Even Celeb Moms Get the (Baby) Blues
Gwyneth Paltrow and Bryce Dallas Howard suffer like the rest of us.
Celebrity moms’ parenting adventures have become quite the open book – or open blog, if you prefer. We learn about their pregnancies almost from the moment sperm hits egg, and from there we’re treated to all the juicy details about morning sickness, cravings, birthing rooms, nurseries and nursing schedules. Even when the news borders on TMI – please, no more poop stories! – it’s reassuring to know that at heart, the mothering experience is similar for everyone.
Yet there’s one topic that’s still kept in the shadows by famous and non-famous mothers alike. According to experts, a full 80 percent of all new mothers feel sad, anxious or helpless after the birth. For 10 percent, those feelings are so persistent as to be considered postpartum depression. In other words, having a baby turns most women into stressed, weepy, overwhelmed messes in those first few weeks – and sometimes longer. So why do we have so much trouble admitting it?
Two weeks ago, Gwyneth Paltrow and Twilight: Eclipse’s Bryce Dallas Howard both revealed their own agonizing experiences with PPD after the birth of their sons, now 4 and 3 ½. Paltrow said it was “one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life.” Howard put up a good front for her friends, but behind closed doors she wept uncontrollably, cursed out her husband and felt like “a rotten mother – not a bad one, a rotten one.” Thankfully, they both got the help they needed.
W hen my own son was born on a cold February morning seven years ago, I was giddy with joy. I cuddled the baby, welcomed visitors and put on makeup for the first pictures. Two days later, preparing to leave the hospital, it was as if someone had uncorked the stopper on that euphoria and let it drain out, leaving only the sludge at the bottom. Tears slid down my face on the ride home as I tried to shut out the terrifying thoughts: How am I going to take care of this little being? What do I know about being a mother? Look – he’s fussing in his car seat already. I’d been laid off a few months earlier. How can I ever give him everything he needs – financially as well as emotionally?
It didn’t get any easier at home as my husband and I slept three hours a night and debated over whether the baby was soiling enough diapers. The weepiness wasn’t constant, but it happened often enough to make me wonder if I’d ever start feeling like a blissful new mom. I fought tears when my relatives visited. I sniffled in my parents’ living room. And those lullaby CDs I put on during bedtime feedings? Total waterworks. (I still tear up at some of those songs.)
Worse yet was the guilt. Make that Guilt with a capital G. It had taken us years of trying, frustration and specialists’ visits to have a baby in the first place. I’d cried enough times over not being a mother – how dare I be anything less than ecstatic now that I was one? And wasn’t this supposed to be the most delightful time of my life? Didn’t I see enough cheery diaper ads and photos of well-rested moms smiling at cherubic infants? What was I doing wrong?