The Irony Behind Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Mama

Though it’s less common among kind mamas, some women experience the blues after giving birth. – Alicia Silverstone

You heard that right.  Now, this, I rank right up there with Tom Cruise’s ignorant ranting “There’s no such thing as a chemical balance!”  I found out yesterday that Alicia Silverstone has written a book titled “The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning.”  From the articles I’ve read since yesterday, apparently she thinks her celebrity status has rendered her viewpoint more worthy of the public’s attention than that of medical and parenting experts.

[This book can] help prevent or even cure your PMS, insomnia, allergies, breakouts, weight struggles, thyroid condition, lupus, multiple sclerosis—while significantly lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Apparently, she now thinks she knows more than medical experts, whom you no longer would need to see if you were to simply follow the suggestions in her book of parenting and cure-all-ills wisdom.  What is making  me want to rank Alicia’s book up with TC’s ignorant 2005 rant (during my postpartum depression (PPD) recovery) is the fact that an individual is using their celebrity status thinking she is doing something that would benefit the public but is achieving the opposite.  From the sound of the outrageously unconventional and advice lacking in common sense throughout Alicia’s book, you’d tend to think that her book was somehow Scientology-motivated–just as TC’s rant was–as it is pretty far out of the ballpark.

Her sanctimonious, empathy-lacking and insensitive claims–summarized over at In Case You Didn’t Know, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and Love and Knuckles, so I am not going to go into detail about her anti-diaper, anti-vaccination, anti-crib, anti-tampon, anti-meat, and anti-dairy claims (it’s almost like she wants us to go back to our caveman days and at the same time be vegan) in any detail here–are pissing people off .

Much like the twerking antics of Miley Cyrus at last year’s MTV VMA succeeded to shock the world into paying attention to her–almost like a rite of passage and proof positive that she is forever closing the door on her good girl, Disney Channel, days as Hannah Montana and never looking back–I would think Alicia’s publication of this book was merely an attention-seeking mechanism.   With Alicia’s big screen activities being pretty non-existent and her 2012 video of chewing her son’s food and passing it along to her son didn’t create enough stir to draw the attention she was hoping for, she probably thought, “Hmmmm, what better way to attract attention than to write a book with content that would certainly attract the public’s attention.”

I personally would never waste money on a book that is so outrageously negative toward others (couples trying desperately to conceive, moms suffering from PPD, parents who use diapers and put their babies in cribs, meat/dairy consumers), egotistical, paranoia-inducing, misleading, and stigma-spreading.  If I had written this very same book, do you think it would’ve been published with such bizarre content?  Nope.  Publishing companies would no doubt scoff at it, thinking I was crazy.

I’d NEVER ONCE heard about her 2012 video of her bird-like feeding behavior…until yesterday (and I haven’t watched it…have no interest whatsoever).  Maybe she was a mother bird in a previous life…but she came back as a human that is CLUELESS about being supportive, empathizing and understanding human maternal matters. 

In a couple of the articles I read, it seems that Alicia is perceived to be innocently sharing what worked for her as a parent and is merely trying to help other parents out.  But……I certainly do not appreciate the implication that anyone who  uses diapers, gets vaccinated, uses tampons (which I’ve never done before), and eats meat/meat bi-products (like dairy) is unkind.  And I resent the implication that experiencing PPD makes me any less of a person than those who don’t experience PPD.  Hence the reason I rank her out-of-the-ballpark statements up with the likes of TC’s infamously nonsensical rant.

Alicia, simply reading your book is not going to cure us of all our ills and ensure our children will grow up healthy and happy.  Hate to burst your bubble there, but a pregnant woman who reads your book will not be protected from PPD.  Just like a couple experiencing fertility issues will not miraculously become pregnant just by reading your book and following your advice of just “doing it” spontaneously.  Telling a couple experiencing infertility issues that having a baby is easy is so amazingly insensitive.  If you thought you were publishing a book to help others, you are very, very wrong.  Great job in earning the scorn and dislike among a good number of the public who are parents who have directly or indirectly experienced a maternal mental health disorder and/or infertility!

I’m not going to bother to defend myself or my PPD experience with someone like Alicia (and all other judgmental supermoms out there), just like I’m not going to try to convince anyone not to bother buying a copy of Alicia’s book.  Just like there are people who continue to troll, bully, judge, criticize, and act mean to others for no reason–and nothing will change their ways–there are people who are going to continue to look up to Alicia simply for her celebrity status (even though she’s had a lackluster movie career ever since “Clueless”) and lap up everything she says.  Well, to each her/his own.  If you want to bother reading the book, please just take what you read with a grain of salt, remembering that the source of information is coming from someone who is not a medical or parenting expert, and who is primarily known for her role in the movie “Clueless.”   Ironic, eh?

