#RAWmotherhood: Eschelle Westwood

PPD PPA Motherhood grief

Motherhood Portrait PPD PPA Postpartum

(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)

My motherhood journey started young, I was only nineteen when my partner and I discovered we were pregnant with our first child. Having met and been together since I was seventeen it was a simple decision to keep the course and prepare to welcome our first baby. With the news of a new baby though came the news that my mother was terminally ill with lung cancer. Which meant my first pregnancy was plagued with a dreadful and stressful feeling at all times, making it hard for me to bond with my growing child. I started growing detached from myself, my growing body and what was to come hoping time would just stand still for just a little bit.

Having a looming dread that my little one wasn’t going to arrive in time to meet my mother I was struggling with my growing depression and anxiety. My oldest did arrive in time to meet my mother twice before she passed away. My detachment from my son was harder to deal with than I ever thought and ultimately made breastfeeding impossible for me. I loved my son desperately but I also was so scared of being a young mother with no mom to call for support or answers. It was all consuming. Being estranged from my father during this time made this even harder, feeling all alone and trapped inside a house all the time with a child. I found it easier to stay home than try to go out as I was growing comfortable in my isolation.

Motherhood is one of the most rewarding and isolating experiences any woman can have.

I soon became pregnant with our second child, given the due date February 17th, 2010 the anniversary of my mother’s death day. Deep down I knew that he was going to be born that day, regardless of everyone saying there was only a 3% chance. Low and behold that morning at 6:30am I started going into labour and gave birth to my son on the anniversary of my mother’s death. It was a full circle feeling for me as he responded to my finger immediately,and my mother’s name till he was two. His birth was a very healing experience for me in my grief as I felt my mother with me in him every day. Of course this didn’t solve all the issues I had developed from my still lingering postpartum trauma from having my first son. That feeling that I was never quite doing enough. There were days that grief would swallow me making me a sub par parent at best some days.

Then I found out worse news: my father, who I was estranged from, had passed away during  September just a few years after my youngest was born. Myself and the rest of his family didn’t find out until the following October as he listed no contact information. It was a huge blow to know he had passed of lung cancer as well and all alone. It once again began another long battle with a deep depression. A depression I wouldn’t have gotten over had it not been for my beautiful family.

Each and every day I take it one step at a time and some days are better than others. Sometimes my house is a mess but we manage with a little love. After losing both of my grandparents this year again to lung cancer I need all the love I can get.

 


Eschelle is part of our new Mama Diary Series, #RAWmotherhood, that aims to provide purposeful portraits to break the “Instagram worthy” pictures of motherhood and be real for a moment. Thank you Eschelle for supporting this campaign to unite and support mothers in their journey, postpartum. This initiative is to bring awareness and funds to BC Women’s Hospital Foundation as they continue the research and development of an app to treat PPD and PPA. Click here to find out how you can help.

#RAWmotherood: Sasha Ruscheinski

Motherhood PPD PPA miscarriage love loss women's health

PPD motherhood PPA miscarriage loss love

(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)

The journey to have my first child was an easy one. My husband and I decided we wanted to try for a baby and three weeks later I got a positive pregnancy test. I suffered through some pretty bad morning sickness, but nine months later we had a beautiful baby boy! Just after my son turned one we decided we wanted to have another baby. Less than a month later I got a positive pregnancy test and I couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Two positive pregnancy tests within a month of trying. Little did I know that it would be almost two years until we brought another baby home.

It was March 11th, my husband’s 26th birthday. I was 10 weeks pregnant and had my first ultrasound scheduled for that morning. Within 10 seconds of the ultrasound starting I just knew. The tech had this look on her face that I will never forget. She looked so hard at the screen. Her lips were pursed and her eyes were slightly squinted. I braced myself for the words I knew the tech was about to say. She turned the screen towards me and said the words no one wants to hear “I’m sorry, but it looks like there is no heartbeat”. My world instantly shattered. I felt as though my heart was literally breaking into pieces. I had never experienced that type of pain before. It was excruciating and completely crippled me.

My husband was in an intense doctorate program at the time and had to go back to school while I went back to get our toddler from a friend’s house. I didn’t want to sit at home so I decided to walk around Target with him. I was so angry. Angry at every person I saw with a smile on their face. How could all these people be happy when my world was crushed? I drove back home to Langley the next day and about 10 days, two failed rounds of misoprostol and one successful D&C later my miscarriage was considered complete. I drove back to Portland feeling pretty broken, but hopeful. I knew I wasn’t the first woman to experience a miscarriage and I would not be the last.

