Niagara Newborn Photographer – The Let’s Talk Project – Rachel Limebeer Photography


Let’s Talk. We all know I usually keep it light and fun here at Rachel Brencur Photography, but sometimes I need to dive into something that isn’t so fun to talk about. Sometimes I am compelled by situations and events around me to step outside that comfortable little cave I have made for myself and do something.

It wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized that parenting is the hardest thing that I have ever done. It’s not the diaper changes or 3am feedings or dealing with the terrible two tantrums (My youngest throws the most epic tantrums you have ever seen). It is trying to be a parent in THIS society.

In the age of technology with the likes of Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram we have the benefit of being able to keep in touch with friends and family, and even complete strangers without ever having to leave the house. We can give updates about our lives and receive updates on others. Information is available at our fingertips, literally.

You would think with all this information and openness we have created amongst our lives, our children, our experiences… That talking about post partum mental health wouldn’t be taboo anymore.

Some of you perhaps just closed the webpage and won’t read beyond this. Others are likely wondering, “Where is she going with this?”, and are starting to get uncomfortable with where this may be headed. And some of you are likely nodding your head, as if to say “Yes!”, praying that this is going where you are hoping it’s going.

Everyone has heard of post partum depression (PPD). Everyone has heard of the “baby blues”. But did you know that post partum mental health (PPMH) stretches even further than that? Some Moms have post partum post traumatic stress disorder (PPPTSD). Or post partum anxiety (PPA). Or post partum psychosis (PPS), and so much more.

Did you know 85% of new parents will have some kind of post partum mood disturbance? Yes, parents. Plural. Even new Dads or Partners can have post partum depression/anxiety/etc… and 85% makes a majority of parents. 10-15% of new parents are formally diagnosed with PPD. This is something that is not uncommon. It is not chosen. I don’t know of one mom who has said “I hope after I have my baby I develop PPD.”. So my question is, “Why is it still such a taboo and uncomfortable subject for most people?”. Furthermore, because it’s such a difficult subject, how many parents have PPD or another post baby mental health issue but are too proud, embarrassed, or ashamed to seek out the medical help they need?

Parents to a new baby (whether your first or last), whether they just have baby blues, or a more serious mental condition are already mentally stressed. Your life has been flipped upside down, and now you have this tiny human demanding everything of you. Demanding your sleep, your food, your sanity… and instead of creating a society that is open, accepting, and comforting that would be able to support those with post partum mental health illnesses, we just further the feelings of helplessness. Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. Insecurities. Alonelessness, and more. We have the power through social media to make a photo of a blue/black or gold/silver dress go viral in a matter of hours, but we can’t promote an accepting society of mental health?  Something is wrong here!

While researching for this blog, I noticed 2 things. First, it was quite difficult to find information on post partum mental health. Secondly, It is clear that there hasn’t been a lot of research put into it. A lot of the information is old. It’s very sparse without a lot of details that basically falls back on “go talk to your doctor”. To complicate things, the information given is stark and factual. It is not kind, sympathetic, or encouraging; it’s not letting those who are seeking information because they may be living with PPD feel that they are not alone. It is common, and there are things that can be done to help them. Most didn’t mention support groups, or anything of that nature to help parents who may not have PPD, but may be struggling mentally to handle the new challenges they face. And for those parents who are struggling and scared to see a medical professional, sometimes those support groups can offer the support and encouragement to make that step to seek medical help. I even searched Facebook and had a very difficult time finding one.

I am very open about my post partum days. I am not a perfect parent. And I don’t pretend to be. I post my daily accomplishments… but also my daily fails. Because I don’t want to promote that I am “that perfect parent”. I want others to know when they are having a tough time that they are not alone. There are others that struggle. It is not all Pinterest and unicorns and sparkly stars all day. I want to show that when you are on that final thread of patience that is stopping you from banging your head into the wall repeatedly and your toddler comes up to you wearing no pants with dirty hands and you get to play the “chocolate or poop” game, that it is okay to cave and give your head one good whack into the wall (literally)!  Or, if you are sitting up in your nursery with your newborn baby rocking them back and forth and both of you are sobbing because at 3 in the morning you can’t figure out what your new baby needs and you feel like a failure like I did, that it’s okay, and someone else has been through it and made it to the other side alive… and relatively sane.

It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to ask for help, to seek medical help. It’s okay to TALK ABOUT IT. The only way we are going to change this stigma around mental health, or post partum mental health is to talk about it. To make it the new normal. To make it mainstream. Don’t be afraid to share your story or talk about it, because it may make someone else uncomfortable. Don’t think that any mental illness makes you less of a person. Weak. A failure. Disappointing. Ashamed. It doesn’t. It’s seeing a friend I’ve grown to care and love for, struggle with post partum mental health for a year, who said to me when I asked how she was, “It’s finally getting better”, to make me realize the culture we have created. I had no idea that she was still struggling. I could have helped. I would have been willing to help. But we’ve created a culture where we aren’t to admit our flaws. And we distinguish PPD as a flaw in society.

