From the Bottom of the Bottle to the Bottom of the Ninth

Finding myself in the midst of motherhood and depression
The SRJC Softball team poses with Yna Bollock at home plate at Santa Rosas Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 20, 2024.
The SRJC Softball team poses with Yna Bollock at home plate at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 20, 2024.
Yna Bollock

It is April 20 and I am almost five months sober. 

The energy on Santa Rosa Junior College’s Marv Mayes softball field is electrifying. The bases are loaded and the score is 2-2 after SRJC center fielder Olivia Gabriel walks and scores pitcher Hailey Martin to tie the game. The Bear Cubs are up against the No. 2 state-ranked San Mateo Bulldogs on sophomore day, the final home game of the season. It is the bottom of the ninth and catcher Haley Wyatt is at bat with two outs on the board. Fans in the stands hold their collective breath and grip the edges of their seats. 

The pitcher winds up and throws. I hear the familiar crack of bat to ball. The crowd erupts as a base hit sails over the San Mateo shortstop’s head to left field and first baseman Sofia Uricoechea bolts from third to home for the win. I blink away the happy tears as I advance out of the dugout and jog toward the celebration at home plate, trying to capture every shout, leap and hug through my camera lens.


The team nearly clobbers Haley Wyatt as they run towards first base after her base hit secures the third run in to win in the bottom of the ninth against College of San Mateo at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 20, 2024. (Yna Bollock)


I have had the absolute honor of photographing sports for The Oak Leaf News this semester. I can’t believe I get to be out on the fields during game days and do my thing. I challenge myself and try to document everything from the arrivals, pregame rituals and peak action to the postgame and clean-up at the end of the day. I have finally found something I love to do, and now I have the opportunity. 

How could I not give it my all, especially considering the state of my life one year ago?

In the spring of 2023, I was quickly spiraling to rock bottom.

In the midst of learning how to be a mother of two, I lost a grandparent. My grandpa sparked my love of cameras, and he was one of my favorite people on Earth. When he died in March, my oldest child had just turned 3 and I had recently given birth to my second son seven weeks premature. The pregnancy was complicated and I had been placed on bedrest around Halloween. I was due around Valentine’s Day, but my son was born two days after Christmas. 

Yna Bollock poses for a photo with her husband Anthony and their two children at the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch on Saturday, October 28, 2023. (Yna Bollock)

Instead of resting and recovering, I spent nearly two weeks going back and forth from my home to the hospital to be with my little one. When I didn’t have to nurse him, I was almost relieved to have my body back, but I still had to pump every two hours to provide him what he needed. At first, I produced phenomenally, but as my body started to feel the effects of recovering from my C-section, my supply diminished. We eventually switched to formula entirely. My family and friends would exclaim, “Well at least you’re done with that,” not realizing the damage the inability to nurse was having on my mental health. 

I began to feel the effects of postpartum depression creep up, similar to when I had my oldest child. All of this happened as my grandpa’s illness progressed. There was no time to grieve, and I found myself uncorking a bottle of wine for a “glass” every night, which always turned into a full bottle.

A few months later, I lost a mentor to an accident. When the time came for the funeral, I was walking on eggshells. I just wanted to disappear. Knowing that my mentor’s demons were the same as mine, I was shattered. I poured myself a glass and could barely take a sip before the tears took over. The answer was never going to be at the bottom of the bottle. Was I really going to let darkness swallow me whole? 

The weight on my heart was almost unbearable. Drinking dampened the pain, but I knew I was toeing a dangerous line. I had reached a bottom I knew I couldn’t afford to stay in, and that’s where my camera came in.

I enrolled in a couple of online classes, beginning art and library resources, at SRJC in the fall 2023 semester to re-familiarize myself with school. Just enough to get my feet wet.

Fast forward to 2024, and I am full-time and in-person at SRJC. I decided to major in photojournalism because I love to tell stories with my camera. The minute my grandpa handed me his fancy Nikon camera at age 8, I was hooked on photography. I always walked around family parties to snap photos of friends and family enjoying each other’s company.

Centerfielder Olivia Gabriel prepares for the game with third baseman Gabby Schenone at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Yna Bollock)

Ever the shy kid, I found that looking through the lens allowed me to interact with them without becoming too overwhelmed. I fell even more in love after photographing travel softball last summer, so I researched team photographers and sports news photography. It checked all of the boxes I was looking for in a career. I felt elated — I was moving in the right direction.

