Diana, A True Musical Story

Happy Daylight Savings Day! Happy International Women’s Day! And happy longer & warmer days!  Looks like the groundhog was right…at least here in the NY metro area, spring is starting early this year!  I’m not going to speak of snow, specifically, for fear of jinxing myself.

I haven’t blogged in ages!  I’ve said that I have slowed down on blogging but will probably never fully stop, as I always have thoughts about postpartum depression (PPD).  I’ve blogged previously about television shows, movies and Broadway shows that delve into the topic of mental health and PPD, in particular. This time, it is the Broadway musical “Diana, A True Musical Story” that is motivating me to write today.  I saw the musical 2 nights ago in its first week of previews, and loved it.  Though, I do think the end needs some fine-tuning; I guess being in previews for the next few weeks leaves them some room to make adjustments, hopefully?  The music was written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan who’d won a Tony award for “Memphis” and who I’m fairly sure will get a Tony nomination for Diana.  Another certain Tony nom is the one for best leading actress in a musical for Jeanna de Waal who is amazing as Princess Di….she captures all of Princess Di’s mannerisms, the way she carried herself, walked, etc.   There will no doubt be other Tony noms, including one for Judy Kaye for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and of course Best Musical.

I am blogging about this show and about Diana because she posed as a beacon of light for those suffering from mental health issues.  During one of the scenes in which Diana had just given birth to Prince William, postpartum depression was mentioned.  Hey, a shout out about the condition that affects 1 out of 7 new moms!  I couldn’t contain myself and said out loud “Wow, they actually mentioned postpartum depression.” Good for you, Christopher Ashley and Joe DiPietro, for including this important experience of Princess Diana in this musical production!   I am grateful that this show was created to share with young and old: those who were around and when she was alive and loved her (like me) and those who weren’t born until after her death.   She wasn’t referred to the People’s Princess for nothing.  In her short life, she touched so many lives, most of whom had never even met her.

She was a woman ahead of her time, inspiring not only fashion trends, but through her courage of not holding back, not letting her situation crush her, and moving on with her life the way she wanted to live it….

Free of the yoke of being told what she could/couldn’t do because it was considered unbecoming of a princess and a woman.  While reciting her wedding vow to Prince Charles chose to omit the word “obey”….she was the first royal bride to do this, with Kate Middleton and Megan Markle following in her footsteps.  Additionally, she wore her infamous off-the-shoulder and body hugging black “Revenge Dress” (I won’t spoil what the show referred to this dress as, it will crack you up, I assure you) to a Vanity Fair dinner on June 29, 1994 because she knew Prince Charles was going to officially confess his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles there.

Free of the yoke of being tied to a man who didn’t love her.  She confronted Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman Prince Charles was having an affair with, at Camilla’s sister’s 40th birthday party.  During her famous 1995 BBC interview with Martin Bashirshe let the public know “There were three in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”  And soon after the interview in 1996, she again broke from religious/royal convention by getting divorced.

Free of the yoke of being Princess of Wales, speaking her mind, leading from her heart, and making the world fall in love with her.

  • She broke from the mold of royalty by being true to herself and honest and open about her feelings with the public.  Her interviews, biographies, recordings and book “Diana-Her True Story by Andrew Morton” (published in 1992) reveal her sense of humor, candor, and heart of gold. Diana was not afraid to tell the world that her life with Prince Charles was far from the fairytale-like marriage people believe it to be.  People in England and all over the world fell in love with her.
  • She was determined to fight the stigma of HIV and AIDS even though the Queen often voiced her displeasure about such efforts.  There are numerous pictures of her shaking hands and conversing with HIV/AIDS patients without any protective gear on.  She became involved with numerous charities in Africa that made a huge impact internationally with respect to the treatment of AIDS.
  • She was determined to fight the stigma of mental health issues like self harm, bulimia, and PPD.  Back in 1982 when Diana gave birth to Prince William, PPD was something that was never discussed with anyone. Her pregnancy was a difficult one.  She didn’t feel well throughout it, and things got worse after she had the baby. All the pressures of being a wife, a mother and the people’s princess were too overwhelming for her.  She worried constantly and struggled in silence.  She would cry and feel panicked whenever Prince Charles didn’t come home when he said he was coming home.  She kept her panic to herself.  The public noticed her getting thinner during her public appearances, which she explained was due to the fatigue from first-time motherhood. In her book “Diana-Her True Story” and her 1995 BBC interview, she finally opened up about her struggles with self harm, eating disorders, and PPD (the root of it all had to do with how unhappy she was with her marriage and how alone she felt).  Diana revealed that she had received very little support from the royal family when she was sick with PPD because they didn’t know what to do, because people back then (and even in many places and cases today) didn’t really know what PPD was.

When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time that you’ve got ’enough attention.’ But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. – from her BBC interview

The royal family went around saying that “Diana is unstable, Diana is mentally unbalanced” (these words were used in the musical).  Having such negative labels associated with her was unfortunate.  She wasn’t just a first-time mother trying to be the best mother for her child; she was also a young woman trying to adapt to her life as a princess. Between these pressures and the lack of emotional support / personal time and space, her toxic marriage, history of her own mother walking out of her life when she was a small child, shame from not being able to cope with everything, and lack of self esteem, it’s no wonder she suffered from PPD!  So many risk factors!

She never got professional help because she didn’t really ask for it due to the shame she felt.  And yet she soldiered on….the People’s Princess to the very end of her life that was tragically cut short right after her 36th birthday on August 31, 1997.  I will never forget where I was (I was walking in an open market in Sydney, Australia) when I heard the tragic news.

Please go check it out if you were one of the many who fell in love with Princess Di that you were heartbroken for weeks after she died.  Please go check it out if your life hasn’t previously been touched by Princess Di and want to be inspired by the story of a woman way ahead of her time.  From the beginning of her marriage to Prince Charles to the end of it, she managed to become a powerful, independent woman despite all the royal restrictions that were in place.  In the end, she packed her bags and left, refusing to be stuck in a loveless marriage.

The 32nd Annual Postpartum Support International Conference

I think everyone has friends that you can go a while without seeing and when you do see each other again, it’s like you’d never really been apart.  I have a few friends like this in the perinatal mood disorder (PMAD) world.   And that circle keeps growing each time I attend the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference.

In the past 13 years, I have attended 7 of what my dear friend, Pec Indman (co-author with Shoshana Bennett, PhD, of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety), refers to as “family reunions” and with good reason!  We are like family.  For me, it’s my tribe.  My very first conference was in New Jersey back in 2006, followed by Kansas City (KS) in 2007, Pittsburgh in 2010, Seattle in 2011, Minneapolis in 2013, Philadelphia in 2017, and Portland (OR) four weeks ago.  I generally feel a natural affinity to other PSI members because we are all for the most part postpartum mood disorder (PMD) survivors and/or are PMD advocates.  Nearly all work with PMD moms/families as a medical or mental healthcare practitioners, and that’s where I’m different from them.  But my mind keeps going back to it as a possibility of switching gears one day down the road.

The 32nd annual PSI conference took place June 26-30 this year in Portland, Oregon.  At this conference, I heard some of what I already learned about previously and some new things I hadn’t heard much about previously–e.g., EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and brainspotting.  One of the keynote speakers was Lee Cohen, MD, director of the Ammon-Pinozzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen is a national and international leader in the field of women’s mental health, and is widely published with over 200 original research articles and book chapters in the area of perinatal and reproductive psychiatry.

The fact that there were over 700 attendees over the course of the 4-day conference was awesome!  It gave me the goosebumps!  We were excited to see an unprecedented increase in the number of attendees, which can only mean one thing:   more people than ever before know about PSI and its mission and share the mission to effect change when it comes to postpartum outcomes.  This is awesome!  Now, if only we can get more OB/GYNs and nurses to attend!  Find a way to give them some sort of continuing ed credits….an additional bit of motivation to come to these conferences!  Being able to properly recognize, diagnose, and treat PMDs is still an unnecessarily huge hurdle for all too many doctors around the country.

At this conference, I sat side by side at the bookstore at 7:30 am on each of the first 2 days of the conference with a young man from Zimbabwe.  We were both volunteers for that early morning shift.  Linos was one of only a handful of men who attended the conference, the first representative from that country to ever attend a PSI conference, and one of the ones who traveled farthest to get to Portland.  You can tell he was on a mission to effect change in his country.  One of his top missions this year is to help raise funds for Zimbabwe’s first PSI Climb Out of the Darkness event.  Climb Out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event for raising awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, while raising money and building community.

I just donated to Team Zimbabwe.
Go Team Zimbabwe!

