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.


Challenges Faced by Asian American Women in the Workplace – Cultural Traits, Ceilings, Guilt, Assumptions and Stigma

Recently, I attended an Asian American professionals event.  Overall, I was happy I attended the event, mostly because the speakers spoke about the challenges they encountered on their path to their current status as successful and well-regarded professionals.  They spoke about having to overcome such cultural traits as humility and introversion, as well as their tendency to avoid speaking up.  Yes, because of the way we were raised, being aggressive is not natural and “silence is golden.”  These are self-defeating traits.  How can you move up the ranks and be noticed if you don’t speak up in meetings?  If you don’t speak your mind because you’re too humble? If you don’t give presentations to peers and management because you are introverted?

In addition to the familiar expressions “glass ceiling” (in reference to women, for the most part) and “bamboo ceiling” (in reference to Asian professionals, specifically….think about how many Asian executives there are in your workplace), when you add new motherhood to the equation, Asian women tend to have perfectionist tendencies and experience shame and guilt far more readily than women in other cultures due to their cultural traits and the way they were brought up.

I realize that the following are not just experienced by Asian American mothers in the workforce, but all mothers in the workforce.  So, in addition to the bamboo and glass ceilings, Asian American mothers also experience what I refer to as the “new mother ceiling.”

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT from having to leave their baby in the care of someone else.  Most households do not have the fortune of having a relative (e.g., spouse, parent, in-law) or live-in nanny living with them, so there is the added challenge of pick-ups and drop-offs, which inevitably means having to take turns with their significant others dropping off (which means getting to work later) and picking up (which means leaving work earlier).  These drop-offs and pick-ups are a really big deal especially when there is a long commute at stake, and the childcare hours of operation mean the earliest you can drop off is 7:00 am (and in a majority of places, it’s not until 7:30 am or 8:00 am) and the latest you can pick up is 6:00 pm.  How in the world do parents deal with these hours?  They just have to.  They make it work somehow.  For some parents, like me, any “fast track” for which I may have been considered would have to wait until a more “opportune” time, when drop-offs and pick-ups no longer get in the way of that fast track.  For other parents, childcare is too expensive and it makes more economical sense for one of them to stay at home, and it’s usually the mother.  Hence, the stay at home mom.

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT from leaving their babies in the care of others spend long days (ELEVEN hours) with someone other than themselves, but they worry about the impact getting in late and leaving early will have on their careers.  They fear that it’s going to put a dent on their performance assessments, that their managers frown on such hours when non-parents don’t have such issues and can get in early and leave late every day.  They fear the judgmental eyes and “another half day, eh?” remarks from colleagues looking at them like they spend less hours at work and therefore should be viewed less favorably by management.  I know, as I’ve been the brunt of these whisperings after my daughter was born.

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT in situations where a woman needs or prefers (and is economically able) to stay at home, and yet you know your parents spent X amount of money for a college education to have a better shot at a successful career.  You feel like it was a waste of their hard-earned money (or blood, sweat and tears) to get you to where you are today.

Here’s where I want to mention that one of the two speakers was a woman who, like the man, explained the challenges she had to overcome in getting to where she is today.  Like any speaker giving a rah rah speech for career-minded individuals at a workplace event, she addressed the crowd in a general fashion, making assumptions in so doing.

She looked at the audience and firmly addressed the women in the audience with a statement that, and I can’t quote her exactly but the gist of what she was saying was, working mothers should be proud for returning to work after having their babies.  That just made it sound like stay at home mothers should feel bad for staying at home with their babies.

She mentioned how happy she was when her 12 year old daughter recently told her that she is proud of her mother’s successful career and she has no negative feelings or memories for not having spent that much time with her while growing up.  Unfortunately, this is not representative of the reactions of every child out there in similar circumstances.

She mentioned that she gave birth without the aid of an epidural and was in labor for 22 hours.  I have to say that she is fortunate there were no complications during/after her labor and delivery, because unfortunately, not every woman fares this well in similar circumstances.  Some experience childbirth complications, like I did.  Some don’t survive.  Some survive but their babies don’t.

