Archive for Postpartum

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 12

We’re BACK! 🙂 We took a two week hiatus for some time with our family to rest & re-charge before our busy Fall Family Portrait Season kicks into high gear! We visited our family’s farm in Western Kentucky, it was exactly what we needed! Check out this sweet photo that I shot of my little (Noah) one evening on the farm! 🙂

Child Photography in Asheville, NC.

This week, we’ll be hearing from Meghan Coltrane who is a licensed professional counselor & is Perinatal Mental Health Certified! Meghan has a (beautiful) office in downtown Asheville, she is personable, competent, kind and compassionate! If you’re looking for a Perinatal Mental Health Counselor, she would be a fabulous choice!

Headshots Photographer Asheville, NC.

The Postpartum Awareness Initiative features regular mothers from Asheville and its surrounding mountains. This blog features women from all different walks of life, all having experienced varying postpartum related symptoms. The purpose of this initiative is to HUMANIZE these experiences, to remove the judgement and shame that women are made to feel about their experiences as new mothers. The goal is to educate everyone on the fact that these things can happen to anyone and that the range of symptoms and severity for postpartum related issues is VAST and VARIED. The intention is to support the new mother who might not even understand what she’s thinking, feeling or experiencing as postpartum related. As a Family Photographer in Asheville (and an empath by nature) I want to normalize these things. I want to do what (I) can to help.

In past weeks, I’ve received very detailed, thoughtful, personal, vulnerable and encouraging stories! I hope you’ll go back & read the stories from previous weeks!

If you missed weeks 1-11, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON, KATY, KATIE, SARA, BRIDGET, CLAUDIA

Throughout this series, I hope to feature more guest blog posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

Meghan Coltrane:

Headshots Photographer Asheville, NC.

Perinatal Mental Health 101

By Meghan Coltrane, LPC, PMHC

Licensed Professional Counselor, Perinatal Mental Health Certified

When Postpartum Depression is mentioned, many people think of “baby blues” or horrific stories they have heard in the news. The truth is, there is so much gray area in between those two extremes. I will share with you some basic information about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). The term “perinatal” includes pregnancy and postpartum. Symptoms of a PMAD can surface any time during pregnancy or during the first 12 months post birth. 

Some research says up to 80% of mothers experience what is known as the “baby blues.” This common experience usually only lasts for about two weeks after birth and symptoms include mood swings, weepiness, vulnerability, forgetfulness, and fatigue. Postpartum Depression, however, affects up to 1 in 7 moms, some research states it is closer to 1 in 5 moms. This is when the mother’s symptoms are getting in the way of her functioning and can include loss of appetite, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping even when baby is sleeping, deep sadness, low self-esteem, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. If you are having suicidal thoughts it is important to seek a trained professional to help you become healthier for you and your family. 

There are more mental health experiences than Postpartum Depression. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders also include Perinatal Anxiety, Perinatal OCD, Panic Disorder, Perinatal Bipolar, Perinatal PTSD, and rarely Perinatal Psychosis. A very common experience of moms suffering from a PMAD is having cary thoughts. Many moms have intrusive thoughts or images that are often perceived as disturbing and unwanted. Up to 80% of new parents have obsessive thoughts. These can range in intensity and frequency. 

Are you worried you might develop a PMAD? Here are the risk factors: a previous history of a mental health diagnosis, family history of a mental health diagnosis, poor partner support, moving, illness, financial hardship, social isolation, and past trauma. Having a traumatic birth experience or having a baby in the NICU can also increase a mother’s chance of developing a PMAD. It is important to remember you did not cause this and you are not at fault. 

The good news is, PMADs are treatable! Treatment options include counseling, natural treatments, psychiatric medication, and support groups. I recommend finding a counselor who has specialized training in Perinatal Mental Health. Postpartum.net has a directory of trained professionals, resources for support groups and online chat. There are many medications that have been researched to be safe during pregnancy and lactation. Often moms will worry about the baby being exposed to the medication, however you have to weigh the risks vs benefits; a baby being exposed to untreated mental illness can also have detrimental effects. If a PMAD goes untreated, the illness can escalate with each pregnancy, the symptoms can become chronic, and there is an increased risk of your baby developing psychiatric disturbances. 

One of the most helpful things you can do during postpartum is to enlist as much support as possible. This can include having a meal train, hiring someone to clean the house, connect with other new moms, support groups, etc. Another tip I have learned from my clients, is adjust your expectations; try to be open and flexible when things don’t go as planned, such as your birth plan, life after baby comes, and breastfeeding. Another thing I want to leave you with, be gentle with yourself. This culture is tough on moms; there are so many judgements and high expectations. You are doing the best you can and you are doing a great job.

Meghan Coltrane, LPC, PMHC

www.MeghanColtrane.com

MeghanColtraneLPC@gmail.com

34 Wall St. Suite 604 Asheville, NC

(828) 457-7197

Resources: 

Looking for an updated list of Postpartum & Perinatal Counselors: Click Here

Postpartum Support International postpartum.net 24/7 support hotline 1-800-944-4773

If you are local to the WNC area, click here for a list of counselors, therapists, and prescribers who are trained in PMADs by Postpartum Support International.

Headshots Photographer Asheville, NC.

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 11

Featuring regular mothers from our community, from all different walks of life, all having experienced varying postpartum related symptoms. I wanted to HUMANIZE these experiences, I wanted to remove the judgement and shame that women are made to feel about their experiences as new mothers. I wanted to educate everyone on the fact that the range of symptoms and severity for postpartum related issues is VAST and VARIED. I wanted to support the new mother who might not even understand what she’s thinking, feeling or experiencing as postpartum related. I wanted to normalize these things. I wanted to do what (I) could to help. Thus, this project was born.

In exchange for free portraits with their children, I’ve asked participants to tell their stories. To write about their background – what makes them relatable, what they do for a living, what are their interests or hobbies? I’ve asked them to tell their story as they remember it. I’ve asked them to write about how they came to recognize their struggles, how they discussed their needs with their loved ones, how they sought out help, where they are now, how they’re taking care of themselves etc. In past weeks, I’ve received very detailed, thoughtful, personal, vulnerable and encouraging stories! I hope you’ll go back & read the stories from previous weeks!

If you missed weeks 1-9, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON, KATY, KATIE, SARA, BRIDGET

Throughout this series, I hope to feature guest blog posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

Claudia:

I have thought through how to tell my story so many times, but I’ve never told it all and never spoken it in a public setting. It has many layers of vulnerability. Sitting down to write this is scary, and a part of me wonders if it would be better to keep it in and cancel this photo shoot. Despite my anxiety to share, I believe our stories are powerful. So here it is.

 My story of PPD starts a long time ago.

I was raped early in my freshman year of college. It was then that my symptoms of depression started to change. I had been on an antidepressant since my senior year of high school. I called my family doctor and told her how I was doing. She changed my medicine. That medicine was not a good fit for me, and I began to have hallucinations. It was then that I gained some self-awareness & awareness about psychiatric drugs that would come in handy later on. 
In my sophomore year of college, I was raped again. There is no comparing experiences of this nature, but this time was so much more violent and left a huge mark on my brain.  The symptoms from the year prior grew, a few new ones popped up, and at times I could barely function. I saw a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed as bipolar. The appointments were eight minutes long, there wouldn’t have been time to tell him my story of sexual abuse if it had even occurred to me that it was why I was feeling that way. 
I took an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer for the next few years. I didn’t feel great, but I thought that I felt better than the alternative of no medicine. 
As those few years passed, I became more confident and felt better mentally. I decided to go off both medicines with the support of my then boyfriend (now husband) and my doctor. It went well! I was off medicine for about three years. After my grandfather passed, I had so much trouble grieving that I recognized as more than normal. I went back on an antidepressant and mood stabilizer for a few months. Almost as soon as I was on them, I realized that they were not really a good fit. I weaned off of them per my doctor’s advice. 


I spent six years after that doing really well. I experienced the full spectrum of human emotions. I took care of myself with exercise and healthy food. I nurtured myself and my relationships. I enjoyed my job as a teacher. I spent time with my husband. During that time, I also worked with a counselor that specialized in trauma. I did some really hard work to process the rape incidents, and it was a very powerful experience. Our life was in a really good place, and then we decided we were ready to have a baby. 


