She said, "I think it's important to communicate beauty as well as honesty here. I spent my entire first trimester in bed. Most people don't see that side of pregnancy."
When Caroline first contacted me about telling her story she wasn't sure exactly what she was looking for, she just just knew it needed to be told. She and Chris have five beautiful, healthy children and she's never had problems with pregnancy before, but this round included prenatal depression causing endless bouts of silence and tears, loneliness and doubt. She explained that between 14-23% of women struggle with symptoms of depression during their pregnancy and it goes highly overlooked and misunderstood. This is an opportunity to begin the conversation.
What do you do when you come home from a normal healthy doctor appointment and just weep uncontrollably? How do you answer your sweet children's ernest questions of what's wrong when you don't know yourself? What do you do when you don't seem to know yourself anymore?
When you know you're "supposed" to be ecstatic about a new life, but you only sink deeper into the fear and insecurities it represents; your mind can become enemy number one. There is nothing. Nothing anyone can say or do to get you out of your own head and into the light where there is joy abundant. Caroline has been battling this for months by herself, afraid of any number of things on different days, but she finally reached out for help from a few close friends, embracing her vulnerability and now has a tiny bit of hope peaking it's head. She has not loved her body through this season but didn't want her children to see her the way she saw herself, so she decided for the first time to document with photos what this journey has looked like.
She is one of the bravest women I've ever known.
I'm hoping she can begin to see herself the way her children and husband already see her. Strong, resilient, determined; a source of life both physically and emotionally. Camden said he can talk to her when he can't talk to others and they all chimed in about how much and how well she loves them. Even the littlest ones who didn't know how to voice exactly what they felt talked about the various actions she lives out daily that embody a loving mother.
With five little lives to keep up with and another one on the way, a husband to love and a self to keep healthy it's no wonder her body shrank inward to protect itself, and no one is left unaffected. It's very difficult for anyone to watch someone they love suffer. Even when he hasn't known how to help, Chris has taken on many additional roles in the home (5 children, real estate and a small business do not take care of themselves). Through this, he has shown the kids what a lifetime of commitment really means. They are a beautiful intertwining of souls. Like the magnet on their refrigerator says, "life does not have to be perfect to be beautiful."
Despite it all though, I actually think they're all doing a great job of embracing the crazy. As I was setting them up for this shot, they told little Cappy to throw his toy off to the side...he missed a little...and hit me right in forehead, but I didn't see it coming because I was looking through the lens! We all died laughing.
Clark amused us with his jokes and balancing acts and Chloe Cate was the first to grab my hand and welcome me into the family, begging me to stay after. When Cohen ran off into the forest yelling follow me, we didn't hesitate. He took his shoes off right away and jumped into the creek and mom, dad, all the siblings and I followed.
There is so much joy to be found in life's little moments. I love that Caroline and Chris are embracing this tough season together and finding time to welcome meaning, depth and growth. I loved your whole family instantly Caroline. You and Chris are a testament to the richness big love and commitment can provide to the wellbeing of kids. They know more than anything that they are loved unconditionally and that is simply the greatest gift you could ever give them. It was an honor to participate for a moment in your story, thank you for the invitation.
Caroline wanted to offer her psychiatrist as a great resource in case anyone else is living a similar battle. Ria practices holistic psychiatry and integrative medicine allowing Caroline to honor her body and mind together simultaneously. You can find her information here.
She also wants to stress the importance of being honest and open with your midwife or OB/GYN. She has received much support from her midwife at Reply Obgyn in Cary.
For spouses and partners of women suffering from perinatal mood disorders, you are needed. Here are a few online resources for you:
For more resources on Prenatal Depression, it's warning signs, and steps to recovery you can also check out UNC's School of Medicine.