I met Ryan a few years ago for her family session before she gave birth to their second baby. I then got to meet their new little girl, Weylin, when she was just hours old in the hospital for her fresh 48 session, when they were also celebrating their first child’s 1st birthday. I’ve since photographed them multiple times and gotten to know Ryan and follow her on social media. Being mom to 5 kids myself, I know the struggle of being a mom. The every day grind, the ‘real’ of it. But what I can so appreciate about Ryan is her willingness to share that side of things. I can see her passion through her words to moms on social media. I asked Ryan to share her story here because this topic needs to become more normal to talk about. I’ve had my own journey with PPD through 12 years of being a mom, and seen the stigmas behind it and oddly felt the shame-which is insane. This is so important for ALL moms to read and talk about. So thank you so much Ryan for sharing your story, and I can’t wait to see what you will do in the future to help moms, and to help get this conversation started!
Ryan’s Story –
I am 1 in 7.
Did you know that 1 in 7 moms are struggling with some sort of postpartum mental health diagnosis? Did you know that maternal mental health is the number one complication of pregnancy/birth?
Probably not. Most people don’t know those things. I sure as heck didn’t until I became the 1 in 7. I’m not sure why more and more people don’t talk about maternal mental health. But the stigma around it needs to end ASAP.
Moms, we grow a child from scratch, for nine months. Our hormones get whacked. Our bodies grow and change in ways we didn’t even know were possible. We are sick for months on end. We change our whole way of living to provide the best home inside of our bodies for someone we haven’t even met yet. We endure hours and hours of excruciating pain. We endure rips, tears and incisions. We are given pain meds and asked a couple questions and told how excited and happy we look/should be. Then we are sent home.
Just like that. BOOM. One day you’re pregnant and everyone is talking to you/making sure you’re okay. The next, you are on your own (with or without your partner) and suddenly everyone has forgotten that you, too, are new to this world. Not only did you birth a baby, but a mom was born in you, too.
Being pregnant is hard. Birth is hard. But being a mother, especially a new mother, is f*#$ing insanely hard.
Yet, all we get is a six week check up…to tell us that it’s okay to have sex again (if you’re like me, you were/are praying something was wrong so you couldn’t have sex yet) and ask what kind of birth control we want to use, if any. We might get a depression/anxiety questionnaire to fill out at the doctors, which is quickly glanced over and then we get asked “So you’re doing ok?”. Or even worse, told that what we are feeling is “normal” because, you know, you did just have a baby. Friends text and ask how the baby is doing, how are they sleeping/eating, etc. Friends/family visit your house to see the new baby and hold him/her.
But, who is holding you, mama? Who is taking care of you, mama? We like to think we can, but we cannot do this alone. Especially if you are the 1 in 7 like me – struggling with postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. Maybe you don’t have what appears to be “full blown” depression and/or anxiety OR maybe, most likely, you are thinking what you are going through is “normal” because society refuses to talk about and acknowledge that maternal mental health is a goddamn real thing.
My PPD/PPA didn’t start right after my son, George or directly after my daughter, Weylin. Side note: George and Weylin are Irish Twins – Weylin was born two days before George’s 1st birthday! Okay, back to my story…my PPD/PPA didn’t start for a few months after Weylin was born and I didn’t admit that I was struggling until SIX months after her birth. SIX MONTHS. I struggled the majority of those six months and never said a thing because I always thought PPD/PPA started immediately and if it didn’t, what you’re experiencing is “normal motherhood”.
First and foremost, people are WRONG if they tell you postpartum mental health struggles start right away or not at all. After researching what I was struggling with, I learned that postpartum depression and anxiety can technically start anytime within the first year; some doctors of psychology even say that postpartum has no time restrictions – which I kind of love.
Now, I am not saying that I was never happy or never loved being a mom. I have dreamt of being a mom my whole life – this is what I was made for. I was happy, excited and loving my new life, but my postpartum depression and anxiety also told me a LOT of things when they took over my brain. I wasn’t struggling with PPD/PPA 24/7 – it’s very confusing, unless you’ve lived it – but when it came around (more often than not), my gosh it took over my whole being. I didn’t even recognize myself.
Here is what PPD/PPA told me during the times it consumed me:
- That my kids deserved a more patient mom, someone who wouldn’t get mad at them for being kids. Postpartum rage is a real thing. Who knew? Not me. I just thought that I truly hated my kids and that I was a terrible, terrible mom for being so irritated with them, their behaviors and literally, any and every single thing/person that crossed my path most days. I yelled a lot. I swore a lot. I hit walls and threw things. I knocked over furniture. I slammed doors and cabinets. I was just plain mad at the world and everyone in it. I held it together though, if you didn’t live in my house, you probably didn’t know any of that was going on. It was scary; I was scary.
