The SISTER Mom Program is a New Mother Mentorship Program. SISTER stands for Self-Image Support Team and Emotional Resource. Developed by Postpartum Society of Florida, Inc., SISTER Mom trains an elite team of women to confidently connect women with vetted resources, triage perinatal crisis, and most importantly, mentor and encourage new mothers one-to-one through their perinatal year.
The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. is excited to bring this program to Tampa Bay. We are looking for interested participants for our pilot launch.
SISTER Mom Mentors will be required to:
Read the following:
This Isn’t What I Expected
"Life Will Never Be the Same”: The Real Moms’ Postpartum Survival Guide
(books can be purchased via amazon through our store link!)
Create a Tampa Bay "Lighten the Darkness Resource Guide" as a team
Introduction session: Will be held June 22nd at 7 pm. location to be determined.
4 - 2 hour training sessions (virtual or in person)
July, August, Sept, Oct, Dates TBD
Attend our SISTER Mom Saturday Retreat: Saturday, November 4, 8 am to 4 pm.
Complete Writing Assignments:
Listed in training syllabus you will receive at the introductory session.
Graduates will be matched with moms for ongoing mentoring in January of 2018.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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,
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.
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,
You know it's funny how things happen in my mind. Elizabeth and I really didn't have a planned post for today and we had just decided we were going to link to something else when out of nowhere it hit me.
Hello Earth Day!
But you see that's not where my brain stopped no, it then jumped over to planting trees, fun projects with the kids, then moms and of course "Mother Earth" and then the natural health and holistic health movements. Seriously if we've never had the opportunity to sit down and brainstorm together let's make a brain date you'll find my stream of consciousness, especially when well caffeinated, is really quite fun.
Now back to Earth Day- April 22- marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Now if you're a history nerd like myself go click Earth Day to learn about this one day were twenty million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate their desire for a more sustainable environment. Hey I wonder how many moms were out marching for Earth that day. I don't want to get into a rant about various religious-political-social issues surrounding Earth Day or Creation Care Day or whatever you choose to call it. Once the gears in my head started spinning I really kept thinking of how the natural parenting community, or as we sometimes call it "crunchy mom" community often sees things, especially when it comes to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A lot of moms are concerned about taking medications, especially while breastfeeding or are simply interested in seeking more natural remedies for all ailments, including postpartum depression.
If I had a dollar for every time I saw a post in a moms group asking something like "what are natural remedies for anxiety" or "what oils are good for depression" I wouldn't have a mortgage to pay anymore. Seriously.
So, with this in mind, today I want to touch on a few complementary options for treating prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety.
I just want to throw this out there, there is nothing wrong with deciding to take medication for mental illness. Medication combined with therapy is the most effective known treatment for maternal mood disorder.
As always, consult with your health care provider before starting or stopping any treatment plan, be it pharmaceutical or otherwise.
I also want to mention the value of Mom's groups, you know the kind where you get together with other moms with or without your baby and chat about various topics. Research has shown Peer-to-Peer support is an integral and effective part of recovery from maternal mental illness. It improves outcomes, improves quality of life, helps connect people to treatment, reduces severity, and is cost effective. If you are able to get to a group or even a play date with a couple of other moms, go for it. This may seem like a huge task but if you go, odds are you'll be glad you did. Let us know if you need information on motherhood groups near you, we'll be glad to share a list of resources.
Now if you are able to get out of your home (I say able because I know depression and anxiety can make just stepping outside a huge feat) you may want to consider what are called Complementary and Alternative Medicine or CAM. According to the MAYO Clinic, nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine. Doctors are implementing CAM therapies too; often mixing them with more mainstream options — hence the term "integrative medicine."
What is considered “alternative medicine” changes constantly because different forms undergo research and testing over time and tend to become more mainstream. To make sense of the many therapies available, it helps to look at how they're classified by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):
Whole Medical Systems
A system is more than a single remedy, it's actually many practices or remedies that center on a philosophy, for example:
Thought to strengthen the communication between your mind and your body. CAM practitioners say these two systems must be in harmony or balanced for you to be well. Examples are meditation, prayer, relaxation and art therapies.
I'd like to mention the concept of mindfulness and its power when it comes to motherhood. Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. Practicing mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Here in Tampa Bay, we have professionals that specialize in Mindfulness, Evelyn Ojeda-Fox of Red Tent Collective is one such professional. I encourage you to check out her Dunedin based business and ask her about services such as mother's circle, motherhood mentoring, even Craniosacral Therapy. Many moms rave about the mother's group that meets there each week!
Biologically based practices
These are dietary supplements and herbal remedies taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules. Using ingredients found in nature, these are very popular with people interested in using herbs in place of or in addition to prescription medicines.