We were told we could try again pretty quickly and so we did just that. Again, a month after trying we got another positive pregnancy test! But just two weeks later it happened again. One day before our wedding anniversary I was in the ER being told that I had an ectopic pregnancy. My world shattered once again. How could this happen to me again? I was given two shots of methotrexate to treat the ectopic and was sent on my way.

Honestly, I hadn’t fully recovered emotionally from the first loss and here I was again dealing with two losses in such a short span of time. We were told that we needed to wait a bit longer before trying again after the ectopic. We were given the green light three months later and decided to try again.

Two months later I got another positive pregnancy test. I was SO excited. I knew I was going to bring this baby home. I just had this overwhelming feeling of peace. This baby was going to make it. I had no doubt in my mind. Well, two weeks later it happened again. My third loss in eight months. Three babies that were once in my body were gone. Devastating doesn’t even begin to cover how it felt.

Life became extremely difficult for me. Every pregnant woman and newborn baby instantly triggered pain that cut me so deeply. I avoided eye contact with most pregnant women and refused to hold newborn babies. Since my first was now over two years old people would start asking when we were going to have another. I remember sitting in a doctors office one day with my toddler and a woman asked me how old he was. When I told her he was two years old she said “time to have another!”. I just smiled and nodded, but inside my heart just ached. People always had such good intentions with their comments, but damn they hurt. I tried to just be grateful for the child I had, but when I looked at him it just reminded me of the babies I lost. The siblings he would never have. I wanted a baby so badly. I was in so much pain. That pain consumed every single fiber of my being. I am not exaggerating when I say that I felt physical pain every single day for most of the day. Sometimes I would cry so hard my head would ache for days after. Some days my heart hurt so much I worried it was going to explode through my chest. There were many times that I would lay in bed and just fall apart. My husband would wrap his arms around me and just hold me as I cried. It became difficult for me to even go on Facebook. It felt as though there was a new pregnancy announcement every week. I was so irrationally jealous of every person that announced a pregnancy. People used to tell me that I should just be happy for other people. I wish it had been that simple. Yes, I was happy others were getting pregnant and having their babies without the same issues as me. That was a given! I was just so darn sad. I have never felt more alone in my life. I rarely ever saw women mention a loss on social media. I had experienced three losses at the age of 26 and felt as though no one my age could relate. I decided I didn’t want to be silent about my losses. I spoke about them and spoke about them often. I was very open and honest about how sad I was and how hard life was. The support I received from family, friends and my social media circle was amazing. I received so many messages from women who, just like me, had had losses. Some had one early miscarriage, some had multiple miscarriages and a few had late term losses. It was pretty shocking to see how many women actually DID know exactly what I was going through. You can have some pretty dark thoughts when you are in the throes of grief and to talk to women who could completely relate to everything I was saying was so healing.

As time went by I began to heal more and more. My husband and I decided we wanted to try again and at the end of February 2016 we got another positive pregnancy test. My fifth pregnancy in three years. On November 16th. 2016 our second son was born. His birth brought me so much joy, but also some unexpected pain. Seeing him reminded me of the babies I would never meet. I always wonder who they would have been. I am forever changed by my losses. It has been over 2.5 years since our final loss and that pain is still there. I will hear a song or read a quote and all those feelings come crashing back. I usually take to Instagram and share my feelings. I know so many women can relate.

My journey to have my second son was not an easy one, but it is one I am grateful for as it brought us the most precious little boy. Of course I wish that we could have just gotten this boy without all the pain, but that’s not our story. Our story has turned out better than I ever imagined it would. I sit here writing this with my 4.5 year old beside me, my 17 month old running around with my husband and baby #3 rolling around inside my belly. We are about to become a family of five literally any day now. Even in my best dreams I never imagined this.

 


 

Sasha is part of our new Mama Diary Series, #RAWmotherhood, that aims to provide purposeful portraits to break the “Instagram worthy” pictures of motherhood and be real for a moment. Thank you Sasha for supporting this campaign to unite and support mothers in their journey, postpartum. This initiative is to bring awareness and funds to BC Women’s Hospital Foundation as they continue the research and development of an app to treat PPD and PPA. Click here to find out how you can help.

Mama Diaries: PPD and Me

PPD Mama Diaries Blog

PPD Mama Diaries

(Photo by Angela Baron Photographer)

March 29th, 2015. The day I had my first anxiety attack while pregnant with my second child. It came on so strong and fast that I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t control my tears. I couldn’t control my breath. The only thing I could do was get close to the ground and try to catch my breath in between the cries. The floor was cold. It helped that my cheeks were against it. It seemed to have calmed me. But every time I got up from the floor, the wave of cries would hit me again. Bashing me back down to the ground as if it was pinning me to say, “just surrender.”

