A Short Film that Shows the Importance of Having a Maternal Mentor

Last weekend was Postpartum Support International-New Jersey‘s Lunafest fundraiser. The seven short films were diverse and interesting, but the one that happened to have some relevance to maternal mental health was “How to Swim” by Noa Gusakov. It spoke to me the most, which is why I decided to write about it. It made me think about the importance of social support. Having adequate social support from other maternal figures (and doulas when there are no family members or friends as options) is very beneficial, to say the least. Having inadequate social support can increase the risk of postpartum mood disorders, especially if there are other biopsychosocial factors in the mix.

If you haven’t yet watched the short, please do so before reading on, as my review below has tons of spoilers.

“How to Swim” is a 14-1/2 minute short film about Avigail, a young woman pregnant with her first child who is so anxious about being a new mom that she “kidnaps” a maternal stranger one afternoon. There are moments throughout the film that touched me and made me laugh. This is a short that is definitely worth watching. I can see how it has won awards and recognition at numerous movie festivals.

The film starts in the waiting area of the hospital where Avigail and her husband are waiting for their visit with the doctor. She observes the interactions of another pregnant woman and her mother (Tammy) with envy, wishing her own mother could be with her. When the other pregnant woman leaves the waiting room, Avigail goes over to talk to Tammy who, as it turns out, was leaving the hospital. Wanting to spend more time interacting with Tammy, Avigail pretends to be a childhood friend of Tammy’s daughter. Avigail tells Tammy she happens to be going in the same direction and offers her a ride. Tammy needs to go to the mall, and Avigail says she also needs to get something from there…..and they end up shopping & chatting away the afternoon. They seem to bond, but all due to the pretense that their lives intersected with Tammy’s daughter.

Of course, the truth does come out and Tammy reacts with shock/fear that Avigail “kidnapped” her, but she becomes somewhat understanding once Avigail explained why she did what she did. One gathers from watching the way Avigail talks about her mother that she isn’t simply too far away to be with her. My reaction was immediate sympathy for Avigail. I don’t believe Avigail planned to “kidnap” Tammy, but just wanted to have a conversation with her that led to their spending the afternoon together. It really is sort of a creepy thing to do, but at the same time, I could imagine myself in Avigail’s shoes. I could imagine feeling scared of going into motherhood for the first time without my own mother by my side to guide me. I could imagine wanting a maternal mentor so badly that I would try to become friends with one that I have a good feeling about. I don’t know if Avigail has any other maternal figures in her life, like other relatives or friends that are mothers. Assuming she doesn’t, then it makes first-time motherhood all the more frightening. This is why I had all the feels and was drawn into this film.

The film ends with Tammy walking away from Avigail. It made me sad to think that the bond they formed–even though it was under false pretenses–vanished and they may not see each other again….and it was back to Avigail having no one to help her after the baby arrives. Although the film ends on somewhat of a positive note–with Avigail learning that the bra that Tammy had suggested she leave on and not pay for was actually paid for by Tammy when Avigail went back to pay for it– I still couldn’t help thinking it would’ve been nice if they exchanged contact info so Tammy could stay in Avigail’s life.

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.

Adjusting Well, by Ann Jamison

I’ve never re-blogged anyone’s blog posts before, but I had to for this.  This piece–so moving and honest and raw–brought me to tears…reminding me so much of my own dark, lonely, helpless days of PPD.

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

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

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

Now, without further ado….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IVY:      What audience do you think this book targets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONNECT WITH DR. HIBBERT:

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

Guest Post over at Mama’s Comfort Camp: Happy First Birthday!

MCCBadg_member
My friend Yael Saar is a mama on a mission to remove guilt and shame from parenting in order to make room for joy and love. She is the Founder and Keeper of the Mama’s Comfort Camp, a Facebook community that functions as a safe haven and refueling station for hundreds of moms from around the world. This community is free and open to moms of kids of any age, and we share our laughter, tears, and triumphs, all the while normalizing motherhood struggles and bridging the gap between expectations and reality in a uniquely nurturing environment.
I’m so happy to be one of the Campers, and I would love for you to join us.
Please check out my guest post written to celebrate the first birthday of the wonderful community that Yael and her Den Mothers have created.

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 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 SH$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.

A Poem to My Daughter As She Turns Seven

After my daughter fell asleep this evening, as I stood there looking at her sleeping so peacefully, I felt the urge to write a poem.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *

My dear daughter,

On the eve of your seventh birthday
As you lay sleeping with koala cuddled close
With a content and peaceful smile on your face
Such a feeling of love washes over me

I reflect back on my journey to motherhood
And how blessed I am to have you in my life
Tomorrow you turn seven
How is it you have grown so quickly?

My mind takes me forward in time
And I try to imagine what you will be like
In just a few years you will be a teenager
Gulp, am I going to be ready for that?

I pray you will have an easier time than I did
In school, with friends, and in life, in general
Daddy and I will make sure we are there
For you each step of the way

No matter what happens, I pray
That you and I will stay close through the years
No matter what happens, I want you to know
That I love you very much.

Love,
Mommy ♥

 

 

MOTHERS Act – Much Needed Legislation for Mothers & Their Families

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has reintroduced the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act to 111th Congress.  Given the postpartum depression (PPD) rate in this society–one out of eight mothers–it is ever so critical for this legislation to pass once and for all.    There has been much confusion over what this legislation would mean for mothers in this country.   

What this legislation WILL do is increase public awareness about and provide funding for much-needed research in this all-too-often misunderstood, underdiagnosed and undertreated illness that not only affects mothers, it affects their partners and babies as well.   It will also deliver/enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.   Until all this happens, ignorance about PPD will continue to have a detrimental effect on women and their families.  Women with PPD will continue to suffer unnecessarily by thinking they are alone in their experience, and feeling ashamed/unsure of what to do.  Doctors will continue to contribute to their suffering from not fully understanding how to recognize and treat PPD. 

What the MOTHERS Act is NOT–as misinformed bloggers are suggesting– a government conspiracy to support the pharmaceutical industry by pushing medication on women suffering from PPD.  

Let’s all do what we can to make sure the MOTHERS Act passes this time.    Contact your Senators and let them know you support this long overdue legislation!    Thank you, Senator Menendez, for your efforts and persistence in leading the charge on behalf of mothers in this country!  We hope this time there will be less resistance from others like Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who fail to see why what is being proposed in the MOTHERS Act is so important.   

Why would anyone want to prevent passage of legislation that would benefit women and their families?   The answer to that question is ignorance.  Ignorance, in this case, is causing people to try to shoot down legislation that would benefit women and– let’s not forget–their families as well.   Ignorance causes those who have the ability to make a difference in our government to completely miss the mark,  with society paying the price.   All I can say is “The silent suffering of mothers in this society must come to an end.  KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.  And don’t you forget it.”

Let’s not sit there and wait for this legislation to pass.  Take action now and let’s unite in our efforts to educate people around us about PPD.  Help prevent/minimize its occurrence among mothers.    This means that PPD survivors need to speak up and tell others about their experiences.   This means that healthcare professionals should proactively become educated on PPD–for example, by attending Postpartum Support International (PSI) conferences and other local training sessions (see PSI website).

For more information about the MOTHERS Act, visit Susan Dowd Stone’ s blog:  http://perinatalpro.com/blog/?p=24.