Re-entering SRJC this time around proved more challenging than when I first took classes after high school more than a decade ago. Now, I had two tiny humans who depended on me. I could only attend school in the afternoon once my husband was home, and I could only take classes on certain days because of my full-time job.

I am so grateful to The Oak Leaf News for working with my schedule and welcoming me with open arms. 

I was only available to cover games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it always worked out to photograph softball. Watching the players’ commitment to the sport made me want to be better too. I started as a fly on the wall, shooting with a longer lens from the cutouts at first and third base. I didn’t dare move past the athletic trainers at the back of the dugout.

I began to share my photos on social media and received positive feedback from the players and their friends and family. I found this to be a good window to introduce myself to the players who made their way to my Instagram. 

Outfielder Nataya Brown stretches a rubber band as she works on pitcher Jessica Hernandez’s game day hair against College of San Mateo at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 20, 2024. (Yna Bollock)

I was wary though because I did not want to be a distraction during game days. Eventually, the players began to say hello and get goofy with me in the dugout. Now braver, I inched closer to them every game, always making sure to stay respectful and out of their way. I found creative spots near the dugout and in the stands to capture the team in more off-action ways.

As the semester progressed, some games began before my husband came home from work, making it challenging for me to get to them. At first I questioned whether bringing my children to the games was a good idea, but missing a game was not an option. Being an athlete takes dedication and I wanted to show these players that I was equally as dedicated to making every home game in show of support. 

So one day I loaded the double stroller with half a lifetime’s worth of supplies, added my two kids, and photographed the first game of the day. I made sure we were not in harm’s way and shot with a long lens from the outfield fence. It felt insane at first, but then my oldest began to ask to go to the softball fields with me every day, and it became our thing.

Integrating my home and school life on the softball field healed much of the pain I experienced in the early stages of motherhood. Especially after coaches and trainers approached me and encouraged me.

One trainer who also had young children was floored to discover that at one point, my 1-year-old was hanging out in a carrier while I photographed near home plate. He said, “Moms can do it all!” 

I replied, “Yes, we can!” It took several breaths to keep from crying. Hearing those encouraging words strengthened my resolve. This could really work.

Yna Bollock photographs from behind home plate with baby Joe in a carrier during a softball game against Taft at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.


On April 20, the team honors its sophomores in true fashion with a walk-off win in game No. 2 to beat the Bulldogs. SRJC Coach Madison Green heads to the dugout triumphant as her team races towards first base to celebrate Wyatt’s game-winning hit in their final home game. I see her motioning to her arms as if to say, “Goosebumps!” I have them, too.

After the game, each sophomore takes a final walk to the mound carrying bouquets of flowers and personalized gift baskets given to them by the freshmen. My camera fills up with photos of the young women making their way to the mound, as well as photos of each with their friends and family. Everything comes full circle for me as I stand in the middle of a field I could not have imagined five months earlier. Players and their parents, friends and family members are approaching me and thanking me for my work. 


Adriana Novak takes a selfie with the rest of the team after their victory against Modesto at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Yna Bollock)


Just before I leave, members of the team present me with my very own basket, complete with snacks and a kneeling pad for when I take lower angle action shots. An athlete’s father painted my logo into a sign. When I asked why he would do such a thing, catcher Esperanza Marquez, whose father painted the sign, said, “Because you’re our photographer, that’s why!” 

Tears flood my eyes as I mumble an incoherent word of thanks. Their generosity continues to floor me. No longer just a fly on the wall, I felt like I have become part of the team. 

This semester changed my life. I am grateful for all of it — bad and good — from struggling with depression to shooting more than 25 games this season. I am excited to see where next semester takes me. As the Marv Mayes dugout would say, “Ain’t no party like a Bear Cub party!”


SRJC Softball gifts Yna a basket of goodies including a hand painted sign from kez.pinstriping of her logo at sophomore day at Santa Rosa’s Marv Mayes Field on Saturday, April 20, 2024. (Yna Bollock)
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About the Contributor
Yna Bollock
Yna Bollock, Reporter
Yna Bollock is in her first semester with the Oak Leaf. She has been working on prerequisites for the last two semesters and is elated to begin major specific requirements for the journalism program, specifically photojournalism. Prior to pursuing a photojournalism degree, she graduated from SRJC’s culinary program in 2013. In 2020, following a layoff from the hospitality industry, Yna graduated from the CNA program in June in an effort to stay gainfully employed throughout the pandemic. Now in 2024, she is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s of arts in photojournalism.

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