Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
A photographer pulls back the veil of shame and isolation of postpartum depression; an all too common condition that lives in the shadow of motherhood and society
Postpartum depression is in many ways no longer taboo; it’s an affliction on the lips of most pregnant women as something they fear, and which they’ve been told counseling and medications can help. And yet — when I experienced it myself after the birth of both my children, and when I interviewed other women in the midst of their suffering — I realized that there is something we’re still not seeing, or are only willing to look at askance.
I hated her. Everyone, as soon as they saw her, said, “Oh, I love her, don’t you love her? isn’t she just perfect?” And the only thing I could think was, “I wish I had never had her.” I just associated her with pain.
It’s Been Pouring sets out to capture the voices of mothers in their darkest moments.
This collection of photographs and interviews shines a direct light on their experiences, exposing the unbearable tension that exists between the miracle of birth and the horror that follows, leading the viewer through a narrative of despair.
I cried every hour. I cried every single hour. I would go into the bathroom for a second and cry—like on the toilet, weeping—and then I would come out, because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was crying. I was trying to be a happy mom—be some Instagram perfect mom. I hid it as much as I could.
We’re still far from acknowledging the profound struggle a mother faces when her internal experience does not match society’s expectations of her as a joyful mother bonded to her newborn — a realization that only exacerbates the daily challenges she inevitably confronts in early motherhood.
I would always put on these happy pretend faces, and act like everything was okay. Inside I was dying.
The sympathetic, yet unwavering lens this project brings to postpartum depression helps build the case that it is in an important sense a social problem, due in no small part to the narrow deﬁnition of what our culture means by “mother.”
Some days I’m like, “Oh, maybe you shouldn’t go meet those mums, if only they really knew some of the thoughts you had.”
My name is Rachel Papo, I’m a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York, and I had postpartum depression. Twice.
My projects are often based on personal experiences, so I decided to explore this topic. I was curious why even though postpartum depression is something that many people know about— why are mothers still so ashamed of it and hide it?
There were all these mommy blogs. They all had babies the exact same age as mine, and it looked like they were right out of a catalog, with no discomfort, they knew exactly what to do—like supermoms. And here I was, comparing myself to them, constantly…absolutely miserable. Faking it.
I started with my own story — I matched photos I took with my phone to text messages and emails from the time I was going through it.
And then I started wondering—how many other mothers are out there that went through the same thing? How is their experience compared to mine? Can I recreate their stories through texts and photographs?
There’s this stereotype of motherhood being beautiful, pregnancy being beautiful, and how great it is that you get a healthy child, and I wasn’t ready.
I put an ad online, and women responded. Immediately. I started interviewing mothers and then photographing aspects of their stories that were signiﬁcant, or reﬂected something that I’d experienced. These women seemed relieved to talk about it. Some broke down and cried, because many of them never opened up about it to anyone.
It’s Been Pouring, in a way, shines a direct light on these mothers’ darkest moments, exposing the unbearable tension between the miracle of birth and things that are kept hidden.
I was overwhelmed, and I felt like I couldn’t climb out—the walls were so high.
I’ve been developing this body of work for over 6 years and I’m very excited that it’s going to be published. This unique multi-layered book will be comprised of my own story, and a chorus of mothers who echo it.
So many people say, “Oh, enjoy this time, enjoy this time, it’s gonna be gone before you know it,” and I’m thinking, “God, I hope so!”
By supporting this important project, you will help me bring more awareness to postpartum depression and encourage open discussion. Because, really, it’s not just a mother’s problem—it affects us all.
You may also enjoy reading Homeschooled: Photographs by Rachel Papo, by Kristen Noel.