A few weeks ago I was scared. When I posted the model call and I sent out the information to those 50+ moms who were interested about what I wanted to do, I was terrified. It’s a hard subject. It’s an uncomfortable subject for most. I was afraid no-one would be interested. I was afraid I would lose clients over it. I was afraid for a number of other reasons, but to my surprise, I had almost 50 people email me back begging to be a part of this project. 50. five oh. I was hoping for 3-5 moms I may have to track down over a few weeks. Now, I had 50 to choose from. I read EVERY story. And most of them made me cry (This is your warning to grab the kleenex). The heartbreak some moms had. The experiences they have gone through, and the things that have been said are heartbreaking. Yet they all had one thing in common. They needed to talk about it. They all felt the stigma, and they wanted their stories heard. They wanted to make sure that other moms that have or will in the future experience similar feelings or illnesses can feel confident to get help.  That they can know they are not alone and it’s okay to talk about it and get that support. I am going to share some of their stories with you all in hopes that you will read them. You will sympathize with them. You will help empower not just them, but all parents.  And know that if you see a new parent, or any parent that seems to be struggling, it’s okay to let them talk. Because most times, just talking about it with a listening ear can be so incredibly healing. We, as a society, are taking that coping and healing technique away from these parents that so badly need it. And it’s time for that to change.

Meet Sarah.

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“I have had my struggles through the past year of being a new mom from breastfeeding to learning how to have a baby and a romantic relationship with my husband. From trying to be the perfect housewife to mother and comparing everything I was doing to all the mothers around me. The latest and hardest struggle is sleep training, and the saddest part is I hate even writing it because my first thought is don’t talk about it, and I wonder how many other women struggle everyday with that same thought.”

001 sarah2 webSarah’s most recent struggle has been with sleep training. She made the difficult choice and there have been nights where she cried along with him. It’s affected her freedom to go out past bedtimes, and has incurred judgement from others who tell her “It just breaks my heart hearing him cry I just want to pick him up” so she’s spent time second guessing herself. Asking herself if she’s doing the right thing. Thinking everyone is judging her and thinking she’s a bad mom.



Meet Lindsey.

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“My daughters birth was very traumatic for me. I didn’t feel that instant bond or even cry tears of joy like everyone tells you will happen. It could have been the combination of medications in my system, or it could be the fact that I didn’t get to hold her until almost an hour after she was born. I felt so guilty for that.

I was terrified. I had no clue what to do for a baby. I didn’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time because if she made a noise I was up. If she was quiet I was up. And I remember feeling like a trapped prisoner in my own bedroom trying to figure out how to feed my baby because of the house full of company for 3 weeks. Luckily Brooklyn was a good baby once breastfeeding was established. She was content, slept well, and once we were sorted out breastfeeding she became a champ.

002 lindsay webMy son on the other hand, his birth was 4 hours total and completely natural. An epitome of an easy birth story. I cried,  I felt the bond… Something that makes me feel guilty that I didn’t with Brooklyn instantly. Then came the pediatrician,  she checked Noah out – and because of a few small details, suspected he may have had down syndrome. The morning came and the testing began. That’s when it all hit me like a tonne of bricks,  I cried and cried and when Ryan was around I tried to be strong. I cried because I was so scared for my perfect baby boy, and because I wasn’t sure I could be the kind of mom who could handle such a situation. I cried for Brooklyn and the impact it would have on her. I cried for my job (which I love) and our new home and hopes and dreams that we may have to give up if the results came back positive – and I felt guilty that I felt those things and I cried about that.  Then our nurse came in on the morning of our discharge with the pediatrician and we finally got some answers,  although he did have some kidney abnormalities and a small hole in his heart (which is common and most likely won’t need any intervention) he was a perfectly healthy baby boy and we had no worries about any of the trisomys. I was so relieved. Noah is the exact opposite of Brooklyn as a baby. He is my fussy little man,  he’s colicky and cries a good majority of most days but when he’s not crying he’s so smiley. Most days are easy for me this round, maybe it was the early scare in the hospital that make me put it all in perspective? Or maybe it’s the thought looming over me that he may be the last baby I get to carry.


Meet Michelle.

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“Over the last 8 months, my husband has continuously suggested, almost weekly that I have post partum. It is something that I’ve talked to my doctor about alot and we both feel that I don’t, that it’s just I am a very emotional person and that my experiences with Audrey whether good or bad draw out extreme emotion. But the weekly questioning of my husband has been something that has hurt my feelings, has made me feel like my emotions are out of control, like I’m crazy at times, which can cause a strain on our marriage because it creates tension and resentment. I love Audrey, I love being her mom, I love her smiles, her giggles, watching her grow and learn but through it all I’ve sat on the floor of my bathroom crying because I can’t settle her. I cry because I’m scared of the what if’s her life may bring. I cry because she is growing too fast, or I’m putting clothes away that don’t fit anymore, or I’m scared of being a bad mom, or  I feel like I’m failing when I’m so tired and all I can think is someone please help. I cry because the daily household chores can be too much to keep up with, because I don’t fit in my clothes and I don’t know who’s body I’m looking at anymore – and I cry because I know how great my mom was at it all and I don’t feel like I’ll ever live up to her example.

004 michellejbw web With so much emotion and overwhelming feelings already when the time came to handle Audreys cranial issues I had a complete breakdown. Over the last couple months we had to adjust to Audrey wearing a helmet for cranial readjustment. I battled then with a whole other set of emotions- how could we handle having to force our sweet child to wear a head brace, how would she ever sleep, how would I ever sleep,  how do you manage criticsm and stares of strangers when you go out to do your daily tasks, and why was I so worried about what others thought but my major struggle with it was blaming myself for it.

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My delivery was difficult the doctor had to use forceps to get her out. These are the main contributing factors that caused her to have to go through treatment in the first place. I felt like I failed my child. I was heart broken, I cried alot, I felt alone and I felt ashamed of myself that I couldn’t deliver her in a way that could have saved her from having to go through this. It took alot of strength in me to push that feeling away and know that we were doing the right thing for her, she has been a super trooper through it all and she gave me strength that I didn’t know I even had.”

Meet Jodi.