Funds from this Climb Out will go towards the 2nd international Society for Pre and Post Natal Services (SPANS) conference on Maternal Mental Health in Africa in September 2019.  The conference theme this year is “Incorporating Mental Health into Maternal, Paternal and Child Health to improve outcomes.”  Linos and Team Zimbabwe hope to bring participants from many parts of the continent to further African awareness and to improve the accessibility, affordability, timely and essential maternal and paternal services, as well as assist in the raising of awareness of Infant, perinatal and paternal to improve the health of mothers, children and the families at large.  Every penny of your generosity will ultimately make a huge impact on the welfare of families impacted by maternal mental health issues.  Thank you very much.

You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.
If you or someone you know is suffering, PSI can help.
Call 1.800.994.4773 or
Text 503.894.9453

Why Screening of Postpartum Moms is Important and Who Can and Should Do the Screening

Today’s post was inspired by a March 19, 2018 NPR article by April Dembosky titled “Lawmakers Weigh Pros and Cons of Mandatory Screening for Postpartum Depression,” as well as a June 2018 Romper article by Karen Fratti titled “Moms Should be Screened for Postpartum Depression in the ER, New Study Suggests, & It Makes Perfect Sense,” a June 30, 2018 News Medical article titled “Screening mothers for PPD in emergency setting,” and a June 29, 2018 Austin360 article by Nicole Villalpando titled “Who should be screening moms for postpartum depression? More doctors now can.

Screening moms for postpartum depression (PPD) serves multiple purposes.  Screening will help ensure moms get the help they need and avoid suffering unnecessarily.  In case you weren’t aware, screening educates women on what PPD is, why it happens and just how common it is (1 in 7 new moms experience it), and helps them avoid what I and so many other mothers have gone through (PPD makes you feel alone, like you’re losing your mind and will never return to your previous self).  It will ensure fewer moms will ultimately fall through the cracks.  It will ensure fewer tragedies involving mothers and their babies.  And I’ve said this many times before, but a mother who is not well cannot care for her baby the way a healthy mother can.  This is pure logic.  Unfortunately, logic takes a back seat because our capitalist society places more priority on what benefits the pocket over what benefits the people’s well-being.

So…..question is WHO should screen new moms for PPD?

Her OB/GYN?  This should be a given, period, hands down, no questions asked!  In May 2018 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that, in addition to the standard 6-week postpartum visit, OB/GYNs perform a follow-up visit within the first three weeks postpartum.  This new recommendation is due to the fact that symptoms of PPD often begin before the 6-week appointment.   See second half of my blog post on the issues many OB/GYNs are faced with in terms of screening.

Her baby’s pediatrician (but here the patient is the baby, not the mother)?  The American Academy of Pediatrics (click here and here) recommends doctors screen mothers for PPD when they bring their newborns in for wellness visits, since they occur numerous times in the baby’s first year; whereas, the mother only gets the one wellness check at postpartum week six.  Pediatricians who realize that the baby’s development can be negatively impacted when the mother is ill with PPD will try to screen the mom for PPD.  Problem is, most pediatricians as far as I’m aware are not prepared to screen and refer mothers since the mother is not a patient.

An ER physician?  While you will no doubt raise your eyebrows, doctors like Dr. Lenore Jarvis, an emergency medicine specialist with the Children’s National Emergency Department at United Medical Center in Washington, DC, have been seeing moms bring their babies to the ER, and it turns out the baby is fine but it’s the mother who is highly anxious and feeling overwhelmed.  In these cases, it’s logical to try to determine if it’s the mother who needs help.  In fact, Dr. Jarvis and several colleagues conducted a research study with several colleagues on screening moms for PPD in an ER setting.  A Eureka Alert release dated June 29, 2018 explains the results of the research study. Moms who participated were screened using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale supplemented by other questions.  The great thing about the research study is that, when moms scored positive for PPD, they received information about PPD and were offered–or if they had a strong positive score from screening, they were required to have–a consultation with a social worker.  Additionally, the researchers followed up with mothers who screened positive one month later to see how they were doing.  This is akin to case management programs we have in place when patients check out of hospitals (I explain all this in my post below). Now THIS is the way it SHOULD be!

Dr. Jarvis refers to the ER as a “safety net  for people who are not routinely accessing regular checkups for themselves and their children. If a mother is having an acute crisis in the middle of the night and feeling anxious and depressed, they often come to the emergency department for help.”  Because American policymakers have been so resistant to instituting policies that would require insurance companies to work with doctors to ensure PPD is caught early through screening and subsequent referrals–researchers/subject matter experts on PPD are left to make recommendations for what Dr. Jarvis referred to as a “safety net” approach of having emergency rooms screen for PPD when moms come in either for their babies (for colic, fevers, etc.) or even for themselves (symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder).

While I agree we need to cover all bases and try to screen a new mother wherever and whenever possible, why do we even need to resort to waiting until a mom comes into the ER to screen them?  Why do we have to have such a safety-net, fall-back, beats-nothing-at-all, better-late-than-never approach in the first place?  Answer:  our society continues to place too much priority on conception and childbirth but once the baby is born, everyone forgets the mother.  Once the baby is born, the mother’s health falls by the wayside.  I’ve blogged about this before, but the attention from that point on will be on the baby from visitors who coo at the baby and treat the mother as invisible.  Same thing with doctor visits; the mother only gets one postpartum wellness check at 6 weeks.  That’s it.  It’s like the mother ceases to exist.  Whereas, other cultures have customs to honor and mother the mother (click here and here for past posts).  The birth of the baby is synonymous in these cultures with the birth of the new mother and they are honored for bringing new life into the world.  This, my friends, is why maternal mental health advocacy is so important.  Until American policymakers institute policies to demonstrate the importance of mothers and their health, we advocates must continue to act as “squeaky wheels to get the grease.”

The following section is an excerpt from my book.

New mothers, especially the ones at high risk for PPD, should be screened during their six-week postpartum visit, provided she doesn’t complain about symptoms up to that point. If she is symptomatic before the six-week visit, she should be screened right then. If the six-week screen doesn’t indicate PPD, she should be assessed once more at the twelve-week point—or when she weans or when her period returns, whichever comes first, since these events can trigger PPD in some women.

The following—in addition to screening tools like the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale or Cheryl Beck’s Postpartum Depression Screening Scale—should be asked at the six-week follow-up visit with the OB/GYN, which can help diagnose PPD:

  1. Have you been feeling any of the following for the past two weeks?
  • Persistent and mostly inexplicable sadness/tearfulness and feeling empty inside
  • Loss of interest/pleasure in hobbies/activities you once enjoyed; inability to laugh
  • Overall impaired functioning
  • Sleep difficulties (either insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • Weight loss (usually fairly quick) associated with a decrease in appetite
  • Weight gain associated with an increase in appetite
  • Excessive anxiety about the baby
  • Restlessness/irritability
  • Detachment from and inability to bond with the baby
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, failure and/or worthlessness
  • Urge to run away
  • Onset of panic attacks
  • Sense of despair and/or hopelessness leading to thoughts of death/suicide
  1. How have you been feeling physically and emotionally?
  2. Are you feeling particularly stressed, and, if so, is it due to a major change you are experiencing, such as marital problems, death of a loved one, financial problems, a recent move, or a job change?
  3. How do you feel about the baby? Are your feelings in line with your expectations of how you’d feel about the baby?
  4. Do you feel you have adequate emotional and practical support from your partner? Do you have any relatives or any other help, like a doula, to help you with the baby during the day?
  5. Are you breast-feeding and, if so, how is it going?
  6. How do you feel the labor and delivery went? Do you feel you experienced any sort of trauma during the delivery?
  7. Do you feel your childbirth and motherhood experience are meeting your expectations?
  8. Do you feel particularly anxious about your baby’s health (colic, SIDS)?
  9. How is your appetite?
  10. How are you sleeping? Have you been able to get at least four, if not five, hours of sleep a night?
  11. Have you had any recurring thoughts/images that are disturbing?
  12. How have you been adapting to motherhood, in general?
  13. Have you returned, or will you return, to work?

I believe these types of questions should be incorporated by all OB/GYNs throughout the country. This all theoretically sounds good and fine, but in most cases, OB/GYNs are not prepared to implement. Why not? At the very least, it would require training on perinatal mood disorders (recognition of symptoms and treatment), as well as ability to provide the right referrals as needed.

This last paragraph from my book excerpt remains true to this day.  Sad because I published my book in 2011.  Seven years later, things have not really changed.