- My husband, Brendan, deserved a better wife and mother to our kids. I couldn’t get everything done that I was supposed to do, while other moms could. He should probably find a wife who can keep the house clean, cook dinner and take care of the kids with a big smile on her face. He should find someone who wanted to have sex because that damn six week check up told him I was okay to do so. He should be with someone who doesn’t resent him and his ability to seem totally himself after becoming a dad. I remember one specific night when he asked me, “Do you even want to be with me still? Do you want to be married anymore?”. Of course I did. But he was my safe place. The person that I knew would always be there and love me despite what I was going through and doing. He didn’t know that at the time, he just really thought I hated him and wanted to get divorced. I resented him. I loved him (still do!).
- Life was SO much easier before kids. WHY did I have them? WHY can’t life be like it was before? WHY are they so damn needy all of the time? WHY can’t I be skinny again? WHY did we have two right in row? WHY am I a mom? I missed my old life, the old me. I loved my new life and being a mom.
- I will never measure up to the mom they deserved so I should probably just leave. I never wanted to kill myself. I never wanted to die – death scares me – however, a lot of moms have this thought. But, I did want to run away. I did think about packing a bag, hopping in my car and driving far away from here. I did think that my kids would be better off if I wasn’t their mom. I, also, cannot even remember how many times I thought about crashing my car… just enough so that I would need to be in the hospital for a length of time. I could sleep in the hospital, I could be away from my kids in the hospital, I would get taken care of in the hospital, I wouldn’t hear crying or need to change diapers in the hospital. I wanted a break. I needed a break.
- No one cares enough about me to know that I am really, really struggling. Like, really struggling. I bet that if this is your first time ever hearing my story, you are 100% surprised right now. I bet that if you scrolled through my Facebook or Instagram pages you would never, ever guess that I was struggling with PPD/PPA since last spring. I also bet that you know someone who is struggling right now and have no clue that they are. I, just like most mama’s, got really, really good at hiding what was going on with myself. Afterall, we are supposed to be so happy and grateful to actually be a mom. I hid my struggles from just about everyone, even Brendan. I got really good at putting on a front and making people believe I was always happy and that life was always perfect. I went to work every day with a smile on my face and ready to do my job – yet, that morning on the way to work or the night before on the way home I had thought about crashing my car and getting my hospital fantasy to come true. I thought, if I really cared about and loved my family/friends I could not let them know how I was really doing – I did NOT want them worrying about me or trying to “fix” me. I could handle everything myself. I could not handle a damn thing.
You see, postpartum depression and anxiety convince you that you are all alone; that you’re the only mom who feels this way; that things will never get better. But guess what…they can and they do IF you seek the help you deserve. Yes, I said it – you deserve to take care of yourself and get help. We cannot and will never be able to fully care for our kids the way they deserve if we continue to put ourselves on the backburner.
I finally admitted to my dad and husband in October of 2019 that I needed help – I told them I was depressed and anxious, as I cried of embarrassment. Right away, I began searching for a counselor who specialized in maternal mental health; I did not want just anyone, they needed to be the one.
I used Postpartum Support International to find my counselor, Emily. If you haven’t heard of Postpartum Support International and are struggling, please check out their website – www.postpartum.net – no, I don’t work for them or with them, this is just an amazing resource for you to use.
The first time I met with Emily I don’t think I said very much at all. As soon as I walked into her office and sat on her sofa I just began crying and didn’t stop the whole hour we met. Her space became my safe place, instantly. A place where I was/am never judged, never questioned, never shamed and a place where I never feel like I need to be “fixed”. She’s been my angel through this all – I know I would not be where I am today without her. I still meet with Emily every few weeks and plan to do so until she kicks me out 🙂
Don’t be afraid to admit to your partner or your parents or your girlfriends that you are struggling. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to meet with a counselor. Don’t be afraid mama…you can do hard things. Be your own advocate, please.
And if you aren’t a mom and you’re reading this, PLEASE know that a six week check up and quick questionnaire does not meet the requirements that the new mom in your life needs. She needs you to check in on her, not just the baby. She needs you to notice when she might be overwhelmed or struggling so you can take over or help out without asking her if she needs you to. She needs you to understand that what she is going through has absolutely nothing to do with you. She needs you to understand that she is not in control of any postpartum mental health struggle she is dealing with. She needs you to remember all that she has gone through to bring you that little life you both love so much. Be there, listen, talk or just hold her hand. She needs you.
And mama’s don’t forget that being a mom is f$#%ing hard.
It’s also the f$#%ing best. ❤️