When Alexandra Kilmurray, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, decided to post an image of her post-pregnancy body on Instagram just a few days ago, she didn't expect the massive response and outpouring of support. It wasn't so much her decision to reveal stretch marks and her "mummy tummy" in a picture that has racked up more than 5,000 likes; it was the very personal story that accompanied the picture.
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In her bold message, Kilmurray revealed that that picture was a long time coming — 18 months, in fact — as it was a symbolic milestone in her personal and painful journey with postpartum depression.
Kilmurray wrote: "It it took me 18 months to get here, 18 months to not cry when I look in the mirror, 18 months to finally feel beautiful in my own skin again! No one warns you about the dark sides of motherhood and pregnancy... no one gives you a heads up on how much you change physically and mentally after you become a mother."
She continued to explain that her struggle with PPD began after her firstborn, and only intensified after getting pregnant for a second time within months of having her first son.
"I gave birth to my first son, Bryan, in July of 2015, and I fell pregnant with my second son, Anthony, in October of 2015 and gave birth to him in August 2016. I was still battling my postpartum depression from my pregnancy with Bryan when I realized I was pregnant with Anthony. That was the hardest part with my postpartum after having Bryan, the added hormones from pregnancy, and the morning sickness on top of everything else, it was horrible!"
Kilmurray credits the support and love of her husband, Bryan, as crucial for helping her through this very dark period.
"My husband has been amazing, he has been by my side through every single step," Kilmurray told TODAY Parents. "He has sat with me while I've cried for days, he has told me I am beautiful after I would rant about hating myself. But most importantly he helped me understand that my feelings were valid, and they were okay to feel."
Sometimes, her husband did nothing more than just stay close, and that was exactly what Kilmurray needed. "When my postpartum was really bad my husband would just lay with me, or he would just sit with me, he wouldn't pressure me to get up or to leave. He was just there, sometimes he wouldn't even talk. He knew that it was just him and his company that I needed, I can't thank him enough for handling my postpartum the way that he did."
Just last month, Kilmurray and her husband tied the knot in a small ceremony on their local beach while surrounded by family and friends. "It was nothing short of amazing. We gathered our immediate family and went down to Fort Lauderdale beach and exchanged our vows, then went to our favorite pizza place afterwards to have some pizza and appetizers. It was small, short and sweet."
While recently she's had brighter days and Kilmurray genuinely feels like she has overcome the worst, she feels that PPD will remain a piece of her forever. "I do think my postpartum journey will always be a part of me, but I am recovering," she said. "I do believe I will completely recover from this, and some time down the road these battles will just be memories."
Staying on top of her feelings is crucial, she said, as is acknowledging when she needs help or just a few minutes outside in the sunshine.
When asked what advice she would give to others experiencing PPD, Kilmurray told TODAY that asking for help is key to recovery.
"My greatest advice would be to reach out and talk about how you're feeling even if you think you sound ridiculous or even if you're embarrassed. Reach out to anyone: a friend, your spouse, your doctor. Your feelings are real, and you should never feel alone while battling postpartum depression because you're not alone. I am right there with you!"
And for other moms that know the pain of PPD, Kilmurray has a message for you, too: "Cheers to you mamas who are battling postpartum depression and still getting up everyday for your children! Cheers to you mamas who still cry about the marks on your skin from birthing your perfect babies! Cheer to motherhood, cheers to knowing that this too shall pass! And things will get better!"
Kilmurray can finally say that her difficult battle with PPD is changing for the better: "It's been a long and hard postpartum ride for me... 18 months after my first son and five months after my second son I feel like I can finally see the light and it genuinely feels amazing."