Nearly 5 years ago, Rebecca and I met over coffee to discuss the difficulties of postpartum depression and finding support. This week we met again over coffee to discuss the future, and potential end of the organization.
As volunteers, we are unable to fully devote the time necessary to promise the services we once provided. We must scale back our services for 2020. This means no support groups and no warm line services.
We decided to leave the website up and will maintain some social media presence as we each continue to focus on our families, personal progression, and work commitments.
Our board members supported us through crazy ride and I am so thankful for them.
First my co-founder, Rebecca has been the one with the crazy ideas and the first to say why not? Thank you for this crazy ride! Rebecca is working with Mama Doctors. This is a wonderful resource for moms worldwide! She is also working on body positivity, health and wellness, and eventually dancing for birth at Impulse Studio. All the while she is homeschooling and doing all the other household nonsense necessary to keep moving forward.
In the time since founding, we have had four board members welcome five new babies. Parenting is a full time gig, and we are are so grateful for the time they have dedicated to this organization throughout their own parenting journey. Thank you Beth, Crystal, and Emily for coming to so many events and meetings with little squishes in tow!
Beth continues to serve our country as a reservist and is simply amazing. Crystal has been promoted to the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County and is killing it. Emily has landed an awesome job working from home which allows her to spend more time with her little ones and less time in the Tampa Bay traffic. I cannot thank you enough for your service and level-headedness throughout the past few years!
Dee is booking out her year for birth doula and continues to help moms through their childbearing time as both a birth doula and a hypnobirthing instructor. She is extremly active in the birth community. Her contact information can be found here.
Dr. Sh'nai Simmons is doing amazing things for families with her husband, Taiwan at Community Victory Family Services. To know this power couple is to know love. Thank you both for your service to The Seventh Mom Project and most importantly to the families you work with.
Maret will continue to work tirelessly for moms and babies. She is the IBCLC of Citrus County and serves on many committees to bring both lactation support and mental health support to families across the state of Florida.
I am two classes away from beginning my RN program. When I'm not working or spending time with family, I can be found at Camp Gladiator or walking my dog. I am beyond excited to share the GPS Group Peer Support training with the Tampa community next month and will eventually come back to group support when I can provide the attention it deserves. Right now, I have to take care of me and my family.
As we move into a new era, we want to assure you, that you are not alone. Services are available in Tampa Bay. We have outlined some on our Local Resources page. We also hope that you can see the brightness through the darkness. All of us have experienced mental health struggles surrounding the birth of our children. Some once, some multiple times. However, each of us are continuing to grow and live. I am proud to know the women who have held the umbrella over the years. I am proud of the women and families that have reached out for help. I know in my heart each and every one of you are amazing parents.
Closing the umbrella and enjoying some sunshine,
We are hosting a networking event to bring together Mental Health Professionals, advocates, as well as complementary community agencies. We are hoping that you will join us for this evening to share the services you provide and to learn more about other services available in Tampa Bay in regards to Mental Health.
For questions, please contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Right after the calendar turned to 2019 the diet and weight loss challenges & ads were everywhere. Then, shortly afterwards, identity seemed to be a popular topic.
So, I figured now is a good time to launch a series I've been holding on to for a little while.
First let me disclose that I have held onto a very negative body image since grade school. Seriously. Due to many circumstances that were beyond my control, I was aware very early in life that I did not look like the girls on TV or in magazines. By middle school I had developed a completely negative body image regarding my weight, skin, hair, you name it, I didn’t like it. It took a lot of time and hard work to reach a place where I could say I loved myself and my body, yet there was always an extra 10 pounds or flaw to cover up.
Fast forward to motherhood and boom. I didn't gain too much weight during pregnancy with my eldest and I lost most of it quickly after he was born. But then the cycle of depression, weight gain, negative body image, more depression, more weight gain set in. Once I started taking medication I started eating poorly and in larger quaintly. And while my general mood was stable, my negative body image kept me from exercising or taking better care of myself.
I lived in this pattern for the greater part of a decade.