She was sleep deprived and had to return to work within weeks of giving birth.  She mentioned that it’s definitely hard work but absolutely possible for everyone with babies to get by with little sleep and still do well at work.  She said that everyone has the ability to cope with the temporary challenges of new parenthood, juggling work with sleep deprivation.  She said something to the effect of “If I could do it, so can you. Don’t complain, just do.”  This is not a direct quote, mind you, but the gist of what she was saying at the very end of her speech.

I was deeply interested in/commiserated with and appreciated the speakers and what they had to say…..up until this last point.  It’s all good and fine that this is a rah rah speech for career-minded individuals.  But having gone through what I went through….postpartum depression (PPD), which is crippling and can make you doubt you’ll ever be well again, let alone back at work in the highly functioning, ambitious professional you were before you gave birth and ended up in the dark hole of despair that is PPD (and any other postpartum mood disorder), I found myself biting my lip, cringing inwardly while smiling outwardly and thinking to myself “She has no clue and I would venture to guess that even if I went up to her and told her how her last statements can hurt the one in eight women–many of whom are professionals–that end up stricken with PPD, she would wave me off just like the female colleague to whom I had tried to explain my PPD experience waved me off.”

Can I blame her for not getting it because she’s never been there?  No.  But I sure as heck am thinking about sending her a note (with perhaps a link to my blog or a copy of my book) that what she said absolutely does not resonate with everyone, and she should be mindful of the fact that not everyone can JUST DO IT like she did.  As much as one would like to JUST DO IT (after all, that is my favorite mantra of all time, thanks to Lance Armstrong and Nike), I COULD NOT.  Not until I was well again.

Having the attitude of JUST DO or BUCK UP or IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU is an attitude that fails new mothers not from the standpoint of striving to keep up with male counterparts if we expect to climb up that corporate ladder and break through the bamboo, glass…and new mother ceilings, but from the assumption that no mother EVER has pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum complications.  Saying JUST DO, no matter what, is implying that mothers who have had new mother-related challenges are NOT GOOD ENOUGH and the mother with challenges must be all alone in her experience because, heck, no one ever shares negative stories of new mother-related challenges.  Well, that’s because everyone with negative experiences are all AFRAID of speaking up.  IT’S FEAR, GUILT, AND SHAME THAT KEEP THEM QUIET.

This is STIGMA, folks.  And we need to change attitudes in the workplace.  Do away with all the ceilings–bamboo and glass–as well as the negative perceptions and attitudes pertaining to working parents and new mothers, in general.  All I’m asking is for people to open their eyes and accept that not all new mothers have the ability to return to work, even if they want to.  That they should not be ashamed for the reason.  They should not be ashamed to speak up.  And just because a new mother does manage to return to work right after baby, it does NOT mean there were absolutely no childbirth or childcare complications along the way.  STOP ASSUMING that everything is fine and dandy because in reality, approximately 15-20% of new mothers succumb to PPD.  PPD is experienced by women of all cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and religions.

Yes, I think I AM going to send her a copy of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”

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.

Just Be There For Her

I’m on a roll……4 blog posts in less than 1-1/2 weeks!   Is this a new trend? Not really.  I just have a lot on my mind lately.

I said the last post was probably going to be one of my shortest, but by the time I finished writing it, it wasn’t that short anymore.  Hey, I am the first to admit I’m verbose. I just have a lot to say, s’all.  But then again, being verbose isn’t a great thing when it comes to the working world (people like to see points…they refuse to read anything in paragraph form), for book writing, for blog/article submission requests with a very limited word count restriction, and for the audience that can’t stand blog posts longer than 200 words a pop and whose eyes glaze over if the content isn’t eye-catching, hilarious, dripping with satire or sarcasm, and/or mesmerizingly ingenious.

