To Empower without Condescension


There is a habit I have witnessed within a multitude of places in the perinatal support realm. It is the habit of treating women who are struggling as if they were instead their infants. The habit of “Oh, she’s not well enough to do this yet, tell her to do x,y, or z instead” or “What is she THINKING” when a mother attempts to regain her foothold in the world at large as a normal human being.

It disgusts me.

Mothers with mental health issues are still adults.

They have a sense of self, intelligence, a sense of the way life is meant to be lived, and they know how to do what needs to be done. Right now, however, they may need a little bit of support. That does not mean, however, that we lay them down, swaddle them, stick a pacifier in their mouths, and treat them as if they are infants who need every thing done for them.

Why on earth is it that we do this to those who are suffering and struggling?

Their very fight is one dedicated to returning to the person they once were and want to be again. When you treat them as an infant, you decry their struggle. You strip the person they once were completely out of the equation, turning it into a pointless battle. In fact, when you treat them this way, you are doing more harm than good.

I would not want to be demeaned when I reached out for support – would you?

When a mother reaches out for help, she has managed to gather enough courage to say “I can’t do this on my own.” Respect her strength and audacity.

When a mother reaches out for help, she expects to be heard. Hear her voice, her adult voice, and respond in kind.

When a mother reaches out for help, she expects to be met with compassion and respect. Do that. Do not belittle her behaviour or her requests. Guide her, refer her, but dear God, do NOT tear her down any more than she has already been torn down.

One of my primary goals when women reach out to me for support is to respect them as adults, as humans, as independent women who are temporarily scared shitless by the dark hole surrounding them. They do not need me to baby them any more than a soldier needs to be babied after being injured during war. They don’t need me yelling at them either, but you get what I mean.

Strike a balance. Be compassionate, respectful, firm, and guiding, but do NOT demean, belittle, or treat a woman as incapable of participating in her own recovery. The second you deem a woman as incapable of participating in her own recovery, you have opened the door to defeat.

If we expect to help others recover, we must empower them without condescension. If we cannot do this, we absolutely should not be in the field of helping others because we are only harming.

Hear, respect, respond, guide, empower, let go.

These are the basic rules by which I operate. Simple. Straightforward. Rooted in compassion.

The next time someone reaches out to you with a mental health issue -postpartum or not- keep these words in mind. You might be surprised at how far it will get you – and how many lives it will save.

Advertisements

Being Me


Growing up female is tricky business. There’s so much we’re expected to do, expected to say, nod, smile, grin, hide the negative, put on your happy face, kiss ass, kick ass, love this because everyone else does and OH MY GOD don’t do that because it’s not lady like.

I’d like to take a second to thank my parents for not raising me to bow down to those around me but instead taking the time to encourage me to question everything, dig deeper, be strong, to foster my desire and passion for writing, and above all else, raising me to be HAPPY.

Sure there are things they wish I was doing instead of what I am doing right now, a vision they probably had for my life but they have always supported me…or at least made me feel supported in whatever I chose as my path.

So for me, when I’m not happy, I have failed. When I’m not myself, I have failed. I haven’t failed when I don’t kiss someone’s ass just because I should. I haven’t failed because I haven’t achieved some sort of materialistic goal. I haven’t failed because things aren’t in some sort of perfect magical sublime order (although my OCD disagrees vehemently with that statement).

Things could be better, sure. I’d really love to be employed. That would rock. But I’m not. What I am is fulfilled. There’s not a paycheck with that, no, but there is peace, happiness, and a strong sense of self. I am doing, right now, exactly what I am meant to be doing.

What anyone happens to think of that does not matter to me.

It doesn’t matter to me that someone thinks I *should* be getting paid. Or that I *should* be doing this or I should have tried harder at that. Wanna know why? That worry is theirs to bear, not mine. That worry is not on my back.

I’ve survived hell more than a few times. Yes, others have gone through worse hells but this one, this one is mine. Filled with potholes of chronic pain, Postpartum Mood Disorders, loss to cancer, addiction of a spouse, a special needs baby, divorce, and the struggle to redefine myself after living an a hostile environment for so very long – an environment which I allowed to completely turn my sense of self inside out.