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005 jodi web “I often get so many comments from moms about how I’m super woman and how do I find time to go on so many adventures and do so many crafts with my toddler with a newborn. It actually started to really erk me and I felt myself having to give explanations. It’s just when I’m exhausted beyond belief and at my lowest moments; when my kids and myself are in a mess of tears I don’t feel like taking a photo for Instagram, which then creates a disillusion of a perfect life set in a little square on social media which is so far from reality and only makes other moms feel like they don’t match up.

005 jodibw webI can honestly say that the newborn stage of Joshua’s life was pretty much blissful… almost. With my first son, in the first few months I felt like I was failing him more often than not. I assumed since he was my own baby everything would come natural to me. I questioned everything I did and felt like I was failing at this whole mothering thing; a very hard pill to swallow since my biggest aspiration in life was always to be a wife and mommy. This second time around things have come so much easier. My hormones are much less crazy and I’m much more confident in my mommy skills and have loved everything about the newborn stage. I have been a little spoiled as he starting sleeping through the night since he was a few weeks old. He cries less than 5 minutes a day and everything was perfect in baby land until about 2.5 months hit. He decided that napping is overrated and now refuses to nap more then 20 minutes at a time unless I’m laying with him and nurses every 20 minutes throughout his nap. I now spend about 5 hours of my day shhhing, rocking, singing and willing my baby boy to sleep. From 1-5pm everyday is my worst nightmare with having a 2 year old who is just on the cusp of not wanting to nap anymore and a young baby that needs me to lay down with him and nurse him in order to sleep. Prior to having 2 kids I was the mom that rarely let my son watch tv and only fed him a sugar free diet, after nap time was usually spent doing crafts and activities together. Now I spend my afternoons running back in forth between plopping my 2 year old in front of the tv and throwing a snack at him as I run back up to my room to lay down with my baby. As I’m laying down nursing and “pretending to sleep”, every possible scenerio runs through my head of the things my toddler could be getting into and mommy guilt is building up huge. After my little guy falls back asleep I have about 10 minutes with my toddler until my baby realizes I’m no longer laying with him, wakes up and whines for me to come back. I then have to try to cook and get dinner on the table for my family, but I’m lucky if I get to chop an onion before somebody needs me again. As if that wasn’t bad enough we are now battling the 4 month sleep regression on top of it all.006 jodi web
Most days I feel like a new woman if I find time to put makeup on, my hair hasn’t been washed in days, my tank and sweatpants sport baby puke, baby snot and who knows what on them, my house is embarrassingly messy most days and my baby has been in pjs all week. But I’m learning the baby stage goes by too quickly to not savour it.”
Meet Jess.
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008 jess web“While Cal has been a relatively easy baby, there are those days when my emotions get the best of me and I find myself frustrated and upset with the fact that I no longer have 100% control over my day or the behaviour of my little one. Whether it’s during diaper changes, or trying to get him to sit still for photos I try to take for his memory book, or attempting to make the best use of the 2hrs he naps (which often go by and I find myself no further ahead when he finally wakes). For the first time in my life, I’m SO far behind in laundry, my house is disgusting (by my standards) and I can never get dinner ready before 9pm…and these days it usually ends up being a frozen pizza and a salad kit or a bowl of cereal because I don’t have the energy or time to create a beautiful meal for my husband upon his arrival home from work. Thank God for my husband though.007 jessbw web
  I am currently struggling with going back to work though. I am a supply teacher and I’ve had a year off but I’m not emotionally ready to give up my days with Cal. I’m not ready to get my head back in the game and shape the minds of someone else’s kids when I could be at home molding my own son’s mind. I’m not ready to apply for long-term teaching jobs and spend my nights planning, marking, and preparing for the school days ahead. It makes me feel anxious and nauseous. But when I tell people it’s almost time for me to go back to work, they all say “Good for you!” That’s not what I want to hear. Is this what everyone expects of me? What if I chose not to go back to work? Will people think I’m weak or just lazy because I’d rather stay home? How do other parents balance parenthood, jobs, family, home life, a clean house, etc??? I often worry about this as I lay awake at night
listening hard for Cal’s breathing over the monitor; because another thing I worry about is losing my son to tragedy or illness.
007 jess webI have this burning fear that I cannot protect him from everyone and everything and it eats me up inside. I can’t sleep at night; my mom brain won’t turn off.
That being said,  this new job-title I have as a mom is the greatest job I have ever experienced. I wouldn’t give it up because the love I have for my darling boy is stronger than any love I’ve ever felt before,  and that alone trumps anything else I’m feeling.”
Meet Michelle.
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“Before getting pregnant, I was a person who had mild anxiety that went undiagnosed. When we made the decision to start trying to have a family, I wasn’t quite ready, but I worried that it may take a while to get pregnant so we began trying anyways. A month later, I saw the positive symbol on a home pregnancy test and felt a mixture of emotions from joy to fear.
As I approached and went over my due date I was terrified. I worried about the possibility of csection, something going wrong with me or the baby during delivery, not being able to cope with the pain, etc. These fears intensified when I learned I would have to be induced.
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From there, some of my biggest fears became a reality.  I experienced 30 hours of back labour.  I tried to push Avery out for nearly 2 hours before the doctor realized it was no use due to her position and so he grabbed the forceps.  I was terrified.  I have never felt that kind of pain.  A few minutes later Avery was born.  I felt pure joy when she was placed on my chest for the first time.  15 minutes later, unfortunately, I had to pass her to the nurse because of complications I was experiencing post partum. Later that night I started haemorrhaging and then passed out.  Luckily I was okay but I was so scared.  That night I could not relax enough to sleep. I was traumatized.
The next day I learned that I would need a blood transfusion because I lost so much blood during delivery.  In fact, I lost so much blood that my milk did not even come in so I couldn’t breastfeed. It was very upsetting.  I had to stay in the hospital for 4 days and I didn’t sleep at all during that time.
When I got home, sleep didn’t improve for me and I was an emotional zombie.  Two days after being home I noticed I was not healing properly. I went to emerg and I was told, that I would have to wait 5 weeks to get a proper diagnosis. I spent those 5 weeks googling anything and everything related to post partum healing. I was given a variety of sedatives and sleeping pills; however, the most sleep I could ever get was 5 hours.  I just couldn’t relax.
At my 5 week checkup, I was told that everything was fine. I healed properly and there was nothing to worry about. I was so grateful.  I went home and lived life normally for a couple weeks.
009 michellec2 webThen, one night, all of a sudden, I didn’t fall asleep. I was worried about when Avery was going to wake up and how I would care for her on so little or no sleep. Then it happened again the next night, and again the following night. I was an emotional basket case.  How was I going to take care of a newborn on NO SLEEP? I know new moms are tired, but this was so beyond the typical sleep deprivation experienced by most. My husband offered and began to take care of Avery in the night so that I didn’t have to worry about when she was going to wake up and how I was going to care for her. This helped a little, but I felt so guilty for not being there for her and for him having to do so much and go to work the next day.
Next I referred myself to the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joes. This was the BEST decision I could have ever made. I was diagnosed with acute stress disorder as a result of my experience with the traumatic delivery.  I was told I have post partum anxiety and I am currently taking meds for this and I’m in the middle of therapy.  Things have been going so much better for the past two months and I couldn’t be more grateful for the supports around me.
I want new moms to know that they are going to be okay. They will heal. Things will get easier.”
Meet Melanna.
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“I should preface my story with the fact that the labour with my first, Alex, was not as planned or expected.  I had this “ideal” in my head.  I had a “plan.”  I was prepared to have a beautiful childbirth experience.  I wanted a very non-medical, personal, intimate experience.  Ultimately at the end of it all, after 17 hrs of labour, and close to 5 hours of pushing, the result was an emergency c section.  I pushed for so long, because that is how he was to be born.  He was going to come out of me, the way babies are “supposed” to come out of women.  C section was not even a thought, not in my vocabulary. I thought “how was my body not prepared for this? Or willing to perform this incredible miracle that is child birth?”
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When I got pregnant with Vuke, the question at hand was VBAC or planned C Section?  My husband and I tossed these two ideas around for quite a while.  I knew he preferred a planned C section, because he hated seeing me go through what he had with our first.  But I couldn’t get the idea of a VBAC out of my head.  I knew what labour felt like… But I so badly wanted the reward at the end of it. I would get to experience skin to skin that everyone talks about.  I would get to experience getting up and walking over to my baby to hold him after the birth.  On top of it all, I wanted to be able to take care of my babies, my newborn and my 18 month old.  A VBAC it was.  I would beat the odds.
Throughout the pregnancy I tried to do everything I could to prepare my body and not end up in the same situation. I felt confident.  Then at 39 weeks 1 day, my phone rings, and it is my midwives.  They have reviewed my case, and feel that the chances of a successful VBAC have decreased.  They were referring me to an OB to get an opinion.  I bravely listened to what they had to say… but when I hung up the phone, my heart hurt… I burst in to tears.  Once again, I was failing.  I was mourning the loss of a vaginal birth.   My midwife tried to romanticize the option of a “cold c section” but I knew what it was.  I knew it was me being laid out on a table with my hands tied down as my baby was ripped from my body and then taken away from me, only to have my husband once again get that amazing bonding experience that I longed for… while I waited in a cold, dark recovery room to meet my baby.  It was devastating.

