Warrior Mom® Conference Needs List: A Self Care Tool

Note: This guest post comes from Warrior Mom® Conference speaker Ali Kozoll. While she wrote it thinking of all of the many conference attendees soon joining us in Atlanta on October 14th and 15th, we hope this “Needs List” is a self care tool all Warrior Moms will find useful as we learn together how to better advocate for ourselves. Thanks again to our generous sponsors, who make the conference and all we do here at Postpartum Progress possible!

WMC Needs ListAs an anxious and deeply emotional person I get overwhelmed quite easily, so for someone to ask me to take time to figure out what I need makes me want to cry-laugh while hiding underneath the covers of my bed. And though I initially resisted this practice the first few times I tried it, I’ve found I make it through my events in a much healthier manner than before I made this a habit.

What is a Needs List?

A needs list is just what it sounds like: a list of needs, made with intention. You can use this list any time you find yourself preparing for an emotionally-based occasion, which, let’s be real, could be any day of the week. I offer this tool to you now in anticipation of our Warrior Mom® Conference, which I understand will be a wonderfully rich and beautifully emotional weekend of connection, discovery, kinship, and healing. Making a Needs List will set you up to feel as prepared, supported and whole as possible during a potentially emotionally charged (even if in a good way) weekend or event.

Getting Started

Before you begin, set aside 15-30 minutes to spend with yourself to build this list. Start by asking yourself the following question…

“What do I need to feel full, whole and taken care of?”

Now, if you’re anything like me, that question alone causes anxiety. But never fear, we’re going to break it down more simply in order to cultivate the possibility of fulfilling our own needs. Sometimes the process of admitting we actually have needs or the concept of getting our needs met can bring up a well of emotion, so if it does, please know that you are not alone. Allow any and all emotions that may arise to flow through you and out. You might feel grief, anxiety, skepticism, anger or any combination of myriad emotions (Remember my resistance to this process? Yeah, that was anger). Breathe with it, sigh it out, or perhaps put a pen to paper and write about it. However you choose, vent it out. This way you’re clearing the cobwebs in the way of creating your Needs List.

What is a Need?

Needs are simple things that feel doable and not overwhelming. If anything on your list does feel overwhelming or anxiety-producing, it is not a need. It may be a want and/or potentially unnecessary for this list. The things on this list are for YOU. This is not to be confused with a “to-do” list and it is not a list of things you need to do for others.

The Needs List Journaling Page

Next, you’re going to break down the main question into three areas of focus. You’re going to fulfill the needs of your Mind, your Body and your Heart by answering these questions.

wmc needs list worksheet examples

(click to view larger)

“What does my Mind need to feel full, whole, and taken care of?”

“What does my Body needs to feel full, whole, and taken care of?”

“What does my Heart need to feel full, whole, and taken care of?”

For each section, write down your answers for before, during & after the event. As you will see in the examples, it is important for you to be as specific as possible. Vagueness keeps things more abstract, whereas being specific grounds each item on your list.

Download the free Warrior Mom® Conference Needs List journaling page here and let the examples be only a guide as you explore what your mental, physical, and emotional needs are as we get closer to the Warrior Mom® Conference.  Your personal needs will be different. Your goal is to have at least one thing in each section.

Finding Support

The fourth and final step in this process is perhaps the most important…

Share your list with someone you trust will support you (ie: hold you accountable). Find another Warrior Mom to share your list with, perhaps, or a loved one at home who knows who you are planning to take care of yourself and will support you in doing so. Your ‘needs advocate’ could be your partner, another family member, a close friend, or even your therapist.

Because I frequently travel for work leading emotionally charged events, I always make my Needs List leading up to my departure, and so I hope you will find this helpful. You can try it before the Warrior Mom® Conference and then use it moving forward to prepare for things like big outings, family holidays or anything that feels potentially draining or emotionally exhausting. I won’t lie to you. It takes constant commitment, this self-love, but in the words of Oscar Wilde “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”. And who doesn’t want that?

Remember, no stress. This is not a task to accomplish, this is a radical commitment to your own well being. You can fulfill your own needs, mama, and you deserve it.

