On Thursday, March 31st, the last day of Women’s History Month, it was apropos for this gathering of both women and men to honor those who have dedicated themselves to supporting mothers and their families suffering from postpartum mood disorders–either by way of their support of legislation, like Susan Dowd Stone who was instrumental with Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) in pushing through the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act last year, establishing postpartum support programs like the S.P.A.R.K.S. Center in Brooklyn, NY, founded by Esther Kenigsberg, or some of the various supporters of SPARKS’ mission.
One by one, Congressmen and Congresswomen took to the podium to speak about their support for increased PPD funding in the areas of research, programs and awareness. They spoke about their awareness of this illness that devastates all too many mothers and families. Congressmen like Adam Schiff (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Bob Filner (D-CA), Ed Towns (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Congresswomen like Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Alison Schwartz (D-PA).
There were numerous others who spoke as honorees who were being recognized for their contributions to the SPARKS mission. A couple who bravely shared their experience with postpartum psychosis. A family who is dedicated to various charitable organizations, including a 16-year old girl named Shelly who without second thought decided to give all her bat mitzvah money to SPARKS to help mothers and families.
Much was said during the 2-1/2 hour luncheon event, but what stood out for me the most–and brought tears to my eyes–was Esther Kenigsberg’s speech that came at the end of the event. She told the group gathered before her the history of SPARKS and why she’s so passionate about helping mothers and their families who struggle with postpartum mood disorders and what the volunteers at SPARKS do–from the hotline volunteers to the staff dedicated to ensuring that “no mother feels alone until the sun shines for her once again,” providing support and care until the PPD cloud dissipates.
Esther ended her speech with the statement, which everyone who has families and are thinking of having families should remember always:
“A healthy and happy mother means a healthy and happy family.”
I’m so very glad I had the opportunity to share in the wonderful experience of seeing so many devoted to the SPARKS mission. To see so many who “get it” and truly recognize the importance of the mother’s health in the health of the family unit. I had goose bumps just watching the family members interacting with each other. Of a mother passing with care her tiny infant to a girl about 6 years old to take care of. Seeing that made me think of the social support that was the fabric of earlier American culture and the fabric that still exists in many other cultures throughout the world. You can see how the values of this community are family-centered, and how much they value social support. If only we could take these values and replicate them all over the country! The country would be so much better off!
I could feel and see the sincere appreciation felt by everyone in the room for Esther and SPARKS. As one of the speakers, addressing Esther, said: “What you’re doing is good and we need more good [in this society].” I couldn’t agree more with that!
I truly hope the Congresswomen and Congressmen who spoke at this event will truly make it a mission to increase funding of PPD programs, research and awareness! I definitely walked out of the room feeling much more hopeful than when I walked into the room!
I will end with this…..it will take much more than funding to help mothers and their families. Funding is only half the solution. The other half consists of people who care enough to help these mothers and their families. It will take a fabric of people who care enough to make a difference.
For more on this event, please visit Susan Dowd Stone’s blog. She never ceases to inspire me in the passion of her speaking and writing in her tireless mission of PPD advocacy and awareness!