I Am A Warrior Mom

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Warrior Mom ConferenceHere at Postpartum Progress, we choose our words with intention.  “Warrior Mom” is no exception.

Every mom’s journey through PPD is different and we all see our experiences in a way that helps and heals us.  In my six years advocating for mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, I’ve met moms who call themselves “survivors,” and others who identify themselves simply as “having experienced PPD.”  And while there is no right or wrong way to think about your time struggling with depression or anxiety, for the mamas who join us here at Postpartum Progress, “Warrior Mom” resonates and empowers in a way other language falls short.

In 9 short weeks, over 100 of these amazing women will come together in Boston for the inaugural  Warrior Mom™ Conference, the first patient-centered conference on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  A few of the attendees recently shared why the phrase “Warrior Mom” resonates with them:

The phrase “Warrior Mom” makes me feels strong, like I have some control.  I’m not a victim.  I’m not “suffering” from PMADs.  I’m fighting and surviving.  When things get crazy and out of control, I can at least give myself a positive label that gives me the confidence to push on, even if only a minute at a time.  I’m not a solo warrior.  I’m part of a band of warriors in a tribe of motherhood, and that… feels a lot less lonely and hopeless than being a victim.

– Amber Swinford Dunn

 

I felt so weak after having my baby and falling apart.  I felt like there was a war for my life and my soul that I couldn’t win.  The war went on for so long and I stumbled and fell so many times.  Finally, the smoke started to clear and I could see the battlefield.  I could see fears and pain that I had slain.  I could see friends and family standing beside me, some wounded in their own ways.  I could see legions of other mamas, each fighting their own wars.  The field stretched out seemingly forever.  And that is when I finally realized who I am.  I am a warrior.  I fight for myself, for my babies, for my family.  I also fight beside every other mama out there.  I fight against stigma and for funding.  I fight for treatment and for education.  I am a warrior, forged in battle and ready to lead.

– Gra Sea

 

The phrase to me means I’ve made it through my own personal war and survived.  Although I have scars, they have healed and keep fading as time goes on.  I’m stronger for the battle I fought and I am a Warrior Mom.  I now am there for other moms going through this war, to stop the stigma and help them get past the battle.

– Tara Stafford DeTore

 

The term Warrior Mom resonates with me because in my darkest moments I would visualize myself in an empty stadium facing my nemesis.  Then slowly the stands surrounding me filled with everybody I knew was supporting me.  Each seat was occupied with someone who wanted what was best for me, was encouraging me, was helping in my recovery, or reminding me that they had been there and had come out the other side.  As a Warrior Mom™ in recovery, I had to do the work on my own, but that didn’t mean I was alone.  During a time when I felt mostly powerless to the thoughts in my head, this moment of meditation would bring me peace and awareness that I (with my army of supporters) was powerful beyond measure.

– Kersten Larson

We had so many responses to our post that we’ll be sharing the rest next week, in Part Two!  Be sure to come back for more from our amazing advocates and Warrior Moms.

For the latest in Warrior Mom™ Conference news and information (and to take part in the conference from home), be sure you’re following us over on Facebook!

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Paralyzed By Fear: I Think I Had Postpartum OCD

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221144_843371654546_2779282_oBefore I knew I had PPD and anxiety, I thought the obsession I had with making sure my son was still breathing was normal. I found out eventually that it wasn’t, but not until after I had spent months totally paralyzed by the thought of losing him to something I couldn’t control.

Instead of finding ways to calm my fears, I found myself diving deep into the blog of a family that had lost their first child to SIDS. I didn’t know the family at all. I can’t really remember how I found their blog-maybe it was a friend of a friend of a friend. Their real-life nightmare was my nightmare. I could not shake the fear that the same fate would fall upon us.

I barely slept for months. I researched every way to “prevent” it and I made that a policy. I put off crib naps as much as possible-I had to hold him so I could watch him breathe. He stayed in the Pack-n-Play in our room for over five months so he was within reach. I joked that that way I could poke him to make sure he was ok. Except it wasn’t a joke-I really did it, at least twice a night.

The thing about all of this was, I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I probably knew that I was torturing myself by obsessing over the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself from typing that address in my browser. I knew what I was doing wasn’t all that healthy, but I didn’t really know how to stop. Once I got a therapist at seven months postpartum, we had passed the main window for SIDS loss, so I never really brought it up with her because I believed my fears were slowly subsiding. Yet, I still leaned over the crib rails every night before I went to bed and told him I loved him so it was the last thing I said to him….just in case. I still found myself holding my breath every morning until I heard him call for me. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suspect now that my therapist would’ve diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD if I had been open about it.

When the twins were born, I forked over money I didn’t really have for the portable SIDS monitors. They allowed me to sleep by quieting the voice of fear that was peeking from behind the medication I was on to keep the anxiety and depression at bay. The video monitor someone gifted us helped me, too. I wasn’t without concern, what mother is, but I was much calmer, more aware of my own actions that perpetuated my fears, and understood that I could not control everything.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I wake up with that same feeling that used to keep me awake for hours. On the nights I can’t shake it, I tiptoe into their rooms and kiss their sweaty, sweet-smelling heads, and tell all three of them I love them…one more time. The fear never really left me, but I try my hardest not to let it rule me like I did for so long.

