I have recently had the delightful pleasure of getting to know Cheryl personally. We saw the play BIRTH together (THANK YOU CHERYL!) and have been involved in a movement to get a support network going here in the State of Georgia. Cheryl is a warm, caring, and passionate woman and reminds me quite a bit of myself in that respect. Her dedication to helping others along the journey is amazing and runs deep. She is also passionate about natural remedies and very knowledgeable. If she doesn’t know, rest assured that she will find out! Cheryl – you truly are an awesome woman and YOU ROCK! Readers, I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I have enjoyed getting to know Cheryl!
Would you share with us what led you to help women with Postpartum Issues? What drives your passion?
In 1994 I suffered a psychotic break when my first child was just over one year old. I was hospitalized for six weeks over the holidays and lost everything dear to me, including my marriage and my baby. When I remarried and had another child five years later I experienced a severe, lethargic depression a few months after delivery. The self care I used was so quick and effective, I realized I had something valuable to share with others.
You started a state-wide Postpartum Network in OK. What was that experience like and what advice would you give for others wanting to do similar work?
The experience was the most empowering time of my life. I learned it is true that one person can make a difference in the world. I was part of a team of women, though. None of this work should be attempted single-handedly. It takes all kinds of women to reach all kinds of women.
Early on I attended a nursing conference focusing on Native American’s health issues. I heard Wilma Mankiller, former Chief of the Cherokee Tribe speak at that event. She said, “Leadership is not standing behind a podium, telling other people what to do. Leadership is walking in the direction of your goals and working your plans. When you do that, other people will join you.”
That is exactly what happened for us in Oklahoma. We simply walked the path and we were blessed richly along the way for our efforts. There is no doubt in my mind how much our God cares for women. He provided opportunities, human resources, ideas, organizational collaboration, money- everything needed in perfect timing.
We started with two women who cared for moms and walked along the path we felt made the most sense. We learned from the wisdom of many others. Our little group grew to include over twenty organizations, linked together to care for families.
More important than position, education or even basic skills is having a heart for other women. A desire to help others is truly all that is needed to be very highly effective in this work.
For you, what is the most challenging aspect of motherhood? The Least?
For me the most challenging aspect has been laying down my own life and desires for my children. I am a dyed-in-the-wool feminist AND a Christian, homeschooling mom of four, two teens included! Reconciling those two parts of myself has not been easy. I came to realize that Motherhood is a gift to be cherished. It is not a given that we will be able maintain that gift and do a good job, especially if we are conflicted.
Now, managing those two parts of me is the least challenging. I realize being a strong, successful woman can entail being a dynamite mom first. Women are the emotional caretakers of the family. What an important position we hold!
I have a beautiful family and I am able to serve women. What more could a girl want ;0) ?
What do you do to feed your soul when you have time to yourself?
I have a shamelessly one-track mind. I learn more about perinatal mood issues and support more women. That fills me to the extent that I don’t really ‘need’ anything else. I do love a good bath with magnesium salts and a book on PMDs. But, with four kids, just going to the grocery store alone feeds my soul!
I’ve been to the spa once, does that count???
What makes you smile?
The fact that going to the grocery store alone is so awesome! No, looking my kids in the eye on a daily basis is such a gift to me. I can’t believe I actually get to have them grow up with me as their teacher. Homeschooling means I get to put my hands on my kids everyday and intimately know what’s in their heads. After losing access to my first child through mental illness, this is a great and cherished gift for our family.
Though all my kids make me smile, my first daughter takes the cake. She is 16 now and spends 8 weeks per year with my family in Atlanta. I was terrified my kids would be like the teen I was, but honestly, teenagers are boatloads of fun. Both our teenagers just crack us up and remind us how to really live in reckless abandon.
Just being a parent gives us permission to rediscover the joys of our youth. I see my kids as permission to swing at the park and do all sorts of other messy, fun things I would not do so otherwise.
Your approach towards PPD treatment is very holistic and nutrition based. Would you share with us some of what’s worked for you, what you’ve seen work for others, and a few resources at which women and families can find additional information?
Yes. I created WellPostpartumWeblog (www.wellpostpartum.com) to do just this- to provide information on this topic. When I had PPD, I used 1500 mg of calcium, 1000 mg of magnesium, sublingual b-complex vitamins, 2 grams (2000 mg) of Omega-3’s and natural progesterone cream daily. Even though I am not a doctor, I have shared this information with hundreds of other women who have chosen this approach and found their PPD and PP anxiety symptoms also turned around rapidly. Now I am focusing on what complementary treatments can help with more severe reactions. I found that natural progesterone works best for anxiety reactions. I am in the process of compiling data on the use of bio-identical hormones.
What would you say is the number one lesson you’ve learned from PPD?
The number one lesson is that we are in crisis. Many American women have no idea how to care for themselves after childbirth- we are so cut off from cultural traditions and common sense. When I read “The Scientification of Love” a light-bulb came on for me. I realized why natural birth is so important.
Education is power. For women, we do not seek ‘power over’ someone, but ‘power WITH’ others. Helping each other to become more aware is the very reason women are so wonderful and special. Women’s organizations can operate from this premise and everyone wins, which I think answers the next question.
How does it feel to be helping other moms during a time of need?
Win/win is a great goal that brings deeply fulfilling feelings, no matter what capacity we serve in.
Would you share a bit of information from your book with us? Why would it be important for a new mama to read this?
Yes, but my first written work was one chapter in the book 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. My full chapter is available at http://wellpostpartum.com/?s=101.
Most moms don’t realize they have treatment options and up to half of women will not seek help at all due to concerns over being medicated. It is important that women realize their baby is built on nutrition taken from their own bodies. The vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats and enzymes that go into growing a baby are also VITAL in the postpartum period for the mother’s emotional well being and hormone balance.
And last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) just ONE piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Realize your true place in the world. The Dalai Lama came to Atlanta recently and pointed out his most important aspects of a peaceful world. His first point was on the importance and influence of Mothers. He said the most important thing we, as a race, can do to promote peace in the world is to care for mothers.
What he realizes is that women are the origin of life. In partnership with the divine, it is our bodies that house the genesis of new human life on this planet. That awesome responsibility needs to exist in a place of honor. When we realize that, we are more able to ask for and receive the care we deserve during our reproductive years.
Yes, new mothers are fragile. They are fragile for a reason. If our goal is to clean the house, go to the salon, prepare meals and go back to work looking like the perfect specimen, focus is taken off the important task of bonding with the baby. We can learn to respect the true purpose for our fragility during the perinatal period- that we are better able to relate to new the new life before us. Nurturing ourselves nurtures that new life.