If Postpartum Mamas Banned Bossy


“Shhhhhhh. Don’t talk too loudly and don’t let anyone hear you.” the woman whispered as they chatted in the vestibule at church. Her companion had just expressed concern about a young new mother in the congregation who looked a bit exhausted that morning as she wrestled with her six week old and two year old toddler.

She patted her grey curls and adjusted her purse as she glanced around and leaned in to speak. “Don’t say anything but I heard from Ethel that she’s struggling with…” she lowered her voice to barely a whisper “that postpartum depression stuff.”

Her companion gasped and put her gloved hand over her mouth.

“No… not that. Why, in our day, we didn’t have that sort of thing. We just made do. These new age mamas and their excuses not to do the work mothering requires of them. Why it just makes me so angr…” Susan wagged her finger in front of her mouth as the bedraggled topic of their gossip approached.

“Well, hello there, Beth! Just how are things with you these days? And ohhhh… look at the new little one! Isn’t she just precious?” Beth sighed, glanced at the baby then back at Susan. She forced a smile and said “Just fine, come on, Ethan. Let’s go find Daddy.” As they started to walk off, Susan made a knowing eye contact with Joan, motioning after Beth, as if to say “I told you so.”

They stood there for a few more minutes, dissecting every aspect of Beth’s behaviour, dress, and choice of clothing for her children but not once did they discuss how they could help Beth as she learned how to navigate her way through this brand new motherhood of two children. Instead, they simply stood aghast and whispering at her apparent failure, ignoring all the signs that something was amiss.

Sadly, this still happens to many mothers. We are judged. Discussed. Analyzed. Dismissed. All because so many fail to discuss what is actually going on inside our heads. Because not enough of us get BOSSY about it.

What if, when Beth finally heals, she grabs the bull by the horns and starts a support group at her church? What if she dares to get up in front of the congregation and admits to her experience and educates those sitting there? What if she dares them to do more for new mothers and therefore changes the lives of new mothers touched by this church? But if we ban bossy, the Beths of the world won’t do this because well, they’ll be sitting down and not doing anything to blaze a path because SHHHHHHH. We dare not be bossy.

If I had not been bossy with my maternal medical care, things would have gone unnoticed. Hell, even though I was bossy the first time, I still went untreated because I was seen as “wrong” even though I knew myself better than anyone else. My “bossy” hormones should have slid magically back into place at four weeks postpartum so it wasn’t possible for me to have PPD. Shame on me for daring to say anything about not feeling well and daring to expect the doctor to actually, oh, I don’t know, DO SOMETHING. I slinked away, disappointed at not receiving help and resolving to stand up for myself down the road if necessary even if it hadn’t gotten me anywhere the first time around.

I got bossy the second time around too after my docs scheduled me for an induction WITHOUT MY CONSENT after noting that my first baby had been “big” at birth (she was 8lbs 3oz, thank you very much.)

What would happen to women, to all the progress we have made in the birthing world – hell, in the postpartum world, if we banned bossy?

There would be no Katherine Stone.

There would be no #PPDChat.

There would be no ample supply of kick ass doulas.

There wouldn’t be a chorus of PPD advocates or breastfeeding or formula feeding advocates. Or Attachment Parenting advocates. Or…. do I really need to go on?

What about NICU Parents? Where the hell would they AND THEIR CHILDREN be without the bossy trait?

Bossy is necessary.

Bossy saves lives.

Banning bossy is akin to telling someone to sit down, shut the eff up, and take whatever life shoves their way. Maybe that’s not what this campaign is about, maybe it’s about taking charge and finding a more positive way to spin it but dammit, no one gets to tell me what word to use to describe myself.

Words are powerful things. They incite strength, they spark revolutions, they can make us cower or they can give us power. But the beauty of words is that WE get to decide what they mean to us, not those who are spewing them at us. We define them. We can take them and twist them into the most beautiful and amazing things ever seen by mankind. It is up to us to choose how to process that which is spoken to us, about us, by us, and for us.

No one should ever put bossy in the corner.