California’s screening bill, AB 2193, has yet to pass the Senate and get signed into law.  Once passed, it would be an exciting development for mothers, as it doesn’t just require screening for PPD.  It requires health insurance companies to set up case management programs (same way my mother was assigned a case manager each time she had to stay overnight at a hospital to ensure she had a plan in place to address the issues that landed her in the hospital–i.e., physical therapy in a rehab center, visiting nurse to change her bandaging, etc.) to help connect moms who screen positive for PPD with a mental health practitioner.

Case management is set up to ensure there is a treatment/referral plan in place.  I sincerely hope that this means health insurance companies are prepared and able to carry out the new requirements.   And I sincerely hope that California will lead the way for other states to follow suit in setting up similar screening bills that will actually require health insurance companies to set up case management programs.

It goes without saying that screening moms for PPD serves no purpose if you can’t help those who test positive for PPD.  So far, as the first state that put mandatory screening in place, New Jersey has not had any reason to be excited ever since its initial groundbreaking “first-state-to-mandate-screening” announcement.  New Jersey, as well as 3 other states— Illinois, Massachusetts, and West Virginia — have tried mandated screening, and it did not result in more women getting treatment, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services in 2015.

A whopping 78% of those who screen positive don’t end up getting mental health treatment per a 2015 research review published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.  Why have women in these states with mandatory screening not been getting treatment?  Well, for starters:

  1. Some obstetricians and pediatricians are afraid to screen for PPD because they are not equipped to refer.  But why is that?   Why is it hard for them to all rely on the resources available via Postpartum Support International?  Its website lists resources in every state.  And many states have already formed, or are in the process of forming, chapters to focus on state-specific efforts at advocacy, training, and other improvements.
  2. The resources to whom doctors (obstetricians, pediatricians, general practitioners, etc.) can refer mothers are limited, especially in more rural areas.  And in more rural areas, it’s harder to find mental health practitioners trained in prescribing meds to pregnant/breastfeeding women, let alone trained in treating moms with PPD.
  3. All too many mental health practitioners don’t take the woman’s insurance or there are significant limitations from an insurance coverage perspective.
  4. There’s a very long wait (several months) to see most mental health practitioners, especially for the first time….a woman in the throes of PPD can’t afford to–both literally (from a cost perspective) and figuratively (from a life & death perspective).
  5. There’s little incentive financially, thanks to insurance companies’ lack of adequate coverage for doctors who do such screening…..in my opinion, screening should be done at the standard 6-week postpartum checkup and therefore covered as part of that checkup.

Attention, American policymakers….our mothers are worth it.  I mean, we make such a big stink about fetuses and unborn babies in this country, let’s start thinking bigger picture, shall we?  Without mothers, there would be no babies to conceive and bring into this world.  Let’s start treating mothers less like second-class citizens and more like human beings who deserve to be able to give birth to and care for their babies without getting sick with PPD and possibly dying in the process!

 

Please Throw Me a Postpartum Party Instead of a Baby Shower, Thanks

and

A truly useful baby shower gift after the baby’s arrival is having relatives, friends, neighbors, etc. chip in funds for hired help [like a postpartum doula] for the first one to two months.

Additionally, as this article suggests, the shower that is thrown should entail a list of family/friends who will help (with watching the baby so the new mom can get some much-needed alone time/rest/shower, picking up groceries, cooking, dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc.) during the first 6 weeks postpartum.  This could include a meal plan via http://www.mealtrain.com deliveries or doing take-out and dropping the food off.

Perhaps if we focused more on ensuring new mothers have the support they need after the new baby arrives, there would be fewer instances of postpartum mood disorders!

 

A Must for All New Jersey Medical/Mental Maternal Healthcare Practitioners, Doulas, Midwives, etc.

After a two-month dry spell in posting on my blog due to lots going on at home and at work, here I am briefly to help spread the word for the Postpartum Support International 2-day training on November 15-16, 2018 in Fort Lee, New Jersey:  Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care. 

Led by PSI’s very own Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA (whom I’ve known since I became a member in 2006), Lisa Tremayne, RN, CPPD, CBC, and Joanna Cole, PHD, it is a critical training intended not just for mental health care practitioners but anyone and everyone who would ever need to care for an expectant or new mother.  That includes obstetricians/gynecologists, general practitioners, pediatricians, doulas, midwives, nurses, ER doctors and their staff, etc.

You can visit the site that goes over the training objectives, location, and cost via the above link, but the training will cover the basics in identifying/treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)–which include antepartum depression, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum panic disorder, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis–as well as understanding risk factors, treatment options, breastfeeding, consequences of untreated conditions, impact on loved ones, importance of social support, cultural differences, spirituality, etc.

Please attend and/or help spread the word about this training.  It is so, so critical that we ensure as many people as possible are trained so that fewer mothers suffer unnecessarily (like I did) and even worse, fall through the cracks and become another tragic outcome of a perinatal mood disorder.

 

Join Elly Taylor of Becoming Us on her U.S. tour of training sessions for parents and professionals!

My friend, Elly Taylor, is an Australian relationship counselor, author of the book Becoming Us, and founder of an organization of the same name, which she created to teach professionals and support mothers and their partners.  Both the book and organization’s mission is to help the mother and partner navigate the peaks and valleys of the parenting journey via 8 essential steps that Becoming Us as “map, compass and travel guide all in one.”

Elly is here in the states for her “Seed Planting” workshop tour in Chicago, Beverly (MA), Providence (RI), New York City, Houston and Los Angeles.  For the complete schedule and how to register, click here.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney (2014)

Elly and I have a bunch of things in common.  We are both postpartum depression (PPD) survivors and book authors (though hers is award winning).  We were both blindsided by PPD and the challenges of parenting.  We are both members of Postpartum Support International.  Elly loves NYC (where I’ve spent the last 29 years working) as much as if not more than I love Sydney (where she lives).  She is fortunate enough to be out here in NYC each year for the past 3 years on Becoming Us-related reasons; whereas, I’ve been back to Sydney 3x in the past 21 years (I so wish I could return more often!).  I look forward to seeing Elly during her stay in NYC!

Professionals:

Sign up for Elly’s 2-hour interactive workshop that will teach you key tools to prepare/support expectant/new parent couples to anticipate/cope with the changes–and stay connected through the challenges that come with–early parenthood. You’ll come away with ways for parents to nurture themselves and their partners so the whole family can thrive.  This workshop is designed for couple and family therapists, birth professionals, infant or child mental health professionals, and any others who work with expecting, new or not so new parents.

The transition to parenthood is a major one that consists of numerous transitions.  The training will teach you what the transitions are and how they can negatively impact mothers and their families. You’ll learn how to plant Becoming Us “seeds” that reduce risk for the most common parenthood problems including perinatal mental health issues and relationship distress. Finally, you’ll discover the groundbreaking Becoming Us approach to parenthood and how you can apply the model to your work with parents at any stage of their family life cycle.

Parents:

Sign up for Elly’s 1-hour interactive workshop that will teach you about the transitions that parents normally go through in their first years of family, the steps to navigate each of these transitions and staying connected through the challenges that come with early parenthood. You’ll come away knowing how to nurture yourselves while growing a family that thrives.

 

 

Free Webinar: Bringing Light to Postpartum Depression and PMAD

ATTENTION:
OB/GYNs and their staff, general/family practitioners, therapists, social workers – basically, everyone who would ever treat a new mother. Also, new/expectant mothers and their loved ones!

Once again, I’m piggybacking off of my last 2 posts about the Postpartum Resource Center of New York by sharing this great opportunity I learned from this post I just spotted on my Facebook feed for all who care for / about new mothers and their postpartum well being to learn about PMADs, treatments, resources, and how loved ones can help.

PMADs are experienced by 1 in 5 mothers.  What better way to spread awareness than this FREE webinar!  We need more of these opportunities to combat stigma and ensure as many people are educated as possible, as there are still way too many people whose job it is to care for mothers that don’t accurately identify PMADs and get them the help they need.  With more awareness, we will chip away at stigma.  We will ensure fewer mothers suffer alone and in silence.  We will ensure fewer mothers and children suffer the consequences of undiagnosed/untreated PMADs.

When:  Wednesday, May 2, 2018 from 8:00pm – 9:00 pm
Who:  Sonia Murdock (Exec. Director of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York) and Bridget Croteau (St. Joseph’s College NY alumna; Mrs. Suffolk County America 2017-18)
Cost:  It’s absolutely free, and open to the public!
Registration:  Click here to sign up. If you can’t make it to the live session, no problem!  You can access a recording, provided you register.
For more info:  Contact Taryn Kutujian at tkutujian@sjcny.edu

Please spread the word about this!  Share WIDELY on social media!

