Imagine not knowing what motherhood was like until after you had your child. Now imagine being afraid to talk about it with anyone. This is a startling trend among women in today’s society. Now imagine using photographs to document the true realities of first time mothers. That is exactly what photographer Jenny Lewis is doing for the London borough of Hackney in her on going series One Day Young. Lewis takes photos of mothers and their newborns within 24 hours of birth to draw attention to the misconceptions about motherhood she has noticed in the local culture. Lewis seeks to communicate how life changing and how emotionally complex a time it is for women. She mentions the powerful change of identity new mothers go through and the isolation of post-partum depression. The first few hours after childbirth a women has to reconcile her previous identity with her new life as a mother and the new life she has responsibility of. "I wanted to tell a story about the strength and resilience of women, post-childbirth, that I feel goes largely unacknowledged in today’s world,” Lewis says.
Lewis has been photographing mothers and their newborns for the past 7 years. Many of her photographs include intimate essays by the mother’s months after the photos were taken. Several of the mothers mention anxiety and depression as struggles they went through in isolation. In a BBC article written about Lewis and her series, Tom Seymour draws attention to statistics that cite the misconceptions. Seymour states that recent studies show more than half of new British mothers experience some sort of depression after giving birth; nearly a quarter suffer from postnatal depression. Of women struggling with depression after childbirth, almost 62% report they do not feel supported in their mental health. It is encouraging that mental health is being brought to light by an inspiring photographer and her intimate photographs and relationships with mothers and their newborns within their first 24 hours of existing.
Lewis uses her art form to unite women and address misconceptions and stigma’s related to childbirth and motherhood. Women helping each other through treatment and investing in long lasting mental health wellness is what Brookhaven Retreat®, LLC is anchored in. Brookhaven Retreat is for women by women, and as such it is a unique nurturing place to find treatment and recovery. There is help for depression and anxiety, and noticing the misconceptions is the first step in breaking down barriers to treatment. Post-partum depression is depression, and it is important that it be treated as such, with the mindfulness and care that every woman deserves. Lewis’s work paves the way for other women to start conversations about their experiences and find their own way of expressing themselves.