Changing Your Stars


I am watching A Knight’s Tale, one of many movies I could watch several times over. As I start to write, this scene is in the background:

“He’s a real Knight, William. Watch him and learn all that you can. Now go, and change your stars!”

“But father, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid I won’t be able to find my way home.”

“Don’t be afraid William, you’ll just follow your feet.”

Life is full of changes and situations which evoke fear in our hearts. “Courage is being scared but saddling up anyway,” according to John Wayne. It is knowing not knowing what is around the bend but peeking just beyond despite this unknown, is it not?

For me, that bend was motherhood, and waiting around that bend was one an awful monster I had no desire to meet. But we came face to face anyway, the monster and I, not too long after my first daughter graced my arms. The monster, he breathed heavily in my face, the moisture from his open, drooling mouth specking my face as if it were drizzling. He growled at me as he snatched me, taking me back to his lair just beyond the edge of town.

This monster, he shoved me down a hole in the floor of his shack, a hole so deep there was no light. I crawled into a corner and wailed helplessly until I fell asleep. This monster, he fed me, when he could, but left me there to wallow and ruminate, lost forever from the world, away from my child, my partner, everything. Until one day, a hand reached into the hole and helped me out. The light, it burned. The leaves were greener than I remembered, the dew sparkled on them as the sunlight bounced off the fresh rain collected just on the surfaces of the just born foliage.

The face of my rescuer blurred into many faces for it was not just one person, it was many, working together, which brought me back to the land of the living. One of those faces was my own for I had to fight to accept the help I so desperately needed to escape from the deep dark hole under the monster’s house.

As I left the monsters house, I of course, had to follow my feet home. For me, they led me to a new place in life, some of it familiar, some of it brand new. But alas, it was the home where my heart belonged.

In A Knight’s Tale, as Oreck travels to Cheapside, he encounters a little girl to find out where his father lives. She tells him, and he discovers his father is now blind, unable to see. So he goes up to see him, telling him that he is well without identifying himself, and that he has indeed managed to change his stars. Then there is this exchange:

“Has he followed his feet? Has he found his way home at last?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Oh William! Oh my boy!”

Then, they sit, they talk, they eat, they laugh as if time has never passed. This is how it should be when a prodigal son returns. A celebration of return to self, or return to an improved self, rather.

Then the story goes dour again as the Adhemar, the knight opposing Oreck (William), exposes him as not being of noble birth. This is much like a relapse, as if the monster had hunted us down again and shoved us back in the hole.

But this time, this time he has people willing to fight with him, beside him, and most importantly, someone willing to truly change his stars. This is what I wish for all of us fighting a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder – a warrior willing to tilt full speed ahead with a lance against anything and anyone daring to rip us off our horses as we heal. This is what I work to be for all women who contact me – a fighting spirit who will not only go to bat for them but will do whatever I can to instill the same spirit within themselves.

Prince Edward then dubs Oreck, now William Thatcher, as a knight, asking him if he is fit to compete. He is, of course, and he wins against his enemy, the villainous Adhemar.

This is what those of us who fight against a mental illness want – we not only want to win our battles, but we want to be acknowledged as someone who matters. We are human, longing to be counted among those who surround us.

Every day may be a battle, every day may be exhausting, but we get up the next day, and do it all over again, hoping that today, just maybe, we will change our stars a little bit more than the day before, inching ever so much closer to the person we long to be deep inside our hearts.

Go. Change your stars. Don’t be found weighed, measured, and found wanting. Push yourself toward constantly changing your stars for the better. Defeat your monster, make him look up at you from the flat of his back after you have knocked him off his horse.

If you don’t need to change your stars, help someone else change theirs.

To you, it might just be a random act of kindness. To them? It might just change their entire life.

Sharing the Journey with Christy Cuellar Wentz


I first found Christy at Twitter. She sent out a tweet requesting Guest Bloggers. I responded and ended up doing an hour on her Radio Show, The Mommy-Muse is In, just yesterday in addition to my guest blog post at her website. And here I thought I would just be writing a blog post! I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Christy and had a blast yesterday during our radio chat. A fellow survivor of a PMD herself, she now offers online counseling for new mothers and has a very empowering approach she provides for all new moms. I hope you enjoy getting to know Christy as much as I have!

christys-publicity-photos-smallest1Tell us a little bit about yourself – who is Christy Cuellar Wentz when she’s NOT the Mommy-Muse?

First of all, being a Mommy-Muse is part of my essential self. It is not just a “job,” it is a passion.

That said, I can finally say that I accept myself as being perfectly imperfect! I am a mom like every other mom, working to walk (and dance!) my talk in the world. I make mistakes every day and am actually glad for my children to see my process of self-correction.

I grew up feeling as though everything I did needed to be perfect. I graduated from college at 18, and had the idea that if I just “studied hard” and got the “A,” everything would be all right. Turns out, life outside of school doesn’t necessarily work that way! Especially parenting. I can laugh at myself now, and definitely feel like a “broken in mommy,” rather like the Velveteen Rabbit, at times.

I love being outside in beautiful, wild areas, and love animals. I love belly dancing, and wrote The Belly Dance Prescription: Shake Your Hips AND Depression once I realized how transformative it can be. I’ve even been known to belly dance in nursing homes.

I also home-school my children while working from home, so I may be a little crazy, but I love the life I’m creating just the same!

Have you experienced a Perinatal Mood Disorder? If so, how did this experience affect you? How did you handle it?