I remember it so clearly and can repeat it with little change to the story. And every time I’m in that bathroom, I see myself on the ground. First against the wall. Then curled on the ground. The problem is… I’ve never been able to say it to anyone. Not even my husband. He was on the other side of the door. Busy feeding our then 2-year-old. He knew I was upset. But he had no idea what was happening on the other side of that door. That his pregnant wife was on the ground… crying profusely and trying to understand what the hell was happening to her. Trying, really, to control herself. The more I tried, the more I would get worked up. What triggered this? Well, probably a million little things. And I wish I could recall the exact thing that pushed me over the edge… but I can’t. I just remember being very upset with a lot of little things and then it got to the point where I couldn’t turn back anymore. It was probably the last thing he said to me before I went A-wall. Maybe it wasn’t what he said but the way he said it. Maybe it was something he did. Actually, I’m sure it was something he did. Or maybe it was something he DIDN’T do. But this is just it. This back and forth of inconsistent thoughts of what HE did to me. I lost it.

Then the door opened. I thought I had locked the door but I guess I didn’t. Hoping so badly that it would be him to pick me up from off the floor… but it wasn’t. “Mama…” I hear. “Mama, what’s wrong?” and immediately I froze. I stopped crying and sat up as if nothing was wrong. How did she get in? And, oh my God she just saw me at my worst, on the floor, having an adult tantrum? I had to tell her nothing was wrong. I had to tell her mommy was just not feeling well and that she should go finish dinner. She started crying. She grabbed my hand and pulled it with all her might, “Mama… get up.” But I couldn’t. I just sat there and cried again. I cried in front of my two year old who was trying to help me up. And that was the moment I knew something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong with me.

A few weeks later I was diagnosed with prepartum depression. Something I never knew existed. I experienced similar symptoms with my first but never an emotional meltdown like that. This time it was different. This time it was so much stronger and I was actually aware of my condition. I worked really hard every day not to have an emotional breakdown and not react negatively to every thing my husband was saying to me. Why was I so on edge? Why did I feel like everything he said to me was an attack on my ability to be a mother? Clearly he’s not understanding how I’m feeling. I felt rage at times. Uncontrollable rage followed by uncontrollable sobs. This was not how I thought my second pregnancy would be like. I hated scrolling through Instagram and seeing beautiful mamas in their beautiful white lacey dresses with their beautiful pregnant bellies. I, on the other hand, was barely able to stand in one position for more than 2 minutes before my hips would collapse from the sharp pains in my back. I was miserable and couldn’t wait for the baby to come out.

38 weeks. It was time to induce. I was experiencing extreme PPD/PPA symptoms to the point that it was severely stressful on the baby. They wanted to wait until I was full term before they induce so that I could start on medication as soon as the baby was out. So 38 weeks our little guy was born. The perfect little 5 lb-er. He was little. Really little. But I knew this was my chance to do it over. To make this immediate bond and connection right. I wanted it to be right so badly this time. I wanted to feel like there was a connection right away – and there was. An instant one that I cannot even begin to describe. I got to hold him more than the 30 seconds I got to hold my first before she was whisked to the NICU. I got to nurse him right away. I got to feel that instant love I was missing with my first. And it was so, so good.

As the months passed and grew, I became more and more in love with him. Only, everything I did wrong the first time around I thought I could change this time around. I would be able to let go of the guilt of breastfeeding and really just nurse him on demand. If he didn’t take to the breast or not get enough, I wouldn’t blame myself anymore and be ok with formula. I would be more “relaxed” this time around. I owed that to myself. Little did I know, my mind had a mind of it’s own. For the next several months I became really distant with everyone else but him. Those ill feelings and anxiety I had about not having that connection with him… were all defeated. The connection I had (and still have) with him was so strong that sometimes it was painful. I engulfed him like he was my only child. He would cry and I would go to him – because I was finally able to breastfeed him with no issues. He actually wanted me. So I fed him on demand. Which meant I was up a lot at night. Which meant I barely slept. Which meant… I was not well. The sleep deprivation made me see things that weren’t there and hear things that weren’t said. I might as well have the word, “What?” written on my forehead because that was the only word that would come out of my mouth. The worst was when I could see my daughter playing but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I was tired all the time and emotional. I cried about everything. I mean, I already cry about everything… but this time it was about EVERYTHING. I cried because my son would cry. He had the most painful cries ever. I would be triggered by his cries and immediately felt my heart pounding, my palms sweating, and voice shaking because I would need to scream. I would start pacing back and forth screaming at him while he laid there because he wouldn’t stop crying. I would snap at my husband for not doing something or for doing something wrong. I would take his words and the tone of his voice and twist it so that it was always his fault. I was a peach to be around. The more my son cried, the more my husband and I argued. The more we argued, the more I clung onto my son and made excuses for my behaviour. It was a vicious cycle.