No one.

Instead, we should grab it by the hand, drag it out to the dance floor, and flaunt that baby like there’s no tomorrow. Own it as if we are in the spotlight with Patrick Swayze himself, getting ready to dive off the stage into his arms.

The idea that we are to ban this word to encourage young girls not to be afraid of being “leaders” scares me.

Are we really empowering girls by doing so or are we further protecting them from the big bad world out there waiting to swallow them whole? Bossy gets you places. Bossy starts inside, it drives us forward, and it ENABLES us to be leaders. Not the other way around. If we ban bossy instead of embracing bossy, we are further shaming the word and the attitude. Hell, motherhood alone requires a certain level of bossy, does it not? As does fatherhood.

I am bossy.

I am not afraid to say no.

I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs. I am not afraid to stand up for others and the rights they have. I am not afraid to tell someone “No, that’s not right. This is the truth, and you need to listen to it.” I am not afraid to protect and defend mothers who suffer from Perinatal Mood Disorders.

I will be bossy about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders until the day I die.

No social media campaign (or anything else for that matter) will ever change that.

Let’s not ban bossy.

Let’s make some noise…and make some history while we’re at it.

Because “well-behaved women seldom make history” yanno.

Here’s to all of us bossy women – rocking the world, taking names, and kicking ass.

Stay bossy forever.

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Whatever Wednesday: Things I’m Afraid To Tell You


In 2011, I dove out of my life, headlong into a brand new one. I still have no idea where that life is going but I can tell you that it’s been a hell of a journey.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sure who I was. Days when I fell apart and didn’t want to get out of bed. Days when I reached the bottom, wanted to delve even further, and never come back up for air. There were days when I didn’t want to breathe. Days when I sat, for what seems like forever, in front of my netbook, begging my brain to cooperate so I can write something for this blog. Yet nothing comes so I write for other websites about non-postpartum issues.

After all of this, I finally know who I am. I like who I am.

Here’s the thing I’m afraid to tell you and afraid to tell myself but I’m going to say it anyway – I have no idea how to merge who I used to be with who I am now. I’m at a crossroads, foot firmly on the brake, unable to move forward in any direction.

Frozen.

Do I need to merge the woman I used to be with the woman I am now? Is it necessary for me to move forward? Has the merge already happened as I have grown over the past year? How do I continue to do what I do here as a single woman and no longer an active full time parent? Am I still qualified to provide advice and support? Are my experiences negated now that I have stepped out of the very life which caused them?

These are the thoughts which race through my head. The thoughts which give me reason to stop and wonder about the very future of my blog….about my future. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I fought for my identity as me. Now,  I fight as me for my identity as a mother.

I have no doubt that the future which awaits me is filled with joy, happiness, love, and peace. A future in which I will no longer be lost to myself or to those closest to me. It is faith which has carried me this far and faith which will carry me until my days in this world are done. This is all I know, all I need to know. Learning to fully trust faith, to fully trust the plan laid out for my life, however, is the challenge I face now.

I am learning to lean hard on God with every day. In His time, I will understand and find my answers. Until then…I will wait, with joy in my heart, clinging to hope and fighting the ever closer creeping fear with fierce prayers emanating from my very soul.

This post written as part of a movement, Things I Am Afraid to Tell You. I realize it’s supposed to be more of a list, but this is how mine came out and I am okay with that.

You can find more brave bloggers sharing what they’re afraid to tell you here.

Postpartum Depression & Faith: There will be a day


I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting…

(lyrics sourced here)

For more than a few months now, I’ve comforted several women struggling with Postpartum Depression who have also found themselves struggling with fitting their experience into the constraints of their Christian faith. Over the past few years, stories shared with me have ranged from uplifting and powerful to heartbreaking when the church has literally turned their back on a woman as she struggles with the very real condition of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. These experiences have led me to write this post today for World Mental Health Day. Please start the video above as you read…it adds a powerful aspect to the post.