Around my youngest child's first birthday, I sought a new psychiatrist, and began taking new medications. This switch and more precise diagnosis lifted the fog. I was motivated and ready to be healthy. I began eating better, but I still struggled with body image and I attributed it to my complete disdain for exercising. Until a mom's outing opportunity presented itself.
I was invited and attended a pole dance fitness class with a group of local moms. At last I enjoyed getting sweaty and earning sore muscles and was having fun working out. I decided to jump into a membership and began taking more classes. I became determined to get stronger through this amazing method of strength training.
I also unexpectedly met the most incredible welcoming, inclusive and body positive people I have ever met. No one in pole class cares about your size or your stretch marks. In fact, they will cheer you on and encourage you to love your body.
I realized that I had found a key to my own wellness through pole fitness and started to wonder how many others there were like me. Turns out there are plenty. I was added to several social media groups and became friends with women who shared their own journeys towards a positive body image with pole dance and many disclosed their own struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety.
I learned about professional athletes and instructors like Cleo The Hurricane, who have spoken up for women and encouraged them to be proud of their bodies, especially as moms.
I was further inspired by the courageous woman that declared "I let go of self judgment and felt the weight of the past few years falling away" as she shared her recovery from a traumatic cesarean and feelings of doubt and failure as a mother.
And as an added bonus, I learned about Pole for a Purpose, Inc! How cool is this, a nonprofit organization built by pole dance and aerial fitness enthusiasts to help other nonprofits. I was so impressed with the performances at their most recent showcase. The art, strength, beauty and positivity were out of this world. Then to add to the ice cream sundae of awesomeness, they designated a portion of their event proceeds to The Seventh Mom Project Inc.!
I can’t tell you how fun it is to see the melding of my fellow umbrella holders and my pole family, and yes, the local pole community is really like a family. Collecting diapers for moms in need and cheering each other on to just keep climbing the pole and through motherhood.
I share this with you today for two reasons. First because I want everyone to know it's ok to have feelings about your body and self-image but it's better to turn the negative thoughts into positive encouragement.
Second, find your passion. Wherever or whatever it is, if you have an old hobby from your pre-baby days or are curious about a new one, go ahead and explore it. Your worth as a mother is in no way lessened by celebrating the different parts of your identity outside of motherhood.
Until next time,
There are, undoubtedly, things that I am good at: I’ve been told I am a good writer and good with
words (one reason why writing, while it’s not paying that much, might be my job).
I do well at drawing people and I am good at saving ruined dinners, turning soggy sweet potato
gnocchi into a sweet potato pizza crust with arugula and parmesan shavings.
(I wouldn’t mention the latter if I wasn’t particularly proud of it, but also to give you a heartfelt
warning: Whoever is telling you making gnocchi from scratch is easy and essentially foolproof is lying.)
You know what I am also really good at?
I don’t take myself overly serious, and I think that doing so is a mostly healthy character trait.
Humor grounds you — especially finding humor in the things that don't go according to plan.
A friend of my husband used to say: “Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s punchline” and I think this is
a very healthy way to approach some, though definitely not all, emergencies.
But the true reason why I like to make myself a laughing stick goes deeper than just a seemingly
healthy self-esteem. Sometimes it stems from the belief that I don’t have much else going for me,
so I might as well turn myself into a joke: Making others laugh as compensation for a perceived
lack of self-worth.
You don’t need to be Sherlock to figure out depression rates (especially amongst younger people,
such as millennials) are on the rise. The Internet will spit out numerous statistics and articles on
this topic, and celebrities like Kristen Bell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and even Beyoncé have
openly talked about their struggle with mental illness.
Yes, even Queen Bey.
And this is good. It is more than good. Awareness is being raised, the stigma is being lifted. It
means that those struggling with depression and other mental illnesses, such as anxiety, might
sense a feeling of community: I am not alone in my struggles. It’s ok not to be ok.
There are, however, limitations to this new movement: Because some groups are simply
excluded from the notion that these struggles can affect anyone.