 

Traumatic Childbirth: The Ever-Widening Ripple Effect

Piggybacking off of my last blog post “Mother May I?” – An Important Documentary About Childbirth Trauma 2 days ago, I wanted to make folks aware about a childbirth-trauma-related event that I spotted on my Facebook feed today.

LMR Visioning Educational Series 2017

Sonia Murdoch, Jane Honikman, and me

The Lisa Mary Reilly Visioning Educational Series hosts an annual event in collaboration with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.  Last year, I attended the event that took place in Manhattan and featured Jane Honikman, founder of Postpartum Support International.

This year’s event will be co-hosted by The Rochester Postpartum Wellness Coalition and will take place on Thursday, May 3, 2018, from 11:00 am-2:00 pm, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, Rochester, NY.  The guest speaker of this event will be Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN. She a Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.  Dr. Beck serves on the editorial boards of 4 journals and has published over 150 scientific articles as well as 4 books.  The title of her presentation is Traumatic Childbirth: The Ever Widening Ripple Effect.   Click here to find out more about the event and to buy tickets, which are $50 each and includes lunch.

My wish is for every medical professional that treats mothers–from OB/GYN doctors and their staff to maternity ward staff, emergency room staff, midwives, doulas, and family doctors/general practitioners, as well as mental healthcare practitioners–were required to take this kind of training regardless of where they are located. This means this kind of training should be replicated and hosted in every major city in every state.  Until then, we are going to continue to have medical/mental healthcare professionals fail to realize the connection between traumatic childbirth and postpartum mood disorders.

We need to emphasize the importance of care for mothers just as much as people emphasize the importance of care for babies.  As I’ve said before, it just seems so obvious that, once a mother gives birth to a baby, all the attention goes to the baby and its care and the mother falls by the wayside.  Hello, she just carried a child for 9 months and had to give birth! Her body goes through extreme physical changes, including hormonal upheaval.   Any complications that occur during childbirth can increase the chance of a postpartum mood disorder to occur.  The ONLY view that matters on how a childbirth went should be is the new mother’s view on her childbirth experience.  If she feels like it was a God-awful experience, we need to respect, acknowledge and try to understand her feelings.  We should never pooh pooh her experience.  We should never assume her feelings are what you think they ought to be.  A new mother’s experience is her experience, period.

Let’s care more about how a mother views her childbirth experiences.
Let’s care about the kind of care she receives during childbirth.
Let’s care about how she envisions her childbirth to go.
Let’s care about how she feels about breastfeeding.
Let’s care about how anxious she feels about taking care of the baby.
Let’s care about her enough that when she seems to not be herself, we get her the help she needs.
Let’s care enough to realize that about 20% of new mothers experience a postpartum mood disorder that usually starts within the first 4-6 weeks postpartum but can happen up to a year and may be triggered by weaning.
Let’s care about her feelings, bottom line.

 

 

 

“Mother May I?” – An Important Documentary About Childbirth Trauma

A couple of days ago, a link to the Kickstarter project for the documentary “Mother May I” popped up on my Facebook feed, and it instantly caught my eye (and yes, I am one of the many backers and sincerely hope they meet their financial goal in 30 days, so please consider backing too….even $10 would help!).  Why did it catch my eye?  Because I had a traumatic childbirth experience that was the beginning of an agonizing postpartum depression (PPD) journey.  I didn’t have the awareness needed for me to advocate for myself.  There were no patient advocates anywhere along my PPD journey.  I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my experience.  I didn’t have a means of validating what I experienced.  I was in the dark.  I had to learn the hard way.  This is why I blog, why I wrote my book, and why I look for ways to help others and to try to get the word out and raise awareness so fewer mothers will be blindsided the way I was.

About one-third of new mothers describe their childbirth experiences as traumatic, but you hardly ever hear about negative experiences because everyone wants to be like “everyone else” and happily announce that “mother and baby are doing well.”  No one wants to admit to having a negative childbirth experience, just like no one wants to hear about a negative childbirth experience.  And that is why everyone thinks childbirth experiences aren’t that big a deal.

I had previously blogged about negative childbirth experiences via my blog post titled “Forget the Myths, Here are the Realities of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Postpartum Experiences.” It was one of my first blog posts.   The difference between my traumatic childbirth experience and the ones that are the focus of this film is that the ones in the film, like the one experienced by Caroline Malatesta, involve obstetric assault that resulted in both physical and emotional harm to the mother.  That is much, much worse than what I experienced.

What has been completed thus far is 20 hours of footage of interviews of more than 15 experts (including a birth doula, a labor & delivery nurse and psychologist who specializes in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and survivors of birth trauma.  My plan is to reach out to the Birth Monopoly Foundation folks behind this documentary–including Caroline Malatesta, President, whose own birth trauma story is the impetus behind and featured in this film–and make sure they include the connection between negative childbirth experiences and maternal mental health disorders like PPD.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know that passion for public awareness is one of my focal points.  I am particularly excited to see that funds from the Kickstarter project will help fund online campaigns to provide free information about birth trauma, resources, and legal rights. It will also help fund college outreach initiatives to help get the film (plus guided discussion) into 1,000 college classrooms around the country.  I believe there is no better time to present such information to teens than in colleges.   Colleges are a great way to reach numerous young people at once.  Speaking of which, I had envisioned doing a book reading of my book at my alma mater when it first came out, but I didn’t get very far.  My school is an all-women’s school and what better place to reach so many women at once about PPD!  But my idea didn’t get much interest.  Perhaps I wasn’t reaching out to the right people.   Perhaps I will try again there….and in other colleges as well.

To follow Birth Monopoly on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/birthmonopoly 

 

Postpartum Pain – by Stacy M.

Thank you, Stacy, for once again sharing your gift of poetry on my blog.

Just eight months old
Lost and confused
Mommy had to go

As tears flowed
From tired eyes
I drove

Clenched the wheel
Held on tight
The most important
Ride of my life

Surrendered all my
Postpartum pain
I told them all
To please go on
Without me

I just couldn’t
Breathe
Or eat
Or see
Anything
In front of me
I felt like
Disappearing

I wasn’t sure
If I could go on
I was drifting
So far
And sinking
So fast

Fearing
Everything
And everyone
Blindsided
By the panic
And the pain
I thought for sure
The old me
Was gone
Long gone and
For good

All the fear
Abruptly
Turned my world
Pitch black

I wasn’t sure
If I could
Ever find
My way back
Or my old self
I was desperate
For help

Postpartum pain
Makes you lose
Your way
And your grip
Makes reality
Start to slip

It can rob you
Of your dreams
It’s deceiving
Gets you believing
That nobody
Not even yourself
Or your new baby
Or this life
Needs you

In all the darkness
That surrounded me
I was a tiny shadow
Of myself
Not even

Did anyone see
I was not okay
Did I really hide it
All too well
Who was in denial more
Me or my community
Why do we pretend
It will never make
Any sense

Just those few years ago
I stood at the edge
Ready to give up
The fight
Of a life I worked
So hard for
I had a home
With a husband
And children I adore
In a moment
I could have lost it all

My knees were buckling
In a flash I suddenly
Could not understand
What it was I was living for

Prisoner of my own mind
Paranoid of the judgment
Overwhelmed
Run down
Unsteady from
The incision that
Still felt so raw
Stitches barely
Holding me together
The healing felt like
Forever

Postpartum pain
Postpartum pain

Oh how thankful
Of where we are now
My little girl sleeping on me
All snugly and sound
As I still pick up all the pieces
Of that horrific transition

Postpartum pain
Postpartum pain

Will make you never the same

Wake-up call for new moms who feel “off” for days after childbirth (and family members of these moms)

I’m finally blogging again after a slight reprieve from being unbelievably busy for weeks with work and then vacation and then feverishly cleaning my house for guests coming over (if I had more time to clean regularly cleaning wouldn’t be such a big deal).  Also, I am in the process of slowly transitioning off of the laptop I’ve had for over 8 years, so every single tab I’ve had open (which is a lot) need to be closed, obviously.  These tabs have been open for months for me to blog about and/or read but just haven’t had the time to do.  So, here I am trying to get through as many articles as possible.

Many of the tabs had stories about moms who died from severe postpartum depression (PPD), so I decided to blog about the deaths of FOUR moms who suffered from severe postpartum depression (PPD).  These are just four of the deaths from a postpartum mood disorder that have occurred since 2016.  There have been others, but these are the only ones other than the D’Achilles story (which I mentioned back in May) that I have come across in my daily news feeds because loved ones of these women have spoken up  and shared their stories so that others would not suffer such experiences.

