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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

Postpartum Depression: What The Internet Can't Prepare You For | An Open Conversation about PPD with a Delaware Motherhood Photographer


a mother plays with her baby on the couch


"With infinite access to information now, it was easy to feel "ready" for the postpartum experience. I didn't think it was going to be rainbows and sunshine all the time, but postpartum depression was only real for other people. And even if I did end up with PPD, I still knew all the tips and coping strategies I had seen online. I discussed some of this with my husband, and we were on the same page: the primary focus was physically preparing the space and our new home for a baby. He did not get paternity leave, but it was okay. I did hard things before. I could handle this. We'd call family for help when we needed it.


No amount of Google searches prepared me for a real postpartum experience. Delivery was traumatic. I couldn't stop reliving it every time I closed my eyes. I felt such a deep rage that I couldn't even sleep when I was "supposed to". The dreams were so bad, and still are sometimes. I had a physical reaction every time my baby was out of my sight. It didn't matter that I researched the "best" tummy time toys and swaddles. That didn't help me deal with everything that was thrown at me. Within the first month, my husband got COVID and missed a whole week of our daughters life (and helping). I got mastitis. Everything was bad. I was having these feelings I couldn't control. My body felt like it didn't belong to me. Everyone said it would get easier.


My body has "healed". I still haven't slept- her sleep has gotten worse as she's gotten older. Some days I can laugh off my irrational, intrusive thoughts. Some days I can't. This is hard. It's still really, really hard. But then she laughs and snuggles and reaches up for mama, and my heart is so full that I know exactly how I've managed to make it this far."

-Jessica


a newark Delaware mother plays with her baby on the couch


My personal experience with postpartum depression was very isolating. I was the first in my family and group of friends to be pregnant and I felt like I had no one to share the joys of motherhood with, let alone its challenges. Once I had my baby, I had a difficult time making connections with other moms too. Outwardly, those other moms at the park, libray, or mom's groups seemed to actually enjoy being a mom, while internally I was struggling with feeling unfilled in my new role. Who could possibly understand the way I felt? I loved my baby, but being a mom was hard and I couldn't help but want more out of my life or just my old life back.


I spent a lot of time rocking my little girl in the glider while she contact napped-- crying, alone, and feeling like a terrible mom because SAHM-dom wasn't for me. I thought at the time that these seemingly happy moms I saw everywhere had had the opportunity to be young and free-- they had been able to live on thier own independently, they had time to establish a career, they had a supportive community of other moms bolstering them, they had prepared mentally and financially for motherhood-- and that those reasons contributed to why they were coping so well. They had checked off all the boxes I hadn't. They had spent time tying up all the loose ends that I have never gotten around to-- that was why I felt like I was unraveling.



a newark delaware baby and mom play on the couch


Flash forward a decade+ later and what I have found talking to other moms as a photographer who specialized in motherhood is that this feeling of unfulfillment (and the compulsory guilt that comes with it) isn't uncommon. I was a person before I became a mother! And now that I am a mother, I am a changed person.


"I was training for a half marathon when I found out I was pregnant. And I would hike almost every weekend. That was my thing- I was active and adventurous. The pregnancy sickness was debilitating - and I don't think I have recovered from losing my sense of identity during that early stage."

-Jessica


When I became pregnant with my first, I was only 20 years old. I was an angsty art student who liked to go on J-rides on the back roads, listening to The Talking Heads and Joy Division cassettes with the wind in my hair. After I complained of feeling hung-over everyday for a couple weeks straight, a friend bought me a jar of pickles and pregnancy test from the dollar store as a joke. I quit smoking cold turkey and gave up coffee that day. My morning sickness eventually became so bad I decided to drop my darkroom photography class because of the smell of the developer chemicals made me sick-- I even made sure I had an extra "barf cup" when I ate in the dining hall because all the Bros seated around me ate breakfast pizza every morning.


My pregnancy was a secret from my parents until a few weekends before my partner and I got married. I didn't tell my mother-in-law we were expecting until much later-- by then she already knew in that instinctive way mothers do. When my new husband left for Air Force Basic Training, I could communicate with him only through letters for those 8 weeks. I shared that we were having a girl with a pink "it's a girl!" card sent in mail. He returned, an Airman, a month before our baby was born. During that time, I had withdrawn myself from my former social circle and was living by myself in my parent's camper, working the pool concession stand of the campground where it was parked.


There were so many things in flux for me during that time-- my hormones, my relationships, my habits, my body, my life path, my living arrangments. It's no wonder that I found it hard to settle into the new role of mother. Over the next year or so after my baby was born, I struggled with postpartum depression. I would go on to experience PPD after each of my subsequent pregnancies. The difference with these later experiences was that I knew what to look out for.



a newark delaware mother plays with her baby on the couch.


Not every mom is going to have the dramatic initiation into motherhood that I did, but many will struggle with their identity and sense of self through the process. This recurs with each child and is a normal part of the transition into motherhood. Up to 80% of new moms will report "baby blues" or a dip in mood related to all the changes that come with having a new baby during the first couple weeks postpartum. So how do you know if what you are experiencing is more than just "baby blues" and when should you seek help? Let's do some self-assesment:


  • Are you past two weeks postpartum?

  • Is your mood getting progressively worse?

  • Are you feeling hopeless, sad, worthless, or alone most of the time?

  • Do you cry often?

  • It is difficult to care for your baby?

  • Are you struggling to bond with your baby?

  • Do you often feel angry or irritable?

  • It is hard to complete everyday tasks?

  • Do you have trouble eating or sleeping?

  • Are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks?

  • Are expierienceing thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.


If you answered yes to any of these symptoms of Postpartum Depression, get in touch with your provider and let them know how you are feeling. There is no shame and there are resources that can help.


Here are a couple Delaware-local organizations that support perniatal mental health:


Postnatal Support Advocates (pregnancy through 12 months postpartum)


Josie's Grace (for moms up to 12 weeks postpartum)


1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)




a newark delaware mom and baby play on the couch


Read and Interview with Jen Ewald of Postnatal Support Advocates HERE.


You can read about my experience with intrusive thoughts HERE.


That baby I had at 21? You can read her birth story HERE.



a Delaware mom plays with her baby in the couch


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