Graeme Seabrook

Graeme Seabrook is a mom of two from Charleston, SC. After suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of her son, Graeme sought out support groups online and in her area. Those groups saved her and turned her into a fan of and advocate for peer support. Graeme writes about her journey with maternal mental illness and parenting with PTSD on her website, postpartummama.org.

Graeme Seabrook is the author of The Postpartum Mama.

About Graeme Seabrook

Graeme Seabrook is a mom of two from Charleston, SC. After suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of her son, Graeme sought out support groups online and in her area. Those groups saved her and turned her into a fan of and advocate for peer support. Graeme writes about her journey with maternal mental illness and parenting with PTSD on her website, postpartummama.org.

Warrior Mom Strong with Cotton Babies

Image: Cotton BabiesOnly a few weeks ago, almost 200 Warrior Moms recently joined together in Atlanta for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom® Conference, showing the world they are #warriormomstrong, thanks to the support of companies like Cotton Babies.

Inspired by our courageous community, Cotton Babies not only debuted a new video (which has already reached over 82,500 people with its message of hope), but they also brought along samples of their brand new line of clothes and gifts, STRONG. Cotton Babies is a great friend to us here at Postpartum Progress. They support our mission and our work, and they were one of the very first to sponsor the Warrior Mom Conference®.

I had the honor and pleasure of attending the conference this year and last year. I’ve seen what #WarriorMomStrong is. It’s women buying tickets for something that is almost a year away in the hope that they will learn more, create stronger connections, and be better able to help other mamas in their communities.

It is moms with anxiety reaching through the fear and out to each other. It is pictures taken on airplanes by women who are shaking, but resolved. It is pictures taken in cars packed with moms making this journey together.

image: Amy DinglerThis is the strength that comes from finally seeing in person a sister you made online. It is strength born of tears on shoulders and the tightest of hugs.

#WarriorMomStrong is also some women realizing that they were not ready to be with us, for many different reasons. It is women giving up their tickets and wishing us well from afar. We felt you.

Strength like this is generous. It is the generosity of time – of volunteers and of attendees who constantly ask, “How can I help you? What do you need?”

Strength like this is brave. It is speaking your truth to a room of almost 200 women.

It is kind. It is offering a shoulder, or a hug, or a handkerchief.

It is bold. It is telling the stranger in the elevator what conference you are in the hotel for, and doing it with your head held high.

It creates a sisterhood. It is groups of warrior moms spreading all over Atlanta to get tattoos and others going just to hold their hands.

credit: Miranda WickerI am still amazed at the strength of warrior moms. For some this was the very first time they had ever left their children, or been on an airplane, or met the people they were roommates with, or ridden public transportation, or been to any type of conference at all. Being surrounded by these women for a few days in October has given me the strength to come home and fight on. It has fueled my fire.

At Postpartum Progress, we are proud to be #WarriorMomStrong and grateful to Cotton Babies for seeing our courage and supporting our work to help all moms feel like the good moms they are. Tell us what makes you or someone you love #WarriorMomStrong, and don’t forget to check out the STRONG gift series from Cotton Babies.

 

Image Credit – Cotton Babies

Image Credit – Amy Dingler Photography

Image Credit – Miranda Wicker

PPD, Anxiety, & PTSD as the World Falls Apart

PPD, Anxiety, & PTSD as the World Falls Apart

I couldn’t leave the house yesterday.

That’s really hard to admit. I’m a Warrior Mom® Ambassador. I run the Facebook group for our Warrior Mom® Conference attendees. I lead a support group. I help coach women through pregnancies after a PMAD. I am the strong one, the one you count on, the one with the resources and the answers and the shoulder to cry on.

I’m also a black woman, mother to a black son, daughter to a black father, sister, friend, cousin, aunt. I grew up hearing stories of my father registering people to vote across the South. They were stories of terror in broad daylight and nights spent driving with no headlights on. I grew up on the narrative that my parents, and their parents, and everyone who made me possible had paid a debt so that I could be free, so that I could be safe in this country.

Last year I was followed and harassed by a police officer here in my home town. I was pregnant with my second child at the time and had just made it to what I considered my new normal after battling postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t know then that I also had PTSD. All I knew was that I was vomiting, sobbing, and shaking in a parking lot and praising the lord that I was alive.

