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."
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,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the