On Not Wanting To


I’m tired, y’all.

I’m so damn tired of reading about women splashed across the front page because they’ve done something horrible to themselves or their children.

I’m tired of immediately wondering who let her down. I’m tired of wondering at what point did she fall through the cracks. I’m fed up, to be honest.

It happens way too often, these worst case scenarios splayed across the front page for all to read and shake their heads in disgust or sigh in exasperation because yet another mom has lost her mind.

I’m tired of this bullshit.

I get that drama sells and when it comes to sales or clicks, it’s all about the what will draw people in so OF COURSE LET’S SHARE A STORY ABOUT A MOM WHO FAILED.

Where the hell are the stories about the doctors who failed to screen? Where the hell are the stories about the partners who told these new moms to just suck it up? Where are the stories about their loved ones who didn’t show up to help them when they cried out for help? WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE STORIES?

It takes a damn village, people.

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

There was a push for screening but it’s buried in the ACA and we know how well that’s been going with implementation, right?

Then there’s the complication of who will screen. Maternal mental health care crosses so many specialties it’s not even funny. OBGYN, midwives, doulas, Pediatrician, General Practitioner, Lactation Consultants….so who screens? Does the OB? The midwife? The doula? The Pediatrician? The GP? The IBCLC? WHO? Once they screen, what happens? Is the woman informed of her results? Is she successfully referred to the proper care? Is that care knowledgeable about Perinatal Mood Disorders? Will they dismiss her as an exhausted mom instead?

What about the potential physical issues which can masquerade as PPD? Like anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin D deficiencies, etc? Will those be ruled out before she’s put on medication? Or is the doctor just going to toss a script at her and leave her all alone on her skiff in the middle of a hurricane at sea?

Where is this information in childbirth classes? Why are we not informing new moms about this? Why are we not telling them that it can happen, dear caregivers? WHERE ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU FAILING US? WHY ARE YOU GLOSSING OVER THE DANGER???

Wake up.

Women are dying.

Children are dying.

Families are being destroyed.

And you, you are sitting there claiming “It’s not my place.”

But it is.

Your move.

Get it right.

Suicide inside out


This week is Suicide Prevention week. If you or a loved one are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please visit AFSP for more information regarding suicide, the symptoms, how to help, and how to cope if a loved one has completed the act. Know you are not alone in your struggle and there is hope, there is help, and above all else, you are loved.

 

Yesterday, my Twitter feed burst at the seams with tweets about @TreyPennington. I had no idea who this man was but quickly learned he had quite a following on Twitter and was well-loved.

Trey is no longer with us. According to reports, he took his own life in a church parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina at some point yesterday morning. Despite his connections both online and off, he felt alone.

When depression or severe mental illness strikes it can be hard to do something as simple as “reach out.” Yes, we urge people to think of mental illness as if it were a broken leg in order to encourage them to seek help. Thing is, it’s not that simple when you’re truly lost in the depths of darkness. The dark will swallow you whole before you have a chance to realize what is going on in your mind. For many, the darkness is a good friend. It becomes a safe place, a haven, a comforting world. In the midnight black we are blissfully numb. Nothing hurts. The pain is behind us. But it’s also in front of us because we know all too well how much it will hurt to leave our numb bubble. We convince ourselves, mistakenly, staying in the numb bubble is our only choice. But to stay in the bubble seals our fate. It grants us an audience with Death.

 

Those who survive suicide often speak of the decision to commit the act as one of the most peaceful decisions they ever made. To decide to end one’s life is the ultimate act of letting go. We are letting go of everything inside of us. Of everything around us. Of the very essence of being. We let go. I know this because I have entertained suicidal ideations several times throughout my life. In college after both of my grandfathers died just 19 days apart. After the birth of my first daughter. After the birth of my second daughter and her subsequent NICU stay. I did not have a plan after the birth of my second daughter. But I acted after my grandfathers’ deaths. I waded into a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. Prayed for a lightning strike. Dunked myself under the water with the intention of drowning myself. After the birth of my first daughter I drove to a nearby lake and sat on a deck willing myself to slip under the water. Kids from a family reunion at the same park kept coming down and standing right next to me. Those kids saved my life.

