Thursday, October 27, 2016

An open letter

Dear blog world,

You have been gone but not forgotten. Many events have kept me from you of late, but not for lack of desire to visit you. A few of the aforementioned activities include an extended camping trip that was lovely and painful, a jump in my musical career, a lapse back into depression, a near end to my marriage, two maternal mood disorder conferences and a new part-time job. Nevertheless I am determined to re-kindle this relationship and I hope that you will still give me a chance.

Love,
Me

Monday, June 13, 2016

Why I Climb

Spring of 2016 has been one of the most difficult and dark times of my life besides my battle with postpartum mental illness in summer/fall 2014. One of the few beacons of light during these months has been co-leading Climb out of the Darkness with my dear friend, Cheryl Hart, and the anticipation of sharing this event with other mamas and families.

The climb will be strenuous but with great reward in the end (in the form of food, drink and reuniting with our partners), not unlike the battle through mental illness. There was much that I needed to learn about myself in the world as I became a mother and started on this journey. Although I would never have chosen to suffer as I did, every day I am grateful about what I have gained from this experience. One of the reasons that I want to take part in the climb is to have a physical representation of my voyage through treacherous waters. To feel myself sweat and the burn of my muscles propelling me to the finish. To celebrate at the end because the journey is complete for the day, although recovery is not a simple path and may never be completely finished for the rest of my life.

I also climb to have the joy of other spirits beside me; those who are just starting their own battles with mental illness, those who feel that they have left the darkness down in the valley and those who are just lost and don't know yet what phase of the pilgrimage they are traveling. Never did I feel more alone than when I did not yet understand what was happening to me...that I was sick and would need to learn how to take care of myself in a whole new way. I looked at social media and saw only pictures of happy babies and moms. I read books on parenting and sleep and saw only ways that I was failing. I turned to friends and family and was told that I was strong, that I needed to get used to things-to "move on" and "not let anyone talk me into seeing one of those psychiatrists", that my baby was a "helpless, sweet little worm" who needed me to hold and breastfeed him all the time. I made myself walk around the neighborhood with my baby every day, looking at all the closed doors and windows, thinking that surely someone must be home, that surely I wasn't as lonely as I felt. Some days I sobbed in the sunlight park, many times I panicked in the quiet of our cool house.

But I was never truly by myself. 20% of moms were suffering right along with me, and many dads, too. Eventually I found them. Slowly, I kept searching for answers and information, and eventually I found specialists in mood disorders and the Postpartum Progress community. I decided that someone had to start ending stigma, and it might as well be me. I found that even in speaking out, I was not alone, and if I am not afraid of my own story, it helps others be less afraid of theirs.

This brings me to the last part of why I climb-to support my fellow Warrior Mom Ambassadors and all of the amazing work that Postpartum Progress does. From a friend who is a midwife and got most of her family to donate, to one of my employers, who surprised me with a donation at the end of our performance season, to the families of our community who have responded to my climb promotion with relief and excitement-being part of this inspiring event will pay forward the healing and love that I have experienced in so many ways. The more of us who climb and who support organizations like Postpartum Progress, the more of us will know find the love and support we need during the most difficult of times. If you aren't climbing with us already, check here to find out where you can:

http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/find-a-climb/


#ClimbOut #WhyIClimb



Thursday, February 11, 2016

It's go time!

Today is an important day for women and especially moms-a day to raise awareness about two important bills that make up the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015. More details can be found about it here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/loveanothermother-on-febr…
My fellow ‪#‎warriormoms‬ and I are letting our local senate and house representatives know that this act could make a huge difference in so many women's lives. 1 in 4 will suffer from some type of mood disorder and so many cases go unnoticed or untreated because women are ashamed and feel guilty. Many health care professionals are not trained in recognizing and treating these illnesses and screenings are not given often enough. 
When I think back on my own experience, it's astounding that I was under the care of a therapist, midwife and doula, but none of them recognized what was happening, despite the fact that I had many high risk factors going into my pregnancy and many symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD after my son's birth. I know I'm not alone, as I've read so many similar stories, and I am very lucky that I was eventually screened by a nurse. This act would start to change this trend, both by increasing screenings for pregnant and new moms and increasing training for caregivers. 
Today I'm going to contact Congresswoman Anna E. Eshoo and our California senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. The more of us who reach out, the more of a difference we can make. Let's do this! ‪#‎LoveAnotherMother‬‪#‎MomsMatter‬

Thursday, January 21, 2016

You are my baby

One of the few books I bought for my son before he was born is a board book called "You are my Baby". Each page has a large adorable animal and a smaller version of itself below. You can flip through the parent pages separately from the little baby pages. On each page, the parent says "you are my baby, little squid" or "you are my baby, little whale" and so forth. I thought nautical animals would be friendly to him because of his bathtub spout protector whale.

Now that I am no longer my naive, anticipatory pregnant self, the post-PPD me sees this book totally differently. It's gone from harmless cuteness to prophetic truthfulness. Because my baby is growing up so fast and he really is a mini version of me (and, ok, my husband too) and he very well may be my only baby. Yes, there, I said it. Almost every day as I'm reading him one of the many books he brings to me, I hug him close, smell his light lavender scented soft hair and whisper "you are my baby". I count and kiss his little toes and his soft belly and repeat it in disbelief to myself a little softer, "you are my baby".

It's so inexplicably amazing to look into his eyes and see the shape of mine or remember the moment that we noticed that how one of his ears sticks out at a different angle than the other, just like his dad's. But at the same time it breaks my heart because I don't think I'll ever be able to say this phrase to anyone else again: "you are my baby". Soon he will grow completely into a toddler and I will miss having him fit on the changing pad or be able to rest his whole body on my chest. I don't know how to face the disappointment of myself and my husband since we always thought we'd have two or three kids. Isn't is sad to leave our little one without a sibling? Won't he be spoiled? Isn't the hardest part over pretty quickly anyway? Couldn't we just be more prepared this time?

I remember the day that a good friend who had been pregnant with her first when I was preggo with my son told me that she was expecting a second child. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. My son was not even one yet and I was still reeling from having recently put the pieces of my life gingerly back together. How could it be possible that she was ready to do this so soon when I couldn't imagine it at all? Somehow I felt competitive although I'm well aware that this is no contest. Was I just not tough enough? What kind of mom am I if I don't want to become a mom again? I somehow managed to congratulate her and went into a funk for a few days. I definitely knew I wasn't ready, but why would it bother me that she was?

Finally I just learned to live with this little demon sitting on my shoulder, comparing me to other moms and other people and pointing out that they seem to have it all together more than I do. I try to remember that having another baby at the risk of my mental health and relationship with my husband would not stop that monster. There will always be something to compare, some way to criticize. And sometimes I even think of becoming a foster parent or finding an open adoption. I wonder whether the love I would have for those little ones would be the same. I feel like I would have more energy to give without having gone through a pregnancy and another possibly  traumatic birth. Even if we didn't share the same traits or hair or even skin color, maybe I could still remind them "you are my baby" each and every night and day. And maybe I would be ready for it to be true.