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!

My Journey to Motherhood Was Far from Perfect….and I’ve Learned to Accept That

This morning, I saw an acquaintance who had a baby just a couple weeks ago.  I told her she looked great, like she never even had a baby.  And she replied “I feel pretty good and yes, it does seem like I never even had a baby.”  I then said to her “You are blessed, you really are.”  To which she shrugged and that was the end of that conversation.  She didn’t think it was a big deal that she’d just had a baby, and I wasn’t about to make it a big deal.  She looked as good as she did before she had her baby.  She didn’t look tired.  She has two other children, and seems unphased by the new addition.  She really is blessed, she really is.

At that point, I felt really awkward.  I didn’t know her that well, so what else was there to say?  Though the conversation, albeit brief, stayed on my mind for a while today (because I immediately thought this would make for a good post), I refused to let it get to me.  Knowing what I now know, that I am far from the only one who didn’t experience a perfect pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum experience, I didn’t react with feelings of resentment, jealousy, or even regret like I probably would have if I hadn’t had postpartum depression (PPD) but was just struggling with my first crack at motherhood, all anxious and uncertain.

I reminded myself of what I’d written in my book….you don’t know what goes on in someone else’s life.  She could have relatives close by that can help watch her baby regularly and other two children and/or she could have a very good babysitting arrangement.  She seems to have a very laid-back personality, with no predisposition to anxiety, self esteem issues, or even pessimism.  She exudes confidence.  None of these describe me or my experience.  But again, I have to tell myself that I don’t really know what’s going on in her life.  How things appear in public could be very different from what they’re really like in the privacy of one’s home.

My journey to motherhood has taught me many things about myself.  I believe I was meant to experience PPD, and survive it…..and emerge from it a very different person.  Had I not experienced PPD, self doubt and self esteem issues would more than likely have engulfed me and caused me to react to situations like my conversation this morning with the mom with the “everything is hunky dory and oh, did I really just have a baby because I feel that awesome and look that great and motherhood is a snap” attitude in a–let’s just say–negative way.   Why would I have reacted in such fashion had I not experienced, and survived, PPD?  Well, unlike some moms, I had ZERO experience taking care of babies until I had my very own.  I never babysat, nor did my mother ever ask me to help take care of my two younger brothers.  When you have ZERO experience, your self confidence would naturally not be that great.    And in my pre-PPD days, my self esteem was so lousy that my self confidence would take a nose dive at every little thing.  Negative thoughts and attitudes people had about me once used to have a crippling effect on me.

For the past 3-1/2 years, I’ve come to know many moms who, like me, experienced far-from-perfect roads to motherhood.  I’m NOT the only mom who’s had infertility problems.  I’m NOT the only mom who’s lost pregnancies.  I’m NOT the only mom’s who’s had childbirth complications.  I’m NOT the only mom who’s had PPD.  I’m NOT the only mom who’s felt uncertain, anxious, and a failure at motherhood (and breastfeeding too).  I am FAR FROM ALONE in feeling like–how shall I say it–the opposite of a Supermom.

I am not going to let my negative experiences defeat me.  Instead, I’m going to take them and make the most of the rest of my life.  My PPD survival played a pivotal role in changing me…for the better.    My PPD experience—and subsequently writing my book and my blog—has given me a voice and a strength I didn’t previously know was possible for me to possess.  After I completed my book last year, it’s like I came out of a cocoon.  I metamorphosed into a new person.  This change has made such a positive difference in terms of my attitude at work and the attitude others have of me at work.  Rather than take offense to, get crushed by, and harbor grudges due to annoying and even condescending behaviors of colleagues at work, I let all that stuff slide now.  I tell myself it’s totally not worth getting bent out of shape about.  IF I SURVIVED PPD, I SURE AS HELL CAN LET THIS PIDDLY S#?T SLIDE.  Not only do I see the change in me, I feel that my colleagues have also seen the change in me.

So, am I going to let this morning’s conversation and realization that there are indeed people who have it seemingly easy when it comes to motherhood get to me?  Nope.

When are people going to stop asking me THE QUESTION?!

Tonight, I’m going to drop a quick blog post just to get my thoughts out….thoughts that have been floating around my head like stars that appear in a ring above a cartoon character’s head once they’ve been bopped in the head.

Yesterday, I got asked THE QUESTION again.  A third, or even fourth, time in the past month.  EGADS!

What question?

This question: “Are you going to have another?”

