I remember asking Daniel to go get a pregnancy test. He scoffed at me and blew my instinct off because so many times I had felt pregnant and was wrong. Still he came home with a pregnancy test that night after work.
Unlike the 20 or so pregnancy tests I took hopefully expecting a positive result during my first marriage, this pregnancy test I was praying would be negative. I had just been laid off a few months earlier. Neither Daniel nor I had a driver’s license. I was 20 pounds heavier than my heaviest weight. I was not prepared to be pregnant. I knew this was the worst possible time in my life to be pregnant. There was no way after trying for 5 years and not getting pregnant. There was no way to conceive with out fertility treatment like I’d been told in my last marriage. How could this be happening now with no medical intervention?
Obviously the pregnancy test was positive, or I wouldn’t be writing about perinatal mood distress.
Daniel’s knee jerk reaction was, “What if we abort it? You really shouldn’t be pregnant or deliver a baby with all your health issues.”
I sat outside on our balcony. I thought about aborting the pregnancy. I thought about how I had always wanted to be a mom. I knew I had to have the baby. I had to give it a try because what if I never get pregnant again.
So we decided to have a baby. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
We moved the weekend following the positive test. This was December 2009, by Christmas we told our family.
Before New Year’s I realized something wasn’t right. I just felt so hopeless. I couldn’t eat. My mind was consumed about how everything in my life was going wrong. I had no money. I had no way to get around without depending on my mom. I had no health insurance.
The uncontrollable crying began. The intrusive thoughts, of hurting myself or falling on my uterus causing the baby to be aborted, began.
I told my mom and Dan about my fears. We took steps to find help. I got my proof of pregnancy from the health department. I called an Ob/Gyn to help me find a provider to take me to provide treatment for my depression during my prenatal care. I was told sure they would give me prenatal care as self pay but I had to see a psychiatrist for depression. I called psychiatrists and they told me that I needed to see an OB for it because I was pregnant.
I remember going to PEHMS Emergency Adult office downtown St. Pete. I stood at the receptionist window sobbing. The lady was nice, but she told me because I had no insurance and no Medicaid, I was ineligible for services. She also said, “It’s normal to be so tearful in pregnancy, it’s just the hormones.”
Even with my attempts to find treatment, I received nothing. No meds, no counseling, nothing. My depression and isolation worsened. I began looking into midwives and birth centers. Insurance policies and finances excluded many of these options. I had some prenatal care at one office, but I wasn’t happy with my care there. I went to Breath of Life and spoke to Chris Hildebrandt. She listened, she didn’t dismiss my depression. She recommended Family Systems of Care.
After an intake session and setting up some case manager visits at home I got to be seen at Directions for mental health with a counselor. My first counselor there again dismissed my issues as pregnancy related and told me that everything would be better once I had baby. I was so distraught, I felt belittled and ignored by yet another person dismissing my condition.
I spoke up to my case manager and was assigned a new therapist. Finally I had a therapist that I could work with. I also began seeing a psychiatrist about the possibility of taking medicine. Things got better. The light at the end of the tunnel could be seen.
That light ended with a beautiful baby. I am so happy to be raising a delightful little boy. I still struggle with mental illness, but I now know it is common and can be treated when caught by knowledgeable and caring providers.
I want all moms and anyone that works with moms to know that pregnancy or prenatal depression is real. It isn’t just hormones, though it can be exacerbated by the hormones of pregnancy. I want providers to know that treating mood disorders like they are simply side effects of pregnancy or the postpartum period and not addressing the root illness is the ultimate reinforcement that mothers don’t matter. There were more instances of my experience being dismissed I only mention the most memorable. These examples of dismissal say to me that women’s mental health issues aren’t important enough to be dealt with and treated. I ask myself, “How do psychiatrists not have knowledge of prescribing medications during pregnancy? How do obstetricians not know more about how to address refer and treat women who sit on their exam tables suffering?”
Due to my experiences, I desperately feel that appropriate care for moms experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is a human rights issue. Thankfully, Chris caught me and directed me to Family systems of care, who helped me obtain treatment at directions was my salvation. Sadly, Directions is currently unfunded.
So who is helping moms like me today? That's right, I am.
Cat, a fellow Seventh Mom
A Note form The Seventh Mom Project, Inc.
Perinatal Mood Disorders, such as Depression and Anxiety can rear their ugly heads anytime during pregnancy or in the postpartum period (up to one year or more!)
Please watch yourself for these symptoms:
Contact your provider if you have any questions regarding your mental health during or after pregnancy. If you are not sure who to contact, please feel free to contact us for assistance. In an emergency, please contact 9-1-1.
We've talked lately about our love for doulas, today we wanted to let you know about a special kind of doula.
In short: they are awesome!
In the USA, families tend to spend more time preparing for the birth and collecting baby items, that often our fourth trimester (as I like to refer to the postpartum period) gets forgotten. Looking back, did anyone talk to you about a postpartum plan? I'm not just talking about stocking the freezer and having plenty of diapers, but a real plan. Who's going to feed you, help with chores, and walk the dog? Do you have someone to get your older kids to and from school? You may be thinking we'll my partner can do x,y, and z, but who's going to be there for your partner? Who is going to give you an objective ear when you need to voice your concerns and feelings?
