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

MHFA Logo

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

Triesta Fowler Lee

Sign Up: Postcards of Hope

WMC Postcards of Hope

One of our favorite activities at last year’s conference was writing Postcards of Hope to send to all the Warrior Moms at home. We heard from you for weeks after the conference in 2015, thanking us for sending a little love and light your way. We know not everyone can make it to Atlanta this year, and want you to know that we will be thinking of you, carrying your stories and courage with us as we gather together for the Warrior Mom® Conference on October 14th and 15th.

If you’d like a postcard with a handwritten message of hope and encouragement from an attendee of the Warrior Mom® Conference, you can sign up starting today. We can’t wait to send a little bit of the conference home to you!

How to Sign Up

You can sign up from September 26 – October 7th, 2016. The first 180 people to register will receive a postcard shortly after the conference concludes on October 15th.

So, go! Sign up now and grab your postcard!

Be sure you tune into to the Postpartum Progress Facebook page and follow the #warriormomcon hashtag and list on twitter to keep up with all that’s happening during the conference weekend. We’ll live-stream some sessions and events and keep you in the know!

(Many, many thanks to Samantha for volunteering to organize Postcards of Hope this year!)

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.