At the end of the day – I had to make a decision.  The decision that I thought I had already made months ago, but now had to re-evaluate based on the opinions of the professionals that I had chosen to put my trust in.  I truly believe my midwives were looking out for the best interest of both me and of most importantly my baby.  After meeting with my midwives, the OB, and talking with my husband… I picked up the phone and said words I thought I would never say: “ I am calling to book a c section for tomorrow.”  I don’t know what was harder… giving up on my dream of what a birth is supposed to be like?  Or knowing that it wasn’t about me anymore – it was about my children.

010 melanna webIt was chaos – I was trying to recover from surgery, with a colicy baby who wouldn’t sleep at all, an 18 month old who was just learning to walk, that I couldn’t pick up for 2 weeks. I always needed a babysitter when he was home and all I wanted was to be alone.  I was tired, I was weak, I was trying to fall in love with a baby who took me away from my first, and all he did was cry! We were in survival mode.  But it passed, it always does.  You do get to breathe again…

With motherhood, you will always feel guilt and always feel like you could have done better… but you can be happy.  You get happy when you accept the fact that things are not going to go as planned.  Throw what you planned out the window and roll with it.  Once you do that you will be able to enjoy the experience.”


Meet Emily.

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012 emily web“My son was born in May 2014 and I still live with Post Partum PTSD. I have to work constantly to be in control of my own life and be the best mother I can for my kids. Every single day I fight with this. Nearly two years later and there are still days that I will sit by myself and cry. I have triggers that I have learned to manage on my own, but not without professional help. His first three months I was dealing with the trauma from his birth, exclusively pumping because he refused to latch (Likely due to his birth trauma and then our nearly 20 hours in different hospitals) and my own issues from his birth. Jonathan’s birth trauma wasn’t from poor medical care. His labour was induced due to extremely high blood pressure and I was required to get an epidural to help with my blood pressure, I wanted a natural birth. After my 36 hour labour and 3 1/2 hours pushing he was born, blue. Not breathing and no heart beat. He was transferred to the McMaster NICU while I stayed at west lincoln. The first 6 months I was on autopilot and missed out on quite a bit and I still have a lot of guilt from this. Around 6 months I hit what I would consider rock bottom. It was the darkest time of my life. I realized that what I was dealing with and experiencing wasn’t normal and it wasn’t ok. This is when the people closest to me also realized I wasn’t ok.