Taking care of your new baby is around the clock job, so is taking care of the new mother. One of our major concerns is the mental health of mothers, after all at no other time will a mother's mental health affect her child more than in the first year of life.
Enter one of the best and most valuable professionals you can hire. Your postpartum doula is an asset like no other.
In case you are not familiar, allow me to explain just what a postpartum doula does. I postpartum doula can help with baby care, ensure you get a shower, do light household chores, ensure you get some much needed sleep, and offer gentle encouragement in your early days as a new mother. Not only does having a trusted professional in the home make the adjustment smoother, it can really help with postpartum distress. Well trained professional doulas are knowledgeable about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They can see signs that you or your partner may not notice. They can be a trusted confidant when you have concerns about your mental health and can help you seek treatment when appropriate.
Some offer additional services that may interest you like belly binding or placenta arts. Even more helpful, many of the postpartum doulas in the Tampa Bay area are also well versed in breastfeeding support with a great number being Certified Lactation Counselors. Talk about the best new family support money can buy. Maybe you just had a baby and are realizing you need extra help. Perhaps you are experiencing a postpartum mood disorder and are beginning treatment. Go ahead and consult with a postpartum doula, sometimes they take clients who've already given birth. Having someone else who can remain objective while helping you take care of yourself may actually improve treatment outcomes and shorten the length of time it takes to recover.
Since we're celebrating World Doula Week, we thought it would be fun to highlight a couple of our highly recommended professionals working in the community.
Our friend and fellow seventh mom, Gaetane Joseph-Rhodd, owner of Seeds of Mommy Soul Birth Services is a postpartum doula and CLC working with Tampa families to improve the care for new moms. Here's a few words from Gaetane;
"After the birth of my son in 2008, I began to research other birthing options for women. His birth ended in an unnecessary cesarean and left me mourning the birth I deserved. The home birth of my daughter triggered a drive to provide other mothers with the support they need to have their desired birth. In 2015, I decided to focus my business on postpartum care. When a family finds out they are expecting, a lot of effort and attention is placed on their birth. Researching the best doctors, hire the best birth team, and finalizing your birth plan. The emphasis for postpartum support is not placed on the list of important aspects of pregnancy which can cause a difficult start to a family's parenting journey.
Postpartum care in this society isn't as sacred as it is in other cultures. For example, in Haitian culture a mother who has had a baby should remain in bed with baby. Her meals are in bed, she feeds her baby in bed, and is tucked in by the elder women in her family. Belly binding after her herbal baths are a traditional custom that helps with her postpartum progression. These customary traditions may not be for everyone but it's important to know that postpartum care is important for a woman's overall health. After the birth of your child, healing physically is not the only aspect of postpartum support. Knowing that your emotional and psychological health is also at its healthiest is one of the most important factors of postpartum care."
We wholeheartedly agree. Mom is taking care of baby, someone has got to take care of her. Which brings us to our pal Shary Lopez, founder of Mothercraft Postpartum Services.
Shary, is another great asset to any new mothers team. With lots breastfeeding experience and holistic postpartum care training, Shary brings a sense of love and honor to new mothers. A lost art in our culture today, Shary values the importance of the postpartum period and seeks to help families "...I noticed an extreme lack of community support for postpartum mothers. I am happy to mother new moms on their personal journeys in the fourth trimester."
Both of these amazing women are also DONA trained and have taken additional training in postpartum care and services. Not to mention they are both moms themselves and supporter of the seventh mom's mission to strengthen families struggling with perinatal distress disorders through community education, collaboration with medical professionals, and establishing a network of peer-to-peer support.
When you are interviewing perinatal professionals, feel free to ask them about their knowledge of maternal mental health. Ask about their training and experience, ask about their professional memberships and affiliations, even ask about postpartum books and blogs they might recommend. After all you wrote out the perfect birth plan, made those pretty affirmation cards, now it is time to write your postpartum plan too. If you're not certain about your postpartum care plan feel free to contact us, we'll be glad to help you prepare. We know many great professionals and are glad to connect you.
With Doula love and rainy day hugs,
Rebecca & Elizabeth
Thank you for visiting our blog and for continuing to stand with moms. We are very excited to announce our participation in this year's Give Day Tampa Bay!
Please read the entire Press Release and learn more about this wonderful event here.
You can register to attend the event here.
Help us out by joining our #AprilShowersBringMayFlowers Social Media Campaign!Join us to spread the word during April in our #AprilShowersBringMayFlowers campaing. Share your images of you holding your umbrella in support with the hashtags: #theseventhmomproject #GiveDayTampaBay #weatheringstorms #livehere #givehere
PLEASE post your photos and share ours or you can email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for us to post throughout April leading up to Give Day Tampa Bay on May 3, 2016!