 

I’ve participated in suicide interventions on Twitter. I’ve seen people hurting and jumped right in, determined to keep them alive. A cousin of mine completed suicide. It’s not something with which I am at all unfamiliar. Suicide hurts. It’s also preventable. But sometimes it’s not. The number one reaction to suicide is “I wish I could have done more.” Sometimes though, you can’t. Sometimes you do all you can do and it’s still not enough. Sometimes you reach out and reach out but unless the person to whom you are reaching is willing to hear you and willing to reach back, there’s nothing left to do.

 

I’m not saying to give up on trying to save people. Don’t ever let that go. Always hold on tightly. Jump into the fray and let them know they are loved. What I’m saying is we need to talk more about suicide. Discuss mental illness without judging. Not fear receiving anything other than the standard “I’m fine” response to “How are you doing today?” Be okay with hearing someone say “You know what? I’m not okay. I hurt and I need to talk about it.” Be selfless enough to stop and listen compassionately. Be brave enough to say “Yes. I hurt. Help me.” Find the strength to survive. Fight the pain. Revel in life, in both the good and the bad. If we all shut down and stop caring the world will become a very cold place.

 

Today, take the time to do as Twitter has been advising in the wake of this tragic loss. Take the time to ask someone how they’re doing. Don’t accept “Fine.” as an answer. Don’t pretend to be okay if you’re not. Open the door to your heart. Let someone in. We may not be able to fix others but we sure as hell can love them.

 

Love someone today. Let someone love you today. Especially if you’re stuck in a dark scary bubble. Let love in and let it free you.

Faith & Motherhood: On Grief


We can plan all we want for how we want our lives to go. But then life happens and our plans fly out the window. We are left to improvise. Sometimes improvising hurts. Figuring out which way to go when a sudden change of plans strikes can be hard. But when we learn to lean on God no matter what, those sudden changes soften a little bit even if they seem harsh at first.

This morning I woke to the news of my Great Aunt’s passing. No one plans for phone calls like this.

My phone and I went into the front yard. I sat down, in between two humongous pine trees, sun shining down on my back, and cried. I sat there for nearly two hours. Wailing at first, then every so often my tears would just well up with tears until they couldn’t hold them back and tears would slowly slide down my face as I sat there, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels scamper, avoiding falling caterpillars, and chasing away tiny spiders from my feet. The wind softly played with my hair as well as with the trees. I sat there…. breathing. Taking in the sharp green of the surrounding trees, the echoes of life, breathing. For two hours, I got to just be.

My husband brought me a blanket and a cup of coffee. Apparently I sat in the sunshine for almost an hour despite the 50 degree weather.

Grief makes you do strange things.

In those moments outside, as I sat there, a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I felt so alone and abandoned.

Thing is, I was not alone.

God sat there with me.

He held me, comforted me, and provided a warm, safe place in which I could mourn.

Friends offered condolences.

My children offered hugs and giggles when I got inside.

I’m still struggling to accept that she is gone.

I know right now we are working on the Shelter of God’s Promises but instead of writing from the book today, I needed to share this.

Today, I tried to live in the Shelter of God’s Promise.  It was not perfect. But it worked. Not all day, but it worked.

And that, my dear readers, is progress toward learning to live in the Shelter of God’s Promises.

Whatever Wednesday: In which I rant about: NYPD, Allegheny County Jail System, and the TSA


I love Wednesdays. Why? Because I get to write about something other than Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. I love writing my regular blog posts. But Wednesday is a breath of fresh air – kind of like a rest stop on a road trip, if you will.

Today, I’m taking on some rather touchy topics. I need to get it out of my system. I may just curse. Consider yourself warned.

If you’re still fragile, you may want to skip this post all together. The Alleghany County and Amazon stories may be triggering for some.

New York City Police Department

Image by scoutnurse via Flickr

First, the NYPD. Sure, the boys in blue up there in New York City are charged with keeping the city safe. And yes, like any other human organization, they fuck up from time to time. Okay, so maybe a lot. But this most recent situation? SO very inappropriate. A definite abuse of power. NYPD of the 34th Precinct recently arrested and charged 7 chess players with “failure to Comply With Directions of Police Officers, Urban Park Rangers, Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers, or Other Department Employees, or Park Signs.”