I’m sure a lot of people look at the length of my book and say “OMG, not for me.”  Hey, perhaps that’s why some people who have indicated they would read and review my book haven’t done so yet…..because when they received my book they realized it was a freaking encyclopedia and haven’t had the heart to tell me they didn’t have the time or interest any longer in writing a review.  :-/  Honestly, you should have seen the manuscript in its earlier stages.  Extremely challenging to manage would be putting it mildly.  What can I tell ya, I had a lot to say about my postpartum depression (PPD) experience, and I wanted to share my experience with as many people as possible.   Every last word I ultimately kept for the book was important, in my opinion.  I simply couldn’t cut any more information out.  I wanted this to be a “one stop shopping” experience of having everything I would’ve wanted to see in a book about a mom’s journey to motherhood that included PPD that I had a very hard time finding anywhere back in 2005, when I first started writing my book.

The Executive Director of Postpartum Support International, Wendy Davis, had written a wonderful review of my book, taking fully into account the length of the tome but in a very positive fashion.  I was going to attempt to sum it up, but in re-reading her words, I couldn’t bear to leave any of it out, it’s that good.  So, thank you again, Wendy, for your glowing words of praise.  I can never thank you enough!

One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood is a wonderfully thorough and accessible treasure trove of research, compelling information, and encouraging advice. It is sure to become a favorite, like a great cookbook that you return to over and over, knowing that you’ll find just what you want and references too! Ivy Shih Leung has written a thoroughly informed book with such a warm approach, it is easy for the reader to take in the solid information and the message of hope and recovery at the same time. Reading that Ivy has overcome her own struggles and written such a wonderful guide is in itself empowering and hopeful.  Every chapter is full of information, written with honesty, clarity, and perceptive suggestions. I am very careful about books to recommend to families and providers who want to learn about pregnancy and postpartum mental health; this is one book that I can recommend without reservation.  Ivy’s background in biology, her careful research, and her strong spirit have worked together to create an insightful author, and we are all the better for it. Thank you Ivy for being such an inspiring advocate and sharing this contribution to the field of perinatal mental health!

I posted this on my Facebook feed earlier today…because I couldn’t keep it bottled up….it was annoying the HECK out of me…and it’s not as if I don’t know that I should try to be more succinct and I haven’t been making any headway in that respect….I’ve been making a HUGE headway in that at work, thank you very much:

Something that just made my day <overflowing with sarcasm>. I was told I am quite verbose and I should learn to be succinct. Please tell me something I didn’t already know!!!

Y’see….I started off wanting this blog post to be short and sweet, and I’ve gone off topic from the intent of this post which is, as the title indicates, to just be there for the new mother.

Be there

I was going through some emails this evening and stumbled across one from Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders, giving me permission to use this image, which I saw pop up on my Facebook feed a day or two before Thanksgiving, for a blog post.  This image sums up the fact that what a new mom needs is non-judgmental company from loved ones…no words necessary.  This especially holds true for those who have never experienced a mood disorder like PPD, and are unsure of how to behave or what to say around a loved one who is suffering from it.  Although my book repeatedly mentions the importance of providing emotional and practical support to the new mother–whether she is suffering from PPD or not–the key to it all, should you be uncertain of what to say or do to help  her, is to JUST BE THERE FOR HER.  It is so important because the feeling of loneliness and isolation with respect to her experience of being home alone with the baby is one that is shared by many a mom with PPD.

Moms with PPD tend to be more sensitive, their feelings will hurt more readily, and they will be more prone to feeling unimportant. She will tend to lack self confidence especially with respect to her new mothering responsibilities. Certain well-intended comments or advice can end up hurting her feelings. In my book, I offer suggestions for the ways friends and family members can be more supportive without being judgmental.  I wrote these suggestions, remembering how alone I felt in my PPD experience.  

So, there you have it….another post that I had every intention of keeping to a couple sentences but has easily exceeded 1,000 words!  Ironic that for a post that supports the notion that words are unnecessary, I am wordy as can be.


