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/

Guess what? I’m a book contributor!

SO excited to announce that I have been invited and accepted to contribute to a book on dealing with pregnancy & infant loss that is meant to aid health professionals in understand how to better work with these parents.

The Book is called Our Only Time by Amie Lands and it will be out in just a few weeks!

(More info on the book here)

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Its surreal to be in a space where I am viewed as an expert and where my experiences are noted in a platform different than an individual level when I am talking to other loss mamas.  Each and every story has value and I don’t mean to negate any of that – the one on one work I do is just as rewarding to help mamas navigate grief, but building a name for myself and the Tangerine Owl Project in the world of care and insight for bereaved parents in the face of healthcare providers and other professionals is such a wonderful feeling.

Once again, I am honored to be thought of and I applaud Amie and the other contributors for continuing to give voice to these mamas, and to hope that my words may help comfort those going through their own hell by knowing they are not alone and by guiding those health care professionals with them at this time who are tasked with the damn near impossible and completely unnatural – walking with these families towards the death of their child and navigating the road after with them.

 

“My NICU Network” – An online curriculum for NICU professionals in assisting NICU patients, parents, & families

 

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In the past few months, I have been working in tandem with numerous other professionals with a variety of backgrounds to contribute to online course material developed for professionals working in the NICU.  This is a collaborative project between the National Perinatal Association, Patient+Family Care, & the Preemie Parent Alliance is called My NICU Network.  I am honored and privileged to have been included in developing part of the curriculum that will be provided to NICU professionals to help them further understand and work with these unique families.

Providing perspective as an expert in the unit on Pallative / Bereavement Care on how to interact with bereaved parents or parents whose babies are expected not to make it has been very fulfilling.  Not gonna lie, it was difficult to have to put myself back in that NICU room, back into the worst day of my life on an emotional level.  I don’t often like to revisit it, but parents who have been through this can offer exceptional expertise on what can both aid and hinder relationships with professionals in the NICU.  What are things that one may find helpful and consoling, what things should not be said and insight as to why seemingly innocuous or “supportive” words may not come across that way to someone in the crisis of torment, confusion, & grief. All together this is an awesome learning tool for those who don’t interact with these parents all the time and aren’t accustomed to or necessarily comfortable with the ins and outs of NICUs and all that go along with that experience for parents.  It can be a challenging time for both care providers and families, so I’m thrilled to provide any insight that help to provide and guidance that makes navigating the process, along with the other wealth of information that is available through this course.  Please share it with those who may find it beneficial in your networks.

A Bit of Gratitude and Rejuvination

This past weekend I both attended and spoke at the Preemie Parent Alliance Summit.

I was looking forward to it for a long time knowing that I would be reconnecting live & in person with people I haven’t seen since the last summit i was able to attend in Phoenix circa 2014.  Then, I was 2 years fresh off of the loss of Delilah, only a year and a half into running the Tangerine Owl Project and still super motivated to connect with others who wanted to help NICU families.

Though I have kept in touch with and kept a few tabs on some of the amazing people & organizations that I knew, there is just something about being there in person that has reinvigorated the drive in me that has been somewhat lacking, somewhat exhausted, at times somewhat frustrated and disappointed in myself, and even somewhat burnt out.

I felt like I haven’t been able to do a ton of meaning full things for Tangerine Owl for a few reasons over the last few years….  We have had a lot of transitions in family and work, increasing responsibilities with work, and have taken on more volunteer opportunities around Maternal Mental Health, infant loss, and things at the kids school.  I also had not yet been able to put my finger on exactly HOW to serve people through Tangerine Owl without being a clinician, a licensed anything, or having a ton of disposable income.

Being at this summit for me was a chance to meet and learn from a number of simply phenomenal individuals and give hugs to those who I have missed and talked with virtually for awhile. I learned more about self care and got some pointers on what I can do to help balance myself, I learned what others in the space are doing to care for NICU families and how.  I learned more about a lot of things. I got a chance to relax a bit and indulge a bit.

