’ve spoken to other mothers who have experienced the exact same thing, with the exact same timing, I know that it’s a real condition. I found a mention here, and a forum here. [Update: A lovely reader recommended reading this post, as well; thank you, Kathleen!] But otherwise, depression around weaning seems to be a real gap in medical research and awareness. (One psychiatrist, whom I called for an appointment, actually said to me, “Well, I guess anything’s possible.”) I hope that people will become more aware of it, and more research and preventative measures will be developed.

Thankfully, once the depression ended, it really was over. This past year has been wonderful. My energy and confidence are back, and I’m honored and thrilled to be raising Toby, who is such a joy and a funny, lovely little person. I love my family with all my heart. We’ll surely go through more ups and downs in life, but this year has been great—and restorative—and now I feel ready and able to handle future bumps in the road.

I wanted to share my experience, since, hopefully other wonderful mothers who go through this will recognize it for what it is, and get help for clinical weaning-related depression, instead of just thinking that it’s them, their own life or failure to handle motherhood. I would recommend being slow and careful around weaning, and if you do feel the blues, or a more intense depression, get support and know that you are not the only one who has gone through this. As my lovely friend said, “If I could spare anyone going through what I did, I would for sure want to.”

Also I have a huge new respect and humility for people who suffer from depression, and I’ll never again secretly think that someone should just “shake it off” or “snap out of it.” People are heroes for getting through it. In a way, I’m glad that I went through this because if friends or family or even sweet Toby ever goes through a depression, hopefully I will better understand how they’re feeling and maybe know a few things to say to help them get through it.

What about you? Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety? Was it related to having a baby, a hardship you went through, life in general, or no reason in particular? We really are all in this together. Lots of love to you, as always. xoxo

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
–Mary Oliver, Dream Work

P.S. Related: My own balance of work/baby/life, and the schedules of seven other moms

(These photos are from last May, when I was already feeling much better:)

(Poem via Andrea)

  1. Laurel says...

    Thank you so much for this. I have been so confused about what is wrong with me. I was so happy and I loved my life and have so enjoyed new motherhood so much. Then suddenly there was a shift. I feel terrible, can’t sleep, crying for no reason. I am feeling very lost. All my joy in life evaporated. It suddenly hit me at about 4 am this morning that this might all be hormonal. I googled weaning depression and found this post. I recently weaned my son cold turkey at 18 months. Your words truly give me hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. No one really talks about what happens to the mom after weaning. Thank you again for sharing.

  2. L says...

    Thank you for sharing your story! I was supplementing with formula occasionally from my baby’s birth until 2 months old when I quit nursing all in one day. I felt (still feel) many of the things you described above as it has only been 2 weeks since I weaned my baby. I also had no idea depression can come from weaning but am thankful to at least know the cause of the depression and hope the hormones will balance out soon. Your story has helped me understand what’s going on with me now.

  3. Liz says...

    thank you for writing this. my baby is currently 8wks old and I had started to wean a week ago. I know I haven’t nursed as long as most moms did, but the “depression” I feel I know is related to weaning. I cannot snap out of it…. there are good days and bad days.

  4. Natasha Kushevska says...

    Oh My God,
    you make me cray and You are My new Best Friend!!!!
    This happend to me a year ago, and I too realise that was because i stop breast feeding. it was choking. My boy get used to the new situation in a week, but form me was stressful….
    Thank you for writing about everything
    Thank you for writing.

    I’m from Macedonia (Europe) and evrerything that a read here I share and talk with my husband and I’m saying: My frend said this, she talk about relationships, about marriage , about 2 kids and marriage (we have 2 boys 4 and 2 years), and we have sleeples nights and….everyhing that you allredy know.
    Again, thank you thank you thank you that you write. Bravoooooo!!!!!!!!
    And kissss from me, ***
    P.S. I like your style , and design post , oh I like you I lot.
    You are my second best frend !

  5. Hannah is 2.5 and in the last month went to 1-2 sessions every day or so…she was at 3-5. I have been in bed, physically ill, anxious all the time, depressed, crying, and a lump of nothing. Dreading light in the morning becauae I know everyone expects me to get up. Hubs is at his wits end, doing everything because I can’t seem to push through. She is my 3rd nursling…and I’ve never experienced this before. Than you for writing this, I read it with tears streaming…it’s me.

