Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Raising Awareness of Stillbirth: A Mother’s Story

2 Degrees FoundationWe’re so happy to welcome Debbie Haine Vijayvergyia to the blog today, sharing her story in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Debbie is the co-founder of Action for Stillbirth Awareness & Prevention and the 2 Degrees Foundation.  If you have experienced a loss, please know this post might be triggering. 

Since I was a young girl, the only thing that I was 100% certain of was that one day I would become a mom. As a little girl, I fondly remember playing with all of my baby dolls, always pretending to be “the mommy.” Not once was I ever given a reason to believe that the whole process of becoming a mother would be remotely difficult.

Fast forward 30 years.

My first pregnancy was easy and uneventful. However, a week after my daughter was born I came down with a late presentation of Group B Strep which nearly killed me.  I can’t lie, it wasn’t pretty but I got through it. Many people would often ask me if I would consider having more children after such a traumatic post birth experience. I was always a little surprised by this question, but of course I would reply, one day.

A year later I suffered my first miscarriage. I made peace with it, acknowledging that our daughter was still very young and that waiting another year would be better for everyone. I never once worried about what my future pregnancy outcomes would look like. The following year I suffered my second miscarriage which was a much tougher pill to swallow. I was 8 weeks along when I started spotting. Ultrasounds showed the baby’s heart beating strong and my OB decided to put me on bed rest hoping that maybe a little time with my feet up was all I needed. Unfortunately the spotting became heavier and my pain intensified over a couple of weeks. I felt like a ticking time bomb and one night the bomb went off. It resulted in an ambulance ride, 10 hours in the ER, and a broken heart. At that point I didn’t think things could get any worse.

The next year I was pregnant yet again. I was anxious but at the same time, I was feeling great and was confident that everything was going to be ok. As silly as it may sound, at this point, I convinced myself that I had been through enough and had “paid my dues” to the fertility gods. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case; at a routine 2nd trimester checkup my obstetrician could not detect my baby’s heartbeat. There are no words to describe the overwhelming sense of devastation I felt. I was broken. Life would never, could ever be the same.

Six weeks later, our autopsy report showed us that our daughter’s umbilical cord had collapsed, which resulted in her oxygen source being cut off. My doctor informed us that this was extremely uncommon, like being struck by lightning, as he tried to ease our anxiety when discussing the idea of a subsequent pregnancy.

Stillbirth is defined as a fetus that dies during the 20th week of gestation or later, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I think that up until this time I had heard the word stillbirth or stillborn used maybe once or twice. I honestly couldn’t understand how my low-risk, healthy pregnancy had ended this way.

I learned the hard way that stillbirth isn’t as uncommon as we are led to believe. The fact is that stillbirth causes approximately 26,000 deaths a year in the United States — that is approximately 71 babies a day (2000 each month). Even with numbers like these, stillbirth remains one of the most understudied and underfunded public health issues today.

After losing my daughter Autumn, it took me a very long time to come to terms with our new reality. The only way that I could make any sense of our heartbreaking tragedy was to give it a purpose. I couldn’t sit by and let others suffer like we had, I felt compelled to help them. I have since become heavily involved in stillbirth advocacy and work on a daily basis to create more awareness around stillbirth and improve outcomes.

Almost exactly a year to the date that I brought our sweet sleeping girl into the world, I delivered a healthy beautiful boy. My son gives me so much hope; not just for myself but for others.

I have to believe that with hope we will be able to discover why stillbirths occur and how we can begin to prevent them. Hope will help us overcome the stigma associated with stillbirth. Hope will put stillbirth on the map so that it gains the recognition that it deserves.

Whatever you do, please don’t give up, you’re not alone. We can do this together- the more we talk about it the less it can be ignored. #pregnancyandinfantlossawarenessmonth #stillbirthawareness #stillbornstillmatters #the2degreesfoundation #breakthesilence #endstillbirths

Rise Up With Postpartum Progress

I have no words that can make this any better or more beautiful than it already is. Just watch this incredible PSA for maternal mental health and Postpartum Progress.

 

Thank you thank you thank you thank you to the immensely talented Jill Krause of Baby Rabies. Thank you thank you thank you to Cotton Babies for being a brand that truly cares about maternal mental health. Thank you to BMG Gold and the writers of “Rise Up” Jennifer Decilveo and Cassandra Monique Batie, and performer Andra Day. We are so grateful.

