Category Archives: Senators

MOTHER’S Act supporters gather to celebrate enactment of historic postpartum legislation

Today, at 1130 a.m. EST, a gathering will take place. A gathering that has been years in the making, has had some of the most amazing and dedicated supporters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and a gathering that celebrates the thousands and possibly millions of lives which will be saved in the years to come.

Senator Menendez, Rep. Bobby Rush, Carol Blocker, Susan Dowd Stone, Katherine Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, and several other advocates are gathering on Capitol Hill to celebrate the enactment of the MOTHER’S Act. This is a momentous day indeed.

This past year I spearheaded a blog event to help increase grassroots support of this bill. Several other women also worked diligently to increase support and gather signatures for a petition which was presented to Senators in support of this bill. It was not an easy task. We had opposition. Opposition which attacked us like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They said things about us that simply were not true in an attempt to bring us down and decrease our support for the bill. But it didn’t work. We persevered through their words, through their hatred, through their guilt-ridden tactics. Was it easy? Heck no. But we kept on in the trenches because we had truly been IN the trenches fighting off our own battles with Postpartum Mood Disorders before our births as advocates. We knew what it was like to be tragically alone in that cold, damp place. And we were gonna be damned if we let that continue to be the norm.

Along the way, we proved our compassion for all new moms. We provided resources and supported them as they cried out for help in the darkness of their battle with Postpartum Mood Disorder instead of attacking them for choosing to use certain therapies available to them.We lifted women and families up with love, warmth, and cherished each one of their experiences. We cried with them, laughed with them, celebrated victories and comforted in times of loss and grief. We were there.

We won a good fight.

And today?

Today’s just the icing on the cake – the party.

But beneath that icing, rest assured we will continue our hard work. We WILL be there for all those who contact us, who lean on us for support, for reassurance that yes, YOU too can beat this beast.

Today though, I’m giving you permission to have your cake and eat it too. We’ve damn well earned it.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The MOTHER’S Act

LegislationOn February 23, 2001, Melanie Stokes gave birth to a baby girl. Just three months later, she committed suicide. Melanie’s death gave birth to a very dedicated activist – her mother, Carol Blocker. Frustrated with the failure of physicians to appropriately care for her daughter, Carol worked endlessly to keep Melanie’s tragic death from becoming meaningless. Through Carol’s tireless advocacy and work with Representative Bobby Rush (IL), the Melanie Blocker Stokes Act has now become The MOTHER’S Act.

The MOTHER’S Act as it reads in the current version would provide funds for a public awareness campaign, education campaign for caregivers, increase availability of treatment options and entities as well as require the current Secretary of Health & Human Services to conduct a study regarding the validity of screening for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

More and more research is slowly uncovering potential underlying causes and risks related to Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. More and more women and caregivers are becoming educated as more of those who have survived a PMAD speak up to share our story.

If passed, The MOTHER’S Act would further reduce the stigma surrounding new mothers not ensconced in the Johnson & Johnson glow of infantdom. If passed, the MOTHER’S Act would increase funding for research and possibly open even more doors to understanding the cause and more importantly, the potential for truly preventing Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. If passed, the MOTHER’S Act has the potential to prevent tragic deaths like that of Melanie Blocker Stokes.

Much of the debate surrounding the MOTHER’S Act has centered on the word “medication.” Medication does not necessarily mean Anti-depressants. It does not mean this is the ONLY way to treat a PMAD. It is merely listed as an option for treatment. And frankly, if one has a doctor with a quicker draw on his/her prescription pad than Billy the Kidd, I’d run away. I’d run away faster than a cheetah.

Another key point of the opposition has been that the MOTHER’S Act mandates screening. In the current version, there is no mandate for screening. The only mention of screening is to require the Secretary of Health & Human Services to conduct a study regarding the validity of screening for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. The current standard for screening is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which you can learn more about here.

You can read a copy of the current bill by clicking here.