  6. Katie N. says...

    Thank you so much for such an honest and detailed account of what you went through. I am currently in the process of weaning my third, and since I can’t recall feeling any sadness weaning my first two, it took me a minute to figure out what was going on with me. I don’t feel as sad as you described, but the bouts of sadness, sudden crying, easy agitation, and my overall apathetic mood are starting to get to me. Just the other night while putting my older two kids to bed it felt like such an overwhelming task that I felt completely broken afterward. I hope it doesn’t last too long, and thank you again for opening up and talking about it so women like myself don’t feel alone or like something is fundamentally wrong with us all of the sudden.❤️

  7. S W says...

    Thank you. I am going through this right now and there is shockingly little written about it. Your post truly helped me.

  8. Alisa says...

    I have to say thank you for this post. I have read your blog for years and I read this post back when it was originally posted and logged it away in my mind somewhere and I am so glad that I did because now with my 3rd baby I am experiencing this. I have been recognising the symptoms over the last couple of days. My biggest red flag was when I came home from being with a group of other mum friends for a birthday playdate feeling absolutley horrible and as if they must all hate me and find me annoying even though nothing happened at the playdate to make me think that and I have never been an insecure person and as an extrovert I usually come home from something like that feeling great. I really knew something was wrong that was more than just sleep deprivation and adjusting to having 3 kids. After emailing my best friend about it today I remembered that you had written this post about post-partum depression. All that you wrote was really resonating with me as I re-read it and then when I got to the part where you explained what had caused it I felt so surprised and everything seemed to click. My baby is 7 months old and over the last month he has been starting on solid foods and suddenly sleeping so much better at night and only waking to feed once in the night and once early morning. Basically, he is feeding loads less, even though I plan on continuing to breastfeed for much longer. I was just saying to my husband that maybe it is connected to my body clearly trying, and making a pathetic effort, at getting my period back last week. After reading this it seems pretty clear that it is all connected and even though the sadness is still there, it feels incredibly reassuring to know better what is most likely causing it. Thanks again for this post and for your blog in general. I have read many blogs over the years but yours is the only one that I have stuck with while all the others come and go.

  9. the really shocking thing about post-partum depression is the fact that we don’t ALL experience it! it’s like the perfect storm – physical trauma (childbirth), the rises and dips of the hormonal roller coaster, chronic sleep deprivation (a time-tested torture method), and the whole “i created a human being that i am responsible for” thing. motherhood is an awesome experience (in all senses of the word), and the period of adjustment is so, so tough. i can relate to SO much of this – I had a similar mirror moment when my sad, worn reflection just made me burst into tears. brutal. thank you for sharing this.

  10. Zoldos says...

    I went through the same thing. Very comforting to hear you are not alone. Thanks for the post!

  11. Thank you for your honest post. The more we can talk openly about these issues, as you have so eloquently done, the less women will feel ashamed, embarrassed, and confused and the quicker they can begin the healing process.

  12. Katelyn says...

    Thank you for this post. I cannot WAIT for the clouds to lift for me. I am going through nearly your exact situation…and through it all I suspected that weaning could be the cause, and have tried to keep the idea that my hormones will eventually stabilize as some small motivator to keep going. It feels as if my brain is betraying me by not allowing me to dwell on anything but every sing past mistake I have ever made. It is brutal.

  13. Artemisia says...

    Amazing, thank you so much. Nailed it on the head.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s really brave, putting something so personal and difficult out into the world. I’m a little scared to post this but here goes:

    I have to admit that when I first read this post (and again when I re-read it yesterday), I was jealous. I’ve had depression since I was about 10 (I’m 30 now- diagnosed at 24) and anxiety my whole life, and I so badly wish I knew what it was like to wake up and find that the have clouds lifted, or to even know what it’s like to be an adult who doesn’t struggle with getting out of bed and finding self worth every day, or to just be able to chill. the. heck. out for once. Over the years I’ve learned how to manage it and live what looks from the outside to be a great, successful life, but from time to time I still get these pangs of jealousy that some people are able to be “cured”. Especially on days when I cancel all of my plans for the day so I can lie in bed and think about how overwhelming everything is and feeling bad that I didn’t even manage to take my sweet dog out for her morning walk.

    whew, ok this was a little more personal that I usually get in a comment but I just wanted to be brave a little, since you were :) I hope you don’t think I’m minimizing what you went through or saying “some people have it worse!” because depression is horrible, no matter the circumstances or the length of time it lasts. Your post was beautifully written, and I’m truly glad that you were able to emerge from the dark clouds! That thought has just been rolling in my head for awhile and I wanted to share a little, too.

  15. Lilly says...

    Oh my stars! To have you pin point so many things I’m feeling brings me huge comfort. It IS hard to find much about this on the Internet. I noticed my symptoms just a few weeks after breastfeeding. I can’t wait for this hell to be over so I can get back to enjoying my little girl. Thank you for your honesty and relate-ability.