As a mom, my social life has been greatly enhanced by my iPhone. Seriously, thank you Apple and Facebook for making it possible for me to connect with other moms while laying in the cozy mountain of blankets, semi clean laundry with a clingy baby on my breast.
But today I thank you for a multitude of reasons...
Thank you for taking an interest in postpartum depression research.
Thank you for making it possible for moms like me to participate in the largest research study about PPD.
Thank you for bringing attention to this dreadful illness and allowing us to contribute to furthering our understanding of the disease that affects more women than gestational diabetes.
I, of course, read the news and immediately downloaded the app from my App Store. As a data nerd, I am totally in love with the simplicity of this data collection tool!
I read through the consent forms and did the quizzes that proved my competency and willingness to participate.
I immediately recognized the Edinburg Postpartum Depression Scale questions and answered as truthfully as I could remember.
It was so easy. I haven't had a chance to spit yet, but I am sure my vial is in the mail.
I am semi jealous of the scientists that get to play with over 100,000 different sample of DNA looking for a commonality that could be a responsible factor for PPD.
A genetic factor can mean so much to so many. The possibilities for preparation will go beyond making a pp meal plan. The stigma reduction alone is worth the research.
So thank you Apple, UNC and Postpartum Progress, for reaching moms with PPD where we are at, literally in our bedrooms on our iPhones.
If you're interested in doing the study too visit
Sent from my iPhone,
We at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. are especially fond of Doulas. You can probably tell, after all a few of our board members and several volunteers are professional Doulas. Since March 22, kicks off World Doula Week, I thought I’d share something I wrote a while back. I wrote this early in career as a birth-worker. Over time I tweaked it here and there based on my evolving experience both as a labor doula and as a mom who was fortunate to have doula support during my own children’s births.
The Cochrane Review (a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, care givers and people interested in health; recognized as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information.) has offered this “Continuous support during labor has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labor and birth.”
I suspect, for many mothers, the experience we have in childbirth greatly affects our postpartum experience. For many women, a traumatic birth can increase the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety even lead to postpartum PTSD. With that in mind, we’re grateful for all the Doulas out there loving on mothers so they can prepare to love on their babies.
Ready to “Doula” you through the storm,
So God Made a Doula
One day, God looked down on one of His creations becoming a mother and said “She could use a special helper”, so God made a Doula.
God said, “She needs someone who feels the calling, from deep within, to sacrifice, to serve, to guide and to comfort. Someone who can navigate when needed and let go when its time, whose ability to lead is balanced with her willingness to follow, whose heart is as warm as her ability to nurture is skilled. She needs someone whose impact will last for generations to be born.” So God made a Doula.
God said, "She needs somebody willing to get up and work at fielding calls and answering inquiries while still caring for her own children, nursing, training, educating and influencing. Someone who can buckle four kids into the car with a birth pool and all the needed supplies, run two other errands, deliver the pool and be home in time for dinner and baths before heading out again to teach a childbirth class and stay late to answer questions from mothers to be.” So God made a Doula.
God said “She needs someone who will pick up snacks and poise pads, walk through hospital tours, study the latest evidence based care, teach about how to make a birth plan; only to support the mother when she changes it all mid journey and help coach a new Dad in a sport he’s never played. I need someone to teach a mother to breathe through the pains, make sure she has everything she didn’t think she’d need, and encourage her to speak up for herself and her decisons. All with a demeanor that is calm, personable, and professional.” So God made a Doula
“I need someone to ride that roller coaster of anxiety, hope, fear, and worry as she sees the mother’s worries and doubts increase while baby’s heart tones decrease all with the same peaceful, confident exterior that she’s held up all through the night. Someone to cheer with mom as things turn bright and be a light for her when they are grey and a smiling face of reassurance when the ride twist back again.” So God made a Doula.
God said, “I need someone who is willing to jump out of bed, in the middle of the night and drive across town with a moment’s notice, to head to a birth, not knowing how long it will be or when she’ll return home to her own bed and her own family and do this for someone she’s never met because she’s backing up a Sister Doula. Someone whose family knows the true meaning of the word vocation more so than words like vacation yet they are willing to share because they know their mother is called to serve and with pride and joy they hold space for her as she mothers the mother. So God made a Doula.
“Somebody who knows that a birthing woman needs to feel free to be vulnerable and strong all at once. To support her decision through every transition, to offer every bit of physical and mental relief they can and still not judge when mom chooses pain medicine (or doesn’t). Someone willing to climb on the bed to Rebozo sift mom and grab the last peanut ball available to help mom rest as she reaches that last centimeter, meanwhile pumping for her own baby at home and gulping down water and a cookie because she knows she’s going to be needed again soon. So God made a Doula.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to support a new mother as she squats low to the earth breathing down a new life, yet gentle enough to pull her hair up and wipe her face with a cold cloth, who will stay after the babe’s arrival to ensure a good first latch. Someone who’ll make sure the mother eats and drinks before acknowledging her own growling belly. Somebody who'd knit a new family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing and caring, holding space in that golden hour before heading home to her own family.” So God made a Doula
Author’s note – I use the word need for poetic emphasis. The truth is no one needs a doula, in fact, as a doula, I believe if my client feels she absolutely needs me, as in she can’t birth her baby without me, then I’ve failed to do my job of educating and empowering her.
