Birth Matters: A Collaborative Research Project Exploring Birth Trauma

trauma; traumatic

The most humbling part of being a staff member at Postpartum Progress is meeting moms and hearing their stories. Whether a mom is newly diagnosed, or is recovered from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder there is something special about being entrusted with her story.

The more I listen the more I notice common themes; many women tell me about events during pregnancy or birth they consider to be traumatic. These often contribute to their later diagnosis of postpartum depression, anxiety or another mental health concern.

One of most common issues that comes up is birth trauma. So many of our moms experience something traumatic that leaves them feeling scared and alone. And trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Trauma can occur if your wants and needs are ignored and you are treated without respect. Poor communication from your doctor that leaves you uncertain about your health or that of your baby can be traumatic. Protracted labor, poor pain management, medical interventions, emergency c-section, a baby in distress, a stay in the NICU; any of these can be traumatic and each of us responds differently.

Because responses to childbirth can vary from very positive to negative and traumatic, Postpartum Progress is teaming up with Dr. Sharon Dekel from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital to collect information about emotional responses to childbirth. We want to learn about different reactions to childbirth, why they happen, and what their long-term impacts to mom and baby are.

We want to survey as many women as possible, with all kinds of childbirth experiences – to find out what is the emotional impact of childbirth on women.  Our goal is to know how we can help women overcome their negative experiences and improve positive ones. This information can help to develop assessment and prevention tools for traumatic childbirth reactions.

No matter your birth experience, if you are at least 18 years old and have had a baby in the past six months can take our survey. It is completely anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to finish.

Together we can start to better understand and treat traumatic birth experiences.  Click here to find out more about the survey and to participate!

Warrior Mom Strong with Cotton Babies

Image: Cotton BabiesOnly a few weeks ago, almost 200 Warrior Moms recently joined together in Atlanta for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom® Conference, showing the world they are #warriormomstrong, thanks to the support of companies like Cotton Babies.

Inspired by our courageous community, Cotton Babies not only debuted a new video (which has already reached over 82,500 people with its message of hope), but they also brought along samples of their brand new line of clothes and gifts, STRONG. Cotton Babies is a great friend to us here at Postpartum Progress. They support our mission and our work, and they were one of the very first to sponsor the Warrior Mom Conference®.

I had the honor and pleasure of attending the conference this year and last year. I’ve seen what #WarriorMomStrong is. It’s women buying tickets for something that is almost a year away in the hope that they will learn more, create stronger connections, and be better able to help other mamas in their communities.

It is moms with anxiety reaching through the fear and out to each other. It is pictures taken on airplanes by women who are shaking, but resolved. It is pictures taken in cars packed with moms making this journey together.

image: Amy DinglerThis is the strength that comes from finally seeing in person a sister you made online. It is strength born of tears on shoulders and the tightest of hugs.

#WarriorMomStrong is also some women realizing that they were not ready to be with us, for many different reasons. It is women giving up their tickets and wishing us well from afar. We felt you.

Strength like this is generous. It is the generosity of time – of volunteers and of attendees who constantly ask, “How can I help you? What do you need?”

Strength like this is brave. It is speaking your truth to a room of almost 200 women.

It is kind. It is offering a shoulder, or a hug, or a handkerchief.

It is bold. It is telling the stranger in the elevator what conference you are in the hotel for, and doing it with your head held high.

It creates a sisterhood. It is groups of warrior moms spreading all over Atlanta to get tattoos and others going just to hold their hands.

credit: Miranda WickerI am still amazed at the strength of warrior moms. For some this was the very first time they had ever left their children, or been on an airplane, or met the people they were roommates with, or ridden public transportation, or been to any type of conference at all. Being surrounded by these women for a few days in October has given me the strength to come home and fight on. It has fueled my fire.

At Postpartum Progress, we are proud to be #WarriorMomStrong and grateful to Cotton Babies for seeing our courage and supporting our work to help all moms feel like the good moms they are. Tell us what makes you or someone you love #WarriorMomStrong, and don’t forget to check out the STRONG gift series from Cotton Babies.

 

Image Credit – Cotton Babies

Image Credit – Amy Dingler Photography

Image Credit – Miranda Wicker

Lindsey Breitschaedel: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Lindsey Breitschaedel: When Things Don't Go As Planned | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear new mama,

What I want to say, in a nutshell, is go easy on yourself. If you’re anything at all like me (i.e. a type-A teacher) you want to be great at being a mom from the get-go. Maybe you have read books about the nifty schedules you can put baby on, or maybe you want to be the kind of mom who goes from moment to moment and just sees what baby needs.

Whatever way you are planning to go, if it goes differently, forgive yourself. Know that you are still doing an awesome job, even when it feels like you have no idea what you’re doing. Try not to punish yourself for being upset or disappointed, overwhelmed or frustrated.

It seems like society and the media put so much pressure on us to be happy and joyful, in control and just doing a fabulous job taking care of the baby (and ourselves!) right from the beginning. But your body and hormones are going through a huge shift, not to mention your lifestyle. It can be an easy and smooth transition, and I wish that for you with all my might.

In case it’s not, though, it’s ok and you are absolutely not alone. I think for most of us it’s harder than we will admit, especially on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Whether the birth goes differently than you were hoping or the first few weeks or months are difficult, it’s not your fault in any way. 

These are the things that nobody told me, and when my baby refused to stay on the schedule I planned for him and the birth I wanted turned out to be incredibly traumatic for me, I didn’t know it was OK to be upset about it. I thought (and I was told) that the problem was ME. I let things spiral and worsen for months because I had no idea that motherhood could be so difficult or that there were complications like mood disorders and genetics and my own difficult childhood that could cause me to stumble on my own journey.

But you don’t have to do that, mama.

You can start by forgiving yourself right away for having negative thoughts and feelings, and if they overwhelm you, you can ask for help and know that it’s the best possible thing you can do for yourself and your baby. You’ve got this. You’re not alone.

We mamas are right here with you. 

Love,

Lindsey

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Melissa Anderson: When Your Smile Isn’t a Lie

Melissa Anderson: When Your Smile Isn't a Lie | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear Momma,

You just gave birth. You did it. No matter how that baby entered this world, you were amazing.

Your mind is probably racing. This baby with soft, wrinkly skin, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and a grin that can break and then heal your heart all at once is yours.

Your heart races.

Your tears flow.

Your stretch marks are still there.

Your body aches.

Your heart aches.

And then it’s weeks later and you wonder when you’ll stop crying every day. You wonder when this heaviness, this sadness in your heart will go away. When the panic attacks will stop. When the terrible nightmares will quit playing on repeat in your head all. day. long. When this guilt will stop eating away your heart. When you’ll stop feeling like a failure because you couldn’t breastfeed, you couldn’t give birth the way you wanted, because you’re not able to be the mom you dreamed of being. When the regret will stop yelling in your head. When the shame will end.

No matter how hard you try, it won’t stop. Won’t go away. Won’t end.

And then you realize you can’t do it on your own. You make that call with hands shaking and heart breaking and ask for help. It’s a brave and courageous decision. You get on a treatment plan to help bring you back. To smile and laugh again. It takes time, but it’s working. It’s working. It’s finally working.

Those stretch marks? Your battle scars.

Those tears? Your battle cry.

And that smile on your face? No longer a lie.

Love,

Melissa

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.