When moms contact me, questioning their emotional roller coasters during pregnancy or during their postpartum year, I always start back at the basics. The Steps to Wellness were developed by Jane Honikman, founder of PEP and later Postpartum International. More than thirty years later, they are just as relevant to all people, especially new parents.
Today I am going to review the first 3 steps. They are so blatantly simple, but so often overlooked by new parents as the demands of a new little one take their toll.
If you are a new parent, and you haven't been taking the time to rest or eat, please do! It will serve you and your family well to be fed and rested.
Next week I will review steps 4-6.
We are asking our amazing community of moms to nominate the professional that helped you through maternal mental health issues. This can be the doula that screened and encouraged you to seek treatment, the OB that didn’t dismiss you, but offered you effective treatment, the midwife that prepared you in advance so you knew it was time to seek help, or the therapist or counselor that you received treatment from. Nominations will be accepted until April 29th, 2018.
*Nominations will be kept anonymous after submission unless the nominator requests to be mentioned.
Click here to nominate your Maternal Mental Health Hero! (hint: scroll down below the Raincoat Run Info)
In January, Rebecca traveled to the state capitol to support the Maternal Mental Health Advocacy Day. She could not share what legislation like SB 138 could have meant for her motherhood journey at the event, but below she is sharing her testimony..
To learn more about SB 138 click here.
"My name is Rebecca Hartley-Woods and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, lifetime Floridian and mother to 5 amazing children.
With regards to Senate Bill 138 and the desire for public health information regarding perinatal mood disorders, I would like to share that I was a public health worker while pregnant with my eldest son and even though I networked with multiple community and governmental agencies serving women of childbearing age, no one warned me about or screened me for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
I know "what if" is often a pointless exercise and yet I wonder if this bill had been inplace perhaps my life would've been very different.
During my pregnancy in 2007 and 2008 I lived with what I now know was prenatal anxiety. At the time I didn't know what was wrong with me and I feared reaching out.
By the time my son was two weeks old I had recurring visions of terrifying things such as my baby drowning in the bathtub or dropping him down the stairs. I found traffic horrifying as I often envisioned a terrible crash when my son was in the car.
Working 40 plus hours a weak providing education and services in a public health setting, all the childbirth and newborn classes, not even community programs I participated in prepared me for the maternal mental health crisis I would endure.
I did not speak up about the scary thoughts that I now know where intrusive thoughts, a symptom of my postpartum anxiety because I feared seeking help. I was afraid of my son being taken away.
I dropped the coursework I had been enrolled in, isolated from friends, busied myself in work and spent as little time as possible with my baby thinking he was safer with others and what a terrible mother I was for thinking these terrible things.
I was afraid to speak up because I feared loosing my son. This is important to note because the bill in its current form is lacking language regarding DCF.
While pregnant with my 4th child in 2014 I sought help. I was visited by child protective investigators not once but twice after seeking professional help. Sadly, the investigators had no resources or help to offer other than apologies for erroneous reports and the waste of my time and theirs.
Moving forward to 2017, for the first time in 7 pregnancies over 11 years I was screened at a postpartum check up following the birth of my 5th living child. I cannot recall the number of obstetricians, community agency workers, out of hospital midwives and other maternal health professionals who I have seen over the years. But I can tell you about the 1 time I was screened for a postpartum mood disorder at a postpartum appointment.
Had this bill been in place many years ago, I might have completed school on time, not left my job causing financial strain that ultimately led to filing bankruptcy. Had I found appropriate treatment in a timely manner I might have not missed my only sister's wedding because I couldn't get in a car with my baby without having a panic attack.
Had this bill been in place, I might have happy memories of what was supposed to be the happiest time in my life.
Thanks for letting me share."
Early motherhood is somewhat like the weather. Semi-predictable, but every now and then a storm rolls in. When the rain pours, The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. holds the umbrella. To build awareness and community we are hosting our first 5K and Family Fun Run event on April 22nd at Al Lopez Park. All proceeds will benefit The Seventh Mom Project, Inc.'s work in the Tampa Bay area.
Visit www.raincoatrun.com for details!
Join Us at the Tampa Bay Birth and Baby Expo on Saturday March 10, 2018! Elizabeth will be speaking about Perinatal Mood Disorders. Click here to register!
and Support the Raincoat Run!
Step 1. Go to Razoo at www.razoo.com/story/Raincoatrun
Step 2: Click the menu in the top left and select +Fundraise
Step 3. Click "Fundraising Team"
Step 4. Click "Start a Team"
Step 5. It will ask if team members can support multiple organizations, you can select yes or no (because we can't tell you how to give your charitable donations!)
Step 6. If you select that all members will be donating to the same organization, it will ask you to choose one. Type in Seventh Mom Project (no The).
