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Motherhood Unfiltered: Photography project fights postpartum depression

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Photo courtesy Eran Sudds of eran jayne photography

Scanning your Facebook feed you may find photos of mothers laughing, playing with their children, and having what appears to be a wonderful time. But that image of maternal perfection may be misleading.

When Tsawwassen photographer Eran Sudds gave birth to a baby boy three years ago she had no idea it would be so difficult to be a mother, nor that she would lose all sense of her identity.

“I thought, I don’t know who I am anymore. I have this kid that needs me all the time, I can’t do any of the things I want to do anymore,” recalls Eran. “I feel like I’m just a mom, I’m not a person. It was really, really difficult.”

Postpartum depression is a common and clinically recognized phenomenon that can occur to both sexes, but mainly mothers, after childbirth. Symptoms may include sadness, low energy, anxiety and a host of other issues.

Eran says that far from the blissful image of motherhood presented on social media, she “hated” being a mother at first. She felt isolated. Scared. And internalizing those feelings just made her feel worse.

Fortunately, she was able to find help and counselling through the Pacific Postpartum Support Society. Eran soon learned she was far from alone.

“Once I started talking about it I realized there were other people that felt that way,” she says.

When suffering from depression, Eran says that well-meaning people had all sorts of advice for her, but all she really needed was acknowledgement of her struggles.

“To hear somebody just say, I know this is hard but you’re doing great, made so much more of a difference than somebody telling me I should be bottlefeeding or breastfeeding.”

Prior to Mother’s Day in 2015, Eran wanted to do something special with her photography that would tie her skills to her experiences with postpartum depression.

And so she decided to offer a photoshoot of mothers with their children, offering proceeds to the Pacific Postpartum Support Society, to help others the way she had been helped.

She took photos of moms with their kids holding up encouraging signs for other moms such as, “You’re doing a great job, You are enough, I believe in you.”

The fundraiser started in Ladner and sold out so quickly that they tried it in other cities such as New Westminster and Victoria. Suddenly, Eran found her story written in the Huffington Post.

“At that point I realized this was something, people are relating to it,” says Eran.

From that experience, she began Motherhood: Unfiltered, a photographic journey into the lives of a dozen local moms, captured in their homes and engaging in day-to-day life. Eran says she wanted to photograph what real mothers go through, the good and the bad, postpartum depression, caring for a child with a disability, or the struggle of living with extended family.

She asked them not to tidy the house or put on makeup or comb their hair or do anything they wouldn’t do without the camera being there.

“I just wanted to show that this is what we look like every day,” she says. “This is what we do every day.”

Eran says it can be a scary, vulnerable thing to allow somebody to photograph the mess, the tears, the arguments, the disciplining. But she says through all the chaos that is motherhood there is beauty as well. Perhaps just not the kind portrayed on social media.

Motherhood: Unfiltered is displayed at Ladner Birch Tree on Delta Street.

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