Fast forward to December 2015 and I welcomed my beautiful daughter into the world. Peacefully, at home, where I was most comfortable and not afraid of what was happening. After my sons birth I knew I couldn’t be in a hospital again. Every time I thought about her being born I would cry. I knew I had to break this cycle for myself, somehow. I’ve heard of so many people who had experienced some sort of trauma and then had a healing birth following. I was hoping for a magic solution. I was asked at my 6 week discharge appointment if her birth was healing for me. It wasn’t. Her birth has restored my belief in my body. I believe my body is strong and I believe that it is capable. But it didn’t heal me from the trauma, I don’t think anything ever can. But I needed to be able to believe in my body again.

011 emilybw webWhile our journey has been anything but ideal, it’s our story. Both of my children are worth every second of what we’ve endured. I can’t say I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could, because honestly, I would (what parent wouldn’t wish they could have given their child a better start at life?) But it’s made me a stronger mother. It’s shown me the power of a mothers love. You do what you need to do to get through it, and you do get through it. ”


Meet Lauryn.

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“I knew conceiving wouldn’t happen right away, but I had no idea it would take 18 months. During that 18 months we experienced what they call a missed miscarriage. Going through the miscarriage was something that changed me forever. It was torture finally getting pregnant then my body rejecting it 11 weeks later. It broke my heart and left me with a hole. We were both grieving but decided to keep trying as soon as we could.

After a few more months of being unsuccessful we decided to seek help with a fertility clinic. We felt positive about our meeting and was hopeful to get some answers. The Monday after our meeting at the fertility clinic I felt kind of funny and decided to take a pregnancy test. To my shock it came back positive! Brad and I were over the moon excited.
My pregnancy was pretty typical and I just felt so lucky to finally be pregnant! Around 28 weeks I did the gestational diabetes test and it came back positive. Gestational diabetes comes with a lot of fear and worry and extra testing.
013 lauryn2 webMy labour and delivery is something that I am still grieving and dealing with. Since I was with midwives you can assume I wanted a natural drug free delivery. I was excited to experience labour and then have skin to skin. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned when I went into labour. Brad and I went to the midwives clinic so they could check me. I was now 5cm and she told us to head to the hospital and she would meet us there.
By the time we got to the hospital my very manageable contractions became unbearable. Once we got to our room I felt like I had to start pushing and I couldn’t help but push. The pain was excruciating and not what I expected. I broke down and requested an epidural. My midwife actually jumped on it right away and called for the doctor. The doctor came and placed the epidural and I could relax. The midwife checked me again and I was now ready to push. With Brad by my side I started to push! I was excited and full of adrenaline to meet our baby. After four and half hours of pushing the obgyn on call said the baby just was not budging and I was working way harder then my uterus was and I needed intervention. He explained all the options to me, forceps, vacuum and c-section. I wanted to go right to a c-section because the risks of the other scared me. I did not want anything to happen to my baby. Brad convinced me however to try the vacuum because then I would have tried everything I could to get the vaginal delivery I wanted.
The obgyn took us into the OR and attempted the vacuum two times but determined it wasn’t working. He started to prepare for a c-section. Brad sat by my head reassuring me the whole time. The midwives stayed and were a great buffer explaining what was going on. Before we knew it our baby was delivered and was whisked away quickly. We never got to hear his first cry. When he was brought back to us he was wrapped up in a blanket and was wearing a hat, he was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. I started to feel sick so the midwives took our baby which we named Drew and escorted Brad to the recovery room where they told him I would be joining him in shortly.
Once everybody left the doctor finished closing me up but it felt too tight and I was in a lot of pain suddenly. I think the epidural was turned off and I could tell something wasn’t right. I could feel liquid gushing out of me, I was bawling my eyes and screaming in pain and begging to be put to sleep. I was throwing up and starting to feel very light headed. I could tell things were critical because suddenly everybody started moving very fast and yelling at each other. Finally I heard somebody say they were taking me down to a different OR. I felt like I was coming in and out and on the way down to the new OR I saw a clock that said 2:30am and then suddenly everything went white. I saw white lights and I honestly thought I had died. We got to the OR and they must have gotten me awake and the doctor was asking me to sign a form that allowed him to perform a hysterectomy. I started to cry again and I didn’t know what to do. The doctor was very stressed and I could sense he was in a hurry. He told me I had two choices either my life or the hysterectomy. I tearfully signed the form.
When I woke up from surgery I was in a large room with lots of machines and I couldn’t talk. Brad came to see me and explained I was in the ICU and was intubated. I lost a lot of blood and they needed to keep my heart stable. I was beside myself. I wanted to see my baby, I couldn’t talk, I had all the tubes and lines coming out of me. Then I remembered I have a friend that works in the ICU. I wrote her name on my nurses hand and she knew right away who I was asking for. A little while later my friend Brittany came and explained things a little better. She also asked about Drew and if I had seen him. I was so upset I hadn’t held him yet or gotten to look at him longer then 30 seconds. She went away and came back saying she had arranged for the nursery to bring Drew up to see me. I couldn’t believe it, she had to pull a lot of strings and convince them but she did it, just for me. I will never know how to really express just how grateful I am for that. Seeing and holding Drew was exactly what I needed to keep my spirits up. The nurses removed the tube from my throat before Drew got to my room and I finally (just shy of 12hrs later) got to hold the baby I had been wishing for for many years.
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Holding Drew was short lived because I was so weak and I could barely keep my eyes open. The next day after receiving two more units of blood I was transferred to the maternity floor where I stayed another 5 days. Once I was settled in on the maternity floor I was filled in on what happened to me. I was not given a hysterectomy. In the last minute they were able to save my uterus and repair the bleed. Because of the trauma and the equipment I currently had I was unable to pick my baby up or get out of bed. It was heart breaking staring at my baby in his bassinet and not be able to pick him up. Brad had the sole parenting role first week of our baby’s life.
I fed Drew for the first time 3 days after he was born and it was such a great day. After we got the okay to take Drew home we couldn’t wait to finally start our new life together. Luckily I never had ppd but I do suffer from PTSD. I constantly replay what happened over and over again in my head. I wonder if I hadn’t of taken the epidural maybe I could have done it naturally and avoided all this. This experience changed both Brad and I. Brad was in severe shock and in a constant state of worry while he was thrown into parenthood and taking care of me. Watching shows we once enjoyed like Greys Anatomy now brings back memories for us and it’s hard to watch. I remind myself that Drew is a healthy boy and other then my scars I am back to myself. “
Meet Heather. 
 015 heatherbw web
014 heather web“Ever since I was a little girl I pictured myself as a mommy. I have been with my husband since I was 14, and we married 2.5 years ago and have shared a great love for each other. We loved our time together we were both kind of selfish in our need for time with eachother. When the idea of a baby came up well let’s just say it wasn’t all a happy bliss. I had a hidden fear we would have problems conceiving. The day I found out I was pregnant we had gotten in a big fight that morning about how I pressured him into having a baby ( which was totally not the case but with all the crazy emotions and changes it may bring its safe to say he had a minor freak out) well later that night sure enough we were pregnant! Well then totally different emotions came! Hopes, dreams, names, happiness, fear, joy, obsession, hype, love and so much more!