Step 7. Continue by creating a log in. (I used Facebook because it was easy)
Step 8. Customize your fundraiser page. (feel free to use any of the Raincoat Run photos at the end of these instructions!)
Step 9. Launch you Fundraiser!
Step 10. Share with all your friends and family! Get them to join, share, and most importantly donate.
Note: Donations impact our GIVEDAY Tampa Bay 2018 campaign the most from April 17th to May 1st, 2018, so planned giving is welcome and awesome! However, we appreciate any and all support any time of the year!
Also: If it's easier to share our fundraiser page and ask others to donate-- feel free to share this link: https://www.razoo.com/story/Raincoatrun
It has certainly been a year.
Here are 7 accomplishments we have had here at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. in 2017!
1. Our Board and Advisory members had a collective four babies this year!
2. We had an amazing spring Perinatal Mental Health Awareness campaign with #MomsRock.
3. Remember that prepare for the hurricane season blog Rebecca wrote in June? Turns out we needed it come September!
4. Our social enterprise Doulas of Tampa Bay has gained traction and we were able to support three postpartum families last year. We hope to grow this portion of our organization in 2018!
5. We graduated 3 SISTER Mom Mentors and hope to match them this Spring!
6. We supported over 40 women through resource referrals and support groups.
7. We are planning our first Raincoat Run: Family Fun Run and 5K for this spring.
We hope you are having a wonderful holiday season and wish all our followers, donors, clients, and partners a very Happy New Year!
My Facebook feed is flooded with adorable pictures of children dressed in their new school clothes, smiling in front of their homes, or perhaps their schools. Ready and excited for their first day.
I have no such picture. This milestone did not go that way for me. And I bet it didn't go as great as all the photos suggest either.. But hey, a milestone is a milestone.
Here is my rundown on Logan's first day of Kindergarten:
1. I wake Logan up and he goes down stairs. I get in the shower, Allison wakes up and screams as James comes and takes her back to bed.
2. I get out of the shower, go down stairs to find that Logan did not get his clothes on.
3. I get dressed in the living room, as Logan cries on the couch about not wanting to go to school.
He hates it.
4. I try to bribe him with donuts.
5. I physically remove his pjs and put on his uniform as he fights it halfheartedly.
6. He begs for a smaller shirt.
7. I show him that ALL his uniform shirts are the same size.
8. I promise him I will buy him a smaller shirt today.
9. He again says he never wants to go to school. I tell him fine, buts it's part of his agreement to live here, so if he doesn't want to go to school he can live outside. He cries some more.
10. I tell him to get in the car or daddy will have to take him. I laugh about something and he tells me to stop laughing.
11. In the car I try to hand him a pop tart, he does sad eyes and brings up the donut bribe. I give in to avoid another round of tears.
12. I grab plastic chocolate donuts from the gas station on the way. He eats them in the car with tears still running down his face.
13. At the school I accidentally end up in car line, while I am supposed to be parking and walking him in for the first day only.
14. the car line teachers help me get to a parking spot. In the car Logan wipes the chocolate off his face and hands and puts his lunchbox in his book bag.
15. We get out of the car. He cries quietly and hold my hand tight. In the hallway, we stop and he gets water.
16. At the classroom, I help him get his lunchbox out of his book bag and he places it where it goes. He hangs his bag on his hook.
17. He looks at me and his eyes well up. I ask if he wants a hug. Tears leak and he says no. I tell him "I love you, go sit in your seat."
And then to his teacher--"he's all yours now."
18. She says "you're used this, huh?" 😢 I tell her "he's not great with transitions, but he'll be fine" as I walk down to hall.
No pictures, tons of tears. My eyes welled a few times.
And I didn't realize until typing this that he didn't brush his teeth.
Happy First Day of Kindergarten.
Though it's been a busy summer, I could not let July pass without touching Minority Mental Health Month. Yes that is a thing, a very important thing, especially when you consider numerous studies reveal minority women are more likely to experience postpartum depression. Many go untreated for their symptoms. In Florida, nearly 60% of mothers reported feeling symptoms of Postpartum Depression, and less than 10% actually sought treatment following diagnosis. Non-Hispanic Black women are at the highest risk for experiencing these symptoms (PRAMS 2010).
This is simply not okay. Tampa Bay, we can do better. Florida, we definitely can do better.
However, this isn't going to be another post where we demonstrate our knowledge of appalling statistics.
Break the Silence for #MinorityMentalHealth
July is minority mental health month and as a minority and the daughter of an adult living with bipolar disorder, this topic hits so close to home. I know too well the seriousness of mental health. However, this is not the case with all minorities. Do you know that for the general population, 15-20% of women will suffer from Postpartum Depression? Do you know that for non-white, low-income women, the numbers are nearly doubled?