We didn’t conceive quickly. It was sad for me and it took more of a toll each day. By the time we began seeing a reproductive endocrinologist, it was overwhelming. We were so excited to conceive in early 2017.

I was cautiously optimistic. 


At my twelve week appointment, I was referred to a genetic counselor because my brother has special needs. At birth, my brother had to be airlifted to a larger hospital for numerous surgeries and there were times my parents feared he would not make it. Based on my family history and her education, the geneticist told us we had a 25% chance of a similar health outcome if we had a son. Then we found out we were having a boy. It was a heavy fear until almost the end of my pregnancy. Because of my emotions about this risk, MAHEC had me see one of their mental health specialists. She gave me a prescription for a mood stabilizer based on my past history, but we had in-depth conversations about the not small likelihood that didn’t have bipolar disorder.

I probably had PTSD from the rapes.

The prescription was ready to go if and when I needed it. 


With three weeks left in my pregnancy, my brother had genetic testing and we received the results. He has an autosomal dominant disorder called DiGeorge Syndrome. Since it is dominant and I don’t have it, we were assured Connor (our baby to be) would likely be completely healthy. 
And he was! I gave birth to Connor on January 20, 2018. I was so happy, and of course completely exhausted. At the hospital, a social worker came in to tell me that I was at an extremely elevated risk of postpartum psychosis. That was not something that was helpful for me to hear. However, we went home from the hospital and things were OK. Bringing home a newborn is hard, but I had wonderful support from my husband and his mom who came to visit us several times. At 5 1/2 weeks, my son spent four days hospitalized with RSV. I thought to myself that if that didn’t give me postpartum depression, I was out of the woods. I was wrong. 


A little after three months, Connor’s sleeping which had never been great became much worse. It was the dreaded four-month sleep regression. I was already struggling with some postpartum insomnia, and it started to increase a little bit. As any new parent knows, sleep deprivation completely changes your mental state. I decided I should probably start taking the mood stabilizer, so I did. After the first week on it, I didn’t feel any better, but you have to increase it really slowly and I knew it could take a long time on it to feel better. During the second week on the slightly increased dose, I started feeling much worse. My insomnia became unbearable. I started having huge panic attacks and screaming at my husband that I was a terrible mother, that the only thing Connor needed me for was milk, and that Connor hated me. I heard the voice of the social worker at the hospital, and I thought I was broken, that I couldn’t get better, that being around would only ruin Connors life. At night when would close my eyes unable to fall asleep, I saw myself walking off the top of our house. 
In a moment of clarity, I recalled that medicine that was not good for me in college and I knew it was the mood stabilizer causing this increase in negative symptoms. I didn’t take it that day, I called MAHEC, and I never took it again. 


I went back to see the lovely mental health specialist at MAHEC. They got me in immediately. She was my saving grace, she believed me and set me up with a perinatal mood specialist. The mood specialist diagnosed me as having depression, general anxiety disorder, and symptoms of trauma. I went home with a prescription for Zoloft, and within three days I felt like a brand new person. It turns out that they mood stabilizer can cause insomnia and mania in people that are not bipolar. I was on the wrong medicine and it threw my world apart. It made me certain my son hated me. It made me think I should just not exist. I wholeheartedly support the use of psychiatric drugs prescribed by a licensed professional when needed. But, I also support parents, particularly new ones, feeling empowered and self-aware enough to have conversations with their care providers that are honest and open. If I have not been open and honest with the people taking care of me, from professionals to my husband, I would not have gotten better. I would not of gotten what I needed. 
Motherhood hasn’t all been roses since I started Zoloft when Connor was four and a half months old, but it’s been a lot better. I still have days that are completely overwhelming, but I have built connections with other moms and I know what self-care steps to take when I need them. I continue to prioritize eating healthy and exercising every day because it helps my mood and it makes me feel good. I do my best to practice yoga on a regular basis because it calms me. These activities that allow me to be a self are the ones that keep me whole for my family. 
I hope anyone who needs help at any perinatal stage will reach out for the support that they need. Being a parent is immensely challenging and beautifully rewarding; we all deserve the good mental health to enjoy the sweet rewards of our children. 

The “SlideOut” — you know it.

-Claudia

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 9

Featuring regular mothers from our community, from all different walks of life, all having experienced varying postpartum related symptoms. I wanted to HUMANIZE these experiences, I wanted to remove the judgement and shame that women are made to feel about their experiences as new mothers. I wanted to educate everyone on the fact that the range of symptoms and severity for postpartum related issues is VAST and VARIED. I wanted to support the new mother who might not even understand what she’s thinking, feeling or experiencing as postpartum related. I wanted to normalize these things. I wanted to do what (I) could to help. Thus, this project was born.

In exchange for free portraits with their children, I’ve asked participants to tell their stories. To write about their background – what makes them relatable, what do they do for a living, what are their interests or hobbies? I’ve asked them to tell their story as they remember it. I’ve asked them to write about how they came to recognize their struggles, how they discussed their needs with their loved ones, how they sought out help, where they are now, how they’re taking care of themselves etc. In past weeks, I’ve received very detailed, thoughtful, personal, vulnerable and encouraging stories! I hope you’ll go back & read the stories from previous weeks!

If you missed weeks 1-7, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON, KATY, KATIE

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (I heard that there were no available spots left, I will be opening up additional spaces at the end of the year, if interest is still there & I still have the stamina to keep up with it!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

SARA

My name is Sara and I am the proudest mom to the coolest kid, Greyson. Happiness and laughter are two things that I try to make happen daily. Being able to provide care and joy are by far some of my favorite things. Though that wasn’t always the case. Here is my story.

Let me start out by admitting that I didn’t always want to be a mother. I enjoyed my life. Doing things that benefitted myself and not having to worry about anyone else. All throughout high school and college I would hear people talking about their future family and life plans and all I can remember thinking was, “Man… I just want to get through this day and go to the barn.” Horses were and will always continue to be my passion and as with any time consuming extracurricular, the opportunity cost is time spent doing other things like, planning a future family or even imagining yourself taking care of a tiny human. Nope, I was perfectly happy with just managing my four legged toddlers.

I think the huge shift in my maternal thought process was meeting the boy. The first time I saw him, I knew. He was the one. His smile was kind and his heart was in the right place. He cared for things he didn’t have to and he made it a point to make me laugh. He made me feel warm. He made me feel like I was home. (He also had a killer ass***) Aesthetically speaking, he was a very appropriate biological partner, the boy was a hotty!

We had a wonderful relationship and decided to take a leap of faith. The desire to create a child grew for both of us and we began the exciting journey. I remember being so thrilled every time I would take a test. It wasn’t until the 6th one or so that I started feeling the heartache. The feeling of defeat was creeping in and I began to feel my new found parental dream slip through my fingers. After a long talk and even more tears, we decided that we would try naturally for a year and then after that, seek professional assistance.

Well ladies, after 8 months of trying (the practice was fun mind you… the constant negative tests were not) I finally saw those 2 pink lines. Now, I had an entire Pinterest page of reveal ideas for the boy. Putting a bun in the oven and making him look for it or telling him that I made him a drink and upon opening the fridge, he would see a baby bottle; I envisioned sweet squeals and tears of joy, all the movie plots. Instead, I lost all creative ability and just shoved the pee stick in his face with a blank stare. 

It. Was. Epic. 

After that, everything was kind of a blur. I had my routine doctor visits. I worked throughout my entire pregnancy teaching lessons and judging horse shows. I even rode until I was 22 weeks pregnant! (Thanks Hattie the halflinger) I started getting down on myself when I couldn’t ride anymore. In most cases, PPD starts after the birth (“POST”) but in my case, it started after the conception. I am a firm believer in having a release. A freedom from the rest of the world if you will. Mine was riding. And my pregnancy took that from me. Without even thinking, I starting resenting the miracle that was growing inside of me. My heart was aching for myself and my unborn child.

The boy and I had been living in a different state throughout my pregnancy and decided that it would be best for us as first time parents to move home and have our village to help us. It was ultimately the best decision we could’ve ever made. 

When Greyson was born, my mind was absolutely blown. My heart was fuller then I ever thought possible and I knew that he was going to be the center of my world. He was perfect. He was everything that I wanted. Everything that I needed. He was everything that I wasn’t. 

