My Postpartum Rage Was Valuable (And So is Yours)

One mom and Licensed Clinical Social Worker explores the ironic brilliance of her postpartum rage and urges other moms to let themselves feel more fully.
postpartum rage

Was it birthing an almost 11-pound baby on April 30, 2020? Was it the surprise C-section I had to recover from—and the isolation from family and friends due to an unprecedented global pandemic? Was it coming back to work to find the junior staff I had mentored pretty much took over my job? Was it my own mother centering her needs at the time when my needs were the ones that needed tending the most?

What was it… that made me so, so angry that I could barely hold it together?

Like many mothers, I didn’t talk about my postpartum rage and attempted to conceal it from everyone around me at all costs. As a clinical social worker, I help folks navigate their postpartum mental health for a living, and even with those courageous enough to speak it, what I’ve found is that postpartum rage is widely stigmatized and rarely ever discussed. 

It seems like a taboo topic but, as I say to all my clients: “Anger is my favorite emotion.” 

It is one of the most productive, clarifying and transformative emotions you can experience, especially postpartum. Why? There’s no guesswork with rage. Each and every thought you tried so hard to repress into your subconscious volcano eventually comes to the surface to the point where there is no more hiding what once lived beneath. 

What is postpartum rage?

Postpartum rage is a significant change in your feelings and expression of anger that experts usually attribute to changes in hormones. I want to make special mention that “postpartum” is a word usually associated with the birth of a child, but I also call the period after a miscarriage postpartum with my clients, especially loss after the first trimester, or following infant loss. 

Postpartum rage is more likely to occur with significant changes to your environment, social or emotional wellbeing before, during, or after pregnancy. It’s also common among those who have experienced trauma or have a previous diagnosis of mental health challenges, such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.

What Postpartum Rage Can Look Like:

It can be challenging to truly know if your rage is chronic (frequent) or a typical expression of anger for anyone in the postpartum period. Postpartum rage tends to be ongoing and any prior coping mechanisms used for stress management don’t help anymore.

You’d think a therapist and social worker who had a decade of professional experience would understand coping strategies. For me, it was fruitless. When I came back to work at 12 weeks, I was walking into a global mental health crisis so for many months I thought I had compassion fatigue. 

With my role significantly changed at work (without my permission), I sought support for that compassion fatigue, and yet the anger continued. I tried: exercise (I ran or did cardio 3-4 times per week); chiropractors, physical therapy, a vegan diet (surprisingly helped), quitting breastfeeding, and my partner took over for the morning and evening routine almost every day. Nothing really emptied the bucket full of rage until I started EMDR (a trauma therapy known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and labeled my experience as “postpartum rage” with a perinatal expert.

Signs of Postpartum Rage

If you think you’re experiencing postpartum rage, you may be experiencing:  

  • Sudden outbursts of anger over things that are difficult to find “causation” for, meaning you’re not sure what triggers you and it may be a combination of stressors that are not easily identified. 
  • Feeling “on edge” constantly. It seems as if every moment is as loaded as the next. Whether you feel confident in your ability to parent or calm yourself, it doesn’t really matter. The fuse is at the ready. 
  • Guilt. Lots and lots of guilt. I’ll expand on the relationship between guilt and rage later on. 
  • If postpartum anxiety is “Well, if I do all these things, everything will be fine” and postpartum depression is “Well, I’ll never do anything right so why try,” then postpartum rage is “Nothing will ever be right or fine again.” 

How to navigate postpartum rage:

When we go to our pediatrician’s office or visit our OB-GYN at the standard six-week follow up appointment, we are screened for depression. Yes, I was feeling hopeless… but more in the “I will crush a can in my bare hands without flinching” type of way.

That felt hard to describe, and I was worried that I would be judged. That the doctor would look at me with wide eyes and go “Uhhh, are you okay?” 

As a lifelong depressive, I was really missing my usual mellow and numbed out attitude. That felt like a much easier ask for help then, “Can you help me not explode on my partner for saying ‘good morning’?” I mean how dare my co-parent look at me with a loving genuineness—that’s enough to make any new and hormonally variable parent burst a fuse. 

Postpartum rage is as difficult to admit as it is to navigate. 

Thankfully, I found a resting place with a perinatal mental health expert who received me with open arms, and with zero indication that her perspective on my suffering was doe-eyed. It was as if my rage was seen with the tenderness we feel holding our babies. Of course! You are lost and confused and you need to eat, sleep, and poop. Nothing to see here, just the usual expression of basic human needs. 

Rage is as powerful as it is humbling. Allow it to change you, and you will discover the many gifts it has to offer. Here’s how:

Remember, anger is part of the “fight” response 

If nothing will ever be right or fine again, your body will go on high alert, because it wants to protect you and your baby as much as it possibly can. Anger sends the signal to the body that things are off, things are not right, and you should stay aware of these dangers at all costs – regardless of whether the “threats” are physical or mental. If everything is a threat, it becomes difficult to shut that survival mindset off. 

As a child and youth mental health expert for many years prior to having my own child, I remembered each time I educated caregivers that childhood depression most commonly shows up as anger, they looked at me with confusion. It’s really that simple though — if you don’t feel well, you don’t feel well. As sensitive creatures with a deeply programmed survival instinct, we get mad about that. 

