Tara has been a true source of inspiration for me through my advocacy journey. Her strength, faith, and dedication to supporting other women has made me examine my own work and my increasing awareness of the role my faith and God held in my experience with Postpartum OCD and my subsequent passion for advocacy. I often refer women to her website when they are in need of faith-based support. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and have connected with another wonderful Christian PPD supporter – Sue McRoberts – through Tara. Thank you, Tara for all you do for Moms who are still on that dark path. Thank you for showing them the way Out of the Valley.
Share a little bit of yourself with us. Who IS Tara Mock as a woman?
I am a formerly-shy-now-outspoken woman who loves Jesus dearly, my husband whole-heartedly, and my children with everything I have. I am a pianist and an avid reader. I can have a sarcastic sense of humor, but I love to laugh and believe the best memories are those with lots of laughter and smiles. I hate pickles with a deep and abiding passion, but will eat chocolate with anything. I love to have dinner and/or coffee (I prefer hot chocolate) with my girlfriends. They are so precious to me, so encouraging and wise, and as a mom of young children, I love that. I’m not sure what I would do without them!
You’ve walked the dark path of Postpartum Depression. Share with us what that was like.
In one word – horrid. I would not wish what I went through on my worst enemies. PPD hit me hard and fast in the week after my son’s birth. I was in a lot of physical pain to begin with and then my emotions began to snowball, running the gamut: sadness, anger, apathy, despair, hopelessness, frustration, to eventually suicidal. That terrified me and it was then, and through the encouragement of my pastor’s wife, that I told my doctor. Even after that, those crisis days were not over and I still had another couple of weeks to trudge through – including a hospitalization, suicide watch, meds, 24-hour care by a nurse-friend, and lots of sleep. In the subsequent days and weeks and months, I gradually learned how to care for my son and gain new confidence as a mother, with my eyes towards hope for the future. There were good days and there were bad days, but when the good started outnumbering the bad, I knew I was getting better. It was about nine or ten months from the time of his birth before I really felt like I had my feet on solid ground and out of that valley.
How did your faith affect your experience and recovery?
Greatly. My Christian faith is who I am, but with this experience I initially felt like I had been “kicked while down.” We had gone through infertility treatments to even conceive this baby, my husband had been laid off on the very day we found out I was pregnant, and I was very angry that PPD was happening to me after all that. I repeatedly asked God “Why? Isn’t it enough what I’ve been through already?” But I learned that I also could not get through it without Him. I clung to encouraging Scriptures with everything I had, even taping them on note cards around my house. Unfortunately, there were Christian friends who said well-meaning but hurtful things (pray more, just be grateful, etc.), but working past that and learning what the Bible really says helped me grow so much. I hated going through PPD, but I can also say that I am grateful for the experience and for who it made me today. (Please know that it is ok if you do not feel the same way!)
At what point did you decide to become an advocate and source of support for other women who are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder?
There were a series of events that solidified my resolve to become an advocate for women going through what I went through. First, on my first Mother’s Day, the one I had longed for for quite a few years, I went to a local bookstore to purchase Brooke Shields’ new book, Down Came the Rain – it had just been released. The lady behind the counter started commenting on my son, mentioned she had a baby the same age then started to tell me how she could not understand how anyone who had had a baby could be sad. I was stunned. Here I was purchasing a book about PPD and she could not put two and two together that I might be hurting? I mumbled something about that it had happened to me and thankyouverymuchgoodbye. I cried all the way home. (Not to worry, I went back the next day and spoke with the manager about that employee.) Second, the argument between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise was a highlight in the news sometime around then and I was angry at the sheer ignorance that some people had about this illness as well as the fact that this Hollywood figure was spreading so much misinformation. Third, I was part of an online Christian group and some lady (or two, I do not recall) had a discussion about the Brooke Shields book and began degrading her and what she went through. I took it very personally because I was going through it as well – and these were fellow Christians. Ouch! The misinformation out there was stunning – I had just encountered it three times in a short time span. I decided then and there to not be ashamed of my story, to share it and not hide it, and to encourage other women also sick with PPD. That was the beginning…. I then began to search for Christian resources for this illness and at the time, there were none. (Now, there are a few and the number is growing quite quickly, yea!!!) After my son’s first birthday, I felt led to fill the gap – to provide a non-denominational Christian ministry for women, their families, and churches to know how to deal with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Thus was born the (currently) online ministry, Out of the Valley Ministries, Inc.
