Sometimes it is the strangers in this world who deliver the strongest messages.
Eran Sudds was approached by a woman on a Tsawwassen-bound ferry while Sudds, at her wit’s end, was bouncing, holding and cuddling her screaming baby boy. Mother and son had slept nary a wink the night previous, never mind the past four months, which was baby Henry’s age at the time.
“There was this woman sitting in the lounge and she was watching me, and I knew she was watching me, and I was really trying not to catch her eye,” Sudds recalled. “I thought she wanted to offer me advice… And I knew if she talked to me I would just start crying. But she talked to me anyways. All she asked was how old he was, and I burst into tears. She said, ‘You’re doing a great job and you’re a good mom.’ It was at this moment I went, ‘Wow. Somebody gets it.’ And I cried more as I just stood there saying thank you. At that point I realized I needed to talk to somebody about this and be able to acknowledge what’s going on.”
Being a mother was a struggle for Sudds. Becoming a mother, not so much with the help of doulas and midwives. “I rocked birth,” Sudds said with a laugh. “It was afterwards, it hit me like a truck. I was completely overwhelmed, and really, really grieving my past self prior to having a baby. I just wanted to get in my husband’s sports car and drive away. I loved my baby, but I wasn’t connected to the experience of being a mom.”
Sudds was overcome with anxiety and depression and, two months after that ferry trip, called the locally based Pacific Post Partum Support Society help line. The woman on the other end listened. Sudds remembered every second of the phone call. She was told she wasn’t alone. The only advice offered was practical, encouraging her to see her physician. (She did and received medication to treat anxiety as well as iron deficiency).
The woman who answered the phone almost two years ago is no longer a stranger but a dear friend, and was at Sudds’ fundraiser Saturday afternoon for the Pacific Post Partum Support Society, called the Good Mother Photo Event. One of the rooms on the top floor of the Scotia Bank Dance Centre had four different photography studio set-ups where Sudds and three other portrait photographers, also moms, calmly directed a never-ending line of mothers, babies, toddlers and the occasional dad to sit for a photograph. Each of the 71 portrait sessions, which cost $50 dollars apiece, concluded with families holding ready-made signs with messages of inspiration such as “You are doing a great job” and
“You’re an amazing mama.”
The first round of photographs were made into a video montage at the first Good Mother Photo Event this past May. It was so popular it attracted the attention of international press and turned into the collaborative Good Mother Project that centres around a blog where mothers from around the world contribute stories.
“This is my baby, my heart and soul,” Sudds said of her project. “The Pacific Post Partum Society is doing really amazing, amazing things. I wish more people knew about them and I wish more moms were not afraid of the stigma that goes along with postpartum depression.”
The society started in 1971 when a group of women started meeting at the Vancouver Crisis Line office to share experiences, and from there they knew they needed to provide support for mothers and families experiencing postpartum, perinatal distress, depression and anxiety. An estimated one out of six women and one out of 10 men experience depression or anxiety after the birth or adoption of a child.
Board members of the grassroots non-profit attended the Good Mother Project and said they were thrilled to be a part of it.
“It’s been really, really exciting for us as we’re a small non-profit, and this has taken off,” said chairperson Erin Arnold. “It’s been great to see the moms and the babies, they’re so thankful and saying how much the services meant to them.”
In turn the society is thankful to have a mother with a big heart on board.
“The one phone call I had with them left a mark,” Sudds said. “Just one conversation just stuck with me. It was life-changing.”