THE MOMENT I REALIZED I WAS GOING TO SURVIVE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

I had to force myself to get my camera out and take pictures of my baby.

I’m a photographer. I see everything in terms of how I would photograph it. Photography comes naturally to me. But the weight of motherhood was heavy. And the thought of taking out my camera was daunting. And honestly, I didn’t feel like I knew the baby in front of me.

I felt like I’d lost myself. Everything in life was now this giant mountain. I had to give myself a pep talk before going into the other room to get my camera. Taking a few photos - which was second nature up until this point - felt like running a marathon.

The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I would be filled with regret later on if I didn’t take photos of my baby in her first few days of life. And one of my biggest flaws is that I habitually live in fear of regret.

Four weeks later I finally accepted that I was deeply struggling with postpartum depression, which I had prayed so strongly against during pregnancy because of my prior history with depression. I took the steps that were right for me to start fighting it. I started feeling better but was fearful of the ramifications of how utterly emotionally absent I was during the first month of Andrie’s life.

Several more weeks passed and suddenly I’d been a mom for three whole months. I had my ups and downs, but overall I was doing better. But I wasn’t aware of how far I’d actually come until I saw this photo.

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This was it. This was what I’d wanted. What I’d dreamt about. Looking at this photo, I saw that I loved my baby and that she loved me. That I adored her, and that I was everything to her. That she did not hold that first month - the very hardest month - against me, or any of the time after that as I continued to battle and process. Looking at this photo - it was the moment I realized I was going to survive postpartum depression. And all the moments that came after that when I felt like I was drowning again and doubted if I was enough for Andrie, I would think about this moment and know that I was meeting her needs - even if it was just the bare minimum - and she knew that.

Now, a year later, I’m going through her baby clothes, deciding which ones I want to keep for future babies or for memories, and which ones I’ll throw in the garage sale pile. I come across a striped romper and immediately I’m taken back to a moment of grace. I wonder if I should cling tight to my photo, but pass the romper onto another mama. I toss it in the garage sale pile. A second later, I snatch it back up and realize I want to save it. Not because I need it, but because I want my daughter to have it. Someday when she’s a mom, she’ll have a hard day. Whether that’s because of postpartum depression or just the craziness of motherhood, she’s going to need that moment of grace where she, too, realizes “I can do this.”

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