Postpartum Support International’s 2013 Blog Hop – Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a special month for postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) survivors.  Why?  Because it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month!  And I’m participating in the very first Postpartum Support International (PSI) blog hop!  The topic of the blog hop is maternal mental health recovery and coping skills.   If you are a blogger who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or any other PPMD, please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness!  All you have to do is go to the two blog hop host blogs, Kathy Morelli’s Birthtouch and Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, and read the guidelines.  There, you will see all the other blogs who are participating in this blog hop.  A great turnout is expected!

PSI Blog Hop Badge by Lauren Hale

I’d like to segue into this particular topic with the following overview of my first ever speaker event.

A week ago, I was a speaker for a PPD event that was co-hosted by St. Clare’s Behavioral Health of Denville, New Jersey and the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey.  For a couple weeks leading up to the event, I was a nervous wreck.  I’d never spoken in front of a group larger than a dozen people, and there was supposed to be 40-50 attendees, some of whom were mental health care practitioners experienced in the topic I was speaking about and some were PPD survivors.  There is nothing more anxiety-provoking to me than standing up in front of a room, being the center of attention (which I’ve always hated) and feeling the 40-50 sets of eyes staring at me and formulating opinions of me.  Friends tried to be reassuring by saying things like “You know your topic well.  It’s your story.  You will do great.”  Well, sure I know my topic well, and I have been trying to forget how horribly isolating and desperate I felt–not to mention fearful that I would never get well again–during my PPD days.   All my thoughts, which flowed effortlessly and passionately all those years onto virtual pages that became my manuscript, are now forever memorialized in my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood.”

A couple times while practicing my excerpt reading, I would get to this one point where a certain passage–so reflective of how I felt while in my darkest of PPD days–would cause me to choke back tears.   Never in a million years would I have ever expected to actually CRY and not be able to stop crying while reading this same passage to my audience last week.  I was taken aback.  I struggled for a few minutes to try to get the tears to stop, but I couldn’t.  I was so embarrassed.  This has never happened to me before.  I have never even cried in front of friends before.  Now, my emotions were completely exposed to this whole roomful of people who, with the exception of two individuals, I’d never even met before.  I asked the audience to excuse my–quite literally–slobbering mess, wiping at my nose and eyes with tissue after tissue.  I believe I saw the table of PPD survivors crying along with me.

Finally, the faucet stopped running.  What a relief!   I’m going to have to put a note to myself on the page where the passage appears and make sure this doesn’t happen again.  But you know what?  The participants insisted that my emotions further authenticated how powerful my words were at moving people.

Why do those words have such an effect on me even today, more than 8 years after my experience?  Because of the deep, dark tunnel I found myself trapped in, alone, and with no real emotional support other than my husband.  He was there for me, helping with the baby and the housework.  He tried to be there for me emotionally, but he had no idea what I was going through.  Heck, I didn’t even know what was going on with me and why.  My OB/GYN and his staff and my GP only made matters worse for me.  I had to suffer through insomnia, panic attacks, weight loss and loss of appetite without any sort of reassurance that I would ever return to my old self.  I was not referred to anyone experienced in the treatment of postpartum mood disorders.  I didn’t consult with a therapist or PPD support group.  I didn’t have any online resources.  I did not have such resources like Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress blog or #PPDChat on Twitter.  I didn’t have any friends who had been through what I was going through.

Nothing.  Nada. Zero. Zilch.

That’s why I cried.

I didn’t have friends who understood what I was going through and who could provide a shoulder to lean on and provide non-judgmental advice–ironically, it wasn’t until after I had completely recovered from PPD that I met my PSI friends–friends like Kathy Morelli–who inspire me with the work they do each day.  Even though Kathy is extremely busy, she still found time to appear at the St. Clare’s event to provide me with moral support.  Thank you, Kathy!  If only I had known you while I was in the depths of my PPD experience!  But better late than never, that’s for sure!

