The Overwhelming Feeling of Being A Mom with Postpartum Depression

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postpartum depressionAs 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.


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  1. This is exactly how I felt when in the depths of PPD/A. I felt so raw when out in public — thinking…could people tell how bad I felt inside? Can I get through getting us both dressed after her swimming lesson? Do others moms feel this intense sadness? Surely this isn't really what motherhood is about.

    So very thankful to be on the other side….but I have deep empathy for people in the depths of it now.

  2. YES. This is exactly how I explain PPD – like I'm perpetually drowning and I can't function and nothing is working. It's how I explain to my husband why I snap at him when he asks me where my daughter's clothes are. It's why I can't handle the thought of wearing a bridesmaid's dress in my sister-in-law's wedding. It's the reaon that I can't do the dishes/clean the house/play with my babies/smile. Because I'm drowning. Slowly, I've stopped drowning all the time…but there are still some days when I feel the water going over my head again…overwhelming me. It's those days I'm terrified of slipping back under and not being able to function.

    • I think it's hard for people who aren't suffering to understand that feeling. It doesn't seem logical, yet there it is. It's real. Almost every little thing feels monumental.

  3. I felt like this everyday. I did not want to go out by myself with my son. I didnt know how to take care of him in public. It scared me to death. I didnt know how to juggle staying at home with him and getting ready. Going back to work was the worst. I am currently still suffering from PPD/PPA, but i am on the rebound. Everyday is a struggle for me. But i am getting better.

  4. I can absolutely relate. I honestly never really connected the overwhelmed feeling with PPD, until I read this. But I guess it makes sense. I especially struggled with going back to work. It was just too much for me to do, and I didn't understand how other moms handled it. I was just so OVERWHELMED.

    I guess it probably was the PPD though. In reflection (DD is now 3 yo), I realized a while back that I went back to work too early. I mean, I needed to for our finances, but combine medical complications + PPD and I really think I should have been off around 6 months. Not because oh-I-wanna-stay-home-longer, but because I physically and mentally was just not ready to handle it yet.

  5. Exactly how i felt, only difference, i felt this after my 2nd child and not the 1st child…..odd..of course i went on meds before leaving the hossy with my 1st..due to history of depression n at time was in a very bad relationship…i didnt get on meds with my 2nd however, cuz i was happily married n didnt think i would be effected…but i was..and i think its becuz she was colic, had infant gerd. My 1st was sooo easy n happy…

  6. mountains are what come to mind. Sometimes I can see how large the mountain is that I would need to climb to do this task, and I think, oh well, am not going to climb that today, and leave it. Other times I am wrong about the size of the mountain, and once I start walking up it I realise it's not so large. And of course at other times I realise I am lost on the mountain, overwhelmed, and hadn't realised I had started climbing. But I am so much better now at getting down off the mountain. I know how to sit down. Stop. And ground myself in the now. And its wonderful b often the now is great…my toddler and children love me, I have a great garden, live in a lovely community, I am well, and its coming in to summer.

  7. I can definitely identify with what you're describing. The irrational thing is that I felt overwhelmed even when nothing was wrong. I was constantly anxious and afraid of things going wrong, even when things were perfectly fine most of the time. I think that is what made it hardest to share my fears with others…the fact that I had a perfectly healthy and normal baby yet still dreaded each day.

    • yes! before I learnt how to sit with anxiety, which I am still learning, and before it started to subside with medication, I felt like this too. But when I told people my fears the fears tended to disappear or I would realise they were empty. And when the anxiety filled the air and hung around and coloured everything it would help when I thought…"oh well, this is how I feel, what can I do that is nice for me while I wait for this to go, that will gently distract me from how I feel", that helps too.

    • Oh the anxiety. The worry. The constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, even when there is NOTHING wrong. It's like sitting there on the beach and seeing a huge tidal wave bearing down on you and you can't do anything about it. Ugh. I'm so ready to know what it's like to be a mother without all the fear and worry.

  8. It's as if I wrote that. You have really hit the nail on the head. I'm getting help and doing better but I still feel like this sometimes. Thankyou for your honesty, it helps me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  9. Man I wish I didn't understand all these feelings right now. Today, after days fo doing well, I feel so raw again. I am crying reading this. Damn. I can't figure out tonight how to get the house cleaned with three kids. So I want to just stay in bloggyland…

    • Then stay in bloggyland. Don't clean the house. It doesn't always have to be clean. It's okay to take a break from it.

  10. Every time I see that mom at the grocery store (or wherever) I wonder if she is just barely surviving, like I was.

  11. I still feel that way if kiddo has a meltdown in a store. I feel like I'm being judged, like I'm a bad mom for not being able to control her behavior. One time, the checkout lady at Target told me she wasn't judging me when I was paying for diapers. Kiddo was screaming and crying, and I just wanted out, but needed diapers. If you're not judging me, why are you telling me you're not judging me? Is there a reason for you to be not judging me?