I have no opposition to medications and medical interventions when necessary, but I also believe that we need to treat the cause not just the symptoms. Sometimes we are so focused on managing symptoms that we forget to look for underlying cause. This applies to perinatal mental health as well. Sometimes our hormones are out of balance and we need pharmaceutical help and sometimes we need dietary changes or more simply things to ease the transition into motherhood, like solid peer support. Make no mistake, I whole heartedly believe that medication saves lives. I also believe that often women are improperly diagnosed and treated thus exacerbating symptoms of distress.
Occasionally a mom reaches out to me for what she thinks maybe postpartum depression. Sometimes, through care and professional evaluation, moms find that while they are definitely overwhelmed with new motherhood, they are not experiencing maternal mental illness. Sometimes. Fortunately, here in Tampa Bay we really do have this amazing wealth of resources for families. Not only do we have a large natural birth and parenting community, we have a large number of alternative and complimentary therapy practitioners (such as massage therapist, hypnotherapist and acupuncturist), several support groups, educational programs and more.
In my own quest to understand my struggles with maternal mental illness I studied every treatment possibility I could. Read many case studies, consulted with professionals and eventually came to a treatment plan that was suitable for me. I found a combination of prayer, medication, cognitive behavior therapy and alternative therapies worked for me, after obtaining an accurate diagnosis.
Now I know every woman is different however if you are considering alternatives to medication, I want you to know what is out there. I recently chatted with Dr. De’Nicea Hilton, owner of Hilton Holistic Health and founder of Sisters of Flow. Doctor D, as she is sometimes called, is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture Physician working with families in Tampa Bay. With years of study and national certification, Dr. D specializes in encouraging self-healing and wellness.
If you’re not familiar with acupuncture, it is an art of inserting (or non-insertion for some styles) sterile, one-time use needles in specific points that are all over the body. By stimulating these points, it’s believed we are calling these points to activate with a greater purpose of helping the body to harmonize and thus promote self-healing. Pretty neat huh.
I asked how acupuncture treats mental and emotional issues, as in what is the theory behind acupuncture for health and mental health? Here’s how Dr. D explained it to me;
“While the physical act of performing acupuncture is working with the body, there is an intimate connection with the mind as well. Each organ system houses a part of our mental/emotional state. You hear that our physical health is a representation of the mind or vice versa. I see it all the time. Thought patterns and physical complaints may seem completely unrelated but they are very much so related due to the understanding/nature of the organ systems. For example, someone may describe having constipation and when asked about having difficulty "letting things go" in life, they often agree that they do. So, you can see it is more in understanding the organ systems and the relationships between each other. Body, mind and spirit are tightly connected. Often times, the physical symptom is a way your body is communicating. We hold emotions in various parts of our bodies. It is part therapeutic talk and acupuncture and herbs are a tool to further the therapeutic process by balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.”
In preparing for this post, I went searching for information on acupuncture and its use in the field of maternal mental health. I didn’t find much, in fact, one study, mentioned at Postpartum Progress was the most detailed I could find. I shared it with Dr. D and asked here to help me understand (in plain mama English) and she was glad to expand on it. Take a break, go read it and come back to us.
Back again? Here’s our pal Dr. D’s reply;
“The author of the post did a great job in presenting both sides of the findings of the study. It is very clear that the opposing author does not believe in or consider Qi to be something that exists. However, it does exist and since 2010 when that article was written, more and more scans and studies have come out. Cardiologists are recommending Qi Gong and Tai Chi for patients for its benefits in reducing blood pressure. Other physicians are recommending it for pain relief and even helping to manage tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
As for the methodology of the study, it can be difficult to say you are going to treat a blanket diagnosis as depression without going through the pool of potential study participants and setting the inclusion criteria to maybe only represent a specific TCM diagnosis. I appreciate the thought in the performing acupuncturists not knowing the diagnosis beforehand. The notion of "sham acupuncture" is interesting to me because although the needle may not be inserted, the points can still be stimulated. Non-insertion technique is commonly used in Japanese acupuncture. Commonly you will hear about Toyohari and Shonishin.
It's necessary to point out that TCM is one of many acupuncture theories and practices. For some patients, TCM acupuncture may not be as effective as Japanese, Six Stage, Five Element or Korean. This list is not exhaustive by any means. I mention this because practitioners practice differently. With that, you may ask if there is a certain style preference she or he uses.
Overall, I would consider what TCM diagnosis was made for each of the participants and their histories. Acupuncture itself can help for sure, and I believe herbs and nutrition work harmoniously. Lifestyle is another consideration. It is not going to take just one thing to correct something. It takes a holistic approach.”
So this then lead me to asking how Hilton Holistic Health approaches maternal mental health, most importantly, how Dr. D works with Moms.