I walked into the event a nervous wreck, but came out of it marveling at the warmth of everyone there.   From the wonderful ladies who set up the event to the attendees–everyone was just so warm and welcoming!   The group of PPD survivors there were a close-knit group–they were members of the St. Clare’s PPD Support Group, and I could easily see myself a member of it….if only I had had this kind of support during my own PPD days.  It would’ve no doubt made such a huge difference for me.  I would not have suffered the way I did.  In fact, I had a very nice chat with members of this group after the event was over.  I will never forget this experience, and I can only hope that future speaking engagements like this will have a similar outcome!

St. Clare's

And now for my message to you about PPD support groups…..

PPD support groups are led by either professionals or PPD survivors who are using the knowledge gained from their experiences to provide the kind of support that they themselves were unable to find when they were new mothers experiencing PPD. Such groups are usually open-ended, which means there is no start or end. As such, there may be women at different stages of their PPD experience. A support group can be beneficial but will not on its own cure women who are suffering from clinical depression. It can serve as a complement to therapy and/or medication.

The purpose of the PPD support group is to facilitate peer-group support where mothers with similar PPD experiences can share thoughts/feelings with each other in an informal, nonjudgmental setting, and in the process empower one another through education—where information and ideas are exchanged—and support.  PPD support groups are:

  • A great deal of comfort and encouragement to women with PPD to see that they are not alone in their experience and, like other PPD survivors who had at one point felt as bad as they did, they will get better. It can be such a relief to hear other mothers describe experiences that are very much like your own. Seeing mothers who are on their way to recovery is encouraging, and, most importantly, provides hope. The mere knowledge that there is at least one other woman who has experienced what you are experiencing can serve as a light at the end of the dark tunnel.  Hope is a necessary ingredient of the recovery process. 
  • A forum for sharing thoughts, anxieties, and coping mechanisms.
  • A forum for mothers to give each other advice, support, and encouragement to stay on their recovery tracks, including exercising regularly and sticking with medications. This is especially important for those who have no other support system in place and have not been able to lean on their husbands, relatives, friends, or neighbors.

Through the network that PSI has set up across the country (and around the world!), it is encouraging to see more and more postpartum resource centers and PPD support groups forming locally. For more information on these resource centers and PPD support groups, please click here.  But we still need so many more!

Why I Wrote My Book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood”

A short post today, but I needed to take some time to acknowledge and thank my friend Lauren over at My Postpartum Voice.

Back in March 2009, a little over a month after I first started blogging, she posted an interview with me up on her blog, telling others about the new kid on the block as far as blogging about postpartum depression (PPD) is concerned.  Now, 3 years later, she has asked me to share a little about my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood” with her blog readers.  So I’ve decided to share why I wrote my book.

In my Preface, I state the following:

“I certainly hope people will read this book and suggest others read it as well. This is not a matter of trying to sell a lot of copies for financial gain . In fact, I don’t expect to make a profit out of this effort at all [because it sure as heck cost me a bundle and I realize I will more than likely never earn it all back]. I absolutely enjoy the experience of having full control over the rights of this book, not to mention the cover design, content, layout, and even release schedule. Self-publishing is certainly the way to go nowadays, especially since you can get beautiful books that are just as accessible via online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Sorry, I didn’t mean to digress. Anyway, the more people read this book and others like it, which are listed in [my Bibliography and] the “Other Resources” section, the more the public will be aware about PPD, the realities of motherhood, and the need for an increase in support services for new moms.”

Note:  The inadvertent leaving out of “my Bibliography and” is but one of a number of examples of how countless editing failed to pick up errors and would now cost me $$ to put into place.  I am seriously considering an updated version to be released a couple of years from now.

I hope that more and more PPD survivors who wish to publish books on their PPD experiences will follow through on their dreams.  As I mention over at Lauren’s blog, the process of writing and getting my book published was an extremely satisfying, confidence building, and therapeutic experience.

I truly admire Lauren’s dedication to helping moms suffering from perinatal mood disorders via her blog and her #PPDChat over at Twitter and now on Facebook.