Yes, I went through Postpartum Depression following the birth of my first child. It was a dark fog that didn’t lift for nearly two years. I got through with support of my husband and mother, by taking one small step at a time through days and nights that seemed endless. I cannot say I handled it well, just that I survived the experience without hurting myself or anyone else. I did not seek treatment because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to nurse my child if I was on any medication. Looking back, I wish I had.

This had a profound effect on my life, and was the main reason I co-founded Mommy-Muse.com.

How did your husband handle your bout with a PMD? Was he supportive? Did the experience strengthen or weaken your marriage?

My husband was supportive, but confused. He was a first-time father, in the middle of his life, and none of this was what he expected. He saw the woman he loved in pain, and didn’t know how to fix it. My first daughter cried a LOT, and rarely responded well to anyone but me. He wanted to ease my load and soothe her, giving me breaks, but had very little success. It was an enormously stressful experience for both of us. We are stronger in our marriage from surviving the experience, but I can sure understand why so many marriages suffer after the birth of a new child.

Here at Unexpected Blessing, I put a tremendous emphasis on the importance of self-care. What is it you do to take care of yourself and what are some typical signs that a Mom can look for to tip her off that self-care needs to be initiated?

I have a list of simple things that nourish me from the inside out, through all my senses. I got the idea from a beloved book, Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet.

Here are some of my favorites:

Belly dancing, eating a really great piece of chocolate, taking a bath with some favorite essential oils, listening to a favorite piece of music, meditating, savoring a warm patch of sunlight through my window, or enjoying a pot of perfectly prepared tea from my favorite tea set.

I choose some things from this list to do for myself every day. If I don’t, I really know it. Some sure signs that I look for in myself and other moms that tell me self-care is absolutely essential are an overwhelming sense of stress, unusually short temper, hyper-sensitivity, negative self-talk, tearfulness, and depression.

Share three things with us that made you laugh today.

You bet! Spontaneous dancing with my children, watching our canary jumping around excitedly, and watching my children do a joyfully extended version of the “pee-pee dance” just for my benefit.

What do you find the most challenging about motherhood? The least challenging?

Ahh, the most challenging. There is a chapter called “On Balance” in Leslie Morgan Steiner’s book Mommy Wars in which Jane Juska writes these powerful words: “Children are not born to provide balance. Children are made to stir us up, to teach us how angry we can get, how scared we can be, how utterly happy, happier than we’d ever imagined was possible, how deeply we can love. Children turn us upside down and inside out…but they do not balance us.” My biggest challenge is creating a balanced, ecological life for myself and my family. My fantasy version of balance is a static point that I will magically reach and forever maintain. The reality, of course, is that balance is very fluid, changing hourly, daily, according to the needs of the moment. I am learning to flow with more grace in my life, but it is a continually evolving process.

The least challenging part of motherhood is delighting in small, daily moments of joy with my children. This is in sharp contrast to my two years of postpartum depression. Everything at that time seemed difficult, including the ability to enjoy my child. Knowing the difference helps me appreciate today’s joyful moments even more fully.

How did your training as a counselor affect your PMD experience? Did it enable you to better recognize your symptoms and seek help or did it inhibit you from seeking help?

I would like to be able to say that I had a better experience with postpartum depression because of my training. The truth is that I couldn’t see my symptoms clearly through the fog. In fact, having a Master’s Degree in the field may have allowed me to hide my symptoms more thoroughly, partly because I thought I should be handling my life better, and partly because I mistakenly believed I would have to give up nursing if I sought help and required medications.

Tell us about the Mommy-Muse site. How did this come to be?

Mommy-Muse.com was born out of my experiences with postpartum depression and feelings of isolation. Once I emerged from PPD, I realized there was a vital group of women to reach out to – new mothers, who often do an amazing job of hiding their true feelings from even from their closest friends. When a woman goes through any kind of postpartum mood disorder, even the simple act of getting your baby ready for an outing to a counselor’s office can seem overwhelming.

My mother, Linda Semrau, had also lived through postpartum mood disorders. Together, we decided to be the change we wish to see in the world, providing the very thing we wished for as new moms – effective, convenient, affordable coaching and therapy, available any time of the day or night.

At the Mommy-Muse site you state that it takes up to 24 months to adjust to Motherhood EACH TIME. Explain a little of this for my readers. Why 24 months?

We originally stated this based on our personal experiences and interviews with other moms. Even mothers with 7 children confessed that a complete adjustment to life with a new child takes 2 years, each time. I was delighted to discover during an interview on The Mommy-Muse Is In: Empowering Your Journey into Motherhood that many doctors actually do recognize it takes two full years to adjust physically and emotionally to the arrival OR exit of a family member.

If a mother knows that an extended adjustment period is normal, she is more likely to take care of herself during the process. I think we put unrealistic pressure on ourselves to have everything “all together” by the time we have our 6 week checkup. Knowing the truth can empower us to mobilize needed resources long after this artificial benchmark.

Last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) just one piece of advice regarding Perinatal Mood Disorders, what would you say to her?

Communicate with your family and friends about any concerns you may have, and prepare a postpartum action plan, or “wish list,” to implement in case you need it. It is so much easier to mobilize supportive resources before you’re in the middle of sleep-deprived “Baby Time.”

If you have a blissfully easy transition into new parenthood and never need to activate your support plan, great! If you do need it, you (and everyone who cares about you) will be glad it is in place.

One powerful resource to help is our new “Get Ready, Get Set, Expecting-A-Baby” 12-week coaching package at Mommy-Muse.com. We custom designed this package to help expectant moms make the smoothest possible transition as they welcome a new baby into their lives.