Category Archives: sharing the journey

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.

Sharing the Journey with Rachel Roberts, Mrs. Tulsa International

I’m not sure how I came to know about Rachel Roberts. It may have been through Cheryl Jazzar or it may have been via an email from Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies. Regardless, I’m glad our paths have crossed. Rachel is currently Mrs. Tulsa International. Her issue platform? Postpartum Mood Disorders. She is passionately dedicated to getting the word out to families about this stigmatized illness. I’m thrilled to have her here today and hope you enjoy getting to know here as I have. Thank you Rachel for all you do.

Tell us about Rachel. What do you like to do when you’re not choreographing or mothering?

I love to hang out with my family, just relaxing in the living room or snuggling in bed watching a movie together. Often we are always on the go and it is nice to have some down time as a family. I also enjoy baking and traveling.

mrs-tulsa

As Mrs. Tulsa, you’ve made your platform Postpartum Depression Awareness.
Share with us your personal experience with PPD. When did you realize things weren’t quite right?

In June of 2006, I gave birth to my baby girl. She was perfect and beautiful! Right away I felt a disconne

ction from her. What should have been the happiest time of my life would turn out to be the most difficult.

My mom stayed with us for about 2 1/2 months. She and my husband began noticing I was not myself. I felt sad, tired and unmotivated. I did not feel like interacting with my daughter or anyone else. We all agreed it must be the baby blues and kind of ignored it.

After almost two months of living with depression, we all agreed it was something more. My family accompanied me to see the doctor, where I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression.

The most difficult time was the evenings. My mom had ended her stay with us and my husband works nights as a police officer. After I put my daughter to bed I felt so alone. I would cry uncontrollably and have suicidal thoughts. I never had visions of hurting my daughter- I only wanted to hurt myself. This is when I realized my illness was getting more serious.

You mention it took some time to find the right course of treatment. What advice would you offer as a Mom to other moms who are having some difficulty in finding successful treatments?

Don’t give up! Everyone is different and it takes time to find what is right for you. Think outside the box… Treatment can include medication and therapy, but also can consist of rest, joining a support group, joining a MOMS Club, exercising, etc… Enroll in a mommy and me class or go to story time at your local library. For some, a combination of these suggestions is what will work the best.


How did your husband handle your PMD? Was your family supportive?

My husband along with my parents were very supportive. They were the ones who recognized my symptoms and went with me to get help. My husband would also take my daughter to the store or the park to give me a little time to myself. He helped me realize how precious our baby girl is and that feeling the way I was feeling was not my fault.


In building your platform, have you been surprised at the public response? Tell us about one of the more meaningful interactions you’ve had as a result of advocating for PMD awareness.

In general, the public response has been great. What really caught me by surprise is how appreciative local, state and national PPD and Mental Health organizations have been. I have tried to make contact with as many as possible and all of them have been so excited with my willingness to help.

My community has also been very supportive. I was asked to be at a family expo last month and the director graciously allowed me to hand out PPD information. While I was at this event, a grandmother came up to me to get some of the information I was distributing and told me she felt her daughter was suffering from PPD. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss ways to approach the situation and some ideas for treatment. This like that makes me feel like I am doing the right thing and I love the opportunity I have to help others.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

My daughter! A few minutes ago she came in and said her toes looked like mommy’s. She had taken a marker (washable thank goodness!) and “painted” her toenails.

My husband makes me laugh everyday by telling me jokes or trying to fool me.

The third laugh of the day was while I was watching “Friends” reruns. It is my all-time favorite show and I can always count on that group of actors for a great laugh!


Many mothers who struggle with a PMD learn the hard way taking time for ourselves is one of the most important things we can do. What do you do to Mother yourself?

When I first had my daughter, this was one of the hardest things for me to understand. I felt selfish when I took the time I needed for myself. But, after forcing myself to do this, I realized it made me a better mother. I found MOM’s Club which was a wonderful way to meet other moms in my area and talk about what I was going through.

I also enrolled Maddy in a Mom’s Day Out program at our church for one day a week. This allowed me five hours to do whatever I wanted or needed to do, and it gave my daughter the opportunity to socialize with other kids. This year she entered preschool at our church and goes two days a week. She loves it and again it gives me a “mothering” break. Also, don’t forget your husband! Schedule a date night once in a while and whatever happens… try not to cancel it. Your relationship need alone time too.

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

The most challenging thing for my husband and I is ensuring certain values in our daughter. There is so much outside negative influence that can get in the way of our parenting, but we just have to trust that we are giving our daughter the lessons she needs to stay true to herself and her values.

The least challenging aspect of parenting is being “fun” parents. Going out, doing activities, getting dirty playing outside… These fun times create lasting memories for both the child as well as the parents.

What’s the personal significance of your website quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.”

This quote continues to remind me that even in the darkest times during our life, there will always be a light. I use this quote to describe my experience with Postpartum Depression. Caterpillars stay in a dark and lonely cocoon, but eventually they become beautiful butterflies who are set free.

Last but not least, if you had a one chance to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) one piece of advice about PMD’s, what would you tell her?

Don’t give up or give in. Having PPD is a difficult illness to deal with, especially while raising a new baby, but it is not the end of the world. Get help when and if you need it. Know that you are not alone and are not to blame. With help, you will be well!

Sharing the Journey with Teresa Twomey

Teresa Twomey is a fellow Coordinator with Postpartum Support International. Over the past couple of years we’ve emailed back and forth about a few various issues and I’ve really enjoyed my exchanges with her. More often than not, we’ve shared our mutual frustration regarding the mis-conceptions about Postpartum Psychosis vs. Postpartum Depression.