“I love the way this question is asked - "work with moms." That's exactly how I think of it. I meet moms where they are at. By speaking with her, we can really see where she is, including her present symptoms and hearing about her life before pregnancy and her birth story. Details of the birth gives me an idea of what the state of her body was before she went into the pregnancy and the birth. There is some vital information to be found there. For example, she may have had a history of very light menstrual cycles spread apart and then had a very long labor which may have ended up in a C-section. This tells me she had some underlying deficiencies and in the present state, her body has just been really taxed and needs some vital support. It just so happens that she is manifesting it in the way she is now: be it depression, anxiety, poor memory, fatigue or even low milk supply. This is a very common diagnosis of Blood and Qi Deficiency (which could be of different organs based on mom) due to the major loss of those substances during birth.
What helps most often after an Eastern medicine diagnosis has been found, is to replenish the system. This happens via nutrition, herbs and acupuncture. I use a Micronutrient test to see where she may be most deficient and where she's not absorbing these important pieces of our proper bodily function. My preference is using whole food supplements because the body is more readily available to absorb them. Plus, when you are absorbing and processing properly, the herbs are able to go in and do their job as channel/organ system balancing. Acupuncture seals the deal by activating the points to further balance the disharmonies.”
I really love the notion of professionals who encage their patients, really speak with them not at them. By helping moms explore what’s going on with their bodies, Dr. D is planting seeds of healing. Sometimes just having someone who is caring and nonjudgmental to listen can make a world of difference.
I’m also really excited to share another special project from Dr. D called Sisters of Flow. Sisters of Flow is currently a podcast where Dr. D and guest go with the flow, about anything and everything menstrual cycles.
“ I started it out of my personal experience with painful periods which sometimes made me really unproductive because I would have to sit with a space heater on the floor at work or would miss class because I would just have to stay at home in bed with heating pad. While in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine School, I learned about treating this and it worked! All I used was acupuncture and herbs. Later I incorporated vaginal steaming as a regular regimen to make sure I'm shedding all that I need to shed each month. As I began talking with other women, I learned they did not know that the cycle is not supposed to be painful or even there were other options to use besides birth control pills. Thus, Sisters of Flow was born to provide a platform to educate those who menstruate about what their options are, raise awareness about disparities in regards to women's health and exploring different cultures' perception about menstruation.”
“I would LOVE for moms to know the cycle you once knew may change. This may be for the better or for the worse. If there is anything to find comforting, it is that in this new phase of your life, you now know there is a lot of support. If it is for the worse, heed that as a sign that you may need some additional support. For some, it may be cramping or back pain and it can stay that way or get better. For some, there is definitely a connection. The timing of the menstrual pain along with the flow, color, odor and duration are taken into consideration. Though not true for everyone, some with cycles that may have been closer together, painful before and first days with heavy dark bleeding may experience more anxiety. On the other hand, those with prolonged pain throughout the cycle and even afterwards with a lighter color and longer time in between may experience more depression. In these instances, the menstrual pain and information about the cycle in general adds great information in painting the picture of her overall being.”
I’m also a little excited, I recently got to be a guest and “go with the flow” talking about cycle changes after multiple births and various types of birth. We’ll be sure to let you know when it airs, warning its probably pretty TMI for some but you know how open I am. I also think menses is another topic, like mental illness that gets shushed too often. If you are interested in learning more about Oriental Medicine, acupuncture and more, please contact Dr. De'Nicea Hilton, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and Acupuncture Physician. I warn you though, you may find yourself laughing with her and chatting so much you forget the needles.
Dr. De'Nicea Hilton, DOM, AP
Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician
Hilton Holistic Health - www.hiltonholistichealth.com
Sisters of Flow - www.sistersofflow.com
Text or call: 727-300-6722
Expectations and New Motherhood
One of the topics we talk about often in support groups and peer settings is that motherhood is not what we expected.
Some are more vague, but some expectations are very specific. I had this idea of what a great homemaker I was going to be when I decided to stay home after my son was born. I was wrong. I thought I was going to be able to cook and clean and spend so much time with my son all while looking like a 1950s television housewife complete with full hair and makeup every day. Then reality showed up and said "Be glad when you get to shower and brush your teeth undisturbed!"
Tired of so many moms saying to her, "I wish someone had told me...", our mentor and friend, Sarah Workman Checcone has even written a semi autobiographical book about all the things they don't tell you about labor, birth, breastfeeding and the postpartum experience. Her book, Bump to Grind is a very point blank reality check for many moms.
(NOTE: Bump to Grind is the story of many mothers, but Elizabeth suggests to balance your childbirth education with something like Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and to talk with as many moms as possible to get a better picture of the various ways birth happens.)
I don't know if I should even get into all the things I was wrong about becoming a mother. The process of becoming a mother, followed by parenting a tiny little human is full of possibilities for making what I used to consider mistakes. Pregnancy, labor, hospitals, feeding, sleeping, toys, clothes, cartoons, mothers and mother-in-laws. For instance, after the birth of my first child, I vowed never to wear those ridiculous mesh panties again, and held to the promise through two more babies. Enter baby number four and hello cheesecloth underwear. Again. I was wrong.