Here's a brief article on herbal treatment for anxiety courtesy of the MAYO clinic. I'd like to point out the importance of knowing potential side effects and adverse reactions to herbals and please use caution if you are breastfeeding.
If you're interested in learning more about using herbs or many other holistic options, our friend and supporter De'Nicea Hilton, DOM, AP, holds a Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is certified as a diplomat of Oriental Medicine with a thorough knowledge of Acupuncture and Point Location, Biomedicine and Chinese Herbology. Dr. D as she is affectionately called recently shared more information with us about her practice and working with women experiencing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She offers appointments in both Clearwater and Temple Terrace. The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. is looking forward to inviting Dr. D to join our Temple Terrace Peer-to Peer support group coming soon!
Manipulation and body-based practices
Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation and massage are examples.
Sometimes the simple luxuriousness of a massage or the relaxation that comes with a visit to the chiropractor can do a world of good for a mother whose feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out. Chiropractic care in particular is associated with relieving some of the physical ailments of postpartum adjustment. As an example, the hormone relaxin, which is crucial for loosening ligaments in preparation for birth, lingers in the body for 6 months to a year after pregnancy, leaving your pelvic and sacral regions vulnerable to misalignment and injury. Regular chiropractic adjustment is believed to help maintain stability in the region, helping you to recover quicker and more effectively. Dr. Shannon Whitlock, not only offers home and birth center visits, but she holds specials classes and mom's morning out events. Remember those moms groups I mentioned, find one.
A buildup of anxiety manifests itself in tense muscles-a feeling of stiffness and tightness. Hands-on massage therapy treatment can increase relaxation, while helping the body to grow stronger. For our friends on the other side of Tampa Bay, especially if you are currently pregnant, check out Melissa of Rising Lotus Maternity Services and over here in East Hillsborough, Anita Griffin Thomas is a licensed massage therapist who works with chiropractors, neurologists, immunologists, OB/Gyns and orthopedists to achieve the best possible outcome for their patients.
Some CAM practitioners believe invisible energy force flows through your body, and when this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced you can become sick. Different traditions call this energy by different names, such as chi, prana and life force. The goal of these therapies is to unblock or re-balance your energy force. Energy therapies include qi gong, therapeutic touch, reiki, and magnet therapy.
Things to keep in mind
Many doctors practicing today didn't receive training in CAM or integrative medicine, so they may not feel comfortable making recommendations in this area. Bare in mind that mainstream therapies have been researched and tested for safety and effectiveness. Science based evidence does exist for some CAM, for many there is still a lot of unknowns.
Sadly, there are CAM practitioners who make exaggerated and sometimes outright false claims about curing diseases. If your CAM practitioner encourages you to skip treatment from your doctor or therapist be very aware. Mental illness is still a medical condition and it's crucial to ensure proper care and treatment. Large scale, carefully controlled medical studies are costly. Trials for therapies are often funded by big companies that develop and sell drugs. Fewer resources exist to support trials of CAM therapies. That's why National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health was established — to foster research into CAM and make the findings available to the public.
Talk to your doctor about risks and benefits of any therapy you're considering especially if you are pregnant, have other medical problems or take prescription medicines. Don't stop or change your prescription medications — without talking to your doctor first. Finally, be sure to keep your doctor updated on any alternative therapies you're using, including herbal and dietary supplements.
One thing I did not get into here is essential oils. Again there's just not a lot of research and I don't want to give unsafe information to anyone. So I will offer this, if you like the smell and want to diffuse some oils or maybe wear a special skin safe blend, go for it. Please be very cautious when using essential oils as injuries can occur.
In addition to essential oil use I did not talk about placenta encapsulation. I just want to touch on it real quick, since I have written about it before, while there is no science-based evidence confirming that placenta consumption can improve postpartum adjustment there are numerous accounts of anecdotal evidence from moms who have tried placenta encapsulation or placenta smoothies. I cannot tell you for certain that consuming your placenta will improve your mood, speed your recovery, or promote breastfeeding success but it may work for you. Perhaps even the placebo effect is worthwhile. We have been fortunate to work with many placenta specialists, specifically broadening their knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and are more than glad to help you narrow down your search.
And the last thing I want to mention, is go outside. Plant a tree if you like (this seems like a lot of work) or simply sit in the sunshine breathing in fresh air. Just being outdoors has been proven effective at boosting one's mood. I used to sit on my porch steps nursing my baby in the afternoons just to get my fresh air and sunshine fix and I felt great after each time. In fact, I suggest finding a great moms group that has outdoor meet ups and play dates because, well, outdoors is good for moms and kids. I can even help you find one!
Umbrella is open, today's forecast is a Purple Rain,
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.
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.
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the