The thing people don’t talk about is how difficult this parenting gig is. Even more so, people don’t talk about how difficult it is on your marriage.

Fast forward to now. I still get feelings of rage at times but I’m able to diffuse faster. I realize that I’m not the victim and I cannot respond to my husband like I’m on the defense all the time. I need to carve time out for my daughter who really, I haven’t been a mother to – just a caretaker. And it pains me so much that I was ever that type of person. Someone who I thought I’d never be. Maybe it’s because I had to give up so much of my former self to become a mother. A sacrifice that you can’t quantify. But I know I need to do better and I need to be better. I need my children to know that I really tried. I need my husband to know that I really tried. Every day I tried. And even though it may seem like I dropped the ball on everything, I really did try. And maybe the hard part now is convincing myself that I did the best I could.

 

Mama Diaries: Jennifer Wilson | Owner & Creator of VONBON

Mama Diaries Motherhood Real moms

(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)

I saw it again today. Tucked at the top of my closet, I just happened to catch a glimpse of it as I was walking into the washroom. I stopped to take a longer look. It’s sharp edges perfectly outlining my fist, made my heart sink for a second.

In a moment of furry, three months prior, I punched my fist through a clear plastic storage container in the top of my closet. I can’t remember exactly why I did it, but both kids were crying and we were late getting somewhere. I was in such a rage, I honestly didn’t even remember it happened. The tiny dried droplets of blood on my hand didn’t even trigger the memory that afternoon. It wasn’t until later that day, as I passed by my closet and saw the hole, did it all come rushing back.

Maybe I should just get rid of it?
No. It’s a good reminder that I’ve experienced some really difficult moments in the past six months. Moments when I felt so frustrated, so angry, that I couldn’t even control myself. All I could do was scream, slam a door or a drawer. Just thinking about it makes me feel so ashamed. It’s not the woman or the mother that I pictured myself being. I always thought I was stronger than that. I thought I was more loving, more understanding, more patient. I thought I was more in control. They sure don’t cover this shit in prenatal class. What the hell is wrong with me?

I randomly stumbled upon some Facebook article one night in bed. A mom had written about her experience with Post Partum Depression and how she felt so uncontrollably angry and irritable, that it made me question whether I was experiencing PPD too. I have never heard it described like that before. I have heard so many people say they have had PPD but never really heard what they felt like when they were going through it. I honestly never even considered it could be Post Partum Depression. Never did I feel depressed. I didn’t feel withdrawn or a lack of attachment to my children. My energy levels were good. I had the “normal” baby blues and crying bouts after both pregnancies. But every mom I’ve talked to has been through that.

Every. Single. One.
Then I did the thing that I tell myself NEVER to do with health related topics….I googled it. I read every possible diagnosis and symptom on PPD and PPA. An hour later I felt more confused than ever. Only one, maybe two of the symptoms I could honestly say I had experienced.

Three months later I feel happier, I feel stronger, I just feel better than I did then. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have times where I feel irritable… really irritable. I just have a better understanding of why and how I can move through it instead of against it. Some days I’ll see the broken box and just laugh. Laugh at myself for even acting that way. Laugh because I just feel happy.

Motherhood sure has made me take a serious look at who I am and sometimes it’s not always the prettiest version of who I thought I was. It sounds so cliche, but my babies make me want to be better, react better, live better and love better. Only now as I’m sitting here writing this does it hit me like a punch in the face… just how important it is for me to take care of me, so I can take care of them. So, as hard as it is to leave them, to literally hear them cry as I walk out the door, I am reminded that having my own passions and profession play a huge role in me reacting better, living better and loving all of US better.

And the journey continues.


Thank you Jen for supporting BC Women’s Hospital Foundation by sharing your #RAWmotherhood journey and helping us connect as mothers in a real and raw way.

 

Mama Diaries: Jamie Dunlop Khau – Styling the Inside |Slideshow|

Mama Diaries PPD

(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)

DEAR DIARY:

Today, was one of those days I questioned everything about this parenting gig. I mean, I heard through the grapevine that things are supposed to get easier. And don’t get me wrong, it’s easier in so many ways. I’m not changing shitty diapers anymore, and pushing a stroller, and waking up in the middle of the night to a screaming baby. BUT…

WHY can’t I just wake up with makeup on, and my hair done with the lunches packed, all of the beds made, the laundry folded, breakfast and dinner prepared, the dishes ALWAYS clean, groceries ALWAYS stocked in the fridge, the kid’s permissions slips, and field trip money, homework assignments, and library books, just magically signed and taken back to school on time! WHY do they always remind me of things they need for school? Can’t they just forge my signature by now? Geeze, I’m pretty sure that’s what I did when I was 10. And WHY do these kids need to eat SO much!! WHY the hell are their bed room floors covered in clothes that I nicely folded in a pile for them to put away?