My daughter is eight months old. I’ve been so lucky to not experience any major relapses in my postpartum depression or anxiety and to have my PTSD under control. I see a therapist every week. I take my medication every day. I practice self-care and I reach out for help when I need it.

I have so many privileges: financial, educational, heterosexual, light skin, in a relationship with a white partner. And still. I’ve spent the last two nights unable to sleep. First because I couldn’t get the voice a four year old girl trying to comfort her mother out of my head. Then last night it really felt like the world was falling apart.

As I write this we still don’t have details on the sniper(s) in Dallas. I know that one is dead and the others are in custody. The officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are both on paid administrative leave. They haven’t been arrested. I have no reason to believe there will be any arrests, convictions, or any type of punishment at all for the deaths of those men. Or for the murders of scores of boys and girls, men and women of color before them. Or for me if an officer decides to take my tone of voice, my reaching for my license, my skin color as a threat.

When I say #BlackLivesMatter, it is in desperation and defiance. I say it because I see no evidence that it is believed to be true in this country. I say it because after everything my father went through, after everything his father, and his, and his went through so that I could live free I still don’t feel safe.

I know that I am more fragile than I seem from the outside. We all know that you can’t see postpartum depression or anxiety. You can’t see PTSD. When the panic attacks came at the thought of leaving the house and taking my son to camp, I had a choice to make. I chose to be honest with my partner about how I was feeling. I chose to reach out to my therapist and let her know I was not okay. I chose to keep my kids home with me, where I feel safe. We watched Disney movies and played with the baby, and dumped way too much bubble bath into the tub. I jumped at every sound and shook when sirens passed my house. I touched base with my relatives and made sure that I knew they were all safe. I tried my best not to get sucked into debates online.

This morning I left the house. I drove my son to camp. When I got home I fell apart. Then I put myself back together and sat down to start work.

I want to be the strong one. The one with the answers, and the resources and the shoulder to cry on. I want to be an ambassador, and a moderator, and a coach. I want to be the strong black woman that I am expected to be.

But I’m not. I’m scared. I’m scared that I will never feel free. I’m scared that someone I love will be the next hashtag. I’m scared that I will be the next hashtag. I’m scared that I will forever be shouting #BlackLivesMatter into the world and it will never, ever be true.

 

Why Aren’t We Screening Every Mom?

Why Aren't We Screening Every Mom for Postpartum Depression?

Yet another study has been published stating that universal depression screening is effective and feasible. This one covered 9000 women and showed that women who were screened in pregnancy were much more likely to get treatment. Once again we see a link between screening and good outcomes for moms. So why aren’t more doctors screening every mom? Were you screened?

I wasn’t. I’m pretty sure that I cried at every single prenatal appointment that I had. At first I blamed it on shock. We’d only been dating about five months when we found out I was pregnant. Then I blamed it on hormones. My OB never gave me the EPDS (the most widely used screening tool) or spoke to me directly about depression. She did ask how I was feeling, and she was very reassuring that the three of us would be okay. Looking back now I can see that she was worried about me: I was the classic definition of a depressed woman. So why didn’t she screen me?

I have a history with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed in my early 20’s and medicated for almost a year. That information was in my chart. So why didn’t she screen me?

Adam and I went to all of the birth classes offered at our local hospital. I was extremely anxious, almost terrified of the process, of everything that was happening to us and of everything that was to come. No one mentioned postpartum depression or anxiety in any of the classes. They very definitely didn’t mention anxiety or depression during pregnancy. Why did no one tell me the ” title=”Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety” alt=”Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety”>risk factors?

If I had been screened I definitely would have been flagged. I definitely would have gotten help. Inside I was hoping and praying for someone to save me, but I didn’t have the words; I didn’t know what was happening to me. If Adam and I had ever seen a list of risk factors for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) it could have changed everything. Looking at it now I see just a long list of, “Yup, that’s me!”

Studies like this one are so necessary. They back up the lived experience of moms and families all across the country.

“The results of this study suggest that routine depression screening in women, both during pregnancy and postpartum, can lead to high levels of mental healthcare use among women who screen positive.”

For just one moment let me speak to any Obstetricians, Midwives, Doulas, Nurses, and anyone reading this who interacts with pregnant women and new moms: Please screen every pregnant woman and every new mother you come in contact with. Please tell pregnant women and new mothers the risk factors for PMADs. Please explain the prevalence of antenatal depression and anxiety. Early detection and treatment can save lives, it can change lives, it can work miracles. Women do not have to suffer in silence. You can save us.

