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."
Megan Thomas follows up her heart wrenching birth story with what I am calling a love story. The dedication of her husband during her postpartum period is unwavering. She is right though, dads need support. If you know a dad that needs support, encourage him to visit Postpartum International for more resources for dads.
Thank you again for sharing your story Megan.
Holding the umbrella,
My long physical and emotional recovery after Ella’s traumatic birth didn't happen alone. My husband has had a journey all his own! The discussion around the physical and mental health of postpartum moms is a necessary one but it's also important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience for dads too, especially when that birth doesn't go as planned. Josh knew he'd be my coach during labor but I don't think anything could have prepared him for just how much I'd need from him during my birth experience.
I had several complications with my delivery. My baby was stuck in the birth canal and I had to have a C-section. During the C-section, my uterus ruptured and when they were controlling the bleeding they injured my ureter, something that would cause me to have a total of 6 surgeries in 4 months!
So right away my husband was faced with a scary medical situation that we were not prepared for. During my daughter's birth, he was trying to help me stay calm while at the same time dealing with his own fears that he was loosing me. Because of my complications, I was unable to do kangaroo care with my daughter so my husband had to step up and take over that role! He gave her her first bottle (the first of many) and rocked her when I couldn't.
The day after she was born I had to be life-flighted to a different hospital because of the injury to my ureter. Because my baby had just been born and wasn't discharged yet, my husband had to make a choice...stay with your daughter who was born last night or follow your wife who could die. He chose to drive to meet me at the hospital, but that meant signing away temporary custody of our daughter to his parents. When he left the hospital, he was stopped at a red light by the launch pad where he watched them load me on the helicopter. If you've never left your day old baby to watch your dying wife get loaded into a helicopter...he doesn't recommend it. It was so horrific we don’t talk about it very often. He's never wanted to be in 2 places at once more than that day.
Since my daughter was born, I've had 6 surgeries and during the weeks and months of my recovery, my husband took on a new role...nurse! He had to help me with everything, getting up, lying down, walking, showering, going to the bathroom, emptying drains and catheters, changing my dressings, you name it! I tried to breastfeed and he was trying to help with that too, which he admitted he didn't really know anything about! He would sit there and stroke the baby's hand while she nursed trying to stimulate her sucking reflex. Eventually I had to give up breastfeeding and because I couldn't get up to make bottles, that was all Josh's responsibility at first.
Dealing with all the medical complications was really hard for my husband. Josh is a total businessman. He's a doer, a fixer, and does not like anything medical (or the sight of blood)! The hardest part for him was watching me go through so much physical and emotional pain all while knowing there was nothing he could do to help the pain. He was with me every single day during my 3 hospital stays and was such a help at home. After my bladder surgery, I was at a real low point and felt absolutely horrible! I was in pain, had a drain coming out of my stomach and a catheter. I remember my husband helping me to get dressed and I just started crying because I felt so disgusting and he just looked up and said "it will be ok, we will get through this."
Throughout this whole journey, every day Josh would look at me or see me struggling to complete some simple task and all he'd say was "how can I help?" I leaned on him in more ways than one. He was the one getting up with Ella when she cried, making her bottles, changing her diapers, cooking me food, helping me remember my medications, draining my tubes and drains, checking incisions, taking me to my appointments, taking care of our dog and house. We even joked that he changed my dressings better than the home health nurse! He definitely learned more about my uterus and cervix than he ever expected! All of this while trying to adjust to a new tiny human that was suddenly our responsibility. All those fears of a a new parent were magnified by everything else going on with me.
Thankfully he was able to take a couple weeks off of work but eventually he had to return so that he could go back to another role...breadwinner! It was hard for my husband because for him, he thought the birth would be the hard part and then life would go on! He didn't have the constant physical reminder of her birth but he had his own visual ones. Certain sounds and sights he says he will never forget...as much as he'd like to. Ella's birth was every bit as traumatic for him as it was for me. He didn't know how and couldn't fix this for me.
When I needed to talk through things it was hard for him because it was like ripping the scab off a wound. And that scab was ripped off many times. He was scared too. Scared for me and that I wouldn't be ok. Scared that we didn't know the extent of my injuries and that I'd never be the same. We have been advised to not have any more children and that adds a whole new dynamic...he is still completely terrified that I'll get accidentally pregnant some day. But again, talking has helped. Dads need help too after a baby and we need to make sure they are doing ok, just as much as moms. No one will ever know what I've gone through but at the same time no one will ever know what my husband went through being on the other end of things. We can be sure of one thing though, situations like this either tear you apart or bring you together and thankfully it has brought us closer together. And equally important, it has showed me and my daughter just how much Daddy loves us.