The mission of my blog is to spread awareness about maternal mental health matters.  That includes pointing out barriers, including false information and ignorant remarks.

Let’s Face It, Your Kids Can’t Avoid Bullies and Mean Kids – But You Can Help Them Develop Problem Solving Skills

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

I am so tired of feeling devastated, seeing the constant posts of children taking their own lives.  Reading about teen suicides that seem to be occurring more and more frequently is truly heartbreaking.

There’s 11 year old Michael Morones who was bullied (and is now in a persistent vegetative state from hanging himself) for being a My Little Pony fan.  Every time I see his beautiful face on my Facebook feed, I just want to break down and cry.

Then there’s Ashley Payton who was driven to bullycide on February 5, 2014,  just shy of her 16th birthday.  A girl who was so beautiful and yet was convinced she wasn’t.  Self esteem issues seemingly at play here, as is at the heart of all too many other teen-related issues like eating disorders (anorexia/bulimia), cutting, drugs, and depression….just to name a few.

And finally, there’s the article in the Clarion Ledger dated April 12, 2014 titled “Anti-bullying Laws Fail to Stem Youth Suicide” by Emily Le Coz, which is what motivated me to write this post today.  The article reveals frightening statistics of the numbers of youth suicides each year and how bullying is most often cited as the root of the epidemic, despite anti-bullying laws in place in most states.  The article mentions 15-year-old Lyndsey Taylor Aust, bullied for merely having acnie, was but one of THREE suicides in her school within ONE MONTH period (this is what is referred to as a “contagion effect”).

Sure, schools have some form of anti-bullying policy in place, but I have yet to hear about a school that has an effective one.  For one thing, instead of an environment of transparency in schools, you have one that is controlled by fear that stems from the stigma of depression and suicide. Instead of transparency and a culture that TRULY cares about the welfare of students, schools fear doing anything to change the negative culture, hence the sweeping of depression, suicide and bullying under the rug.  There is a price to pay for such willful ignorance.  Look at what happened at Scott County Central High School in Mississippi….three suicides in ONE MONTH.

The fact of the matter is our children are feeling hopeless and helpless enough to end their own precious lives.  There have been arguments that bullying is not necessarily the sole and direct cause of all youth suicides.  That it might just be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Well, there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between victims of bullying and suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to a study published in the March 2014 edition of JAMA Pediatrics.  You can also review the booklet posted over on the CDC website titled The Relationship Between Bullying & Suicide.  Both parents and educators should familiarize themselves with this information.

If there are self esteem issues that are leading toward changes in behavior/sleep/eating, depression should be looked at and treated. In a number of recent cases I’ve read about recently, I noticed that parents indicated there was absolutely no sign whatsoever that anything was out of the ordinary.  Their children seemed like their happy, normal selves.  I don’t know any of these families’ situations, but there is a greater tendency to bully or be bullied in the following situations in which a stable support system is lacking:

  1. Greater numbers of single parents than ever before
  2. Dual-career parents who are busy working long hours at full-time jobs and spending less time at home with the kids and providing positive behavior role modeling, interaction, and simply listening opportunities
  3. Risk factors for depression and other mental health issues, like eating disorders, self esteem issues, family history of mental illness, extreme poverty, emotional/physical abuse, lack of nurturing, etc.

I am not in any way blaming any parents whose children took their own lives.  I’m imploring ALL parents to be more in tune with their children. If there is an underlying mental health issue, then PLEASE get help for them.  If you see that there are changes in demeanor, behavior, diet, and sleep, please observe, talk to and listen….REALLY LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY AND REALLY OBSERVE THEIR BEHAVIOR AND MANNERISMS CLOSELY.  If they refuse to open up to you, please try to get them a neutral third party–someone experienced with teen issues and depression, like a family counselor–to talk to them.  Put aside any feelings of shame or fear from the stigma of mental illness.

If you are of the camp of parents who believes the best way your children will learn to adapt to and survive in this world is by doing it with very little to no guidance from you, I implore you to put aside any feelings you may have that, since you toughed it up and lasted through mean kids and got through tough times in school, your child can too.  Don’t think for one second that what you went through growing up back in the 60s, 70s or 80s is the same as growing up today in the 21st century when kids are heavy users of social media and can be cyberbullied day and night via texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, and online forums in which teens “hang out” in an often anonymous fashion.  Anonymity affords cyberbullies/trolls access to an easy–albeit even more cowardly than in-person bullying–means to harass, intimidate and taunt in a public forum, and gives others to join in/gang up to make an emotionally vulnerable young individual miserable.  And put aside the belief that it’s impossible for them to ever have any mental health issues because “depression just doesn’t happen to anyone in my household; I wouldn’t allow them to be weak like that.”