In a Good Housekeeping article published on May 19, 2017 by Andrea Stanley titled “The Voice That Said ‘I’m a Bad Mom’ Killed My Wife,” Greg Ludlam opens up about the severe postpartum depression that took the life of his wife Elizabeth on June 1, 2016.  When their second child was around one year old, something about Elizabeth seemed off.  She wasn’t herself.  Little things set her off.  She withdrew from friends and neighbors.  She started saying and believing she was a bad mom.  There was no longer any joy or enthusiasm in things that used to make her happy. She got angry over things at work when she was never previously that way.  These are all trademark symptoms of PPD but Greg had no idea that his wife was suffering from it.  He has had to cope with the guilt of not picking up on what was going on and getting professional help.

Greg Ludlam urges the significant others of new mothers to do the following:

“….[If] you see something not right with your wife or partner, you need to get help right away from a medical professional who specializes in mental health care.  I’m not talking about tomorrow or next week — now.”

He also urges new moms to do the following:

“For anyone who is reading this and you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re feeling like a bad mom or you’re feeling like a lousy wife, or just feeling unloved and alone — you’re not. You’re not a bad mom. You’re not a lousy wife. You’re not unloved and alone. There’s help. You need to reach out to a qualified mental health doctor right now.”

In a CTV News article published on January 18, 2017 titled “B.C. widower urges moms suffering postpartum depression: ‘Please seek help ‘” Kim Chen opens up about the severe PPD that took the life of his wife, Florence Leung shortly after she gave birth to their son in October 2016.   She had gone missing shortly after giving birth to her son and her body was pulled from the water near an island close to Vancouver, British Columbia.  Florence was being treated for PPD before her disappearance.  Chen urges new moms who feel anxious and/or experiencing low mood to seek help and share their feelings.  He mentions there is a too much pressure and too many misconceptions regarding breastfeeding, as the hospital where they delivered the baby had Breast is Best materials that reiterated over & over how breast milk should be the only food for babies for the first six months.  He realizes the benefits of breast milk but at the same time believes formula is totally fine as either a supplement or replacement for breast milk.  It should be a personal choice and dependent on circumstances.

Chen wants new mothers to know:

“Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to “exclusively breastfeed”, even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes.”

In a Her View from Home article published in September 2016 titled “New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea,” author Julie Anne Waterfield  opens up about the severe PPD that took the life of her friend Allison on June 28, 2016.  Allison leaves behind her husband and daughter.  Julie wants people to know that there is nothing shameful about PPD.  The transition to being a mother can be very difficult and it is important to get help from your husband/partner, friends, relatives (and if you’re not feeling yourself, seek help from a counselor and/or support group).  The road to motherhood is not always smooth or peachy.  For some new mothers (like me), the road is very difficult–not to mention lonely and for first-time moms uncertain, guilt-ridden and downright scary.  For these mothers, not having a birth and postpartum experience as they envisioned it *should* be makes them feel ashamed.

Julie wants new mothers to know:

“To all those mothers out there experiencing some of these same feelings: you are not alone, and you are not a bad mother!  PPD is lying to you.  It is twisting your memories, feelings, and beliefs and reshaping them into an overwhelming falsehood.  You will not be judged, only loved, as you seek help.  To those breast-feeding mothers taking Reglan (metoclopramide) to increase milk supply: stop and do research. Reglan has detrimental side effects such as new or worsening depression, suicidal ideation and suicide.  Supplement with formula if needed.  Your baby will be just as perfect and healthy with or without the breast milk.  Having more breast milk is not worth sacrificing your mental health or possibly your life.”

And finally in a The Hour article published by Kaitlyn Krasselt on September 8, 2017 titled “Norwalk sisters raising awareness about postpartum depression, suicide,” the sisters of Kara Kovlakas open up about the severe PPD that took Kara’s life (one day before she was to turn 33) on October 13, 2016, nine months after giving birth to her 2nd child.  Kara’s family created the Light for Kara website in her memory and to help raise awareness about postpartum mood disorders.  Kara had suffered from depression and anxiety before she had children.  Within 7 months after giving birth, her thoughts started to become jumbled and she couldn’t think clearly. She had doubts that she was a good parent.  A dark cloud followed her everywhere. She couldn’t see the positives, only the negatives each day. She had been seeking outpatient treatment for her depression and anxiety, and kept insisting to her family that she was getting better.  From the outside, she looked fine to everyone.  But taking her own life was something that her family and friends never expected.

Kara’s sister, Lauren Shrage, wants people to know:

“This is a real mental illness. The shame new moms feel about needing to reach out for help is real. As a new mom, you’re expected to have it all together. We’re all new moms too and the only thing anyone ever mentioned to me about postpartum depression was a pamphlet in the folder I took home from the hospital. That’s not enough.”

Please take these experiences to heart. Share them with others. We need to de-stigmatize PPD by being open about it and avoid being judgmental. Remember that not all postpartum experiences are peachy, and that one in seven new mothers experience a postpartum mood disorder. Let’s keep a close eye on the new moms in our lives.  Offer them help, not criticism. Don’t help push a new mom over the edge with Breast is Best or other one-size-fits-all tactics.  ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.  Everyone is different.  Everyone’s childbirth and postpartum experiences are different. We want mothers AND babies to thrive, not die.

If you or a loved one doesn’t seem to be herself for days after childbirth, reach out and ask her to share about her postpartum experience with you and/or a health practitioner.  Getting help can mean life or death, as you can see from this blog post.  Postpartum Support International has a warmline (800-944-4773) and a listing of local resources to help with finding local help.  Reach out to me by leaving a comment below and I can respond via email.

Did you know that you can text 741741 when you are feeling really depressed or suicidal? A crisis worker will text you.  It’s a free service by The Crisis Text Hotline! (Only in the US).  Texting has proven to be a more preferred way of reaching out for and getting help.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7. If you or a loved one needs help right now, call 1-800-273-8255.  It’s confidential and provides a network of over 140 crisis centers nationwide.    You can also visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

If Only I Had Known – Part II

Today, I decided to continue with the “If Only I Had Known” theme from my first post 5-1/2 years ago in which I had blogged about a prior abdominal procedure to remove a dermoid cyst as a likely cause of infertility due to scar tissue formation.  What prompted me to write another If Only I Had Known post is an article on my feed a couple of days ago.  I’m writing about the same darn dermoid cyst removal procedure and scar tissue formation, but this time as the likely cause of the placenta accreta that ended up setting the stage for the postpartum depression (PPD) that hit me from left field 6 weeks after my daughter was born.  Earlier on in my blogging days, I had shared my less-than-perfect childbirth experience– the “Childbirth Complications” part of the trifecta of conditions in the subtitle of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood”–that led to the PPD rearing its ugly head.  In that blog post, I shared what happened after the perfectly normal vaginal delivery.

The title of the NPR article that I stumbled across a couple days ago titled “If You Hemorrhage, Don’t Clean Up: Advice from Mothers Who Almost Died” is, needless to say, very attention-grabbing.  The article, written by Adriana Gallardo and Nina Martin of ProPublica and Renee Montagne of NPR, starts off with the life-threatening situation that occurred to Marie McCausland after she gave birth.  The article then shares the advice of other survivors of traumatic and life-threatening childbirth experiences in several categories: choosing a provider, preparing for an emergency, getting your provider to listen, paying attention to your symptoms, after the delivery, and grappling with the emotional fallout.  This is why I love the article so much.  Although it contains frightening scenarios of possible complications that can occur during childbirth, it was written not to scare folks already anxious about having babies but to provide advice.  After all, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.  Every mother should read it because if, God forbid, a complication does occur, she’ll be prepared.  As they say, hope for the best BUT EXPECT THE WORST.  This is not pessimism.  It’s reality.  In reality, complications can and do happen.  And we cannot and should not rely solely on our healthcare providers.  If you read the NPR article in its entirety, you’ll see how healthcare providers repeatedly fail their patients.

I absolutely love these types of KNOWLEDGE IS POWER articles!  Chapter 3 in my book is titled “Knowledge is Power” and is broken up into “What to know and do before the baby arrives” and “What to know and do if PPD hits.”  The sole purpose of my book was to raise awareness so others would not go down that dark, lonely, hopeless road I traveled after having a baby.  There is so much covered in my book, that I laughingly refer to my book as “an encyclopedia” purely due to the girth (i.e., 429 pgs)….yes, I had a lot to say!  In fact, that’s how I referred to it when I posted to my Facebook page a pic of my books on the Postpartum Support International table at their annual conference I attended a few weeks ago in Philadelphia.   Following is an outline of how I wanted my book to educate readers.

