By sharing her story, she’s hoping to raise awareness
It’s Postpartum Depression Awareness Month, and although many women are now openly sharing their stories, there’s still work to be done as far as normalizing the conversation.
One mom posted striking side-by-side photos to show what postpartum depression can really look like — namely, how it can appear that nothing’s wrong at all, even when the opposite is true.
Kathy DiVincenzo is a birth/labor doula and childbirth educator at Beyond the Bump. She’s also a mom of two and has suffered postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. She took to Facebook last week to help raise awareness of how tricky postpartum mental illnesses can be — and to break the stigma surrounding women who speak out about it.
In a post that’s since gone viral, she writes, “Chances are, you’re feeling pretty uncomfortable right now (trust me I am too). I’m going to challenge you to push past the discomfort society has placed on postpartum mental illness and hear me out.”
And chances are, her assumption is correct. When people encounter a new mom, most of them only want to hear that everything is “great” and how life with a newborn is total bliss. Even if that’s not actually the case.
DiVincenzo shares a photo of herself looking, well, like an exhausted mom. Hair up, cozy clothes, visibly tired, kids grabbing at her, toys strewn everywhere. She calls that picture not “Facebook worthy” compared to the one below it, where she’s in an adorable outfit, playroom neat as a pin, with a big smile on her face. Both photos were taken by her friend, Danielle Fantis, who’s also struggled with postpartum depression.
She writes, “The truth is, both of these pictures represent my life depending on the day. I would only ever comfortably share one of these realities though and that’s the problem.” The mom is, of course, talking about how so many women only feel comfortable sharing the put-together version of their lives on social media. The one that’s easy enough to fake for a photo or two, but that doesn’t always tell the whole story.
“The only thing more exhausting than having these conditions is pretending daily that I don’t. I work twice as hard to hide this reality from you because I’m afraid to make you uncomfortable. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak, crazy, a terrible mother, or the other million things my mind convinces me of and I know I’m not alone in those thoughts.”
DiVincenzo points out how one in seven moms suffer from postpartum mental illness and that we need to change the tone of the conversations we have with new mothers in order to help them open up. “We need to start asking new parents how they’re doing in a deeper way than the normal, “so how are you doing?” that triggers the knee jerk, “everything’s great!” response. We need to learn the signs, symptoms, risk factors, and support plans for postpartum conditions.”
We had a chance to chat with DiVincenzo and she tells Scary Mommy that she and Fantis are shocked at the big reaction to the photos and the story they told. “Honestly it’s breaking our hearts that so many can relate, but we’re thankful to know we’re not the only ones that have walked through this.”
She says they’ve received tons of messages from moms that have sought help because of the post or who simply realized by reading it that what they’re dealing with has a name. “We just wanted to reach one person to let them know they’re not alone, but are so thankful at how many people have now gotten that message.”
DiVincenzo wraps up her post with words of encouragement for all moms. “In case no one has told you, you’re doing an amazing job. You are loved and you are worthy. You’re not alone.” She urges new parents to reach out for help if they need it.
“I know how unbelievably hard it is to reach out, but I promise you it is worth it. YOU’RE worth it.”