We often paint an unrealistic image of who we are supposed to be as a mom. We are forgiving and compassionate with our fellow mothers, however, we hold ourselves to unrealistic standards. Add in some sleep deprivation and loads of hormones and you've got yourself the recipe for depression and anxiety. As someone who struggles with anxiety myself, I wanted to celebrate a mother who I view as the image of a "perfect mom", Nicki Sebastian. In this Interview, Nicki shares her unfiltered thoughts on motherhood and mental health. Nicki is not only a beautiful mama to two girls, Cece and Cami, but she is also a talented photographer. Nicki is also passionate about sharing her struggle with mental health, specifically postpartum depression in hopes that her experience will help other mothers through the postpartum period. I feel so grateful to have spent the day with Nicki in her LA bungalow and to share her interview with you today.
1. What does healthy living mean to you? How did your view of healthy living change, if at all, after becoming a mother?
Healthy living is forever a work in progress for me. I love ice cream and peanut butter cups, I love beer, I work late at night by the blue light of my laptop, and I sleep with my eye makeup on more nights than I care to admit. Since becoming a mom, my healthy living expectations have regrettably lowered (because I use the excuse of having no time), but after I finish this interview, I’ll start by limiting the aforementioned vices and bad habits. Thanks for the motivation!
2. You are very open about your struggle with anxiety and postpartum depression. From your own experience, how would you say one would know if they have the baby blues or postpartum depression? When was it time for you to seek help and what advice do you have for new mamas who are going through a similar struggle right now?
I’m no medical professional, but I think every new mom should be required to see a mental health professional as part of her OB/GYN visits and her postpartum follow-up. Perinatal mood disorders often aren’t obvious (both outwardly and from the sufferer’s perspective), and I’ve heard so many mom friends say that, in retrospect, they think they may have had some form of depression and probably should have sought help. In my case, I even had a therapist through both pregnancies and births and I still feel like I was diagnosed with PPD far too late—likely because I was too afraid and humiliated to admit that I was suffering to the degree that I was. My advice to all new mamas is to seek help from a licensed professional regardless of your mental condition. Depression comes in so many shades and can affect someone even when they feel as though they’ve passed the “window of risk.” The truth is, not enough attention is paid to our brains during this wild time, so it’s up to us moms to take care of our mental health just as we would the health of our babies.
3.You must have been fearful to have a second baby? How did you conquer your fear? How was your experience different or similar the second time around?
I was absolutely terrified. My husband was terrified. Neither of us wanted to endure again what we survived four-and-a-half years prior. But we knew we wanted a sibling for Cami, so I found a therapist here in LA, and made it very clear to my midwife and doula that I had a predisposition for PPD. I basically formed a support team and dove in head first knowing that I would at least have a safety net to break my fall if things became as severe as they were when I had my first. After having Cece, I left the hospital with a prescription for Zoloft and my encapsulated placenta, and just hoped for the best. It was still incredibly difficult for me, but I really felt bolstered by an amazing group of women and of course, my incredible family and friends—and say what you want about antidepressants, but I’m a sertraline cheerleader for life.
4. What is one piece of advice you have for future and new mamas on how to prepare for motherhood?
I wish I could offer a bullet-pointed list of action items (love a good to-do list!), but my advice is more overarching. Rely on your gut instincts, confide in and accept help from trusted professionals and loved ones, and take all social media with a huge grain of salt. A Pinterest-worthy mom is all smoke and mirrors—no one has it together and I think it’s our responsibility to each other to be much more forthright about that fact.
5. You are a marathon runner, which as a former long distance runner myself, I can fully appreciate. Are you still able to run regularly? What is your workout routine these days?
I think my marathon running days are over, sadly (my knees don’t work the way they used to), but I still do try to run whenever possible in order to curb my anxiety (at least temporarily, anyhow). That being said, between a more-than-full-time workload and raising two kiddos, I barely have time to shower these days! When I do find the time to work out, I love Dailey Method (barre classes), boxing, and hiking with my other mom friends (because there’s nothing better than a social outing that doubles as a good mind-clearing sweat session).
6. Did you always know you wanted to be a mom? What surprised you the most about becoming a mom?
I was a Cabbage Patch Kid collector and enthusiast for as long as I can remember—so motherhood was always a dream of mine. But playing with dolls and raising babies couldn’t be more opposite in terms of level of difficulty. After having my first daughter, I was completely bowled over by the mental, physical, and emotional challenges of motherhood—I almost resented the fact that no one really sat me down and told me how crazy the transition into motherhood would be. And then having a second baby was just as hard in some ways—I felt like a newbie all over again, and I definitely struggled with intense guilt, sadness, and anxiety and had to seek professional help and go back on meds to overcome some serious challenges. But despite all of the rockiness, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. In short, I was surprised by how much hardship I would face as a new mom, but in the same light, I surprised myself with how much I could tackle and eventually overcome.
7. You are a very talented photographer, however that hasn’t always been your path. I read that you left your 9 to 5 job and a 401K to make your dream of becoming a photographer come true. What inspired you to make this decision and how did you make your dream a reality?
I lived at least fifty other lives before becoming a full-time photographer—which I believe informs my creative eye and my ability to relate to and engage with so many different people. I waitressed at the Olive Garden through college, shadowed in an ER when I thought I was going to be a doctor (ha!), taught kindergarten and second grade at an all girls’ school, worked in the art world for years in marketing and PR, nannied in the evenings and on weekends to make ends meet, and spent way too much time and money on grad school for something that I’ll probably never use again. But even the most circuitous path has plenty to gain from—and I think I’ve finally come full circle and have found a career that feels so right in every possible way. (I majored in visual art in college with a photography focus, but I think it just took years of trial and error to gain the courage to trust my abilities, start my own business, and finally become my own boss.)
8. What are some of your favorite pieces from Noble Carriage right now and why?
Willaby burp cloths and swaddles are the most soft and beautiful necessities ever, and we’re huge Monroe Workshop fans in this family too—their toys are so adored by both of our girls, and I just love them as tasteful shelf decor because they’re true works of art too! Also, Petite Soul bonnets are the absolute best in baby headwear, and who doesn’t love a knit Misha and Puff ensemble? Lastly, give me all the Olli Ella baskets.
9. How would you describe your style? Same question for Cece.
I’m a devoted jeans-and-tee gal with a recent fondness for the occasional day dress. I’m also a high-waisted denim convert (they really put your organs back in place after having kids!), a lover of stripes no matter how much I try to diversify my shirt collection, and a lifelong devotee of No. 6 clogs no matter the shoe trends. And Cece’s style? (I’m giggling as I type this.) She definitely dresses more gender neutral than my sparkly-princess-loving five-year-old, but I think that’s because I’m trying to dilute the pink and purple in my life. She also loves a good hand-me-down from Cami, so right now her look is very 2012. But if I’m splurging on a new outfit for her, it will probably be a romper and a bonnet, because that combo only works for a very short time in one’s life.