In these cases–since we all know that middle and high schools are a breeding ground for kids undergoing hormone changes who, as part of the socialization process that goes with growing up, try to assert themselves in inappropriate ways–we need to ensure our children are prepared.  I’m  not saying we need to be like the helicopter parents that are so oft criticized in parenting articles, and solve all our kids’ problems so we can keep them out of harm’s way.  No, not at all.  I’m saying that we need to provide guidance to our children.  After all, that’s what parents do.  We use our own experiences and wisdom gained from living and learning….and from our own parents.  From the time our children are toddlers, we teach/coach/guide our children to feed themselves, go potty themselves, talk, stand up, walk, change themselves, brush their teeth, behave appropriate/use inside voices in public spaces…and so on.

I can’t help but view a school as one huge boxing ring within which kids are forced to demonstrate their survival skills.  Because school ends up being where kids spend most of their time every day of the school year, it’s not unreasonable for me to say that every school district should help kids with training on how to cope with mean kids.  In fact, I fervently believe schools should be mandated to add to their curriculum–for first grade all the way through twelfth grade–a year long training on social skills.

It’s one thing that schools observe a Week of Kindness every October.  That’s only five days out of a 183-day school year.   Schools will generally have a mission that includes words like emotional wellness, appreciation of diversity, fostering respect.  But let’s face it, since we can’t even get the majority of schools in this country to deal with bullying effectively, the responsibility for teaching our kids coping skills rests on parents.

It is inevitable that there are mean kids in every school.  What we need to focus on is how to provide our children with guidance on how to cope with mean kids.  It is crucial that parents teach their children to adapt to and survive in this world by nurturing, guidance, and simply being there for them.  Providing guidance is not the same thing as making things easier for our kids and fixing all their issues so down the road they have no problem solving skills of their own. I’m talking about helping our children develop skills they need to fix their own problems. Self esteem is a huge issue for all too many teens. Not every teen is going to know how to let mean behavior slide like it took me years to learn how to do myself.

Resources I would like to recommend for both parents and educators (I am early in my research, so more to come in future blog posts):

Attention New Jerseyans: Let’s Get Gov Christie to Pass S2995

This will probably be my shortest post, ever, because if you click here, you will get all the information you need to know what the S2995 pregnancy accommodation rights bill is about, why it’s important for pregnant moms and their families.

PLEASE call Gov Chris Christie’s office 609-292-6000 between now and 1/14 to ask that he pass S2995.  And share this information with others in New Jersey.  Your voice CAN help make a difference.  If you sit back– thinking that you can’t make a difference, so why bother, and everyone has that attitude–how can there be any progress?

I saw the below image on my Facebook feed this morning.  It totally represents the way I think and why I blog (and for that matter, why I wrote my book)!  So……PLEASE CALL AND SHARE!  Thank you!

Interview with Dr. Christina Hibbert, Author of This is How We Grow

I am very excited to post my first ever Author Interview on my blog.  I am also very honored to have the opportunity to help spread the word about my friend, Dr. Christina Hibbert, and her newly published book “This Is How We Grow: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Loss, Motherhood & Discovering Self-Worth & Joy, One Season at a Time.”   I can remember the excitement I felt when my book was first published almost exactly 2 years ago, and so I share in Dr. Hibbert’s excitement that her labor of love–her baby–is now complete!

I met Dr. Hibbert a few years ago at a Postpartum Support International conference.  Over the years, I have come to admire her for her easygoing and friendly demeanor, raising SIX children, the work that she does as a psychologist specializing in postpartum / women’s mental health / grief / loss/ parenting / motherhood, and her work as a facilitator offering free pregnancy and postpartum adjustment group sessions over The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and now for having written an awesome memoir I am so looking forward to reading!

Now, without further ado….

IVY:        When did the idea of writing this book first come up? Was there a light bulb moment for you?  For me, there was a specific what I refer to as “light bulb moment” –or trigger.  In general, I write when I’m triggered by something I hear, see or read.  The words “There’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance” was my light bulb moment, and the book became a mission to add to the numbers of memoirs and self care books on postpartum depression.  I wanted to help other mothers realize they were not alone in what they were experiencing, and not the only ones seeking practical tips from what I learned from my journey, even including childcare complications (e.g., colic, eczema, cradle cap) that I had no idea how to address as a first-time parent, so new moms wouldn’t be as anxious and in the dark as I was on how to cope with these types of issues.

DR. HIBBERT:       I was setting my New Year “Theme” for 2008, just two months after my brother-in-law and sister died and I had our 4th baby and we inherited our nephews and became parents of six. I was writing in my journal, and suddenly I just knew: I am going to write about this someday. I had always wanted to be an author. I had plans for writing a book on motherhood, and I’d actually already started to write the story of when my youngest sister, Miki, had died of cancer and how that had affected our family. But when my sister Shannon then died, I knew I couldn’t write that story anymore. I had a new story to write. I just felt it in my bones, and the desire only grew as time passed.