You have two beautiful children. Did you experience PPD with both? If not, what do you think made the difference?
Thank you! With my daughter, I experienced a small amount of anxiety, but overall the experience was remarkably better with no real recurrence of PPD. We planned very, very carefully for her birth. The planning itself was therapy, helping me feel like I had some control, whereas I felt I had none when I had PPD with my son. Medications were discussed with my doctor. I had a therapist I could call if needed. I had a schedule of family and friends to be here with me for at least six weeks. My husband was insistent that sleep be my first priority (sleep deprivation being a huge trigger for me) and he was so wonderful in making sure that I got that. I had a self-care plan in place for my return home to minimize anxiety. I had the same doctor as I did for my son’s birth and amazingly, the same nurse who was there for our childbirth education classes, my son’s delivery, and who cared for me when I had PPD – she was standing there when I walked into the birth center in labor with my daughter. What a blessing!! She knew me and exactly how to take care of me. As much as I had it under control, that told me that God had it in His hands as well. I believe prayer and the pro-active approach we took to minimize/prevent a recurrence of PPD was really key.
Self-care is of the utmost importance on this road called Motherhood. What do you do to make sure you are taken care of on a daily basis?
Not enough! I make sure to always put the kids in their rooms for quiet time/nap time in the middle of the day – whether they sleep or play. This gives me the mental break and quiet moment I need to get through the rest of the day. I treat myself to a cup of tea and either a book, my favorite blogs, or catch up on a favorite TV show. The days that I am able to have a quiet moment to read my Bible and pray are definitely my better days, but doing that consistently, especially when kids like to get up at 6am is difficult! Staying in touch with the rest of the world is important for me as well – the internet is a wonderful thing to a mom with young children! Being a pianist, music is ingrained in my soul. If things are getting stressful around here, I know I can put on some music and my mood can change that quickly. I love that!
List three things that made you laugh today.
Ah, great question! I laughed when my son came up to me and said, “I love you wotsa-wotsa-wotsa-wotsa!” (Translation: I love you lots and lots and lots and lots!) And my little girl makes me laugh all the time – especially when she grins and says “I did it!” for something she shouldn’t have done. I have to hide my laugh then!
What have you found to be the most challenging about parenting? The least challenging?
The least challenging? When the kids are actually asleep. The most challenging? When they are awake. Some days we just have no idea how to handle this or that behavior, and other days we are just amazed at what great kids they are.
Tell us a little about Out of The Valley and how it has continued to grow. When you started out, did you envision it growing as much as it has?
Out of the Valley Ministries is primarily an online ministry – I share articles and Scriptures to encourage ladies who are hurting, help churches and loved ones help those who are sick, as well as list a wealth of resources. On my blog, I try to list practical self-care tips, include music that encouraged me, and write devotional-type pieces to encourage the hurting mom, and have recently begun to feature stories and testimonies of survivors. Periodically, I may share my story on the blog or other information that is of the utmost importance in the PPD world. Yours (Sharing the Journey) and Katherine Stone’s (Postpartum Progress) among others do such a great job at keeping us updated on the news that I feel no need to duplicate the information, but to rather write from a self-care perspective. That growth has come as I have learned about and gotten to know the many wonderful people advocating for postpartum mood disorders, as well as gotten better at managing my website and finding a niche that fits me as a person. I love seeing how God has used this ministry to touch women’s lives – and women that I had no idea that it helped until recently. That blesses my socks off! It made what I went through worth every second.
And last but not least, if you had the opportunity to share one piece of advice about PMD’s with an expectant mother, (new or experienced), what would you tell them?
Just one? Gosh, Lauren, you know how to ask the hard questions! Some days you will need to take it one breath at a time, and others five minutes at a time, but eventually the whole day will be beautiful and full of hope. You WILL walk out of this valley, and know that God is with you the entire time!