News Column

Annapolis artist paints as postpartum depression therapy

August 26, 2014

By Elisha Sauers, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.



Aug. 26--Sunny was restless, so Katie Osmond took him on a walk to tire him out.

After more than an hour of trying to soothe him, she placed him in his crib.

But he kept wailing.

Osmond left the baby's room, sat on her bed alone and sobbed.

Neither was consolable.

"It was definitely just not having the energy to pretend anymore like it was all OK," said Osmond.

When Osmond acknowledged she had a problem about three months ago, she began seeing a counselor about her postpartum depression. As part of her therapy, she took long walks around downtown Annapolis that inspired her to paint a small collection of familiar places.

The work became a show called "Memory Lane" which will be at Maryland Federation of Art'sHolley GallerySept. 18 through Oct. 12. The gallery will also host a reception from 3 to 5 p.m.Sept. 28.

Postpartum depression occurs in some women after childbirth, a mental health condition thought to be caused by hormonal changes, stress and sleep deprivation. Between nine and 16 percent of new moms will experience it, according to the American Psychological Association.

While women and the medical community are talking more about the issue, it's still commonly written off as the "baby blues." In reality, some of the women suffering from the condition feel suicidal or could imagine hurting their children. Even when women are candid about depression after childbirth, few feel comfortable talking about these feelings, fearing they'll be judged as bad parents.

"The mothers I've talked to -- they all say that they have a friend who's been through it, but none of them really say, 'I have been through it,'" Osmond said.

The artist, 31, doesn't know exactly when it began. She had complications during her pregnancy when an infection turned into a fistula, requiring her to undergo surgeries. She continues to receive treatments once a month at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore that are physically painful. Osmond was also short-handed. Steve Osmond, Sunny's dad, travels a lot for his job.

During a checkup, she filled out a survey that asked whether she ever had thoughts of hurting herself or her baby. While she never fantasized about killing herself, in hindsight she realized she was having morbid thoughts.

"Sometimes I thought if I just dropped dead, it might be best."

Osmond went to St. Mary's College to study art and used to be a prolific painter and sculptor. She later worked as an aerial photographer for a GPS company and traveled all over the country. But when she moved back to Annapolis from living in California a few years ago, she put art aside.

Clare Barone, a neighbor, mother of two children and also a photographer, witnessed Osmond's struggles.

"I just told her how important it is to keep your practice going and how to stay sane," Barone said.

She encouraged Osmond to pick up her brushes again.

Osmond took the advice and began painting what she saw on her walks, but instead of copying them, she added layers of colors to represent the moods of the memories she associated with them. Instead of painting what she saw, she painted what seeing them made her feel.

"Her paintings are always very quiet -- they're thoughtful," Barone said. "It seems like there's something about to happen. There's a sort of tension in the piece."

Scenes of Stevens Hardware and other stores on Dock Street, as well as the State House -- places within footsteps of her home -- offer sharp angles and nearly empty landscapes.

Michele Morgado, a friend of many years, said this collection is different from Osmond's previous work. They play with darker colors, she said.

"She's had a hiatus," Morgado said. "Hopefully, this is kind of the beginning of a new stage in her artistic life."

Right now, the paintings hang in Osmond's living room, filling the walls like a geometric puzzle. They mirror Sunny's wooden blocks scattered on the floor. Sunny Shipwreck Osmond, 13 months, squawks and gurgles, toddling to his mom for a hug. He crawls into a tent to hide, then goes for a quick climb on the coffee table.

"Come here, Sunny bear," Osmond says.

She straightens his yellow onesie embellished with a picture of a smiling sun.

She's feeling more in control now that she has paintbrushes as tools to deal with depression. And she's able to enjoy all of the exciting firsts Sunny is having without those negative feelings eclipsing them.

"I was missing all of the good moments," Osmond said. "I was there for them, but I was experiencing them like I was under a Charlie Brown cloud."

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(c)2014 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

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Source: Capital (Annapolis, MD)


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