IVY:      The subtitle of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!” is a reflection of the route my motherhood journey took.  Does your subtitle suggest a lifelong journey of self discovery?  Does it mean that you touch on your childhood in your book, or does your memoir focus mostly on your motherhood experiences?  What is the meaning of “one season at a time?”

DR. HIBBERT:      My subtitle, “A Psychologist’s Memoir of Loss, Motherhood, and Discovering Self-worth and Joy, One Season at a Time,” refers to my specific struggles during the time period of the book as well as my lifelong commitment to personal growth. This Is How We Grow is written in four parts and follows four years of my life after these events occurred in our family. I compare each of these years to the four seasons. I also use my yearly “theme” as a title for each part. Fall, my year of Patience, was 2007, when all the tragedy happened. Boy did we need patience, and we all need patience when “falls” come in our lives. Winter, my year of Gratitude, was the next year. As we struggled under the weight of grief, depression, and in my case, postpartum depression, to pick up the pieces and heal our family, gratitude is what got us through. Gratitude is what gets us through all the winters of life. Spring, my year of Cheerfulness, was 2009, when I was trying to feel joy again but wasn’t quite ready. I could at least put on a smile and try to feel cheerful, and it helped. As we adopted our nephews, we could finally feel a little relief from the pain and melting of the coldness. And Summer, my year of Joy, I learned to love myself again. I healed, emotionally and spiritually, and my family finally felt whole.

As I say in my free, online This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group, our lives are like the seasons. We are all in one season or another at any given time. The important thing is to let ourselves be where we are and choose to grow. Seasons always change, but will we?

IVY:      Can you give an overview of what your book is about in a couple of paragraphs?

DR. HIBBERT:       Now that you know the set up for the book, let me tell you a little more about the story. As I mentioned, in 2007, my sister and brother-in-law both died, my husband and I inherited their two sons, our nephews, and I gave birth to our 4th baby. Within about three weeks, we went from three to six kids. The years that followed were rough for our family as we faced court battles, troubled extended family relationships, and just tried to help our six children and ourselves heal. But through it all I chose to grow. As a psychologist specializing in postpartum, women’s mental health, grief/loss, parenting, and motherhood, I had learned so many tools and theories over the years. Now it was time to put all my theories to the test. This is How We Grow is a memoir with a self-help feel, a doctor becomes the patient story of hope, faith, love, and ultimately, joy.

IVY:        Did you find the process of writing your book cathartic?  The process of writing my book was so therapeutic that at the end of the 6+ year process, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of me.  Writing my book, getting it published and doing book readings were not only an outlet for tons of pent-up anger, emotions, thoughts and feelings.  The whole process—including my PPD survival—was life changing.

DR. HIBBERT:       Absolutely. I knew I was really writing this book to help me heal. That was my first and primary goal. “Even if no one but my family and me reads this, it will be worth it,” I told myself, and that has become true. For over four years, every time I rewrote chapters, I felt everything again, and that made me have to face every little part of my experiences. I had to talk with family and my husband, and my kids about everything that happened to us. It’s not only healed me. It is healing us all.

IVY:      Do you feel your experience as a psychologist factors into your tone and approach to writing this memoir?  In other words, do you think it would be written much differently if you weren’t a professional in the mental health field?

DR. HIBBERT:        Yes, because being a psychologist is such a fundamental part of who I am. I love to read and learn and teach, and as a psychologist I get to do all of those things every day. In This Is How We Grow, I share many professional insights, tools, and words from other people who inspire me. In fact, I start each chapter with my psychologist voice, sharing not only my story, but also the deeper truths behind my story. I hope others can relate to me and to my experiences, and I hope they can learn from this book and feel inspired to “choose to grow,” too.

IVY:      What audience do you think this book targets?

DR. HIBBERT:      Mostly women, ages 20-65, and especially mothers. But because the book touches on so many topics—family, death, suicide, postpartum depression, motherhood, parenting, marriage, grief, parenting, self-worth, adoption, spirituality—I have found readers in men, teenagers, and older men and women, too. My kids (from my 10 year-old on up) have started reading it, even though I never thought they would care to until they were older. And my teenagers’ friends are reading it. And my husband and his brothers are reading it and talking to each other about it, too. I am grateful it is touching so many people in so many different ways.

IVY:        Did any other books or experiences inspire you to write this memoir?

DR. HIBBERT:        I have always been inspired by memoirs. I love reading true stories and learning from other people’s lives. So, I would say all the memoirs I have read inspired me. Reading others’ stories helped me think, “Why couldn’t I write mine?” They showed me different ways to craft a great true story, too. As for experiences, my work as a speaker definitely inspired me. As I would go around and speak to audiences about women’s mental health and postpartum depression and grief/loss and parenting, I would share a little of my personal story. I would always hear the same thing: You have so much to share, you need to write a book! So I did.

