2020: The Year of the Mother

Happy Birthday baby girl.  I never know exactly how I’m gonna feel on this day each year.  Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it was overwhelming sadness at the piece of my heart missing.  More recently it’s been a mixture of deep gratitude and wondering what you would’ve been like this year, as you turn eight.  I think you would’ve idolized your sister & brother and they would’ve protected you.  You three probably would’ve ganged up on me & daddy and since there are more of you, you’d win. BUT, this is just one of many alternate realities.

Today my reality is that there is still so much need to help mothers through their pregnancies and beyond whether their first or fifth child, it doesn’t matter.  Each new pregnancy carries it’s own path to travel and each is a new story for the mother.

I’m about to start my 6th semester in my MSW, about half way through the program now, but I am certain now more than ever that having this knowledge and experience along with all that I’ve already learned (and will learn) outside my studies is going to do a world of good for The Tangerine Owl Project.  As always you inspire me and only through this have I been able to be there for other mothers who are shut out by the rest of society when things don’t go picture perfect.  Its Ok to not be Ok.

2020 Mom, who you know I’ve worked with for the past several years, has deemed 2020 the “Year of the Mother”.  This is another year that we take on the social stigma, injustice, and the archaic policies that keep mothers from healing and take emotional tolls.  I think it’s got a nice ring to it, no?  Supporting mothers in allowing whatever they are feeling is so important, it was for me. Allowing them safe space to share and feel and vent and breakdown is imperative. So for now, that’s what I’ll do as I wait to finish my program so that I can make some more concrete change to the way we work with mothers during the perinatal period.

I thank you again (as I do on the daily) for being the one responsible for all of this.  We miss you dearly and love you so much it hurts sometimes. I hope that you are proud of what I’ve been up to in your name, and I hope that you know you’re the inspiration that has allowed me to learn from others and to support them through their darkest and most confusing days.

We love you. Always.

6 years….

Well Delilah,

It’s been six years since you inspired us to start the Tangerine Owl Project.  Six whole years….. how can that be when I remember seeing you just like it was yesterday?

It’s been pretty quiet over here at the project lately, but that’s because your mama has gone back to school!  I’m working to get my master’s degree in social work so that I can continue to help families who have lost their precious little ones like you.  It’s a long process but it’s worth it, because when I’m done, the Tangerine Owl Project is going to be a place where mamas can go while they are pregnant and after when they need help with adjusting to life with a new precious little one or if they are heartbroken like me because their angel didn’t get to go home.  It’ll be amazing, but it’ll be a few years before I get there.  In the meantime,  I do what I can to support others; You have always been the guiding light behind this and for that I am forever thankful.

Happy Birthday little girl. We love you fiercely & miss you everyday.

Maternal Mental Health Advocacy Opportunity this May- Mom Congress!

Hey MMH advocates,

Some of you may recall that I do some contract work for an amazing national non-profit called 2020 Mom. This org. is committed to Maternal Mental Health advocacy and will be convening this May and taking Capitol Hill by storm to raise awareness for Maternal Mental Health initiatives with each states local leaders.  MOM CONGRESS!!  I am planning to get out there and am hoping that you all may be moved to join us as well.  We set appointments with our congressional representatives to make sure they know that MMH is important and what they can do to support mamas and families in their home states.  I know, I know, face time with your legislative reps can seem a bit daunting, but they are people like you and I. As constituents, it’s our job to help tell them what we need so that they can do their job.  Won’t you join us?

You can find a lot more info here:  https://www.2020mom.org/mom-congress

 

Writing To Heal

If you have suffered a loss, you have likely looked for ways to dull that hole in your heart…

Catharsis can come from many different avenues, one of which is writing your own truth.  I am grateful and thankful to authors out there who explore what it means to love, lose, grieve and survive.  One of which is author Jo-Ann Joseph.   Jo-Ann has allowed me to contribute to an anthology collection for grieving hearts, called Footprints on the Heart.

From there, I suggested another collaboration meant to inspire with stories of all the beautiful things that have come after loss.  The accomplishments and celebrations of resilience that can only be sparked by such loss and the will to take those feelings and drive them into something meaningful. Does this sound like you?

We have titled the work in progress Lost & Found: The Rainbow Effect, and we are searching for collaborators.  Our aim is to include works from as many different people as possible, no writing experience is necessary – you are the expert in your life.

If you would like to learn more check out our Facebook page here for collaborators and connect with Jo-Ann or I.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/500034830498330/

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month – #31ReasonsWhyMMHMatters

In order to support Maternal Mental Health awareness during May – I’m calling out a reason every day during this month that gives experiences and insight to explain more about why it matters.

