In October 2012, my life changed forever. Reflecting on the ways that life has progressed since then, I feel incredibly blessed. But at that time, I felt like a total mess. This is my first time coming forward and telling my story. It’s damn tough, even now, to type these words, but I choose to continue because I now feel braver and safer than ever before.
And, because I know firsthand that there is also still a stigma around this disclosure, and that many new mothers very well may fear of lack of support. As much as half of PPD in new mothers goes undiagnosed because of this internal battle. My greatest hope is that someone in a similar situation might read my words and realize that they are not alone, and just how important it is to seek support.
An Unexpected Gift.....
Getting to where I am now has been an achievement, but this story begins with an exhausting journey as a new mother suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. I’ll never forget the days leading up to discovering we were first pregnant. We had been living in Key West Florida, newly married and not ready to have the baby talk. In fact, I had recently suffered a miscarriage that left me low and hopeless, and I was still healing. Yet, while walking one weekend to a friend’s party, I told my husband Keith that I felt pregnant again.
Fast forward two weeks, and I tested positive on a pregnancy test. Almost simultaneously, Keith was let go from his job. In a matter of hours, our life was irrevocably changed. In those early moments, we felt our lives becoming dismantled and were at a loss to understand how to define ourselves. A child was coming soon, and all future decisions we made would need to take this sweet baby into account.
...Followed By A Long Winter of Discontent
So in January of 2013, we packed our belongings and moved north. We landed in Connecticut in the heart of a chilly east coast winter, four months pregnant and unsure what the next step was. Our dingy rental home was in a sleepy neighborhood, and I suffered through weather that was unbearably cold for my Key West sensitivities. This was not a good time for us. While Keith had secured a job, he had a forty-minute commute both ways and was at the mercy of an inconsistent schedule. He worked long hours, leaving me alone to ponder our life, our choices and what the hell we were going to do.
I have few concrete memories from this time. What stands out are the hours I spent sobbing, unable to get dressed, walk our dog, or even brush my teeth. Where was the woman who once woke up each morning at 6:30 am to run three miles? I felt unmoored. Keith came home close to midnight each night, leaving me alone to wallow in my discontent.
When the "baby blues" feel hopeless.
Sadly, things didn’t improve once our son Keegan was born. It hurts to admit, but I was utterly distant from this small baby. I busied myself with a backlog of photography editing that my pregnancy depression had hindered me from completing, and I would go into my office and leave Keegan alone on the couch. Yes, I left him alone in another room because I didn’t have the energy to reach out to him if he cried for me.
I was in a dark place. I had numbness, zero feeling, zero attachment. For 38 percent of sufferers of PPD, the condition becomes chronic, and mothers who expected it to pass as their children aged can struggle to find effective treatments. This was the case for me.
I hit rock bottom just after Keegan turned one. I often brought Keegan up to Keith’s restaurant for lunch, as this was the only opportunity for them to spend time together. Driving home, a wave of sadness assaulted me. As I shook with sobs, I began to think that the only way life could improve would be if I weren’t in it. As I sped by the median, I thought ‘what if?’.
You cannot heal what you cannot reveal.
Regaining control of my senses, I immediately pulled off and began to shake. How could this happen to me? Could I truly contemplate leaving my husband, my newborn? Those questions overpowered my thoughts, but a small internal flame told me that I needed to make a change. I drove home, slowly over backroads, and began the search for a therapist.
This small flame of searching has been my saving grace, and I have learned to seek it out. It has guided me through the depths of my depression and led me to seek help when I needed it.
After about five months of therapy, I entered a stage of peace as a wife and mother. Life with Keegan developed a rhythm, but my aimlessness still prevailed. I knew that I needed more for me, for my family and my life. This wasn’t all I had to give.
Finding purpose through pain.
Starting a regenerative food business was never my intention. It began as a way for me to import Biodynamic® infant formulas from Europe because I couldn’t find any in the States. My guilt over not serving the absolute best food for my son turned into an obsession to source pure and transparent products for other people’s children, too. And from there, White Leaf Provisions took root and blossomed.
I don’t think any point in my life has been so full of ups and downs, highs and lows and even the depth of depression as the past five years. Through it all, my husband became a saving force in my life. It saddens me that it took eighteen months to feel the same way about my son. I understand how harsh that sounds, but I also now know just how common that can be for new mothers. It’s taken me years to admit that truth out loud. Eventually I got there, and today I not only fully love Keegan with all my heart, there remain no more blockages to let that love flow freely.
Speak your truth; Find your inner flame
My journey towards managing a national biodynamic food brand only began the moment that I realized I needed help. I mustered the courage to meet with a therapist when I hit rock bottom, and I foraged my way through the beginnings of a business by asking questions, seeking innovative answers, and accessing the right resources. None of this insight was found in books; I discovered it by listening to my inner flame and letting it guide me. I urge you to find your inner flame and help that power come out and guide you to your success.
To begin, look to your town for any support groups that may exist. Here in Charleston, there is a wonderful association, Postpartum Support Charleston that specializes in PPD and PPA. Postpartum Support International is a resource with many different ways to seek support, no matter where you live. 2020 Mom is another incredible national organization with a mission and methods to help close gaps in maternal mental health care.