I had made up my mind to not breastfeed as long as most moms early on in the pregnancy. It was a decision based on my work life and I was supported by my doctor and the boy fully. Because of that I think, subconsciously, is why we had difficulty latching. I got very upset because I knew that I wasn’t going to be doing it for long and wanted him to get everything that he could. Here comes the first disgusting thought I had about myself. I felt like a cow. A literal dairy cow.  I had heard of the closeness and solidarity of breastfeeding and how wonderful the bond was that formed from it and was beyond disgusted when I didn’t feel any of it. I would lay awake at night just starring at him and hoping that I would feel something. Anything. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved him. Immensely. More than I could imagine and I think that was part of the issue. I was hit hard with a ton of truths about myself when he was born. How selfish I actually was. The emotions that his arrival evoked were, at times, unbearable. I never wanted him to go away. I always tended to him when he needed me. He was attached to me 24/7. The stereotypical PPD of (as horrible as it sounds) leaving my infant in the woods in a car seat was not what crossed my mind. My projection was a constant belief that he was going to die in the night. He would just stop breathing. My perception was the highest anxiety levels that I have ever felt lasting all day and all night long, for months on end. My energy levels were drained, my heart was hurting, my intrapersonal relationships were all but destroyed, my faith was non existent, my body was over drawn and I was done. Done with people, done with my child. Done with myself. I wanted quiet.  I wanted to rest. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to die. 

I called someone one day. I remember how the sun felt on my skin. It was warm and it felt nice for the first time in a long time. I smelled apples from the trees that I planted in my front yard years and years ago. I heard the birds chatting all around me. When she answered the phone, I just started crying. She told me that everything would be ok and that she loved me, no matter what. She stayed on the phone with me while I sobbed uncontrollably. She listened to every single tear. She absorbed my pain and rode it out with me. She was the angel that I didn’t know I needed and she will forever be in my heart. 

From that day, I began to really educate myself on what I was going through. I took each wave of sadness as it was and began to finally find peace again. I started looking for small joys again. I made it a point to appreciate what I once took for granted. I sought help from my OB doctor at first. They were very kind and seemingly unjudging of my tears. I then began working closely with my PPC and from there with my current “happy doctor”. (Starr with 2 “R’s”, you’ve been more of a blessing then I could ever tell you with words). The options of help are endless. The hardest part is asking for it. 

My son, Greyson, who is now 3 and 1-2 years old is the highlight of my life. He will forever be the best thing that I ever did in this life. He is kind and happy. He loves without boundaries and holds a certain type of peace inside him that makes me know he will change this world for the better. He helps me daily; because, even after I got the help that I needed, I still struggle with PPD. He smiles and holds my hand through it all. I found myself at the barn once again. The other love of my life is my horse, Luna. Her neck has held more tears than I can explain but her muzzle has held just as many kisses. She had and will always have a huge part in my success in this life. 

I thought I would never be happy again. There are still days were the darkness creeps in without me knowing. There are still days when I cry uncontrollably and think it will never end but they are getting fewer and less frequent. The light at the end of the tunnel that, for so long, I thought was non-existent is shining brighter than ever now and I am so honored to have been given the life I live.  

So, that is my story. I could write a novel of all my trials and tribulations throughout my journey into motherhood (it would for sure be a bestseller) but for the sake of time, this will have to do. If you take anything away from reading my story, I hope it’s this:

You are worth so much more than you could ever imagine. The pain you may feel today is not a sentence of how you must feel tomorrow. Try to live your life by revealing in the woman you are in this moment. Strive to be better in the next. Make yourself a priority. I may get heck for saying this next part but, here it goes…. Make yourself your TOP priority. Not your spouse, not your children. YOU. You are a goldmine of grace and spirit and wonder. Mama, you are capable of moving mountains. You are capable of changing the world. You have the power to create the life you want, but you have to matter to yourself. Take time to enjoy yourself. Notice the little things in life and make it a point to experience every joy you can. If you feel yourself being less then you know you are, reach out. If you are having trouble seeing your worth at all, know this: You were made for more. Your purpose in this life is not subjective to stereotypes or negative self-talk. It is to be amazing. You are the moments that matter most. Your smile, your warmth, your love. You are enough.

-Sara

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 8

WHY am I doing this?

Why am I giving my time (2hrs) each week? Why am I giving my talent? Why am I giving my energy to this?

A couple months ago, a young mother in our little mountain town had what can only be understood to be a postpartum psychotic break. (Disclaimer: This is completely speculation based on deductive reasoning only from having seen her facebook page & having spoken with mutual friends who knew her.) This was a well educated, well respected health care professional in our community. By all accounts she was a good mother & from her facebook page, it looked like she loved being a mother to her older daughter. So when she did something WILDLY out of character, shocking, heartbreaking & tragic…. It made me sick, how people on the internet were responding and reacting to this woman. I felt an incredible amount of empathy for her. CLEARLY, she was SICK. Yet, people on the internet were writing HORRIBLE things about (and to) her on her personal facebook page, on photos of her family…. saying she deserved prison, hell and just like — every horrible thing you can think of. It made me sick.

For a few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman, what she was going through, what she had lost, how she would feel when she came out of this wilderness, the incredibly difficult road ahead of her, all that she would loose… I contemplated what (I) could do to help educate people. What (I) could do to support new mothers. What (I) could do to try to make sure that this type of thing doesn’t happen in our community again.

That’s when it occurred to me, that (I) am a Family Photographer. My function in our community gives me a platform and access to mothers, children and families in our community. I wanted to do what (I) could to help educate people about Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis.

I wanted to feature regular moms, from all different walks of life, co-existing in the same community, all having experienced some or all of the aforementioned postpartum issues that we just don’t talk about enough. I wanted to HUMANIZE these experiences, I wanted to remove the judgement and shame that women are made to feel about their experiences as new mothers. I wanted to educate everyone that the range of symptoms and severity is VAST and VARIED. I wanted to be a support for new mothers who might not even understand what they’re thinking, feeling or experiencing as postpartum related. I wanted to normalize these things. I wanted to do what (I) could to help. Thus, this project was born.

In exchange for free portraits with their children, I’ve asked participants to tell their stories. To write about their background – what makes them relatable, what do they do for a living, what are their interests or hobbies? I’ve asked them to tell their story as they remember it. I’ve asked them to write about how they came to recognize their struggles, how they discussed their needs with their loved ones, how they sought out help, where they are now, how they’re taking care of themselves etc. In past weeks, I’ve received very detailed, thoughtful, personal, vulnerable and encouraging stories! I hope you’ll go back & read the stories from previous weeks!

If you missed weeks 1-7, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON, KATY, KATIE

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (I heard that there were no available spots left, I will be opening up additional spaces at the end of the year, if interest is still there & I still have the stamina to keep up with it!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

Megan

Megan is from Madison County. She found the Blog, signed up to contribute & drove into Asheville to participate in the project.

I got postpartum depression with my son when I was 23 years old. I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance before I got pregnant with him but the doctor said that I couldn’t take my medication while I was pregnant so I stopped taking it. I had terrible ups and downs with depression and mood swings during my pregnancy.

After my son was born, my depression and mood swings got really bad and I started pushing people away without really noticing it and when I did realize what I was doing, I got mad at myself and I went from depression and anxiety to rage and I would just yell whenever I got the least bit frustrated.

When I noticed that i needed to ask for help my son was a year old. He got sick on whole milk from heat and threw up on my rug and i couldn’t get it out, so I got frustrated so of course I started yelling and my son looked at me like he was absolutely terrified of me and that broke my heart to see that kind of fear in his eyes and to know it was because of me. I picked him up and held him and told him I was sorry and I just started crying. The next day i called my mother in-law to ask if she would go with me to the doctor to see what I could do to get help to fix what was going on with me. I told my doctor that I felt like such a bad mom but she reassured me that postpartum is more normal than most people know and that I shouldn’t feel bad and that it made me a good mom to come and ask for help to take care of myself.

Later on, down the road I found myself pregnant with my daughter. I didn’t get postpartum with her even though I was so scared that I would get it. But the doctor’s put me on something that was safe for me to take while I was pregnant with her and they made sure that I took it when I was in the hospital so I never got postpartum after my second pregnancy. But no matter if you get postpartum once or twice you should never feel bad or ashamed of it.