Uh, yup.  I tried to appear unphased by THE QUESTION.  To spare me from the quizzical look, scratching of the head, head tilting, and the whole 20 questions exchange that was bound to happen if I didn’t cut straight to the chase, I did just that.  I cut straight to the “I had problems during childbirth and had to have my uterus removed 3 days after having my daughter.”   You bet that stopped the questioning dead in its tracks.

Granted, I am so glad I still seem to appear young enough to be able to have children.  Don’t let my perpetually childish/mischievous glint in my eyes and behavior fool you (for those of you who happen to know me personally)…..though I have to admit that my energy is fading little by little each year.  My appearance takes a serious hit with each winter that passes.  I noticed that I came out of this past winter looking older than ever.  :(  Believe me when I say I’m not as young as I look.  Aside from the fact that I’m past my prime in having children, my ability to have more children was stopped dead in its tracks three days after I had my daughter over seven years ago.  Very sobering information to share with you, but them’s the cards with which I was dealt, and I have learned to deal with this loss over the years.  And I really would very much like to avoid constantly being asked THE QUESTION.  It’s like having a wound heal almost fully, only to have it fester again with a new infection in the form of someone’s innocent but thoughtless questioning.

Sometimes I wish I could just wear a neon sign that says “Don’t ask if I’m going to have another baby.”  In fact, I wish I had a sign for each one of my commuting (keep your knees, bags, and/or elbows to yourself) and driving (what are your car signals for if you don’t use them; get off my bumper; get off the damn cell phone before you kill someone) pet peeves!

Anyway, I just whipped up my own e-card via Some ECards of the sign I would want to flash every. single. time I get asked THE QUESTION.

ISL_someecard_infertility

Certain things, like whether a couple is planning to start a family, or a woman is planning to have a(nother) baby…..are best kept to oneself.  Chances are, you will be sprinkling salt onto a wound that is raw and having difficulty healing.  As the saying goes, when in doubt, keep your mouth zipped.

There is a reason why they say that SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

Touched by A Wonderful Book Review Over at Birthtouch

On my way to work this morning, I read a touching book review written by Kathy Morelli, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Director of BirthTouch, LLC® for my book One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My! Why did her review touch me so?   Her attention to the details of my story came flowing out in her words….words describing my life before, during, and after postpartum depression (PPD) that up til now had only ever previously been uttered–or even thought–by me and only me.   Her choice of words reflected just how much attention she paid to the details of my journey to motherhood.  Her words sent shivers down my spine, and at the same time touched me to tears.

Oh, and just so you know, I wrote my own press release.  I did receive some helpful tips from my friend Kate Weldon LeBlanc over at  JF & CS Boston.  Thanks, Kate!  :) And yes, I did receive a draft from my publisher’s marketing staff, but I still chose to go with my own wording at the end of the day.  And ever so glad I did!  I am ever so glad I self published my book, because as I mentioned before, it allowed me the flexibility and control in terms of coming up with my own cover design, book title, book content/flow, and even press release write-ups.  Self publishing is good for the DYIers….the do-it-yourselfers.  That’s me!  :)

A fellow member of Postpartum Support International (PSI), I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy at the PSI annual conference last year in Seattle.  I am so glad I met her.  She’s such a warm and caring person…and on top of that, we are fellow New Jerseyans!

Kathy and I have another thing in common.  We are both book authors!  She is the author of BirthTouch® Shiatsu & Acupressure for the Childbearing Year and BirthTouch® Healing for Parents in the NICU.  Please check these wonderful books out!

Thank you, Kathy, for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to write such a lovely book review for me!

If Only I Had Known…..

So, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been somewhat absent from the blogging scene…it’s been 3 weeks since my last post, the longest break from blogging I’ve taken in a long time. I have to admit I’ve been dry on ideas lately, not to mention the fact that I’m finding it tough to be back on the Twitter scene AND keeping up with my blog AND working full-time AND all the other stuff that needs to be done like spending time with my daughter, helping her with daily homework, etc.

I finally came across a tweet today from Mindy Berkson (@infertilityhope on Twitter) that said:

Did you know that adhesions can lead to #infertility or increase the chance of an ectopic #pregnancy? goo.gl/PmDdA

This tweet IMMEDIATELY grabbed my attention.  Why? Well, as some of you already know, I had had a dermoid cyst that was growing on one of my ovaries removed back in 2001, I had an ectopic pregnancy less than 2 years later, and I had to undergo two IVF cycles.