In our year of conversations, Elizabeth and I have discovered many similarities in unmet expectations. I, too, was once a woman who thought if I have the most beautiful, amazing, natural birth, I'll will avoid postpartum depression. Guess what home birth moms can and do struggle with perinatal distress as well. Elizabeth shared her story recently about how her reality challenged her expectations after her perfect birth.
I also believed that the feeling of detachment I experienced in pregnancy would go away as soon as I held my baby. I just knew all those happy mushy in-love feelings would simply appear the moment he was born. Nope. Not after I first held him. Not after we left the hospital. Not after I went back to work. Not after I quit my job and stayed home. In fact, it took months before I actually felt like "I love this tiny human; I really love my baby".
Another mythic image of motherhood is the blissed-out new mom, breastfeeding with no trouble and no signs of lack of sleep. I can tell you now if a mom is breastfeeding or pumping she's giving up sleep somewhere and it's going to be visible. If she's formula feeding, she's also losing rest to feedings; possibly even more time than the mom who's nursing. Breastfeeding in itself can be mythical.
For some moms, breastfeeding comes almost second nature. For others, breastfeeding hurts or causes a multitude of other issues. There's poor latches, engorgement, thrush, and mastitis. I'm pretty convinced that difficulty with nursing or not meeting our own expectations can exasperate postpartum distress. Let's be real with new moms and moms to be. It's not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. For some women the hormones that our body produces associated with breastfeeding can really upset their mental state. And weaning depression, yeah it's a thing. it's a real thing for anyone who thinks that it's easy to just stop breastfeeding and move forward happily even when they had difficulty and did not enjoy breastfeeding, guess what they're wrong too. In fact ask my friend Cat, an IBCLC about breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Oh boy what she could tell you about false expectations! She voiced a multitude of concerns that we will have to share with you later.
For expectant moms, we suggest lining up the people you will need for breastfeeding support now. Find a local La Leche League group or Lactation Support Group. Moms that have a goal and a plan including the support of their partner are most likely to continue breastfeeding than those that don't prepare. Breastfeeding classes in Hillsborough County can been found here.
Another example of a wrong mother moment: I'd be the super happy energetic mom who never loses her patience, enjoys playing with the same singing Elmo toy for hours every day while refereeing Lego fights in between making endless kid friendly snacks and who is always thrilled to run errands with four kids in tow. If you know someone like this, chances are she's putting up a good front and you can do her a world of good by letting her know you see her. You can relate to her struggle and offer a safe place to vent when she needs it. If you are her, I need your secret. Seriously.
There's so much I was wrong about before having kids. So much I was wrong about having two, three, and four kids. I would not change my past nor give one of my kiddos up, but I would gladly pay for the cure for tantrums, tattling, and whining. I'd pay good money to never experience a diaper blow out that ruins my clothes. But I can't. And neither can the rest of the moms or the moms-to-be.
Elizabeth's Post Midnight Thought Pattern
Today is Everything You Think is Wrong Day. It's also the Ides of March, beware this can get kind of confusing. Taking the idea of everything you think is wrong and putting it into context of motherhood is counter-intuitive for me. Everything you thought about motherhood is probably wrong; when you think about the cute and cuddly baby, always smelling so delicious with rosy cheeks, quietly snuggling in your arms. Yeah that happens in motherhood. But it is the reason well meaning people say to cherish every minute and soak it up. You will miss the snuggles, but the snuggles are not the only thing happening in most mother's postpartum experiences. The screaming baby exists. We don't often see pictures of the screaming baby preconception, and even if they come across our radar, we tend to blame the parents. And since we ALL know we are going to be that mythical hero, AWESOME MOM, it won't happen to us.
No matter what you thought about motherhood, if those thoughts were full of staunch, black OR white, irrevocable ideas about the perfect baby and perfect way to parent, everything you think is wrong (or will be soon).
We have so much social pressure to be the perfect mother and before we are the perfect mother we have a really good idea of what we think the perfect mother's going to be so everything you thought was wrong. However everything you think once you get past that mythical mother, is right. Once we let go of our mythical expectations, I have found, it's really, really hard to come up with absolute wrong ways to mother. Most of us are walking around doing the best we can, with what we have. In my opinion we could read lots of blogs, journals and books; do all the research, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. We are our baby's experts. It's what you, your family and your baby come up with to survive that matters. Motherhood is a game of survival. If you're both still here; you're doing something right.
We would like to amend the national day calendar, making March 15 "Everything You Think You Know About Motherhood is Wrong Day". Let's just give ourselves a clean slate. Seriously there are days I need a do over. How about your ? What expectations were you certain you knew everything about? What challenged these beliefs and how did you reconcile your new truths? Comment below! We want you as a part of the conversation as we help break down unreasonable expectations for new and expectant moms.
