Breaking the Silence around Postpartum Depression
By: Shaunic Stanford
My life transitioned faster than I could blink. The longest two minutes of my life happened on April 5th, 2017 at approximately 12:30 AM. I managed to keep myself busy as I awaited the results. I assured myself there was no way the test would be positive. When I returned the digital test read: PREGNANT. What?! And why did the test have to be so blunt?
Immediately my mind began to race. What am I supposed to do with a baby? This was not planned. Maybe one day in the far future I would have been ready to be a mom, but if it never happened I would have been fine with that too. Next, I felt guilty, “I’m not even married” I felt ashamed, and was already dreading others' opinions. Mainly I was disappointed in myself. I came to California to pursue my dreams, and now I’m about to be a potential single mom. I felt like I let myself down. This was not how I envisioned my life. Too in shock to cry, I simply sat down on my bed, knowing my life would never be the same.
Having a baby “should” bring joy, right? That’s what society teaches us, but I wasn’t happy, I was terrified. All I could think about is this kid is about to ruin all the dope plans I had just made for my life. I was halfway through my pregnancy when I began to accept my reality. Suddenly, I was rushed to the hospital after my 28-week appointment. I hadreverse blood flow in the umbilical artery, which was a fatal condition for the baby and harmful to me as well. I stayed in the hospitalon bed rest for two weeks before having an emergency C section at 30 weeks. My son was born 1lb 8oz. He had to stay in the NICU for 12 weeks, which was the hardest time in my life.
I kept hearing how strong I was from everyone. Everything happened so fast I didn’t have time to process my emotions. I had one break down when they told me there was a chance he would not survive. To be honest, I felt guilty for not being grateful initially for his precious soul. All I wanted was for my baby boy to be okay, and I hated leaving his side every night.
Finally, my greatest gift was healthy and at home. I had survived the worse, so I thought. My partner expected that I “should” be fine because the baby was good; but, in reality, I was very anxious. The first month alone we had six doctors' appointments that included three different specialists and his pediatrician. I was overwhelmed, but too busy and sleep-deprived to notice my own needs.
There are so many expectations people impose on you as a new mom, first being, breastfeeding. I wanted to feel the bond other moms told me about. I put so much pressure on myself which doesn’t help with milk flow. I was not able to try breastfeeding until a month into our NICU stay. It made the baby exert so much energy, and he never fully got the hang of latching; I had to pump around the clock instead. Another expectation was that once I was home I “should” allow visitation for the baby, even when it was inconvenient for me. Lastly, the pressure to “bounce back.” I would hear comments about my body, which made me feel insecure and angry that people could be so insensitive, even if it was “a joke.” I felt like I wasn’t a person anymore, merely someone who performed duties, while sleep-deprived. As I continuously gave, my cup became empty and the dark clouds slowly rolled in.
I fell into the complex of the “strong black woman.” That we can take on insurmountable pressure without showing any signs of stress while continuing to be everything to everyone. I was consumed with the baby and navigating a relatively new relationship, completely neglecting myself.
About six months after the baby was home, I started feeling a deep sadness at times, which progressed to crying when I was alone. I felt hopeless, overwhelmed, and isolated because my support system was on the other side of the country. I was isolated and did not feel cared for. The heaviness increased and I started to have suicidal thoughts. I did not want to live anymore. Thinking of leaving my son is the only reason I am still here. I knew I needed to get help fast, so I started going to counseling. Still feeding into the stereotype of being strong, I concealed my feelings and no one detected I was suffering.
I felt embarrassed for having the emotions I was feeling. I learned that other moms had suffered from postpartum, and I was even more surprised to learn many black women experienced this as well. I acknowledged my problem and began the journey to healing.
I am learning how to practice self-care which includes journaling, praying, working out, and also working. I set boundaries to make sure my needs are met. I’m still learning how to reclaim my time and the art of balancing. I don’t always get it right, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. That’s when I whisper to myself, “you’re doing the best you can.” On those days, I make sure I carve out a little extra time for myself if I can. When this affirmation doesn’t work, I simply allow myself to feel and process my emotions instead of suppressing them.
I’m committed to bringing awareness to postpartum depression, specifically for a woman of color. Postpartum depression is a universal problem that affects women from different ethnic backgrounds. The mental health of all moms matters.
A NOTE FROM REBECCA:
Although my hubby and I are a childless couple atm (by choice), I felt like this was an important topic. Womxn are told that having a baby is the greatest gift, and for a lot of people, it is. However, there is no denying after reading Shaunic's vulnerable blog post, finding out you are pregnant comes with a mixed bag of thoughts and emotions.
If you are wondering what the hell does this have to do with Rebecca Rae Design Inc., fashion or the Ladylike Chats let me briefly explain. The 'Ladylike Chats' blog or the IRL events is an inclusive creative space to talk about taboo subjects that are traditionally not "ladylike."
Shaunic Stanford is passionate about storytelling, she began writing stories as a child. She always had a creative imagination and love for the arts. She played with the idea of becoming an actor and took classes at the Cincinnati Playhouse, where she truly fell in love with writing from an assignment to create her own monologue.
Already in route on a different path than her passion she earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2011, from the College of Mount St. Joseph. Inspired by interesting stories from her patients and love for film, she began her journey as a screenwriter. She enrolled in a screenwriters workshop at the Jacob Krueger Studio and learned the craft. She also took a television comedy workshop taught byJerry Perzigian (The Jeffersons, Golden Girls), who further fostered her talent through one on one mentorship.
Shaunic is currently in pre-production for her short film Mask Off- a woman trying to deal with being a new mom while concealing her postpartum struggles. Her short screenplay, Decide was a Semi-Finalist in the 2016 Screencraft Short Film Production Fund. It also made the top 50, in the Shoot Your Short competition, and made the second round in the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition. She is a co-author in Women of Purpose: Inspiring stories of Professional Women for Insight and Direction; chapter titled, Her Freedom.
Originally born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, she frequently relocated, due to growing up a Marine brat. She currently lives in California, where she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.