Important questions don’t always have answers


I’ve been teaching high school English for 5 years, and in those 5 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with many of my students.  Many of these students often come back to me after they are no longer in my class to ask for help with assignments or to talk. It’s sometimes tough for some of them to talk to parents or other adults, so when they feel comfortable talking to me, I want them to know that I’m here and available should they need me. Occasionally, building this trust requires that I open up a little bit with them, and while I teach from my heart, freely sharing my life with my students, there are parts that I keep close to the chest.

Last week a student came to me during his lunch period, which also happens to be my lunch period, and asked if he could use my classroom computer to print off some things for one of his classes. This student went through a particularly rough patch of bad decisions last year, and I helped guide him as best I could during that time and in the time after. He knows I’m a safe adult. I won’t judge. I may criticize, but I’ll listen first.

I gave him my permission and he sat down at the computer on the other side of my desk. I was editing a post and having trouble finding the right words, grumbling and complaining and muttering under my breath because I just could not figure out why the coding was messing up. (After switching to WordPress, I now blame Blogger :) )

He asked what had me so irritated and I told him about the post I was writing and the coding issues and he goes “Mrs. W. You have a website??” And without thinking, I said “Yes, I write a blog.”

And immediately I panicked and thought about that teacher who recently lost her job for blogging about her job. And Dooce. And and and. Panic!

“C, please, please don’t tell anyone!”

“I won’t Mrs. W. What’s it about?”

And then I realized that I had two choices. I could make something up, or I could be honest with him. In light of our relationship, I chose the latter.

“Well, C, it’s about being a mom, mostly. But it’s also about my battle with postpartum depression.”

“Postpartum depression? You’re depressed? Really? Why’d you get that?”

I’ve taught my students that “why” is the most important question we can ever ask when reading a piece of literature. Or when questioning anything.

And yet, there I sat, unable to answer.

I mean, why me, indeed? Why anyone?

Thanks to modern medicine and some superior coping skills, I’ve been able to mask my battles, I guess. And he was in my classroom when I was in the thick of things. Or maybe it’s that I’m less affected and most myself when I’m in the classroom. I feel comfortable in my classroom. I know what I’m doing in my classroom. My classroom is ME.

Motherhood is the great unknown. It feels like constant turmoil and chaos and uncertainty and discomfort.

Or, at least it did.

I tried to explain to him as best I could that what I’d gone through was normal but was not the norm.  That millions of women have gone and are going through what I’ve gone through and have (and will) come out okay.

And that, as will most mental illnesses, you may never know who is suffering. And, as with most mental illnesses, we just don’t talk about them openly, even though we should.

I was happy to end the conversation with him by saying that I thought my war was coming to an end. That I have more good days than bad, and that I know that I’m stronger for having gone through this. That he didn’t need to worry about me.

That maybe that’s why this happened to me. To make me stronger. To make me better somehow. More compassionate toward others.

I don’t know. And for now? I’m learning to be okay with not knowing. I’m learning to accept this as something that has become a part of my life, for better AND for worse, and to use it for good. Maybe DOING is the answer.

Nicholas Fuelling promises to wait for his wife


Earlier this week, Kristina Fuelling found herself sentenced to the lowest possible sentence for the death of her eight day old infant. Fortunately she found herself in the presence of a very compassionate judge and prosecutor who were both able to recognize her actions were a result of Postpartum Psychosis. She is currently being held at a mental facility and will be transferred to a state prison for the remainder of her sentence once her mental state stabilizes.

Her husband, in exclusive first statements to a local news station, has promised to wait for Kristina and opened up about signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Psychosis. He encourages fathers and loved ones of new mothers to educate themselves and become familiar with signs that things are not going well.

According to the article, Nicholas’ statement of encouraging awareness is:

“I would tell new mothers, or expecting mothers and fathers to research it, look into it. It’s just as important as any other factor of raising a child,” he said. “There are signs: lack of sleep, having trouble with breast feeding, having trouble taking care of the baby, lot of anxiety. But sometimes it comes just unexpectedly.Even in hindsight now, I don’t even think I could’ve been able to change it unless I knew beforehand,” Fuelling said.

