I turned to photography in my darkest moments & it helped me heal
Postpartum. The period of your life that begins the moment you welcome your child into the world. The period of your life that isn’t really just a period, but in actuality is the rest of your life—the aftermath of becoming a mother. It is perhaps one of the most complex trials that mothers go through.
I was unwary enough to believe that the journey would be all joy and bliss, but as I progressed into my motherhood experience, the naivety began to shed—and the realities began to trickle, or rather flood, in. Once I entered motherhood, there was an eclipse. Everything went dark. I felt alone. In despair. A foreigner in my own skin. And during what was one of the hardest times of my life, my saving grace was found in a creative outlet: portraiture.
Over a year and a half into postpartum, I found myself still grappling with emotions of grief. I felt at my lowest time and time again. I knew there was a possibility that I was suffering from postpartum depression, but, at the time, I believed I lacked the guidance necessary to get me the help that I needed.
But in such a vulnerable moment, I felt a tug to pick up my camera and start documenting. I wanted to capture every aspect of motherhood—the beautiful, the gritty, the raw, the intimate, the all-consuming. I wanted to still the moments and use these photographs as a means of reflection. And I wanted to share my story. Because as isolated as I felt, I knew that in reality I was far from alone. I needed to share not only what motherhood looks like, but what it feels like to go through such a substantial shift.
And so I did. My motherhood portrait study was brought to fruition from a need to embrace vulnerability and also to create dialogue around the universal experience and hardships of mothering. Motherhood: The Thread That Holds Us Together is a visual synopsis into not only my own motherhood experience, but also the narratives of six other moms who willingly allowed me into their lives and into their homes to capture their stories.
I began capturing my motherhood narrative, largely on film. I dove into exploring the shift within my emotions. I captured the intimate and painful moments of breastfeeding. I journeyed through the ache of my grief. By all means, I used portraiture to lay to rest the woman that I once was, and to welcome with open arms the new being that I was becoming: a mother.
Capturing my motherhood journey through photos allows me to honor and fall in love with my changes. It allows me to lend grace to this new territory that I am trying to gracefully navigate. And I had no idea how opening myself up to my brokenness could be the very thing that began to mend those fragmented pieces. I truly believe that portraiture helped to pull me out of a dark place. It allows me to see myself, to see my motherhood experience, from the outside in. And that, in part, led me to finally seeking the help that I needed.
I called a postpartum support line. I got a therapist who specializes in postpartum. And I was diagnosed with Adjustment disorder with symptoms of high-functioning postpartum depression and anxiety. As I said, I knew that I’d likely been suffering since childbirth, but I never gave myself room to say that I needed help. I never gave myself grace to admit that I needed help.
I think a lot of us mothers do that sometimes. We carry the weight of our silence because we believe that we can’t share our hardships. We believe that having a tough time adjusting to motherhood equates to us being a bad mom. But it doesn’t.
Through turning to portraiture in one of my darkest moments, the reality of the motherhood experience was revealed to me. Motherhood is both up and down. Easy one moment and hard the next. Full of good days and full of bad ones. Beautiful and very hard. But that’s what makes it.
My camera became a tool of healing, weaving, and redeeming. It became a means of storytelling and encouraging conversation. It became a way of exploring the physical, mental and emotional shift that motherhood brought upon me. And it became the thing that helped to pull me out of the throes of grief.