IVY:        What was the most challenging part in the process of writing/publishing your book?

DR. HIBBERT:       I have six kids! That has definitely been the most challenging. My family life is incredibly busy. With kids ages 17, 16, 14, 12, 10, and 6, I am literally running from before sunrise until late at night. And when I started writing they were all little, so I had even less time for much of anything but them. I also have a private practice where I see clients one day a week, and I was running a postpartum group, too. And I still manage my non-profit, The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, among other things. At first I squeezed writing into the tiny moments when I had any time alone (usually right before bed), then I started setting weekly writing goals (5 hours, 10 hours, 20 hours per week, as I was able). This year, all my kids are in school! So, I’ve had school hours to work on writing and publishing. It’s been exhausting and crazy. I always say everything takes four times longer than I wish because I have so many kids! But, I have kept my family as my priority. I have really felt like a stay-at-home-mom for the most part, and still do. I am here with them, and they support and help me so I can write. My husband is amazing with helping me, too.

IVY:        Do you have a section or quote that is your favorite and is most meaningful to you?

DR. HIBBERT:       There are many I love. But the first that comes to mind is the very, very end of the epilogue where I say, “Whatever kind of mud life has thrown you into—whether the loss of a relationship, loved one, or career, life-altering medical, mental health, or financial struggles, or even daily hardships that never seem to quit, choose to plant yourself and grow. Choosing to grow is choosing love. No matter what season of growth you are in, choose love, my friends. Every time.” We are all faced with hard times, but we can all choose to grow and choose love. To me, that sums it all up.

IVY:       Do you plan to do readings, and if so, where?

DR. HIBBERT:        I sure hope to! I am headed to the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim, CA in December, where they will be selling my books, and starting in January, I hope to travel as much as possible for speaking engagements, book club appearances, and yes, book signings, too. I will be signing at the Postpartum Support International conference in North Carolina this June, for sure!

IVY:       Do you have any plans to write any other books?

DR. HIBBERT:       Through my website and blog (www.DrChristinaHibbert.com), I actually already got my next book deal, with New Harbinger Publications! It will be on the topic of Self-Esteem after a Breakup and is coming out Spring 2015. After that, I hope to write a more general book on self-esteem and self-worth as well as a book on motherhood. Who knows what the future holds?

CONNECT WITH DR. HIBBERT:

Website/Blog: www.DrChristinaHibbert.com
Facebook Pages:  Dr. Christina Hibbert (www.facebook.com/drchibbert) and This Is How We Grow (www.facebook.com/thisishowwegrow)
Twitter: @DrCHibbert
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/drchibbert
This Is How We Grow Personal Growth Group! FREE. Online. Growth. What more could you ask for? http://bit.ly/1iYm6K3)

Seleni Institute – We Need More Comprehensive Women’s Reproductive Health Services Like This!

Something caught my attention today.  An article appearing on my Facebook feed about a workshop offered by Seleni Institute this Wednesday, July 31st, titled: “Preparing for Your Newborn,”  which will assist the expectant mom in knowing what to expect in her first days after childbirth.  When I looked at what the workshop will be covering, I quickly realized that it’s way more than what the standard childbirth and parenting classes at hospitals offer.   It offers many things I complain about in my book that are lacking in standard hospital classes–things that are the source of much anxiety to first-time mothers, like how to choose a pediatrician,warning signs and when to call your pediatrician, soothing techniques, and taking a baby’s temperature.  To find out more and to register, click here.  I will have to inquire whether they also cover the startle reflex (the reason why we swaddle) and what to do if reflex, colic, eczema and/or cradle cap occur.

In Chapter 14 of my book, I talk about the changes needed for progress with respect to ending the ignorance about postpartum depression (PPD), ending the stigma caused by that ignorance, and making sure there are enough support services to help new moms and their families.  In this chapter, I provide my “wish list” of what it would take for such progress to occur, one of which is an increase in peer-led parenting and PPD support groups (one example is MotherWoman, which I have blogged about previously, even on Huffington Post).  The other is the establishment of comprehensive women’s healthcare facilities that are founded on the realization that the emotional well-being of the new mother is absolutely essential to the survival and normal development of her child.  Mental health should absolutely be an integral component of reproductive health, whether it be for issues relating to infertility, miscarriage, still birth, child loss or the postpartum period.

