Lauren Hale

Lauren Hale tells it like it is about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders over at My Postpartum Voice. She is also the founder of #PPDChat, an online Twitter & FB Community dedicated to supporting moms on their journey by harnessing the power of the Internet. You can find her on Twitter @unxpctdblessing.

Sign up Now: Postcards of Hope

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postcard-560719_640Do you want a postcard with a handwritten message of hope and encouragement from an attendee of the Warrior Mom Conference, the first ever patient centered maternal mental health conference being held on July 11-12 in Boston?

Of course you do!

Starting today, you can sign up to receive one if you’re a Homestead Warrior and unable to attend the conference in person.

We are limiting recipients to the United States and Canada this year, however. We are hoping to open it up to international recipients in the coming years.

Sign up will end on July 3, 2015, or when we reach 125 registrants!

We want to include those who aren’t able to make the journey in the experience of the conference and what better way than to have attendees send handwritten messages of hope and encouragement to other Warrior moms?

So go… sign up now and grab your postcard!

(Postcards will be mailed shortly after the conference concludes on July 12.)

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Raivon Lee: Mother’s Day — It’s MINE!

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postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthMother’s Day —  Oh how I’ve hated you, how I’ve misunderstood you.

Since becoming a mom, Mother’s Day sends shivers up, down and around my spine. This will be my third — time flies.

Prior to motherhood, when I was much younger, I really didn’t think much of the day. Yes, I understood that my mom was a rock star… I mean she kept us all alive, so she must have been doing something right. But the gifts and cards I handed over in exchange were empty. As I got older and slowly considered motherhood for myself, Mother’s Day became a holiday for the elite. Brunch al fresco, bouquets, cards made by messy little hands and sweet dresses on Sunday morning.

I’ll admit, I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the cool club and motherhood seemed to be a club I could joined pretty easily. I mean, all I needed to be accepted were: snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails or sugar and spice and everything nice.

Greg, my husband and I, combined those magical ingredients into a lovely petite cauldron. After nine months of trying different combinations we found the perfect recipe and our baby was brewing.

Pregnancy was rough to say the least. I took Unisom — yes a sleeping pill, every-single-day leading up to the grand finale, to combat all day sickness. Can you imagine what that did to an already exhausted pregnant woman? This would surely would earn me a special badge for my super-mama cloak that I’d wear over my sweet pastel mother’s day dress. I reminded myself all-the-time, that pregnancy would not last forever — at least that’s what they said, and as soon as I held my sweet baby boy all would be right in the world — all the vomit and near vomits would have all been worth it!

Turns out, they lie by omission and ignorance.

The cold early morning of January 11, 2013, my due date, I stumbled to the bathroom. My leg was asleep again, that giant mass was the only thing that was getting any sleep. Upon returning to bed I was greeted with a POP! My water broke! I wasn’t ready for that, especially not on my due date, and my kid was still breech! We weren’t going to get to use our large inflated kiddy pool at all.

But, I would be invited to Mother’s Day!

I delivered a sweet beautiful perfect baby boy at 12:03pm. I’ll never forget those sweet gurgles as they pulled him from my tummy. Shortly after I saw him, the cutest bloodiest little vampire… the Cullen’s had nothing on him!

I was ecstatic from minute one, so much so that I didn’t need sleep! I was indeed a super mom. Honestly the abyss of time following those early days are a bit of a blur. Filled with tears, bloody nipples, and thoughts that are hard to speak.

Motherhood? Mothers Day? You can have it. I’d much prefer to celebrate from the other side of the fence.

The daily surge of tears and lack of sleep became too much, the thought of death was entirely peaceful. I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

On my first Mother’s Day I can’t tell you what we did, or were we lived. We moved five times in three years trying to escape the pain. Postpartum Depression has that kind of power. I have that kind of husband!

My second Mother’s Day, I still can’t recall where we lived, but I felt like a fraud. I had no right to that day. I made every attempt to be happy and really be thankful that I could even celebrate as a mom.  I was living my dream, I had no reason to be anything but on top of the world. Sadly, none of that mattered the pain was still there and still very real.

I got help, attended a support group, was introduced to Postpartum Progress,  was prescribed antidepressants at a dose that made me hallucinate.  But at the correct dose I found myself again. Raivon, as a mom.

It’s funny, or not… I heard of Postpartum Depression before having my son and I can honestly say I had genuine empathy for women as they shared their stories. But I also had confidence that their story would never become mine.

It was my story, it is my story, and will forever be.

While I was in the middle of my hell I  judged myself as Raivon. That wasnt fair. I was not Raivon the mom, friend, daughter, sister …person. Would you be you if you were drowning in despair unsure of your future? Probably not. But we all do it — judge ourselves, especially when we aren’t ourselves.