Go read it. (Don’t worry – it’ll pop up in a new tab/window – I’m cool like that here)

Seriously. Read. The. Bill.

Then read it again.

And then come back here. Be honest.

Unlike this week’s TIME article which failed to present both sides, I promise to allow unedited comments in support of or opposing the bill as long as they are civil. (Any comments including personal attacks will NOT be allowed!)

So let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday already!

Sen. Menendez holds Press Conference at Valley Hospital

This past Monday, Senator Menendez held a press conference at Valley Hospital to speak about the MOTHER’S Act. Susan Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, and Mary Jo Codey were all in attendance.

Emphasized was the fact that the MOTHER’S Act does NOT mandate screening. According to the Susan Stone’s blog post announcing the press conference, Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood NJ, emphasized the need to include all forms of treatment for new mothers suffering from these disorders including nutrition, massage and acupuncture and other complementary therapies, to home services, social support and psychological counseling.

Senator Menendez was presented with a petition of national organizations and individual constituents representing millions of Americans who understand the need for this legislation can no longer be ignored. With the bipartisan support that currently exists for the legislation, its likelihood of passage among the priority of healthcare reform seems likely, but the advocacy efforts must continue! The entire audience expressed their thanks to Senator Menendez for his determined advocacy on behalf of America’s mothers.

~Susan Stone~

You can read more about the press conference by clicking here.

Senator Coburn: A walking oxymoron

Tom Coburn makes my head hurt!!!!!!!

Seriously. I was doing my homework on Senator Coburn last night and landed a headache miles longer than Route 66.

Senator Tom Coburn, R, OK, has been by far one of the staunchest opposers of the MOTHER’S Act.

BUT –

He’s an OB

He’s delivered 4,000 babies.

Statistics would lead you to believe he’s seen at LEAST a few cases of PPD, right?

According to Dr. Coburn, breastfeeding is automatic protection against postpartum mood disorders. (Ok Sen Coburn – so where was my protection when I was exclusively nursing my first daughter or exclusively pumping for my second? seriously – where was it? Was it hiding under some mysterious rock? Behind my back? Did I leave it at the hospital? Perhaps my first OB stole it from me – but wherever it was, I sure as heck didn’t have it!)

His primary argument for being against The Melanie Blocker Stokes Act? He doesn’t support disease specific legislation. Yeah, um, ok.

Let’s delve into some legislation Senator Coburn has authored, shall we? (By the way, everything below was pulled directly off his Senate website)

Guaranteeing Patient’s Rights (author)

A law to guarantee patients’ rights for those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, including timely access to primary and specialty health care providers, a timely grievance process with appeals, an explanation of the enrollee’s rights and plan information, and prohibitions on restrictions on communications between patients and doctors and financial incentives to encourage health care providers to deny medically necessary care. Provision contained within Public Law 105-33, signed 8/5/1997.

YET Dr. Coburn does NOT accept Medicaid/Medicare patients at HIS OWN PRACTICE! (OK Medical Board website)

Streamlining the Approval of Disease Diagnostics (author)

A law to improve the review and approval process of radiopharmaceuticals (articles used in the diagnosis or monitoring of a disease). Provision contained within Public Law 105-115, signed 11/21/1997.

(Is it just me or is the word DISEASE not only in the title but the description too?)

Protecting Babies from AIDS (author)

A law to require all pregnant women to be counseled about and offered testing for HIV to prevent the transmission of the virus to unborn and newborn babies.  Provision contained with Public Law 104-146, signed 5/20/1996.

(Hmmm. AIDS is a disease. Pretty specific one too. AND this one requires counseling and an offer of a test)

Treating and Preventing HIV/AIDS (author)

A law to provide access to AIDS treatment for underinsured Americans living with HIV, including counseling for those with HIV emphasizing it is the continuing duty of those infected not to infect others with the disease.  Public Law 106-345, signed on 10/20/2000.