Pause, take a deep breath 

It’s okay to feel rage along with your matrescence, or your transition into motherhood. Matrescence is like a second adolescence. The hormonal changes in and of itself will alter your brain-body chemistry. When working with perinatal clients, I usually say “Hormones don’t create feelings, they amplify them.” This is why it hurts to be called “crazy” “irrational” or generally unhinged. The feelings are real and they deserve to be paid attention to and affirmed.

Let your partner help you 

When feelings come out unfiltered, it can be unsettling for those around us. 

Most partners want to act to remedy the situation immediately – and yet those good intentions can have a negative impact on postpartum people going through rage. Rage is grief, clarity, honesty, transformation bubbling to the surface. It’s a beautiful process, it’s just coming in hot. 

How to cope with postpartum rage

If you’re experiencing maternal anger or postpartum rage, you’re not alone, and there are some strategies I’ve found to help alleviate and reduce the anger outbursts:

1. Let it out 

Yes, you heard me. Let it out. Just do it with some preparation. Front load your partner or support person with a conversation about you going through postpartum rage. Let them know that when you get angry, all they need to say is “Let it out, baby! I hear you!” Mirroring frustration is soothing for rage. 

2. Ask your partner or person to join in the rage

I once lost it because I had ordered some postpartum clothing from a small retailer online, and what showed up was as if someone sewed paper together, so not really going to hold my new baby-feeders in place. It was poor quality, but it really wasn’t a big deal. I cannot tell you how embarrassing it would be if that email resurfaced. (Or liberating? Who knows.) 

When I told my partner about it (after having front loaded him about my rage), he was pretty much like “Yeah, let’s teepee their house!” We weren’t going to do that, but it felt good to be together in the anger. 

3. Laugh as much as you possibly can. 

There are too many things to heal in postpartum, your body, mind, and spirit. All of that on top of navigating inhumane maternity leave policies, lack of adequate healthcare, and other personal stressors — phew, you see where I’m going with this. We deserve as much unfiltered joy in postpartum as we get to express our truest feelings through rage. Laughter helps you feel human again and it tickles the parts of our brain that relieves stress. 

4. Process your guilt. 

Whether it was what you expected or not, becoming a parent is hard work. It breaks you down as much as it builds you up. Guilt is a sign that you are holding onto old beliefs about yourself. Guilt says “you did this wrong,” but underneath that is a message about you that you’ve let fester and needs to be released into the river of compassion. 

My early messages around my new parent self were very much tied to gender. I didn’t feel “feminine” enough to be a mother, and I was discovering an entirely gender neutral and gender-full side of me that was both scary and enticing. I am a nurturing person, and I’m also a truth-teller. My masculine and feminine energies were happy to coalesce when I was pregnant with my son, but once he exited my body, I began to experience a form of dysphoria I was not consciously aware of when I was growing up. It had, of course, always been there. Though it was an excruciating time, it was also freeing. If I hadn’t processed why I felt so guilty about my parenting style, I would not have discovered the gift it is to be non-binary in an unimaginative society. 

5. Justify your rage. 

It is not wrong, weird or ugly. Rage is beautiful when it’s channeled. I go to therapy, and as a practitioner facilitate therapy that encourages anger to be shaped and molded. The way forward is not to get rid of your anger, it’s to embrace it. Yes, as cheesy as it sounds, it works. 

Your rage is reasonable, it just may be coming out too quickly to piece together what’s needed to find your unique rhythm as a parent. Justify your rage and then slow it down to understand it better. Treat it like fire, the embers are the hottest and most subtle part of the fire that keep it burning. Breathe on the coals and search for what’s truly fueling your fire.

What are you angry about? Can you take on one piece of it and share it with someone you trust? Explore it. You may find treasures.

I wouldn’t say I’m not angry anymore and, as a water sign, it’s surprising I can still create quite a lot of heat. Perhaps my postpartum rage has transformed into something generative for me — it helps me connect to angry people who are pretty much angry about the right things. I don’t shy away from it anymore, and I consider it my teacher and friend — although sometimes a friend I think has overstayed their welcome. 

My son is three and half and he is as passionate and hot headed as me. Love the kid. I find myself watching him freely express emotions as if he is the center of the universe – and there are times when I honestly feel like there isn’t room for me and my own emotions, because he fills the room with it like any kid. Yet, through a lot of gentleness with my own anger, I’ve learned  that parenting isn’t about displacing myself for my child, it’s about being in the room as myself like I would in any other relationship. 

I get to exist too in my parenthood, without guilt that I don’t have it figured out. I get to find things out about me, whether it’s my gender identity or suddenly reliving my loneliness as a highly sensitive and creative child — I get to discover myself and develop as a parent alongside my child. I used to worry I was “making it about me” by putting on my oxygen mask first, then on my kid. I’m actually finding that it’s modeling to myself, my inner child, and my outer child that existing with emotions is completely normal. It doesn’t damage people, or so my therapist keeps telling me. It shows everyone I am not a paper doll, I’m real.  


  • Rachel Ruiz

    Rachel Ruiz, LCSW, PMH-C, began their journey as a poet and eventually found a calling in social work. Today, as a therapist-activist, Rachel has spent over a decade working closely with families, helping them reconnect and rediscover their bonds. While an adventurer at heart, Rachel stays close to her home in the Sierra foothills of Northern California, hiking and running to channel her rage. Rachel's approach to parenting (and life) is deeply influenced by neurobiology, developmental psychology, and, of course, a bit of fun.

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