    • What a strange comment to make by a stranger! Maybe she's been in the same spot – worried that people around her are thinking that she's a terrible mother because her baby was crying. Maybe she was trying to let you know that at least one person in the store wasn't judging you!? Hmm…I don't think I would have known how to respond to a statement like that!

  12. Great article, totally agree! I think God created us with all the capabilities we need to Menejador any situation. It depends on our attitude on how to handle different circumstances! blessings

  13. Thank you. I am still struggling to recover, and I know these feelings all too well. In the early months, they were absolutely crippling. Now, I go out and do things with my son… not much, but I do it. We even went to the grocery store for the first time about two weeks ago. I was so proud of myself that I was on a high for the rest of the day.

    Thank you again for capturing perfectly what PPD/PPA feels like to me, and for the reassuring words that one day I won't feel like this anymore. Sometimes I have trouble believing it.

    • It's hard to imagine Amber, but it will go away. I recently took both my kids on a trip (just me) for an entire weekend. Just the three of us, with me driving nearly 5 hours away. Can you IMAGINE me having done that years ago when I had PPD? Never!! But I was fine, and had a great time.

  14. I was happy to stumble upon this post today. I felt this same exact way when I had my son a little over 4 years ago. I never was officially diagnosed or sought real treatment and I honestly think those feeling stuck with me for over a year (it didn't help that my son was incredibly fussy and difficult). I'm in a much better place now — but also 5 weeks from having my second child. I think I will handle things different but am worried about having PDD again. Now with two kids I won't be able to go down that path again.

  15. This resonates so much with me. I remember many trips into town when it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. The anxiety ate me up at every turn. I ran from stores crying or ran off the train with tears behind my sunglasses because I was so crippled that he was crying in public. Sobbing in baby change toilets while my son lay in yet another poo-filled outfit and wondering why I just couldn’t laugh, change him and move on like anyone else. Feeling cripplingly, heart-breakingly alone.

    Reading your post has helped me to see how far I’ve come. I’m still in recovery but I no longer fear getting on the bus – if he cries I sit him on my lap and make him laugh. If he screams in a shop, who cares anymore? We’ll be finished in a minute. And if waves of overwhelming anxiety come at me again I breathe deep, accept what they are, let them flow by and move on to the next moment.

    Sometimes you don’t know how far you’ve come until you look back. Thank you x

    • You’re welcome and I’m so glad you’ve found this post, and also so glad you can see you are getting better. That’s great. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t give up!!!
      ~ K

      • Before I read this, I seriously felt alone. I felt like I was the only person that felt that way. I want to be able to smile and laugh with my baby girl but it’s just so hard. All I want to do is cry and answer myself why me? The horrible stomach pains and tiredness overwhelms me because I just want to feel better. How long will this last?… My only hope is in God that he will help me come out of this victorious. Thank you for this artical.

        • Gabby, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. Anxiety and depression are very real illnesses, and it’s hard to pull yourself out of them on your own. There are various effective treatments available that can help you. You are definitely not alone, and these symptoms you are having are temporary and treatable with professional help.

  16. I am a mom to 4 little girls. When it was 3, I prided myself on being able to handle it all. Husband’s crazy work schedule, 2 toddlers plus a little one in school, after school activities, volunteering, keeping up the house, taking care of our dog, plus training for a half marathon. I LOVED our life and family. This last pregnancy was a shock. We didn’t plan to have another for awhile. The pregnancy was a rough one and my anxiety increased with every month. I had convinced myself that I could not handle another little girl. Throw in a last minute move on top of everything and I was stressed even before she got here. It only took 4 days of her being with us for me to have my first panic attack that sent me spiraling into an anxiety induced hell for 2 months. Drowning is a good description – I was so far under water I couldn’t even begin to make my way to the top. Today, my daughter is almost 4 months old, I don’t always feel like I am drowning but at best I feel as though I am treading water. I can tell its getting better, but I am definitely not myself yet. I am learning how to live in the water until I can finally fully climb out. Some days the water begins to rise over my head and the panic starts to come back. I don’t fear hurting myself or my children, I just fear life being so overwhelming forever. I fear never fully enjoying life. I fear the loss of my former self. I fear the loss of all the dreams and goals I had before my daughter’s birthday. But I love her, and if having her here means living in the water for the time being, I will endure it. I just hope and pray that it ends soon…

    • Thank you for sharing your story Meaghan. I’m glad to hear you are starting to feel better. Please be patient with yourself and know that it can be a slow recovery process but you WILL get there. You have not lost your former self – she’s still in there. You just have an illness that is temporary and treatable with professional help.