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had already gone through two miscarriages.
One took place in 2016 and it would take a full two years of (admittedly a sometimes rather half-
hearted) trying until I found myself pregnant again in 2018.
Then, at ten weeks I started spotting and subsequently was diagnosed with a blighted ovum,
where the placenta and the gestational sac develop, but the fetus doesn’t.
While the first pregnancy loss had been nothing short of traumatic, an event I still grappled to
come to terms with over a year later, I tried to rationalize my grief the second time around: “At least
nobody really died”, “At least I know I can get pregnant” and a couple more platitudes that
in hindsight did more harm than offer help.
When just weeks after the second miscarriage two pink lines showed up again, I was above all
But after my previous experiences my enthusiasm was more than curbed, and every
‘congratulations!’ from nurses and receptionists at doctor’s offices made me feel vaguely
It might be a common experience of those who conceive after loss: there is very little easiness
about being pregnant again. And it usually doesn’t stop after the thirteen week mark either.
During my entire first trimester, I viewed the pregnancy as yet another fluke: “I’m really not sure
if this one will stick,” “I’m pretty sure this one’s not gonna work out either.”
Every time I lightly spotted, I would simply think ‘There — I knew it’ and prepare myself for the
Even an early scan at seven weeks to confirm the pregnancy and its viability didn’t really ease
my constant fear — despite the fact that there was a not-so-baby-shaped baby on the screen (with
When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, my moods began to shift dramatically.
My family has a history of mental illness on either side: seasonal depression, depressive
episodes, postpartum depression and burnout syndromes.
I am quite familiar with the initial changes in wellbeing when another bout of persistent mental
health crap sneaks its way back into your life.
And like everybody else (since I was pregnant), I blamed it on hormones.
At week 23, I was seriously wondering if I was cut out to be a mother. I planned on reading to
my baby, but never did. I wanted to be one of these moms-to-be that listened to their favorite
music with their unborn babies by putting headphones on their bellies. I never did that either.
(I get that not everyone does that. And maybe it’s less of a big deal than I make it out to be, but it
felt significant to me at that time — like I wasn’t bonding enough with my child.)
At week 25, I researched how to put my baby up for adoption.
The same baby I had longed for so desperately for almost the last five years.
Because I’m a snowflake and I love equal rights, I found a gay couple from New York who
stated in their profile that they wished to travel to Europe — especially to France — with their
adopted child like they had done every year before to show him or her the magic that is the “Old
‘Europe! Great!’, I thought. Having immigrated to the US from Germany just shy of three years
prior, why not offer my kid a way to connect with her foreign roots?
(I think it is par for the course, but I will state it here nonetheless: At no point did I really want to
give my daughter up for adoption. Why would I? I didn’t just want this child, I longed for her.)
At week 26, I was questioning the meaning of life and my purpose in it. I started snooping
around in sub-forums on Reddit where pregnancy and having suicidal thoughts was openly
discussed. While it helped me to recognize that I wasn’t alone with these thoughts, it was far
A lot of times I would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, riddled with all kinds of compulsive
thinking patterns, ranging from financial worries and my worth due to not generating a full-time
income to recapping unpleasant events that had happened years ago.
In a month, my mental state had rapidly deteriorated, and yet I didn’t know how to breach the
topic with anyone. Not my midwives, not friends and not even my husband.
There’s a lot of shame and guilt involved when everyone assumes you should be over the moon,
yet somehow you’re hovering at the very edge of an abyss.
Depression doesn’t happen to pregnant women — at least this seems to be the common, run-of-
the-mill societal consent.
Sure, there is PPD which has been widely recognized in the last ten years, with numerous
support groups available.
But when you are pregnant, you are supposed to be glowing and happy, awaiting the birth of
your baby in a state of perpetual bliss.
Yet it is estimated that prenatal depression happens to pregnant women way more often than we
assume — the problem is that in this case, the stigma of depression is still very much present.
When googling for more information, the sources are rather thin and solutions, apart from
cognitive or behavioral therapy or medication, are few and far in-between.
