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.

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

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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Faith & Motherhood: An Introduction


Good morning.

Today marks the beginning of a new Sunday Series here at My Postpartum Voice, Faith & Motherhood. I’m glad you’re here.

When I began my journey down Postpartum’s dark path, I had strayed from my faith. Little did I know that God had plans for my path through the dark woods of Postpartum. His plans ultimately brought me back to Him showing me I had not strayed nearly as far as I thought. For this, I am thankful.

Maybe some of you reading know me via Twitter. Perhaps you’ve seen me say I’ll pray for this person or that person. I mean it. I pray right then and there and add them to the daily list of things I pray about throughout my day as God speaks to me and moves me to pray.

I also believe in meeting people where they are at the moment in which they enter my life. It is not my job to judge, hate, or dismiss. As a Christian, I am to love, listen, learn, and grow in God. I believe we are all family and therefore I am to love each and every one of you as if you were my sister or brother, regardless of your current state. I do this because I know that once upon a time, God loved me regardless of my current state. Loving those around me is the least I can do in gratitude.

As I moved toward supporting new Mothers struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I struggled with the question of faith’s role in my own recovery. Do I talk about it? Do I keep quiet? Do I make the meetings secular? Non-secular? How do I answer the questions about what got me through my darkest days? Do I have the meetings at a church? Will that make non-Christian women feel unwelcome? What do I do? I needed answers.

Then, as if to answer all of those questions and so much more, God put Tara Mock in my life. Tara Mock founded the website Out of the Valley Ministries, a Christian-based website for women with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Through email correspondence with Tara, the role of faith in my recovery became easier and easier to discuss with her, with others. I grew bolder and stronger.

Through Tara, I came in contact with Sue McRoberts, author of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression. She sent me her book which I devoured in a single sitting. Sue’s book is one of the only books I know of which deals directly with Postpartum depression from the Christian perspective. Sue opens up about her experience and details how her faith carried her through. If you are a Christian woman struggling with Postpartum Depression, I strongly recommend this book.

Even though God put these two amazing women in my life, I still struggled with talking about my faith once I started to blog. I have mentioned it a time or two in relation to my husband’s battle with addiction and possibly once or twice in relation to my Postpartum recovery. More and more though, I have come across blog posts from moms talking about their faith and how it relates to Postpartum Mood Disorders. They have been increasing in number. In fact, this week’s Postpartum Voice talks about faith.

I feel that it’s finally time for me to address the issue of faith and Postpartum Mood Disorders on a regular basis here at My Postpartum Voice. To continue to ignore this topic would be akin to silencing a large part of who I am. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m not a big fan of silencing any part of anyone.

I will be addressing the Christian faith specifically when I post. I hope to find regular contributors to share their point of view based on their faith or their culture’s faith. Faith plays a large part in many lives and therefore in many women who struggle with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Their faith may reject them for their struggle, judge them, play into their guilt, steer them away from valuable therapies which they need to recover, or it may be their solace. Whatever the case may be, I believe the faith aspect of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety plays a large role in a family’s recovery.

I look forward to exploring this topic with you each Sunday!

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 10.06.09: Have you experienced dismissive clergy?


Just Talkin Tuesday The church and depressionOn October 2nd, 2009, Psych Central posted about an ongoing Baylor University Study. This study examines the response of clergy and pastors to mental illnesses. As I read the post, tears came to my eyes. Turns out that even though clergy and pastors are the most frequently sought during times of crisis (even moreso than psychiatrists or other mental health professionals according to Baylor’s press release), they are also most likely to be dismissive of mental health issues.

“The Baylor study found that despite recognizing a biological basis to all mental illness, the views of the BGCT (Baptist General Convention of Texas) pastors surveyed vary across disorders in how much they believe environmental or spiritual factors, such as personal sin, lack of faith or demonic involvement, play a role. Major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders were viewed by pastors as having greater environmental and spiritual involvement and were more often dismissed than the more “severe” mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.”

