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

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