My Facebook feed has become a photo reel of weddings, babies, kids having fun, and adorable dogs (a welcome distraction from all the negativity out there these days). Sometimes, the photos are mine. But I have to wonder, for every seemingly perfect photo, how many outtakes were there? How many other moments were deemed unfit to document in pictures because the baby was crying/screaming/puking? With a delivery man ringing the doorbell, the dog going bonkers, and Momma breaking down into heavy sobs of her own?
Scrolling through those newsfeeds, we have to remember that we’re looking into people’s lives through a very small lens.
My battle with postpartum depression and anxiety began just days after my son’s birth. During my maternity leave, when I was in the deepest trenches of it, I felt immense sadness knowing I would never get those moments back, moments etched with the vivid memory of pain. But pretty early on, I started taking pictures–lots of pictures. Nothing fancy, and mostly just using my phone. Part of me didn’t want to because I didn’t want to look at them later and be reminded of the pain. But another part of me needed to hold tight to a belief that someday, I would feel okay again–and when that day came, I didn’t want to have nothing to look back at.
So, to the momma in the midst of her own postpartum battle: keep fighting this fight. Please get the help you need to get through this, because you will get through this. And along the way, take pictures and record videos, as often as you remember to. Ask others to take pictures, too–of your child, of you with your child, smiling at him, holding him, singing to him, reading to him. Sometimes that smile will feel forced, and some pictures will capture the tears and the raw imperfection of life and the challenges of parenthood–and that’s okay.
At times when my anxiety resurfaces, I return to those pictures and videos for the reassurance I need to see and hear that I did do a good job in those earliest days. I wasn’t failing him. I may have felt that way at the time, but my son didn’t know that, and looking back at these pictures and videos, the love is what permeates them.
I am now a mom of two and I still take things a day at a time (don’t we all?). When it comes to taking pictures, there is now the added challenge of getting two wiggly toddlers to look at the camera (or at least in the same general direction) at the same time. But someday, when the time is right, I want to have real, honest conversations with my kids about mental illness. I will show them images from their babyhood, and they will know that the mom behind the camera will continue to fight to be well for them–because they deserve that, and so does she.