The Unrelenting Self-Doubt And Second-Guessing of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

mommy guiltYou’re never gonna know what the exact right thing is to do. You just aren’t, whether you are a mom who’s had postpartum depression or not.

How much does that suck?

Being a parent is tough business, and for those of us with postpartum depression or anxiety I’d venture to say it’s even tougher. We start off on the wrong foot from the very start. This leads to even more self-doubt, even more guilt, and even more second-guessing.

I still do this all the time.

I’m picking up all my kids’ toys off the floor. They take no responsiblity for their own things and it’s my fault because I don’t make them do it. They’ll probably end up destitute.

I refused to play with my daughter yesterday because I was trying to get some things done. I told her to go amuse herself. Maybe I’m not giving her enough attention. She could end up an angry, broken woman. And destitute.

I made a big deal out of my son being referred recently for gifted testing. I told him I was proud of him. Maybe I should have handled it differently. Now, if he doesn’t make it, even though we told him we know he’s smart no matter what happens, he’ll probably be crushed. He’ll probably end up with low self-esteem. And destitute.

I made leftovers for dinner last night. It wasn’t really that nutritious. If I don’t get my act together, this will almost certainly lead to a lifetime of poor health. And destitution.

The difference, of course, between now and THEN (the dark and stormy days of horrendous postpartum depression) is that even though I have mommy guilt and mommy worries, even though I still wonder what if any lasting effects my postpartum OCD may have had, I can laugh at myself. I can brush it off. I can refuse to accept it. I can see that my children love me and are, for the most part, happy and fulfilled.

THEN I couldn’t. THEN I knew I couldn’t hack it. THEN I knew my son would never love me. THEN I couldn’t see that my brain was offering up beliefs that were, in a word, bullshit.

The postpartum depression THEN is no longer. I got better. Now is here, and now, even in the moments of self-doubt, is better.

Photo credit: © fotomaedchen –

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. Thanks so much for writing this, Katherine. Even in the NOW, the aftermath, and the renewal – a reminder of how far one has climbed is wonderful.

  2. Wow. Thank you for sharing this today.

  3. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thank YOU Helen, for all that you continue to do to support women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

  4. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I'm glad you liked it.
    For me, it's like the questioning never goes away, but how we deal with it, or look at it, changes. And that's good enough for me at this moment.

    • Lauren Hall says:

      I feel the exact same way – it’s like you took the words out of my mouth. I smile daily now thinking how far I have come- what a journey!!

  5. This is a really good post – but I just was wondering if you ever had a "flashback" before? I just experienced my first… I wrote just a smidge about it — it was intense and has sent me in a spiral downward which was unexpected. I have been doing well – like you said… not taking things so personal, able to have boundaries and have what I call – "clear thinking"… now i am all clouded up again… ugh…. able to relate at all??? in march it will be 2 years since my hospitalizaion with PPD.

  6. Thank you for this. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who still has doubts at times and that it doesn't mean I'm falling backwards.

  7. It's so refreshing to come here and have nothing sugar coated. Thank you for going back in time with us Katherine!

  8. Great post! And, one that I can certainly relate to! We wouldn't be mothers if we didn't worry. All parents second guess themselves. But, isn't it nice when you can see the line where the "normal worries" live and the few steps past which lead you into "obsessive-thinking world"?
    I think we all need to stick with the mantra "I'm doing the best I can" (which is what I told my 3yo who was quite unimpressed by the Lego truck I built!). Oh well! Thank you for giving light at the end of the tunnel for those experiencing that unrelenting self-doubt…..It WILL get better!

  9. So true. Thanks so much for your honesty. It really validates how I felt a year ago versus how I feel now. 🙂 Anna

  10. OH GOD YES the unrelenting self doubt is awful…but I keep thinking (trying really hard to) that it will get better.
    I love it when you post about your own experience 🙂

  11. You've described it (past and present) to a T. Thank you. The unnecessary but common and pesky worry over what "damage" you may have done while you were ill is a spectre that needs to be dealt with sometimes.
    Living in the present and not letting fears (and the related self-blame) take over is definitely possible when you are not suffering from a mental illness…but it can still take work because it was quite an ordeal to have lived through. Thanks for continuing to provide a place for us all.

  12. Heidi Howes says:

    Wow, I needed his one!!!! I realized in reading this that this was something I have been experiencing and not able to name . . . it is awful! Katherine, have you written anything about mothers who continue to struggle, like myself, after the PPD phase is considered "over"? I am now 3.5 years from my hospitalization for PPD and now have been diagnosed with clinical depression. Yet I still feel like it's PPD because having depression with my children is s tough! Thanks so much for this post.
    Heidi Howes

  13. I think everyone continues to struggle. First, going through such a difficult illness is traumatic and it takes a long time to get over the trauma of it all. Additionally, PPD can lead to chronic depression, especially for those people who wait a long time before getting treated (not that this was the case in your situation). Maternal depression at any period is tough, whether it's in the year after birth or when the children are older.

  14. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I can't say that I had flashbacks. I did have periods where I thought I was getting better, and then a day where I seemed to be back to square one again. And I wouldn't personally find it out of the ordinary to have a flashback to a traumatic event in your life. Have you spoken with your doctor or therapist about it?

  15. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    You're falling forwards. 😉

  16. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    It takes constant work on my part. But I don't feel sorry for myself about it, because it's good work. At least I have some good tools now thanks to my past experience in therapy.

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  19. I can totally relate to the second-guessing and self-doubt. I wish I had found this website months ago, when I was really in the thick of PPD/PPA. Thank you for sharing all of this – it's nice to know I'm not alone in this!

  20. I’n still stuck in the then. U didn’t have PPD (maybe a big with my first born or complete shock?) but the questioning, the guilt… it is always there.

  21. Stephanie says:

    Wonderful as usual! I definitely have been in the “dark” place and now…I’m able to laugh at myself! So thankful for this!

  22. Alie Bear says:

    Today my thought was … I let my son cry himself to sleep because not only did I know he was tired but so was I. But then when he stopped crying I had visions that he actually just stopped breathing and that I would be arrested for his death. Of course he is just fine. I got my nap, he got his, and we are much happier for it.

  23. Can never thank you enough for all you do & for sharing your story!

  24. This is definitely how I am feeling right now…every single thing I think about with my two littles is going to cause them to be destitute. Im working on getting better (have my first appt tomorrow!) This post did make me smile a little and gave me hope that I will someday laugh at all these worries. Its hard because I just keep thinking of everything I wish I did differently – shouldn’t have circumcised my son, shouldn’t have let my son cry to sleep, shouldn’t have let them take my baby girl away to the nursery shortly after birth, shouldn’t have had that monstrous fight with my husband when my son was a baby, should have bf my son after one year, shouldn’t have let my baby girl have a bottle at 6 mo. etc, etc. It just keeps hitting me and I just want to go back in time and do it all over again. Im so thankful to be getting help. I know this post is old but i hope you see this – are then any other articles or resources related to this aspect of PPD/anxiety? This is what is hitting me the hardest right now and anything
    else like this I could read would be so helpful. Thanks so much!

  25. I’m struggling in my now, I’m in hospital and feel afraid I will never get better. My post partum ocd is horrific and it’s been so painful I need hope that it will get better x