We are told that we’re “just hormonal”, get a pat on the shoulder and are advised to go for a walk
or take a nap.
(This is an approach I would deem appropriate for a moody two year-old, not a woman
struggling when she is in dire need of support.)
So, how do we approach prenatal depression?
How can we effectively educate both the public as well as pregnant women themselves to offer a
different outlook on pregnancy aside from cooing over budding bumps, onesies and tiny sock
How can we offer resources for those suffering to combat prenatal depression early, before it
eventually is simply declared PPD after the baby is born?
I still have no idea why depression hit me so hard at a point in my life where I assumed I would
be the happiest.
Maybe I underestimated how much my rather turbulent (and very dysfunctional) upbringing still
weighed heavy on my overall mental well-being. Pregnancy seemed to have dug up a lot of
issues I thought were long resolved: An oftentimes painful reminder of my own childhood and
teenage years, bringing along the fear I might, as a parent, resort to the same unhealthy patterns.
There are days when finding the clarity to combat these thoughts of being “unworthy” of this
child is very hard.
And while I have an intellectual understanding that my mental health issues are not really who I
am as a person and that my struggles don’t make me unfit for pregnancy and childrearing, it is
hard to come up with effective coping mechanisms and shake the guilt of being a bad mother
from the very start.
For now, I’ll try and see if the snack and nap method works.
There is a fog over me. Consuming me internally. I go through the daily motions required of me.
I’m there for my kids and husband, or am I? I answer their questions, play and read, make sure dinner is cooked (most of the time) and there is food in the fridge. My children are playing and squealing with laughter. I should be smiling, I should be feeling these emotions. I don’t.
The fog has settled, I am numb.
My coworker died by suicide. I reached out to my doctor and said I need medicine. I was told to wait, this was all fresh. It isn’t fresh. The fog has settled. I’m not me. I say what you want to hear, I play the game. Inside I’m crying for help but the words and voice won’t come.
I have an ear infection. I tell my doctor it’s time for medicine. He looks at me. He pauses. Waiting. The words come. The voice is strong. I am firm. I NEED HELP! My diet is better, finding time to exercise causes more stress, counseling I know will help but causes even more stress to try and figure out. Stress is not what I need, I am under enough stress. I’m not me, I miss me and want her back! I don’t want the high school me back, I want the person who loves life and the adventures with it! The person not afraid of messes and has fun making the mess. Where did she go?
The fog has lifted. The medicine is balancing my brain. I’m slowly returning.
I am not alone. I am not a stigma.
You are not alone. You are not a stigma.
There is help. There are resources.
Speak up. Advocate. Educate.
Motherhood is not my identity.
Maternal mental health is not my identity.
Hi, my name is Rebecca, I'm a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with maternal mental illness.
I fight from a place of victory over anxiety and OCD with intrusive thoughts as well as depression. I happen to also be married with 5 living children at home and I co-founded a really cool organization.
I want you to pay close attention to how I have chosen to introduce myself. How I identify myself. Through my own journey through the darkness I have found that we place so much emphasis on our identity, but we often misplace our identity at the same time.
Now some of our readers may not be familiar with Christian scripture so let me give you a quick rundown.
Believers follow the scripture:
Galatians 2:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Now that's not to say that I am not a mother because I most certainly am but it's not my identity and it took a lot of heart ache for me to realize that.
The turmoil happened in a different way with each child, but I'll use the birth of my 4th the one who well got me started on this path.
At the time I was a home schooling, Christian, crunchy mom. A cloth diapering, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, home-birthing mom. This was my identity. I went to church and had a strong relationship with my church family, but I misunderstood where my identity truly was. When my planned home birth didn't go as I expected, I felt a loss of identity. I felt like a failure. I didn't belong in my natural birth community anymore because I didn't have my natural home birth. I had a cesarean under general anesthesia. To add to the loss of self, when I had breast feeding problems, my identity as a breastfeeding mom was taken away. When I needed to place my oldest child in public school, for the sake of my mental health at the time, another identifier was stripped away from me.