 

Postpartum Depression In Other Languages: Spanish & Chinese

postpartum depression in other languagesOne of our goals at Postpartum Progress this year has been to start translating our resources for postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression in other languages.

We’ve chosen to focus at the beginning on our New Mom Mental Health Checklist. This checklist is used by moms and healthcare providers to help start a conversation about how the mothers are feeling, what symptoms they might be experiencing and what risk factors they have.  Therapists and hospitals all over the country are adopting it, and they have downloaded it thousands of times.

We launched a version of the checklist for Black and African Diaspora women earlier this year. Today we are excited to launch the Spanish and Simplified Chinese versions.

We selected a translation service upon the recommendation of people at the Office of Minority Health. We wanted a service known not just for translating words but for doing so according to the national standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS). Our organization feels strongly about talking about maternal mental health in language moms use, not professionals, and we’re known for using what we’ve always called “plain mama English.” We’re excited to now have Spanish and Chinese, and you can expect more languages forthcoming.

As with everything else we do, our resources for postpartum depression in other languages are free to anyone. All you have to do is click the links below and fill out the form to download them! (Note: The checklist will look blurry on the link. That’s so people don’t download them without submitting a request form. Your copy will be crystal clear, we promise!) 

New Mom Mental Health Checklist – Spanish/Lista de verificacion para nuevas mamas pera obtener ayuda de saluda mental materna

New Mom Mental Health Checklist – Simplified Chinese/新产妇精神健康帮助核查单

We’re so grateful to all of our amazing donors. Without you we wouldn’t be able to continually create and offer resources for maternal mental health. Thank you!!!!!!

Parenting After Childhood Trauma

parenting after childhood traumaDid you experience childhood trauma? It’s worth thinking about if you are pregnant or postpartum and struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD. Or even, actually, if you’re just a mom out there reading this and wondering how early traumatic events could possibly affect your parenting.

Childhood trauma can include any event during which you felt (even if you don’t remember) helpless, scared, horrified, out of control and/or overwhelmed. These events or situations can include:

  • extreme poverty
  • homelessness
  • a natural disaster or war happening where you lived
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • neglect
  • domestic violence in the home, such as seeing your mother choked or hit
  • a parent with alcoholism or addiction
  • a parent with a mental illness
  • a parent in prison
  • the death of a parent
  • a parent who left your family (abandonment)

These are events that obviously can deeply affect anyone. And yet as adults we often think what “happened in the past shouldn’t affect me” because it’s “old news.” We think as adults we should no longer be impacted by experiences that happened decades ago.

The truth is childhood trauma can actually change how your body works, including your brain. This is why it has the power to affect you later in life, even when you are all grown up.

When I think about the traumas I went through as a child, it makes things that have happened to me and continue to happen to me as a mother make a lot more sense.

When I was born I was placed for adoption. I lived with my adoptive parents for a few months — I don’t even know how many, to be honest — and then was returned back to my biological parents, two young college students who hadn’t planned on getting married or having a baby. I lived with parental alcoholism at a young age and also parental mental illness. It’s no surprise to me, when I think about it, that I later suffered postpartum anxiety and OCD after the birth of my first child.

I was essentially hysterically vigilant over Jackson from the moment he was born. I worried I wouldn’t be able to take care of him enough. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t relax. It felt very important to protect him, so much so that all of my intrusive thoughts were about me being the one to cause him hurt. I think now about the fact that my own experience in the first few unstable months of my life MUST have impacted how I was thinking and behaving when Jack was a newborn.

In my tween years, I was fondled by a strange man in a Sears department store. My dad was in a different part of the store with my brother, and I was alone in the girls’ section when he approached me. He tried to get me to leave the store with him but I managed to run away. I can’t remember a lot of the details but I do remember standing in the store while people looked for him, and having all of these salespeople worrying over me and talking about what happened while I was standing right there.