“So I would tell people out there to look for signs of severe anxiety. Get help. Ask your friends and your parents, family, to come over to help take care of the kids. Don’t be alone on it if you feel any feelings of being scared or not being able to handle the situation,” he added.

You can read the remainder of the article by clicking here.

Take your child(ren) with you to Vote!


Here’s a wonderful email I received from MomsRising.org about Election Day and the opportunity it presents to educate our children:

It’s Tuesday, November 4th. It’s time to vote, time to remind all friends and family to vote, time to tell us how your voting went (scroll down), and time to… take a child to vote…

TAKE A CHILD TO VOTE TODAY: Why? Well, in the words of my 9 year old, “It’s a very wonderful experience for the kids because they learn that everybody’s opinion counts.” And my 12 year old has a great argument for kids being there as a resource to parents: “If parents are wondering about who to vote for while they’re in the voting booth, then they can always ask their kids!  Our leaders impact kids’ lives into the future so kids should be involved.”

Seriously, studies show taking children to vote with you, or even having them help fill out the bubbles of your absentee ballot on the kitchen counter, helps them become regular voters when they grow up. So by bringing a child to vote, you are not only turning in your own vote in the present moment, you’re also building our future democracy.

Speaking of which, here’s a note from a MomsRising member with “big” kids as a reminder that no-one should be safe from motherly nudging today: Hey, we got them to school and to all those soccer games, music lessons, debate  tournaments, and play rehearsals… and now, even though they’re young adults and not children any more, we can still help get them to one more important activity: VOTING.”

*THREE TERRIFIC WAYS TO HELP FRIENDS & FAMILY VOTE TODAY*

1. Remind everyone you know that it’s the real deal today, Election Day: Bug friends, bother family, forward this e-mail to your entire list of friends reminding people that today is Election Day! Or use our easy, handy-dandy link to remind lots of your friends at the same time to vote today at: http://www.momsrising.org/ElectionGreetings

2. Buddy Up & Back Up: If you can’t take a child to vote with you, then you can volunteer to watch a child or two while a friend votes! Why? We know it’s not always so easy to take what sometimes amounts to a traveling circus with you to vote. Give a friend a break and volunteer to watch a child or two while the parents take time to go vote. http://www.momsrising.org/Nov4Backup

3. Make some last-minute calls to remind moms who are infrequent voters to vote: There’s still time! You can make calls right up until 7pm on Election Day. Sign on to make 30 min, 1 hour, or more of calls here: http://www.momsrising.org/callfromhome

Remember to have fun on Election Day–make voting a snazzy field trip, a dramatic moment of power, a snapshot in time to recall in later years.

And, after you vote, don’t forget to tell all…  we want to know…

VOTING: WAS IT GOOD FOR YOU? After you vote, tell us about your voting experience, the issues that were top of your mind as you cast your ballot & ideas for moving forward after Election Day! Tell us all about your voting experience at: http://www.momsrising.org/ivoted

Happy Election Day!

– Kristin, Joan, Laura, Roz, Tracy, Katie, Mary, Donna, Ashley, Gretchen, Lisa, Nanette, Anita, Julene, Julia, and the MomsRising Team

p.s. If you’re not already a member of MomsRising, sign on now (it’s free) to stay in the loop and take action after the election by working to pass critically important policies for mothers, families, and children. After all, it’s our economic security we’re talking about.  Sign on here: http://www.momsrising.org/signup

p.p.s. If you don’t know where to vote (or what ID to bring) today, then you can find out on the League of Women Voter’s webpage at: http://www.vote411.org/pollfinder.php

And, if you run into irregularities, you can get voter protection information online at: HTTP://WWW.866OURVOTE.ORG and on the phone at:

– 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund)

– In addition, CNN has a voter hotline to call if you encounter any problems voting or know of a problem: 1-877-462-6608.