Maternal Mental Health is more than the “baby blues”, and it effects up to 1 in 5 women, yet its downplayed, underdiagnosed, stigmatized, and otherwise viewed as something that will just go away.  BUT IT WON’T.  Maternal Mental Health (MMH) encompasses a wide range of perinatal mood disorders that can occur including postpartum depressions, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, postpartum postraumatic stress disorder, postpartum OCD, and bi-polar mood disorder with perinatal onset.  More info on these can be viewed here: https://womenshealthtoday.blog/2017/06/13/understanding-perinatal-mood-and-anxiety-disorders/

MMH conditions are indiscriminate across varying age groups, races, cultures, subcultures, socio-economic status.  It can effect ANYONE. Your mom, your wife, your sister, your friend, your daughter, your colleague, and the list goes on… Maybe they shared, maybe they hid it, maybe you never knew, but if you know 5 women, chances are you know someone who has suffered.

This is the primary reason that we are hosting our event in Skokie on June – to raise awareness and funds dedicated to Maternal Mental Health. PLEASE CONSIDER SUPPORTING BY JOINING OR DONATING TO THE CAUSE. Check out more about it here.

So here is my running list, and I will continue to add to it daily through the month of May.

  1. She thought her kids and/or partner would be better off without her
  2. When she expressed her fears that she would be a bad mother she was told “don’t worry, you’ll be fine”.
  3. She was mommy-shamed for a choice she made for her own self-care
  4. She couldn’t access the help she needed
  5. She was on edge all the time and picked fights with her partner over little things
  6. When she said she felt like she was drowning they all thought she was overreacting or exaggerating.
  7. We never told her postpartum anxiety and/or depression has a history in our family.
  8. She DID tell her provider her symptoms, but they chalked it up to “new mom anxiety”
  9. She says she’s ok, but I hear her crying alone in another room
  10. She never mentioned her symptoms because she feared they would take her other children away and/or she would be arrested
  11. She told herself she didn’t deserve to a mother
  12. She couldn’t find a reason to get out of bed
  13. It’s Mother’s Day…..You came from a mother, are a mother, or know a mother – and EVERY mother needs support. Period.
  14. She had vividly horrifying dreams of harming her baby even though in real life she never would
  15. She lied on the depression screening questionnaire so she could leave, and because she’d never admit to being broken.
  16. She set her alarm every 30 minutes to check if the baby was still breathing
  17. She felt she failed at every aspect of motherhood
  18. She had unexpected and unexplainable panic attacks

On Mother’s Day…

MothersDayIseeyou

As I sit here on Mother’s Day, I am very aware of just how lovely and heartbreaking it can be for a mother of birth trauma and/or mamas who have suffered a loss of any kind. It’s a challenging co-existence.  Much like pregnancy, the societal expectation for us is to celebrate our mothers and motherhood.  In theory the concept works – honor the mother… and show her appreciation & love – but what about the struggling mamas?

Everyone has pain in their life, those who have lost their mothers, those whose relationships are strained, those whose moms aren’t involved in their lives, those who have lost children, what about those who are struggling with infertility?  It’s almost like a slap in the face because they aren’t able to follow the impending protocol on these specialized.  There’s no way to be inclusive of everyone, and there is no way to heal those whose hearts are broken again when this day comes. Every. Single. Year.

What about the mamas suffering from depression and anxiety – does this expectation and the inclination to celebrate her end up actually doing a disservice?  It could bring up all sorts of fears and doubts, loneliness, pressures, and sadness.  These could bring out the worst in her. All those who care about her want is to celebrate her, but all she can think about is how she has or is failing her children or family – True or not self-worth like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes I wish that we would stop making such big dedications or at least not perpetuating the misleading view that life is experienced in the same way for all.  You know what they say about good intentions…

 

Evanston/Skokie Maternal Mental Health ColorWalk June 10, 2018 – Join us!

There are many reasons that I am passionate about raising maternal mental health (MMH) awareness. Maternal Mental Health issues affect 15- 20% of women and are the most common complication of childbirth, yet they remain the most underdiagnosed. From my own personal experience and learning from conversations with other mamas sharing theirs in grief, loss, and motherhood, I’m now painfully aware that we are failing mothers everywhere.

After the loss of my preemie daughter Delilah, even in the midst of the catharsis provided by starting the Tangerine Owl Project in her name and to support others going through similar tragedy, I still found myself battling maternal anxiety & depression – years later. The effects of birth trauma, having a baby in the NICU, and/or losing a child are long lasting. But it’s not just the loss community that suffers.

Women everywhere are experiencing MMH issues. The US has staggering rates of maternal morbidity & mortality. Sadly, this is because too many mamas still remain scared, silent, unable to access care, ignored, helpless, or hopeless. There is great need among every population and subgroup – MMH conditions do not discriminate.

2020 Mom, a national non-profit dedicated to closing gaps in Maternal Mental Healthcare has launched our 2018 ColorWalk at locations across the country. We are raising awareness about MMH among our community and among women at-risk for developing postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis.

The Skokie/Evanston area MMH ColorWalk is scheduled for Saturday, June 10th, 10:00 AM at Devonshire Park (4422 Greenwood, Skokie 60076), and I have set up a fundraising team. I am asking for your support.