This Mother’s Day, technically my third but symbolically my first — I look at motherhood with a compassion I hadn’t before. Beneath the veneer of perfection, brunches and Sunday morning bests — I see her. The woman that makes mothers day, mothers day. She wasn’t created for mother’s day — but it, for her. To celebrate not only her beauty and power, but to acknowledge the pain, messiness, and sacrifice that must come with being a mom.

Don your cloak and fully enjoy Mother’s Day. Come as you are — it’s yours, it’s mine!

 

Raivon Lee is a stay-at-home-mommy blogger of one, she became a Proud Warrior Mama after kicking Postpartum Depression’s booty in 2014. She’s been told that she is a Maternal Mental Health advocate & loves to share her story with whoever will listen and even with those who won’t. Most recently she has stumbled upon a passion for writing and aspires to become published one day soon. She fully thanks God for allowing her pain  and suffering to have not been in vain. You can find her at VainMommy.com

 

The 7th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.

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Joyce Munro – Mad At You

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postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthHe’s being smothered. A horror swims up through my chest and I jolt awake. I’ve rolled onto the baby, and—I feel around, just us?—but the nightmare fist does not open.

“Wake up,” I say, as I push my hands into my husband. “I can’t breathe.”

“Wh-a. . .What?”

I’m shivering and wet with sweat. I gasp while he telephones for help with the children. We have to go to the hospital.

I’m going to die.

“Breathe with me,” my husband says as we rush out into the cold night. Inhale only when he does. Now.

There’s not enough air in the car. This. Is. It. “Drive faster!”

The oxygen in my blood is too low, the ER doctor says. They will keep me overnight for observation, the nurse says as she places the oxygen tube in my nose.

How I got here does not seem to be a point of interest. The doctor uses a pulse oximeter. It measures only oxygen. He doesn’t question me closely. Now I’m in the hospital. And I will leave without a diagnosis.

***

What will happen to us? My husband needs to go out of town on a project. His new business and the baby are both two months old, with the business in the basement and the baby in what used to be my office. Thinking about the baby causes a letdown.

I’m wide awake with cool air filling my lungs. I can think straight. I look out at a line of pink at the horizon.

We were once a proud one-child-only family. We were 40 years old. Then I got pregnant, just when I was getting my writer self back. Sometimes I don’t want you, I confessed in my journal and checked my underwear for the smear of this hateful thought.

I have to account for the baby’s conception myth, an opening to my husband in an almost Biblical manner. Like I never had before. Something could come of this. I was writing a play, loving it, but by the end of the performance, I knew what else was coming.

In 2005 when Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields is published, a celebrity’s description will make postpartum depression a matter of public discourse—an outcome of birth, something natural, something to watch for. What is wrong with me? It is 1988 and I have my journal for details and self-incriminations.

***

The baby never stops being fussy. At the store, at the bank. I offer my breast, but he acts bored. I’m shoving food at him. He cries in the stroller ride around the block. If I can’t appease him, what good am I?

One night I drink two glasses of wine and feel my arms and hands weaken. I could drop him.

I snap at my husband who wants to comfort me. “Go to bed, I want to read.” Disappear: Everyone.

The short respite in the hospital is as close as I get to the lying-in period that my grandmother had or, for that matter, my mother had for four weeks after each of her five children were born. And she did not leave the house. And women came in to help her.

A friend will tell me, years later, how in 1960 after her second child was born, she spent whole days in bed unable to nurse him, too tired to be a mother. The guilt she felt led her to start a chapter of Nursing Mothers Counsel. Her story hints at something still troubling her at 83: Did her son’s learning disabilities have anything to do with that dead time in her life?

***

In the morning my best friend brings the baby to me. Childless by choice, she carries him high in her arms like a big puppy. I listen to her cooing at him and drowsily think she’s talking to me. I want to stay here in simplicity.

“You’ve had a hard day. Rest,” my husband says as we pull in to the house later that day.

Everything pricks me, but I can’t come home to my skin.

I stroke the baby’s cheek to tease a smile from him as he sleeps—he seems so responsive as I watch myself watching him.

Where is there time for everything I want to do?

In a day, the baby = 9.5 hrs of laundry, feedings, and stimulation. His sister, 1 hr; my husband, 1 hr; the house, 1.5 hrs; eating, 1 hr; personal hygiene, 1 hr. Bookkeeping for the new business plus my freelance writing = 1 hr.

I have to add in hours for sleep. My husband is dreaming of a warehouse full of food, and he has to fix some torn bags that are spilling out everywhere, and then he’s at a buffet with huge pieces of rare beef and a very small plate. Deer are following our daughter, nibbling at her toes; hamsters find her bed and taste her hair. I go down long grocery aisles in complex, sweaty searches.