All of these events exacerbated the distress. I saw them as an identity crisis.
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone or met someone new and when you asked them the question "what do you do" they answered with a "I am" statement? Perhaps someone has said to you "Hey what do you do for a living" and your reply has been "I am a teacher; I am a stay-at-home mom; I am an account executive". All of these “I am” answers, but the question was what you do, not who you are.
So why do we place our identity in being a mom or in my case a mental mom?
Your identity is who you are and being a mother is such a huge part of who you are, but it doesn't take away who you were before, or you will become.
Maybe it's time we stopped building women up throughout pregnancy to replace herself with this new identity. It seems once the full transition has occurred, and new moms feel lost, we fail to offer quality support. We need to quit trying to change their identity, and simply support people where they are and as who they are from the get go.
You see when you place your identity in what you do and what you do doesn't go the way you expected, or it's taken away from you, whether by choice or by tragedy, you’re set up for an identity crisis.
Of course, let's face it, becoming a new mom can be an identity crisis in its own. Whether one is a new mom for the first time or the sixth time, there must be support for this transition.
I have found that if my identity isn't solid in my beliefs and in line with Jesus Christ as my higher power, I am going to have an identity crisis. Thus, it is important for motherhood and faith to be able to be entwined with the person so as not to lose portions of self. Pastors, women's ministry leaders, and moms group directors, I'm calling you out specifically right now: take the time to remind the moms you are working with that their identity is so much more than just “mother”. Remind them of their true identity and encourage them through motherhood to embrace the main parts of their identity.
If you are not a Christian, take note of your use of “I am”.
Is it really who you are or is there so much more to you?
I bet there is a lot more.
You are beautiful. You matter. You are not alone in this identity crisis.
The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. is excited to support moms where they are at. We are currently running a SISTER Mom training to help other women discover how they can provide mentorship to our fellow moms. Following the Pilot, one of our SISTER Mom graduates, Sarah, has decided to start leading a Faith Based Mom Support group!
For moms that feel this would meet their needs:
Tuesday, February 5th @ 10:30 AM @ Relevant Church Tampa, 1705 N 16th St Tampa, FL 33605
The Seventh Mom does not discriminate, and we hope to spread maternal mental health support groups to every corner of Tampa Bay. We would love to see a group for every mom. Groups that can meet the needs for the wonderful diversity of mothers in our community. If you are interested in completing the SISTER Mom Training and running your own support group, please contact Elizabeth at email@example.com.
With approximately 600,000 women affected by postpartum depression each year, it is now the most commonly experienced complication of childbirth. Hormone changes, sleep deprivation, birth trauma and of course circumstance all contribute to rolling in the storm that is postpartum depression. Research has already shown us that low income mothers are more likely to experience a postpartum mood disorder for many reasons. One thing we can do to reduce the risk or perhaps ease the burden is help with diapers.
Yes, I’m talking about diapers.
Imagine you are exhausted, mentally and physically, and you aren’t able to change your baby’s diapers as needed. Being unable to afford diapers is positively correlated with mental health issues during the postpartum months.
When researchers at Yale surveyed 877 new mothers, 30 percent of these moms reported they were not able to change their baby as frequently as they should because of the cost of diapers. These moms were also more likely to experience postpartum mental health issues.
Presently families are able to get help with food, formula, and breastfeeding through community and state programs, but diapers are a need often not met.
Just 10 diapers per day, for 365 days would cost $915 (based on the cost of generic diapers at my local big box store when purchased in bulk which is often not possible for low-income families). Some families will use cloth diapers to cut cost, but what about families without access to laundering facilities to properly wash cloth diapers?
Parental depression is only one of the effects of being unable to afford diapers. Babies who are not changed often enough are more susceptible to UTIs or other infections. Babies who are not changed often enough experience discomfort, which causes them to cry more frequently, which in turn makes them more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of their caregivers. To add insult to injury, most subsidized daycare centers require a week's worth of disposables, which means families who cannot afford diapers cannot put their child in daycare in order to work so they can afford to buy diapers, just continuing the cycle.