(Wow. Treating AND Preventing HIV, huh? Feeling a little warm over here…)

Providing Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs (author)

A law to allow Americans to import prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Provision contained with Public Law 106-387, signed 10/28/2000.

(So he’s ok with importing drugs that yes, may be approved by the FDA but only God knows from where some of them are sourced. Yet he wants to deny new moms access to care and aid for Postpartum Depression?????)

Preventing Cervical Cancer(author)

A law to educate the public about human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer, including how to prevent HPV infection. The law also requires condoms to be relabeled with a warning that condom use does not protect against HPV infection. Provision contained within Public Law 106-554, signed 12/21/2000.

(Wow. A law to educate the public about a DISEASE. Again – common ground?)

Source: http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=AboutSenatorCoburn.Accomplishments on April 21, 2009 @ 1132pm.

Seriously though.

Postpartum Mood Disorders should not be a ping pong ball across the aisles of the Senate. Just as it is not black and white out here in the real world as to who will get it, it’s not JUST a Democratic Issue. It’s not JUST a Republican Issue. It’s an every party issue. It’s a 20% of ALL new moms issue. It’s a 50% higher risk of repeat for survivors the second time around. It’s a 95% risk of repeat for survivors the third time around! It’s a 2.3x higher risk for Moms who have husbands/partners deployed issue. It’s a 3x higher risk for first time Moms over the age of 35 developing Postpartum Psychosis issue. It’s a HUGE issue, ok?

I want to know at what point in the feminist movement Moms got screwed over. When did we become ok with chilling on the back burner? Where is Susan B Anthony when we need her? Anyone out there in need of a kick in your activism spirit? Watch Iron Jawed Angels. It’s about suffrage. And man did those chicks go through it. I HOPE it doesn’t come to that but I am passionately determined to get this bill passed. Thing is, I can’t do it by myself.

Senator Menendez can’t do it by himself. Neither can Congressman Bobby Rush. Or Carole Blocker. Or Susan Stone. We need YOUR help, YOUR voices. Your stories of survival, strength, and experiences with a system that is failing new families each and every day. We HAVE to raise awareness.

Don’t wait any longer to pick up that phone and call the H.E.L.P. Committee. Go to your email and send a message RIGHT now to Susan Dowd Stone (susanstonelcsw@aol.com). Include your name, state, and any professional credentials or organizational affilitations. Let others know you support the MOTHER’S Act.

SPEAK UP!

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives Endorses MOTHER’S Act

With astonishing grit and determination, midwifery is making a comeback here in the United States. Back in the day (and boy do I mean BACK in the day), midwifery was common practice. Many women relied on other women to help them through pregnancy and childbirth. You see, childbirth has not always been as medically complicated as it is now. In fact, involving a doctor in childbirth started out as a status symbol towards the end of the eighteenth century. Even though women in the home had been acting physicians for years, a belief sprung up that these same women were “emotionally and intellectually unable to learn the new obstetric methods.” Medical schools were also not available for women to attend. Thus began the introduction of the Obstetrician and the downfall of the biblical midwife. (see Genesis 35:17. Yes, GENESIS!)

One of the primary risk factors for a Postpartum Mood Disorder is lack of social support. When midwifery was widely practiced here in the United States, childbirth was a very social event. Women would fill the homes of the expectant mother with food, offers of respite, shared knowledge, and community.

Nowadays many of us are lucky if we even get one meal prepared for us let alone any offers of respite immediately after birth. Yet what are we told to do? REST! But how are we to do this when society fails to allow us to do so? And what happened to our 40 days? Why is it that every other culture seems to treat their mothers better than ours? When did we allow ourselves to take a backseat? Where’s the self-care in the birthing period? And more importantly – why have we as women allowed this to be stolen from us? Why are we silently suffering?

