Healthy Tips 5 women on what postpartum depression really feels like

This is what goes through many women's minds when they're experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

  • Published: , Refreshed:
5 women on what postpartum depression really feels like play

5 women on what postpartum depression really feels like

(Women's Health)
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

I questioned everything.

Let's set the scene: You’re in the throes of newborn life and you're completely exhausted. Though you tell yourself things will get better, you can't seem to shake the feelings of inadequacy. You might find yourself asking, “Why did I even have this baby?” Or questioning your sheer lack of connection with your child. Because you know you should care more—but you don’t.

This is what goes through many women's minds when they're experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

“When you have a baby, certain key nutrients have been removed and you go into a very low estrogen state because you are nursing,” says Prudence Hall, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Hall Center. “That can lead to these feelings of being overwhelmed and tired and depressed.” 

So how do you let someone know that you feel like you’re emotionally drowning? These five women explain how they did it, and what helped them survive.

"I Finally Admitted to Myself That Something Was Wrong"

Overcome with fear after her baby was born, Alisa P., 39, second-guessed everything she did. Was she holding her baby enough? Too much? Could she go outside with her? Drive with her? Even be alone with her? She questioned whether every decision was right or wrong.

As if the fears weren’t bad enough, each one was accompanied by something darker: a deep feeling of emptiness. The happiness Alisa regularly felt before the baby was born was nowhere to be found, and in its place was this hollow feeling, interspersed with anger and sadness.

"I literally had to drag myself out of bed,” she says. “I was fighting with everyone. I was mad that no one was around to help me, but no one wanted to be around someone so cranky. I was fighting with my husband daily—I was angry that he didn’t understand me, and I felt like the pressure of taking care of a newborn was all on me."

Alisa didn't realize that she was experiencing PPD, and when a childhood best friend suggested it may be the cause of her feelings, she denied it. After experiencing two pregnancy losses and two failed IVF cycles, “I wanted a baby and to be a mother more than anything else,” she said. “PPD couldn’t be possible."

But there’s one thing Alisa knew for sure: She had to make a change. So she went to see a therapist who had been diagnosed with PPD herself. Therapy sessions and prescription medication eventually helped Alisa come to terms with her PPD. 

"I Found A Medication That Worked"

Jennifer A., 31, couldn’t shake the overwhelming feelings of guilt that flooded her each time she had to pass her daughter off to her husband to get her to quiet down. That wasn’t what worried her most, though. The fact that she frequently experienced intense feelings of frustration with her baby scared her. 

“I would get upset when the baby would cry, yet I knew she couldn't help it,” she says. “I wasn't myself and I didn’t know if it was just a lack of sleep mixed with my spazzing hormones from delivery that was causing it or if it was something else entirely.”

It wasn’t just hormones, and it wasn’t sleep deprivation. Despite hiding her thoughts and feelings from most of her family, Jennifer opened up to the other women in her moms group. Thanks to them and her husband’s encouragement, she sought treatment. But still, she couldn’t stop feeling guilty.

“I felt absolute shame; like I was a failure,” she says. “I had wanted to breastfeed for at least the first six months, but since I had to take psychotropic meds, I wasn’t sure I could. So that made me feel even worse.

But a La Leche League representative recommended Zoloft, an antidepressant that would still allow Jennifer to continue breastfeeding. (Some medications used for depression, anxiety, and other mood-related disorders are not safe for moms to take while breastfeeding because they can be transmitted from the mother to the child via breast milk.)

The new medication helped, and Jennifer says that as soon as she started to feel better, she began opening up to her family about her emotions. In turn, they began helping Jennifer in even more productive, emotionally supportive ways. 

"I Forced My Doctor to Listen" 

While many women with PPD tend to retreat into isolation, that wasn’t the case for Anneliese O., 42. She forced herself to go out and “be normal,” and by all appearances, she was okay—seeing friends, working, and resuming her normal schedule. But in reality, Anneliese wasn’t allowing herself to rest, which exacerbated the emotions brewing underneath. 