Chapter 1: The Statistics: A Wake-up Call

Chapter 2: Sharing My PPD Experience

  • Insomnia Sets In
  • Next Came the Panic Attacks
  • The Dark Abyss

Chapter 3: Knowledge Is Power

  • What to Know and Do Before the Baby Arrives
  • What to Know and Do if PPD Hits

Chapter 4: Environment vs. Heredity, Nature vs. Nurture

  • Role of Genetics/Nature
  • Role of Environment/Nurture
  • Role of Reproductive Events
  • My Story: Environmental and Genetic Factors Wreaking Havoc on My Life
  • What You Can Do to Make a Difference for the Next Generation

Chapter 5: Know Your Risk: Risk Factors

  • Biological Factors
  • Psychological Factors
  • Social Factors
  • Infertility
  • Coming Up With a Prevention Plan

Chapter 6:  My Postpartum Period – Exhausting, Anxious, Uncertain

  • Interrupted Sleep/Sleep Deprivation
  • Startle/Moro Reflex
  • Colic
  • Nasty Eczema and Cradle Cap
  • My Hair Loss
  • Returning to Work

Chapter 7: Ignorance and Stigma: Barriers to Progress

  • The Stigma of PPD
  • Silo Approach to Health Care and Ignorance among Medical Community

Chapter 8: Those Darned Myths

  • Myth #1: Pregnancy Is Always a Smooth, Easy and Blissful Experience
  • Myth #2: Baby Blues Is the Same Thing As PPD
  • Myth #3: PPD Is a Make-Believe Illness
  • Myth #4: Loving Your Baby Means Never Taking a Break
  • Myth #5: Motherhood Is Instinctive and Can Be Handled Solo: The Supermom Myth
  • Myth #6: All Mothers Fall Instantly in Love with and Bond with Their Babies
  • Myth #7: Breast-feeding Is Instinctive

Chapter 9: Trend Away from Social Support

  • First Few Days at Home … Now What?
  • New Moms Need Nurturing Too
  • What Is Social Support?
  • Support of Husband
  • Other Sources of Support (in the U.S.)
  • Postpartum Practices in Other Cultures
  • Tips for Establishing a Support Network

 Chapter 10: Postpartum Depression 101

  • Defining Postpartum Depression
  • PPD Symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • The Spectrum of Perinatal Mood Disorders
  • Reproductive Hormones and Mood
  • The Brain, Neurotransmitters and Stress

Chapter 11: PPD Impacts the Whole Family

  • Effect of PPD on the Baby
  • Effect of PPD on the Dad/Husband

Chapter 12: Passing on Lessons Learned

  • Tips for the Dad/Husband
  • Tips for the Mom Regarding the Dad/Husband
  • Tips for Friends and Family

Chapter 13: Steps to Recovery and Wellness

  • Health-Care Practitioners
  • Treatment Options

Well, like I said, the goal of the book was to help others, but who wants to read an encyclopedia nowadays when you’ve got the Internet, lol…..guess you can say it’s the thought that counts.  Hopefully, folks are finding my posts because the intent of this blog post, as with all my other blog posts and my book, is to try to educate women and their loved ones (and even health professionals too) so they can know enough to advocate for themselves, much like the intent of the NPR article.   I am not doing this for me.  I’ve already survived PPD.  I’m doing it for those who do have access to the Internet, find my blog and read my posts to learn how to prevent/survive PPD.

Jumping back to the NPR article…..
It’s a link in the post that led me to a Wall Street Journal article titled “The Quest to Untangle Why Pregnancy Can Turn Deadly,” written by Daniela Hernandez about Kristin Terlezzi’s experience with placenta accreta.  This article contains the most info on the topic I’ve seen in all my years of blogging (since 2009). Kristin Terlezzi recently, along with Alisha Keller Berry and Jill Arnold (two other survivors of placenta accreta), established the National Accreta Foundation  in April 2017 to work towards reducing the incidences of placenta accreta by partnering with other federal, state and local organizations.

Another link in the article led to the ProPublica article “Do You Know Someone Who Died or Nearly Died in Childbirth? Help Us Investigate Maternal Health” published on February 10, 2017 by Adriana Gallardo and Nina Martin, which asks for those who know someone who died or nearly died in pregnancy, childbirth, or within a year after delivery to share their stories.  The hope is that this information can be used to help researchers come up with ways to reduce the occurrence of and deaths from placenta accreta.

The only problem with these articles on NPR and other similar media is that they are only accessible to those who read such articles in the first place.  As I’ve realized in these past few months since T took over as President and split the nation into two factions, there is a whole T-supporting, alternative facts supporting faction claiming everything but Breitbart, Fox News and now Trump TV as #fakenews.  So, how is this information going to reach everyone?  It’s not like these misogynistic media are going to share scientific articles dedicated to improving the experience of mothers, because all these media only care about is the fetus, the health/well-being of the mother be damned….but then again, I digress.  But I won’t apologize for raising this critical point.  It’s definitely food for thought as to how we can get this information to EVERYONE.

 

Steve Bannon’s Ignorance on Mental Health

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

Here I am, posting again….wow, it’s now 3x in one month.  I haven’t posted with such frequency in a long time.  Guess you can say the state of this country is heavy on my mind.  I had said in my last post that I wasn’t going to talk politics since this site is dedicated to maternal mental health.  I was planning to stick to that guideline.  But then I hit a snag in my plans, thanks to a post I read about Bannon, the individual that Trump has selected to be his chief strategist.  Bannon made a comment about mental health that triggered me so much it had me flashing back to the trigger that set me off on a 6-year journey to publish a book about my postpartum depression (PPD) experience.  What trigger is that?  Well, if you’ve been following my blog for some time and/or you read my author bio, you would know that Tom Cruise and his There’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance comment triggered me back in 2005.  But the outcome of the trigger was good, as I have my blog and book as the end result. And yes, I do thank TC in my Acknowledgments.

There’s nothing good about this trigger related to Bannon, though.  TC is just an ignorant actor. But Bannon is an ignorant white supremacist who will have a role in the White House and will have far more negative consequences than TC ever had.  Bannon made a statement that the cure for mental illness is to spank your children more.  Excuse me?  What.The.Fuck. (oops, forgot to use $ or other symbol to fill in for the “u” for the very first time…..there’s a first time for everything, as they say).  I’ve truly had it with this whole election.  I’ve had it with all the hatred, misogyny and bigotry.  With the cheeto about to become our President and the alt right using him as a tool to ensure there are at least 4 years of revenge for the 8 years they had to suffer under President Obama, they have populated the leadership team with known racists (Bannon, Sessions, Flynn) and ensuring that racism becomes the new normal.  My passion for matters related to racism stems from my being bullied as a child for my race.  But I’m not going to digress here (even though anti-bullying is my other passion)……

Note: If you’re a Trump follower trolling this blog post and thinking I’m bullying Bannon or Trump, then think again.  Bullying is DIRECT harassment to them personally.  I’m exerting my 1st amendment right voicing my thoughts on my own blog.  Thank you very much.

<directing myself back on track….>

Bannon, just like I’ve been wishing to tell Tom Cruise in person, I wish I could tell YOU in person, if you’ve never been through mental illness yourself, then:
Shut the f*ck up.  
Shut.Your.Ignorant.Mouth.Up.  

And get educated about mental illness and how it REALLY works.  It’s not mind over matter, you dimwit.  Take a few minutes to read a blog post that may help you see the light when it comes to PPD.  There are plenty of articles from health organizations and blog posts on the Internet for you to learn the TRUTH behind mental illness.  But I’m pretty sure you won’t bother to spend a second to read anything because you think you know it all, don’t you.

Here’s where, if I could be granted 3 genie wishes, one of them would be to make all haters/bigots switch places with the ones being hated and the ones who keep insisting that mental illness is mind over matter to switch places with those who are battling a mental illness (e.g., depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, etc.).  You will learn in an instant that the logic you’ve been upholding is COMPLETELY WRONG.  See my past post on this titled “All It Takes Is One Day.”  One day to experience a mental illness yourself, firsthand……THAT’S ALL IT TAKES to snap you to reality and stop living in a world based on assumptions (that only make a$$es out of you).

And speaking of backwards, as women, we should not let ourselves be dragged backwards when it comes to our rights. We must stand up for ourselves and for each other.  We must work harder than ever to support organizations that will help us stay on track when it comes to mental health and women’s rights, especially during the time that women are most vulnerable–i.e., before, during and after childbirth.  Please join me in doing this!

If you’re a mom suffering from PPD right now, please be comforted in knowing that there are plenty of people in this country and around the world who care enough to make it a goal to help moms like you.  Please reach out to me, reach out to others with blogs, Facebook pages….we will help you get through this.

You WILL get through this.  I got through it stronger than ever before, and so can you!