The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act stipulates the funding of a rather large awareness campaign for both medical professionals and consumers. Through this campaign, mothers would be able to shed the stigma which keeps them from seeking help. It would enable new mothers to be more comfortable with coming forward into the light rather than staying in the dark as a risk not only to themselves but to their families as well. Mothers and families would be educated about the signs, symptoms that may indicate postpartum depression. They would also be educated about prevention tips and self-care methods that would either completely prevent or significantly shorten any negative Postpartum Experience.

It is important to note that The National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) has endorsed the MOTHER’S Act. With this endorsement comes recognition that yes, something is wrong with the birthing system in America. We need to start somewhere. Why not with Midwives? Why not with Mothers who want to give birth the way it was meant to be experienced? While still possible, risks of developing a Postpartum Mood Disorder are significantly lower when a doula or a midwife is present at birth. (If you really want an eye opener into the mess of the Birthing Industry, I highly recommend The Business of Being Born)

So on this day, April 22, 2009, Earth Day, I urge you to call the H.E.L.P. Committee and let them know the MOST important thing to preserve today is the Mother/Child dyad. We can do this by passing the MOTHER’S Act. First we need to get it OUT of the HELP Committee and onto the Senate Floor.

Email Susan Dowd Stone (susanstonelcsw@aol.com) over at Perinatal Pro to have your name placed on the list in support of the MOTHER’S Act. (Be sure to include your name, state, any credentials and/or organizational affiliations!)

A Postpartum Mood Disorder doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Heck, the mom seeking help from her doctor doesn’t even care what his or her political views are. All she cares about is that he/she is aware of what’s going on and is willing to work with her to find a solution that fits her lifestyle.

Today let your Earth Day Action be a political one.

Call the H.E.L.P. Committee.

Support The MOTHER’S Act!

Save a Mom.

Sharing the Journey with Mary Jo Codey

As those of you who are familiar with Postpartum Advocacy know, Mary Jo has worked tirelessly to increase awareness and education of those around her. In fact, along with her husband, former NJ Governor Ritchie Codey, Mary Jo aided in passing New Jersey’s state-wide legislation for Postpartum Mood Disorder Screening education and screening. She also strongly advocates for the passage of The MOTHER’S Act, a bill that will increase funding for research, education, and awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders here in the United States. Mary Jo has graciously agreed to Share her Journey today with the hopes of increasing signatures to the Perinatal Pro list as well as calls to the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee.

I sincerely hope her words will help spur you into action. Let me put it this way. If you know ten mothers, at least eight of them have experienced the Baby Blues. Two of them have experienced full-blown Postpartum Depression. And these are only the ones we know about. How many other mothers have suffered in silence? Help them break the silence. Let them know you are on their side. As New Jersey’s campaign says – “Speak Up when you’re Down!”


88_mary_joTell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Mary Jo Codey when she’s not passionately speaking out about Postpartum Mood Disorders?

I’m a teacher at the Gregory Elementary School in West Orange NJ. I love spending time with the children, watching them grow and flourish, and to instill a good self concept about themselves so they can take with them and utilize throughout their lives. When I’m not teaching I love to spend time with my husband Ritchie and my two boy’s, Kevin and Christopher. I also enjoy gardening, playing golf and eating chocolate with my dear friend Sylvia!

In 1984, after the birth of your first son, you began to experience some very frightening thoughts and moods. Would you share with us what you went through?

After the birth of my first child, Kevin, I had terrifying thoughts about hurting him. I had intrusive thoughts about smothering and drowning him. Those scary thoughts raced in my mind over and over throughout the day and night. It caused me such a great deal of pain and shame.

After the birth of your second son, with the aid of medication, you were able to have a “normal” experience. Describe the differences. At any point during this second postpartum period, did you find yourself upset about having missed out on your first son’s infancy?

With the birth of my first son Kevin, I had no idea what postpartum depression was. I never even heard those words before. I couldn’t even get out of my bed to visit the nursery to see or feed him.