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The Alcoholic Mother: on self-medicating PPD and anxiety

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mommyAsher

I was never a normal drinker, I just didn’t know that until I knew that. Before I had kids, whenever I drank, I drank a lot. Having just one or two never made sense to me. It wasn’t enough, because the one or two brought on the ease–a “click” that released me–and I wanted more, more, more.

I see now that my drinking increased after my first son was born. Of course, this wasn’t about him but rather, it was about the way I handled motherhood. I did not handle it well, and for years, I blamed myself for that. In reality, depression and anxiety coupled with a healthy dose of alcoholic genes muddied my coping skills. And I now know there were hormonal and biochemical reasons that were invisible and mysterious but proved themselves to me on a daily basis.

In a way, becoming a mother pushed all the buttons that would bring me to my knees, and hindsight tells me that despite the pain, I needed to be there.

I was bonding with my firstborn, but I was constantly terrified. There was a heavy weight behind my eyes and in my chest, at the pit of my stomach, down to my toes. I felt incapable and alone. I feared every horrible fear. I was sleep-deprived, martyring, begging to be seen, exhausted and empty.

I did not drink through my pregnancies, but I picked it up as soon as I possibly could postpartum. I pumped and dumped a lot. I fantasized about the days when I wouldn’t have to even consider it, and when the last day of breastfeeding arrived, I celebrated it with a lot of wine, and then slowly, carefully, and sneakily, my drinking grew and grew like my children. Fast and slow all at once. By this time, I had two beautiful boys and I loved them deeply. I spent my days with them and continued to feel depressed and anxious. I didn’t talk about it, I just moved through the hours that felt like quicksand, and I drank too much every night, to escape.

Had I known that my mind and body were experiencing something that has a name, that it had started with PPD and severe anxiety, perhaps my drinking would not have spiraled. I can’t say for sure, but I know now that getting help would have certainly been a better course of action than the road I chose, or that chose me. Or both. I have always held the propensity for alcoholism and it lived itself out, triggered by a condition, or conditions.

I got help over five years ago, between my second and third babies. I am sober, and was sober throughout the postpartum period after my third baby, a girl, was born. Unfortunately, I had the most severe depression and anxiety during this time. But what I did not do was drink. What I knew then was that drinking only exacerbated my symptoms, made them so much worse. This time, I got help. I went to more meetings for support. I called on my sponsor. I saw my doctor and started medications. I kept talking. I had learned that talking about the darkness of my mind stole the power from The Big Scary Things.

I was not perfectly fine, but I was free of the gripping snare of addiction. I was free of that shame and guilt. I was no longer a drinking mother, I was simply a struggling mother, as so many of us are, together.

Motherhood brings with it incredible joys and sorrows. Our children are certainly worth every good and bad thing that arises within us as we learn to handle the stress and fears that come with parenting. There is grace in letting go of the fear of help. Speaking our truths takes the power from even the grasp of addiction. If you are struggling with addiction, please know you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust. Get help. There is freedom and peace on the other side.

:::::

Heather King writes at The Extraordinary Ordinary.

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Finding Help: Pediatricians Can Defend Against Postpartum Depression

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by Lindsay Maloan
boss-fight-stock-images-photos-free-baby-stars

(photo via Boss Fight)

Most moms wouldn’t ask their pediatricians to check them out if they thought something was wrong. After all, they specialize in children, not women.

But in the early months of motherhood, moms spend more time at the pediatrician’s office than they do with their own doctors, so wouldn’t it make sense for pediatricians to know the signs and symptoms of a suffering mama?

People are starting to think so.

Thanks to social media, an article by Dr. Linda Chaudron, describing how pediatricians can be an important line of defense against PPD, is making the rounds. Even though it was published in 2003, people are beginning to pay attention to it now. You can find it here.

My pediatrician was the one that got me the help I needed after my own doctor insisted I was fine. By the time my son’s six-month appointment came around, she had seen us enough times to know that I wasn’t myself. She asked ME how I was feeling in a way that I felt like she just knew, and that’s when I asked her if she knew of someone who would actually listen to me and help me get better.

She took literally two minutes of her time and it changed our lives. She used the knowledge she already had, mixed it with compassion, and sent me on my way with the names and phone numbers of two doctors-a therapist and a general practitioner-who could take the reins. That’s it. No diagnosis, no prescriptions, just information on how I could get help.

That’s exactly what Dr. Chaudron’s paper suggests pediatricians do: take a very small amount of time, utilize knowledge and resources they already have, and pass the information on in a small way that can make a major difference.

So if you’re a mama that’s struggling or know of one, don’t overlook a pediatrician as a line of defense against the darkness. They help your babies, and they just might be able to help you. All you have to do is ask—but hopefully, they’ll ask first.

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