While reviewing Tuesday’s blog post about International Women’s Day, it occurred to me how happy I am to have my amazing, feisty daughter. I am excited to be pushing these initiatives today, to provide for her generation a better tomorrow for women. I am not only excited to guide Allison and aid her individual growth; but also am excited to see who she will become. I look forward to a future of strong female leaders in a society that takes care of mothers the way they deserve to be cared for.
But it wasn’t always this way. From the moment I was pregnant, I tried to deny I was pregnant with a girl. I was so brutally sick, depressed and anxious. I wasn’t ready to accept I could parent a girl. People would ask and excitedly say, “One of each!” I would fill with dread. I was perfectly happy to raise two little boys and their older bonus sister on the weekends. I already had a girl and I had the luxury of sharing the role model responsibility with her biological mother.
My family was undergoing a lot of external stress when we found out we were pregnant with a girl. I luckily had read that girls withstand stress in the womb better, so I clung to that as a good thing. At least my baby would be more resilient. This was quickly counteracted with “WHO THINKS LIKE THIS?” screaming through my thoughts. Calmly followed by, “You, you do, because it’s all you have to hold on to right now.” My prenatal depression fed me lies. Told me I wouldn’t be a good mom to a girl. That I wouldn’t know what I was doing. My disappointment fed into my guilt and the whole thing escalated beyond my control. So I kept life moving, but underneath, I was an anxious, depressed kettle, ready to explode.
After International Women’s Day, and my epiphany that maybe this wasn’t an individual thing, maybe, like perinatal distress, there are more moms experiencing this disappointment, fear and guilt. So, I did what most moms would do, I turned to Google to find out. I was blown away by how prevalent this issue appeared on mom blogs and discussion boards. Notice the 282,000 google results!
I am linking a few that hit my heart hard:
Gender Disappointment – Tips For Coping With Gender Disappointment
SECRETLY SAD: OVERCOMING GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT
It’s a Boy, and It’s Okay to Be Disappointed
I am glad other parents are speaking out about this issue! It’s always nice to see that you’re not alone. I attempted to access some scholarly articles, and the one I found that linked gender disappointment as a risk factor was based on a cohort of women in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Interestingly enough, that study found that disappointment in having a girl was the concern for these mothers; while according to my completely unscientific review of the Internet, the western world seems to covet little girls. I found this personally interesting. The other studies I found on Google Scholar required paid memberships to access or a student ID. In my motherly opinion, I feel strongly that gender disappointment in the USA has to be tied to unrealistic expectations in American parenting (a subject I feel very soap boxy about, so let’s catch up another time). I would love to see more research and a transparent examination of gender disappointment; why it happens, how to help reduce the occurrence, and how to cope with it.
Realizing how much I love being a strong woman, made me realize how excited I am to raise a strong woman. Yes, it made me twinge with guilt for not embracing my daughter earlier, but also made me realize that I have embraced her fully. For this I am beyond grateful. She is my driving force and when (if) she has babies, postpartum life in America will be vastly different. This mama is making sure of it.
So tell me, did you experience mixed feelings when you found out the gender of your baby?
Reflecting on the rain,
Hey there mothers, and others who love them! Today I have another one of my fun history lessons. Can you tell I’m kind of a social studies nerd? It’s cool though, I hear great people never stop learning and I have great plans to accomplish.
So, March 8th, (today if my editor did this right) celebrates International Women's Day (IWD). In different parts of the world, celebrations range from ceremonious acts of respect, appreciation, and love towards women to demonstrations calling for acknowledgement and parity for women's economic, political, and social achievements. You can learn more about the history of International Women’s Day here.
Though political in history, many places mark Woman’s Day simply an occasion for people to express their love for women; think love child of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. However, Hallmark hasn’t laid claim everywhere. There are parts of the globe where the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations is heavily campaigned on IWD. Political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are highlighted; hopeful for change. Which reminds me, have you got your #MomsMatter twibbon yet?
You see, despite the advances of women in the workforce, science, politics(don’t forget to vote!) there are still areas where women are not being celebrated. In fact, in many segments of society, women are not being cared for appropriately. Maternal Health, specifically maternal mental health is an example of one of these areas.
Here are some ways you can help bring advancement to the care of the 600,000 American women suffering in silence right now. The National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health has put together this great tool kit. There are some pretty darn important bills going on right now. We wrote about them during last month's social media campaign, found here.
It’s way past time we ended the stigma of mental illness and stop feeding the mythic monster that motherhood should look like some 1950’s sitcom. Please don’t let these important women's health issues fall through the cracks. Our health matters so much more than a day on the calendar.
In addition to “Bringing Postpartum Depression out of the Shadows”, there are two additional bills I need to share. The Florida Senate is currently considering HB423 and SB676. These legislative bills aim to provide APRNs - Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists- with full prescriptive authority. The passage of this legislation will allow Nurse Practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances beyond the limited options they currently have. The state of Florida is the only state in the nation where APRNs do not currently have such full prescriptive authority. The bills HB423, SB676, need support of the constituents. We’ll be getting more into detail about this later this month. Be on the lookout for details of our chat with a local Certified Nurse Midwife from USF Health regarding this initiative. This would be supportive to the treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders for Florida families.