I recently learned of such a facility that I wish I could’ve taken advantage of but couldn’t because it didn’t exist when I was having difficulty conceiving, after my first failed IVF cycle, after childbirth and when I was battling PPD.  It opened its doors earlier this year.  Not sure, however, WHETHER I would’ve taken advantage of such a facility back then, before I came out of my PPD knowing what I know now.  Yes, it’s one of those hindsight is 20/20 kinda situations.  Well, knowing what I know now, I want to encourage women to seek such services early on.  Continuing along the vein of what I wrote in my book’s Chapter 14, knowing the importance of and being able to easily access such services are extremely vital if we want to stop seeing women experiencing the kind of bumpy road to motherhood that I experienced.

This facility is the Seleni Institute in Manhattan.  I hadn’t realized until today that the Advisory Board consists of such esteemed individuals in the field of reproductive mood disorders as Dr. Lee S. Cohen and Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW.  Seleni’s services include–but are not limited to–the following.

  • Support groups for, miscarriage/stillbirth/child loss, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, pregnancy, new moms, unexpected childbirth outcomes, parenting support/mindful parenting, and body image.
  • A certified lactation counselor providing clinics, classes, workshops, and one-on-one sessions to help the expectant mother know what to expect and the new mother on how to improve her breastfeeding experience.
  • Experienced psychotherapists and social workers on staff to provide counseling on infertility, coping with physical changes during and after pregnancy, infant bonding and attachment, life and career transitions, relationship/marital/partner difficulties, parenting concerns, and body image anxiety.
  • A website offering valuable insight into all things relating to reproduction.  It is filled with an amazing amount of information that, once again, I only wish I had had access to during my IVF cycles, pregnancy, and postpartum period.

The origin of the name Seleni is in and of itself extremely creative and a lot of thought was put into an appropriate reflection of the organization’s mission. In combing through everything on the site, I’m filled with wonder at the promise this organization holds for women, and I really hope to see more organizations like this open throughout the country.  Even better, I would like to see this organization become national!

Spotlight on the Royal Birth

Wow, two posts in two days!  This is a record!  Everyone else has been blogging, tweeting, commenting on news articles, and talking about the royal birth.  I figured I might as well too.  I was all set to go to bed at midnight, which for me is early, but I had to check something on the computer and then all of a sudden I found myself feeling the sudden urge to blog about the royal birth.

Was I obsessed as some people were about Kate and William and their much-anticipated prince or princess?  No, not really.  Then why am I blogging about it?  Well, for one thing, I’m annoyed.  From morning til night, all I saw in my Facebook feed were comments about the royal birth.  Let me clarify.  I’m not so much annoyed by the amount of coverage as I am about the number of people that are annoyed about the amount of coverage and the nasty ol’ things that they had to say about it all.

As with everything including politics and religion, there will be the extreme camps.  In this case, you have the people who don’t give a rat’s butt about the royal family, angry that we are focusing so much on a baby’s birth (something that happens every second around the world) instead of more relevant issues like the state of our country and our economy, insisting that no one here gives a hoot (but plenty of people around the world and in this country do give a hoot or else why would there be such excessive coverage?).  While the other extreme camp has gone on and on and on for weeks leading up to the childbirth to try to predict the baby’s sex and what the baby’s name will be.  And then you’ll have what I refer to as the neutral camp who just want to go with the flow and carry on with their daily routines and not really care about the coverage in the news about the royal family.

I happen to belong to the neutral camp.  That is, until I was triggered.  What was I triggered by?  But of course, the meanness in people.  Meanness that stems from ignorance!  Yes, I stumbled across some mean comments/tweets on today’s Christian Monitor article titled “First glimpse of British prince brings comments about mom’s postpartum body.”  As soon as I saw the title, I thought to myself  “Do I honestly want to see the comments, which will no doubt be extremely ignorant and dumb, to put it mildly?”  I braced myself and read through the comments and quickly grew infuriated.  When I saw Kate and William walk through the hospital door earlier in the day to introduce their baby to the world, I instantly thought “Uh boy, Kate is still showing her bump, and I will bet you any amount of money that that will be the cause of a lot of mean-spirited comments from a public that is already weary of the extensive coverage about the royal birth.”  And here we are.

People calling her fat. <– omg, Kate, fat?  What, are these people nuts?  If she’s fat, then that makes me an elephant.  Ridiculous.

People joking that it looks like she’s still pregnant. <– Well, duh….this is how ALL mothers look after they have a baby.  And all mothers and their husbands/significant others know this because they have been through this themselves and know that you simply don’t blink away the belly that has been carrying a baby for the past 9 months.  It’s just NOT POSSIBLE.  What do people think really happens after childbirth, anyway?  That the entire contents of the belly simply come out with the baby, and that’s it?  What about all the skin and muscle that have had to stretch over the course of 9 months to accommodate the growing baby?!  I may have dropped my weight rapidly, thanks to the postpartum depression (PPD) that caused me to UNWILLINGLY lose my appetite and not want to eat anything for several weeks….this, after being literally starved for a week in the hospital after having my baby because my doctor wanted me to be prepared to go into surgery at any moment’s notice, thanks to my placenta accreta.  BUT I still had a residual belly when I left the hospital.