Pray Harder

Depressed? Christian? PRAY HARDER. Fall to your knees. Lie prostrate on the ground. Weep. Wail. Gnash your teeth. Live for Him and nothing else. Beg for mercy. Pray. Read your Bible. Lean on Him. He’ll save you. You’re not leaning hard enough on God. There’s nothing wrong with you beyond a distorted and failed relationship with God. Don’t believe in a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s malarky. Your faith isn’t strong enough and that’s why you’re struggling.

If I had a dollar for every woman who has ever shared any of the above anecdotes with me? I’d be rich. Okay, well, maybe not rich but I’d be able to afford Starbucks for quite awhile. Yes, falling away from God may cause issues in your life but a psychiatric disorder after childbirth is NOT one of those. Hell, a mental health issue period is not one of them. There is no shame in a diagnosis. Not to shame them for taking medicine. Not to shame them for admitting to struggle.

Jesus walked the Earth to love those who were lost. As Christians, we are to follow in His example. To love people WHERE THEY ARE. Not to judge them. Not to guilt them into shame. Not to further add to their already overburdened lives. But to Love. To relieve their burden. To help. To accept. To LOVE.

The Bible is filled with people who struggled with depression for a number of reasons…. Cain, Abraham, Jonah, Job, King Saul, Jeremiah, David, Paul… and God still loved them. He guided them out of their darkness and into their light. Now granted, they didn’t have Xanax or Prozac back then, but God still loved them WHERE THEY WERE. They were provided for during their recovery.

I don’t view my episodes of Postpartum OCD as punishment. Instead, it is a point in my life during which I learned a lot about the depth of my strength and about the grace of God. I learned to lean harder on Him, not because I had sinned, but because He was there. I learned how to pray, not because I had forgotten, but because He was there. I learned how to live for Him, not because I had failed, but because through living for Him, I found solace and hope. In Him, I found hope, solace, and love.

God creates us in His image and knows what our life holds well before we do. He loves us even when we don’t love Him back. He knows where and if our path returns to Him even if we do not. When I first struggled with Postpartum OCD, my path was far away from God. But through my experience, I found my way back to Him. I crawled up into His lap much as an exhausted child does at the end of the day with a parent. I rested my weary body and soul in Him so that I might heal. He did not judge me. He accepted me. Did not question my past. Forgave it. Loved me just as he did before.

I hope against hope that one day, within the faith community as a whole, there WILL be a day when all will be accepted equally. When those of us with mental health struggles will not be told we can solve it with simply praying harder. That we will not be told medications are evil. That there will be a day when, instead, we will be loved, accepted, cherished, and given a place we can rest as we heal.

There will be a day.

But to get to that day?

We must not let our voices be silenced. We must speak up. We must share. We must tear down the stigma of mental illness within the Church. Within the walls of our faith. We must refuse to accept the judgment of those in the Church against us. We must rise up and love them even when they do not love us. It won’t be easy. It won’t make our journey less difficult. But one day, for someone, somewhere, it will lighten their load. It will make a difference in the life of someone else. And one day? It might make a difference in yours too.

There WILL be a day… “with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.”

(If you are a woman of faith struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, please visit Out of the Valley Ministries. I would also highly recommend picking up a copy of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression by Sue McRoberts.)

I blog for World Mental Health Day

A Valentine’s for Postpartum Depression


Dear Postpartum Depression:

When I first laid eyes on you, I’ll admit, I wanted to run away. But I couldn’t. Instead I found myself lashed to the couch, unable to move.

You scared me with your moodiness, your dark huddling corner filled with horrific thoughts.

I hated you.

You made me a horrible person, filled me with a guilt which could not be contained by anywhere on Earth. You questioned every little thing I did, filled even the most simple of actions with doubt.

And I let you do it.

I let you make me believe I was imperfect. That I had failed. That I sucked. I was inferior. You made me feel inferior.

And I let you.

I gave my consent and I let you.

But then, oh, then.

The day came.

I woke up and saw what you had done to my life. To me. To my husband. To my children.

It had to stop.

You weren’t going to get my kids.

So I took a deep, sharp breath.

