Postnatal rage – Tori’s story

Tori Haschka is the author of ‘Grace Under Pressure’ and a mother of two. She shares her story as part of COPE’s The Truth campaign 

While Grace Under Pressure is fiction, some of the content came from lived experience. I think sunshine is the best disinfectant – and the more mothers who share their stories, the less alone women feel. 

 I had never identified anger or rage as part of my personality before I had my second child.  It was the combination of chronic sleep deprivation, a baby with feeding trouble and allergies,  a three-year-old with persistent croup and an overseas spouse , as well as the sense that I should be coping better than I was, that occasionally tipped me over to the door slamming, shouting eruptions that scared both me and – this bit I hate – the children. 

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 I remember one instance acutely. I am not proud of it, but one morning after a week of bad nights and a very hard morning alone with fractious kids I went back into the house to get something.  While my kids were in their car seats I slammed the front door to the house behind me so hard that the lock broke. I think that was a wake up call –  I was already overwhelmed – and now I had to also find an emergency locksmith so I wasn’t spending the night in a house on my own with the kids and a gaping front door. 

At one of the events for the book that I went to in Orange, one reader told me how she had volunteered a door at the bottom of her garden that went to nowhere on the local Facebook mothers page, so other burnt out mothers could come and slam it for release with impunity. I knew I was not alone in feeling like this.

It took longer than it should before I realised that rage can be a symptom of anxiety. It was also a flare that indicated an unmet need; in my case, for rest.

And I say all of this knowing that my experiences were before Covid – so I can only imagine how new mothers have fared in the last two years with pandemic stresses. I’m lucky that I had a good psychologist who could support me to find other strategies for release  – rather than step into the blame spiral that I was a terrible mother and a monster. Sometimes it is just that hard.

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The facts about postnatal rage

Dr Nicole Highet, Doctor of Psychology (Clinical / Perinatal)

Whilst people talk about postnatal depression and anxiety and this is often covered in the media, we rarely hear about anger, which may be experienced, particularly in the months following birth and early years of parenthood.

In some ways, talking about feelings of anger is still taboo during a a time when we feel pressure to only have positive loving feelings towards our children and family members. As a result this can leave mums and dads who report feeling intense, all-consuming rage to also feel guilt and shame.  It can also stop parents from speaking out or getting the help they need – rather they suffer in silence.

While it’s unclear just how many parents experience postpartum rage due to the fact that it’s often not reported or measured during screening, recent research of new mothers has shown that anger can occur at the same time as postnatal depression.

Postpartum rage can be scary, overwhelming and cause a significant amount of guilt and shame.

The fact that rage leaves parents feeling ashamed and overwhelmed, was highlighted the need to profile this issue in The Truth campaign.  By profiling the issue, we hope to educate new parents who may experience rage that this may be a sign of postnatal anxiety, depression or parental burnout, and reassure them that support is available.

For more information about the symptoms of rage, how to cope with the feelings and where to access help, visit the cope website.

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