The link takes you to an article posted on the Resolve website, a great resource for those who are struggling with infertility.  Titled “Pelvic Adhesions: Impact on Your Fertility,” the article provides an overview of what adhesions are, what causes them, how they can be removed, as well as a reminder to stay well informed by asking questions prior to surgery, like whether the doctor will be employing such procedures as microsurgery or adhesion barriers to minimize the risk of adhesion formation.

Adhesions are basically scar tissue that typically forms as a result of surgical procedures. Pelvic adhesions is scar tissue that typically develops after pelvic surgery (to remove fibroids in the uterus, cysts on the ovary, ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube, or endometriosis).

Had I known all this (and that there were procedures that could minimize risk of adhesions), you bet I would’ve requested my OB/GYN employ one of the procedures to minimize the risk of adhesion formation, which may have or may not have led to IVF.  Or I may not even have gone through with the dermoid cyst removal altogether.  I will never know which was the lesser of two evils–leaving the dermoid cyst on the ovary or the adhesions from removing the dermoid cyst. I will never know whether leaving the dermoid cyst on the ovary would’ve led to infertility. I will never know whether adhesions from the surgery led to my infertility. I will never know whether I was inherently infertile at that point in my life–with or without the dermoid cyst, with or without the surgery.

I just know that I did have a helluva journey to motherhood, one that was paved with infertility issues, childbirth complications, and postpartum depression–and hence the title of my book.  But let me tell you….I came out of it much stronger and smarter than before!  And now I am going to do as much as I can to bring awareness to others.  The awareness I never had and which could’ve made a huge difference for me.

Words Are Not Always Necessary…..Comforting Those Struggling With Infertility

Today is Day 2 of National Infertility Awareness Week, and I wanted to share a great article I came across today on Resolve’s Facebook page.  The title of the LA Times article is “My Turn: What to Expect When We’re Not Yet Expecting” by Carrie Friedman, author of “Pregnant Pause: My Journey Through Obnoxious Questions, Baby Lust, Meddling Relatives, and Pre-Partum Depression.”  

The article is short and sweet…providing helpful tips to well-meaning friends and family members of those who are struggling with infertility.  Ms. Friedman recommends 5 things NOT to say.  It boils down to words not necessarily being necessary because–unless you’ve been through infertility yourself–you will more than likely say something that will only sadden/upset/strike a nerve (you get the picture, right?) the couple that is undergoing fertility treatments.   

Just listening and being there (present, but not necessarily trying to figure out what to say that will comfort) are enough to show that you care.  As I mentioned in prior posts, staying away because you are uncomfortable with the circumstances due to your uncertainty of what to say or do will only serve to make the couple feel further removed from ones they love and/or isolated from others in their experience.   Feelings of isolation is one of many risk factors that can lead to perinatal depression if your fertility treatment succeeds and you find yourself an expectant parent (which I hope will be the case for you, I truly do).  Refer to my previous post on infertility and correlation with PPD.

National Infertility Awareness Week – April 24-30, 2011

The 22nd National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) will be taking place from April 24th to 30th this year.  NIAW is a movement to raise awareness about the disease of infertility that affects 1 out of 8 couples.  Click here for the calendar of events taking place all over the country.

RESOLVE is a community for women and men with infertility and provides information, support and opportunities to take action.  Check out the RESOLVE website for more information on infertility and how you can make a difference for you and others experiencing infertility.    There is a wealth of information on this website–a lot more than even a year ago! 

You can find the following:

Infertility is a major cause of anxiety and depression.  With the number of individuals faced with infertility today, it is no wonder that antenatal and postpartum depression rates are as high as they are today.  As such, it is very important that you seek support in getting through this difficult and highly stressful time of your life.   Support can be in the form of family and/or friends that you feel are empathetic (i.e., have gone through this themselves) and/or non-judgmental.   

If you’re not sure whom to talk to among your circle of family/friends, visit the RESOLVE website and look up mental health professionals in your area that have experience with helping couples get through infertility and infertility treatments.  Getting this kind of support can help prevent your anxiety levels from reaching a point that– should you (and I really hope you do) get pregnant– you could be heading into pregnancy with a great risk of developing perinatal depression

The absolute worst thing you can do is keep your feelings of grief and anxiety to yourself, and in fact, doing so can put you at greater risk for developing a perinatal mood disorder!