I called for help as you went hunting for newer mothers on whom you could prey.

I found help. Finally.

Step by step, fistful of dirt after another, I climbed out of the hole in which you had buried me long ago.

The first rays of sunlight washed over my face. I could smell the grass. See beautiful bright flowers. Hear the birds chirping.

Oh how I reveled in that day. Reveled.

But then…

then you shoved me back into my dirty, dank, and dirty hole, refusing to let me stay in my sunshine.

Once again, I took a deep, sharp breath and fought my way back to the top.

I need to see the flowers. I needed to feel warm sunshine on my face. I needed the rain to rinse you away.

As I surfaced, storm clouds brewed in the distance, the sky grumbling. I knew I had angered you. But I no longer cared. I stood up strong and brave on the greenest grass I had ever seen. You raced toward me, determined to knock me down again. I still stood strong. Even when you knocked me down, I got back up. Every time.

For you see, I am not alone.

I have God. He knows how big my storms are. Do you know how big He is?

I have friends who will not let me falter. I have an amazing husband who will bolster me when I need it the most.

I have love. I have knowledge.

Even more dangerously, I know I can beat you because I have done it before.

Even if you’re not Postpartum, I know you’ll be back. I know you will always hunt me. I stand ready to kick your ass time and again.

Bring.It.On.

This Valentine is not for you, you vain prick.

It’s for the myriad of women who have stood in the same place I have and not known how to fight back or that they could even fight back. You can fight back. You can win. You’re not alone. So many of us who have fought back are right there with you, beating Postpartum back for you until you can do it all on your own.

You are loved, always.

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Faith & Motherhood: 02.13.11: On Feeling Forsaken


We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.

~Charles C. West~

Just as mechanics kick the tires when evaluating a vehicle, carpenters shake foundations, kick legs, make sure they’re strong and will withstand the wear and tear that life will bring their way.

Sometimes? God does that with us.

Every so often, He shakes our foundations to make sure we’re awake. To make sure that we are growing strong in Him as we journey through life.

It’s not fun when God shakes your foundations. Sometimes He shakes them until they break. Then we are left to decide if we will rebuild.

The thing is? God knows what we will do before we do. And He is there to help us do it. He’s got the plans, the tools, the nails, the screws, the crew, everything.

We just have to ask.

Every day, all day, every day.

Even then, though, the help we ask for may not appear in the manner we expect.

Prayer, while an important aspect of recovery for a woman rooted in faith, should not be the only tool used to fight depression.

God may send help in the form of an awesome therapist, a non-judgmental friend, medication, herbal remedies, etc.

What’s not okay is for someone to use your faith to make you feel guilty about your depression.

God often took strong men and women and put them in perilous situations in order to grow their strength. Think of Job, Esther, Jonah, Daniel, David, and many more.

I leave you today with Bible verses that kept me thankful for every single thing which happened after the birth of my second daughter. These verse soothed my soul during the month she spent in the NICU. It soothed my soul as I spent time in a psychiatric ward. I carried them with me everywhere I went.

The verses are from James 1:2-4:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Know that my prayers are with you as you find yourself tested by God. I know first hand it is not an easy place in which to be, especially when you have little ones who so desperately need you and cling to your every waking moment.

He is there with you even if you cannot sense His presence. He may be carrying you. He may be waiting for you to call upon Him but He is there, oh yes, He is there. He is always there. That’s the easy part. The hard part is trusting Him with it all, waiting, and listening for His answers. They may not be what you expected them to be but they will always be just what you need them to be right when you need them.

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Whatever Wednesday: Prayers for a bully


"Praying Girl" photo taken By t.na~★ @flickr.com, text added by Lauren Hale

Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter, who is quite normally a happily yet distracted little girl, suddenly changed.

Distant, prone to outbursts, inexplicably rude, snapping at all of us, quick to tears, frustrated, very hard on herself.

Flags went up.

So I started to reach out to her. I asked if there was anything bothering her. I told her to let me know. Mommy would listen. So would Daddy if she preferred talking with him.