Peace to you.

Postpartum Insomnia Series – Story 2: KIM

This is the second of the series of posts about postpartum insomnia.  I met Kim recently via the closed Facebook group for Postpartum Support International.  Insomnia was one of the symptoms that she suffered as a consequence of postpartum anxiety and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Thank you, Kim, for sharing your story on my blog!

********************************

I’ve always been anxious.  It’s been my temperament since day one; just ask my parents.  I wouldn’t know that I’ve also had OCD must of my life until after I had my first child.  Looking back, all I can say is – DUH! – but in the 90s and even beyond, there just wasn’t a lot of information available about these mental “disorders.” My parents even took me to a child psychiatrist, but to no avail.  Admittedly, it’s hard to diagnose someone at such a young age (I was 10), but the more we talk about it the easier it might become, right?

Anyway, before I became pregnant with my first child, I had a miscarriage, specifically a “missed” miscarriage, during the 12-week check, after which the recovery went on far longer than I expected.  It was painful, emotionally and physically speaking, but we got through it and got pregnant again.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as anxious as I thought I would be this time around.  Despite moving 2.5 hours away from my family while 6 months pregnant, I was confident everything would be fine.  My sister had had 2 kids prior and, to all outward appearances, she had made it look so easy!

Fast forward 3ish months and this baby wasn’t budging.  10 days past my due date, they decided to induce.  Again, little to no progress.  After 16 hours of contractions, they finally made the decision to do a C-section and, low and behold, there was my baby!  Yikes!

From night one, he cried.  And cried.  And cried.  I attempted nursing with very little success, but kept trying.  (Eventually, I’d move to only formula, but not before going through several different types before settling on one that didn’t cause the babe major discomfort that led to hours upon hours of late night screaming).

All of this took a huge toll on me physically, emotionally, mentally.  I felt like, because my husband was working, I needed to be the one to take care of my child during the night time hours.  Sleep was not something that came easily…initially, because of the stress of middle of the night feedings/endless screaming, later because of extreme anxiety/OCD and the consequent insomnia.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this harrowing postpartum experience is that sleep is ESSENTIAL.  We need that time to reflect, to recharge, to RELAX.

Ultimately, the lack of sleep (I was averaging 2 hours a night on the couch with my son so that my husband could sleep) sent me on a terrifying downward spiral.  I began experiencing awful intrusive thoughts that, even thought I didn’t understand it at the time, are directly associated with high anxiety and OCD.  After some research, I discovered Postpartum Progress, an amazingly informative website that helped me to understand what was happening to me.

Even though I was hesitant to start medication, my OB prescribed me Lexapro.  I began taking it and, the first night, woke up experiencing severe anxiety bordering on a panic attack.  Now, please understand that this is a side effect listed in the pamphlet accompanying the medication.  In a twist of utter injustice, these SSRI (selective serotonin re-update inhibitor) medications can sometimes increase anxiety before decreasing it.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.

After 3 days of heightened anxiety and very little sleep, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was a stranger to myself, completely lost in the sleeplessness, anxiety, and panic.  I could hardly take care of myself, let alone my one month old baby.  After a visit to the ER, I made the decision to voluntarily admit myself to a local inpatient mental hospital.  During my 3-day stay, I was able to see different counselors (some more helpful than others), let the Lexapro get into my system, as well as start taking trazodone to help with the insomnia.

It’s not a choice everyone would make.  And, in hindsight, I’m not even sure I would make the same decision again.  However, upon my return home, I was adamant that facing my fears (being alone with my child, especially during the lonely night-time hours) and getting better were my top priorities.  My mother-in-law came to stay for a week as added support and my family was extra attentive to my overall well-being.  I realize that I’m so very fortunate to have this support system and I fervently pray that all of you are similarly blessed.

***If you aren’t, please, PLEASE reach out to someone, anyone.  Join a mom’s group, a Bible study (if that’s your thing), even a Facebook group.  There are SO many people out there who have gone through this.  We just need to start the conversation and keep it rolling.***

I’m not going to lie.  It was a challenging couple of weeks while the medicine took time to really start working. The trazodone helped immensely with my insomnia and the Lexapro helped slow down my mind so I could separate myself from the deceptive thoughts that anxiety allows to creep in. But it got easier every day and, eventually, I began to recognize myself again.  It’s not an easy role shift, I’ll tell you that.  And it really shouldn’t be, regardless of what’s depicted in movies, television, magazines, etc.  There’s a huge learning curve associated with new parenthood.  Some take to it right away; others need a little/lot more time to adjust and that’s OKAY.

But please trust that it WILL come.  You will learn.  You will adjust. And it will be so, so worth it.

15%-21% of Moms Suffer from a Perinatal Mood Disorder

For the longest time they were saying between 1 out of 8 women suffer from a perinatal (before, during or after childbirth) mood disorder.  Then, they said between 1 out of 7.  And more recently, literature indicates it’s now approximately 15%-21%, which is anywhere between 1 out of 5 and 1 out of 6, with 21% experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.

If you are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, you can see from these numbers and in many places online–from a multitude of Facebook support pages, blogs and on Twitter–and in newspapers that you are not alone.  For example, in today’s Upworthy, my friend Heidi Koss shares her experience after the birth of her daughters.  She is a PPD survivor and now helps other moms suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Her story was also mentioned in an NPR article a week ago today.

You need to know when you need to get help from a doctor and/or therapist.  Get it early.  Know the facts.  Know the difference between postpartum blues and postpartum depression (PPD).  Know the difference between PPD, postpartum anxietypostpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis.  Click here for helpful information that can help you.

You need help for you.
You need help for your baby(ies).
You need help for your family as a whole, including your significant other.

I just found out tonight about the fate of Carol Coronado about whom I blogged in May 2014.  She suffered from postpartum psychosis (not PPD as some newspapers allude to), didn’t get the right help and was just sentenced to life in jail.  Carol, her babies, and her husband were failed by the system.  The same system that failed to ensure she got help is punishing her for their failure.  Sound fair to you?  No!  Her case sounds similar to Andrea Yates case nearly 15 years ago.  I pray for Carol and her family.  She has suffered enough and does not need to spend the rest of her life in jail.  I saw a Facebook comment about Carol that triggered me to write this post.  The coldness and lack of understanding are a reflection of just how close-minded people can be.  It amazes me, really.  It’s really hard to beat down stigma when you have such barriers in the way.  But don’t let any of that deter you from getting help.  YOU are important.  Forget these clueless people.  Get the help you need.  Don’t delay!

Whenever you read about these stories in the news, please remember the facts.  Get information from the right resources (links above would be great place to start).  And don’t let stigma and ignorance steer you away from understanding and compassion.  Don’t let stigma, ignorance, and the close-mindedness of people (those who choose not to understand and would rather continue their misogynistic, super hokey, religious extremist mindset in which women are second class citizens) steer you away from getting the help you need to be well again!  Stay strong!  There is help out there!  Reach out to me.  Reach out to the Postpartum Support International Facebook page (closed group) for support.

History in the Making for Maternal Mental Health Advocates

I’ve been super busy at work these days, sometimes having to work at night, which is why I haven’t blogged much lately. But I couldn’t let today go by without mentioning the announcement today about a major step in the right direction….finally!  First thing this morning, I received a text from a friend to check out an article in the NY Times about postpartum depression (PPD), followed immediately by an email from my husband with a link to the same article.

Mental health advocates are excited not just about the news that splashed the headlines of today’s New York Times and NPR about the importance of screening adults for depression.  It’s the acknowledgment–finally–that new and pregnant moms need screening because catching and treating PPD early is crucial to the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby, and to the family unit as a whole.  I’ve blogged in the past about how screening and seeing someone experienced in treating PPD could have prevented my painful experience.  Having the screening recommendation come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is particularly meaningful, as its recommendations have far-reaching impact on things like healthcare (i.e., American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians) and health insurance in this country.  In fact, its recommendations appear in the current issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

This is a major milestone for maternal mental health advocates in this country.  And it’s about freaking time!  I attribute this milestone to the persistence, hard work, dedication and passion of many, many amazing people either independently acting or as part of organizations formed–too many to list here but foremost on the list is Postpartum Support International (of which I’ve been a member since 2006)–to spread awareness about an all too common condition suffered by mothers that even today people are not aware occurs in 1 out of 7 moms.  Seeing my friends’ names in these articles–Heidi Koss, a survivor/advocate/counselor and Wendy Davis, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International–mentioned makes them all the more meaningful to me.  They are passionate about what they do because they don’t want mothers and their families suffering unnecessarily.