With the birth of my second son Christopher, I was immediately put on medication which were extremely effective. I was elated that I could care for him and take care of him. I did however feel cheated by postpartum depression with my first child. At times I mourned and felt guilt for missing the first years with Kevin. I remember reporters coming to my home to do a story on me and I was asked if I had any pictures of Kevin. I was ashamed that I could not provide them with one picture of him.

When you first talked with your sons about Postpartum Mood Disorders, what did you tell them? How have they handled knowing about your experience?

I started to talk to my boys about my experience with postpartum depression at a very young age. I made sure that they understood that, it wasn’t their fault and that I loved them more than they could ever imagine. I explained to them that I was sick at the time. I also told them that they were the two greatest gifts that God had given me. They’ve handled it remarkably well.
New Jersey is the first state to enact legislation for Postpartum Mood Disorder screening and education. How did this law come about and what was your involvement in it’s development?

The minute Ritchie became Acting Governor for New Jersey the first item on our agenda was postpartum depression. Which led to “Speak Up When You’re Down.” It encourages women and their families to talk openly with each other and with their health-care provider if they are feeling depressed after the birth of their child. It also provides a 24/7 PPD Help line and postpartum depression information and resources; 1-888-404-7763.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

Watching my friend Phyllis come out of her home with 5 dog’s on leashes and luggage as we were leaving for the airport!

Trying to get on a large tube for “The Rapid River Ride.” After numerous failed attempts trying to get myself positioned on the tube, a stranger approached me and shoved me on the tube finally! He said that he couldn’t stand watching me struggle anymore…well it finally worked!

Calling my friend Sylvia and listening her imitate her Sicilian mother on the phone. Every time she imitates her mom it literally slays me!! It leaves me in stitches!

Senator Robert Menendez, NJ, introduced The MOTHER’S Act earlier this year to Congress. Share with us what this bill would do for women and families.

This bill is so very crucial for all women and families suffering with postpartum depression. It will help provide support services to women suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis and will also help educate mothers and their families about these conditions. In addition, it will support research into the causes, diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression and psychosis.

Stigma plays a large role in women not reporting symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders. What can we do to overcome this stigma and replace it with acceptance and compassion?

Having women share their experience with postpartum depression, rather than keeping it to themselves is very important. To not be ashamed or afraid to speak up to their family members, health providers and women’s groups when they are grappling with postpartum depression. This will help replace the stigma of postpartum depression with acceptance and compassion.

How did your husband handle the changes your struggle with Postpartum Mood Disorder brought into the home? What can new dads do to support their wives as they fight to move back to “normal”?

At first my husband Ritchie blamed himself for what I was going through. He thought it was because he didn’t pay much attention to me because he was too involved with sports. He couldn’t understand what and why I was going through this. He was angry that I asked him to find another wife when I went to the hospital because I believed that I wasn’t going to get better. He never gave up on me! He stayed with me and understood that postpartum was an illness that we were going to overcome as a family. He never stopped praying. New dads need to be supportive and understanding towards their wife who is suffering with postpartum depression. Most importantly, they need to be patient and compassionate.

Last but not least, if you had the opportunity to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) just one piece of advice about Postpartum Mood Disorders, what would you tell her?

Women suffering with postpartum depression need to know that they are GREAT MOTHER’S! Do not worry about not being able to bond with your baby, it will happen. First you need to get well. Most importantly please, please, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

MOTHER’S Act Blog Week Participation List

Welcome to Blog Week for the MOTHER’S Act

Above you’ll see a tab for the MOTHER’S Act Blog Week. Clicking on it will take you to more information (including a snazzy graphic) for this week’s action.

We want you to email Susan Stone @ Perinatal Pro to be added to the growing list of supporters for The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act. This important legislation will aid with funding for increased legislation, education, awareness, and treatment services for mothers who struggle with insidious Perinatal Mood Disorders silently every day.

We also want you to call the Senate HELP Committee. Raise your voice and let them know you care and new Mothers DESERVE this legislation. They NEED it. The MOTHER’S Act will save lives!