We chose not to find out the gender, which was the greatest surprise! Labour and delivery was not what I had planned which started with sky high blood pressure, being induced, labour not progressing, contractions completely stopping, then a higher dose to start things again, then a really long labour with no progression again. I never dialated past 4 cm, after 18 hours and thanks to a great doctor, a c-section it was and a painful scary, traumatic one at that. I barely remember those first moments and my first look at our sweet sweet baby boy because of all the medication in my body! Hubby got skin on skin first which breaks my heart just a little bit, those were suppose to be my first moments. Motherhood is crazy, motherhood is emotional, motherhood is fun, motherhood is something I knew I always wanted and I finally have it.

014 heatherbw webThis is actually something that has been on my heart lately. I’m one of those social media crazy people that has to post the perfect picture, and lately I have been hearing how, it can’t possible to be difficult he’s always happy and the best baby. Well yes he is a good baby and mostly we have had a fun experience, we still are challenged just as any other parents, and I’m sick of the assumption that it’s been “easy” because that is not the case.”
Meet Lesley.
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“Our parenthood story has resembled a roller coaster that started fast and hasn’t slowed down!  We found out that we were pregnant with our first child a couple of months after getting engaged and basically a month after I was offered a permanent position at my work after being on contract for over a year.  I was excited yet terrified as we had a destination wedding in mind and I didn’t want to tell my boss that I would be going off on maternity leave right after receiving a permanent position.

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Madelyn was an easy baby but after commuting to Burlington to work ridiculously long shifts, sometimes 7 days a week, I was feeling a bit out of place at home with no laptop or blackberry; adjusting to life as a new mom.  A few months later, I started to feel really tired and unmotivated.  I also started to lose my milk (I was breastfeeding) and I got a prescription to help with milk production.  When I still wasn’t feeling right, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive.  Because I hadn’t had a period yet since Madelyn was born, my doctor sent me for a dating ultrasound.  The ultrasound technologist was shocked when she put the probe on my belly to see that there wasn’t a tiny, little embryo on the screen… there was a baby!  I was 16 weeks pregnant!  Cole was born almost exactly 11 months after his sister.  I spent a second (unpaid maternity leave) year off which had its fair share of stress on our marriage, family and finances but we got through it.  Then I went back to work as the commuter mama and career woman in the house.  This was a really difficult adjustment for me. Only seeing my kids for dinner and bedtime every day, missing them all the time and also being so tired and stressed from work by the time I had an opportunity to play with them at the end of the day.
A year and a half after I returned to work, I was pregnant with our third baby, Oliver.  Being pregnant with 2 toddlers at home and commuting to work was difficult and exhausting.  However, his birth was the easiest birth to recover from out of the three.  I seemed to be physically “fine” afterwards.  I got to go home after just 2 nights for the first time in 3 deliveries, my belly seemed to disappear quicker than ever and I was happy and felt great!  A couple of months later I started to struggle and get tired, anxious, easily irritated, forgetful and overwhelmed.  I thought I was just having a hard time adjusting to broken sleep again while struggling to find balance with 3 small children and quality time for each of them.  I thought it was because I was never alone or that my house was messy and the laundry was piling up or because it was Christmas time.
016 lesley webWhen Christmas came and I felt myself absentmindedly ‘going through the motions’ as my kids opened their gifts and noticed that I was pulling away from them while not really feeling connected to anyone or anything, I quietly got concerned. I tried essential oils, exercise, eating clean, herbal teas, etc.  Nothing worked.  It got worse.  I would try to convince myself that I was doing better but it was always short-lived. A family friend who had PPD wisely told me “Don’t waste your year off trying to feel normal.  You shouldn’t have to try.”  These words resonated with me.  That’s exactly what I was doing: TRYING to feel normal.  I was trying so damn hard but still couldn’t manage to shake this darkness or feel like ME. When I started to spend every night wide awake, nauseous with fear and anxiety, only to struggle to get out of bed a little more each morning in order to face another day of dark thoughts creeping into my mind, I knew I needed help.  I went to my doctor and after doing some questionnaires and an assessment, I was officially diagnosed with Postpartum Depression.   It was a difficult diagnosis to handle but relieving at the same time because now I could be treated and recover.  I’ve been put on medication which has already helped tremendously. I feel like I have lost the past 3 months of my life and only now that I am starting to see things clearly, do I realize just how much I was quietly suffering.”