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 7

One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to further the conversation in an effort to remove the stigma.

If you missed weeks 1-6, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON, KATY

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have a few available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

KATIE

This is my story of bringing children into this world & becoming a mother. A story I felt compelled to share in the hopes it may align with or encourage yours. 

I am anxious as I write this, tense and distracted.  Overwhelm is a frequent guest and I have already gotten up several times to shake it off as I write. Bear with me, this is my current truth.


I have been pregnant 4 times, and I now have 2 wonderful sons.  My husband and I both wanted children and a family, but our first two pregnancies ended in early miscarriages.  My 3rd pregnancy was successful, although difficult emotionally; being pregnant did not mean I would have a baby and it took me a long time to feel safe with the pregnancy.

My first son was born by cesarean due to fetal distress and stalled labor after my all natural birth plan was squashed by being induced due to low amniotic fluid at week 39.  The birth was traumatic for me and was followed by him being taken to the NICU for low blood sugar for 3 days.  I cried often in my mother/baby room as I tried to pump drops of milk and felt like a failure for not “birthing” my baby.  I felt like “they” birthed him for me.  I remember the nurse asking me if I had ever been depressed before and did I want to call my mom to come be with me.  I sobbed even harder, “yes I want to call my mom!” I remember snapping … but she died when I was in middle school. 

I had no idea at the time, but the risk factors for PPD and PPA were just stacking up.

Upon going home, I had flashbacks of the NICU and/OR, hearing sounds and beeps and being brought to my knees in tears. I began having intrusive thoughts of my son dying and finding him dead in all kinds of graphic and horrific situations.  I checked the crib frequently for him breathing in the night.  My pediatrician suggested I had PPD but I denied this stating that I didn’t have thoughts of wanting to hurt my baby.  I had no idea everything I was going through were classic signs.

After my maternity leave, I went back to my full time job and began falling further apart.  I cried at my desk, I came home and saw my son and cried more.  I wanted to be alone and became fearful of leaving the house.  I still didn’t think I had PPD but I knew I felt terrible, so I sought a therapist and began regular acupuncture and yoga, two of my best healing allies after my miscarriages that had been put to the back burner.  I refused medication due to concern of breastfeeding.  I learned more about PPD and PPA and felt so embarrassed that I didn’t know what was going on with me.  I knew I wasn’t able to keep going at this rate and heal from this, so I was able to go part time at work.  Slowly, ever SO slowly, I began to find myself again about 2 months after my son’s first birthday.  I resolved then that if ever I experienced postpartum mood issues again, I would be open to considering medication. I felt I had made it through, but I also really suffered.  


Just about the time I was loving long nights of sleep, a toddler that wasn’t melting down every day, and a little bit of routine, we decided to try to get pregnant again.  This 4th pregnancy was easier, not “high risk” but still  a “geriatric pregnancy” (give me a break…) I bonded with this baby faster in utero.  I began working with my therapist again in preparation for the birth.  I had been hard and fast advocating for a VBAC convinced that a cesarean was the LAST thing I wanted.  However, months later and birth looming, I decided that actually a planned cesarean felt psychologically safer as it eliminated the risk of “trying and failing” at natural birth again.  I fought through this decision process for weeks. I knew this was my last baby and I wanted a wonderful birth experience and found myself shocked that it might include another cesarean. In the end, it was just what I needed … I held my 10 pound son as they stitched me up and reveled in his beauty and size.  We avoided a NICU visit this time and my recovery began so well.

  We went home to the support of my family and I felt wonderful.  My sister even commented that I seemed so much better than last time and I felt so hopeful.  I had typical emotional swings, but it was manageable and not consuming.  But, they didn’t go away and in fact became much worse about 3-4 weeks after birth. I found myself crying constantly, inconsolable at times, sobbing over nothing and yet everything.  I felt so alone even though I wasn’t.  I had no appetite, I wanted to stay in bed all day, and had no interest in playing with my toddler.  I was exhausted from sleepless nights.  I sat on our porch swing one day holding my newborn watching the fish swim in our little pond and I cried and cried. At times, I had no thoughts, only sadness.  And then other times, the intrusive thoughts abducted me into graphic scenes of either my boys dying or me dying in front of them.  I was helpless to them.  Friends and family reminded me of my coping skills, but I had no traction to even try.  I felt helpless.

I remembered my promise to myself from before and at my next doctor’s appointment, asked about medication.  It gave me bearings again, it was like regaining gravity.  I still had muck to sludge through, but at least my feet stayed underneath me.  I began to rally and noticed my appetite returning and I began to laugh and play with my son again.  I hired a college student to help me around the house while I continued healing from the surgery. And yet, it stalled.  I was no longer sad, but the intrusive thoughts continued, now accompanied with increased anxiety, anger, and even paranoia.  And here I find myself.  I am a social worker and help people with their depression and anxiety … how could I fall victim to this?  Shouldn’t I know what to do??


Last week I went to see a new Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner that specializes in Postpartum mood disorders. We changed my medications and developed a sleep plan for me to address my severe sleep deprivation; I hadn’t slept more than 3 hours in a row since February.  I see my therapist weekly and I get on my yoga mat at home as often as I can. It’s really hard to take care of myself with a toddler also.  It’s hard to want to be able to do more than I can. I go back to work in a few weeks, part time still, and of course have anxiety around this. I am preparing now and will get take out for dinner, ask for help, and be as easy and gentle on myself as possible.  
My sister said to me weeks ago, “just do the next smallest thing. What is the next tiniest step you can do, and do just that.  Then look for the next one.” So I keep stepping forward, hopeful I will rise from this in time just as I did with my first son. In the meantime, I go to counseling, exercise, try to be gentle to myself, not make any big life changing decisions, and just do the next smallest thing.  And chocolate and popsicles help too. 

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 6

First, a note from our sponsors (me): These Beautiful Boho Minis are happening THIS week and I have several spots left on Thursday and Friday that I would very much like to fill! Get in touch! I would love to photograph you! xo

Sign up for a Mini HERE!

Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming!

If you missed weeks 1-5, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle, Rachel & Shannon’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL, SHANNON

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have a few available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

KATY

My name is Katy Clevenger, I’m a 33 year old Speech Language Pathologist working with elementary aged children. This story has actually been more difficult for me to write than I thought it would. It’s hard to put in words what I went through, and while it may not seem all that significant, it’s important to remember that what a new mother feels is 1million times deeper than what is presented on her exterior. Here is my truth:

I walked into Black Cat Burrito in Boone NC on election day 2008, sat down at the bar next to a cute fella, and married him 3 and a half years later.  We had a fun, adventurous, and mostly undramatic courtship. We enjoyed each others company. We loved traveling, hiking, going to shows, etc (and we still do). However, our one major disagreement was a pretty serious one. He never wanted to have kids, and I did. At times, it seemed that neither of us were going to budge on our stance of what we wanted for our future life together. But, after A LOT of conversing (along with some fighting, crying, and persuading) I finally convinced him…We agreed that a trip to Thailand would be our last “hoorah” before crossing the barrier from being a carefree and independent couple into the depths of parenthood. 

In 2016, on our first try, we became pregnant. I clearly remember looking at the positive home pregnancy test thinking “Oh shit….It actually worked…This is for real”.

We had a pretty uneventful pregnancy, other than partial placenta previa (which self corrected) and a possibility of our baby being breach, everything went very smoothly. We took the Birth with Courage class at HomeGrown Babies, wrote out our birth plan, and shared a strong vision of how we wanted / hoped our labor and delivery would go. And, when the day arrived (6 days past our due date) everything did go exactly as we planned. I had a 14 hour unmedicated labor and our son was born April 1st at 06:32am.  I am so fortunate that our labor and delivery played out exactly how I wanted it to…But, it was the most traumatizing experience of my entire life. When they put my son in my arms for the first time, I was too tired to really enjoy it. In all honesty, all I wanted to do was sleep.

