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."
Greetings Tampa Bay! Boy has it been a while!
Don't worry, I'll be sure to fill you in on the sunny days and squalls since my last post, but first I have to let you know about Give Day Tampa Bay 2017.
If you've been following us since last year you may remember Give Day Tampa Bay 2016. We got in a little late in the game but our awesome VP had this great idea to use the adage "April Showers Bring May Flowers" since after all we're all about riding out the storms of motherhood here at The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. and we're kind of crazy about umbrellas and well you get the idea.
So, the #holdtheumbrella campaign was born and we're so happy and thankful that you took it and ran with it. I am still excited every time I see a notification that we've been tagged and there is another great picture of a survivor mom and her umbrella.
We are participating in Give Day Tampa Bay again as we want to continue rolling with the clouds and to #holdtheumbrella for families in Tampa Bay.
We've added a few fun things to this year's campaign.
Have I mentioned how much I love our VP and her super brain? Noticing the popularity of rock painting and hiding/finding rocks in the community, another great idea was born.
Volunteers have already begun painting and placing rocks out in the community but what is special about these painted rocks is they all feature the umbrella and our signature #holdtheumbrella.
We invite you to join us. Get the kids involved, hold a mom's night rock painting party, make it a youth group or classroom project, there's no limit. We simply ask you to show us your painted umbrella rock and tag us on your social media.
We'll be entering each tagged post using #GiveDayTB2017 #holdtheumbrella #7thmomproject #momsrock into chance drawing between now Give Day, May 2nd.
You can share your umbrella selfie for another entry and earn additional entries when you post your hides and finds.
If you're interested in making a group or individual project (say, who needs volunteer service hours) send us an email, we're more than glad to help you secure your service hours and provide you with necessary the documentation. Just write to email@example.com.
Lastly, the whole purpose is to raise funds for our organization. In 2016 we trained 24 perinatal professionals, hosted two ongoing monthly peer-support groups, launched Doulas of Tampa Bay, and provided linkage support for over twenty moms.
We want thank you in advance for donating online, May 2, 2017. Need a reminder, no worries you can pledge now and we'll be glad to get in touch closer to the date. Feel free to share with a friend who may just rather write us a check!
Because Mothers Rock,
We recognize the importance for our community in expanding our Board. We are taking the steps necessary to increase visibility and provide quality services for all sufferers of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Next week we are hosting a Board Member Interest Meeting. We would like to invite all interested parties to come. We are looking to build a dedicated, diverse, enthusiastic team.
If this describes you, please come to our meeting or contact us for more details!
More information can be found here.
Read the form below for more information on what the general requirements of The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. Board Members.
Come Hold the Umbrella with us,
The Seventh Mom Project, Inc Board
August is National Breastfeeding Month, the first week (8/1-8/7) is World Breastfeeding Week and the last week (8/25-8/31) is Black Breastfeeding Week. Thus, it is a time of increased breastfeeding advocacy and celebration. It is not a time to shame non-breastfeeding families. In fact, as a breastfeeding advocate, certified lactation counselor, and breastfeeding mother, nothing irritates me more than an attack on a formula feeding family.
My advocacy and promotion for increased breastfeeding support is not an attack on the use of formula. It is an attack on the lack of appropriate social support that fails the moms who wanted to breastfeed. My celebration is about how far we have come, while simultaneously recognizing how much more work there is to be done.
The percentage of women who indicate they want to breastfeed is rather high. In Florida, 77% of women do initiate breastfeeding. However, by the time that mom is 3 months postpartum, only 37.6% are exclusively breastfeeding and at 6 months only 17.3 are exclusive (CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card). It is this 60% of moms that wanted to, but for some reason did not maintain exclusivity, that I work and advocate for. They must be provided the support necessary to make a change in the health of moms and babies.
