Have you heard of postpartum depression? The odds are that you probably have or that you know someone who has dealt with it. And the truth is that PPD presents itself in every mother differently and needs to be diagnosed by a healthcare professional and treated. Brittany Giles knows this process well because she lived it after giving birth to her now 4-year-old daughter Peyton.
With the 2nd annual Black Maternal Health Week coming to a close, Brittany has opened up by sharing how she handled postpartum depression as she simultaneously transitioned into a co-parenting relationship. While the beginning of her journey was tough, Brittany turned to wellness and fitness instead of traditional medicine and started FitXBrit, making her a mompreneur to be reckoned with.
Here is Brittany’s journey about how she has thrived, grown, and what she’s learned about the ups and downs of motherhood.
What You Wish You Knew As You Entered Your Journey Through Motherhood
There are so many things that I wish I would have known before becoming a mother. I have been a high school teacher since graduating college and assumed that I would have this motherhood thing on lock. I can even remember looking at how some of my friend’s kids would behave and would think, “Nah, that would never be my kid.”
I read books. I had a plan.
But I can sit here with full transparency and say that I wish I would have known that there is no amount of preparation that can prepare you for motherhood, and I mean NONE.
I thought that motherhood was synonymous with happiness, and that is far from the truth. As a mother, you will always love your kid, but there will be tons of instances where you don’t like them, and that is totally normal and okay. Motherhood is the most beautiful, and at the same time the most terrifying, experience of my life. I mean, you are responsible for raising this tiny human, and even though I know that God is in control, I can’t help but to think that if she ends up on the pole, it is going to be directly associated with something I didn’t do as a mother.
I feel tons of guilt as a single mother and often find myself overcompensating because of that guilt. You will want to cry in the corner some days and will actually find yourself crying in a corner some days, and that is ok too.
What they don’t tell you about postpartum depression, and what you learned after being diagnosed
I had heard the term postpartum depression, but I had never known anyone to openly discuss it or say that they experienced it. I felt so connected to Peyton during my pregnancy journey and just knew that we would be best friends.
Because I was in an emotionally abusive relationship at the time, my pregnancy was nothing like I had planned; so, I clung to developing a relationship with Peyton before she was even out of the womb. I knew postpartum depression was a possibility, and I knew that meant that some days would be difficult, but what I did not know was that there would be periods where I physically couldn’t bond with my kid, that I would feel absolutely no connection at all, and that, despite those feelings, I would literally have to put on a mask and face the world with a smile in fear of being judged.
People will try to brush it off and tell you it’s just baby blues; they might even convince you that you are overreacting. New mothers need a ton of support, and most of the time they are not receiving that.
Sure, people want to come see the baby and help on that note, but new mothers need care. They need to talk to other mothers. They need to feel like they can talk through their feelings with their partner.
It’s reported that 1 out of 7 women deal with some type of depression or anxiety after giving birth and that PPD can actually begin developing before giving birth. Also, a ton of women don’t get treatment because PPD isn’t just about being sad; there are symptoms and emotions that people are not necessarily looking for, like being overly anxious or irritated. My symptoms ranged from full-on sadness, total disconnection from my kiddo, and, more commonly, being petrified to have her in anyone else’s care.
How You Navigated Postpartum Depression And Made The Decision To Not Use Traditional Medication Following A Different Route To Wellness
I will never forget the day I told my partner that something wasn’t right yet was dismissed and made to feel like I was overreacting and that I wasn’t a good mother. I believe the exact words were, “You are the best mother you know how to be.”
At that time, I was praying heavily, prayer journaling, and was really reaching out to God to change me. I finally went to my doctor and told her what I was experiencing, and, after doing blood work and answering questions, she confirmed that I was suffering from PPD and immediately put me on medication as well as explained the side effects that I should expect.
This is where it gets bad.
People react to medication differently, but for me, it wasn’t going to work. My side effects included hallucinations and severe suicidal thoughts. When I look back at some of my journal entries from that month, it literally brings me to tears to this day. One day, I was in my closet trying to determine who would get Peyton if I ended my life that day. I mean, I was full on looking up legal actions, and once I determined that there was no sure fire way that she would end up with my parents, no matter what type of letter I wrote, that was the moment that I knew it was time to let the meds go.
I spent the next week researching foods that positively affect your mood and ways to deal with depression naturally. I reached out to Aisha Thalia on Instagram and asked her how she managed her mental illness, totally not expecting a response since she’s a pretty big deal; but, she responded with a list of natural herbs. Right then, I made the conscious decision to go against the advice of my doctor, up my water intake, go plant-based, and specifically stack up on the specific foods and herbs I had researched. Almost immediately, I saw a change.