“Even though I almost always had someone with me, I felt extremely lonely,” she says. “I told my husband it felt like I was at the bottom of a well and I couldn’t get out.”

So at her checkup two weeks postpartum, Anneliese brought up PPD. The doctor—who wasn’t her regular practitioner—discounted her concerns. “She basically said it was too early and blew me off,” Anneliese recalls.

But it wasn't too early. Anneliese wasn't eating, she cried all the time, and she wasn’t getting any sleep. Finally, her husband made her call the doctor again. This time, Anneliese put her foot down. “Make me better or take him [my son] back,” she recalls saying.  

Eventually, Anneliese reconnected with a former therapist, started taking medication, and slowly started to turn things around. But the experience left a mark: The fear of PPD returning was so great that Anneliese decided against expanding her family in the future.

"I was too afraid it would happen again,” she says. “I feel bad about that decision sometimes, but the fear was too strong. I can still feel how terrible I felt then, and I never want to experience that again.”

"I Stopped Taking Medication"

Patricia D., 33, was the exact opposite of Anneliese after giving birth to her second child. Rather than forcing herself outside, she had zero desire to interact with any family or friends. At all. So she didn’t. Finally, three months postpartum, she realized something wasn’t right.  

“I always look on the bright side of things, but that wasn’t happening for me after the birth,” she says. “Suddenly there was no bright side at all that I could look to.”

But because she didn’t experience PPD with her first pregnancy, Patricia never thought about it being a possibility this time around. Instead, she blamed the fatigue of caring for a toddler and an infant so close in age. 

That didn’t explain her constant second-guessing, though. “I questioned everything,” she says. “I needed others’ approval for things I already knew how to do. Everything I did seemed wrong, and I kept feeling like I was a horrible mother.”

While Patricia’s friends were supportive, it was her husband’s honesty about his concern for her that made her pick up the phone. Her ob-gyn placed her on an antidepressant, but didn’t suggest therapy. This, she says, didn’t work. “The medication made me feel awful,” she says. “I took it for six months, hating it—and myself—the entire time.”

It wasn't until Patricia saw a therapist who specializes in PPD that she started to feel better. The therapist had her write in a journal, which helped her release any worry and fear, and she learned how to deal with her anxiety using breathing techniques, allowing her to stop using medication completely.

"When I was able to get off the medication, I felt like I was set free,” she says. “I wasn't trapped inside my head anymore."

Eventually, she started to see the bright side of things once more.

“That period was really dark for me, but after a lot of hard work, I started to feel like myself again,” she says. “It was such a relief, and working with someone who didn’t just throw pills at me made me realize that I could be a new and an even better version of myself.”

"Didn’t Want to Hurt the Baby, So I Thought That I Must Be Fine"

“For the first couple of months after having my baby, I hated him,” says Danielle W., 38. “I felt like I was the host of a parasite, constantly at the demand of this entity for food, day or night.”

Those feelings of hatred—coupled with the overwhelming demands of still caring for her child—made Danielle feel completely alone. Rather than getting back into her regular routine, she dreaded going to work or visiting family.

"Very little could make me smile and a lot of times it felt forced,” she says. “I knew I was supposed to be happy, but I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and not come out. The normally outgoing person that I was just wanted to hide and cry."

Some days she ate everything in sight, others she went without a single bite. Sometimes she felt like clawing out her spouse’s eyes just for walking into the room, other times she just felt overwhelming sadness and retreated to another room to be alone.

Still, she didn’t think she had PPD. “In the hospital, the staff asks such extreme questions that you don’t think it can possibly be PPD,” she says. “I didn’t want to kill or hurt myself or the baby, so I thought that I must be fine.”

But after reading more about PPD, she realized she had a lot in common with women who experienced it. One year after her son was born, thanks to her husband’s prodding, Danielle finally went on medication to treat her condition.

“While I’m still not back to my ‘norm,’ I am finally starting to feel better,” she says. “Journal writing, meditating, talking with other moms, and having lunch with a friend without the baby helps—it makes me feel more like me again. I’m still working on it, but I now think I’ll be a lot stronger because of this journey I’ve had to go through.” 

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.