MY FUNDRAISING GOAL IS $5,000.
IT IS A LOFTY GOAL BECAUSE MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH IS A BIG ISSUE.

This is doubly beneficial because 2020 Mom will donate a portion of the money our team raises back to the Tangerine Owl Project!

Ways people can Join My Team & Support MMH:
1. Join My Team: Walk with me and help me fundraise for this cause
2. Join My Team: Walk with me and make a donation to my team
3. Join My Team: Walk with me
4. Make a donation to my team

Any of the above can be done by visiting my Walk Team Page here: https://bit.ly/2KtIl01

  • $25 will provide a package of diapers that our ambassadors can take to a local organization in need
  • $50 can help an ambassador provide a lunch & learn session at their local hospital
  • $!00 will provide MMH awareness materials to a medical provider’s office
  • $150 can help us send an MMH advocate to Washington DC to talk with legislators about MMH policy initiatives & share their story.
  • $250 will fund a MMH documentary screening for communities and/or practitioners

1 in 5 Women will experience a Maternal Mental Health issue in their lifetime. Odds are you already know women who have or will.
 
PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH ANY FAMILY MEMBERS, FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES, AS THEY MIGHT WANT TO JOIN AS WELL BECAUSE OF A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.  

We welcome all community members, local businesses, organizations, MMH advocates, and practitioners to participate & come together at this family-friendly event; Get BOLD and make an impact!  We will provide the Color Dust (non-toxic & eco-friendly), Water & Refreshments at this family friendly event. If you are a mother or know a mother, YOU HAVE STAKE IN THIS CAUSE.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Thank you for your support!

Stacey

Love, Light, Strength & Purpose

Happy birthday Delilah Evangeline. You continue to be an unparalled force of nature in my life and the driving influence behind all that i have learned and accomplished these last six years.

LOVE – All of this starts and ends with love. If you strip everything down, I do what I do because its a way to honor my love for you and to make sure that love is known to others who never have chance to meet you.

LIGHT – You are my sun and my moon, the guidance in times of joy and places of darkness.  I am always captivated by the way little coincidences don’t seem so coincidental anymore when I look at the path I’ve been navigating since you left.

STRENGTH – I continue to find strength in you and have been able to provide strength to others who need it to endure overwhelming heartbreak.

PURPOSE – I can’t say (and never will) that there was a purpose for you dying, not in a real way.  I mean, there is a logical medical reason, but there is not a universal acceptance that will make sense that can explain reasoning for the loss of one so wanted, and so loved. Awful things happen to those who never deserved it, and that has been one of the most difficult things to wrap my head around as I searched for an explanation.  But my experience with grief and loss has opened up a world of intriguing information and passion that I would likely not have found otherwise.  You are behind everything I do; sometimes in a very lucid way, and sometimes so subtly that I don’t realize it until in hindsight.

It’s these reasons that I started the Tangerine Owl Project in your memory.  Its for these reasons that it continues to evolve, because little girl, you are the essence of it all. Sharing you with the world is an honor and a privilege that I am thankful for every moment.

With love, always.

Poppy’s Dream – MMBWGL

Today I had the opportunity to take part in something so beautiful and meaningful, it filled my heart and soul.

I serve on the bereavement committee for the Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes (www.milkbankwgl.org).   Together, we look for ways to acknowledge and honor mamas who have donated their milk after a loss. Those of you who know me know that I donated Delilah’s milk after she died, I didn’t see any reason not to.  I know that other mothers struggle with the idea of milk that was meant to sustain their child going to someone else.  It can be a painful thought and only mothers can make the choice that is right for them.

That said, for many bereaved moms, donating milk has been a tangible way to connect with their baby.  They find hope and peace knowing that their child can provide for another child in need.

Most often, donor milk is used for NICU babies who aren’t able to get milk from their own mothers for a variety of reasons, and IT IS CRITICAL to their survival.  Donor milk from mothers of preemies, is even more rare, and provides a different makeup of essential nutrients than normal full-term babies mother’s breast milk.  Donating Milk saves lives.

We reveled in that yesterday at the unveiling of Poppy’s Dream, a gorgeous tile mural at the milk bank that accompanies personalized stars with the names & birthdates of donor babies. We held a ceremony for the unveiling, and had an unprecedented attendance from donor families. It was a mix of emotions for those who attended as they reflected on their experience. I was asked to share Delilah’s story, and again was reminded of how meaningful she has been to others who were able to thrive and grow with her milk.  This mural serves as a reminder to the staff of why the milk bank exists, and its a stunning representation of the delicate balance in life, and the good that can come from bad.

It is an honor to serve on the bereavement committee for MMBWGL and allowed me a bit of space to be present with my thoughts on Delilah (who was also recognized in the candlelighting ceremony).  And what better timing as her birthday is tomorrow…..

There goes the universe working in mysterious ways again.