Thank you, Lauren, for being such a wonderful women’s mental health advocate , for your support, and for your friendship.

Touched by A Wonderful Book Review Over at Birthtouch

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

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

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

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

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

Successful First Book Event – April 26, 2012

I made the following comment yesterday on Facebook in response to a friend who’s been supportive with respect to the endoscopy I was scheduled to have today, which incidentally went well and I’m now just waiting for the biopsy results (I hate that word…can’t they come up with another word other than “biopsy”):

The first time for anything is always a bit anxiety-provoking.

Makes sense, right?  At least for me it does.  There are a number of people that are exceptions to this…or at least they maintain the appearance of not being easily phased by things…. like first time book events, for instance.  Ahem, and I think I can name a few people I know who fall in that category….I won’t mention them here, but you know who you are!  And you are constant sources of inspiration to the fraidy-cat that I am.

Well, never having done a book event before, I was nervous as heck in the days leading up to it.  It would have been in the weeks leading up to it as well if I hadn’t been as busy with work and other matters (including concern for my mother who had had spinal surgery a few weeks ago and just went home today from the extended-care facility she’s been staying at for the past 4 weeks).  I only started preparing for the book event last Sunday.  I thought it was just a matter of picking an excerpt and reading it out loud until I felt comfortable.  But it went a little beyond that.  Thankfully, I received some helpful direction from a friend of a friend who is a fellow author.  He very quickly responded to my Facebook message last Sunday morning, giving me a quick run-down on what he did for his first book event.  He indicated, to my dismay, that he had started preparing for his first reading THREE weeks in advance of the event date…and here I was preparing 4 days in advance.   Trying to keep me from panicking, he indicated that it could be done in less than 3 weeks. But there is quite a bit of difference between 3 weeks and 4 days…GULP!

Anyway, I’d hate to think what would have happened had I NOT received his helpful tips.  From the time I received his tips last Sunday morning, I immediately went to work taking the excerpts I had picked and whittling it down to 3000 or so words.  Enough for a 15-minute read, which is just the right amount of time before people’s eyes started to glaze over. As soon as I got my excerpts ironed out, I put together a brief Intro to the reading.  On each of the four days preceding my book event, which was this past Thursday, I practiced reading the Intro and excerpts out loud ten and three times a day, respectively.  I even staked out a room at work to practice my Intro five times for 30 minutes during lunch!   By Thursday, I could speak to my Intro just referencing it occasionally, and I grew comfortable with the reading of my excerpts.  My worst fear was blanking out like a deer in headlights from the nervousness which I knew without a doubt would confront me as I got up in front of the individuals who came to the book event.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  My last speech class (thank you Nicole of NWK Consultants!), had paid off immensely.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try to combat my fear of public speaking.  I will be attending more public speaking classes, and I’m even contemplating joining the local Toastmasters by me.

I would like to acknowledge that my very first book event, which took place at the Odyssey Bookshop in S. Hadley, Massachusetts on Thursday, April 26, 2012, would not have been as successful as it was had it not been for my friends Liz Friedman and Annette Cycon of MotherWoman.  They rounded up a great group of ladies who took the opportunity to also share their stories as well.  Nearly everyone shared, including Andrea, author of the blog Postpartum and Pigtails, who wrote this very nice post about the event!  And in this group, I found out there are at least 3 ladies also interested in writing/publishing their memoirs.  That truly thrilled me to hear!  And you can be sure I will help them any way I can!

Now, all I need is to continue with book events locally, following the same format as this past book event.  If I can continue to encourage women to speak up about their experiences in a group and inspire people to publish their stories, I would’ve succeeded in my mission, which if you’ve read my book, you’ll know with my call both at the beginning and at the very end of my book:

I am a PPD survivor. Hear me roar. Will you join me?

My Very First Book Reading/Signing Event – April 26, 2012

In the Massachusetts area?  Or don’t mind a little road trip?

