'postpartum anxiety and motherhood'
"How was your day?"
"I held the baby."
"I just held her."
"Just held the baby."
"I held the baby."
"Ok, mostly held the baby."
"Just held her."
I "just held the baby" for quite a long time.
It felt like that. Putting it simply, I was terrified that if I put her down or let anyone else near her something would happen. Something terrifying, something I wouldn't be able to help and would never forgive myself for.
"What if she stops breathing?"
"What if she doesn't wake up?"
"What if she falls or is dropped?"
"What if whoever is holding her is sick?"
So many "what ifs." So I just didn't put her down and I did my best not to have to engage with others either. I held her all day - while I was doing housework, cooking, photographing, making art. I held her all night - reading, watching films, and journaling to stay awake. I held her oftentimes foregoing sleep and eating because I was so afraid to put her down. I became distant with those I was closest with and became increasingly nervous about the prospects of others, even family, being near her. I held her through the entire summer and much of the autumn. I held her until I thought I might break from the stress of worrying so hard.
No one ever mentioned to me that postpartum might not fall on either side of the commonly touted divide - either blissfully perfect or an experience fighting postpartum depression. No one ever mentioned that other postpartum disorders can arise - ones with a variety of symptoms, that although they may not threaten your relationship with your newborn baby in the same manner, can take their toll on all other aspects of life. Although plenty of women suffer from other postpartum complications such as anxiety, OCD, and other mental health struggles and although I had to pass a screening before leaving the hospital to assess my postpartum depression risk, no one ever mentioned that postpartum does not always look the same.
Postpartum anxiety didn't look the same. I felt so bonded to my baby that initially I was hesitant to accept that my experience was anything but normal. All new moms worried about their babies, especially first time moms. I figured between moving, planning a wedding, and settling into my new roll as a mother I was reacting to these added stresses. But after months of "just holding the baby" I realized that there was more to these emotions and fears than everyday stress and worry. It took a lot to accept that there might be something else going on beneath the love and connection I felt with my daughter. It took courage and self confidence to tell myself that it was okay to have these feelings but it was also okay to accept help in moving past the anxiety.
Her website here.
I came across Corpus Vertebrae on Instagram and I immediately fell in love with it: it's eerie, dark but also soft, and I can relate a lot. I'm sure that I'm not the only one. I'm very happy to introduce this mysterious and authentic artist. Thank you for answering my questions, beautiful soul. (Célia Schouteden - founder/editor)
Can you introduce yourself a little for those who aren't familiar with your work?
I’m a self-taught female photographer from Poland. I’m 24 years old. I’ve been taking photos (both digital and traditional) since 2009. Art is the love of my life.
How and when did your artistic journey start?
I started taking photos in 2009. We bought a camera for our family, it was an Olympus E-410. I've simply started taking pictures – nature, landscapes. Then I took a first portrait of a classmate.
Your photographs are very dark but also illustrate a peculiar softness. What's the story behind your style?
What's the essence of your work?
My photos were nothing special for years. I don’t identify myself with those old ones. I’ve created the most important images in the last 3 years, when I’ve started struggling with depression. I’ve taken a lot of self-portraits, because it was my way to deal with mental pain and anxiety, but I think this darkness is always somewhere with me, it doesn't matter if I’m taking pictures of myself or someone else. I don’t fake anything and I’m not trying to be someone else. I’m just trying to tame the darkness and death that are living in my heart. I think art can heal wounds.
Where do you find your inspiration?
It’s always connected with the strongest emotions and feelings, like confrontation with death, mental pain, fear, anxiety.
Why "Corpus Vertebrae"?
There was a time when I was using my own name, but I don’t do it anymore. At some point I wanted to release myself from my name, identity, nationality and gender. „Corpus Vertebrae” is in Latin and it means a part of the spine. I’ve found this name in the anatomy book and I fell in love. I thought it must be perfect for someone like me, who loves bones, skulls and the aesthetics of ugliness.
What is your ultimate aim?
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say, that there is any, actually. I just am and create right now, as I am still alive.
You share a lot of your vulnerability and an intense inner emotional life through your photography. How does that make you feel to create a piece so personal and then sharing it with the world?
Sometimes it feels uncomfortable, it depends, but I have to create, it’s my addiction. There are people who will understand it and some who won’t. I only don’t like when some tries to break the boundary of privacy or when someone tries to make a diagnosis. I've had different, weird situations during those years. I’ve also met different people – just because of my pictures. Some of them became my friends, some of
them I don’t want to remember. And it’s all connected with the fact that this one individual person can truly understand who you are (also in front of your creation) or not at all.
Is it something close to your heart that someone somewhere can eventually relate to your work? Was it
something you were hoping for when you started sharing your work?
Yes, definitely. Those people are close to me, even if we’ll never see each other, because I know they are wounded like me.
You exclusively create black & white photography: why do you use this specific color palette? What's your relationship with it?
I’ve decided to create only in black and white, because colorful photography looks infantile for me. I’m not looking for that kind of presentation, I don’t want to create fairy tales or pleasant images.
Monochrome is raw, perfect, minimal, dark. The other thing is that photography began with b&w photography (and sepia) and this is what I feel with all my heart.
Do you have any project for the future?
Yes, I’m constantly looking for unique people to take pictures of.
If you had to pick one book/one song/one artist/one painting/..., which one(s) would it be?
It’s hard to pick one. I would say: Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Francesca Woodmann, Sebastiao Salgado, James Nachtwey, David Nebreda, Julia Margaret Cameron, Zdzisław Beksiński, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier and many many more.
Thank you for you support.
The interview here.
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Heat from sugary tea filled the room,
a haven, a safe mother’s womb.
Warm, infused water fed the glow inside her heart,
yet clogged with thick, hesitant soup.
He sat straight with a glowing face,
eyes a rich, alluring chocolate,
hand shimming the surface across
to her trembling, hunched knuckles.
Table bowed as she shot upwards,
The cold, ghostly hands gripping at her mind,
shame swelling in her chest.
“I have to go,” she whispered.
Back in her decorated cave,
She dove into summoned waterfall of cool,
Under the hard, wet pebbles,
Her pink skin turned blue.
Rocks continued to pound her,
Punishing with their chill.
She held herself in shrivelled arms,
Comfort disappearing from her own embrace.
Still, she thought of him,
Her body breathing a wave of heat,
the image of his warm, brown eyes,
smile pinching her lips.
Another haul of chill ran down her back,
His eyes growing an icy blue in her numb gaze,
Her stomach hurling, her body collapsing,
Trapped in her cage of ice and glass.
- by Claire L. Smith -