If you want to make a bigger impact on eliminating diapering needs in Tampa Bay, consider being a volunteer donation site coordinator. We’ll supply what you need and even help you promote on social media while you just collect diapers which we will deliver to a local community diaper bank. As a bonus, information on support and resources for postpartum depression and anxiety will be provided with each diaper pack given to families in need.
The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. will be leading a diaper drive, starting September 24 and ending October 31st. You can donate diapers at locations listed here, or contact us to donate directly.
We cannot say thank you loud enough to all the people who support organization. Whether it is your time, skills or financial support, we couldn't do the work without you!
It's encouraging to meet someone new who expresses interest in the mission of The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. Their desire to roll their sleeves up and help is icing on the cake!
That said, I wanted to share some current opportunities to volunteer with The Seventh Mom Project, Inc.
Do you like planning and helping throw events? We're seeking two teams, one in Hillsborough and one in Pinellas to work under our Events Chair to help plan, coordinate, and staff fundraising and community outreach events. Tasks could be a simple as soliciting raffle donations, or as involved as promoting events in daily social media post. Events range from Mom's Night Out fundraisers and outreach at community fairs to the annual Raincoat Run 5K event. If this sounds like the way you want to #holdtheumbrella, let us know!
Are you a digital artist? We love pictures and inspiration content to share with our followers. If you like to design in your free time, we would love to share your creations!
Do you have a passion for encouraging new mothers? Have you faced the storm and are you ready to help another mom get through it? Perhaps SISTER Mom is the mentor-ship program for you. We'll be starting another training cycle for our SISTER Mom Mentors soon. Be sure we've got your info to stay in the loop.
Do you like a good laugh? Help raise awareness about maternal mental health and have a good laugh as one of our Flamingo Fosters. Flamingo Flocking is underway. Help the flock get to their assigned roost and relocate them when necessary. This could actually be a group effort as it takes many to spread the word.
Do you serve in a professional role? Over the next year, we hope to move forward with building a professional advisory board, a round table forum for maternal health, infant health, and mental health care providers to discuss ways to improve connections to care and bridge the gaps between mothers in distress and quality effective treatment. If you or your colleagues are interested in playing a part of this community activity, we'd love to hear what you have to say!
For more information, use the contact form below!
Following the storm, the river rose. Eventually we learned the river had crested at over 16 feet. Our mobile home had taken on quite a bit of water. As you can imagine mostly wood furniture, no electricity, standing water for several days, the damage was severe. River water had come so high that you couldn’t even get in our neighborhood without a boat. When we were finally able to access our home, we found nearly everything left behind destroyed. Mold crept in, taking over the floor, the walls, and the ceiling.
So here we are: destroyed home, closed schools, and my husband had to return to work. Like most families we simply wanted to return to our “normal”. Many local families were working to get back to their “normal”. Yard clean up, laundry and dishes that had piled up during their time without power, keeping children entertained while schools continued to act as shelters for east coast evacuees. Fortunately, the overall destruction was not nearly the scale of once predicted in the Tampa Bay area.
We were awestruck by the outpouring of support from people all over Tampa Bay supporting not only our neighborhood but many others that had been flooded, offering clean clothes, places to stay, hot meals, it was truly amazing to see the way families in Tampa Bay came together for one another.
We had to do massive cleanup of the items we lost, but we pressed on. I lost some of my SISTER Mom training materials too. My signed copy of "I'm Listening". I did find it fitting that my copy of "Life Will Never Be the Same" was near the top of these destroyed materials.
I also have to take time to mention how amazing all of this volunteers and supporters of the Seventh Mom Project are. Volunteers helped with the cleanup, the meal train, and keeping my spirits up. As you know we do not a have a brick and mortar location, and we also lost materials to the storm. During this time I was without a computer, however continued to operate as best as possible from my phone and of course my copilot really stepped up and took on even more of the work she had already been shouldering since the birth of Haddie.