  16. Neetu Singh says...

    Thank you Joanna for sharing a story with us. It is really plus point for me at this moment.
    I have to stop breastfeeding my two years old in one day, as she left with her dad to my home country and I am alone here. It is really hard for me to manage my life and hormones now, as none of us was willing to leave breastfeeding. But I have to. I will join them in two months, but right now I am struggling. I hate everyone, tons of negative thoughts, I can’t concentrate on my studies for which I have to stay here. It is really messy. I talk harsh way to my lovely hubby and sometimes he feel offended because of my bad language and yell at me, which increases my anxiety and all negative things. I do not want to spoil my sweet relation and do not want to disrespect but still I do… I was so optimistic but after marriage especially from very first day of my pregnancy I was continuously in depression. I went to docs but nothing help, no counselling helps. I tried everything. My hubby tried to change in accordance to me, but to what extent. I changed every second. After reading your article, I can just hope some days these things will end up for me too and I will also enjoy my life with my darling hubby and princess… I am sorry for my sad and detailed story.

    Thanks for this informative blog

  17. I know this is an older post, but it’s new to me. I just experienced this myself. I was nodding through your entire post. As always, your honesty is so lovely and comforting.

    I have recently written a post about this on my own blog. I hope you don’t mind if edit it to include a link to yours. Thank you.

  18. Anon says...

    Nice to read something this honest. I’m sorry that you had two months like that. That’s the kind of adult life I’ve had, since 2001. I feel pretty much like that most months, with a few short-lived exceptions in 2006, 2010 and 2014. I feel really bad that I’m not successful. Like, crippling, heartbreakingly, miserably bad. But how can a person be successful when they’re constantly struggling to breathe? For some of us being able to breathe is the best success we can hope for. I’ve seen professionals, taken drugs, all that jazz and nothing really helped. I know plenty of other people struggle as badly as I do. You know what? I’m pretty smart and without this chain around my neck I think I would have had a pretty great career and life, maybe even one like yours.

  19. Em says...

    Thank you for this Joanna. I’ve read your blog consistently for several years now & I remember you posting this or perhaps a reference to it from another article. I remember glossing over it as one might if they didn’t find it wholly relevant. But today it is relevant, and I am grateful for your words. Thank you.

  20. M says...

    Reading this was like reading my mind..just can not understand why i am feeling all this, given that i am not weaning my 18 months old.. Still get these pangs of anger, guilt, shame..what could it be?

  21. Angela says...

    Thank you so very much for this!!!! I went through almost the exact same thing when my first baby began weaning herself, and my mother had just died so I was unable to sort through my emotions and figure out which were real, and which ones were hormonal. I also remember the day “I woke up” from it all, started my period, and felt like me again. And what’s amazing, is that I am currently feeling that horrible underwater feeling once again (second baby is 8 months), and it’s amazing that I couldn’t see it coming, even though I’ve been through it before. It finally just dawned on me after two weeks of feeling horrible. I am so thankful that I wandered onto your wonderful blog. This was tremendously validating!!!!!

  22. Marie says...

    Thank you for writing this. I am going through this now as my daughter is eating less and less. I am going through a roller coaster of anxiety and it was really impacting my day and work. So glad that I am not alone. Your honesty in the post is great, thanks for sharing.

  23. Rachell says...

    This is exactly how I feel! My daughter is 16 months and for the last several weeks my husband has been commenting that it seems like I have postpartum depression. I didn’t experience it at all when I first had her, in fact I felt so wonderful! But a friend suggested that my recent struggles may be related to weaning! It makes so much sense!

  24. Well I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

  25. D says...

    thank you for posting your story, I stopped breastfeeding 2 months ago and I have been feeling like you since I stopped, Actually today I felt the worse, until today i thought I am mentally ill that something serious is going on with me…. now I know and I am ready to deal with it. I didn’t know you can get depression after weaning. My son is my second and last, I have never suffered any depression. I think because he is my last its harder for me, I decided to wean him ” cold turkey way” and it was really hard for me i cried and actually reading your story, feels like I am reading myself. Thank you i know what to do know and that will pass x

  26. S. says...

    Thank you for this post. I’m up late googling “depression and breastfeeding” and came across your blog. I am not weaning but am mentally TRYING to….I have a 2.5 yr old that BEGS and CRIES for “bubbies” and I can’t resist her. I know that breastfeeding is depleting me…but every time I try to say no, I cave. It’s the first thing she does when she wakes up and it’s the only way I can put her down to sleep. She’s my second – and last – baby and I know that plays into it as well. I have to stop for ME…but I can’t. I do enjoy the bonding and she is so happy and satisfied after (yes, I’m still producing a lot of milk), but I just feel so dried up in every other way…it’s a really confusing time and I barely recognize myself. I know I must be depressed. Even writing that feels surreal. I’m committing to speaking to my doctor and a therapist as soon as I can. Thank you again for this post. I started crying reading about how good you feel now. There is hope!