Really, NYPD?

According to recent NYPD crime statistics, murder and injury via gunfire is up by 13.2% over last year. In Manhattan alone, where the 34th Precinct is located, murder is up by 12.2%.

But what the NYPD would have you believe is that a few men, sitting at chess tables behind a fence, closed off from the remainder of the park, drinking tea and eating muffins, are more dangerous than a thug with a gun.

Here’s a crazy idea, New York: MOVE THE TABLES.

But I suppose that would cost too much money. Or is it that it would decrease income for the city? If the tables are left where they are, people will come to play. You will arrest them, earning a measly $50 off of each offender. But is the cost really worth it?

The arrested chess players have no current plans to return to their tables. Why? Because they’re not criminals.

 

This next rant may prove triggering for some. It’s about Allegheny County’s Jail System. Scroll down if you want to read about the TSA instead.

 

Recently, Amy Lynn Gillespie, a woman in Allegheny County became pregnant.

So what?

Well, she was jailed for becoming pregnant. Turns out she had been arrested for shoplifting and later for prostitution. As a condition of her work-release probation, she was told not to get pregnant. I do not know if remaining celibate was also part of her probation order.

When she did become pregnant? Allegheny County threw her in jail.

She developed bacterial pneumonia and despite several requests to receive medical attention, she was denied care.

By the time she finally received care, it was too late.

Both she and her 18 week fetus died due to the negligence of Allegheny County Jail System.

What the efff.

Regardless of Amy’s crimes, her unborn infant did not deserve to pay the price. She did not deserve to die in jail. She should never have been jailed in the first place. I’m absolutely disgusted that this happened in my country.

Amy’s mother is suing Allegheny County for the death of her daughter. The hospital at which she received care is not named in the suit. If Amy had been seen sooner, she (and her little one) would still be with us.

Something is not right when a citizen cannot shoplift but a government agency can categorically justify withholding medical attention to a pregnant woman.

 

Speaking of pregnant women and children, the TSA is all over them these days. All over everyone, actually.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you know all about the controversy regarding Scanners, Pat-downs, and TSA Agents. Scanners are believed to infuse an unhealthy amount of radiation into your body. So a pat-down is preferable to walking into an x-ray machine for most, especially frequent fliers and cancer survivors. But the pat-down has become much more aggressive with TSA workers now allowed to use the front of their hand instead of the backs. Videos have surfaced of toddlers, children, being torturously patted down by TSA Agents who seem oblivious to the plight of the little one.

Here’s the thing, TSA. I have talked with my kids about good touch v. bad touch. So now, if I choose to fly with my kids, I need to have the TSA Pat-down touch talk with them too. I’m grateful I don’t fly often or I would be even more upset. My husband and I had talked about the possibility of flying the whole family to next year’s PSI Conference. If things continue the way they are going these days, I won’t let my kids anywhere near an airport anytime soon.

How would I explain the TSA pat-down to my kids?

I imagine it would go something like this:

Me: So, we’re going to get on a plane and fly in a few days. But first we have to go through security.

Kid: What’s that?

Me: Well, there were some bad people who did some really bad things to our country with planes before you were born. So now we have to all bend over and let the government sniff our arses before we get on a plane.

Kid: Realllly?

Me: Well, no, but it might be easier to just do that instead.

Kid: So what DO They do?

Me: They feel all over your body including in your private spot.

Kid: Whaaaaaaa? Why?

Me: A bad person tried to sneak a bomb on a plane in his underwear.

Kid: Well that’s just stupid. What if it had exploded in his underwear? Wouldn’t that have hurt?

Me: Yes, honey, it would have. But he was caught and now the TSA gets to touch everyone in their private spot and all over.

Kid: Well that’s just stupid. I don’t want to blow up a plane.

Me: I know, honey. Neither do I. But the TSA thinks you do until proven otherwise.

 

Thanks, TSA, for forcing parents everywhere to have to talk with their kids about terrorists, bombs, and how to handle genital groping before they’re even old enough to go to school. You totally rock my world.