My family moved in to our temporary home. This happened to be a hotel in Tampa. Some amazing moms put together a meal train for us. That was such a life saver! Can you imagine cooking for a family of seven in a hotel room with a crock pot, microwave, and a tiny mini-fridge for weeks? It's not pleasant, but between the meal train and culinary creativity, we made it work.
After several long weeks living in the hotel, we closed on our new home. The love continued to pour as friends helped with the move, replaced lost furniture, and filled our new home with laughter.
Thank you to all the supporters who help us weather storms daily!
Hey there Tampa Bay,
It is the first week of June, and if you've been in Florida for more than a year, you know that means it is the official start of Hurricane Season. Let's be real, if you've been here the last few weeks and pay attention to the weather channel, you know that this year the season got a jump start thanks to Alberto.
This time last year we put out a blog with some tips and tricks for dealing with hurricane season with children.
Then Murphy and her law decided we needed to have a little more experience weathering storms. Yup you guessed it, Hurricane Irma happened and if you have been following The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. for a while, you may recall that my personal home was flooded by the rising Alafia River following Irma.
I finally went back and reread that original post and reflected on what worked and what I'll be doing differently this year to survive motherhood through Hurricane Season. Recently, I added some tips here.
Here is my story about weathering the storm.
A little back story, our family of seven (and two dogs) had been living in a mobile home, saving to purchase or build a house. On September 1st we went under contract for a new house. Since our schedules are crazy, I knew I needed to get a move on with all the packing and sorting of our belongings. About the time I was collecting moving boxes, we began to receive warnings about a potential category 3 or 4 hurricane.
Due to my husband's employment, when hurricanes occur there is always the possibility of him having to go to work and me having to hold things down by myself. For this reason, and the fact that we live in a mobile home, evacuation has always been the likely hurricane plan. Trouble is, how do you evacuate with five children and two large dogs. I began to research and found listings of my local shelters. There are special needs and pet friendly shelters in Tampa Bay, however they fill quickly. You also will find that your pets are often housed separate from the people, especially when using our schools as shelters.
My other concern is I have a cerebral spinal condition that is affected by changes to the barometric pressure. This makes keeping us safe more complicated during a storm. So the decision came that I would need to take the children and dogs and go stay with family on the other side of the state. However, those spaghetti models were crazy and we didn't know what the storm's track was going to do. Was it going towards the West Coast of Florida or was coming to hit the East Coast? I have plenty of family on the other side of the state that would have sheltered us, but if the storm was heading straight to them, it didn’t make sense to head that way. To really throw a wrench in the works, our youngest was only four months old at the time. She had just recently graduated out of feeding therapy and required very attentive care. We decided to head North.
Now if you are evacuating please, please, please do not immediately think of the farthest possible place to go. I know it seems very instinctual to get as far away from danger as possible and for that reason many families left the state of Florida traveling many States away. However, this massive evacuation caused quite a mess on the roads going in-and-out of Florida, as well as Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina. There were times where it took travelers hours to go a few miles. There were gas shortages, not just in Florida, finding gas became difficult even in Georgia and South Carolina. Not only were there shortages of gasoline, there were no hotel rooms.
Of course, our family, like many others, decided the best decision for us would be to evacuate out of state. However, we lived in a mobile home along water. Had we lived in the home we were under contract at the time, we would have likely sheltered in place. Long distant travel when not warranted is not typically advised.
We made this decision based on our family’s needs and packed accordingly for a road trip. We truly anticipated our house being gone when we returned, so instead of boarding my house up, I went to a nearby storage facility and secured a climate controlled storage unit. While many people were out going store to store desperately seeking water, canned foods, and plywood, I was packing up our irreplaceable objects: photos, mementos, books, and really anything I possibly could get into a box and get to that storage unit. For approximately 40 hours before we left, our children were watching TV, while I shoved everything I could into available boxes, and my husband made multiple trips to and from the storage unit. Unfortunately, even with this forethought, we simply could not get everything out.