  27. Katy says...

    Thank you so much for this post, I stumbled onto your post and have been feeling the same. I thought things felt very horemonal but never related it to weaning but now you say it that’s what’s been happening these last few weeks, bubs has been eating solids and I introduced a formula feed – really interesting stuff.

  28. Savannah says...

    This has been the first week I have felt back to “normal”. I was going through the same thing for the past few months and had no idea where it came from but started to research symptoms of weaning/depression and came across your blog. I felt encouraged knowing someone out there could relate and experienced the same thing & what a potential case of my symptoms were from. Thank you for sharing your experience! It looks like you posted this a few years ago, but glad it’s still up!

  29. Joanna, thank you for writing this article. It is such an important women’s health issue. Mental illness is already so stigmatized and misunderstood. I can’t imagine what this must have been like for you, to do it while already having to care for a newborn.

    I have a history of clinical depression and for the first time had to start taking medications for it this year. I am one of the lucky ones. I worked in a research hospital in mental health research. One of my coworkers, who is experienced in treating women’s mental health, recommended I make an appointment to go see someone. And the psychiatrist, in turn, immediately recognized what it was. I’ll forever be grateful to them for the compassion and astuteness they showed, even if it was hard to acknowledge it at the time. Like yourself, I simply thought the problem was with ME. If only I was smarter, better, more capable this wouldn’t be happening. I didn’t want to believe this was YET AGAIN another round of the same thing.

    Talking about this is so important. I don’t know where the saying comes from, but villages don’t raise only children. They can also raise and support adults. Social support and being given the tools for self-empowerment was crucial to my recovery. In some ways, I am still recovering. My brain for now simply functions better on medications, but I am working on eventually going back to my normal, happy state.

    Thank you again, Joanna. You are a brave lady for sharing this story.

  30. Melody says...

    This is such a relief to me to read this. My daughter is just over 13 months and for the past 2-3 months I have been very slowly and methodically removing nursing sessions. I went from eliminating night feeds to having only 4 during the day and now I am down to just one feed in the morning. The past week I have felt inexplicably “down”, discouraged and angry (this has been happening randomly to me ever since I started to wean). But tonight it occurred to me that perhaps it is related to the weaning! Then I googled “weaning effects on mom” and came to this post! I thought, because I have been weaning so gradually, that I could’ve avoided the mood-swings and depression that sometimes accompanies weaning but it seems that I haven’t avoided it. It is comforting to know that it will most likely pass and that I am not insane. Sometimes I feel alone in the fact that nursing has been a huge component of motherhood for me (I can’t imagine being a mom to my baby girl without nursing being in the picture!) – it seems that people don’t understand or can’t relate, even other moms – so it is no surprise to me that I haven’t heard people talk about depression related to weaning all the much. Here’s to being open and honest about motherhood!

  31. How refreshing to read such an open and honest post. I have really been struggling this week and even blogged about it myself however nowhere near as eloquently as you have here… there’s me beating myself up again. Thank you so much for this post. It’s so nice to see that I’m not alone.

  32. Lindsey K says...

    After my first, I cried – a lot. I thought it was because I had to take her to daycare and I hated my job. After my 2nd, I was overwhelmed, wanted to sleep all day, and cried a lot. It wasn’t until one day when my 3 yr old looked at me with the most concerned face I had ever seen and asked me if I was ok?! I called the dr within the hr, got on meds and got better. After my 3rd, I should have known better but still I didn’t realize until the day I cried for 3 hours straight for absolutely no reason. Thank you for sharing this- thank you for being brave, real, and allowing me to feel like I can finally say that I too went through post partum depression and found the light. Hugs to you.