I also started working out like crazy and started therapy. Exercise is literally an antidepressant. So many people are always complimenting my physical appearance, not realizing that my goal is internal vs. external. I workout and eat the way I do, to survive. Literally.
A diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are key. Also, if meat is your thing then you want to focus more on proteins like turkey, tuna, and chicken because they are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which may help you make serotonin. Focus on eating something with protein a couple of times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.
In the mix of all of this, I also transitioned into single motherhood, and although it is the biggest blessing of my life because I know I didn’t need to be in that relationship, it also added another layer of hurt and healing to unpack while battling PPD. Therefore, I got super involved in my church and focused on my spiritual journey. I created a vibe in my home with salt lamps, essential oil diffusers, sage, palo santo, crystals, and prayer journaling. I also took up yoga and started attending meditation workshops to learn how to control my thoughts and handle my “mind monsters.”
The Biggest Joys Of Motherhood
My daughter is now 4, and we are literally twins both physically and mentally. She has my personality, is such a free spirit, and questions EVERYTHING. She is a critical thinker, super emotional, and just an all-around character. Knowing that, despite my journey, I have always put her first and invested in her with all I had, really brought me joy.
Becoming a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s made me lose myself and find myself in the most profound and beautiful way. The best part about being a mom is the constant reminder of the unconditional love that exists in the world and in your heart, and, although it is a roller coaster of emotions, it just feels good. Seeing my child master something, that I taught her, is the biggest boost to my spirit. I have never loved anyone as much as I love Peyton and would do and sacrifice anything for her. She saved my life, had it not been for her I sometimes wonder, would I still be here?
How To Navigate Motherhood When It Gets Rough
When motherhood gets difficult for me, I am learning that it is okay to step away and take a break. I literally do InstaStories from my closet because mommy needs a time out, too. If she finds me, she immediately asks, “Mommy are you meditating?” or “Are you talking to God?”
Often, I see her dealing with her stress in the same way. I’ve come out the shower several times to find her meditating or doing a yoga pose she learned in class.
Practicing gratitude and intentional mindfulness is how I deal with the rough spots. I tried the whole “glass of wine” thing because that’s what I have always seen on tv as a cure for motherhood; but, with the generational curse of alcoholism in my family, I soon learned that was not really going to be my thing.
Asking for help when you need help is also key.
Another technique that I use, is writing. I created an email account for Peyton, and whenever I’m doubting myself or going through an episode I write her love letters and email them to her. It is kind of like a gratitude journal. I plan on giving her the password when she graduates so she can read my innermost thoughts about motherhood as each moment happened.
My co-parenting situation is not always consistent, so my family is very involved in helping out with Peyton. I used to be ashamed to ask for help financially and physically, but between God, my parents, and my old college roommate, Peyton has never gone without private school tuition, extracurriculars, or anything, really — it always just comes together.
So, when motherhood gets difficult, step away, take a break, and ask for help. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less of a mother because you are actually taking care of yourself so that you can properly take care of your kid.
How Motherhood Fueled Your Boss Moves And Entrepreneurship
Man, when I found out I was pregnant, I had just enlisted the help of a fitness coach because I had decided to participate in Fitness and Figure competitions, but I was put on limited bed rest and told that working out during my pregnancy was not going to happen. Originally, FitXBrit was created to document that journey.
As I started dealing with PPD, as well as dietary restrictions that were put into place due to Peyton’s digestive issues, I saw that there was a need for more discussion surrounding mental illness, in general, and parenting from the perspective of POC, which shifted my focus in that direction.
FITXBRIT is definitely a purpose project that started out as a hobby. As an educator, my salary is pretty set, and I would never have dreamed that I would be operating as a single mother who bears the majority of the financial responsibilities. Not only does my business allow me to help others learn more about wellness, growth mindsets, and parenting, it also funds my life.
When I started pouring myself into it from a genuine place, it definitely started pouring back into me as well. I would have still been treating all of this as a hobby had it not been for the necessity of providing for Peyton.
I love the fact that she is so invested in my work, I love taking her on shoots, and, now that she is older, I love taking her to fitness events so that she can appreciate the journey and understand the beauty of a good education, working a 9-to-5, and also fueling your passion projects as an entrepreneur.
The Biggest Lesson As A Mom (So Far)
The biggest lessons I have learned as a mom is that all of this is bigger than me, most of the time it is not about me, and sometimes it is important to let my own, sometimes selfish, desires die.
Live your best life! Enjoy the crazy moments and use them as a guide! This journey provides you with the opportunity to learn under pressure and to use the intuition that you are blessed with. This is the beauty of challenge: you will pass the test, and you will learn something amazing in the process!