I also had the honor to present this year.  Those who know me know that I get very anxious about public speaking, it never has been my strong suit and its one of my least favorite things on the planet. BUT, this opportunity was for the greater good; It was sharing information that could help other people, it was giving validity and value to the bereaved parent and what they can teach others but are so rarely considered in transformative opportunities with institutions not centered around bereavement.  So I pushed myself to do it. Even when the people are interested, engaged, and in the same world that you are. My fight or flight response kicked in and I had to breathe through the anxiety.  Which made no sense at all (my head knew there really was no reason to be scared, but my body apparently felt differently)  I was up to 4:00am perfecting my slides and organizing my thoughts.  Worth It.

Travel is always exhausting, and its another source of anxiety for me and another not-so-favorite thing, even when its for something fun. Finding potential future collaborations, building my knowledge, seeing my friend & entrepreneurial mentor. BUT, this was so worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I realized just how much I missed being with people who are fighting the same battles, and reaching towards similar goals, and recognition for Tangerine Owl was just the icing on the cake.

Thank you to all who attended, led, shared, laughed, cried, guided and encouraged. You are my people and you have recharged me and reminded me that even little things are enough.  It motivates me to keep going and to know that I am making a difference, even if its not what i originally envisioned, as quickly as I envisioned, or even on the same path as I originally envisioned. I continue to learn from and love this group.

March for Moms this spring to support Maternal Mental Health (MMH)

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Why March for Moms?
As you know, my organization, The Tangerine Owl Project, is dedicated to supporting families who have suffered traumatic birth or stays in the NICU, premature birth, and infant loss. Any of these experiences can make mothers vulnerable and at higher risk for a perinatal mood disorder.

  • 15-20 % of all women will be affected by a maternal mental health (MMH) disorder
  • Maternal Mental Health disorders are the most common complication of pregnancy & childbirth, yet many go un-diagnosed

Because I am passionate about raising MMH Awareness, I have been working with 2020 Mom, a national organization who strives to close gaps in maternal mental care through education, advocacy, and collaboration.

There is strong correlation between untreated maternal depression or anxiety & premature birth moving 2020 Mom to launch “March for Moms”. In partnership with March of Dimes (MOD), our teams will walk alongside MOD supporters at MOD walk sites across the country to support moms & babies by advocating for MMH. We are raising MMH awareness about among a group of moms who are already at-risk for developing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.

I am leading a team that will participate in the Plainfield, Illinois walk on Sunday May 7, at 1:00pm in Village Green Park. This is not a fundraiser for the Tangerine Owl Project, however, it IS raising money for a cause that will affect many of the women we work with. It is for that reason that I hope you will consider supporting me and the wonderful work that 2020 Mom is doing in MMH. 2020 Mom will also donate back 5% of the money our team raises to our local MOD chapter.

Ways you can support my team & MMH:

  • Join my team and walk with us
  • Join my team & make a donation
  • Join my team and ask people in your networks to join/donate to the cause too
  • Make a donation to the team

To join or donate to the team, please visit my walk team page here:
https://www.crowdrise.com/mmh-walk-plainfield-il/fundraiser/staceydunlapporter

If you would like to start your own team to raise MMH awareness and fundraise for 2020 Mom at any MOD walk location in the US instead, that would be just as impactful! The more teams walking and the more locations the better!!! More info and step by step help to set up your team is available here: http://www.2020mom.org/mmh-walk/. I would be happy to assist you in finding your local MOD walk details and/or setting up your team. Walk Sponsorship Opportunities are also listed at the above link for businesses who would like to get involved. Feel free to get in touch with any questions.

Please share this with any of your colleagues, patients or friends/family members that may want to join or donate because of a personal experience.

Thank you for your support in helping both moms & families thrive!
Stacey

Happy Birthday Delilah

Happy Birthday my angel – you have been the driving force behind this project.  You have inspired me to continue my healing, but it reaches far beyond that.  Through you and your story, we have helped others by giving hope and support to those who are missing a part of their heart too.

I will be forever in awe of the impact that you have and will do my best to continue to engage others in these difficult conversations, walk with them through their grief, and fight hard against the stigma that surrounds discussing such sadness, and all that comes as an after effect, to turn it into something that gives others hope.  Just like you have done for me.

With love always.