People joking that perhaps there’s still a twin in there. <– This is such a stupid comment that I’m not even going to address this.

What these idiotic comments show is that the image of a perfect postpartum body–thanks to celebrities and their personal trainers and not showing themselves in public until their tummies are gone–that the media focuses unhealthily on is causing the general public to have this unrealistic expectation of mothers all miraculously ridding themselves of their bellies and returning to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately after they give birth.  I have blogged about this previously, and I’m actually quite sick and tired of this…I really am.

So, if women who have been through pregnancy can all vouch for the fact that the rapid return to pre-pregnancy selves is a myth, then why does this false perception continue to exist?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they don’t want others to know about their struggles to return to their pre-pregnancy selves, much like mothers who have suffered from PPD don’t want others to know out of feelings of guilt and shame that they didn’t experience the perfect childbirth experience they’ve been longing to have and society expects all mothers to have.

So…..with mothers not speaking up, the only examples we see are the celebrities flaunting their perfectly fit, postpartum bodies for all the world to see.  Therein lies the problem that we continuously and persistently perpetuate in one annoying, vicious cycle.

Last night, I saw a USA Today article titled “Will and Kate: New parents face joy, challenges” come up in my Facebook feed.  At first glance, when I saw that it was another article about the pending royal birth, I was going to skip it.  But then I saw who was interviewed for it.  My friend Dr. Diane Sanford, psychologist in St. Louis and co-author of Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide.  I read it, and I was quite pleased to find that it offers refreshingly REALISTIC information about what Kate and William–like all other parents–should expect when it comes to becoming a mom and dad for the first time.  It was, quite frankly, a really great platform to educate on the realities of having a baby and parenthood…after all, it’s an article about the ROYAL BIRTH in USA Today, and bound to generate a good number of views.  So, I applaud the fact that Dr. Sanford was called upon as a resource for educating the public. It’s NOT just an article about the royal family’s baby boy.

I can only pray that, over time, the number of smart articles educating the public about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period will increase so there will be fewer articles spreading false perceptions of what it’s like to have a baby.   More education will mean less idiotic remarks like the ones people have been making about the Duchess…who by the way, was brave for showing the world her REAL postpartum body!

What I Would Tell My 7th Grade Self

Inspired by the post titled “To My 7th Grade Self” at the blog ronkempmusic.

Just last week (and believe me, it had nothing to do with the post that inspired me because I only read it yesterday– but it further ignited my desire to blog about what I would say to my 7th grade self, if only I could)– I caught myself telling a colleague: “If only I could go back to when I was in junior high and react/behave like my 40-something self.  Things would’ve been so different.  I would’ve given the kids in my school a piece of my mind.  I would’ve reacted/behaved in a ‘I won’t take this crap from no one’ attitude.”

Yes, if only there WERE only such a thing as time travel!

180px-StrangeAtmosphereIf there WERE such a thing, then I would go straight back to 7th grade, when the worst period of my life began and went on for a good six years until I graduated high school.  I hated that school.  My classmates treated me like I was beneath them.  I was, after all, completely lacking in self esteem, shy as all hell, unattractive, poorly dressed, unpopular, friendless and last but not least….the only Chinese girl in a class of approximately 350 students.  And boy, it was the slowest, most painful six years of my life!  If it weren’t for my Biology teacher that I befriended in 10th grade, I would’ve literally been friendless in that entire high school system.  Note: I’m talking about friendships with classmates, not friendships outside of school, which I did have.  I had friends from my Chinese school, Chinese teen club, and Chinese church.  I found making friends in my extremely caucasian–and very racist– high school quite an exercise in futility.

Back then, I HATED my life.  HATED it with every ounce of my being.  I just wanted to drop off the face of the earth.  I was lonely.  I felt like life had no purpose if I was going to be such an outcast and people who weren’t of the same ethnicity were going to be so racist toward me.  That was not a battle that, back then, I had any energy or interest in fighting.  It didn’t help that my parents and I fought all the time, and my brother and I fought all the time.

My friends and blog followers know me to have taken up the cause of not only postpartum depression advocacy, but anti-bullying advocacy as well.  As you can see, the roots of my anti-bullying advocacy date back to my 7th grade to 12th grade years.  Back then–in the late 70s, early 80s– there was no Internet, and hence, there was no such thing as cyberbullying when I was in school….and thank goodness for that!   I wasn’t bullied to the extent that kids today are bullied.  Kids said mean things to me due to my race and appearance, and no one made any attempts to be friends with me.  Didn’t help that I had no friends going into the school because I was new to the area, having just moved there in time for the start of junior high school.  Talk about LOUSY timing!

