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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