Another interesting view point of this study was that these same pastors were more likely to recommend medication for a biological illness than for a mental illness. Referrals were more likely to be given to professionals known to be Christan than to those not known to be Christian. Just an opinion on that – perhaps because the clergy/pastors felt these professionals would back up their dismissiveness regarding the congregant’s condition and also not prescribe medication.

Christians struggle with mental illness just like members of any other faith. Dismissing their symptoms or struggles can do so much more harm than good. “The Gospel According to Prozac” is great article focusing on faith, mental illness and medication. It appeared back in 1995 in Christianity Today. The author really narrows the issue down in just one paragraph:

“Ultimately, the primary concern for Christians is not what Prozac will do to them but the whole idea of relying on a miracle drug for emotional and psychological well-being rather than on the God of miracles.”

When I read the Psych Central blog post and subsequent Baylor University press release regarding this study I was absolutely dumbfounded. I cannot tell you how many times I have referred women to their local churches a source of solace. After all, you should be able to rely on your faith in time of need, right? Forgive me if I am mistaken but that is the purpose of the church, correct? Even Jesus loved those who were mentally ill and healed them. And aren’t we all raised to “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself?” To do unto others as you would have done to you? to LOVE those around you regardless of their state? To not judge?

As the magnitude of this study hit me, I suddenly had to wonder how many women I had sent straight to the offices of clergy who only shot them down and left them blaming themselves for their illness.

I believe choosing to take anti-depressants does not make one weak. I believe in the support of the church for those who are hurting. It saddens me to think that there are those on the front lines with their heads in the sand regarding this issue. This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. I want to urge you to visit NAMI Faithnet to read about how you can approach your own church and help grow their sensitivity and awareness towards those with mental illness. I’ve helped other members at my own church and hope you will do the same.

Ok, off my soap box now – let’s get to the Just Talkin’ section of this post. Did you seek help from your local church? What was the response? How did you feel when you approached your clergy? Have you made a difference in the local faith community when it comes to Postpartum Mood Disorders or Mental Health Illness? Talk to me!

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Religion/Spirituality & Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders


Just talkin tuesday logo

(Yes, I know it’s Monday. Realized that AFTER promoting at Twitter & Facebook. I was just so darn excited about this post I had to put it up an entire day early!)

Welcome to the very first “Just Talkin’ Tuesday!” Glad you could make it.

Have a seat! Share some thoughts!

Over the past few years, I have come to embrace my own Christian faith as what has carried me through my experience with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A favorite quote of mine is by Mother Theresa – “God will never give you more than you can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!” (I paraphrased so not sure if that’s the precise wording or not!) And over the past few years, somehow, I’ve managed to earn a LOT of God’s trust. I don’t quite know how I achieved such a feat but alas, I did and here I am.

The past week has had a couple of interesting things tossed my way. The first was the inclusion of a link to an Islamic forum post dealing with postpartum depression. It’s specifically about a woman who’s husband has recently passed away but someone used the term Postpartum Depression in one of their discussions so Google quickly catalogued it for me. (Ain’t I lucky?!) You can read the post here. I found it quite fascinating because there is not a lot of information out there for the general public in relation to Islam and Depression. In fact, one of the posts includes a link to a PDF version of a book entitled Don’t Be Sad written by Aid ibn Abdullah al-Quarni. I skimmed through the table of contents and the introduction. Seems fascinating.

The other topic I found fascinating was coming across Stacey’s blog. Stacey is an atheist, a belief she has every right to hold, but I find personally hard to understand, especially given the role that faith and God has played in my own recovery. It’s really got me thinking about some things. (You can learn more about atheism via wikipedia by clicking here.)

And that brings us to the topic for today.

As you (or a loved one) journeyed through Postpartum Mood or Anxiety Disorder, what role, if any, did your faith/spiritual belief play in your recovery? Was it minimized or maximized? Did you completely change course? What are some of the sentiments your faith expresses about mental illness? Were you outcast because of your struggle or decision to treat with medication? How were you expected to treat your illness?

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ here!