I hate to be that blogger that starts talking about mom stuff, but I’m going to give myself a pass on this one because it’s what has been on my mind lately. I’ve talked about my pregnancy very openly, but that platform has not always been well received. Shortly after I confirmed I was pregnant last year, I ended up feeling pretty sick, physically and mentally. I’m a tough person, and I’m only just now realizing the depths of what the last year brought to me during pregnancy. At the time, I knew I had fallen into depression, but I was also feeling all the feels of denial at the same time. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I was determined not to let my feelings get the best of me.
My pregnancy was very much expected and desired, but it was impossible to feel excited about it. My “morning” sickness was intensely debilitating, and my feelings of sadness and disinterest in everything around me were very strong. As a wedding photographer, it was hard to put on that thrilled face every time I photographed a wedding, but weddings were a wonderful distraction for me to be at. Sometimes I think the universe works in mysterious ways (as cliche as that sounds) because a full-time teaching job fell in my lap. It sought me out, just in time. I needed to be needed. I needed to be challenged in a way my business hadn’t challenged me in several years. The challenge of being a first-year teacher, teaching things I wasn’t trained to do was a perfect option. It kept my mind busy. My to-do list was endless. There was always something. Without that teaching job, I probably would have been home letting my business fall to the wayside and spiraling into an abyss of pre-partum depression that I don’t know if I could have recovered from in the same way. Teaching also gave me something to look forward to after the baby arrived. It gave me the gift of all those innocent kids being excited about something that I struggled with. It’s impossible not to smile or feel proud when they want to feel the baby move and celebrate your pregnancy with you, even though they couldn’t understand where my mind was at during that time.
When I talk about pre-partum depression, I often have to clarify a couple of things. People automatically assume I mean post-partum. Nope. I’m here to tell you that you can suffer from severe depression DURING your pregnancy. 1 in 10 women do. Studies suspect the statistic is higher, but because we live in a society that feels uncomfortable when a woman isn’t enjoying her pregnancy – we hide our thoughts and keep them to ourselves. I didn’t. Outside of teaching the one other thing that got me through it was being able to utilize social media in a way I hadn’t before. I posted negative things. I was vulnerable with my feelings. It also cost me. It cost me a small handful of friendships, family members and hey even a few people to decide they hated me and block me on Facebook.
I wondered if I would feel sorry for all that later on, but one year later I can confidently say that I have no regrets. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live my life in a way where I’m constantly minimizing my own experiences, realities, and stories to spare others from the discomfort it causes them. Being uncomfortable is where growth happens, and people can decide to love or hate what I share. It’s fine. It was very therapeutic for me to share. So many folks reached out and said they had been there, but never wanted to talk about it. I made new friends on social media who were also pregnant and struggling with the same feelings. It’s quite possible that the single most redeeming thing that happened during my pre-partum depression was knowing that other people had felt the same way or were feeling the same way in that moment. The power of knowing you aren’t alone in your vulnerable thoughts can’t truly be measured.
Lately, I’ve been able to see some of my updates from a year ago on Facebook thanks to their “memories” feature. Seeing some of my commentaries (although sarcastic and humorous) about my pregnancy is almost painful to look at now. It reminds me of a time that felt so dark. However, I have to shout out each and every person who replied to an Instagram story, sent me a private message on Facebook, or commented with a comment that said ‘me too.’ Thank you to those folks who were checking in on me during one of the darkest times I’ve experienced. Without you, it would have been a lot less bearable. I’m so grateful for the women AND men who commented positively, shared stories, and commiserated. It’s proof to me that the world is a much better place when we’re vulnerable and our communities lift us up instead of bringing us down. To the folks who tried to bring me down further, or said I needed to just be quiet and grateful I was pregnant – I say this: I was grateful. I am grateful. I don’t want to minimize anyone else’s struggles with pregnancy or motherhood. Your stories are important. However, all stories, paths, and experiences around motherhood are so important. I hope we can hear more than just one narrative about motherhood and its struggles. So, I’m grateful, but I have no regrets about adding my narrative to the many struggles that motherhood brings all of us.
One of the other things I often have to clarify about pre-partum depression is that it’s like any other kind of depression. It can look like laughter, smiling, fun on the outside. When people ask me about it now, they’ll often say things like, “but you handled it so well,” or “I couldn’t tell at all.” I have not struggled with depression in the past. I am an incredibly happy person. Masking my feelings felt instinctual. I think we all do it to some degree. Next time someone tells you they are struggling, instead of complimenting them on their ability to hide it maybe try letting them know you care and that you’re there if they ever need to talk about it or need anything. That would have been refreshing. I don’t want to be complimented on my ability to hide away my feelings. That just creates a stigma that we shouldn’t talk about these things, or that we don’t need help. Seriously, check in on your friends. All of them. The strong ones, the struggling ones….check in on everyone you care about.
I write this blog post because of a few things. First, I am so grateful to be here today and be able to look back and see just how different I feel. Howie is almost eight months old, and I feel so normal. I mean…I’m a parent of a baby, but my soul feels normal. It feels like it did before, and it’s taken some time to heal and come to terms with where I was at. Also, I freakin’ love my kid. Second, I share because I know my experience helps others. I just want to say if you’re reading this because you’re struggling with pre-partum depression right now. I’m here for that. I’m here for you. I’ve been there. You are not alone, and it is okay to feel exactly how you’re feeling right now. You have permission to feel like shit, and don’t let anyone or society ever tell you otherwise. I also know that you can get through it and that it’s much brighter on the other side. If you have questions, email me or find me on Instagram. Last, I just want to say thanks to everyone who did check in on me. I am infinitely grateful for your kindness and patience. You probably feel like a stray comment here, or there is meaningless. Or that a single heart or thumbs up on social media was nothing. It was everything.