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Mothers are People, Too!

QUESTION: I am a 26 year old female with two children ages 5 1/2 and 3 1/2. I have been married for 7 years and we are expecting our 3rd child in June. My husband and I have been getting into huge arguments about my anger. He feels that I have a problem and I am always angry about something or at someone. Of course I deny this to him and myself. We live in a very populated area. I am constantly being bumped into, cut off while driving or just being ignored in the stores. I am truly at my breaking point with people in general and could care less if I never had to leave my house.

I have not been this way all my life, just the last 6 months. My anger comes out towards my children in the way of me yelling at them for the simplest things, and I truly hate the dog, but the reason for my hate, I am not sure. I feel tired and have been sick for the past four months with this pregnancy. Everything seems to be a hassle, troublesome or I would really care less if I did it or not, so usually I don't..

I use to love shopping, theaters,movies, now I love staying home in my comfy living room, or my bed. This is progressing rapidly into something that is scaring me, but I am not sure what to do. Can you help me?

You have been pregnant or caring for a baby and/or toddler since you were 19 years old! Children under the age of six require tremendous amounts of physical and psychological care. This pregnancy may have challenged your usual capacity for coping. It is likely that it is not the dog or other people who bump into you that you hate. It is probable that your anger signals a depression based on physical and emotional tiredness.

Postpartum depression is often more evident in woman having their third (and subsequent) children, particularly when they are fairly close in age. Presumably this is because of the increased workload that 3 children can represent, as well as the physical stress of repeated pregnancies. Your apathy and anger are signs that you need help. You may need to consider reorganization of the household in some way that allows you to delegate some of your responsibilities rather than continuing to do them all yourself. In addition, you need time to rest and enjoy yourself. Your well being is crucial to your family's health.

It is possible that going back to diapers next summer is somewhat daunting at this time. This may contribute to a dim gloominess about the future. If you are experiencing significant nausea or tiredness in this first half of the pregnancy, it may be difficult to imagine that you will be able to handle your present responsibilities and a new baby to boot! Though you may feel better soon as your body adjusts to the pregnancy, your tiredness and accompanying anger may return postpartum if you do not address your present need for rest or secure a plan for the future that does not overwhelm you.

Act now to give yourself the rest and time you need to relax. No doubt your desire to "stay home in your comfy living room or bed" is a sign that you are craving rest and retreat from what you experience as an overly stimulating world. The needs of two young children combined with the hormonal changes of pregnancy may leave you emotionally raw at this time. Consider scheduling quiet time regularly in your day. Take at least 1/2 hour as "relaxation" time when you have no responsibilities of any kind. You may wish to use a relaxation/visualization audiotape, such as the one I have designed for pregnant woman "Pregnancy, Birth and Bonding" to get in touch with the baby inside. Sooner or later, your attentions will turn to labor, birth and your newborn. Carve out time just for you, and time just for this child who will be coming into your life in June.

It is also possible that you may be experiencing resentment about the confines that your role as mother or the pregnancy may entail, particularly if this was an unplanned pregnancy. There may have been some emerging need coming up prior to the pregnancy that has been exacerbated by the added stress of this third pregnancy and what it means in your life. Ask yourself what thoughts or feelings may have triggered the initiation of your present "slump" 6 months ago. Make understanding your feelings a priority and do not hesitate to get help from a professional counselor to identify what is generating your present hatred and anger.

Mothers sometimes forget that they are women with adult needs for self expression and growth outside of parenthood. Consider whether there are activities that you have delayed for this pregnancy. Resuming interests you may have dropped or reviving dreams you deserted (music lessons, college classes, business endeavors) may be possible if the family undergoes a reorganization to do so. Bringing in household help, asking your husband to take on more household duties or primary parenting responsibilities may open opportunity for new or renewed activities of your own.

Evaluate your needs and take action to change your future plans in some way that will include rather than exclude your own needs and dreams.

Motherhood requires us to nurture. It is all too easy to forget ourselves in our commitment to care for others. You, too are a family member that requires attention to develop. Your emotional health is crucial not only for yourself, but for the well-being of your family. It is important that you identify and seek answers to your own needs before your children lose you to an angry depression. Do not forget that mothers are people, too!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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