The Truth Behind the Photo: Postpartum Depression Realization
Para leer en español: La verdad detrás de la foto: La realización de la depresión posparto
“Postpartum depression makes a woman feel like she is in the grip of something dreaded and dark, and it’s scary. . . but she’s likely ashamed to admit it because she can’t explain it!” – Judy Dippel
“The very damaging, frightening part of postpartum is the lack of perspective and the lack of priority and understanding what is really important.” – Brooke Shields
All of the pictures in the post were taken Teresa Robertson Photography
Do you ever look back at a picture and feel invaded by a rush of emotions? The photo above of me, Lorena, and my ten-day-old son, Lennox, is one of those pictures. Nostalgic is the first feeling that arises because it feels like it was taken yesterday. Fast forward almost 17 months later, and this cute, little, sleeping-burrito is now a goofy, handsome, tantrum-throwing toddler. To say time went fast is an understatement. I remember when he was first born, everyone and their mother would tell me "enjoy it while you can, they grow up so fast." This comment baffled me. Fast? What is fast about the lack of sleep, the constant perfume of spit-up, the sore-breasts, the never-ending cleaning for all those friends and family members who couldn't resist visiting— even though in a few weeks they wouldn't even remember you and your baby exist? Fast was the way I walked my newborn in his stroller to get him to calm down and finally (maybe) sleep, all five days after a C-section. Fast was how quick I learned to swaddle a fussy newborn and rock him to sleep for an hour- until he woke up upon setting him down. Fast was how quickly I threw things into closets and drawers when visitors came to see us. Fast were the stretches of sleep I (sometimes) got. Fast was how soon Carlos (my significant other) returned to work and left me solely responsible for this tiny, little creature. Nonetheless, looking back on the past 17 months, I have no idea where the time went.
Shortly after the nostalgic feeling of wanting my little burrito-baby back, the second emotion emerged; an overwhelming sadness. This sadness comes from two places; the sadness I felt when this picture was taken and the sadness I feel now. The sadness I feel now comes from my knowledge of motherhood and how I wish I, the mother I am today, could go back and tell this stubborn, know-it-all, first-time-mother, that she is doing it all wrong. I will go into further detail in future post. The second sadness is from June 18, 2017, while I sat on a couch watching Teresa Robertson, a very talented photographer, take pictures of my beautiful baby boy. I remember feeling guilty of how good it felt not to be holding my child for a change. Lennox did a great job. He slept for most of the photo shoot. Teresa could not keep emphasizing how great he was doing. I remember at the end of the shoot Teresa was almost moved to tears as she talked about Lennox.
She said he was so calm and that she can tell he is so loved. Carlos is a natural when it comes to parenting, probably due to the fact he raised half of his 17 (yes, 17) nieces and nephews. I, however, must have been putting on a good act. Teresa told us that as a newborn photographer, calm is not usually the case with some newborns, especially those of first-time parents. She said she could feel the tension in some first-time families which is reflected in the newborn. I remember wanting to curl into a ball and weep. She couldn't be talking about my son, could she? Her words started to break me down and the more we talked, the harder it became to force a smile. I was trying so hard to mask my feelings from her - and myself - but I could tell that she felt the unhappiness in my eyes.
We left Teresa's studio, and I got home and wept. Carlos was used to me crying and this made me feel so guilty. I had a healthy, beautiful baby boy for fuck's sake. Why the hell was I crying? I kept blaming it on the baby blues. I remember one day my dad came over and I tried to open up with him about how I was feeling. He told me that I needed to suck it up, that all women go through this and I need to be content that Lennox is a happy, healthy baby. He mentioned his girlfriend at the time, who has an adult son, born with a very rare illness, and that I cannot act so selfishly when there is nothing wrong with my child. This broke me down even further. How could I be so unhappy about this new chapter in my life?
It wasn't until my two-week check-up for my C-section incision that I realized how severe my unhappiness was, and to be honest unhappy wasn't the correct term. I felt miserable, disconnected, and started having dark feelings that I was embarrassed to reveal. After my OB-GYN examined my incision, she sat me down and asked me how I was doing. I lost it. I couldn't control my tears, and she just stood next to me and rubbed my shoulder. Once I finally composed myself, I told her I thought I was having a bad case of the baby blues due to my hormones changing and my lack of sleep. She proceeded to tell me that that was a possibility. She informed me that most mothers go through the baby blues, a series of mood swings after postpartum; however, they usually subside after two weeks. I was going on my third week, and she was worried that what I was experiencing was something more: Postpartum Depression. She handed me a folder of information on PPD, prescribed 25 mg of Zoloft and said she wanted to schedule a follow-up appointment in two weeks to see how I was doing.
I got home and started researching Postpartum Depression. Once I started understanding my diagnosis, I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I wasn't a horrible mother and I for sure was not alone in this feeling. One of every seven mothers experiences this deep, dark place. As the days progressed and I came to this realization, my fast-paced walks started to get slower, my miserable breastfeeding experience started to get bearable, and for the first time, I started to feel a desire to be around my child. I began to sing to him and smile with him during his middle of the night wake-ups. My relationship with Carlos started to get back to normal as I didn't feel so helpless anymore. My resentment towards my child-free friends began to disappear. I began accepting that my life had changed and I wanted to make the most of it.
Sometime in the middle of July, Teresa called me saying she had finished Lennox's newborn pictures. I was so excited to go back and see her, this time in an enlightened state. After she showed me his photos, she asked me how I was doing, and I openly told her that I was being treated for PPD. She then opened up with me about how she also suffered from a severe PPD with her first child. We chatted for a while on the subject. It felt SO good to talk about it openly and have someone with whom to talk. That's when I decided I wanted to be open and honest about my experiences with PPDwith anyone and everyone that wanted to hear about it. This year, many of my friends have gotten pregnant or had their babies, and I try always to take the time to talk to them about my experience. My intention is not to scare anyone, but to offer an insight into what could be.
Thank you for letting me share part of my story. Writing this brought me to tears as I remember how scary it felt those first couple weeks of motherhood, but I am honored to be able to write about such a taboo subject. Today, as the mother of a 17-month-old, I still struggle with moments of PPD, but now I know how to control these moments and not let them push me down to a depressed-state. I welcome anyone who would like to share their story with me or just talk with me about their feelings. Please do not hesitate. Having a listening ear and a support system is one of the best ways to push past PPD.