From The Heart: Postnatal Depression – one woman’s story

Quotable update 06 2015

I’ll start with saying what this post is about; Postnatal Depression – something that is spoken about a lot more nowadays than it was a few years ago, but sadly, a subject that is still steeped in taboo. It’s a condition that affects both sexes but that women tend to keep very closely guarded through fear of judgement and a debilitating sense of failure, shame and embarrassment – and because of this, most new mum’s end up hiding or being in complete denial about their depression. I know, because I was one of them.

I was excited and happy with both my pregnancies. No one, least of all me, would have ever thought I’d end up feeling depressed because of them. I was going to be super mum! But nothing could have ever prepared me for what was to come after having my first child almost sixteen year ago; it was severe enough to have scared me into not having another child ever again. That was, until my maternal clock started ticking away once more, about three years ago. Had that not happened, I genuinely feel that my son, Louie, might not have ever entered this world. And yet I can’t imagine life without him.

My experience of motherhood prior to Louie was so deeply emotional and challenging, that I didn’t blame myself for waiting for years to try again. Today, I want to share my story with other women, in the hope that it might help some of you reading this today feel that you’re not alone, that we all go through crazy situations in our lives, but that we can survive these situations. Deep breath, here goes….

Postnatal depression: one woman's story.My eldest son is Tristan and he is turning 16 this year! I live in Scotland and he lives back in my home city of Winnipeg in Canada with his dad, mom (who adopted him very early on in his life) and two sisters.

I know it sounds a little weird – shocking even, that he isn’t with me, his maternal mother, but it’s normal to him and we are a very close knit family. I have the proud role of Aunty to his sisters. My parents are grandparents to them as well. You may think this a little crazy, but this craziness has ensured that Tristan has grown up always feeling loved and supported. After he was adopted, there were many people that would accuse me of having abandoned him – something I believed for a long time. Now, I know that I made the very best decision I could have done – one that lead to a very positive outcome for us all.

I was just 19 when I had Tristan. I re-read through my birth journal of the time, whilst I was pregnant with my second baby Louie just last year and in so doing, I could see how mature I had been for my age back then – how much I was looking forward to becoming a mum and raising a baby of my own. Everything seemed fine. Everything was going to be alright.

The problems began to arise following Tristan’s traumatic birth, which resulted in a broken coccyx and retained placenta. It meant we were in the hospital for almost a month after Tristan had been born. The incident was to have an enormous impact on all of our lives – the depth of which I did not fully realise it until it was too late. I didn’t feel ‘all there’ – I was all over the place. Looking back, there are huge swathes of memory loss, which truly breaks my heart. I thank goodness now for the photographs.

It was only when I started getting chronic migraines that I finally went to get myself checked out and was diagnosed with postnatal depression. Treatment began immediately and I slowly started feeling better, but the damage had already been done. I felt like I hadn’t bonded with my new baby boy and Tristan’s father had met and fallen in love with another woman.

I don’t know how many people could have truly stepped back and assessed the situation, but somewhere in me, I had the strength to do so at the time, and I’m proud of myself for that now.

In my view, you can either choose to fight for all the wrong reasons, committing a child to a long path of disputes and heartache, or you can handle it in a way which would prioritise the wellbeing of that child first and foremost. Tristan had taken to his father’s new love and she was loving and caring too. I was struggling through an extraordinarily difficult period of my life with postnatal depression. As a result and after much heartache, we all agreed on an open adoption. Never the less, it was a life-changing and monumentally difficult thing for me to have done.

It was whilst all this was happening that I met Scott, my beloved husband of 12 years now.

Scott and I met online during the MSN profile days – we both clicked and I needed to heal so I came to Scotland to see where it would lead. It was love at first sight and we were married within the year. He was my lover and best friend; he understood, he accepted me with the baggage and I still love him to this day for giving my broken heart and soul a chance. I wrote to Tristan in a journal every single day.

Not long into our marriage, Scott and I decided to move to Canada to live by and be closer to Tristan. Tristan’s parents were wonderful – supporting and encouraging and welcoming me back as soon as I arrived – I will forever be indebted to them for this. I will always remember the moment Tristan came running down the hallway to jump into my arms. He was 3 1/2 and I had been gone for just over a year. That moment emphasized the feeling that I had given up on him, and my heart shattered into pieces.

I truly felt broken, but after a few months, I began to see that everything was going to be fine for Tristan – and really, that was all that mattered.

