This is not a story about an amazing photographer or stunning photography. It’s about photos that are taken by non-photographers, in everyday situations, documenting a moment in time that is supposed to be filled with joy and happiness. The time after a baby - that fresh-smelling bundle of joy - came into the world. These are the faces of mothers, suffering from postpartum depression, hiding their angst behind a smile.
If you are not a woman, or never gave birth, postpartum depression (PPD) might not affect you directly. But it can affect your loved ones, or even the mother with whom you just shot a baby session.
Katherine Stone is an award-winning blogger, and the founder and editor of the blog Postpartum Progress. She is also the founder of Postpartum Progress Inc., a non-profit focused on improving support for women with prenatal mood and anxiety disorders. Her blogs and website offer in-depth information about birth-related mental illnesses. Her goal is to raise awareness, and fight the stigma of PPD.
Katherine Stone kindly answered a couple of my questions:
LG: "The subject of PPD has been 'swept under the rug' from the beginning of time. How did you gather the courage to bring awareness to this subject by 'exposing' your own experience?"
KS: "The only way to make this better is to expose it. When I had postpartum depression and anxiety I felt so alone and ashamed, and later when I found out how many women get these illnesses I was angry that I hadn't known that. It felt unfair that I spent so much time feeling awful about myself when someone could have told me, "Hey! It's not just you." It didn't feel hard to share what happened to me because I felt like it would make things better for another mom -- I felt like I could do that and I wanted to do that."
"I was also mad that the media generally portrays women with maternal mental illness as bedraggled and dangerous. That imagery, which is ridiculous and unfair, adds to the stigma and prevents women from getting help. So it wasn't that hard to figure out that we could start fighting against that by sharing our own imagery. Postpartum Progress created the first and only photo album featuring moms who've had maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression and psychosis because we wanted people to see that it's the mom around the corner, your friend, your co-worker, regular everyday cool women who get these illnesses."
"And then recently I created the story "You Can't Tell A Mom Has PPD By Looking" because I hear from so many mothers struggling with maternal mental illness who are deeply frustrated by the people around them saying, "You look just fine to me! You can't have PPD. You don't need any help." Even some doctors say this, and these are women who can hardly hold it together, if at all, and some of them are even considering suicide. I think photographs help tell the story that PPD is not a one size fits all type of illness. There is not an obvious "look" that a mom with postpartum depression has. It's way more complicated than that."
LG: "What is the best way to support and help a friend or family member who is going through PPD?"
KS: "I think the best way to support someone that you think has PPD is to say to her that you love her and support her no matter what. You know she's going to be a great mom, and if she is struggling that's okay because postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth. One in every seven women will get it -- even more than the number of women who will get breast cancer every year -- and you don't get it because you're not a good enough mom or because you are weak or because you have some sort of defect of character. It's a real illness, it requires professional help, and while your friend or sister or partner is getting the help she needs and deserves you will be happy to do whatever it takes to support her."
All photos were used with permission from Buzzfeed via Katherine Stone.