We did a Q&A with mother, social media manager and boss lady (she’s an owner at Aero360 and Fullhouse Productions) Samantha Godinez-Valenciano. She shares with us her personal experience with postpartum depression, after she gave birth to her first daughter Leia. She lets us in on a creative tool she used to help her heal and get through each day. Read on to find out what she would do differently the next time around.
Grounded: What was your experience of your first pregnancy like?
Sam: My whole pregnancy was a breeze. I didn’t have morning sickness and I went out until I gave birth.
Grounded: What were your expectations of motherhood before giving birth and what influenced your views on motherhood?
Sam: I actually didn’t think much about it. I was just excited to have a mini version of Pao and I. I think I assumed that it was just as easy as it looked like online. I have no memory of my mom struggling when she had our youngest brother. I mean, I expected sleepless nights, which I thought I was prepared for since I naturally sleep late. But that’s the worst I thought would happen.
Grounded: How was your birth and recovery?
Sam: I had long labor only because I was pushing for a normal delivery. I think it was 12 hours? I forget.
I had the worst contractions. I was already saying “I don’t want na”. I would tell my mom to shut up (and she wasn’t even talking.. just breathing a little louder to me), and I would kick and punch my husband, Paolo, because of the pain. Apparently the umbilical cord was around Leia’s ankles. That’s probably why she wasn’t going down.
They cut me open after 40 minutes of pushing. I would choose the epidural and cesarean birth any day. I don’t care about being superwoman.
Grounded: When did you realize you were experiencing PPD?
Sam: When I got home from the hospital, I felt like I was floating. I was happy but not movie happy. I wasn’t staring at my baby the entire time. I wanted her to sleep soundly.
I would get so angry when people were talking loudly nearby. I didn’t want guests. Then I was crying like hagulgol every night/morning at around 2 AM...
Grounded: What did it feel like? Can you share with us what was going through your head?
Sam: I felt like my life was over. I felt like Paolo and I broke up, even if he was beside me every night. I felt trapped. I felt like everyone depended on me to make sure Leia was ok. I wasn’t used to being the leader. Since I was breastfeeding and having a hard time because she wasn’t latching well, it made me feel even more trapped because I couldn’t step out. I was her source of food. I felt like I didn’t even own my own time. I was a leader, but at the same time a slave to my child.
Grounded: Were you able to talk to anyone about it?
Sam: I talked to my mom. I gave hints by asking questions and she knew right away what I was going through.
Grounded: What resources helped you go through the experience?
Sam: Aside from my parent’s great advice, coming to help, and even sending an extra helper, it was one of my dad’s advice that helped me feel better. He told me, "Do you know that from day one you were sleeping in your own room? Your yaya would bring you into our room just to feed, then back to your room so your mom would rest. Do you feel less loved?" I have no memory of that obviously. So after a month I moved Leia to her room and my ppd left as well.
What really helps is to talk to people and also to surround yourself with other moms who are sharing the same journey with you. If you hang out with people who go out every day and just do whatever they want when they want, then you'll start comparing your time with theirs and feel like you’re on the losing end eventually.
Grounded: Do you think there is a stigma on mental health issues such as PPD?
Sam: I wouldn’t think so. There shouldn’t be.
Did you feel any shame when experiencing PPD because of how mental health issues such as the latter and depression are viewed in society?
I’m not ashamed. In fact it opened my eyes to other mental health issues. Depression is real. I believe it now. I used to think depression was a choice. I didn’t choose to be depressed when I was. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone.
Grounded: How did you get through it?
Sam: I wrote to my husband every night. I emailed him my diary entries of what I was feeling every day. I told him that he didn’t need to reply. I just wanted to voice it out. I did it that way because when I used to try to tell him in person while I was feeling depressed, I would just cry. So I wrote. After every entry, those feelings would disappear. But the next day I would battle a new set of issues. Then I would write again. Eventually, I had nothing to be sad about anymore.
Grounded: What were the defining factors of you overcoming it?
Sam: You overcome it by recognizing that you have ppd. I know some moms refuse to believe that they have it and end up battling this for months and even years. Prayer also kept me calm. I know you can’t really hear back but praying is another form of admitting things out loud. Surrendering. Trusting that in my case, God will not leave me and won’t give me something I can’t overcome.
Grounded: What are your thoughts on social media and mental health such as PPD?
Sam: I think this is something that should be spoken about more so that it isn’t something that seems like a rare case. Social media makes parenthood look so good, easy and pretty. Social media is one factor that gets mothers questioning their journeys when they have a hard time.
Grounded: How do you practice balance in your life? How do you balance being a mom, a wife, and a career woman in an era of social media?
Sam: I’m still learning. We try our best to not be on our gadgets in front of Leia. To be honest, thank God for our amazing helpers at home. My husband and I are freelancers and we also work at home, and sometimes we work at the same time. On those days that we do, it’s not all day, and we make sure leia has activities that we can prepare for the yayas to do with Leia. Leia’s always busy and we always do our playtime as a family in the morning, and before we sleep. Those two parts of the day We never change.
Grounded: What are daily practices that you can't live without?
Sam: Our mornings spent in bed with Leia. We play and watch cartoons. I take Leia to school and wait for her as well. I would take her to her football classes and join her too! During quarantine I tried to homeschool her and also be her coach for her football at home. We baked and played in the attic (her playroom). Paolo would take her out to scoot and run. Then at night she would exercise with us. We eat dinner as a family and watch one show before bedtime.
Grounded: Can you tell us more about what your life is like today?
Sam: Basically what I said above plus more workload on the computer since all work now is at home.
Grounded: When you have your next child, what would you do differently and what would you do that is the same?
Sam: I wouldn’t follow all the rules. I will just do what I feel is best for me. I was so “anti this and that” because so and so said this is the best way etc.... Every mom is different and every journey is different.
Grounded: What advise can you give for new and expectant mothers?
Sam: It’s good to read, get advise from people close to you, take classes and all of that, but at the end of the day, what you do is what’s best for your child. You are enough.
Breast is best they say, but if you can’t do it, it’s ok. I breastfed for two years. Leia is healthy. I grew up on formula. I’m very healthy. Don't feel like you failed if you don't achieve your dream set up.
Grounded: What advise can you give for mothers who may be experiencing PPD?
Sam: It will pass. You will learn to love your new normal. Honestly, when I was going through ppd and people would tell me that, in my head I wanted to tell them to shut up. But really, once it disappears, you will love your new normal and wont even miss the past.
Grounded: Can you talk to us about purpose? Aside from being a mother of course, what can you share with us of what you have learned about purpose?
Sam: Honestly, I’ve never felt like I had purpose till now. I mean, yes it’s harder to work but once you see how your child looks at you that’s all that matters. I’m more driven now having a child. She makes me want to work harder because I want to be a good example as a woman to her.
Grounded: How important is community to you? Can you explain how you have integrated community in your life?
Sam: People tend to compare themselves to others. Having a community to share the same things really helps in your journey. You can relate to each other and the "problems" you think are happening to you are normal/natural.
Grounded: What keeps you grounded?
Sam: Being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a granddaughter, a cousin, a niece, a boss, a friend. It’s taking on this new role but not forgetting my other roles.
They didn’t die the moment I became a mom. I just got a new role and that’s a great thing. Balance is key. Balance makes you happy.
Postpartum depression affects around one out of nine women who give birth. Let’s continue to reach out and support each other. Let’s talk about mental health without shame. We are all connected by human experiences, and when we share our story, we see each other. When we see ourselves in others, we can empower, inspire and grow in love and consciousness.