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.
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.
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
I had the honor and pleasure to be invited to share my story on the Mom Deconstructed podcast! What an awesome experience to chat with these two lovely ladies. Check out my interview here: momdeconstructed.com/ep33
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/
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.
- She thought her kids and/or partner would be better off without her
- When she expressed her fears that she would be a bad mother she was told “don’t worry, you’ll be fine”.
- She was mommy-shamed for a choice she made for her own self-care
- She couldn’t access the help she needed
- She was on edge all the time and picked fights with her partner over little things
- When she said she felt like she was drowning they all thought she was overreacting or exaggerating.
- We never told her postpartum anxiety and/or depression has a history in our family.
- She DID tell her provider her symptoms, but they chalked it up to “new mom anxiety”
- She says she’s ok, but I hear her crying alone in another room
- She never mentioned her symptoms because she feared they would take her other children away and/or she would be arrested
- She told herself she didn’t deserve to a mother
- She couldn’t find a reason to get out of bed
- It’s Mother’s Day…..You came from a mother, are a mother, or know a mother – and EVERY mother needs support. Period.
- She had vividly horrifying dreams of harming her baby even though in real life she never would
- She lied on the depression screening questionnaire so she could leave, and because she’d never admit to being broken.
- She set her alarm every 30 minutes to check if the baby was still breathing
- She felt she failed at every aspect of motherhood
- She had unexpected and unexplainable panic attacks
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…