When you hear someone had three children in less than four years, you might assume that is one lucky mom who had zero problems with labor, delivery, and postpartum. This is absolutely not the case with Jade Roper Tolbert. The Bachelor alumna has admitted as much on Instagram and her podcast. In the midst of her gorgeous feed full of sunny days, jaw-dropping real estate, and beautiful children, she has posted selfies of herself in the depths of baby blues and wishing she didn’t have to “Mom” for a day. But as she told SheKnows recently, she wasn’t always ready to share that side of her life with her followers … or even her husband.
Roper gave birth to second child Brooks on the floor of her walk-in closet with the help of her mom and a group of paramedics after her labor went faster than she’d expected. At the time, she shared photos of herself holding her baby in the closet and recounted her birth story on her podcast Mommies Tell All with fellow Bachelor alum Carly Waddell. But what she didn’t share was that the experience was traumatic, and she found herself facing a double whammy of PTSD and postpartum depression while caring for her newborn and her daughter, Emerson, a toddler at the time.
From the outside, her Instagram feed was still full of beautiful photos of those precious early moments with a snuggling baby. Which wasn’t exactly a lie, Roper tells us, even if it also wasn’t the whole story.
“I think it just shows that depression doesn’t always look sad,” she says of her picture-perfect posts of that time. “People can be living their lives and still have what they’re dealing with. I tried to share as many moments genuinely as possible, as if they were happy authentic moments I wanted to share. But I also know I wasn’t sharing the other side at that time. I do remember some people messaging me being like, ‘You look so sad behind your eyes.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, wow, they’re picking that up.’ I just wasn’t ready to share because I really wasn’t wanting to be seen like that yet. Especially the PTSD part … it was really hard to navigate, and I wasn’t really ready to share it yet because I just wasn’t OK.”
In fact, she wasn’t even sharing this with husband, Tanner Tolbert.
“I was very good at masking it, for one,” she says. “He knew I was sad, but he didn’t know how to give me help, and I didn’t know how to ask for help.”
But very shortly after getting through her depression, when Brooks was only 5 months old, Roper discovered she was pregnant again. This time, she knew she had to do things differently.
She told herself, “OK, like, this is a gift. I’m going to take it for what it is. I’m going to learn from what didn’t work and I’m going to try to really focus on my mental health and making myself a priority.”
Roper took a number of steps to help herself this time around. She hired a holistic midwife and planned her home birth instead of doing things in her closet. She also began to open up to the people who love her.
“I relied on a lot of speaking out and telling people how I felt, which I had never done before,” she tells us. “[Tanner and I] both really had open conversations about how we’re going to keep our communication lines open this time, and, ‘I’m going to tell you — even if it’s dark and ugly and not pretty — I’m going to tell you what I’m going through.’ … I feel like the support made a world of difference. [With Brooks] we were in this storm, and he didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what to do, but the journey is what brought us together.”
Roper also opened her communication lines with her followers. On one day in February, for example, she shared a photo of herself lying in bed, red-eyed and exhausted.
“Eleven weeks of no sleep and to be honest, I don’t want to mom today,” she wrote. “I’ve become more resilient this time around to letting the little expectations go, but the sleep deprivation during the newborn stage is brutal, and I’ve hit my wall. The intrusive thoughts and negative self-talk I’ve been able to keep at bay are wearing me down this week.”
It was a stark contrast to the sponsored posts and adorable family portraits that came before and after, and that, we think, makes it all the more helpful for other moms to see. We asked her what it felt like to decide to share these vulnerable moments.
“It’s actually very liberating,” Roper says. “I didn’t know I could even verbalize my feelings, and then it felt like it just needed to get out. I just felt like I needed to speak my truth for my own healing. And in terms of having a platform, I hoped it would resonate with anyone else who may have been experiencing exactly in that moment, what I felt.
“If I can help one other mom just feel like they finally have the courage to speak out and get the help that they need … I just want people to know that it’s OK to be feeling what you’re feeling,” she continues, tearing up with the memory of that flood of emotions. “We need to normalize that, and it’s OK to have [those feelings] and at the same time love your baby and love postpartum. Those feelings can coexist.”
Even though she earns part of her living from those beautiful sunshiny posts, Roper wasn’t concerned about upsetting brands with her vulnerable moments.
“I hope that the brands that I work with admire authenticity and reality,” she says. “It wasn’t like I was thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t share that because I might lose a sponsorship and if so, then I think that that brand needs to reevaluate. But I hope that more and more brands respect transparency because it relates to their audience.”
In fact, brands seem responsive to that message. One brand, Tommee Tippee, embraced that authenticity and recruited her to speak in a live conversation about the fourth trimester in April. In our conversation, she seamlessly shares how the brand’s breast pads and breast pump helped make her postpartum life just a little less messy and more comfortable.
One other source of comfort has been away from social media, too. Even as they’ve been separated during the pandemic, she leans on her good friend Carly Waddell for support.
“She and I are really close,” she explains. “We both had our daughters six months apart, so we’ve definitely gone through the new mom thing together. We parent differently, like all women parent the way that the best for them, but we also have a no-judgment zone. So I can talk to her about anything and know she’s just going to be an ear, which is great.”
Roper is also fortunate enough to have her own mother and her mother-in-law to speak to. And now she knows to lean on them more than ever.
“They always say it takes a village to raise a child; in the U.S., we really expect moms to do everything on their own, and it’s just nice to know that you don’t have to; you can ask for help, and that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You can rely on a support system. You need a support system.”