Mental Health In Color Initiative: Meet The Scholarship Recipients


To recover from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, women of color must be seen and heard without the roadblocks of judgment and bias. But too often, racial differences between clients and providers make an already difficult process even more difficult.

There is a massive shortage of mental health providers who are specialists in maternal mental health, and sadly, that shortage grows exponentially when it comes to providers of color.

We want to help change the landscape of maternal mental health for women of color by investing in the future of Black women. That’s why last year, Postpartum Progress launched the Mental Health in Color Initiative. We are providing training scholarships to mental health providers of color who are interested in expanding their professional expertise into maternal mental health. We believe that this training will improve the standard of care for everyone.

Today, we are proud to announce the program’s first scholarship recipients.

Desirée Israel, LGSW
Desirée Israel is a mental health professional who focuses on postpartum recovery. She has a longstanding commitment to postpartum well-being and is active within the Postpartum Progress community. Her areas of professional focus are on Cognitive Behavioral, NTU Psychotherapy, and holistic energy healing (reiki). Desirée works with the pre and postnatal client populations. She applied to the scholarship in order to deepen her reach and bring effective knowledge to the work she is already doing.   

Collette McLean, LCSW
Collete McLean is a mental health professional who focuses on multiple forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions. Her specialization is in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Combined Parent-Child Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Additionally she employs Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Collette works with college students at a mid-size state school. She applied for the scholarship in order to provide a resource to pregnant college students, a demographic that is often missed and undersupported.

Olivia Baylor, LCPC
Olivia is a mental health professional whose focus is work with LGBTQI couples. Olivia is particularly passionate about this demographic and often sees additional harm shown to LGBTQI identified individuals due to their lack of visibility in maternal mental health work. Olivia’s theoretical approaches are CBT, Narrative Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy. Olivia is also a gender affirming therapist.

As our operating budget grows, it’s our goal to be able to offer even more scholarships in the future. For questions about Postpartum Progress’ Mental Health in Color Initiative, please contact program manager Jasmine Banks at jasminebanks@postpartumprogress.org.

Hiring A Night Nurse Isn’t Lazy or Indulgent. Here’s How It Saved Us.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Samantha Konikoff, who lives in Bellingham, Washington.   


Eva Amurri Martino and her son. (Photo credit: Eva Amurri Martino on Instagram

While browsing through Facebook this week, I saw a news story about Eva Amurri Martino—the actress, blogger and daughter of Susan Sarandon—who was coming out about the trauma she experienced after a night nurse accidentally fell asleep and dropped her infant son. Thank goodness the baby is just fine.

Without even clicking on the article or comments, I knew that (mostly) women would be throwing stones at Eva because she had a night nurse, a professional hired to care for a baby throughout the night. And sure enough, they were. Commenters scoffed, writing that she is a celebrity and can afford to have someone else raise her baby while “us normal people” do it all on our own.

But why is having a night nurse shunned?

I am not a celebrity. I am middle class. And yet we had a night nurse once a week with our second child. It was the best decision my husband and I ever made, and I believe it helped my mental health.

For five glorious weeks, a night nurse named Nancy was at our house from 10 p.m. on Thursday night until 6 a.m. on Friday. She stayed in our daughter Emma’s room, and when Emma woke up, our nurse Nancy would feed her, change her and rock her, and then leave me notes about it to read when I got up in the morning. We bottle-fed so I didn’t need to be woken up for feedings. If our son (who was 3 at the time) woke up, that was our responsibility. Since she was up all night, she also offered to fold my laundry. Yes, you read that right. When morning came, POOF! Baskets of folded laundry.

When I had my first child, Evan, I experienced postpartum depression/anxiety. One of the triggers was not knowing things and becoming overwhelmed in trying to find the answers. Three years later, when Emma was born, I immediately knew it could happen again. At one point, both kids had colds, and we weren’t sleeping. We needed help.

My mom had a night nurse when I was a newborn in the late 1970s, and she always said how sad she was the day the woman left. And I remembered my friend talking about this amazing night nurse who helped with her twins. My husband and I had received a check from a family member for our daughter’s birth, and we decided this is how the money should be spent.

We hired Nancy when Emma was about five weeks old. She was amazing. She had been doing this for over 25 years and was a kind and sweet and caring woman. During one of her visits, we talked about the postpartum depression I had with my son. She said that with new moms, she always keeps her feelers out for depression, and had dealt with it before.

For the five weeks that Nancy was with us, I had her knowledge at my fingertips any time I needed it. I would call her and ask her about feeding schedules, how to drop a night feeding and whether it was the right time, and how to get the baby to sleep less during the day and more at night. I had an expert at my disposal and that was worth its weight in gold.

I wish that when moms are sent home from the hospital or birth center, or at least at their baby’s first doctor visit, they should be given a list of night nurses.

It truly takes a village to raise our children, and if you can get a postpartum doula, night nurse, family member, or friend to stay up with your baby for a night here or there, I’d say take the sleep. Your mental health may depend on it.

I Felt Punished for My Honesty

[Editor’s Note: Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from a mom who felt like she was punished for being honest about her feelings and struggles in the hospital. -Jenna]

I Felt Punished for my Honesty

During my pregnancy, I worried that I was going to develop postpartum depression. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. Additionally, I have a master’s in counseling and knew no one is immune.