You would think something like screening, which I’ve blogged about numerously in the past, would be mandated by all healthcare professionals who come in contact with expectant/new moms.  In one of my very first blog posts from back in June 2009, I included my suggestions for what screening would entail. Unfortunately, screening has not been embraced because, after all, where there is a positive, there is always a negative.  In this case, there are several negatives, with the biggest being none other than STIGMA, one of the 2 biggest barriers to progress for the battle against PPD.

Stigma–and the ignorance associated with it– comes from resistance to change and attitudes about what screening would mean (“Oh, once a mom is screened positively for PPD, then she will automatically be medicated”).  That, by the way, is totally false.  No one is deliberately trying to medicate every mother and give more business to the pharmaceutical companies.  Again, I have blogged plenty about this in the past, but medication is just one way to treat a perinatal mood disorder and in many cases critical to helping restore the neurochemical imbalance that childbirth has brought about.  Without medication, I might not have survived my PPD.  In most cases, it’s a combination of medication and therapy (like CBT) that is most effective.  In some, less serious cases of PPD, therapy or peer-to-peer support (with a PPD support group led by a survivor) and/or an alternative treatment like meditation or acupuncture is sufficient.

Speaking of which, there is another major barrier, which is what happens once an expectant or new mom screens positively for a perinatal mood disorder….can we find them immediate help?  Although there are more resources now than there were back when I suffered from PPD, we still have a very long way to go.  There is definitely a need for more help among the healthcare, mental healthcare, and peer-to-peer support communities who are experienced in treating perinatal mood disorders.  You’ll all too often hear that there is a long wait to see a psychiatrist (an MD who has the ability to prescribe meds), once you’ve found one that is near you that has experience treating perinatal mood disorders.  Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough mental healthcare practitioners who are experienced in treating perinatal mood disorders.  There aren’t enough mental healthcare practitioners, period.  And among general practitioners, not enough are experienced enough or even have adequate bedside manner to know how to treat/behave toward a mother struggling with a perinatal mood disorder.  I know, because I had seen one of those doctors, and it was a horrible, horrible experience for me.

These are the problems that we need to overcome if we want to truly be able to prevent any more mothers from falling through the cracks.  There are many steps to get where we need to be, but we have attained an important step in the right direction with the recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force!

Attention Postpartum Depression Survivors in New York City

Just a quick post from me today to alert moms in New York City of an opportunity to share their postpartum depression (PPD) experiences.

Your stories will enable the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to learn about the needs of women who have experienced PPD.

We can only make progress in the development of services for new mothers if mothers speak up and share their experiences with others.  That’s akin to the social support structure that used to exist years and years ago when families lived close to one another and women in communities supported one another.

With increased services tailored to new mothers, we have a better shot at decreasing the occurrence of PPD and for those who do experience it, to help speed up their recovery and reduce negative outcomes.

So, please, if you are in New York City, please call Quiana Cooper at 212-235-6232 or e-mail her at qcooper@globalstrategygroup.com.

Women that participate in a focus group will receive a thank you of $100.

All responses and information will remain confidential.

Celebrating My 6th Blogiversary

Well, ladies (and perhaps some gentlemen), I’ve managed to keep my blog going for SIX years.  If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you might’ve noticed the gradual transition of my blog’s focus, tone and frequency.

But through it all, my intent has remained the same….to make sure that those who need the kind of support and reassurance that I couldn’t find and didn’t have access to during my postpartum depression (PPD) experience ten years ago can find my blog and feel a little less alone in their postpartum experience.

For the moms who are going through PPD with insomnia as an initial/primary symptom and are bewildered, like I was, as to why in the world I would not be able to fall asleep when I was so exhausted and recovering from a traumatic childbirth experience, hospital stay and blood loss.

For the moms who develop panic attacks and are bewildered, not understanding what is going on with them because they have never experienced panic attacks before.

For the moms who got pregnant after many years of trying through IVF, thinking all would be blissful once the baby arrives but instead are blindsided by the sudden onset of PPD.

These are the moms who are finding my blog.  Moms who longed to hold their babies in their arms the way they had envisioned they would but could not enjoy their first weeks with the baby because of the darkness of PPD that enveloped them.

I know I am still helping some moms. I know from the comments they leave. I know from the occasions a mom reaches out and asks me to email, text and/or call her.

I want you to be well and to get the right help as quickly as possible so you can.

For those who have been following my blog these past six years, thank you.

I hope to continue to come up with blog posts that people find in searches and that help make a difference in a mother’s (or father’s) life.

I have a few author interviews and other posts coming up.  Please stay tuned.

Lovely Book Review Over at Resplendent by Design

A friend of a friend, Bobbi Parish, therapist and author of the blog Resplendent by Design and book “Create Your Own Sacred Text” has written a very lovely book review of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood.”  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Bobbi, for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to read my book and write a book review.

One of the many rewards for writing my book–aside from the personal satisfaction of seeing the fruit of your six years of labor result an attractive book with content that can help make a positive difference for others–is making new connections, especially ones who would go out of their way to spread the word about a fellow mom’s book intended to help other moms.  Another reward is knowing that you are contributing in some small measure toward reaching mothers and their families with information that can help empower them to recognize when they are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, where to go for help, what the treatment options are….not to mention, realize that what they are going through is experienced by more women than they will ever know, they have no need to feel guilty, and they will be well again with the right help.

The best part of Bobbi’s review is the fact that she is recommending my book for patients of obstetricians, midwives and doulas:

In my opinion, this is a book that should be on every Obstetrician, Midwife and Doula’s shelf and in their waiting room. It should also be on a list of resources about Postpartum Disorders handed out to every pregnant woman by their health care professional. It will absolutely help women battle this insidious mental health disorder and thereby enable them to have a healthier, happier postpartum period with the full capacity to care for and bond with their newborn.

Please go over to her blog and read the rest of her book review.

If you are an obstetrician, midwife or doula, please consider following Bobbi’s recommendation of 1) keeping a copy of my book in your waiting room and 2) including my book on a list of resources which I hope you already have (and if not, please consider putting one together now) about perinatal mood disorders handed out to your pregnant patients.

If you have stumbled across my blog and want to read more about my motherhood journey and what I learned from it, please consider buying a copy.  My book is available at Amazon via Kindle and both paperback and hard cover format.

If you know a mom who has found herself as blindsided and scared as I found myself when I was hit hard by postpartum depression, please consider buying her, or recommending she buy, a copy of my book.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The Every Mother, Every Time White House Petition: What It Means

Okay, today was a reaaaaaally rough day at work.  I got home around 8:15 pm.  Missed a woman’s club meeting I was planning to attend.  Was able to see my daughter for a little over an hour before having to put her to bed.  I’ve had 5 hours of sleep for the past few nights straight.

But…. I am making this post a priority.

My last blog post was written and published 2 days after Ebony Wilkerson drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach, but I have since updated it with new information relating to the White House petition, Every Mother, Every Time that was subsequently created.  There are now nearly 1500 signatures to the petition, and we need 100,000 to mandate a national conversation about perinatal mood disorders (PMDs) and how we can help prevent mothers like Ebony, Miriam Carey, and Cynthia Wachtenheim–these are just some of the tragedies that took place here in this country in the past few months (the list goes on)–from having to fall through the cracks.  With an occurrence of PMDs of approximately 1 out of 7 new mothers, people like the amazing Dr. Walker Karraa are tired of the status quo of being reactive.  It’s time to be PROACTIVE!

Dr. Karraa had a Q&A interview with Every Mother Counts, founded in 2010 by none other than Christy Turlington.  Click here for the Q&A.    Dr. Karraa also guest posted today over at healthyplace.com about the petition.  Click here to read it.  Please take a few minutes to read both pieces so you can learn what the petition is hoping to accomplish and why.  Don’t let any preconceived notions or fears that you may have keep you from opening your eyes and making a judgment for yourself.

You’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard about this petition via more media outlets, organizations, blogs, and other social media.  I can’t say that I understand why.  Perhaps they feel that 100,000 is unattainable and therefore not worth the effort?  Or this is a conflict of interest of some sort (not sure how that could possibly be the case because this is about advocating for increased public awareness and resources to treat and support new mothers suffering from PMDs)?  Or for some of the other reasons mentioned in the two Walker Karraa pieces.

Whatever the case may be, I want to just say that, if there is an opportunity for a conversation to be brought to the forefront so that more OB/GYNs–those who have dedicated themselves to women’s reproductive health–take responsibility to screen (i.e., ask a couple simple questions, know how to recognize and properly diagnose a PMD, know how to provide their patients options, refer patients to mental health practitioners if necessary), I am going to drop what I’m doing and help pass the word on.

I’m asking that you do too.