I’m writing this in response to a post over at Schmutzie’s place entitled “We Can Become Known”. Go read it. I guarantee you’ll be empowered to write a post of your own. If not, it’ll give you something to think about for a bit.

When I was in therapy, one of the TOUGHEST things my therapist asked me was “Do you know who you are? Really know who you are?” Then she challenged me with this beauty…”I don’t think you’ve ever truly shown your true self to anyone, not even to yourself.”

Wow.

You try sitting across from someone who has just said this to you and stay tear-free as you realize, “Fuck. No. I haven’t. FUCK. Who the hell am I???” Yeah. That session rocked my world.

Do I know who I am now?

Yeah, sorta, kinda, okay, maybe not but sorta…um… what was the question? I’ll be figuring out who I am until the second I take my last breath because I believe every experience, every exchange, changes us to a certain extent. Maybe not to our core (although there are those type of experiences out there – trust me – I’ve had a few) but they change us ever so slightly.

For the first time in years, and I do mean, in YEARS, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am comfortable in my own head, in my own soul. I’ve hit the trifecta and baby, can’t nobody stop the trifecta.

The best part of all of this? I’m with someone now who loves me for ME, supports me, and is happy to just BE himself with me. Seriously, y’all.. this is the hollywood ending. I’m not gonna lie and say it’s not work, because it is – but when it’s honest, compassionate, filled with trust, and adorned with love – it’s a hollywood ending even if there is a lot of behind the scenes work.

All that hell I’ve been through makes it worth that much more.

I’m growing bolder in lifting the veil off the person I’ve become over the past two years, figuring out how to translate it all into words which sit on a page (or the Interwebz). Like a giant glacier, I am thawing in the ever-warming world, water oozing into a waiting and welcoming ocean.

I may not be perfect, but I’m me.

And in the words of Amy Poehler (via Tina Fey via Schmutzie’s blog):

“I don’t fucking care if you don’t like it.”
Because I’m done bending over and making people happy just because that’s what the world expects me to do – I’ve never been very good at it anyway.
Besides.
As Laura Thatcher Ulrich once stated, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

A Father’s Insight


What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

Faith & Motherhood: Upcoming Bible Study


 

It’s a lazy Sunday around here. We stayed home from church this morning (I know, I know). I would have stayed home regardless due to strep throat. The family didn’t go because well, it’s been pretty stormy here and they did not want to be out and about in a downpour. I can’t say that I blame them. Sometimes, it’s best to stay home and enjoy a quiet day at home.

When I was a little girl, I listened to a lot of Christian music. Among the Christian artists I really loved was one in particular – Sheila Walsh. Imagine my surprise when my daughter received a Little Princess devotional written by none other than Sheila Walsh. I had no idea she had begun writing devotionals.

Then, I discovered she was on Twitter.

Oh my heart.

She’s quirky, inspirational, compassionate, and all around awesome. I love this woman to pieces.

Lately, she’s been promoting her most recent book, The Shelter of God’s Promises. I checked it out on Amazon and really liked what I saw. The reviews were excellent too. I rushed out to a local store to purchase it and started reading. It got set aside due to sick kids, life, etc. But I want to dive back into it. And I want you to dive in with me.

So here’s the deal:

Pick up a copy of The Shelter of God’s Promises by Sheila Walsh either through Amazon or your local bookstore. For me, it was cheaper to get it locally plus I didn’t have to pay shipping. Start reading. In two weeks, on April 10, I’ll start with the introduction. I won’t be going too in depth as far as content of the book but will instead be focusing on my reaction to the book and the lessons it offers. I hope you’ll read along with me and start a discussion in the comments.

I can’t wait to begin exploring The Shelter of God’s Promises with you. I have a feeling it will be a very powerful study. Life-changing for some, even.

#PPDChat: Finding your Oxygen Mask: Taking Care of YOU first


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.