I asked him how he felt about having two moms? his answer was “It’s nice mom, it just means I have more people to Love”. As I sit here typing this feature to share on Love My Dress, with tears in my eyes, I remember how I felt in that very instant. Those words uttered by my beautiful son would help me forgive myself.

It took a while but seeing him happy, getting him every weekend to spend time with us and making sure he was grounded was my main focus.  Once he was old enough to be wanting to spend weekends going to sleepovers and after school events, I began to feel like it might be OK for my husband and I to begin to think about our own future.

We moved back to Scotland though when we did, it was on the premise that I would return to Canada once or twice a year to spend time making exciting memories with Tristan (which we did! we even went on a dinosaur hunt on one of our trips back and discovered one of the biggest finds in the last 20 years!). And we also agreed that when Tristan turned 14, he could come to visit us in Scotland.  That was just last summer and as it happens, at the same time, I was also expecting my second baby. We even booked a 4d scan for Tristan to come along to.

When Tristan first set foot in Scotland, I once again knew that I had made the right decision for him all those years ago, and that his parents are incredible parents who sacrificed everything for his happiness. Despite what many might view as an unusual set up and situation, I feel so lucky to call Tristan’s parents my family.

Tristan is such an incredible boy. He spent his money on tips, or gifting the talented street buskers. He chopped off all his hair to surprise his parents when he arrived back home in Canada, and he donated his hair to Locks of Love – a wonderful non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long term medical related hair loss. No unruly teenager here. Just pure goodness in his heart.

I’ve been in a happy place for a long time now with all of this, despite the unconventional nature of our situation. I had overcome my postnatal depression, accepted things for what they were and my husband and I had built a successful photography business together – something we are both extremely proud of. We were so excited for our baby’s arrival in September last year.

I practiced hypno-birthing and despite previous experiences, I found myself looking forward to the birth. But as any Mum will know, nothing ever really goes to plan when it comes to bringing a new human being into the world. Louie became stuck in my pelvis just like Tristan had been and this led to medical intervention during the birth.  I was so determined not to have a repeat first-birth experience and so persevered with all my might and absolutely everything I had in me. As a result, I ended up delivering Louie naturally with only a bit of gas and air. I am so incredibly proud of myself for pushing through and thankful for his amazing birth.I was happy and felt amazing. It was the polar opposite from Tristan’s birth 16 years prior.

We took a little bit of time off to enjoy little Louie’s first magical few weeks, but they were short lived – we were straight back into work and shooting weddings within a month after Louie’s birth. It’s so difficult when you are self employed – there is often little choice but to work so close after becoming parents. Bills need to be paid so you work when the opportunities arise, even if you’ve only gave birth a month prior! I loved being able to spend time with couples on their wedding day but I soon realised I was becoming exhausted and missing out on Louie’s precious early milestones. Then I read the first ‘From the Heart’ feature on Love My Dress, and it hit such a chord in me. I was immensely inspired by these three women’s stories of motherhood.

I approached Annabel and asked if it would be OK for me to share my own story.  What I didn’t expect was how it would help unveil the all-too familiar symptoms of the condition that I had been struggling to acknowledge in the first place. My postnatal depression had returned.

Unfortunately, initial treatment this time led to hideous migraines, which obviously can’t happen when your job involves having to document a couples wedding day through photography. So this time, I’m exploring a path of self healing. It’s not something I advocate, but for me, it’s working for now. I have my bad days but I have my husband and Louie who’s smile lights up my life and of course, Tristan, who we Facetime with constantly. I feel I have a great deal to be thankful – enough at least to help offset the indescribable feelings of darkness that come with depression.

If you experience thoughts about death or harming yourself or the baby, this can be very frightening, and may make you feel as if you are going mad or completely out of control. You may be afraid to tell anyone about these feelings. But it’s important to realise that having these thoughts doesn’t mean that you are actually going to harm yourself or your children. However difficult it is, the more you can bring these feelings out into the open and talk about them, whether to a family member, a friend or a health professional, the less likely you will be to act on them. (MIND Charity)

Writing about things has been a cathartic experience for me – it has helped me own up to my depression and feel more OK with it. It has led to me seeking treatment much, much earlier than I did the first time around.  I’d encourage all new mother’s reading this today who might be even remotely concerned that something isn’t right, that they are sad and down all the time when they feel they should be happy, to do exactly the same. If we don’t accept, acknowledge and learn to be braver in opening up about our feelings, we can never truly heal. Being brave enough to admit my feelings and seek help much earlier this time has been key.

