Katherine Strickland experienced post-partum depression as long days of feeling numb.
“When I did feel emotion, it was extreme,” recalls the Gulfport resident, who is now a mother of two girls, 3-year-old Brailynn and 4-month-old Brooklynn.
After delivering Brailynn, “I would look at my baby girl, and my heart would explode with love,” Strickland recalls, “and then there were times that I would be in the laundry room doing laundry, and I would drop to my knees, curl up in a ball and cry until I couldn’t breathe.”
She didn’t recognize what she was experiencing until a friend went through it a year later. In suffering the condition, Strickland is far from alone; one in nine new mothers have postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, typically causing them to feel empty, emotionless or sad for longer than two weeks during or after pregnancy.
While dealing with a heavy emotional burden, Strickland’s attention also turned to her physical weight, as she’d gained 63 pounds while carrying her daughter.
“I’m 5 feet, 3 inches (tall), so I felt every pound,” she says.
Weight had long been a struggle for Strickland, who moved back home after her first semester of college weighing about 200 pounds. Working with a trainer for five months helped her shed 50 pounds, she says, “and with the discipline I learned through him, and the healthy eating habits I learned, I was able to get the rest of my weight off up until pregnancy.”
Strickland couldn’t work out until six weeks postpartum, but she could eat healthy, so she started there. Her diet consisted of lots of steamable bags of vegetables, chicken, breakfast omelets and water; she set a goal of drinking half her weight in ounces each day.
“When I could exercise again, I started by training myself to run again,” Strickland says. “I started out slow, and by three months postpartum, I would run two miles straight.”
Once she’d resumed running, she started incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into her routine three times a week. By eight months postpartum, she was back to her pre-baby weight.
Strickland’s family was extremely supportive through her wellness journey, she says, and helped however they could — like watching the baby while she set out for walks.
“My mom prayed for me often, and I could tell my postpartum depression hurt her the most,” she says. “As a mom, I understand it more now. Her baby was hurting, and she couldn’t fix it.” Strickland’s internal turmoil took a toll on her relationship with her husband, Jordan, during their first year of marriage, but they overcame their obstacles.
“I am beyond grateful for the man I have by my side today,” she says.
Getting into a routine with workouts and dropping weight helped Strickland rebound and regain her confidence. Returning to Northwood Church also facilitated her recovery.
“I started volunteering in the church daycare on Sundays, met other church moms and started feeling like I was a part of something bigger than myself,” she says, “which brought meaning back into my life.”
Today, Strickland says she feels content. She gained some weight with her second pregnancy, but she’s come to love the bounce back — admiring what the body is capable of and knowing she’ll reach her goal in her own time. Her experiences prompted a professional transition, and the former architectural drafter is now a personal trainer at Club4Fitness in Gulfport.
Strickland says the greatest thing she’s gained is a better self-image. She’s come to love who she is and hopes to impart the same mindset to her daughters and other women.
“There were definitely times during my health and fitness journey I abused my body to meet a fitness goal or saw my diet as a punishment for eating bad or for missing a workout; I have overcome this unhealthy mindset through my spiritual journey,” Strickland says. “Keeping close to God daily gives me the constant reminder that my body was beautifully and wonderfully made.”