Having no Internet had its pluses and its minuses.  What minuses?  Well, for one thing, where did a teen turn for help in getting through the angst and feeling like no one understands them and what they are going through?  Going to parents wasn’t really an option, in general, for most teens….and it still isn’t really an option, in general, today.  Why?  In my case, and in the case of many first-generation-born-in-the U.S. kids, the previous generation was born and raised in a different country with different cultural standards, perspectives and practices.  As in the case of my parents, they had it much tougher than we did.  Hence, there is a gap between their experiences and yours….and never the twain shall meet.  Even if the prior generation were born here, there is STILL a generation gap.  And all too often, there are plenty of challenges due to that gap….and never the twain shall meet.

Friends with whom you trust your feelings can serve as an outlet, but I didn’t have any close enough for me to confide in.  I pretty much kept it all to myself, feeling hopeless, lost and desperate to the point that I felt like ending it all quite a number of times–but thankfully was too afraid to carry it out–with frequent lashing out at my parents for not understanding and only making things worse for me.  The huge fights we used to get into tore a huge hole in our relationship that took until after I had my own child to mend.

A non-judgmental ear and someone with experience in providing guidance/mentoring is what is needed, and usually you would find that in the form of a guidance counselor or a mental healthcare professional.  The guidance counselor in my school was absolutely of NO help, and I went to a psychiatrist once, but I had zero patience with talking to someone who looked like they didn’t really care and couldn’t make a difference.  So I never went back.

Now, getting to what I would tell my 7th grade self.  Here is what I would say:

I know you are hating life right now, but please hang on.  I know you will find it hard to believe  that you will learn to really enjoy life.  It WILL have meaning.  You will adopt a work hard, play hard, live for the day attitude.  You will grab life by the horns, determined to explore different activities, fall in love with traveling and sailing, have a family, and experience life to the fullest.

Right now, you may feel like life has no purpose, that you’d be better off not existing because then you would no longer have to endure the loneliness and each day of the tortuously slow and miserable school year for the next 6  years.  You may feel like you’re the only one who is having family challenges, but believe me, you are far from alone in that area!  So many kids have dysfunctional families.  Some are able to mend their relationships with their parents and/or siblings down the road.  Others aren’t so fortunate.  You will be able to have a much healthier relationship with your parents once you get married and have a child of your own.

I promise you that, even though you don’t feel as if you have any talents, you do!  You will find that your strength is writing, even though you will hate writing papers in high school.  You will find, with time, that you will sing in choirs for the next dozen years….all through high school, college and even in New York City choirs after you start working in New York City.  You will spend six weeks on a trip of your life in Taiwan, after which you will come back a changed person.  On that trip, you will find that you have the ability to make friends easily with anyone.  You will have a family, and in the process, have a life-changing experience that will result in your becoming a published author and blogger.  You will figure out that your purpose is to take your own personal experiences of bullying, lack of guidance/mentoring in school, and motherhood to help others.  To help others NOT to have to suffer the way you did.

You are NOT ALONE in your teen experiences.  Most teens go through what is referred to as teen angst that is the result of the hormonal changes that come with puberty.  These changes, in turn, cause emotional changes that impact behavior and even ways of thinking.  Yes, you will experiences feelings of pain and hopelessness like none other you’ve experienced to date.  You have NOT had enough life experience to develop coping skills and perspective on things that you will have after you have first gone through a number of challenges that will cross your path.  These challenges may seem unnecessary to you and only serve to make life harder for you right now, but in actuality, they will serve to make you a stronger individual.

You, my dear, are a SURVIVOR.  Believe me, things DO get better.

If only there WERE such a thing as time travel.   I wish it were possible to tell my 7th grade self ALL that, to spare the young version of me the pain that I had to suffer.  But….as Ronkempmusic blog post points out:

There are young people, right now!, right under our noses who need to hear what we would tell our like-aged self if we could…..And, more than anything else, they need to be taught that there’s nothing in the world more powerful than love, but it must start with self love……Since we can’t go back in time and teach our own younger selves, the next best thing is to pass it on to today’s youth.

This is EXACTLY what I’ve been doing lately.  Instead of merely wishing I could travel back in time to try to change the path my 7th grade self ultimately takes, I am paying it forward with kids who need the help I never got when I was growing up.  One teen resource that is part of a growing anti-bullying movement is the Stand for the Silent closed group on Facebook (more on this in an upcoming post), which has over 33,000 members from around the globe.  I joined this group a few months ago to help provide an encouraging word or two and lend a non-judgmental ear to the teens that reach out for support and encouragement.  I am now regularly commenting (for as much as time will allow) on posts others in the group–mostly teens–leave.  My goal, like many of the other members in the group, is to be there for someone, much in the way I wish someone had been there for me…in my most angst-ridden moments that started when I was in 7th grade and didn’t ease up until I went off to college.