 

This year, I am thankful our forefathers are not here to see the mess we seem to have made of our country. Pretty damned sure they wouldn’t be happy about the current state of affairs. We’ve gone from bold and brazen to scared and huddling masses. Shame on us for getting here.

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Off the blog: Guest post over @AccustomedChaos


This past weekend, I wrote a guest post for Devon over @AccustomedChaos. I was in the mood to write, she needed a topic, it just kind of unfolded.

The post I wrote was not one I expected to have tumble forth from the keyboard, though. In fact, it’s quite possibly one of the rawest posts I have written in awhile.

I have only recently started to write again about the deaths of my grandparents. You see, I have no living grandparents. I was in college when I lost my grandfathers. It took a very long time to heal.

Head over to Accustomed Chaos to read my post “A Tale of Imperfectly Perfect Grief.”

Why I support other Mothers


I just wrapped up reading a post over at Her Bad Mother, If Prayers were Horses, Grievers would Ride. She’s talking about the recent death of her father and how to cope with her daughter’s questions about death. The post itself doesn’t have a thing to do with Postpartum Mood Disorders. But my reaction to it does.

When I first watched the video montage about Crystal that Joseph Raso sent me, I wept. My children were in the room. And here was mommy, huddled with her laptop, headphones on, tears sliding down my face, my body literally wracked with sobs. Did I know Crystal? No. Do I know Joseph? I do now but I did not then. But I DO know loss. I know the heartache it can bring. I know it all too well. And I suffered from it when I was a child. By the time I was 22, I had lost all four of my grandparents, two cousins, and several other relatives. Most of them succumbed to cancer.

The first death I remember was when my aunt died when I was five. I remember her only a little bit.

My first real brush with a strong emotional reaction was when my step-grandmother died on Thanksgiving in 1987. Imagine getting ready to go to your other grandparent’s house to celebrate and have fun only to have your parents sit you down in their bedroom to explain to you that your grandmother has gone to be with God. I wept. I’m starting to cry again now. Strangely, I just accepted this as part of life. But I had already been through a few other deaths prior to this one so for me, death WAS truly a part of life. We went to her memorial service as she had been cremated. I remember standing at the top of a spiral staircase staring out the windows at the rain. No one was around me, I wanted it that way. My heart hurt. My body hurt. I wanted my grandmother back but I knew she couldn’t come back.

Eleven years later, her husband, my maternal grandfather died. Just a few days before his death, I had a dream. I dreampt his death. I saw him gasping for air, not breathing, calling for help, no one coming to rescue him. A week later, he passed away due to congestive heart failure. This was the first time I had lost someone so suddenly. I became an empty vessel only capable of crying, moaning, thrashing. It was not a beautiful thing. A mere 19 days after this, my other grandfather died. I had nothing left to give. Nothing.

I share all of this to get to my point.

After I watched Crystal’s video, my daughter asked why I was crying. I gulped. Dear Lord, how do I explain this to a child? How do I tell her why this beautiful woman on my computer screen made mommy cry? How?

I grabbed her and held her close. I pointed at the pictures of Crystal sliding across my screen. And I talked to her about what I do. Why mommy is on the computer so much. We’ve talked before but this was different. I told her that this mommy, THIS MOMMY, got very very sad after she had a baby. And no one was there to help her. She didn’t know where to get help. And she made a decision that took her away from her family. That this Mommy’s decision had made her family very sad and now her children didn’t have a Mommy anymore because she’s in heaven. I started to cry again. My daughter looked at me. I looked her in the eyes and said rather emphatically:

“THIS MOMMY is why your Mommy does what she does. Your mommy doesn’t want other kids growing up without a Mommy. YOUR MOMMY wants women to have help and know where to turn.”

We hugged, and a few minutes later, she came back over to me.

“Mommy?”

“Yes dear?”

“I’m sad the Mommy isn’t here anymore.”

“Awww, honey.”

“But it’s ok for you to be on your computer now.”

And you know what, since then, she’s really been okay with me being on my computer.

Kids are resilient like that. Yes, we need to guide them and be careful what they see and hear. But life happens. The more open we are with them about life, the better prepared they will be when they finally step out into that giant pool without us. And if they swim well, we’ve done our job right.