These photos are pretty cute, right? The truth is, these cuddly mommy and me photos are a sham. Back in 2014 when I took these photos, my son was seven months old. I wrote a blog post talking about how cute the photos were, encouraged moms to “get in front of the camera” and how much of a treasure these photos would be one day. That day has arrived and now I’m pissed.
Sure, these photos depicted my life, but the words and attitude from that 2014 blog post was a complete lie. I was a first-time new mom suffering from postpartum depression. And the real reason I took these photos was because I was taking a photography workshop and we had an assignment to take a self-portrait. And the REAL reason I was taking a photography workshop was because I needed an escape. I was looking for a way out. This mommy thing wasn’t what I thought it was going to be and frankly I was majorly failing at it. Not to mention I felt completely disconnected. I felt disconnected from everyone – but mostly myself.
Did you know that when my baby was just a few months old I was convinced that when he cried he was actually yelling, “I HATE YOU.” In my head it sounded like a cat growling out the words. And did you also know that sometimes when I looked into my newborn’s eyes I thought he had black demon eyes? I literally thought he was possessed. I’m telling you right now, I was f@#$’ed emotionally and mentally.
When I had my six week postpartum check-up at my OBGYN’s and she asked me a bunch of questions. I broke down and told her my newborn son hated me. She replied back telling me I had postpartum depression and wrote down the name of a therapist for me to talk to. Yea, right. That was never going to happen. I’m here telling you that trying to get a postpartum depressed new mom, who is breastfeeding (and I should add I was having major issues with that – but that’s a whole other discussion), is NOT capable of making an appointment with a therapist. It felt like the most impossible task. Finding childcare itself was a major chore. Such as trying to coordinate with a grandma or asking my full-time working husband to stay home with the baby. And then making sure the baby was fed and that my boobs weren’t going to explode before making it home from my appointment. And to top it off, I lived in San Francisco. Parking was always a challenge and traffic is insane at all hours of the day. That alone is enough to deter a person from doing almost anything especially a depressed new mama.
So, what did I do instead? Nothing. I suffered. I lived in a dark place that could only be described as numb and lifeless. I had a recurring conversation with my husband that literally started and ended with me saying, “I’m not happy. I’m just not happy.” He’d reply, “What can I do to help? Tell me what to do.” And I had nothing. Because even though there was that dark part of me that wanted to abandon my life and go live free and wild and put this “mess” behind me – I couldn’t. Because I was my baby’s mama. He was apart of me. Guess that was nature’s clever way to avoid human extinction.
And you know what’s really ironic? A little over a year after my son was born, I went to see my OBGYN again. She asked how I was and if I had dealt with my postpartum depression. I had a complete emotional breakdown in front of her but I had NO IDEA WHY I was crying. She grabbed my hand and said, “Oh-my-god. You have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) postpartum depression.” WTF? I didn’t even KNOW that was a thing. But turns out it is. Three years later I still have flashes of PTSD-postpartum depression.
These photos of me and my infant son are a strong reminder that my delusions weren’t real. I was actually a really good mom and my son and I had (and have) a powerful bond. I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw these photos of my son and I. I felt like I could do it. I felt like I could see the love between us and therefore the love was really there. I felt like it was the first time I really saw myself, the good self, not the numb and dark self. It didn’t cure me but I felt a shift within me. These photos saved me – I was ready to fight for happiness.
I printed a photo out and hung it in my son’s room. I even posted one of these photos on my photography Artist page. Now, three years later when I look at these photos all I feel are warm fuzzies. I can feel the good memories slowly floating to the surface pushing the bad ones down.
But lately when I’m done basking in those warm fuzzies I get pissed. Do you know why I get pissed about having postpartum depression?It’s that I feel I missed out on my son’s first year. I feel like I wasn’t there for him. I feel like I wasn’t a good mom. I feel like I did some things that were dark and not me (don’t worry, I never harmed my child). In a really twisted and sick way I understand why some people do horrible things to their babies. Because I was there standing on that threshold peering over into the dark side. Sometimes I teetered but luckily, I never tumbled.
The number one reason why I never plummeted is because I had a very supportive family. Even though I never really talked about my postpartum depression with them – they were there. The grandmas took turns helping out. When one would leave, the other would arrive. That lasted for about three months after childbirth. I later learned it was because on some subconscious level the grandmas were worried to leave me alone with my baby. That just kills me.
But really, if it wasn’t for having a strong extended family I’m not sure where I would’ve landed. I can honestly say the first time I felt a ting of being alive was planning my son’s first birthday party. I could feel my dark cloud thinning out. When my son started walking at 15 months that cloud got even thinner. And from then on I’ve been fighting my way up to the surface. But it’s different now. My life is different. I’ll never be the same person I was before childbirth. I’m ok with that. I love being a mom. But now I need to reconcile the two, before childbirth and after, and find a happy place. I feel like I’m almost there.
Until then, I’m kinda pissed off. And I’m finally ready to do something about it. I’m ready to put my Frye boots back on, toss my hair into a mom-bun and kick some butt. I’m over running from postpartum depression. I’m done hiding it. I’m ready to face it and this blog post is one step in many that I’ve taken and will take to give it the big F-YOU.
I took photos last Sunday with my son who is three years old now: A Mother’s Bond is Unlike Any Other. I took them because I wanted too. Because I want my son to see and know how much I love him. But mostly, I wanted to freeze a moment in time when I can look back and know I was majorly winning at this mom thing.
My hope is that my story and these photos helps a new mom in some way small or big. May is Postpartum Depression Month and I hope my story and this month will help a mom who needs it.
If you’re a new mom experiencing postpartum depression I’d love to hear from you. Email me or leave a comment. There’s power in sharing your journey.