As I left the grocery store yesterday I saw a woman loading up her car with groceries while juggling her baby. Such a normal sight, but it immediately reminded me of my postpartum depression days and I felt that uncomfortable feeling you get in the pit of your stomach.
How overwhelming it was to even think of going to the grocery store with my baby. I had to carry the impossibly heavy car seat, figure out how to get it into the grocery cart properly (which I’m not quite sure I ever did), make sure to keep my son happy and content, remember to get everything I needed, and dodge any neighbors since I hadn’t showered in days. It was too much for me. Why? It didn’t seem too much for other people. I’m not even sure I realized it was the postpartum depression, in combination with the fact that being a new mom is a major transition for any woman.
And it wasn’t just going out. It was everything. What if he was screaming and we were in a public place? How would I make sure he was getting enough to eat? How could I take a shower if he cried when I left him? How was I supposed to clean the house when I was busy taking care of a baby and exhausted to boot? How on earth would I be able to go back to work? What if it was time to pick him up at daycare and I was in a meeting? When should I call the pediatrician? Why won’t he stop crying? Why can’t I get this breastfeeding thing? Why do I have postpartum depression in the first place? What did I do wrong?
I love the many definitions of overwhelm from the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf
2. To defeat completely and decisively
3. To affect deeply in mind or emotion
4. To be present with an excessive amount
I was all of the above. I was engulfed, drowning in fear and anxiety. I felt completely and decisively defeated, as if I could never be the mother that I needed to be and that other mothers were able to be so easily. I was deeply affected by sadness, numbness and anxiety in alternating waves. And I felt that I wouldn’t ever be able accomplish everything that was in front of me.
Do you know those feelings? Do you feel overwhelmed? I was there. I know how crushing postpartum depression can be. All I can say is I don’t feel that way anymore. What a difference it is to feel capable. As though you can manage. That you’re not the perfect parent but that you’re trying and your children are okay and they love you and you can handle lots of different things at once.
I can breathe. I’m not drowning anymore.