Maricsa Secundo, a MAC makeup artist and biology major at Cal State Fullerton, was thrilled to finally find out the sex of her baby as she went in with her husband for an ultrasound at the Fountain Valley Regional Hospital on Oct. 4, 2016.
Secundo had a normal pregnancy up until her appointment at 19 weeks, and it was the events of that visit that completely changed her life.
“We found out that they couldn’t locate one of her bones in her pinky, and she was showing extra fluid on the left side of her brain. Immediately they were concerned, and they told us that those were markers for Down Syndrome,” Secundo said.
Secundo was told about the possibility of having an emergency amniocentesis, which is the procedure of taking a sample of the fluid using a needle that punctures through the uterus, but the risk of a miscarriage was high.
She ended up not going through with the procedure, and instead was consistently going in and out of the hospital every two days to monitor her baby’s condition because the fluid wasn’t going away.
During one of her visits at the hospital, Secundo discovered yet another terrifying detail. The doctors weren’t able to locate bones in four of her baby’s fingers.
“How much more is life going to throw at me? How much more can I take? Only so many bad things can happen to one person at a time,” Secundo said.
Caroline, Secundo’s baby daughter, was eventually born and diagnosed with Poland syndrome.
Poland syndrome is a rare birth congenital condition which affects one side of the body and can cause underdevelopment of chest muscles and webbing or shorter fingers on that side of the body.
As for Caroline, it’s only presented in four bones not forming at all, Secundo said.
However, it was the accumulation of these events and all of the stress that came with it that eventually led to Secundo’s postpartum depression.
Four months into her postpartum depression, Secundo, her husband and her mother noticed something was off. Secundo said she wasn’t happy, was irritated all of the time, was aggressive and cried nonstop.
“I’d get up at three in the morning and clean the house because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just couldn’t turn off my mind,” Secundo said.
Brian Rivera, Secundo’s husband and a custodian, recalled her breaking point.
“She had gone into the restroom and you would hear her cry, but it wasn’t like when people (normally) cry, it was loud, like echoing into the room,” Rivera said. “That was when I knew she needed help.”
Rivera did some research and came across the OC Health Care Agency website. His call to them ed to the agency giving Secundo a quick survey to take in order to understand her symptoms.
The results came in and stated that she was showing signs of moderate to severe depression, and eventually was appointed to a therapist.
Rivera said he is always there to support his wife through any obstacle, and has made it clear that he’d always be there to push her through.
“Even if it was at 1 a.m. or even at 6 p.m. when I was working, I knew if she called I had to answer just to give her the support she needed during that time,” Rivera said.
Despite Secundo’s condition, through therapy and huge support from her husband and loved ones, she became an activist, a stronger woman and used her online presence as a platform to spread awareness.
Prior to her diagnosis, Secundo had been active on YouTube since 2014 creating beauty videos and makeup tutorials. By 2015, she had a following of 10,000 subscribers.
Because she already had a following on YouTube and Instagram, Secundo and her therapist both agreed that Secundo should share her story on those platforms to educate her followers on resources that people living with postpartum depression could take advantage of, and to also eliminate any stigmas people might associate with the condition.
“I just started posting what symptoms you should look for in postpartum women not only if you’re pregnant yourself, but if you have a family member, or a girlfriend, or a wife, those are the things you should be looking out for,” Secundo said.
After posting numerous stories on her Instagram and a video on YouTube briefly explaining her story involving her depression, her daughter and her experiences going to therapy, she has received lots of support and positive feedback from the online community.
“I’ve gotten probably hundreds of emails and DMs of girls and women telling me that they’ve had similar experiences, or that they’ve also gone through postpartum depression, but they didn’t have anyone to talk to because nobody really understood them,” Secundo said.
Above all, Secundo said she still prioritizes her family. Especially now with Caroline’s diagnosis potentially impacting the rest of her life as she grows older, Secundo’s goal is to overcome her depression and set a positive example for her daughter.
“I know that she is not gonna have an easy life with her differences, and I know that bullying is probably in her future. I have to stay strong and I have to get through this so that she has a strong mom that’s gonna help her get through what she has to get through,” Secundo said.
Secundo is not afraid to show herself being vulnerable. She has posted her bad days and other symptoms publically on Instagram. However, she wants to get a message about depression across that she learned from another woman in the community with postpartum depression.
“We don’t choose to have this illness, it chooses us,” Secundo said. “It’s okay to not be okay.”