The feeling of bringing a new born baby home was not as cozy and fairy tale like as I thought it was going to be. It is almost unexplainable. The “constant-ness” of having a baby needing you 24/7 took a while to get used to and the exhaustion was nearly unbearable. I had this cyclic feeling of waiting for this baby’s parents to come pick him up so we could get back to our regular life….And then realizing that WE are this baby’s parents and he is not going anywhere.

I can’t remember when my anxiety set in, but I think it was pretty immediate. Even having family visit in the hospital made my blood pressure rise (and high blood pressure is very uncommon for me). I felt like my adrenaline was constantly running on full speed for at least the first 3 months. I was always sweaty, stinky, and felt like I was running around without my head on straight. I consider myself an active person. So, after I had my baby I thought I would soon be able to jump back into my old routines. I didn’t realize then that I was pushing myself a little too hard. I should have listened to my body and rested more, it takes a long time to heal. Everything about my son was so painful for me for the first few weeks that I didn’t want much to do with him. I pulled a muscle in my back during labor which made it painful to hold him. I also knew that if I held him, he would want to nurse. Which was the most painful thing of all. When my son was about 2 weeks old, I got a HUGE crack in my nipple and became very sick, probably the most sick I have ever been in my life. So, I went to my OB, but she was busy so they had me see a nurse practitioner. I tried to explain to her everything I was feeling, and I starting crying. I can remember her looking at me and saying “Are you sure you want to breastfeed?…It’s OK to give it up” UGH! That made me so mad! I was obviously very sick and I’m sure symptoms of postpartum depression were apparent. But she never mentioned anything about that, she never dug any deeper to try to assess my mental well being.  I practically had to beg her to at least prescribe me antibiotics for whatever infection I had (I would proudly like to add that, after 3 months, my cracked nipple finally healed and I nursed my son until he was 15 months old.)

The thought of causing harm to my baby never really occurred to me. But, it did pop in and out of my head at times. Not because I wanted to or thought I would, but I think because babies are so vulnerable and so reliant on us, and that is a lot of power when you really think about it. I communicated everything I was feeling with my husband and he talked me through things, reassured me, and made me feel safe.  More than anything, I had thoughts of just wanting to escape, to run away. Maybe not forever, but I wanted to run from the endless responsibility that is motherhood. I wanted to sleep. Every day when I was about to leave work, I would think to myself, OK now what I am going to do with this baby when I get home. In hindsight, I should have just been content with not doing anything at all. Just holding him, feeding him, playing with him, and that would have been enough. 

On top of all of that I had an underlying feeling of guilt. That I forced my husband to forgo the lifestyle he always wanted for himself and brought him into this seemingly downward spiral of figuring out how to do life as parents, which was definitely a lot harder than I had anticipated it being. I love my husband, but the transition to parenthood was not an easy one for either of us, and it was hard on our relationship.  All of a sudden I felt I no longer knew how to be a partner, a friend, a mother, or basically a person.  I had to learn how to take care of a baby and relearn how to take care of myself, and how to complete basic everyday tasks. There were days when I couldn’t get my teeth brushed until at least 1 in the afternoon and I was terrified about taking my baby to the grocery store, I didn’t know how to do it or how it would work. But, I thought to myself, if he starts getting upset, I can just leave everything right there in the store and walk out. And, after a couple of visits it started becoming easier and was soon part of our little routine. 

My saving grace was that I had such wonderful support from my family and friends. I called my sister every day asking a million questions about how to manage a new born. She talked me through things without judgement or making me feel like I was crazy for having such a hard time. I formed deep friendships with a group of other new mamas whom I met during our child birth classes at Homegrown which helped me feel connected to other women who were going through some of the same things I was. We met weekly at a smoothie shop and shared stories of transitions and struggles as our babies squirmed on the floor next to us. Just getting out of the house to meet this group every week was so helpful.  I am still in close contact with these women and it has been so amazing watching all of our babies grow into the toddlers they are today. Most importantly, I had my husband. When I was so sick after our son was born, he stepped up. Not only taking care of a new born baby, but also nursing his sick wife who never stopped crying about her cracked nipple or complaining about how much pain she was in. I have watched him transform from a guy who never wanted to have kids to the most amazing dad in the world. He loves our son with his whole being and has removed all strands of guilt I ever felt for dragging him on this journey.

Thinking back on everything to write out this story has been more emotional for me than I thought it would and it resurfaced a lot of feelings and memories that surround the newborn phase. In a way, I do not want to share it. It is personal and intimate. On the other hand, it has been somewhat healing for me. It forced me to dive back into myself and to come to terms with everything that I went through. I still feel ashamed for not absolutely loving having a newborn baby and I still feel unnecessarily and unreasonably anxious at times. 

My son just turned 2 years old and even though our beginning was a tumultuous one, I can’t imagine living this life without him in it. Considering everything we went through, and continue to go through, I would choose to do it over again every time. 

If you’re a new mama reading this story and it resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you are having a difficult time transitioning to your new life as “mama”, I urge you to find someone to confide in and share your feelings with. If you need a nonjudgmental ear to talk to, my contact information is listed below and I’d be happy to be that person for you. Hang in there! It is the longest, shortest time.  And it will pass.

Katy: 828 773 4556

ktclev@gmail.com

Because…2yr olds! 😉

If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!

A Link for: Postpartum Support International

*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!

Joy Molina
Black Mountain
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
restorationcounseling2017@gmail.com

Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
postpartumlis@gmail.com

Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
Info@SacredSoulBirthing.com

Elizabeth Gillette
Asheville Area
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL
elizabeth.gillette@gmail.com

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 5

One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to further the conversation in an effort to remove the stigma.

If you missed weeks 1-4, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE, RACHEL

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have a few available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

SHANNON

My name is Shannon. I am an RN, a wife and now a stay-at-home mom to two pretty awesome kiddos. Around the age of 24, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I had always been irregular and found some comfort in having a diagnosis and a plan. I would go on birth control to regulate my cycle until I was ready for children and go from there. Easy peasy. After all, almost every woman I talked to with PCOS said they just took Clomid conceived no problem. Some even had twins. Yay!
Shortly after my husband and I got married, I went off the pill. We knew it could take a while and were already in our late 20s. We tried for a year without success.

The next two years were spent with four rounds of Clomid, eight rounds of FSH injections, timed intercourse (because thats fun, right??), intrauterine inseminations, a blocked tube, surgery, miscarriages, lots of tears, and me coming to the realization that I may never be a mother. Our next step was IVF, but between a 30 lb weight gain and feeling absolutely out of my mind from the hormones, I was emotionally drained and needed a break. My husband was offered a job in St. Croix and after the three years we’d had, it seemed like a great opportunity to do something different for awhile.


While there, I started practicing yoga and made many changes in my diet. We conceived naturally not even a year later. We were over the moon. I couldn’t believe after everything we’d been through – we were having a baby! While excited, we were also very nervous after the time it took to get there. We decided to move back to the States before the baby was born to be near family and friends. I read all the books, took the classes, hired a doula, went to LLL meetings while pregnant and had a birth plan. I felt so prepared for his arrival, but nothing prepared me for what was coming after.


My son cried day and night. And this was no regular cry. It sounded like he was in pain all the time. He was never happy and very difficult to console. He would only sleep for 1-2 hours at a time throughout the night. I couldn’t believe this is what we waited for for five years. I couldn’t believe that after being so good with other children that I couldn’t console my own baby. I felt like I was broken. I felt like he was broken. It wasn’t long after he was born that the intrusive thoughts began. I would have visions of dropping him while walking down the stairs or on the tile in the bathroom. I would see us getting into a terrible car accident. Sometimes it was just a vision of him bleeding or laying in bed not breathing. I couldn’t sleep even when he did, because I was so afraid he was going to die. 
Breastfeeding was not the amazing, joyful bonding act I thought it would be either. My son was tongue and lip tied and nursing him was extremely painful. We had his ties revised but his latch was never great. So I nursed and pumped, and pumped and nursed to protect my supply. In hindsight I should have given up breastfeeding for my sanity, but I was determined and kept on despite my misery. I felt like I was failing as a mom in so many ways. I didn’t want to fail at feeding him, too. But still he cried and cried. I would cry with him and scream while bouncing him on the exercise ball for hours at a time. Sometimes I would envision throwing him against the wall, but fortunately those thoughts were very fleeting and once it was gone, even more guilt would set in. I thought “How could I be so bad at this? Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a mother after all?” 
I felt helpless and exhausted. I took him to the doctor so many times since he seemed to be in pain, but they just shrugged it off and said it was a normal phase that would improve by 12 weeks. I remember taking him back in around four months because things were not any better. My gut said something was wrong. They still weren’t concerned because he was gaining so much weight, and actually accused me of “overfeeding him and making him sick”. I switched pediatricians and finally got some real help. She recommended me cutting dairy and soy from my diet. I had tried this briefly before, but wasn’t aware of all the hidden dairy I was still eating and assumed it wasn’t helping.
It took a few weeks to see improvement, but around 5.5 months my baby was finally happy. Sleep would still be a long road but he was consolable and playful, and I felt closer to him because of what we had survived. I still had terrible anxiety and started taking an antidepressant and going to therapy. Therapy wasn’t too helpful as I had to take my son with me which was very distracting. The medication definitely took the edge off, and I regretted not taking it earlier on. I may have been a better mother if I had. At least that’s what I thought at the time.