Meet Claire.

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“My journey out of my eating disorder was fueled by my drive to become a mother, not even knowing if I could conceive after over a decade of malnourishment and 2 heart attacks. It carried me through recovery after 12 years of illness, 2 rounds of intensive treatment. It carried me through weight gain and into a place where I could conceive. I used to carry baby socks in my wallet, my car, my desk; everywhere to remind me I wanted to be a mom. Pregnancy was hard; I developed gestational diabetes which had me give up my dream for a home birth (which was important to me for personal reasons), I wrestled against the medical system and fought for my right to try coping without insulin (which I did successfully, many doctors fought me but the midwives supported me and I did it completely diet controlled). The diabetes also forced me to face my old eating disorder demons.

017 claire webMy birth was rough, I had 2 weeks of prodromal labor and when my water finally broke there was meconium in the water. I had a pain med free birth, but when my little man arrived his shoulders got stuck (which I could feel and still have dreams about). He was whisked away and had a tube shoved down his throat to pull out the meconium. They had barely even told us he was a boy before he was having trouble breathing. After what seemed like forever his breathing was easier but still wheezy, his first apgar score was 3. His sugars were perfect and I have yet to be tested for diabetes again because I’m terrified it hasn’t gone away.

After my little man was born I had a tonne of help, everyone was keeping an eye out for PPD as I have a history of depression and anxiety. They were always there helping out and dropping off food (we didn’t have to dip into my premade meals until 5 weeks after the baby was born). They were offering to help out and taking the baby so I could sleep. Now that my little man is 12 weeks old is when I need the help (and food) but it’s either not there or I feel guilty asking for it.

My son was born at 7lbs 14oz, an exceptionally normal weight given my gestational diabetes. When we left the hospital the following day he weighed 7lbs 10oz and everyone was so proud of how little he’d lost. I remember the third day after my baby was born the midwife standing in my bedroom after examining my son and exclaiming “he’s just perfect!”. He was 7lbs 13oz, I felt proud and accomplished, I had a son and he was perfect, I was doing well providing for him and helping him thrive. On the fifth day the midwives came back to the house to check on us but things were not “perfect ” anymore. We had an exceptionally long night of walking, feeding and crying. When the midwife walked into my bedroom with her giant bag I was so relieved to see her. I lay in my underwear on my bed holding my baby almost in tears. All I could say was “I’m so tired…”, I could barely see her through my exhausted swollen eyes. She checked my son over and he weighed only 7lbs. Turns out my milk had not come in and we thought he was feeding but he was starving, I still feel guilty that within a week of his life the girl who had recovered from anorexia was starving her baby. I didn’t know he was starving, how could I have known? The midwife asked me to pump some milk for my son so we knew how much he was eating, the pump didn’t work so I started hand expressing, she brought me a bowl from my cupboard but I decided to start with a baby bottle we had. It was torture, squeezing out about 5 drops of milk; remembering the bowl I felt very inadequate. I was devastated and for weeks I would burst into tears when talking about feeding my son. We immediately went into high gear, formula feeding my little boy so that he could be healthy again. And so began my breastfeeding journey.

At first we were supplementing formula through a tube at the breast, my husband or I would hold a bottle with a small tube at the top and insert it into my son’s mouth as he was nursing. It took all 4 hands to feed him for the first few weeks, we wanted to give medications and supplements a chance to help my milk come in. The first 2 days we had to feed him every hour, but the feeding process took an hour so we got maybe 15 minutes of sleep each hour. During those 2 days we had scares with dehydration, lack of bowel movements, potential IV fluids and actual red chalk like dust coming out in my son’s pee. The midwives were at our house 4 times in those 2 days and texting and calling us in between to check on us. My son gained his weight back incredibly quickly and was back on track in just a week. After another couple weeks we moved to bottle feeding once the potential of nipple confusion had passed.

Since then my supply has slowly increased but you will find me at 430am pumping in the basement, I take prescription drugs 3 times a day and supplements 3 times a day. I make and eat lactation cookies, drink lactation teas, nurse as often as possible and pump when I can, and drive myself crazy trying to breastfeed my son; something that is supposed to be so easy and natural. All this while caring for my son. I was up to 50% nursing and 50% formula but he is currently going through his 3 month growth spurt and eating double what he normally does so I’m left feeling very inadequate in my ability to provide nourishment for my son. I am lucky enough to have a friend who has started donating some of her mother’s milk to me and my son so I know he is already getting the benefits of it, I can not tell you how often her generosity in this manner brings me to tears.