Come join me for the first book reading/signing event for my newly-released book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”  I’m excited….and nervous at the same time!

Here are the details!

Date:    April 26, 2012 (Thursday)

Time:   7:00 PM

Place:   Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College Street #4, South Hadley, MA 01075

I am excited to announce that MotherWoman (located in the Five College area) will be co-hosting the event!  Program Director, Liz Friedman, will start the event off with information about perinatal mood disorders, why social support is so critical to new mothers and their families, and the mission, philosophy and information about MotherWoman’s Mother/Postpartum Support Groups.

Liz will be followed by a number of mothers in the community who would like to share their postpartum (depression) experiences.

The event will conclude with:

  • Book excerpt reading
  • Q&A  for MotherWoman and me
  • Book signing

Hope to see you there!

On the Other Side of the World

A real quickie from me today to let you know how a friend of mine who lives in Singapore made my day last Friday when she posted the following message and picture (of her daughter holding my book) on Facebook:

“Found your book in our library today so I’m going to take it home to read. Cool eh?”

It took a few seconds to register what my friend was saying. Then, when I realized that my friend found it in her library in SINGAPORE, feelings of amazement and happiness took over.  I couldn’t believe my book made it into a library all the way on the opposite side of the world in the less than 3 months my book has been published!  It wasn’t Amazon we’re talking about.  It’s a LIBRARY.  Someone had to have felt the need, after stumbling who knows how across my book, to get a copy and make it available for the community over there. 

All I can say right now, as chills go up and down my spine, is WOW.  Not bad for self publishing, not bad at all. 🙂

Self Esteem and Humility: Two Things That have the Power to Hold Me Back…If I Let Them

At times, I find my self confidence in need of a boost.  Right now, I’m faced with one of those times.  I’m questioning my ability to reach people, to touch them with my writing.  I question it because I sometimes don’t feel like I’m making any strides.  Am I making a difference for someone?  Is anyone really even reading my blog?  I’m not sure because, even though my stats tell me I get a steady stream of visitors each day, I don’t get comments much. Heck, I don’t even get any accolades.  But then again, even if I did, I would go running for the nearest stone to hide under because I’ve never been able to take any compliments from anyone. 

Granted, my work hours are such that I only have evenings and weekends to keep up with social media efforts.  I can’t tweet during work hours because I don’t have access and I would lose my job if I did.  I don’t have time to visit anyone’s blogs, so keeping up with and developing relationships with other bloggers has been nearly impossible.  Though I am a strong writer, I am not like some of the other writers out there who write so brilliantly that I get goose bumps from reading their work.  Writers such as the ones who were recognized by Katherine Stone as the Top 20 PPD bloggers of 2011.  Writing is a craft, and these women have mastered it.  I salute these women for their honest, open, beautiful and inspirational writing.

I saw a post today on Facebook from a friend of mine.  He does what I wish I could do.  He saves lives.  He works in an emergency room. He is able to deal with what I can’t deal with.  Urgent situations while staying calm and collected.  Seeing very traumatic injuries while not letting it get the better of you. Going to this on a day-to-day basis and not let past negative experiences keep you from doing your job.  In fact, the comment I left for him earlier today said “Only certain people can handle these situations on a day-to-day basis. Thank God for people like you. I certainly would not be able to.”   And what was his response?  “Ivy, everyone has gifts. I admire the work you do.”  To which I said “Oh, pleeeeaaaaase.”  And his response:  “IVY! A book! A blog! Helping….women! That’s a gift.”