It’s no surprise then, that I have a thing about my 10-year-old daughter walking through the neighborhood by herself. I feel I have to watch her as she goes. HAVE TO.  The other girls her age are walking around alone, yet I feel a compulsion in my very cells to stand on the porch and watch her to make sure she arrives safely.

Parenting can be a trigger for those of us who have experienced childhood trauma. You might find yourself in a situation with your child that reminds you, even if you don’t recognize it, of something that happened to you. You might find yourself acting in ways as a parent that you don’t quite understand. Can you think of ways you might be reacting right now that could be tied back to your experiences as a kid?

What You Should Know About Childhood Trauma

If you went through childhood trauma, you might find yourself feeling some of the following ways:

  • always on guard
  • always vigilant
  • like you can only let a few people, if any, get really close to you
  • unsafe, or very focused on maintaining your safety and protecting yourself
  • anxious
  • unable to relax

You also might experience:

  • higher stress levels
  • shame or guilt
  • low self-esteem
  • feelings of emptiness
  • depression, anxiety, PTSD
  • physical ailments like headaches, panic attacks, stomach upset

Here’s what you should know: You can heal. If you managed to get through childhood trauma then you have a source of strength. You already have tools you might not even know you have.  You’ve already figured out how to keep going in life, and you are already doing things, great things, to take care of your child DESPITE what you experienced. If you feel that you are being impacted by traumatic events in your life in ways you don’t like, you can reach out for help.

You have many choices and options when it comes to getting support in healing from trauma. They include attending a support group, trying art therapy, learning how to use mindfulness tools and other coping techniques, trying EMDR therapy or ACT therapy, seeing a counselor, or even working through a workbook that offers exercises in healing from trauma like this one and this one.

You might also like:

When Postpartum Depression Rises Up Out of the Buried Traumas of Childhood

How Your Own Mother & Childhood Trauma Can Impact Postpartum Depression

 

 

Postpartum Psychosis Help: Where Can Moms Go For Help? [Infographic]

Postpartum Progress is often asked where moms can go for postpartum psychosis help. What if you have psychosis or severe postpartum depression and need hospitalization or intensive treatment?

There simply aren’t enough beds and spaces at perinatal inpatient and partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient programs in the United States compared to the number of women who will need them each year.

Why a perinatal unit? Just ask the moms who have been hospitalized for postpartum psychosis or severe PPD.  We’ve talked to moms placed in general units with whom not a soul ever mentioned the words perinatal or postpartum. No one talked about role transitions or becoming a mother. No one offered lactation support. Some had no access to supplies like pads for post-birth bleeding. Some were told they had to quit breastfeeding. Many were not allowed to see their babies at all, or only for brief moments, during their hospital stay. Most were the only person there with a maternal mental illness.

We know that specialized programs for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders work. We know taking care of both mother and baby during pregnancy and first year is critical to health. These programs are led by people who are experts in maternal mental health. Who understand how medication affects pregnancy and breastfeeding. They make sure that mother-infant attachment is supported and encouraged. And they readily provide supplies like breast pumps and safe places to store breast milk.

We wanted you to see how few of these place there are in the United States, because this matters. Mothers deserve the best possible postpartum psychosis help, and not enough of them are getting it.

postpartum psychosis help

 

Postpartum Psychosis Help (as of September 2016)

California – Huntington Hospital Maternal Wellness Program (Pasadena), El Camino Hospital MOMS Program (Mountain View), MemorialCare Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders Program (Long Beach)

Illinois – Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program of AMITA Health (Chicago area)

Michigan – Pine Rest Mother & Baby Program (Grand Rapids)

Minnesota – Hennepin Mother-Baby Program (Minneapolis)

New York – Zucker Hillside Perinatal Psychiatry Unit (Glen Oaks)

North Carolina – University of North Carolina Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit (Chapel Hill)

Pennsylvania – Drexel Mother Baby Connections (Philadelphia)

Rhode Island – Women & Infants Day Hospital (Providence)

 

Special thanks to Heather, Candice, Laurie, Laura, Catherine, Samantha, Stephanie, Lisa, Jess and many more members of the Warrior Mom® Community for helping us put this project together.