Our movement here is applauded today by Sen. Robert Menendez, the primary sponsor of the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act.

“Postpartum depression is a condition that is not only more widespread than most realize but also more debilitating than most realize,” said Menendez. “We need to make sure these mothers are fully supported and informed, rather than scared and alone. Working together with a nationwide community of mothers, we are so close to enacting this important legislation into law. What we need is an intense dose of public pressure. This Blog Day helps reinforce the type of grassroots movement that will create the pressure that is needed, and I commend the participants. I invite mothers, fathers and anyone else who believes we need to better support those with postpartum depression to contact their Senators and urge them to vocally support S.324”

Please leave a comment on this post with your blog post URL in which you encourage others to:

Email Susan Stone (susanstonelcsw@aol.com)

Provide a Link to Read the Bill

Include a link to Mary Jo Codey’s Interview

State whether or not you’ve called the H.E.L.P. Committee.

You can find links and more participation guidelines by clicking here.

Thank you for your participation. Don’t forget to pass it on!

Blog Week for Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act starts at midnight!

candle-wicks1Are you excited?

I am!

Starting tonight at midnight, you’ll be able to get the low-down on all the details of this week’s blog campaign to show support for the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act.

(By the way, there’s an interview with Mary Jo Codey on the way too!)

There will be blogging, twittering, facebooking, myspacing, DIGGing, and whatever other form of social media you’re into.

There will be calling.

There will be sharing, paying it forward, and strength in numbers as those of us dedicated to supporting new moms in the perinatal period raise our voices in support of this important legislation.

Even if you don’t do blogging or social media, call the H.E.L.P. Committee members to let them know you support this legislation. There will be a call script provided at midnight as well. And if you’re in the mood, there will also be a suggested letter to the editor for you to send into your local papers.

Let’s make this one for the record books, folks!

Blog Day 2009 for MBSMA: Speak up NOW!

Recently, I’ve joined forces with Susan Dowd Stone over at Perinatal Pro to support The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act (or MBSMA.

I strongly support the passage of this legislation. I have been out in the cold without resources. It’s not a pretty place to be! I will not let another Mother struggle the way I have on my watch!

On April 20th, 2009, we’re holding an online rally. One we hope will spill over into the phone lines of the Senate H.E.L.P Committee and onto the desks of Senators on Mother’s Day, showcasing the support America has for the MBSMA!

The focus of this rally is to increase signatures to a growing list of supporters at Perinatal Pro and encourage phone calls to the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee in support of the MBSMA.

Grand Central for this rally will be here at Sharing the Journey where we’ll be featuring an interview with Mary Jo Codey, another tireless advocate for the MBSMA!

We’ll also have a list set up for you to register your blog posts. (Guidelines for participation in this list will be posted later this week) Don’t worry, if you don’t have a blog you can still participate by leaving a comment to let us know you’ve phoned the H.E.L.P. Committee. You’re also encouraged to email, twitter, or share the event at Facebook. (Click here for the Facebook Cause associated with this event)

Contact information for the H.E.L.P. Committee, a call script, and a quick Postpartum Mood Disorder Fact Sheet will also be provided. Just in case you’re wondering, no, you don’t have to be from the state of any of the H.E.L.P. Committee Members. It’s a federal committee so anyone can contact them regarding legislation in review.

The MBS MOTHER’S Act needs to be passed now. American Mothers cannot wait any longer. They do not deserve to suffer in silence and fear judgment from loved ones, from their community. They deserve to be educated about Postpartum Mood Disorders so they won’t feel guilty or confused when the harsh waves come crashing down around them after the birth of a loved child.

We’re not asking much.

Just your voice in support of the MBS MOTHER’S Act in one post at your blog. Your name added to the list of supporters at Perinatal Pro.

And in return you can rest easy knowing that you have brought light to a new Mother’s world.