I endured an emergency c-section, a baby who cried non-stop in the hospital, developed a 102.7 fever, and wound up the in the NICU. Would anyone cope well? I struggled with breastfeeding because my milk was delayed. I also developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. My baby lost 10% of her body weight and I felt awful.

Nurses overheard me telling my husband that I felt like a failure. Before my daughter wound up in the NICU, a kindly nurse suggested I let them take her to the nursery so I could rest when I revealed I was struggling. And feeling overwhelmed. The next day a different nurse was one duty and was judgmental when I requested for a little break.

All of a sudden my midwife came to my room, demanding that I agree to give my daughter formula, and that she would not leave until I agreed to formula and to go on anti-depressants. I felt shocked and said I wanted more time to see if I could breastfeed. Since she was in the NICU being nourished by donor milk, I felt I had time to make this decision.

The nurse again reiterated she would not leave until I agreed and stated, “You are too stressed out to breastfeed. Look what happened, your daughter wound up in the NICU!” I agreed, further convinced this was my fault.

The nurse then called in a psych-consult. I explained the situation to the psychiatrist who encouraged me to go on medication, but not if I wanted to breastfeed. I told him I hoped that breastfeeding would still work out, and I thought most new moms in my situation would be struggling a bit.

I felt like I was being punished because I was honest about how I was feeling and asked for help. I felt shame that, as a counselor, I had a psych-consult on me. I felt that the professionals’ reactions to my honesty were coming from a risk management perspective versus a place of help and support. I envied the women who were “smart” enough to suffer silently because they were not punished or made to feel like a bad mother for wanting to breastfeed or asking for help.

My daughter was fine, and once she was properly nourished, she was released with a clean bill of health. I felt traumatized by the experience and was completely stressed out trying to breastfeed. I felt terribly guilty that because I could not manage my stress, she wound up in the NICU. I had no confidence and was afraid to be alone with my daughter.

It is hard to say if I would have developed postpartum depression if it were not for my experience in the hospital. My daughter is now three-and-a-half years, and I feel it has only been recently that I can think of the experience without getting teary eyed.

As a counselor, I have been trained about the importance of being honest with my feelings and asking for help but the help I received felt punitive and hurtful. Three and a half years later, I have an awesome, healthy, and feisty little girl and continue to be honest about my feelings so other moms don’t feel so alone.

~NRB

Breathe, Mama

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from a Warrior Mom who endured a traumatic childhood and wants other moms to know they don’t have to end up like their own parents. When you feel triggered, you can choose how to react. You can choose to breathe. -Jenna]

Breathe, Mama

I see you. I see you milling thru another day as someone’s mom. A little human being’s teacher, his guide thru this world.

Maybe you’re pushing a fire truck around with your son and pretending to put out a fire. Maybe you’re changing a diaper and making a funny face at your child as you wipe their bottom for the 17293728th time.

Maybe you’re just going thru the motions while your mind processes something completely different: another time, another place, another child.

Growing up in an abusive household, you often don’t realize that your life is not the norm. You are accustomed to being hit, cut down, bullied, taken advantage of, etc. You begin to brick up your heart and your emotions. You build your wall and before you know it, no one can hurt you. No one can get to you.

The tears become less about being sad and more of an automatic, robotic even, reaction. The yelling becomes less about making a point and more about survival.

Maybe you’re like me: You grow up, move out and in from your childhood, you get married, and you start your own big girl life. You’re in love, and you don’t care who knows it!

Along with marriage comes highs and lows. Though the highs may carry you thru the lows, you enjoy them with discretion, because history has taught you that behind every joy, animosity lurks not far.

“Don’t get too happy,” your subconscious reminds you. “This peace of mind is not what we do!” So you get used to feeling most of the way happy, but never letting yourself 100% feel it.

Then you meet the human that has been growing in your body for nine months (or maybe you adopted, but either way, you’re a mama now.) Then that wall, it begins to sway, like a hurricane is beating down on one side of it. Now you’re a little scared.

What is this sorcery? Excuse me, little bald person, but who are you to waltz in and take over my thoughts like this? Wall demolished. Gone.

Fast forward a few years. The little bald person has turned into a slightly taller, slightly hairier person and today, he wakes up in a mood. Nothing you mention does he want for breakfast. He doesn’t want to get dressed. He refuses to brush his teeth. You hand him a toy and he throws it at you.

You feel your gears starting grind. That feeling of beginning to lose your cool.

Logically, you know that you are trying to reason with a toddler. But at this point, you have learned that logic and toddler do not belong in the same sentence. That toy he hurled at you earlier? That you calmly picked up and handed back to him four times? Here it comes again. This time, your blood boils.

It’s time for limits to be set and bad habits to start being curbed. But then… you freeze.

You see your face in your child’s face. You’re both scared. He, because he can sense that you’re upset. You, because you remember the feeling of being trapped. You break down and cry while your child comforts you and pats your shoulder.

“Why am I crying?!,” you wonder.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll feel it. You are terrified of becoming what you once feared.

This is where you breathe.

You are a compassionate, feeling, caring, nurturing woman. You lived that chapter. It’s over. You lived that book. It’s over. Time for the sequel.

Breathe in your child’s adoration of his mother. Breathe out your self-doubt. Breathe in the freedom of loving and raising your child to be a kind human being. Breathe out the unkindness and animosity of your childhood.

Breathe, mama. You are not your parents. You are not your abusers. You are not them.

~A.S.