I followed my favorite, local meteorologist and when the warnings came out of what time you needed to be sheltered or gone, we knew our time was growing short. We finally reached the point of "hey, we don't have any more time for any more trips to the storage unit. We have to leave". We loaded up both of our minivan's, all the kids, both dogs, and the road trip packs we decided we would take with us on this epic journey and said, "good bye, house thanks for the memories".
Aside from packing as many of our belongings as we could into storage, I also packed a large cooler of all the food we could eat on the go from our fridge. I boiled all the eggs, and packed all the cold cuts, canned tuna, and bread. Anything we could eat on the road or at a rest area was packed up. This proved to be quite helpful because our destination was North Carolina but it took us 2 days to travel what is normally a 13 to 14-hour drive. Having just put a deposit on a house and renting out the storage units in addition to our normal expenses, we were on limited funds. Stopping for fast food, if there was even anything open, wasn’t feasible for us, add in the fact that wait times for many drive-through were well over an hour, having packed food was well worth the time and ice.
Something else I'm glad we had the forethought to do was fill up both vehicles with gas because you had to get off the interstates and travel quite a way to find fuel and then there were waits in gas lines.
Just outside of Kings Bay, Georgia we pulled off at a rest stop. I had reached the point of physical and mental exhaustion and simply could not safely continue to drive. While parked at the rest area my husband and I desperately tried to book a hotel. We called multiple services, multiple hotel chains; no one had rooms. There was quite a bit of wind and rain where we were but at that point we had to decide. Our safest option was to stay put in that rest area, lock the doors, hunker down, get comfy as possible and nap in our vans. I know your probably wondering, “How in the world do you get comfortable?” The reality is when the adrenaline finally crashed and we'd been awake so long, it wasn’t that difficult to fall asleep in the parked minivan with kids, blankets, pillows strewn all over and a big dog curled up on top of my feet. We managed to get about 6 hours of rest (minus the 2 or 3 times I had to wake to feed and change the baby).
We crossed into South Carolina about the time the Sun came up. I must tell you, the welcome center across that state line was like and oasis in the desert. Knowing they were about to have this huge onslaught of evacuees coming into the state, they were prepared. The restrooms and were spotless, pallets of bottled water were handed out to travelers, there were phone charging stations, and outlets to use televisions with weather updates. I must hand it to South Carolina's Department of Transportation, because they were on point.
Now focusing back to some of those tips and tricks I shared last year. We utilized the Ziploc bag and tote method for packing our belongings. This proved to be handy even once we got to our destination being able to pull out a gallon Ziploc with a complete change of clothes for a child was so much better than digging through a suitcase or duffel bag. I've taken to routinely keeping a bag in the back of my van with a Ziploc for each person, including myself because you never know when someone's going to get dirty, after all kids are kids, right?
Using the large tote with the lid also proved handy when we needed a diaper changing station for the littlest, a table to lay out the Atlas and check our directions (because when the weather is rough, you cannot count on GPS to navigate you), and a height appropriate place to put the dogs’ food and water bowls in the car.
We followed the weather alerts while we were gone and received messages from friends, family, and neighbors. We were relieved to see the Facebook live videos from neighbors showing that our neighborhood had survived the storm rather well. We were surprised we were returning to a house that was still standing. Of course, the drive home took even longer than the drive out. Traffic, extremely slow-moving traffic, was even worse, because now the National Guard, reserve power companies, and other rescue organizations were traveling to Florida. We saw rows and rows of line trucks and semis carrying generators, chain saws, and all sorts of supplies that people would need for the recovery and clean up.
Once again, I was grateful for my cooler and at this point the non-perishable foods that I had brought. There weren't many places to stop and if you did by chance find and open fast food joint or a drive-thru, the wait times were upwards of an hour or two.
Once we got back to Florida we discovered the river near our home had begun to rise and rise and rise and going straight home was not going to be an option for us so we went to stay with family roughly on the other side of the state. We believed we were close to returning to our normal and relieved to get some real rest.
This was not what happened, but you can read more about the aftermath soon.
This mom wears rainboots,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the