I also want to encourage women who, or who may be suffering from postnatal depression to be gentle and kind to themselves and accept that it is is not their fault. The condition is a medically recognised illness, often caused by a hormonal imbalance, that can be treated. You can find emotional balance again, you can and will get better if you are brave enough to go and seek support and help. You aren’t some kind of weirdo and you are absolutely not alone in your suffering.

Postpartum depression (PPD), also called postnatal depression, is a type of clinical depression which can affect both sexes after childbirth. Symptoms may include sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, reduced desire for sex, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability. (Wikipedia)

My photography work also helps me tremendously. It is my job but I have also discovered it to be a powerful creative outlet.  The joy of photographing my husband (who waited so very long to become a father) and my youngest son is beyond fulfilling to me. I see the moment which lights up my life and capture it but then I get to relive it over and over again whenever I feel like it be staring at these beautiful images. I am working on a little project in fact as a result of this – every birthday and Christmas I shall gift my husband Scott with a father son album. A lovely, lifelong project – something that will help me focus and feel happy and fulfilled, something which the both of them will be able to cherish forever.

If you are suffering or think you may be suffering with depression, have you got a creative outlet of your own? If not, why not try to create a little time each day to devote to one – it could be anything – reading, sewing, knitting, walking, exercising, gardening, baking, writing, even just getting out the house to walk and breath fresh air and make observations of the things you see, perhaps writing these things down in a daily journal. The creative release can help us focus our energies and feel better.

I still get my down days, where thoughts can so easily trail off into dark places. But everyone is happy and loved and I try to remind myself daily that that’s what matters the most.

I hope that through opening up and sharing my story, that even a tiny number of you out there reading this today might be encouraged to take steps towards positive action and recovery -and accepting that you aren’t a failure, that you are absolutely not alone in your depression and that your depression isn’t something you should be ashamed of. I’ve included some resources below that I hope might help.

Thank you for letting me share my story – I’d love to hear yours – please feel free to share your thoughts anonymously below. Have you had to cope with postnatal depression? How did you recognise the illness in yourself? Have you any advice of your own to other women who might be suffering or afraid to acknowledge their depression?

Chantal xxx




Chantal is a professional wedding photographer who wanted to contribute to our ‘From The Heart’ feature – an occasional Sunday spot on the blog where we hand the blog back over to our readers to write about all matters of love and life. 

If you would like to contribute a From The Heart piece, we would dearly love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter what it’s about and it doesn’t have to be related to weddings at all – we’re looking for honest, authentic, personal, sad, happy, family, relationship, marriage, health, light-hearted, serious, baby, trying for baby, children, career, simple, complicated – real life issues.  We just need you to write from your heart. Keep it upbeat and witty, or share your thoughts anonymously on a more challenging or emotional subject. Please drop me a line at [email protected]. Love Annabel x

5 thoughts on “From The Heart: Postnatal Depression – one woman’s story

  1. I am so proud to be friends with Chantal, and never more so than for her courage to write this post. I’ve always admired her deeply for her ability to constantly put the lives of her family first, even when that’s involved making difficult decisions at near impossible times. But I admire her more also for her ability to be self aware, emotionally aware, and so in tune with her heart that she can recognise when she has needed help too, as well as continuing to do the right thing for those around her. Chantal is nothing short of exceptional.
    I hope that her story will help countless others to recognise they aren’t alone, to find the ability to ask for help, to realise it’s ok to need help, and that accepting it will benefit you and your family longer term. Xx

    1. What a gorgeous, supportive comment Kristin, Chantal certainly has a wonderful friend in you.
      Sending love to you today,
      Annabel xxxx

    2. Kind of speechless Kristin, wow!…shall just say that I am incredibly blessed with amazing people in my life!! xx

  2. I’ve only just had the chance to sit down and read this. How very brave of you to share Chantal- thank you. I don’t have children yet, but I have experienced depression and so postnatal depression is something which concerns me in the future. I agree that its so important to talk to people and to recognise symptoms as early as you possibly can so you can get help.

    I’m so glad your story has turned out positively and your sons both sound like wonderful boys. S x

    1. Thank you so much Shona. Just spotted your comment. In regards to your worries I would say there is a lot more support now and it can easily be taken care of either medically or by finding something that feeds your soul like I did!


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