The day before my son turned two, we found out we were going to have our second. I was nervous because we’d had such a tough time before, and I couldn’t imagine going through that with a toddler to care for as well. We were really excited, though. I knew a sibling would be good for our son. Plus, I felt like I knew more of what to expect this time. I found an awesome therapist and started going about six weeks before I was due. I said I wasn’t going to push breastfeeding if it was too difficult and stressful. I would take the meds if I needed them. I had a toddler to think about this time.


So much for best laid plans. My daughter was tongue and lip tied like my son. It was excruciatingly painful to nurse all over again, even after revision. I had told myself I would stop if it was too much but I never could find the line of “too much”. Something inside said to keep going. I ended up nursing my son for 27 months. I could do this. And my daughter was so easy. She did go through a short phase of crying for a few hours in the evenings no matter what we did, but she slept pretty well for an infant. I could put her down or in the swing without her screaming. She was very content. (I should also add that I cut dairy and eggs from my diet early on, recognizing some discomfort at times like I saw in my son.)
Other than the breastfeeding issues, I felt like I couldn’t complain. Still, I had a nagging feeling all of the time. Something was wrong. It wasn’t long before the dreaded intrusive thoughts returned, not just about my daughter but also about my son. Fatal car wrecks were back. Dropping the baby was back. My son accidentally hurting the baby was added to the list of visions that invaded my thoughts, along with my son falling off of high playground equipment. I would sit awake at night, even after nursing and putting the baby back to bed, afraid that someone was going to break into our house and take my son. I was scared to go out much with the kids by myself because how could I safely get both of them back in the car?? What if someone snatches the toddler from the cart while he waits for me to put the baby in the car? What if I put him in first and someone snatches the baby? It was constant worry and fear.
And while I had mostly postpartum anxiety with my son, this time I had postpartum depression as well. I felt paralyzed. I hated leaving the house, and it would take all morning to muster the energy to go out. Sometimes it never happened, and then I felt worse because how could a grown woman not leave her house with her kids?? I also felt guilty because I wasn’t as connected with my son as I had been. My husband had taken over bath and bedtime routine since I always seemed to be nursing the baby. I missed him. I missed my husband. I missed myself.


I would love to say that I did “this” or “that” and figured it all out, but the truth is that after more than two years since my daughter’s birth, I still struggle with PPD and anxiety. I have been in therapy off and on. It really came to a head right after this past Christmas when I finally admitted to my husband and therapist that I had been having suicidal thoughts. I had been in a fog. I isolated myself and lost touch with friends. I’ve been back on medication since January and it helps. I still have my moments when I have to force myself to do, well, anything.


I have been working on “self care”, which for me includes making time to exercise and a long bath after the kids go to bed. I want to get out more without the kids but I’m still having trouble with that one. The anxiety makes social interactions SO DIFFICULT, and I feel even more drained after them. My husband and I love music and used to go to shows regularly before kids, so we are trying to do more of that. We are trying to remember who we are as a couple, and not just who we are as parents. We are so grateful for the two amazing beings that call us “Mommy” and “Daddy” but also need to meet our own needs in order to best meet theirs.
This has been a lot harder for me to put into words than I thought it would be, and it makes me a little queasy to know that it will be out there for others to read. At the same time, I hope it helps. I hope a Mama reads it and can relate. I hope she feels something from my story, as I felt with the stories of the Mamas who have shared before me. I hope she knows she isn’t alone. And, maybe it will resonate with all Mamas to a certain degree, because even without a PPD/PPA diagnosis, it is tough. Beautiful, but tough.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!

A Link for: Postpartum Support International

*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!

Joy Molina
Black Mountain
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
restorationcounseling2017@gmail.com

Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
postpartumlis@gmail.com

Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
Info@SacredSoulBirthing.com

Elizabeth Gillette
Asheville Area
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL
elizabeth.gillette@gmail.com

**Also — I am shooting these adorable Bohemian Summer Mini Sessions in a couple weeks! I would love to meet you! Bring your babies and let’s shoot some adorable photos together!? <3 I still have several spots to fill! Please get in touch ASAP! xo

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 4

One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to further the conversation in an effort to remove the stigma.

If you missed weeks 1-3, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree, Claire & Michelle’s stories here: DESIREE, CLAIRE, MICHELLE

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have a few available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

RACHEL

Let me preface this by saying that I’m writing this in the midst of some pretty intense anxiety so this may not be the most eloquent of stories… but it is mine and it is honest.

This is not a story about how I struggled with postpartum anxiety & then figured out the answers & was cured…  This is my story about my current struggle and finding the strength to both acknowledge the reality of my postpartum anxiety and to have the hard conversations about how to handle it.

While I have been following this conversation and think the discussion on this blog is SO important, I actually had no intention of sharing my own story.  However, there was a cancellation and Brittany reached out and asked if I could fill in.  Since I am 1) terrible at saying no and 2) I think this conversation IS so vital, here we are.  (I also love Brittany and really appreciate this amazing platform that she is using to talk about these hard things!)

—-> from Brittany: Something lovely that I’ve found in doing this is that the writing of these stories, the speaking of your truth, has been therapeutic for the participants as well as a blessing for the new mother, up for that 2am feed, aimlessly scrolling & happening upon this blog…. You’re Welcome! 😉 xo

I have written, erased, and rewritten this many times already.   It’s really difficult for me to know what to say or how to share.  Anxiety makes it about a hundred times harder than it needs to be.  It’s also really scary to be so vulnerable–but more on vulnerability later.

My backstory: I met my husband Jake in 2015.  Meeting him & the instant connection was shared was entirely unexpected and confusing.  I was very weary of any sort of serious relationship with him as he had three children from a previous relationship. As my connection with Jake grew so did the realization that I really couldn’t imagine life without him. I also knew the reality was that Jake had a vasectomy and was not looking to have any more children.  

My entire life, I had always dreamed of being a mother.  For many years, I poured my heart and soul into loving my nieces and nephews & my heart ached to have a child of my own.  Now here I was, in love with the most amazing man and wanting nothing more than to live life by his side.  But it wasn’t that simple.  Being with Jake almost certainly meant giving up my dream of being a mother.  It was something I wrestled with greatly. Could I live with that? Could we Foster? Could we adopt? Would that be fulfilling for me?  We had many conversations about it before we got married…

Eventually, we both agreed that we should pursue a vasectomy reversal and take our chances.  We knew that if we didn’t at least try there would be a part of us that would regret it.   Since it had been seven years since his vasectomy, the surgeon said there was about a 50% chance that it would be successful. He also informed us that if successful, it took an average two to three years for most couples to get pregnant. 

Much to our surprise, six weeks after Jake’s vasectomy reversal, I was pregnant.  YAY! We were so excited and over the moon.  It felt like I had waited my entire life to be pregnant. I was so excited to experience it all. Both my mom and sister had told me countless times how much they loved the experience of being pregnant and not only how wonderful and empowering it was, but also how great they felt.  I love my mother and sister dearly but damn them!  At about 5 weeks pregnant I started puking and I basically puked everyday until I pushed my cute little baby out.  (No seriously, I was puking between each push).  

Enter: Finley Stuart.  The greatest love I have ever known.  I know most of you reading this understand that you don’t truly know your full capacity to love until you hold your child in your arms for the first time.  I swear my heart expanded so much the day he was born and continues to expand every single day that I get to be with him, love him, and I love being his mother.  

