When I look back to 6 years ago, I see the story a lot differently; with kinder eyes, and a grateful heart. When I was pulling images to go along with this story, I do not even remember most of the days in the pictures. All I remember was trying to survive. I was so sad, so ashamed, and deep in the throws of postpartum depression.
6 years ago, we had just moved to Canada. I had a rough pregnancy, early bleeding, and constantly sick. My doctor preferred to let the morning sickness run its course. After being sick roughly 8 times a day, it finally relented when I was about 7 months along. My husband dropped us in Nova Scotia, unpacked our bags, and left me an a 14 month old baby for a 4 month school halfway across the country. We managed just fine, made some friends, and spent the first half of the summer exploring as much as we could. Wes came home, we reunited as a family, and waited to welcome our daughter into the world.
Ava was born in the middle of a hurricane the week after Hurricane Katrina. The hospital was small and unprepared for the amount of babies born that weekend. She was a little thing, and had a hot temper. Before I was discharged, I knew that she was not eating well and that something was not right; we went home anyway. Our family and friends were all thousands of miles away, so it was just my husband and I with an ever-crying newborn and a 20 month old. Turns out that she would cry for 15 to 18 hours a day for the next 4 months.
If I hear a baby cry with that same painful, piercing cry now, the hairs on my neck stand up. We could not make her happy, and our days were filled with just trying to calm her down. The only saving grace was that she slept. If she was not crying, she was asleep. After 4 months of doctors visits and lactation consultants, it took a stranger to discover what was making my little girl so unhappy. She had a milk protein allergy that required special formula. Within just a couple of feedings with this new formula she was a new baby.
I know what you are thinking, why didn’t you just alter your diet? The answer is because I had nothing left to give. I was a wreck. I had no patience. I had no joy. I was miserable. I knew that this was not how it was supposed to be, but I wrote it off as just trying to navigate having two babies. I should also mention that I did not experience anything like this with my first child. One day, I had to take Ava to our family doctor. My grandmother was in town and William was being terrible in the doctors office. They both were bitching at me, and Ava was crying per usual. I left them in the waiting room, walked into the office when our name was called, and absolutely lost it. The doctor, who I will always be grateful to, hugged me. She told me that everything was going to be okay, and that I needed to let go. I sat in that office while a nurse held my baby and cried like I had never cried before. I left with a prescription for anti-depressants and a new outlook. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle motherhood – I had postpartum depression.
The diagnosis was something that I hid. I had a hard time even telling my husband. With a history of depression in my family, I thought that this was going to be my new reality. I felt like I was failing. Being someone that is pretty good at most things that I do, I felt like I was failing at motherhood, marriage, and everything else in my life. It took me years to even tell my own mother. I didn’t understand that it was something out of my control. It had nothing to do with my mothering, but everything to do with hormones and the chemicals in my brain.
As the weeks went on, the meds started to kick in, and I was feeling better. Ava was better too, and life was looking up.
When we were driving to Canada, my husband bought me a DSLR. I never took it out of auto, and even though I took film classes in college, I never bothered to really get to know my camera. One day, during all of this, I picked it up and switched it to manual. I had no idea that clicking a dial would have such an impact on my life. I used the negative energy that I had, and put it into photography. I shot every day, hundreds of terrible frames, shots that I am embarrassed to show you now. But that simple act gave me something else to focus on and it saved me. Without the deep depression that I had, I never would have picked my camera up. Postpartum depression actually became a gift, the product of that gift was a new talent that I did not even know that I had.