She continued to insist nothing was wrong.

Her outbursts continued. She became even more introverted. Dragged her feet as she got ready for school in the morning.

Then we got an email from her teacher.

Our daughter was doing the same thing at school. Frustrated easily, crying, pouting, only doing work when prodded to do so.

SOMETHING was going on at school.

Finally, after a particularly difficult afternoon, I had to discipline her for intentionally throwing something across the living room. As we talked afterward, she broke down.

Tears streaming down her face, she finally shared with me what had her so frustrated and down.

As I suspected, my daughter was being bullied. Not by one but by two boys on her bus on the way home from school.

She shared with me that they were teasing her about something which happened last year. Calling her names like “baby” and telling anyone who would listen on the bus about her mishaps from the previous year.

I gathered her in my arms and rubbed her back as she wept and poured out her frustrations. My oldest daughter turns seven this year.

We had a long talk about the best way to handle bullies.

It’s helped that for a couple of years already, we have encouraged the girls to develop a strong sense of self. We’ve both worked hard to instill in them that the only opinion of self that matters is their own. That they are amazing girls and can be anything if they put their mind to it. We have already worked to share with them that God will love them no matter what. That WE will love them no matter what.

We strive to impress upon them the right way to go about dealing with negative people in their lives.

I quietly shared with my daughter a story of epic embarrassing proportions from my own elementary school. She looked at me with understanding eyes and said, “I bet that was very embarrassing.” It was epically embarrassing.

Then we talked about what she could do the next time these boys teased her.

I suggested that she just look at them and say, “I forgive you and I know God does too.” Or she could simply turn away and ignore their words as she prayed for God to change their hearts. I suggested that maybe this was happening because God wanted to use her to create a change in the lives of these boys.

We also discussed what to do if it kept on happening. How she needed to approach the bus driver and let her know what these boys were doing. She shared with me that she had and so far, nothing the bus driver had done had been successful in keeping the boys from teasing her. I promised her I would make some phone calls on Monday.

We lay there in her bed, snuggled together as we talked about all of this. Then we got up and went about the rest of the afternoon.

As I put her to bed and we said our prayers, I reminded both girls to pray for at least one other person beside themselves.

My oldest daughter prayed this:

“Dear Jesus, Please change the heart of the boy being mean to me. I know you can.”

And I?

Totally melted.

My daughter is already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I was her age.

I think she’s gonna be just fine.

On Monday, I called the Director of Transportation to talk with him about the incidents on the bus with my daughter. He went to the school, to her bus, talked with the boys before they even got on, and informed them that if they didn’t stop their negative behavior, they would be riding with their parents because public school transportation would no longer be an option. My daughter had a great bus ride home and felt safe for the first time in weeks.

Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.

Sure, some may argue that bullying builds character. I was bullied in elementary school. All it did for me was deflate my self-esteem. Later in life, it has become a mark I use to measure my progress against. It shouldn’t be that way. Bottom line, it is my responsibility to raise children who won’t bully. It’s our responsibility to protect our children from harm, whether it be psychological or physical. Yes, there are learning experiences that must be had but I do not feel that bullying is one of those experiences.

I am grateful to live in a school district which clearly takes bullying seriously and will not hesitate to protect it’s students from the negative effects of such behavior. My children should not have to be the victim of someone else’s poor parenting. When I send my children to school, I am entrusting their safety and well-being to them. I fully expect them to fulfill that obligation on a daily basis. You should too.

Rest assured that if any of my children were caught bullying, there would be serious consequences. Bullying is not a skill any child should be taught. Children learn by watching, by imitating, etc. It is OUR responsibility to raise them in such a way that they don’t learn how to bully. It is also important we teach them how to positively deal with a bully even if it involves going to an adult and requesting help.

I have no doubt that my daughter has grown from this experience. I am glad it is over (for now) and know we will have many more issues down the road.

She’s already got a very powerful tool on her side though – her faith in God.

For that, I am grateful, amazed, and reassured.

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Merry Christmas!


 

Original non-text art found at: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1223519