Nothing good comes from placing blame, fear, or guilt on the individual family. As a system of care, as a society we need to recognize how much of breastfeeding is not in the individual's control and help to build appropriate social supports that build up all mothers, regardless of feeding method. A happy healthy mom is more likely to breastfeed. A properly supported mom is more likely to breastfeed. So let's stop throwing "Breast is Best" in the faces of moms and as a society offer true support to help moms reach their feeding goals.
When it comes down to it, a happy healthy mom feeding her baby is the most important thing. Whether it is breastfeeding, pumped breast milk-bottle feeding, or formula feeding, a healthy mom, confident in her decision is the most important factor for the healthy development of her infant.
Supporting All Moms,
You may have noticed our blogging output has decreased somewhat this summer.
But fear not, this does not mean we are not here. We are simply in the background working hard on building a strong foundation for The Seventh Mom Project, Inc.
As we have been actively hosting groups, facilitating workshops, and writing grants, one might agree with me when I say, we have been truly building this plane as it flies.
A few things that are running our world right now (aside from the children on summer break) are:
The development of a resource directory.
We are collaborating with Postpartum Society of Florida, Inc. to bring to you a list of easily accessible and
appropriately trained providers. If you are a provider and would like to be a part of the resources we offer
moms that come to us in distress, please contact us!
The launching of a perinatal doula agency.
Check out Tampa Bay Perinatal Professionals! We launched this agency as our social enterprise. We hope
to assist by putting the help moms need in their homes, with limited effort or searching for the right
perinatal professional. If you are searching for the right person to help you weather those last few weeks
of pregnancy or the first few weeks after the arrival of your new baby, this is definitely a inquiry you want
We started a third group in St. Petersburg.
This SAMMI Support Group is held at Happy Healthy Spine on the first Wednesday of the month at 10 am.
You may have also noticed a new look to our website.
We are hoping to make this search for support as easy as possible for moms and families in distress.
If you have any feedback, please contact us!
So don't worry. We are here. You are not alone.
Weathering the storm,
I want to apologize for the lack of blog posts this month. June has been much busier than I could have ever imagined.
I need to thank all the supporters. The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. was in its infancy only one year ago. We showed a film, and we knew we had to keep working. Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way!
So why has June been so busy?? Between school letting out, a full day SISTER Mom training featuring Mental Health First Aid, and a half day Cultural and Linguistic Competency workshop with Tampa Bay Health Care Collaborative, we CLIMBED. Well some of us actually climbed, the majority walked a beautiful Florida path on a muggy Saturday morning.
Our Climb raised $555 to contribute to Postpartum Progress as they continue their mission to help moms globally. Our climb was attended by 28 adults and 24 or so children. We met at Weedon Island at 8 am on June 11th, ate some delicious donuts and drank my life source, aka coffee.
I stood on a table and nearly cried as I was so touched by the turn out and the support. I really don't think I could properly convey how grateful I truly am.
We were honored to climb with the mother supporter of a climb leader from Vermont. She even brought a gift, a book written by her daughter, Dancing on the Edge of Sanity. We used it as a raffle prize to share with our participants, but will be adding this to our library with our next order!
Mrs. Florida Galaxy and her family joined our climb and gave a moving keynote address post climb. We were also joined by Sarah, the founder of Postpartum Florida, our friend and mentor on this journey. She is extra cool because she brought cake.
After a muggy walk, we ate cake! Because when you are as awesome as we are, it is totally okay to eat cake at 9:30 am.
Thanks again for a wonderful inaugural climb in Tampa Bay! Please forgive us for our lack of posts this month. We are working hard on a few big projects to debut in July!
Holding the Umbrella,
Something I didn't expect my struggle with postpartum depression anxiety to bring me was this drive to learn knew things and meet knew people. The further along I come in my recovery, the more grateful I am for the path this illness has led me down and certainly for the people I have met along the way.