Together. Stronger.

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photo by Amy Dingler

2nd Annual Warrior Mom® Conference: Time Off For Mom

2016 WMC LogoToday’s post comes from 2016 Warrior Mom® Conference speaker and attendee Kelly Bauer, with the help of some of the incredible women who will come together on October 14th and 15th in Atlanta at the conference. Kelly is a mother, wife, writer, and storyteller. On her blog, MotherhoodMisfit.com, she discusses motherhood, her journey through postpartum anxiety and OCD, and her experience with grief after losing her unborn daughter, Clara, to Spina Bifida, 22 weeks into pregnancy. She will be presenting a session entitled “Momposters: Why Real Moms Feel Like Frauds” at this year’s conference.

In the next few days, nearly 200 women, the majority of them survivors of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, will descend upon Atlanta for the 2nd annual Warrior Mom® Conference. It is an event which many of us have been looking upon with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Personally, these days leading up to the conference have been a poignant reminder of just how badly I need the break.

Yesterday, my son came home with some bug bites which he had gotten while at daycare. These things happen of course, and so I put some ointment on them and put him to bed, not really giving it a second thought. Later, I awoke in the middle of the night in a panic, overwhelmed, with an intense drive to check on his bites. I wasn’t checking for anything in particular … I was just … checking. It’s sort of what I do. You see, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Oh, and also PTSD. I know … I’m a blast at parties. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night gripped with fear I wish that I could be anywhere else, just temporarily. It is in those moments that I wish, most desperately, for a vacation from my mind and it’s fearful whims, even briefly.

The guilt follows soon thereafter. A little voice inside my head tells me that to want to be temporarily elsewhere must mean that I am a terrible mother.  Surely good mothers don’t want to be away from their families, right?

Wrong.

Those of us who are gathering for the Warrior Mom® Conference will be doing just that – spending time with each other, away from our families. Well, we’ll be doing that and learning, laughing and loving of course. Some of us do so reservedly, and understandably so. For even though most of us know that to desire time away, in the company of women who understand and support you, is a completely healthy thing to want, we still sometimes cling to the mom guilt which tells us that we must always be sacrificing ourselves. Some of us still battle mental health issues which sit perched on our shoulders, whispering doubt into our ears about the idea of being far from the safety of our homes. These malicious little shoulder whisperers tell us that even the exhaustion, depression, and fear are safer, because with them we are familiar. With them, at least, we know where we stand.

Does that sound like you, mama? It’s okay if it does. Sometimes that sounds like me, too.

As an antidote to that doubt, I’d like to share with you some reasons to spend time away for you. Specifically, I’d like to share reasons to attend the Warrior Mom® Conference, from the mothers who are attending themselves. Below are some quotes from mothers who are going to this year’s conference, explaining exactly why they decided to go. You’ll see that their reasons are as varied as the walks of life from which they come. I hope that among them, you find a reason which silences your own doubts.

“I am coming so I can have ‘me’ time, free of the responsibility of being Mommy/Wife/Chef/Maid, etc. So I can socialize with other women, surrounding myself with people who understand all the feelings surrounding motherhood. For support, hugs, learning and laughter.” -Mariah W.

“I’m going because I honestly want to embrace and hug every single woman there. I need that energy and I need that sense of community.” – Jennifer S.

“I periodically consider backing out. I’m so overwhelmed by life. I am still going because I need the time to focus on me and to learn. Time to be with other adults who get it. I’m so anxious about traveling and that’s where I’m getting stuck. But everything is paid for and I feel I need to go. I know once I’m there it will be fabulous and awesome.” – Julie V.

“I’m going (again) because it was a great learning experience. It is also a time for me to unwind (and hubby to take over child responsibility). It’s an amazing feeling to be in a room with people who get it, who have similar stories. There is this incredible bond we have. I am going for hugs. I am going to share my story to help others. I am going to learn from others. I am also going because everything is paid for and I’ve never been to Atlanta.” – Stephanie B.

“Because being with Warrior Moms is one of the only times I find I don’t feel like I have to take care of anyone else. That other people rush to help fill me up.” -Susan P.

“I’m going to take care of me. I need a break. I need time to myself to learn and spend time with strong women.” – Bridget D.