We know that breastfeeding struggles can intensify postpartum depression and anxiety. The following is a story about how weaning can also impact our emotional distress. The author, Cat Halek is a local IBCLC and the Education Chair on our Board. She wants everyone to know that we support all moms, no matter how they feed their babies! Happy Breastfeeding Month!
Holding the umbrella,
I knew I would breastfeed my son as soon as I knew I was pregnant. There was no other option. I planned a natural birth. I planned a beautiful empowering birth. Then at 36 weeks my son was breech. My doctor planned a c-section at 39 weeks. I showed up at 6:30 am at the hospital ready for my c-birth. I had grieved the birth I wouldn’t have. Though, my son had flipped probably during a massage the night before. I chose out of fear and pressure from staff and family to have the scheduled c-section. Having my birth not go as I had wanted, I hung on to breastfeeding. It became my "I'll show you" to the world. I sat at a week and a half postpartum in a La Leche League group and told the fellow mothers, “They took my birth from me, but no one will take breastfeeding from me.”
After my pregnancy depression, I and everyone else was relieved that I didn’t suffer from post partum depression. The oxytocin from breastfeeding made me feel over the moon for my son. I was blissed out and in heaven feeding him. I set small accomplish-able goals for breastfeeding. First I set my goal for 6 weeks.
Then at 6 weeks I made my next goal to reach 6 months, and reached it! At 10 months I went back to work as a Peer Counselor at WIC. I completed extensive training on breastfeeding. I worked with women who were breastfeeding 3 and 4 year olds. I came to believe that allowing a child self wean was optimal weaning.
What I hadn't know and what many people don’t understand is that weaning is a very long process. The first bottle of something other than breastfeeding is the beginning of weaning. Starting solids is also the beginning of weaning. Weaning is the process of transitioning from breastfeeding for table food, it is not the immediate end to breastfeeding.
I made it to a year of breastfeeding Ian. I had unlimited access to my IBCLC mentors and peer support from La Leche League and my fellow Peer Counselors. I remember talking to Daniel, my husband about my new goal to make it to 2 years of breastfeeding. I never knew the challenges and issues I would have from weaning and what mother led weaning would feel like. All I learned about was child led weaning; La leche League's advice of "don’t offer, don’t refuse". He said he would support me but was shocked by my choice.
Breastfeeding with large breasts and a toddler that could care less about your feelings of flashing your entire breast at the world is not for the faint of heart. Breastfeeding one-year old Ian was a display of nursing gymnastics. Around thirteen months, I started feeling terribly uncomfortable nursing my older child in public. I literally felt like Ian was holding my large breast and showing it off to onlookers when he took nursing breaks. This led to a feeling of Ian violating me by presenting my breast to others was definitely tied to my history of sexual abuse, but it was uncomfortable nonetheless.
That was my first thought of "HMMMM, maybe I want to wean him earlier." I started explaining the difference of breastfeeding in the car and at home vs breastfeeding anywhere, anytime to my toddler.
Around 14 months, I began feeling resentful and trapped while nursing Ian to sleep and during night nursing sessions. I would be trying to pretend to sleep while getting Ian to sleep. But my heart wasn’t in it. I felt pissed at my husband and pissed at my son for trapping me into being still, boob out, and frankly not feeling in control of my own body.
My husband, after some prodding, took over bedtime. It took about a month to get Ian off the boob for falling asleep and then a natural progression to him not nursing at night But we did it.
As he night weaned I started to enforce the boundry of only nursing at home on the couch or in the car. He adjusted beautifully to this. He would pull my pants leg and ask to go to the car or couch because he was ready to nurse. He would be fine with leaving what ever we were doing to go nurse in the agreed upon places. Keep in mind Ian n talking since 9 months and could speak in sentences at this time. Not every child could understand or verbalize these needs and adjust
At 20 months I stopped offering the breast at all. When he would ask for mum mums I would offer him a hug, a snack, or a drink. Also I would change positions and attempt to distract him with activities. If he would get really upset I would give in but over the next 4 months he weaned to 2 to 3 breastfeeding seessions a day. I was doing ok and so was he.
The menstrual cycle that started 2 weeks after Ian’s 2nd birthday hit me hard the first day. My nipples were painful and sensitive. I was emotionally and physically drained. I was over anyone having access to my breasts.
Dan came home that day. Ian came over to nurse. I offered him everything to distract and get him to change focus. He kept crying. I looked at Daniel and told him this is my last day breastfeeding I just cant do it any more. Daniel took Ian and told me to go lay down. I curled into a hormonal crying ball of mess and let Daniel take over parenting that night.
The first month of not breastfeeding felt pretty good. I could wear clothes I hadn’t worn since Ian was born. I had my body back. I had successfully weaned a child. I was proud of myself. My peers couldn’t believe that I mother weaned in such a great way.
