When Sylvia Amsler’s daughter, Adalynn, was born in December 2014, she assumed it would be the happiest time of her life.
But her introduction to motherhood was anything but.
“It was such an awful and dark experience in my life,” she told Global News.
Shortly after giving birth to her first child, Amsler began to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety.
“I just started getting incredible amounts of anxiety, like probably within a week of her arrival,” she said. “The anxiety would stem from her being hurt somehow. Whether it was me carrying her down the stairs or bringing her into the kitchen where there was something hot, or even putting her near water, my brain would just come up with all of these scenarios about all these awful things that could happen to her.”
The sadness and anxiety, Amsler said, then led to shame and guilt.
“You just get these images from social media out there portraying that motherhood is supposed to be all lovely and warm and happy,” she said. “So you kind of go into having a baby with those expectations.”
The West Kelowna woman hid her depression from everyone, including her husband.
“I’m very lucky to have an amazingly supportive spouse and he’s phenomenal,” she said. “‘But I still feel he was going to judge me or put me into a place where he’d be like ‘You are not fit to be a mother.’”
But hiding her postpartum depression only lasted so long.
“I just broke down once and I fell apart and told him,” she said.
Once she opened up about what she was going through, it marked the beginning of the road to recovery.
“That laid the foundation for a plan to get back to myself,” she said.
She consulted her doctor, who informed her about various tools she could use to get back on track.
She admits one of those tools was medication.
“I wanted to be open about that side as well, because I think a lot of people are scared and apprehensive to take it,” she said. “It’s not for everybody, it’s a personal decision, but it can make a world of a difference.”
Amsler also decided to join a class called Moga: Yoga for new moms and their babies.
Starting three years ago in Kelowna, Moga offers exercise for moms while connecting with their babies.
But those who run classes said Moga is a lot more than just a place to do some physical activity.
“You just walk into a space with Moga that you know you are understood,” Moga instructor Tessa Hutton said.
Hutton said it’s because it’s an environment where moms are more apt to share their real feelings.
“With running the Moga classes, you really stat to see how prominent postpartum depression is in our community,” Hutton said. “And knowing that you are not alone can give you the power to make it through the day.”
Amsler said Moga played a big role in her healing.
“When you’re able to find a community space like Moga, and be able to connect with other moms and know you are not alone in what you are feeling, and that you just feel supported and lifted, it has a huge impact on moms.”
According to the Interior Health Authority, postpartum depression affects about 30 per cent of new moms. But social stigma often makes it difficult for sufferers to open up.
Amsler hopes by sharing her story, she can encourage other moms suffering from postpartum depression to seek out support and not feel shame in opening up about their struggles.
“I just want women out there to know that you can get better; it’s not forever,” Amsler said. “You can find your way out of the darkness, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not a bad mother.”