Against this schedule, I list my accomplishments of the past year: the play, a story prize, two short biographies, and some freelance work.

When I tell a former professor that I have to give up writing, I can’t seem to do it anymore, she says: “You’ll always be a writer. For as long as I’ve known you, for 20 years, that’s what you’ve been. This is writing, too.” She means the nursing, decisions about schedule, and picking out the new lights for my husband’s office.

A writers’ group friend sends a note: “I bet you haven’t even let yourself realize you have a baby. Take care of yourself. Let go of the extras. Read, reflect, do whatever recreates you.”

Madeleine L’Engle in snatches: “Sometimes the very impetus of overcoming obstacles results in a surge of creativity.” Salvific words but can I believe them?

A friend asks me to preach his ordination sermon. “I want an ordinary person from the pew,” he says. “I want a storyteller.”

Telling him “No,” sets off a surge of energy and then leaves me bereft. Don’t ask me to do anything. Don’t.

My husband and I quarrel about moving the business. Used to having us to herself for six years, our daughter hides out in her room that night. Later I find a note under the baby’s blanket: mad at you. Taped to the vaporizer hangs another: business are boring. On the belt of my bathrobe: more messages.

Just as the daffodils are opening a month later, a friend telephones. Could she take the baby for five hours once a week so that I could write? Her children are grown up, she’d enjoy having a baby around again. I send her off with plenty of breast milk. Five hours feel like five days. I write down what I say when she returns. “Well, it all came back again.”

“Well, this did, too,” she says, laughing.

***

Avowals I make demonstrate how much I believe a right attitude will change things:

I will do this parenting.

I will dissipate the rage I feel.

I will not be victimized by a preconceived idea of a role.

I will let my friends help me.

Attitude by itself does not save. My women friends, not sense of duty or throb for husband or children, are finally what keep me in my life. The gifts of their hours and care.

Slowly things change. In a new living space made out of the porch, I sit in the green rocker I used when my daughter was born and feel some continuity between then and now.

I begin to feel lucky to be alive.

But I want to stop swallowing the howl that would scare everyone if I let it out. Just as the baby is turning one year old, I seek out a psychotherapist. “I don’t know how to raise a son, I’m blocked as a writer.” She shows me how to breathe into a paper bag for my panic attacks. On and off across the six years I see her: I will need a lifetime to become the writer and mother I want to be.

Later, much later, when my son is a teenager and we’re arguing in the car about his going out with friends during the school week, he says in a choked voice, “Sometimes I wonder if you love me.” I catch my breath. At the edge of my line of sight are his legs folded and cramped. He’s breaking me apart. “Of course I love you,” I say as the light turns green and we drive up the hill toward his piano lesson. He’s becoming himself with that voice; both of us, ourselves becoming more freshly true.

Joyce Munro writes nonfiction and fiction centered around family, time and places. She is at work on a multi-generational cultural memoir about patterns of child rearing and identity.

The 7th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.

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Sarah Bregel – Growing Roots Through Metal & Mud

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rp_emoticon-1.jpgAt 24, home meant a rundown farm house, a bit off the grid in the Maryland countryside. My partner and I had been together only a few months and hastily moved there when I discovered I was pregnant. The house belonged to my grandfather, a wealthy lawyer with a taste for liquor which I’d undoubtedly inherited. He was now living in a nursing home, suffering end-stage dementia.

Though its carpet smelled like mildew and the spiders were as big as my fist, that house was our saving grace. He never knew it, because he hardly knew me anymore, but I often silently thanked my Granddad for lending it to us, as he was finding his way out of the world and his great granddaughter was finding her way in.

To me, the house felt like a symbol that everything might turn out all right, that there might be a way for two childish adults to somehow make a family. It was at least one answer amid pages of questions about the fate of our lives. But between those walls held a beginning to an unknown future. And for a while, it was our little corner of the world, both peaceful and promising.

My water broke one night on the dark green carpet of our bedroom. Not knowing we would’ve been better off to wait, we rushed to the hospital where I was to give birth. Immediately, I was forced into bed where I labored on my back as long as I could stand it. As I writhed in agony, as my body begged me to move, to let my baby come down, terms like “hospital policy” and “standard procedure” were tossed around the room like the holy grail of birthing. Several hours later, I relented, asked for the drugs, and everything went numb.

Early the next morning, as my baby was starting to emerge on her own, a nameless faceless doctor sliced me from underneath. It was as if he’d never seen a woman’s body open before and with hands that fast, so fast she couldn’t protest, perhaps he hadn’t. It would be months before I could sit without my eyes watering, and years before I’d think about his masked face without clenching my fists.