Today I share with you a slideshow/movie creation I made. Ask my husband about my technology skills, and he might just laugh. But this project has driven me to open my mind and really learn how to do some techy things. I originally wanted to play it to Rachel Platten's "Stand By You" song, because that song resonates so much with me when I look at the relationships I have built over the last year, but you know, copyright issues.
Thank you to all the moms in this video and to all the supporters that keep Rebecca and I on the path of this mission.
And to all the moms in the hole, we are here to help you out. We are here to Stand By You.
Holding the Umbrella,
You never know who you are going to meet on your journey. Through our recent SISTERMom training, Rebecca and I have had the pleasure of meeting a local celebrity.
Deanna Silva is the current reigning Mrs. St. Petersburg, Florida and hopefully advancing to be crowned Mrs. Florida this May. Now, my adolescent minded prejudices would have thought, "What could this beautiful and talented woman and I have in common?" Sadly, it is this terrible illness that brings us together. But also, thankfully, we are brought together.
We are so proud of Deanna as she is taking on Postpartum Depression as her platform. It is brave and inspiring to see someone with with so much social spotlight, highlight a dark and personal struggle.
We thank you, Deanna, for holding the umbrella and speaking your truth to bring awareness to this critical health crisis. We know how hard it is, and we applaud you. We ask all our supporters, to support Deanna as she prepares for Mrs. Florida United States.
Please read her beautiful story "Finding Purpose Through the Pain: How PPD became a Blessing in Disguise."
Caught in a landslide..no escape from reality... (I am sorry, kind of)
Yesterday morning, I was semi-daydreaming through a workshop titled “Expectations in Relationships”. While the workshop was focused on romantic relationships, I couldn’t help but think about a different relationship and the expectations I had once held for motherhood. The definition of expectation is “the act or state of looking forward; a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.”
The goals of the workshop were to decide if we should have expectations? Identify Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Expectations, and to offer tools to build healthy expectations.
Immediately I thought about how Motherhood is rampant with misconceptions, expectations, and idealizations that unlike the gradual reality of a romantic relationship, are typically thrust upon you in one final push.
Some healthy examples of expectations for relationships included: my partner will communicate with me and my partner will put in their share of the work. Unhealthy examples included, my partner will know what I am thinking, and my partner will complete me or make me fully happy.
Comparing the examples to the list of “Motherhood Expectations” I solicited from an online group of moms, I found that many moms are entering this relationship full of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for themselves, their partners, and their babies. The crash of reality with these unrealistic expectations has to do damage mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Where do our Motherhood Expectations come from?
Expectations typically come from our experiences (ie, we decide to do things or not to do things the way our mother did them), our past experiences with infants, and societal norms. One way our unrealistic expectations are allowed to develop is the fact that nobody talks about the ugly, the unpleasant, or the unmentionable. We often only see the pretty side of motherhood, amazing birth photos or new nursing mom's with a happy baby perfectly latched, or my personal favorite, calmly sleeping babies in a beautifully decorated nursery. Social Media highlights the joys and precious moments. What about the sore bottoms and chapped nipples? Friend and mentor Sarah Workman Checcone of Postpartum Society of Florida decided to change this by discussing the unspoken details in her book From Bump to Grind.
Let's look at some of the Motherhood Expectations voiced by the mom's group members.
Full disclosure, for my first son, some of these expectations were met. So I had no reason to believe otherwise that there weren’t universal truths. And in the same manner, some realities were blown with him, so my second time around I had no expectation of a clean house, healthy prepped dinners, or routine. But each expectation or “ideal” we strive for, is an opportunity for disappointment.
Part of me laughs as I say the easiest way to deal with this disappointment is to drop the expectations. But realistically, we will have expectations. So, based on the suggestions from the presentation, I would like to offer some tools, or tips really, for creating healthy expectations.
Occasionally, even when we manage to lower our expectations, we discover that something about motherhood just doesn’t meet the bar. When these expectations are unmet, it is common to feel upset. So I leave you with a few reminders of what to do when you find yourself disappointed by unmet expectations.
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the