Updated: May 30, 2020
I am excited to have Amanda Gurman on the podcast today. Amanda and I connected through social media but we became friends instantly...and I know you will love her too!
Amanda is a mom to Connor (3) and Scarlett (1.5) and wife to Chris. Amanda also works at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton as a Drug Access Facilitator. Go mama (and huge thanks for your service during this time)!
In this episode, we dive into postpartum rage and how it's different than depression but equally as important to discuss. We also chat a lot about normalizing motherhood and how there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to being a mom and what works for you (aka, don't feel bad if your kid only eats chicken nuggets or you give them screen time so you can take a shower).
I have absolutely adored speaking with Amanda and am very excited to say she has her own podcast in the works!
As always, if you wish to connect with this badass mom or see cute photos of her kiddos, head on over to her Instagram! She truly is a lovely woman.
Instagram link: Click here
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Amanda is extremely passionate about normalizing motherhood for those who are new moms or for moms that are going through struggles. Amanda felt as though no one really normalized motherhood for her in the beginning stages. She was told a lot of “rainbow and butterfly” stuff, rather than true stories of what others went through. She received numerous comments about motherhood that weren’t helpful or true, such as she would fall in love with her baby and never want to leave him and that C-sections weren’t that big of a deal.
After Amanda gave birth to Connor, it was a lot of little things she noticed that no one really talks about or normalizes. Things such as having a coffee by herself and not being able to leave the house on her own because she would have to take Connor. Connor needed her every second of every day and she came to understand that you don’t really realize what you get yourself truly into, until you are there. You sort of know and you have these expectations, but they are different from reality. And no one talks about those little things. No one talks about what the exhaustion is going to be like, the day to day struggles with a newborn, and no one really helps you prepare for the little stuff.
Amanda noticed that people tended to fluff things up, even her own parents. And then you start to think something is wrong with you because no one talks about it and you feel alone. It didn’t help that Amanda was the first one in her friend group to have a baby and she didn’t feel understood. She found herself doing the fluffing when it came to motherhood and building a facade up around her experiences. That everything was great and she is great and it doesn’t matter that she hasn’t slept or showered in 6 days. You do this for yourself but also because no one tells you that it is ok to not be ok.
Journey Into Motherhood
A year into marriage, Amanda and Chris talked about having a baby. She was petrified to be pregnant and it was one of her biggest fears. Growing a human inside of her scared Amanda and thinking about labor made her wonder how she was going to do this. But she did want kids and she agreed to try and have a baby. With Amanda’s low pain tolerance and day to day anxiety struggles, she feared the unknown surrounding pregnancy and motherhood. Even when someone explained certain things to her to put her at ease, she understood that her journey would be different.
Amanda chose to dive right in and face her fears. When they did get pregnant, she was petrified. Her pregnancy with Connor was a relatively easy pregnancy until closer to the end. She had high blood pressure and had to go on bed rest because Connor was a very big baby. Overall, pregnancy wasn’t as scary as she thought it would be. Amanda found that all of her anxieties flipped from worry for her, to worry for her baby. She worried whether he was healthy and if he was going to be ok because he was such a big baby.
Amanda had a planned C-section at 39 weeks with Connor. She had a gender reveal party where her and Chris cut open a cake with both families present. It is one of Amanda’s favorite memories. She chose to find out the gender of both of her children.
When Chris found out their first baby was a boy, he went out and bought a million outfits. Amanda had really wanted a girl initially, but didn’t find herself nervous about the reveal. When she found out it was a boy, she was surprised to find herself genuinely excited. She thought of the bond she would have with her son. Connor made Amanda a mom, and she knew that would be a special and different bond.
Just A Feeling
When Connor was 15 months old, Amanda and Chris began talking about having another baby. They agreed they were ready to try, and Amanda was pregnant within the month. Connor and Scarlett are almost exactly two years apart in age.
Amanda thought she would have issues getting pregnant the second time, but she didn’t. She was less afraid with Scarlett due to having already experienced pregnancy and birth with Connor and it having been so easy. But pregnancy wasn’t as good the second time around. With Scarlett, Amanda had really bad morning sickness and also had a toddler running around. When Chris was away for work on the weekends, the days were incredibly long for Amanda because she couldn’t just lay down and rest when she had morning sickness this time. The exhaustion was so much worse throughout her pregnancy because she was taking care of Connor at home at the time.