The first few days at home were exhausting and it was all such a blur. I remember every little thing making me very weepy.  I called my OB just to make sure that crying 24/7 was normal, and was told about the “baby blues”.  As that passed and I began to get into more of a routine, I felt like I was doing okay.  I was able to acknowledge that becoming a mom is a major shock and so much to process but I was making it happen. I was (and still am) so grateful for all the free moms groups in the area to attend and found a lot of solace there.  I also met some really wonderful mothers willing to be vulnerable, to share in the struggles of being a new mom with.  I thank each and every one of them for that and I feel so grateful there are these resources in our community.  (Any new mama who needs support/connection, I HIGHLY recommend these groups!)  

I thought I was doing okay.  But one day when Finley was around 6 weeks old, I found myself really stressed out — out of nowhere.  I couldn’t figure out what was happening, I felt really anxious and like I couldn’t breathe.  I’d have to count and make myself take deep breaths.  As a special education teacher, I had seen quite a few panic attacks in my day but I wasn’t quite ready to accept that this is what was happening to me.  

In addition to the panic attacks, I suddenly found myself really impatient with my stepchildren, who I love so much.  Their crusty noses and dirty hands stressed me out beyond belief and every time they sneezed I felt like screaming.  My newborn was constantly picking up colds from them and it skyrocketed my anxiety.  Oftentimes my anxiety would manifest in frustration with them and I would basically ban them from touching their baby brother. I felt like such a bitch but I seriously couldn’t help myself.  

A few weeks later, I started having these really intense and intrusive thoughts.  I would suddenly and vividly imagine horrible things happening to either Finley or myself.  I would put him down for a nap and go take a shower, only to have to turn off the water every 30 seconds because I swear I could hear him screaming.  I couldn’t listen to music or watch TV or do anything without thinking I heard him in distress.  I would be in the shower and I would imagine the whole house catching on fire and everything and everyone burning.  

Shortly after this, these thoughts started affecting my sleep… I mean, the little bit of sleep you get with a newborn (am I right?).  I would lie awake, trying too will myself back to sleep, only to start feeling pressure in my chest, unable to catch my breath, thinking that there was something wrong with Finley– that he wasn’t breathing and wasn’t going to wake up the next morning. I would walk over and check on him constantly. Often times, I would even put my hand on him just to feel his little chest rise and fall to convince myself I could lay back down. I wouldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours a night which was making me exhausted and I was experiencing  headaches and migraines almost daily.  My sweet husband saw my struggle and helped as much as he could but I wasn’t quite ready to be honest with him about how bad it was and that my anxiety was getting out of control.  I was still telling myself I had it under control.   

Things I don’t recommend doing shortly after having a baby: quitting your job, starting a new job & starting grad school full time. Who has two thumbs and did all of the above?  This girl! My intrusive thoughts continued but I was managing more sleep and was still convincing myself that I was okay.  The anxiety seemed to come in waves and for the most part I could just ride them out until they passed.  

Fast forward to my second semester of school.  The semester was absolutely miserable.  My fourteen year old stepson moved in with us, I was taking five classes, swamped with my assistantship and was entirely overwhelmed.  My schedule was insanely busy and my anxiety skyrocketed. But still, I persevered, keeping my struggles to myself.   

As soon as my semester ended I expected to feel a huge sense of relief but it didn’t come.  I had spent so much of the past year feeling weak for not being able to handle my anxiety.  I’d spent much of the past year being ashamed of my feelings but just kept telling myself I could put it all behind me once I got that relief from the semester ending.  When the relief didn’t come, I struggled HARD.  I was at home with my little guy and not getting out much and I was a mess.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that around this time I heard this Brene Brown quote: 

“Daring greatly means the courage to BE VULNERABLE. It means to show up and be seen. to ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”

 -Brene Brown

That was it.  It was time.  Time to admit to myself, time to be vulnerable, time to have the hard conversation with my husband.  It was not pretty.  There was a lot of ugly crying and shame and discomfort.  But I am SO glad I did.  This conversation is what brought the relief for me.  In opening up and being vulnerable I was finally able to stop feeling the shame and accept that it was okay to not be okay.  After all, the first step towards recovery is admitting your problem, right?  So this is my first step and it felt like a scary leap.  So, I am not cured, nor do I have I have all the answers.  Trust me, I’m still a hot mess– but I am not alone.  I am vulnerable and in that vulnerability I am finding strength to finally show up. To finally be seen and ask for what I need, and it’s making all the difference in the world.

So, to the mama who is reading this and struggling with whatever it is: You are NOT alone.  I am so, so sorry if you’ve felt this way and I empathize with you greatly.  You don’t have to be okay right now. You are struggling and that is OKAY.  You don’t have it figured it out (yet) and that is also okay.  You see all these stories about the mothers who have made it out on the other side and wonder how in the world that could possibly be you because today it feels absolutely impossible… and that is okay too.  

What I do encourage you to do is have the hard conversations.  Have it with your partner or your friend or anyone who you feel will listen and see you–see the real you, including all the struggles, and everything you’ve felt you needed to hide.  I am so very fortunate that for me I was able to find this person in my husband, but I realize that may not be the case for you and that’s also okay.  Hell, I’m here if you want to have that conversation with me.  Be vulnerable, ask for what you need.  You can show up and you can be seen, no matter where you are or what your struggle is.  That’s the first step.

Dare greatly mamas,

Rachel

If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!

A Link for: Postpartum Support International

*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!

Joy Molina
Black Mountain
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
restorationcounseling2017@gmail.com

Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
postpartumlis@gmail.com

Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
Info@SacredSoulBirthing.com

Elizabeth Gillette
Asheville Area
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL
elizabeth.gillette@gmail.com

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 3

One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to further the conversation in an effort to remove the stigma.

If you missed Week 1, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree’s story here: DESIREE

If you missed Week 2, you’ll find the introduction & Claire’s story here: CLAIRE

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have 7 available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

MICHELLE:

In May of 2018 I was diagnosed with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). This had gone undiagnosed for two and a half years. Please know that I was not embarrassed about this diagnosis. I was embarrassed that I went so long without doing anything about it. Didn’t I know better? I had been a huge advocate for mental health support for years. Hadn’t I spent time doing the work to know the signs?Wasn’t I prepared to take the steps needed if I saw them in myself?

I first started seeing my counselor in November of 2014, when I realized that my stress from work and other obligations was overwhelming my home and personal life. I was having a hard time separating the two and the balance was way, WAY off. Due to this imbalance, I was diagnosed with infertility in October of 2014. After all the tests, and all the blood work, and everything coming up normal, I made the decision to call Laura Thrasher. After just a few weeks of seeing her, we came to the conclusion that I have most likely always had anxiety that usually manifested itself as a frantic mania where I needed to “Do All The Things!” and follow all the rules and make sure everything was just right. By January of 2015, after three months of counseling, yoga, and acupuncture, I was pregnant with my first child. 

I had a totally healthy and normal pregnancy, which made me feel guilty because I know that isn’t the case for everyone. My son, Gardner Roy Pearce was born via natural delivery with no drugs at a whopping 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 21 inches long. He was a beast – and I should have been more prepared for this, seeing as the midwife would always remark about him being “robust” starting at 6 months gestation. On the way out, he nicked a blood vessel, causing a pretty intense hematoma. So, after 23 hours of labor and a natural delivery, I had to have an epidural and surgery. I also ended up with whiplash from pushing him out.

Twelve hours after delivery, my son was getting all the normal newborn tests and deferred twice on his hearing screening. Two weeks later, he deferred again at the Olson Huff Center. My husband had gone back to work the week before, so I had already spent the second week of my newborn’s life figuring out how to be a mom and keep a human alive, and take care of my wrecked body and emotions. We spent weeks going through all the tests and all the blood work, and everything kept coming up normal (except that he still wasn’t hearing everything). This leads to internal questions like, “Was I sure that cold medicine I had to take back in April on the approved for pregnancy list?” or “Did I do something before I knew I was pregnant that could have caused this?” or even from my family, looking into our medical history to see if this really was genetic, even though the tests said no. I went back to my counselor, Laura once or twice after my son was born to check in. She wanted to make sure I had processed the situation with his hearing impairment and the traumatic post-delivery events. I thought I had processed it all. I was managing, I could express how it all made me feel, I could talk about how my husband was helping and that his role as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant had been a blessing because he was able to help me understand all the necessary doctors, specialists, and therapies and what to expect next for helping our son. I thought I was in a good place, with the occasional exhaustion, overwhelm, and sadness that I thought was to be expected in this new life. Occasional turned into full time, decorated with a mask of “I’ve got this.”