A few weeks later I had to go to work. I went to the store to pick up some lunch before going and teaching a breastfeeding class. I started feeling emotional and anxious in the store. By the time I made it to the car, I could not stop sobbing; full body ugly cry in the middle of a target parking lot. I finally got calm enough to look at the clock. I was 20 minutes late to work. I called my boss. I couldn't stop the tears while explaining I just couldn’t get to work that day. There was no one to take over the breastfeeding class for me so I powered through and left afterwards. I was so distraught. I knew something wasn’t right.
The sobbing and sensitivity didn’t stop that day. It continued. It interfered with everything. Finally I decided to see my doctor and schedule a counseling appointment through EAP at my job. I saw my primary care provider to see about adjusting my thyroid hormone. She had been resistant to prescribing certain medications until I fully weaned Ian. Since I had weaned my provider felt comfortable to prescribe a different thyroid medicine and told me I may be having issues related to weaning and it changing my hormones. That was the first time I had even thought of weaning depression as a possible culprit.
I was under the impression that weaning depression was something that happened to moms that stopped breastfeeding abruptly and early, not to some one who had weaned gradually over a year. I breastfed only 2 or 3 times a day how on earth could this gentle transition from 2 sessions a day for 5 minutes down to zero breastfeeding cause this emotional response!?
When I discussed with peers and friends that I was suffering weaning depression they told me I could go back to breastfeeding. I didn’t want to start breastfeeding again I needed people to understand that my hormones were going haywire and that it was triggering a major depressive episode. I didn’t want to hear that I hadn’t made the right choice. I needed to hear that I could live a new normal with out breastfeeding and still be a good mom.
My counselor I chose to start seeing was exactly what I needed. She understood that this was a specific issue and I didn’t need to be told to wait it out until my hormones regulated. My counselor Rachel Haskell was the person who let me know I could cope while my hormones regulated and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. While I was in the dark of middle of the tunnel our counseling sessions became the flashlight I needed to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am here. My son is 6 years old. I have accepted the Bipolar 2 diagnosis, the counseling and medication recommended for treatment is what I have to do for myself. I have to be the best I can be so I can be a mom and wife. Having prenatal and weaning distress where only my life and future weren’t the only thing to consider is what I need to continue to push through the dark into the light. It got me to accept my history and understand that unlike other mothers where perinatal mood distress may only be a temporary hormone induced issue, My story would be ongoing of seeking out medication, peer support and therapy for the rest of my life.
I want all moms to know that breastfeeding is your child's first intimate relationship. Setting boundaries and allowing yourself to put your needs at time above your child when appropriate is teaching them about how to treat their future partners. I know that my weaning and prioritizing myself enough to get and continue treatment is going to make my son be a better partner.
The following blog post is the story of a guest blogger. It is a heart-wrenching story of birth trauma and taking it one moment at a time.
Thank you Megan for your strength and willingness to open up about your experiences.
Holding the Umbrella,
Expectations...it's hard to get around expectations. We all have them and boy did I have them about my pregnancy. I was going to eat all the right things, do all the right things, and give birth the way I wanted. I knew I wanted an epidural, wanted to deliver vaginally if possible, wanted to do kangaroo care (skin to skin contact right after birth), and I'd start breastfeeding immediately!
Well...I got the epidural! Other than that, nothing went as I expected. I ended up being induced due to complications during the pregnancy and I tried to deliver vaginally but my daughter got stuck in the birth canal. We tried everything, the vacuum 3 times but nothing helped and she wasn't budging. So we went into a c-section and I thought ok this will be ok and EXPECTED it to go as planned.
I was wrong again! For some reason the medication did not work and I felt the c-section, every bit of it. I was in so much pain that I wasn't fully aware of what was going on but I knew something had happened and the doctors and my husband were nervous. It turns out my uterus had ruptured and they were trying desperately to control the bleeding and save my life. I remember seeing my daughter for a second after they delivered her and thinking ok she's here, she's breathing I can see her, but that's it. Right after they delivered her I started screaming for them to sedate me because I couldn't handle the pain and being conscious any longer.
Nothing about her birth went as planned or as I expected.
That magical moment everyone tells you about when you deliver your baby, hold her on your chest and all the pain of labor magically melts away...it wasn't like that for me. When I think back to Ella's delivery I remember mostly pain, fear, and uncertainty. I didn't get to hold my baby after she was born or do the kangaroo care but I made sure my husband did and my mom was able to capture it on video. It's a video I cherish watching.
My C-section didn't go as planned but I thought I had made it through the worst of it.