To all the moms out there who weren’t screened: I’m sorry. I want you to know that I am one of you. I want you to know that I have promised my daughter that if she is ever pregnant, this will NOT happen to her. I, and so many other mamas, am working at the community level to ensure that every mom is screened. Postpartum Progress is helping to lobby for legislation that will move us towards universal screening. There is so much that you can do to help!

Call your doctor and ask why you weren’t screened. Ask if they are planning to implement a screening program for pregnant women. Share studies like the one discussed here that show how effective screening is.

Call your hospital and ask if the risk factors for PMADs are discussed during birth classes.

Call your midwife or birth center and ask if they screen every mom.

Call your doula and ask if she discusses risk factors with moms and screens moms.

Contact your Senator or Representative and ask if they are voting for the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act.

Help me keep the promise I made to my daughter. Let’s get screening for #EveryMomEveryTime.

Healing Through C-Section

[Editor’s Note: This is our second post in a two-part series on c-sections today. Contributing Writer Graeme Seabrook shares how her planned c-section helped heal her heart. You can part one of our c-section series here. -Jenna]

Healing Through C-Section -postpartumprogress.com

The birth of our first child, a son born in 2013, scarred me in more ways than one. I went from a routine doctor visit to being told I was seriously ill, through terror that I would lose the baby or my life, and finally into an emergency c-section.

Afterwards I had postpartum depression, anxiety. and I still struggle with PTSD.

And then we got pregnant again. Our daughter wasn’t planned, and my anxiety spiked. What if everything went wrong again? What if I got sick again? Could I handle this? Every time I thought about her birth I could feel the panic chasing me, nipping at my heels. I knew I wanted it to be different, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.

We called a doula. At our first meeting with her she asked if I was planning to have a natural birth or another c-section. The idea stopped me in my tracks. To me c-sections were something horrible that happened to you, not something that you could control. I knew immediately that was what I wanted. I was going to have a do-over.

At one of our last OB appointments our doula, Lin, joined us. She had worked with my doctor before and the two of them walked Adam and I through how everything would happen. When I worried about whether it would all work out, Lin reminded me, “Different baby, different experience.” It became my mantra.

On November 2, 2015 we got to the hospital around five o’clock in the morning and checked in. Lin helped me to keep the anxiety in check, and Adam held my hand and made really bad jokes with all the nurses during my prep. Everything was smooth and easy. It was so easy that I started to feel guilty. What if the baby wasn’t ready to come? Was I being selfish and forcing her out (one week) early? Lin pointed to the monitor where we could see that I had been having contractions the entire time we were getting prepped. My doctor confirmed: This baby was coming today one way or another.

“Are you ready to have your baby?”

“YES.”

And everything went as planned. I walked into the OR and the nurse said, “Just hop on up here, hon”, while patting the table and we both laughed because no way was I hopping anywhere. I was never alone; I was never afraid. Lin stood at my head talking me through everything that was happening, reminding me that everyone was following my plan. Adam sat by my side, holding my hand and kissing my forehead.

In between updates on what they were doing, the doctors asked me about my son, talked about their children, and we even talked about Jane the Virgin, which I’d been watching throughout my pregnancy. I was surrounded by women who were taking care of me and helping me bring my baby into the world. If a operating room could feel both relaxed and sacred at the same time, this one did.

“You’re going to feel a pull, she’s coming now.”

And then there she was. Held up so that I could see her, brought to me so that I could touch her before being whisked away for the Apgar tests (during which she pooped profusely on the nurse and the room erupted in laughter). As they were closing me up everyone talked about how beautiful she was. Adam stood by the nurse and was able to carry her back to me and lay her on my chest. I can’t tell you much of what happened after that as my world had narrowed down to the most beautiful baby girl in the world.

At the end of her first home visit with us, Lin said she needed to get something off of her chest. She didn’t usually like to work c-sections, she said, because they were clinical. She wanted to thank us for choosing her, for allowing her to be there. She said my c-section had changed her mind about what they could be.

I might always have to work through everything that happened to me on the night my son was born. I can’t change it, only learn to live with it.

I will never regret, or be anything other than thankful, for everything that happened on the morning I gave birth to my daughter. I wouldn’t change a minute of it for the world.