More often than I’d care to admit, I’ve witnessed minorities neglect to recognize or acknowledge the symptoms of mental health disorders. This lack of support is so damaging to the person living with the disorder; it can be difficult to recover and the results can be deadly. Even though the likelihood of mental illness is higher in minority populations, detection and treatment rates are less than half that of non-minority women. If you know someone whom you suspect may be suffering from a mental illness, it is essential that you break the silence. Urge them to get help, and even go with them to get it if they need that support. Enough of the “it’s not my business” or “they just need a life change” or “we’ve never needed help before” or even “that’s not a problem we have” talk because if you care and you don’t act with timeliness, you could be a not-so-innocent bystander to great tragedy.
Also, no one should ever make the mistake of thinking that children and teenagers are immune to mental illness. Mental illness does not discriminate. Many of the stressors that minorities and low-income families experience are the very same triggers for depression; and children go through the stress of challenges and disparities in their environment. My own journey with mental illness began at the age of 13; my mom was wise enough to recognize the issue and took me to get counseling immediately. I am so grateful because that counsel saved my life and gave me excellent coping skills that I use to this day. Please, never turn a blind eye to anyone living with mental illness.
For those of us living with mental illness:
Getting help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of wisdom and courage.
Mental illness is nothing to be shrugged at, and people suffering from it need the support of loved ones. There is no question about it. If you are a minority, and you aren’t living with it yourself, you almost certainly know someone who is. Please be that beacon of hope for them and lead them to good counsel
 Sampson, PhD, Duron, PhD, Maldonado Torres, M., et al. A Disease You Just Caught: Low-Income African American Mothers’ Cultural Beliefs About Postpartum Depression. Women’s Healthcare. Nov, 2014.
This summer, the Good family of five will embark on our first ever two week vacation. I am nervous. Having a list-loving, over-planning, type-A personality, I am trying hard to simultaneously not to over think things or forget essentials. So I am writing lists AND engaging in positive self talk to remind myself that it will be a blast.
Here are my 5 vacation preparing tips!
1. Pack light
It is my MO to have enough clothes to have options since I never know what I will feel like wearing. So I want to pack a full outfit for every day of the trip, for every person. For a family of five, on a two week trip, this type of planning would result in excess baggage, costing us a few hundred dollars in baggage fees. However, we are staying with family. We will have access to laundry. Thus, we don't NEED to have an entire closet full of clothes. So THIS trip, I am limiting each person to 3-4 shirts, 2-3 bottoms, swim clothes, 4 pairs underwear & socks and two pairs of shoes. Okay I am also adding ONE running outfit and shoes so I can get some exercise in...
2. Plan some downtime
Speaking of exercise, it is important, especially on such a long trip, to not over schedule each day. Remember kids will need to rest at some time during the day. It is important to maintain some parts of normal routine to avoid melt downs from all parties. Plan for days in, whether your staying with family or in a hotel or resort, don't plan a full outing every day. Enjoy your home away from home in as normal of routing as you can muster at least once per week away from home.
3. Plastic Baggies
You may remember Rebecca talking about the use of plastic baggies during hurricane prep. Well really, they are useful for all sorts of adventures with children. This is the first time I will be packing with plastic baggies for dividing individual outfits, but I think it will do two things for me. 1) make sure I plan evenly and that one kid doesn't end up with 7 shirts and 2 pairs of socks because I get irritated and start throwing things into bags. 2) keep the clothes somewhat organized in our much smaller home away from home (aka room at the grandparents). This should keep socks from wondering during our trip. I will also be putting kid activities in baggies for easy storage as well as packing all toiletries (as required by TSA) into a clear plastic baggie for easy pass through at airport security. All baggies will go into personal backpacks. Photos to come when I get around to packing!
4. Remember your prescriptions
Prescriptions need to be packed with the other vital traveling documents, ID, passport, birth certificate, credit cards etc. I urge you to carry any prescription medication in its original packaging in your personal carry on bag. Just in case, have a copy of your script in case your actual bottle disappears in transit. Check with your provider if you need to adjust for the timing of the medications due to time differences, and make sure you have plenty to provide adequate dosing for the duration of your trip, even if you hit a delay in travel arrangements.
5. Discuss the plans with your children in advance
Talk with your children about your travel arrangements. Use vague language if plans are not set in stone, but provide enough detail that they have and idea of what to expect. It will help to alleviate any fears they may be harboring. It can also help your anxiety as they may ask questions that help you plan for things you hadn't really thought of. For instance, my son asked where he would sleep at Grandma's house, and I realized I needed to clarify with my mother what the sleeping arrangements would be. Talking about the trip will build excitement and reduce anxiety on all parts. Just be careful not to make any finite promises that you can't be sure will be kept. Your children will remember all your promises and will not let you forget!
What tips do you have for family travel? Share in the comments below!
Packing up a storm!
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the