Amanda also experienced what is known as a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is an opening near the placenta that sometimes causes her to bleed. Even though she was told this was normal, Amanda had to visit the hospital each time she bled in order to make sure that everything was alright. This wasn’t easy for Amanda having to pack up a toddler and she found the experience scary and overwhelming every single time. The opening closed up into Amanda’s second trimester. Amanda started to feel in her gut that this baby was going to be a girl. That this one was going to be her daughter. And she was right.
Postpartum Anxiety & Anger
Amanda had what is known as postpartum rage, where she essentially felt anxiety and anger after giving birth to Scarlett. Because this wasn’t a concept that many people knew about, Amanda had a hard time believing and understanding what she was going through. She knew about postpartum depression but didn’t feel she was going through the textbook definition of what it entails.
Postpartum rage is actually very common, but is rarely talked about. Anger is a huge red flag for new moms for both postpartum depression and anxiety. Amanda felt that this term made her sound awful and like she was a mean mom that screams at her kids all the time. She had this overwhelming feeling of being incredibly irritable all the time and it didn’t matter who or what it was, everything irritated her.
Amanda thought these symptoms and feelings were normal. She felt she was simply dealing with baby blues and was emotional because of how tired she was. It wasn’t until Scarlett was 4 months old that the truth of her feelings came to light.
Amanda’s eye-opening moment happened when her husband called her out on her behavior. He mentioned how she was just not her anymore and that she was angry all the time. Amanda would attack him a lot and she felt resentful because he was able to leave and go to work. This made her irritable as well. Chris’s words to Amanda cut her deep and she felt really sad that he felt this way. Amanda believed she was doing better than she actually was.
Amanda decided to start seeing a therapist and was able to put a name to the feelings she was having. Initially, Amanda felt embarrassed, shameful and alone. It took her months to tell her parents and only confided in her husband about her postpartum rage. Because it was anger and not many people discuss this feeling, Amanda felt like she would be perceived as a person who hates her children.
Amanda would go through this horrible cycle of…
I’m going to yell at you.
Now I feel guilty and like a bad mom because you are crying.
And now I’m feeling sorry for myself.
Amanda explains it as, “a never-ending vicious cycle that takes you for a terrible ride.”
Over time Amanda was able to navigate through these feelings. She saw a therapist for a year, which was life-changing for her. Her therapist taught her a lot about herself and taught her coping skills that would help her get through the rage. Small tools such as counting to 10 and journaling helped Amanda sort through her emotions. Going to therapy and having someone to talk to about all the things she was going through and acknowledging her small victories was also a huge help. Amanda found it nice to have someone that she could be accountable to and who was in her corner.
Where Amanda Is Now
Amanda is doing a lot better these days. She still has her bad days, but it isn’t a postpartum rage issue anymore. She still struggles at times with parenthood, but she is able to think more about her actions and prevent herself from doing and saying things she doesn’t actually mean. Amanda learned to pull herself back and knows now when she needs time and space to get through things. Amanda feels that if she hadn’t had a supporting and understanding husband who stuck with her through the darkest times and who also understands when she needs space and is respectful of that, things could have turned out very different.
Through pregnancy and motherhood, Amanda has learned that she is a lot stronger physically and mentally than she ever gave herself credit for. She was terrified of being pregnant and giving birth. But those feelings quickly changed. And she was a Rockstar during Connor’s pregnancy and even through Scarlett’s much harder pregnancy. Amanda was able to get through it and pull herself out of hard situations. She had to plan two C-sections and hadn’t experienced them before, and it was even worse going through one the second time. But she bounced back from recovery much quicker and got through everything she experienced with both pregnancies, even when things were hard.
Amanda’s Final Message
It’s ok to not be ok. Amanda cannot stress this enough. If you are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or feel like you are failing as a mom, it’s ok. We are all going to feel like that once in a while and we are all so hard on ourselves. Moms need to know that it’s ok to feel like they are failing and also realize that they are not. We need to have these conversations and normalize motherhood! Every mom can relate to these feelings and experiences. Every mom has felt that horrible feeling of, “I’m a bad mom and I’m not doing the right things.”
And sometimes you are just not ok. We get stuck seeing these people who are portraying their life as perfect. We compare and end up feeling ashamed of our lives. We don’t want to tell people how we are feeling or what we are experiencing because we feel isolated. We are superheroes and rock stars. We grew a baby in our bodies and we should be talking about how we are feeling. The good and the bad. We are more than just being a mom. We are still ourselves.
It’s so important to open up the conversation between mothers.