017 claire2 webCurrently I’m suffering with some postpartum anxiety; racing thoughts that I can’t stop, worrying constantly about his eating, his digestion (all formulas give him awful constipation that nothing including probiotics helps with), and my supply. I am plagued by thoughts of what preschool he will go to, what chemicals are entering his body, what he is learning and not learning from us. I find it hard to leave the house and the thought of having plans makes me panic. Even calling my therapist and psychiatrist so that we could talk about my anxiety causes me anxiety at the thought of having to leave the house to see them. I often find myself in tears begging my screaming and crying son to please stop when I can’t possibly feed him, change him, rock him or bounce him any more. Today I put him in my husbands hands and wept “I can’t!” over and over. Normally I would deal with the stress by going to a yoga class but good luck with that when you have a newborn. I either have no one to watch him, feel guilty leaving him with someone or am too exhausted and overwhelmed to leave the house and a home practice is impossible when you’re baby only sleeps for 30 minutes at a time and won’t let you put him down.”

Lastly, Meet Stephanie.
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“I was in a relationship with a man I loved. I was friends with him for approximately 6 years and we were in a romantic relationship for less than a year when I found out I was pregnant. Although it happened sooner than we expected we were both happy.. or so I thought.
018 stephanie web
When I was 11 weeks pregnant, my boyfriend didn’t come home one night and the next morning told me he wasn’t coming back.  This was the day before my first ultrasound.  I’ve never experienced heart ache before so with the pregnancy hormones and the fears I already had about everything, it all really hit me hard.   I struggled throughout my entire pregnancy while doing my best to maintain a positive appearance to those around me.   Only a few people knew how truly broken and devastated I was.  I was happy I was going to be a mother but so terrified of having to do it on my own. I struggled with seeing my friends who were pregnant in happy relationships and wishing I had that. I struggled with the assumption of people who didn’t know me asking about my “husband” or “partner”. Often times I would just pretend I was in a relationship and go along with the conversation because I was so embarrassed to say I was single.
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After Jayden was born I was surrounded by supportive family and friends (especially my mother and my father) but I still felt extremely overwhelmed and I wasn’t over the heartbreak. I felt robbed of a lot of experiences as a first time mom.  I really wanted someone with me everyday experiencing it with me. I’ve definitely had moments where I thought that this wasn’t supposed to be this way and I’ve even made the mistake of saying I wish it wasn’t this way.  I regret saying those things but in the moment, when I was overwhelmed I said them.   I wouldn’t change anything now.  I love Jayden so much. It’s not easy but no one said it would be.  I accepted the fact that I am a single mom and I am proud of what I have accomplished. I don’t like the term single mom because I think it has a negative stereotype associated with it which I don’t fit into. I’m not in a relationship but that doesn’t have any effect on the type of mother I am.   I strive to be the best mother to Jayden and I am proud of the mother I am.  I have to be both his mother and his father which is a lot on my shoulders but it’s so worth it. With every stage, there is an adjustment and a struggle.I’m glad you’re doing this project.  I think the feed your baby project helped me a lot to accept my situation and reading the other stories helped me feel more connected and not so alone in my own struggles.  This message is so important so all mothers know that it’s ok to not always be happy and enthusiastic about being a mother and it is ok to admit that it’s really really hard.”
Every story matters. Your feelings matter. Your health matters. YOU MATTER.

Parenthood is hard. There are ups, and there are downs. We brag about our ups, and it’s time that we start talking about our downs.  So everyone knows that it’s okay to be “imperfect”. To let society know that mental health concerns shouldn’t be locked in a closet and kept a secret and personal. By keeping mental health locked in a closet, it automatically makes it “shameful”. And no-one wants to be ashamed. So they hide. They hide from the help they need. I want everyone to be confident to stand up. To say “I need help”, and get the help they need.  To be able to enjoy parenthood. Life goes by so fast. Those first years go by so fast. Why wouldn’t we want to make sure everyone can enjoy and squeeze as many happy memories out of that time as possible?

I’m going to finish this up by saying that I am NOT a mental health professional. I also believe that if you have even an inkling that you may have a post partum mental illness, or any mental illness, please talk to your family doctor or a mental health professional and be proud that you care enough about yourself and your family to get the help you need.

Lets #talkaboutit #talkaboutppd. Please Share your story. Please talk about it with your friends. You are welcome and encouraged to share this blog. I can’t change societies views by myself. And honestly, I doubt this blog will do a thing to change anything. However, the best way we can try to change society and this stigma surrounding Post Partum Mental Health, or any mental health stigma, is to talk about it. To make it the new normal. To let people know they are not alone and there are resources out there that can help.  So, here it is.

For more information and support, please see the following helpful links and support groups:
Facebook Post Partum Mental Health Support Group:
Parent Talk Line: 905-688-8248 or 1-888-505-6074 ext. 7555 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
Mental Health and Addictions Support Line: 1-866-550-5205 or
Distress Centre Niagara:
St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Area: 905-688-3711
Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Area: 905-734-1212
Fort Erie and Area: 905-382-0689
Grimsby, West Lincoln: 905-563-6674
The Distress Centre of Niagara is a 24-hour, free, confidential telephone crisis intervention support service available to anyone in need in the Niagara Region.
Health Care Connect:1-800-445-1822
Health Care Connect will refer Ontarians without a family health care provider to a family doctor or a nurse practitioner in their community who is accepting new patients.
Women’s Health Concerns Clinic:
Please SHARE. Share the post. Share your story, I would love to hear it and I’m sure others would love to read it too.
Lastly, a big huge Thank You to Kyla Olszewski who proofed version, after version, after version of this blog helping me make it perfect!! And to each of the amazing moms who participated in this project. I really couldn’t have done it without every one of you. Their patience was outstanding!!!
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