    • Lindsey, there is no shame in this. I have a history of clinical depression and even during the latest relapse refused to believe it was happening. Joanna phrases it so beautifully in her article. Depression is hard to recognize because it’s being caused by depression and not something tangible you can point your finger to. So happy you got the help you needed x

  33. Kendra says...

    For the past few weeks, I have randomly been reading the birth stories of bloggers. I found yours via Google; I’d never read your blog before. I then clicked links to a few of your other posts, including this one. And it was like fate — I feel l’ve been reading all these stories so I could find this one. My daughter is 16 months old. I weaned completely 5 days before her first birthday. I’d planned to nurse a year (but had been supplementing with formula from early on due to a variety of issues), but weaned very abruptly when she developed thrush – something we struggled with a lot in the early months. Recently, I have been feeling on-again-off-again anxiety and depression, something I have never experienced. My husband pinpointed “This started right before her first birthday.” But I had no idea that weaning could cause these feelings until I read your post and some of the links. Even though I was not particularly sad about the end of b’feeding, it seems the hormone changes hit particularly hard. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story and helping me make sense of mine.

  34. Wow, I read through this and thought to myself, how easily depression camouflages itself so that even you, have no idea where to seek help or how to do it! Glad to have found this on your blog. If it interests you, I blogged about a similar thing in my motherhood journey on here : https://ppdisland.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/day-10-angst/

  35. Bre says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am feeling that way right now and started to wean a few weeks ago. I started to put a few things together and searched for depression and weaning and found your post. It is very helpful to know that I am not the only one going through this. Everything you expressed in your post I am having those feeling now. I just hope it gets better soon!

  36. Karin says...

    I am about to have my second child in two years and the one thing I am dreading is the breastfeeding. The weaning part was an absolute joy for me, but the breastfeeding……phew! You article inspired me to look into why, i have had my suspicion that like for you it was/is hormone related, and true enough…… i found this: http://www.d-mer.org I dont know how many others go through this but as with your issue its important to talk about, which its not. When ive brought it up with my midwife or psychiatrist, they have both looked like questionmarks. Thank for a good blog. Love k

    • maria francesca says...

      Thank you! I did not know about this: I breastfed my first son (I am now again pregnant….) and made a huge sacrifice, because I always felt very weak, very very sad and angry and very very very thirsty. Moreover, at the beginning my nipples were bleeding, so I thought that my adversion was related to the pain i felt during the first month…. Maybe was this kind of depression. Thank you for sharing: now that i am pregnant again, breastfeeding was/is my main issue of anxiety. Knowing about this is ALREADY helping me…. thanks.

  37. Kendrah says...

    Thank you. I’m struggling with weaning…and have been battling severe depression since my pregnancy with my youngest (born Dec 2013). He’s not a great sleeper. Just an hour ago…hearing him cry while I felt so helpless, nothing was helping to calm him down…I felt the darkness wash over me, thinking how awful I am, how everyone would just be better off without me, how they deserved so much more than me…I know it’s my brain imbalanced…but it is a strong voice. I had to search very far into Google to find this, which helped…again, thank you.

  38. Thank you for sharing this powerful story. This inspired me to write my own story on my travel blog. I researched the top spas in the US for mental wellness and tied it to my article.

    http://www.poshvoyage.com/postpartum-journey

    I hope this gives hope to other women going through tough times.

    It will pass!

  39. Well, I’m glad you are feeling better, and that it only lasted 6 weeks. I’m fairly certain my mental cranks are related to hormonal issues after weaning. I weaned my son at 3 – and ive been a nutcase ever since. 6 months of being a fruitcake hasn’t been fun. A doc put me on antidepressants, which have helped a bit, but don’t deal with the underlying problem.

  40. Laura says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I am weaning my 21 month old and have just dropped the night feeds. I thought I would feel better, more sleepy, more energy. But my mood has dropped like a rock. what you say about depression is so insightful. You don’t say to yourself “oh it’s the depression talking”, you believe the stories about being a useless mother, a boring friend, bad at your job. I have just got my period and it has not shifted my mood but maybe that will only happen when I wean completely? Anyway, thank you so much for your honesty and sincerity.

  41. Sara says...

    I need to share this with my husband. My daughter is 9.5 months and I’m feeling the same way as I’m weaning her (albeit very slowly). In the past month we’ve dropped about 2 feeds per day, and I still haven’t gotten my period yet. I think how I feel is a combination of the weaning and my period coming back. It really is awful though. You’re so right that there’s not enough out there on this topic. Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope you don’t ever have to feel that way again!

  42. Julianna says...

    Thank you so very much for your honest, beautifully written, and informative post. It’s as if someone had telegraphed the thoughts and feelings straight out of my head. I am at the end of a month-long weaning process and came across this because I felt so sad. It helps immensely to know that there is a clear, hormonal link, that many others feel the same way, and that it will end once the hormones have adjusted. Please know that you have made a huge difference. Oh, and P.S.: those photos of you and Toby are gorgeous!