WHY do they have to like sports and activities so much? I didn’t do any activities afterschool and look how (unorganized, bad with time management and unathletic) I turned out! Kids SHOULD totally start driving earlier! I mean, WHY the hell not? I think 12 is a perfect age. WHY do I have to escort them around the city? WHY do they have to argue all the time, especially in the car about stupid stuff like their shoulders touching one another! It’s a shoulder not a piece of SHIT! And speaking of SHIT, WHY do teenager’s bedrooms smell like old hockey bags full of POOP? And WHY don’t they seem to care? WHY doesn’t it BOTHER them the way it bothers me? Like, I would NEVER invite my friends to my house if it smelled like a big bag of POOP!!

And WHY does my teenager choose friends that give me that I don’t trust this person vibe? Like hello, WHY can’t I choose the perfect friends for them? AND WHY are my teenage daughter’s eyebrows more important to her than homework?? And WHY do her friends message her on snapchat ALL night long and WHY does she have to put up a fight when I take her phone away? UGH. WHY do teenagers need to be on their phones 24/7? Seriously, put that shit down for a second otherwise you’re going to get hit by a god damn car!!

WHY do I have to remind them to brush their teeth and go to bed? They’ve been to the dentist, they KNOW what getting a cavity being filled feels like! WHY do I have to make their appointments for them? Just make your own damn appointment to see the doctor! OMG and WHY do they ALWAYS hand me their garbage? DO I LOOK LIKE A GARBAGE CAN?????? Actually, you know what? I probably do, because I literally wake up almost everyday, make black coffee, make them their breakfast, pack their lunches, and drive them to school in whatever shoes are at the door with pyjama pants on and I usually don’t even brush my teeth until I get back home. So, not only do I LOOK like a trashcan but I most likely smell like one too.

WHY does my husband always look SO happy? WHY does he get to leave the house all cheery and wish me a good day? He NEEDS to stop doing this!!! Like seriously, you better NOT wish me a good day before I’ve had my coffee while I’m dealing with a cranky six- year- old who doesn’t want to get dressed!!! WHY can’t he help me? Oh wait. I forgot. Because he has to go to work. *Insert tears of rage* OK well, “YOU have a great day at work too, BABE.” I’ll just be here trying to WORK as well and clean, and cook, and try to get in some type of physical activity so your trashcan smelling wife can somewhat feel like she’s desirable.

Oh, and WHY does school end at 3 pm? WHY can’t they finish when I’m finished? WHY do I look at the clock and realize I’m almost late to pick them up from school EVERYDAY??????

And WHAT kind of example am I setting for my kids when I’m late to take them to school or I’m telling them to hurry up, or I don’t want to kiss their dad goodbye in the morning because I’m pissed off that I look and smell like a trashcan and not like a real housewife of Coquitlam?

Why do I always have to have the house so tidy? Why can’t I just leave it the way they leave their bedrooms? WHY can’t I be more like my husband and just come home and take my socks off and leave them in the MIDDLE of the floor? WHY? Oh… I know why, because I’m what they all call; CRAZY!

And seriously, this is the most mind -boggling question of all: WHY do the people I love the most in my life have to see the messiest parts of me EVERYDAY!! HOW is it even POSSIBLE they still LOVE me (especially after eating my crappy dinners????). I can’t even believe they look up to this disorganized, crazy person who smells like a trashcan.

I’m hanging on by a thread here. I’m winging this parenting thing.

AM I EVER GOING TO GET MY SHIT TOGETHER?

Dear god, I hope I’m not screwing them up.

Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m just too damn hard on myself. Maybe I’m failing to see all of the beauty in my everyday chaos because when I scroll my Instagram feed all of the moms are standing in their white kitchens with their marble countertops while their baking Pinterest worthy cookies with their hair and makeup done. Maybe, I think THEY have their shit together and it makes me feel like I don’t? Maybe, some just hide their chaos better than others and I just need to… take a chill pill.

 

Love always,

A recovering perfectionist (who’s way too hard on herself) that was just having a momentary meltdown.

———————-

Thank you Jamie for supporting BC Women’s Hospital Foundation by sharing your #RAWmotherhood journey and helping us connect as mothers in a real and raw way.