Here at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. we aren’t only working hard to advance the quality of care for women. We are celebrating too. We celebrate the awesome accomplishments of all the amazing women who have paved our way to bring some attention to the woman still struggling today. Specifically today, we raise a toast celebrating our mentors and honoring our S.I.S.T.E.R. Moms.
We celebrate the brave women that have sought our services and share their stories. We celebrate the women still waiting to make contact. And yes, sadly, while celebrating these inspirational survivors, we simultaneously hold a moment of silence for those who lost their battle against maternal mental illness and remind ourselves to keep working.
So in closing, today is the day to celebrate your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your girlfriends. Celebrate also, what we can achieve when we work together to improve the quality of lives for women locally, nationally and globally.
Celebrate YOU. Be proud; you are AMAZING!
Standing with women,
This may seem unexpected, especially coming from someone who professionally encapsulates and prepares placenta. However, as a mental health advocate, I must be clear and honest with you; your placenta capsules are not antidepressants.
Now that you're surely confused, let me explain this further. It has become recently fashionable for American mothers to consume their placentas after giving birth; most commonly encapsulated. This process may or may not include steaming the placenta with added ingredients, then drying the placenta and grinding it into powder before packing into capsules much like vitamins or other supplements.
Advocates for placenta encapsulation cite reasons such as stabilizing hormones after childbirth, speeding recovery, and increasing milk supply. However, the bulk of evidence supporting placenta encapsulation is anecdotal. It is important for mothers to know that there is no FDA regulation or policy in place regarding placenta encapsulation. Choosing to consume your placenta is a choice you make without much scientific data.
Although the majority of this anecdotal evidence is very positive, there are some women who do report a negative experience consuming their placenta. It's just as possible for you to be one of the women that has a great experience as it is for you to have a very unpleasant experience.
To be fair it would be nearly impossible to actually complete a double-blind study on the effects of placenta consumption, which is why we will probably never see much science based evidence on the subject. This does not necessarily mean that it is bad to consume your placenta or that it will not help you; it simply means that there is no guarantee.
I would venture to say that for many women consuming placenta capsules has a positive placebo effect. Sometimes placebos are a nice thing. If you choose to encapsulate your placenta and take your placenta capsules and you notice positive results that's wonderful. However if you are choosing to do this now and you did not with previous births it's highly likely that you've made other lifestyle changes that are also influencing your postpartum experience. Again this is not a bad thing just something else to consider.
What I want every mother to know when thinking about encapsulating their placenta or consuming it in any other form is there are benefits and risks in every decision we make. You are taking a gamble with the money that you spend hiring your professional encapsulator. You should be comfortable with the possibility of spending that money and not having the desired result before you lay out that hard earned money.
Moms-to-be, as you are considering paying for placenta encapsulation, please do your research! Look into the possible benefits and the possible risks. Ask lots of questions of the different encapsulators you interview. Ask about their safety protocols, how they sanitize the area where they will prepare your placenta, and more importantly ask them about their knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. If your encapsulation specialist is guaranteeing that you avoid suffering a postpartum mood disorder by consuming your placenta, RUN.
Run screaming in the other direction. This person is either ill-informed or simply cares more about your money and doesn't have your health and wellbeing at heart.
A well-trained, qualified placenta encapsulation specialist will not only know the process to safely prepare your placenta, but they will also know the signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to watch for. They will know what intensifying factors can increase your risk and have methods or resources that may assist you in decreasing your risk. They will be willing to talk to you about symptoms you're having and help you find treatment if necessary.
I'm a fan of the postpartum professionals. I am a HUGE FAN of postpartum professionals that are not only offering placenta encapsulation services, but are openly talking with their clients about postpartum depression and anxiety and other forms of postpartum distress. These encapsulators are letting you know signs to look for, perhaps providing you with symptoms checklist or maybe even the Edinburgh scale so that you can do a self-assessment. They are helping you keep track of what's going on during your postpartum adjustment.
If you are considering hiring a person to prepare your organ for your consumption you have every right and responsibility to question them about these topics.
If you happen to be in the wonderful world of placenta encapsulation, I want you to know that Mom's Matter. Of course you are running a business, of course, you deserve fair payment for your service, and (payments keep you in business!)
But please do not guarantee mothers something you simply cannot guarantee. I believe that being upfront with clients will actually grow business and professional reputations. In an end, for professionals, I am sharing a blog post written by Chinook City Doulas . When I came across this post, I was very impressed by their honest approach to postpartum care and placenta encapsulation. If you're a professional reading this, check them out to get an idea of how to fairly and accurately present placenta consumption to your clients. They've done a great job.
If you are a mom and planning to consume your placenta to avoid postpartum distress, hire an encapsulator you feel comfortable with, and please also consider additional support measures. Contact us to learn more about postpartum planning and identifying the symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
With Placenta Love,
Big Hugs and thanks to Brandi of Flower of Life Birthing & Placenta Services for her contribution of some amazing photos in today's blog!
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the