Ahhh – the irony of it all


I have debated whether or not to post about this but I cannot keep it to myself any longer.

It would seem dear Amy Philo has a blog here at wordpress. Those of you who are fellow bloggers (and readers) know that at the bottom of a post WordPress now includes Possibly Related Posts. Enter irony.

Amy’s prime mission is to derail the passage of The MOTHER’S Act, legislation that if enacted, would mandate screening, education, and further research for Postpartum Depression. One of her posts regarding an article against the MOTHER’S ACT blockers has a link at the bottom. To my blog. To a Post which includes Susan Dowd Stone’s Statements regarding the MOTHER’S ACT.

Yeah.

I love the internet too.

Sharing the Journey with Bob Gibbs


Bob Gibbs is the father of Jennifer Bankston, the woman for whom the foundation Jenny’s Light has been founded. Jennifer tragically took both her life and her infant’s life as a result of PPD. Her family was unaware of this horrible disease and did not see the warning signs. Bob, his wife Sandy, Jenny’s sister Becky, and numerous family and friends have put their heart and soul into Jenny’s Light to ensure others do not suffer in silence the same tragedy they have experienced. I applaud their efforts and numerous achievements to date. As more families and women speak up about our experience with PPD, the louder our voice becomes – forcing change around us, eroding the stigma, and empowering new mothers faced with these same challenges – giving them the courage to step up and get the help they DESERVE.

What factors surrounding Jenny’s experience led to the development of Jenny’s Light?

I think the main thing was that it seemed so senseless and we wanted to have some good come from it. We wanted to create a lasting legacy for Jenny and Graham.

For me, the more I work with women and their families, helping to educate and aid them in recovery, the stronger I become. Have you found this to be true with your work through Jenny’s Light?

Definitely! Sandy and I feel like this is our therapy. It is so gratifying to know other people appreciate what we’re doing.

What are some of the things Jenny’s Light has already achieved in such a short time?

We have distributed over 20,000 PPD info cards, mostly at Triathlons, had over 25,000 hits on our website representing 73 countries, received hundreds of testimonials from mom’s who saw our site and were moved to seek help, raised over $140,000 in just 9 months, and have formed a partnership with Allina Health Systems and Abbott hospital to develop a universal screening program within their system.

I am absolutely amazed at the level of fundraising already in place for Jenny’s Light. Has the outpouring of support for your organization surprised you as well?

At first we were overwhelmed, but the more responses we saw on our website, the more we realized that this was a problem that needed attention and the people that had been touched by it wanted to help.

What are some signs and symptoms parents and family members should watch for after a woman gives birth that may be indicative of an underlying emotional disorder?

There are many! Frequent crying or tearfulness, loss of interest or pleasure in life, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty, showing little interest in your baby, to mention a few.

As is often mentioned to new mothers, taking time for oneself is important. What do you do to recharge yourself after a long day?

Sandy and I are both bike riders and outdoor nuts. We have a cabin in northern Wisconsin that is definitely our recharge zone.

In your opinion, what should all expectant mothers know about PPD before they give birth?

They should know the symptoms, be aware of the dangers, have a strong support system in place, and know they are not bad mothers if they don’t feel on top of the world.

What should health care providers do to improve their treatment and prevention of PPD?

This is the area where the most work is needed. No specialty really wants to take on more work in dealing with this problem. We are attacking it from the Mental Health angle. There needs to be screening, follow-up, and care provided to these mother if don’t want to see repeats of what happened to Jenny and Graham.

During this time in your life, what has given you strength to go on after losing Jenny and Graham?

Jenny was a very special person. She was loved by so many people, Sandy and I have a hard time comprehending it sometimes. We feel that continuing her legacy of caring is important for us and all the people that she touched.

Last but not least, do you have any advice for other parents who have a new or expectant mother in their lives?

Parents, spouses, friends, all need to know about the signs of PPD’s . One of the most sinister things about PPD is that mothers are often hesitant to ask for help, fearing they will be looked upon as unfit mothers.