“I’m going because I want to be surrounded with amazing women that just get it. I can be me and not feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. To learn as much as I can so I can bring it back home and help other mamas. To be able to just relax and let go and not have to worry about the everyday things that have me stressed and overwhelmed.” – Brittany G.

“I’m going because I have to. Can’t articulate fancy reasons. My soul demands it.” – Courtney H.

“You don’t need to do or be anything at the conference, just show up. That’s it. And feel yourself being held up by all the other mamas. Hearing other women’s stories, in person, is something so profound. I’m going because I have to. Because I went last year and I still don’t have all the right words to describe how profound it was and maybe I never will. It’s such a powerful feeling.” – Danielle N.

“I’m going because I feel like this is the final step in my healing. Because when I wake up I don’t feel scared or anxious or alone anymore. Because going means I have acknowledged how far I’ve come and where I’m going. Because I want to celebrate all the successes we’ve achieved and be inspired to help mamas achieve that same success.” – Carolyn S.

“Because last year I walked in empty and left full. Of energy, of inspiration, of purpose, of ideas.

Because this year has been so hard and I need a refill.

Because I won’t have to change a diaper or remind anyone to pee.

Because I’ll get to sleep in a dry bed with no one on top of me.

Because I’ll get hugs and drinks and crying and laughter and learning and knitting and geeking out with the only women who really understand.

Because if I don’t get away I might just crumble into a billion pieces.

And you. I’m coming to see you.”

-Graeme S.

As for me? I’m going in order to learn from women who are further in their recovery from me. I’m also going so that I can inspire women who may not be as far in recovery as me. Hell, I’m going so I can remind myself that there ARE other women who have walked and are walking the same path as me. I am going because those women understand me. They hold space for me. I am going so that I can participate in that glorious exchange of energy that happens when you bring women together who have survived and are thriving.

Whatever the reason, if you’re coming to the Warrior Mom® Conference this year, know that we are so glad to have you. And if you couldn’t make it this year, that’s fine too. We are still holding space and love for you. Also know that we can’t wait until the day you are able to join, and can share with us the unique reason that brings you.

Until then, here’s to being a great mom who occasionally wants to spend time away.

#warriormomcon

Thank you so much to our Warrior Mom® Conference 2016 title sponsors Cotton Babies and Sage Therapeutics, as well as conference sponsors Northside Hospital, Write Notepads, Bloom Beautifully, the National Council for Behavioral Health and See Baby Midwifery.

Cottonbabies

 

Sage Therapeutics

 

Northside Hospital

 

WritePads&Co

Amy Dingler Sponsor

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Bloom Beautifully

See Baby Midwifery

 

 

NICHD Moms’ Mental Health Matters Initiative Launches

We’re so pleased to welcome Dr. Triesta Fowler to Postpartum Progress today. Triesta runs the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s (NICHD) National Child and Maternal Health Education Program. We worked with NICHD to bring them together with Warrior Moms at our conference last year in order to provide valuable patient input into the development of materials that can be used to help moms and families. Here’s the wonderful result of that work:

mmhm_productcollage_nichq_largeIn July of 2015, we had the privilege of meeting some of you at the Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom® Conference. We showed you preliminary versions of materials that would eventually become the cornerstone of  Moms’ Mental Health Matters initiative, our effort to equip moms just like you with the tools to handle perinatal anxiety and depression. We aimed to develop something that could resonate with all women, and we needed your candid input.

You provided insight into every aspect of the content and the design of the materials, explaining to us how these tools would have impacted you and your families. We learned that it was crucial that we expand the focus beyond postpartum depression, offering information about both anxiety and depression, occurring both during pregnancy and after the baby is born. You suggested language that would resonate with mothers and their partners to empower them to get the help they need. You offered feedback on how we could best use images and design elements in ways that would draw you in. Most importantly, you drew from your past experiences, selflessly sharing your stories in order to help future mothers.

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that the Moms’ Mental Health Matters initiative has launched, and the materials that you helped create are here! You can learn more about the initiative and view, download, or order the materials here. Please feel free to share this information and these materials throughout your communities. We hope that they will help you continue the important work that you do to support moms with depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy.

Sincerely,

Triesta Fowler, M.D.

Coordinator, National Child and Maternal Health Education Program

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Health

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