I wasn’t overjoyed or weeping from happiness like I had seen in movies. If anything, I felt relieved. I had overcome a difficult pregnancy filled with persistent, attention-demanding nausea. Though my birth was not what I’d pictured, I told myself that it didn’t matter. The hard part was over, I thought. My body was my own again, just a little bruised up.

I stayed in the hospital like I was supposed to for two more days, staring at my daughter’s face. It was lovely, “like a baby doll,” the nurse said. And she was right. My baby was so tiny and angelic and yet somehow looked like someone I already knew and had known all my life.

When it was time to go home, we struggled with the car-seat–a parental right of passage, cleaned out our room, signed the papers and left. We returned to our house on the farm and after a few more days, my husband was back at work, commuting two or more hours, leaving me and my newborn to our own devices. While I was still sitting on ice packs, the hardest work of my life was about to begin.

It was the middle of winter and we were often snowed in or it was too cold and icy to walk the farm roads. When we did bundle up and get out, there were no neighbors to be seen and chat to, no other moms pushing strollers and falling apart in secret. Just haystacks and cows. And in a lot of ways, I was glad there was no one there to see me crumbling. Quickly, the days grew longer and longer and I began to grieve what I had lost.

It was freedom I’d loved and freedom I’d come to miss with every fiber of my being. My past life lacked responsibility and now my plate was full. The demands of feeding my baby, soothing her persistent cries and figuring out what the hell I was supposed to be doing to pass the time weighed so heavily on me I thought I might drown in both boredom and obligation. This force of motherhood was bigger than me. Soon it had been months since I’d slept more than a few hours a night, and even at the rare opportunity to do so, my heart still beat fast and my mind raced faster.

Anxiety was slowly starting to envelop my existence. As childless friends hinted they were jealous of my leisurely days at home, I was struggling with the enormity of what was in front of me. I wondered if I’d ever see those friends again or if there was too much we no longer knew about each other. As I muddled through, I begged the universe to relent.

For the last nine months, I’d imagined getting back to myself and now I didn’t know who that person was or where to find her. In truth “my life” wasn’t much of one to begin with. I’d spent the majority of the last 10 years in an alcohol-induced haze without much of a purpose. There was no real life to return to, simply one to make from scratch and I didn’t even know how to light the burner.

I struggled to breathe in and out. I got used to the enormous weight that sat on my chest at all times, reminding me I was still there. In the nights, I fought with my baby’s father for not understanding me anymore. I numbed myself with wine and when that wasn’t enough, Xanax.

This was my darkest winter, but spring did come. My baby’s newborn cries were melting away with the last of the snow.  At the end of March, I turned 25. I had a beautiful daughter and a partner who, despite the undeniable identity crisis that motherhood had dealt me, would soon propose. The warm weather felt like the start of something new and it reminded me that the world had not gone cold. Slowly, I started to move my body again, walking and doing yoga. I became determined to breathe and find a way to experience this gift that life had given me.

I hadn’t written since my high school days of melodramatic teenage poetry, but I began trying to find the words to write about being someone’s mother. Though it would be a while before I had any real friends who shared my experience, I found a lifeline to other parents this way. I was starting to make sense of my evolution and as I continued to shed my skin, to embrace being the parent, instead of the child, I started to feel a little less alone.

Soon, words poured out of me like the water from a pipe that broke under our house that year. Though the metal pipe was rock hard, set in its ways, roots from a tree in our yard pierced straight through it. Nature broke through its man-made toughness so that it could keep growing regardless of whatever stood in its path. And when it did, the water that had been stagnant and trapped underground, oozed out, first brown and red with sediment until finally, it ran clear. Plumbers came and laid a new pipe out of the way and the tree could grow again with new, hard-won freedom.

As the deep sediments of my soul shifted and settled, I saw more clearly through the eyes of a mother. It was nothing like I had imagined but it had uncovered layer upon layer of humanity that had been buried deep, like that rusty old pipe under the dirt. The only way to embrace it all, to get past the pain of growing was to push through and keep pushing. And when I looked in the eyes of the one who made me a mother, I realized I had everything I needed to shatter it all.

 

Sarah Bregel is a writer, yoga teacher, feminist and deep-breather based in Baltimore. The birth of her first child in 2010 led to the birth of her writing career. She has since written for The Huffington Post, XOJane, The Washington Post, Babble, Scary Mommy, Mommyish, SheKnows Parenting, Mutha Magazine, Mamalode and more. She lives with her husband and 5-year-old daughter and baby boy. She blogs about the endlessly terrifying journey of motherhood at TheMediocreMama.com. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/themediocremama and on Twitter: @SarahBregel.

The 7th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.

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