Sometimes my friend can be a bit sarcastic; hence, the words left out of the last sentence.  Anyway, getting back to what I was saying before.  My self esteem–or lack thereof–is such that I find myself struggling with keeping it from tanking, be it at work, in social situations, and with the work I do outside of work (i.e., my blog, my book).  It doesn’t help that, culturally speaking, I already have the inclination to be, um, modest.   I am a 1st generation Chinese (1st generation living in the U.S.) who can speak Mandarin fluently and possess 2 out of the 3 main attributes of the typical Chinese individual (honesty and humility).  Humility will not, unfortunately, help me to get copies of my book sold (and in so doing help spread awareness of the most common complication of childbirth that is still so misunderstood/undertreated and stigmatized all around the world), so I need to really ramp up my speaking skills and fear of public speaking…. and quick.  I need to do radio shows, book signings, book readings, etc.   But I’m just one big scaredy cat.  😦

What’s the 3rd attribute of a typical Chinese individual?   It’s keeping one’s emotions and thoughts to onself.  Here’s where I part ways from the typical Chinese individual.  I don’t keep my emotions and thoughts to myself.  I put all–or rather, practically all–my thoughts out there on Facebook.  I blog.  I have a book that shares all my thoughts and experiences while suffering from PPD. I keep telling myself that a PPD book written by a Chinese woman could potentially appeal—and appeal strongly—to audiences all over the world.  Why?  Well, first of all, PPD is an illness experienced by women worldwide.  Second, it’s a fairly big deal for ANY woman to share their PPD story, let alone a woman of Asian ethnicity, since people of Asian ethnicity are not particularly prone to or fond of speaking up or out.  They tend to keep their emotions bottled up and thoughts and experiences to themselves.  I could be starting a trend with Asian folks….that would be SO AWESOME!  🙂

I really need all the luck I can get at this point…to leave my self esteem issues and humility behind and adopt the voice behind “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood,” a voice that Jane Honikman, Founder of Postpartum Support International describes as being “strong, loud, and clear…..and through the written words on each page you can hear her roar.”

“One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood” is Headed to Publication!

The fruit of weekends and weeknights dedicated to reading, writing, editing, and attending writers’ conferences and conferences on perinatal mood disorders across a span of 6-1/2 years….my labor of love….is finally about to get published!   It has been such a satisfying journey.  I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation.   “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!” will be available for sale via Amazon and Barnes & Noble within the next 4-6 weeks!

Years comprised of weekends and weeknights dedicated to reading, writing, editing, and attending writers’ conferences and conferences on perinatal mood disorders!  It has been such a satisfying, therapeutic, and educational journey.  I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, about perinatal disorders, and about publishing during this journey.  I’ve also learned how challenging it really is to get a book published.

Without a whole lot of personal guidance from anyone, I saw my book from start to finish.  As with anything in life–be it motherhood, your career, or getting a book published–it helps to have a mentor or two along the way.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had luck finding any mentors of any kind in my life. Granted, I did have some help, but a MENTOR would have made such a huge difference.  Why is it that it’s so gosh darned hard to find mentors is beyond me.  But you know what?  I made the most of the limited resources I had….and I AM PROUD OF MYSELF.

After attending a number of writers’ conferences, even learning how to write query letters and book proposals in the hope of attracting an agent who would in turn attract a traditional publishing house, I decided earlier this year to pursue the self publishing route because I prefer to have full control over the rights of my book, not to mention the cover design, book title, content, pictures, layout, and even release schedule.  Thanks to the wealth of self publishing options available today, practically anyone with a passion to write a book and dedication to seeing it to the end can get a book published.  I would advise, however, that you get the book professionally edited before publication.

I encourage all you moms who are suffering or have survived from postpartum depression (PPD), to add your book to the relatively small number of books about PPD survivors. Yes, there are books out there about PPD, but they are for the most part written by health practitioners….or celebrities like Marie Osmond and Brooke Shields (hardly representative of the average mama).  There is a lack of personal stories of survival in book form…and I would love to see a growth in the numbers of mamas willing to add their names to the list of authors of books on PPD!

As such, if you are interested in writing a book about your PPD story but are unsure how to get started (or have some questions or would like some advice), please do not hesitate to drop me a comment below, and I will email you back and we’ll see what I can do to help you start your journey to becoming an author!

With the completion of this book, I am now moving on to my next one…on a topic I’m also passionate about!  Will share more details when I’m ready!