I was disappointed that it took so long for me to realize that this constant state of overwhelm and exhaustion and anger that I was feeling was not just how my new life with a child should be. I would have brief breakdowns, which in hindsight were probably breakthroughs, where I would cry and cry and explain to my husband that I didn’t know why I didn’t care about his feelings, and I didn’t know why simple A or B questions caused a complete shutdown of my brain. I went so long without being diagnosed because I though what I was experiencing “didn’t look like postpartum depression” and I was told by others that “I didn’t seem like the type to have that.” 

It took until May of 2018 for me to call Laura Thrasher again, who after not seeing me for two years was able to diagnose me within the first 15 minutes of my appointment. I called her because I finally knew through those lucid moments of breaking down something was wrong. I’m thankful for her work and research in the field of women’s mental health, especially in the area of PMAD, which is not the Postpartum Depression we’ve all learned about in parenting books and news articles. She recommended I start with a low dose of Zoloft, monitor my progress and increase as needed, and stay on it for a year to see how things go. She equated my mental state to train tracks that were no longer running parallel to each other. These tracks had spent three years being pulled away from each other and it was no wonder the rest of me couldn’t function. It was literally off the rails. My husband Philip spent three years trying to understand how to help and how to make our relationship work for me and my needs, even when I couldn’t express them. He spent nearly three years feeling like a stranger in his marriage, but still standing by me like the incredible human he is. Laura also used analogies like having a fever and using the Zoloft to bring it down – a reference I could easily relate to with a toddler at home. But what I was most thankful for is that she point-blank said to me and to my husband that I was sick. Not “going through something,” not “having a hard time,” but sick. I have been on the Zoloft for a year and have started the process of weaning off. I may never fully come off the medication and I’m okay with that, especially after seeing the incredible progress I’ve made in my relationship with my husband and son, and how I manage my feelings overwhelm and anger. 

I’m thankful for the grace and love of the people who didn’t bat an eye when I told them about my struggle. This is key. So many times, we fear that if we talk about it people will think differently of us, or not want to be around us anymore. Let me tell you, if they were willing to be around you before you got help and medication, then they will LOVE to be around you when you’re feeling better. The hardest part is coming to accept the way you behaved before, acknowledging that it was you, but it wasn’t your fault, apologizing, and moving forward with the happier healthier you. 

If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!

A Link for: Postpartum Support International

*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!

Joy Molina
Black Mountain
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
restorationcounseling2017@gmail.com

Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
postpartumlis@gmail.com

Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
Info@SacredSoulBirthing.com

Elizabeth Gillette
Asheville Area
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL
elizabeth.gillette@gmail.com

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 2

One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to further the conversation in an effort to remove the stigma.

If you missed Week 1, you’ll find the introduction & Desiree’s story HERE!

For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!

If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have 7 available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute

Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com

Claire’s Story:

From the time that I was 15, I was told I’d never be able to get pregnant. I was told that due to my endometriosis and PCOS, having a viable pregnancy wasn’t something I should ever expect in my lifetime.

I met my fiancé in 2010, we started dating seriously in July of the same year. We lived happily together in various apartments and homes around Asheville for years. I bartended, he cooked as a profession. In 2016, on our sixth anniversary riiiight before we were going out for margaritas to celebrate being together, I took a pregnancy test. I bought the test KNOWING it would be negative, only taking it to squelch the worry in my mind about my nearly 3 week late period. As history tells, it was positive and I was growing a baby!

My entire pregnancy was easy, albeit one of the most stressful times in my life. The only negative symptom I felt was heartburn. Everything was always routine in my checkups, though I was marked “high risk” because I gained nearly 70 pounds.

While I grew new life, my partner and I were simultaneously trying to buy a home! The doctors scheduled me to have an induced labor on March 17, literally 5 days after we got the keys to our newly purchased home. I never felt like anything was real or really happening. 

My laboring process was not ideal, nothing worked for pain (my newly discovered superpower? (Epidural Resistance!) Fortunately, I didn’t have anything complicated happen. My son was born in March 18, 2017 at 7:58am. I can’t remember much about my hospital stay but I do remember all of the nurses and doctors saying that delivering a baby for the very first part of their day (fresh from shift change) was empowering. 

Bringing home the baby was a confusing time, to say the least. I can’t even begin to describe how big the “now what?!?!?” feeling was— the life adjustment had me shaken. New house, new baby. We were living out of boxes. My partner’s mother came to visit us from Georgia when my son was two weeks old. She criticized everything from my weight, to the way I was attempting to breastfeed, to my house being a wreck. I spent the entire first week postpartum trying to make our space as spotless as it could be to impress her, all the while pushing my frail body TOO HARD and not just letting things go like I should have.

I ended up coming down with a uterine infection, endometritis. I think I’ve blocked most of those first weeks out— I was sick, my newborn was jaundiced and in the 4th percentile, he wouldn’t latch, he cried 90% of the time. I was being pulled in so many directions and being told so many versions of what was right or wrong with taking care of my newborn. I felt the brand new pressures of motherhood and didn’t know who to reach out to or what to do. I don’t think I realized I was feeling anything abnormal and just kept my head barely above water. I thought just functioning was enough. 

My entire life then became almost robotic. I took care of my baby to my best abilities. My partner returned to work after two weeks (paid!!!) paternal leave (shout out to Nine Mile for being so great!!) I got an email from my old workplace telling me if I didn’t return in two weeks my job was terminated. They had forced me out way before my due date and my (unpaid FMLA was up). I was still recovering from the infection, still heavily bleeding, still trying to figure out what the hell to do with a newborn. I didn’t return to work. 

So, I spent the next six months to almost a year or so in a fog. I ate my feelings, I ate to stay awake for late night feedings, I stopped moving around. I suddenly found myself having no hobbies, feeling like I was existing literally only for a colicky baby who I didn’t feel was bonded to me. My partner worked ALL. THE. TIME. to try and compensate for my lost wages, because it became cheaper for me to stay home than pay for daycare. The home we had searched so hard to find and purchase was seemingly further out of town than we had originally thought— only two of my pre-pregnancy friends ever made it out to visit us. I tried reaching out to other new moms on apps like Peanut, I tried joining play groups to make friends. I have never felt more socially isolated in my entire life. The first year of my son’s life was the hardest year of my own life; the darkest and most depressing. The lack of sleep combined with never leaving my home had rendered me a hermit and it all felt so… permanently sad. The minutes felt like hours and I didn’t think I’d make it out of the dark.

I wish I could hug my past self and tell her to be more delicate with her feelings. My son is now almost 2 1/2 and he is the light of my life. My depression still hangs around, it especially likes to pop out and say hi in the winter, but I am now overall a much more even-keeled woman. I wish I had known who to reach out to for help. Self-care has become so much more important, I make sure every day to stop and take a few moments for myself. I love washing my face, applying moisturizer, and brushing my teeth while I am locked alone in my bathroom while my toddler tries to pry open the door. I started a journey back to fitness in May of last year, I take four to five dance classes a week at the gym and I relish dropping my son off at the free daycare and sweating out my stress. Life seems to be evening out and I don’t have any more “dread”. I want to share my story so that other women, other moms will know that they are NOT ALONE with feeling alone, or lost, or sad— having a baby is such a massive life transition. The hormones mixed with sleeplessness, mixed with all of the insane pressures — it can be such a special time but it can also truly suck. It does get better. It is better now, but so few people knew that I was suffering. 

If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!

A Link for: Postpartum Support International

*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!

Joy Molina
Black Mountain
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
restorationcounseling2017@gmail.com

Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
postpartumlis@gmail.com

Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
Info@SacredSoulBirthing.com

Elizabeth Gillette
Asheville Area
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL
elizabeth.gillette@gmail.com

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