Nothing went as expected! I couldn't breastfeed, I couldn't get up and care for my baby; I couldn't even care for myself! I expected to fall instantly in love with this little human I helped create and be in this perfect bubble of joy and bliss and smiles. Well someone burst my bubble! Instead I was filled with pain, sadness, and guilt. I had a friend that delivered about a month after me and when I asked how her delivery went she said it was splendid and she loved it.
What?? What was wrong with me then? I never expected to feel this way but I did. I had to leave the hospital with an external drain coming out of my kidney because they could not operate to repair the ureter until I had healed from the c-section. I had what is called a nephrostomy tube and I had it for 8 long weeks. One of the hardest parts for me was the constant physical reminder of what I was going through. It was bad enough that I was in pain from the C-section and also from trying to delivery vaginally but the tube coming out of my kidney was a whole new pain.
I couldn't get up without help, I could barely walk. When Ella cried, I couldn't get up and take care of her. It was always kind of an unspoken rule between my husband and I that I would be the primary caregiver for the baby.
Well those roles were reversed! Not only was my husband on full time daddy duty, he was also on full time nurse duty for me. I remember one night that at the time was probably one of the worst nights but now I look back on and laugh. It was after my 4th surgery to repair the ureter into my bladder. It was very extensive and I went home from the hospital with a drain coming out of my abdomen, urinary catheter, and a whole new scar intersecting my C-section scar.
I wasn't allowed to lift Ella and again, could not get up without assistance. It was late at night and Ella was having one of those nights where nothing would console her, she was hungry, tired, cranky, bored all at the same time and would not stop crying. My husband was walking with her trying to calm her down and my dog started jumping on him to go outside. At the same time I needed him to come empty my drain and catheter because they were getting too full.
This was a real low point for us at the time but we got through it and can laugh about it now. I was so unbelievably sad. I kept thinking, "This is it? This is what I waited so long for? This is how I'm supposed to feel?" I felt completely helpless and worthless. I felt guilty because I couldn't get up and help Ella when she cried but also felt so horrible that I didn't want to get up.
There were days that I was so sick or in so much pain that getting to the couch to sit was all I could manage and couldn't do anything for Ella.I was afraid Ella was bonding with everyone else instead of me because I wasn't able to care for her like I wanted.
I felt guilty for not being happier that my baby was finally here..
For the first few weeks I think I was in literal survival mode, just trying to stay alive and when I was finally able to stop and think about all I went through I started to really process it.
Well meaning family and friends would say things like "Well she's here and healthy, that's all that matters. Now you can move on."
That made me furious!
Not only did it completely negate everything I was going through but then it made me feel selfish for focusing on myself. I was SO thankfull that my baby was healthy but at the same time I had no idea when I was going to feel better or if I'd have any long term complications.
I had almost died twice. I went through 6 surgeries, 3 week long hospital stays, and countless other tests and procedures. I would have flashbacks or wake up and not know where I was...was I in the hospital? Am I ok? Am I having another surgery? I was hurt and needed healing. I kept my feelings to myself for a long time and that was a mistake. It just kept boiling up until I finally broke down one day and told my husband how I was feeling.I just started crying and I don't think I stopped for 2 days. But once I acknowledged my feelings, I felt like a little weight was lifted off my shoulders.
The next person I talked to was my mom and she helped me to understand how different a traumatic birth is compared to a normal delivery and that the feelings I was having were completely normal. I remember telling her that I felt guilty because everyone always says that they would walk through fire for their child and at that point I wasn't sure if I felt that way and my mom explained to me, "Megan, you already have walked through fire for her! No one will every know everything you have gone through and are still going through for your child!"
That helped me put it into perspective. Once I started talking about my feelings it got better and I started to have more good days than bad. When I did have a bad day all I had to say to my husband was "It's a bad day today" and he understood that I might be crying when he came home and that it was nothing he did, just something I had to work through.
I didn't have an immediate, blissful bond with my baby, but now I feel it. Of course I loved her but I went through an incredible trauma getting her here and I needed to acknowledge and own that. Talking about it helped me so much. Now, I can think about everything I went through and know that Ella has one tough Momma and one that would (and has ) go through anything for her.
Often, when I learn more about the long term effects of maternal mood disorders on the health and development of children, I become very anxious that I have destroyed my children for life.
*** Next are the risks associated with UNTREATED maternal mood disorders on children ***
This can be pretty scary really!
*** Resume Reading Here***
Then I remember how brave I was to get help. How important it was for me and my children that I sought medical treatment. That I let go of my ego and stopped trying to "power" through. By getting treatment, I took a huge step to reduce these risks and improve the health of my children. This is the thread I hold onto when the guilt starts trying to eat me alive. My saving grace.
So to focus on the positives, I am sharing a few images of my beautiful, healthy children. Please feel free to share yours too!
Splashing in puddles with the kids,
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,
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 email@example.com 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,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the