This past Tuesday, her book, Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness, released. I immediately scooped her up for an interview this week. Teresa is a survivor of Postpartum Psychosis and other PMD’s as well. In her book she hopes to present a realistic portrait of PPP and aid in removing the stigma so often associated with this misunderstood condition. With no further ado, here is Teresa’s interview. I am honored to share the journey with her!


Click here to purchase Teresa's book

Click here to purchase Teresa's book

Tell us about yourself – who is Teresa when she’s not a mom or a Postpartum Advocate?

Before I had children I was a litigation attorney and a professional mediator. I am now beginning to re-enter the workforce as a professional mediator. I also do some business consulting. I am currently working on a turnaround project for a packaging company.

I also enjoy writing – I have several writing projects going at any given time. Right now I have three children’s stories finished and another two I’m working on. I also am doing some more non-fiction writing that I plan to develop into a book. (In addition to my postpartum book, I co-wrote a chapter on mediation in a newly-released textbook on Employment Law and have had several academic articles accepted as proceedings or for publication in journals.)

I am active in our PTA, our Newcomers Group, our church and I co-lead two Girl Scout troops.

I enjoy doing new things and my latest “hobby” is working with stained glass (the soldered with lead type). I enjoy designing and creating a variety of pieces.

Sometimes I teach as an adjunct at a local university. I’ve taught Business Law, Business Communication, and Introduction to Women and Gender Studies.

As many of the moms who visit this blog, you’ve traveled down the dark road of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Share your experience with us.

After the birth of my first daughter I began to experience many strange things – I had nightmares, hallucinations, I could not read, I was paranoid. I did not know something like that could happen to someone like me – I was totally blindsided. I did not get treatment at the time, although I told everyone who would listen that I could not cope. I had physical complications and I think those around me thought that was the basis for my frustration and complaints. And I think that even the medical professionals did not understand that something like postpartum psychosis could happen to someone like me (educated, smart, capable, personable, and dynamic). After the psychosis I went into a depression. But still I did not identify it and did not receive help. I did not learn the name for my experience until I was on bed rest during my second pregnancy (with twins!) I was frustrated about the lack of information and misinformation. But I was fortunate – I did not have postpartum psychosis following the birth of my twins. Then when Andrea Yates killed her children and I heard many hurtful and ignorant comments, I decided to do this book. (The more detailed version of my story is in the book.)

At what point in your journey did you realize you needed professional help?

I knew I needed some kind of help almost immediately – but I did not know there was help for what I was experiencing. I did not know there was a name for it. I thought maybe I was going crazy. I did keep telling people I could not cope – that I was a terrible mom – that I wanted someone there to help me all the time – but I was afraid (and paranoid) so I didn’t actually describe in detail what I was experiencing. I just remember telling myself “just hold on – just hold on.”

What roles did your husband and family members play in your recovery? How did they handle your diagnosis?

I was better by the time my family learned of it. They expressed shock, dismay, some denial, and concern — all in a loving way.

My husband, mom, dad and brothers have all been very supportive of my work with Postpartum Support International.

You’re now a Coordinator with Postpartum Support International. What made you decide to become an advocate?

I recognized a need. Plus I was profoundly grateful that we had not suffered any loss of life. It felt right to express my gratitude for that by turning around and helping others. Plus, Jane Honikman asked me to be a coordinator. (I sometimes joke that she roped me in – and am usually met with a response like “you and everyone else at PSI,” or “join the club!”) I am honored to be a part of such an amazing organization.

Earlier this week your book, Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness, released. Tell us about this book and the concept behind it. What is your hope for this book?

I was dismayed about how little information there is about the actual experience of women with postpartum psychosis and the amount of misinformation most of us have. I believe those contribute to the ongoing mental anguish many women have as a result of this disorder as well as the occasional loss of life. I passionately believe that professionals and the general public need to know more about this disorder. It strikes so seemingly randomly that if people do not become informed until faced with this disorder it may be too late.

Public ignorance and mis-perceptions lead to:

  • Failure to identify and warn women (and their families) who are at high risk of having this disorder
  • Failure to take measures to prevent the illness
  • Failure to properly identify the illness
  • Failure to provide adequate care
  • Failure to take the steps necessary to prevent tragic outcomes
  • Mistreatment at the hands of police and other law enforcement professionals
  • Inequitable treatment by the legal system based on discredited science and societal myths
  • Misinformation and inaccurate portrayals in the media
  • Oppressive social stigma even for those who do not do any harm

In the short term my hope is twofold: First, I hope that this book will educate medical and legal professionals and the public to effect change regarding how we approach this illness. That this change will lead to aggressive steps to identify those at risk, to prevent the illness and when prevention fails, to adequately treat it and protect the woman and those around her. In the long term I hope this book helps to eradicate postpartum psychosis. I believe that could happen in my lifetime.

Secondly, I hope this book helps women (and their families and friends) who have had PPP to heal. I always say there are two levels of healing from this illness: There is the recovery from the psychosis and then there is the recovery from having had this illness — the learning to trust yourself again, dealing with the fear of a recurrence, being tormented by questions of “why me?” and so on. The illness is temporary – women recover from it relatively quickly. However, the emotional pain from having had this illness can last a lifetime. Just as these stories helped me to heal, to know I was not alone, to believe I could be completely well, I want them to be available to help others heal as well.

Name three things that made you smile today.

My girls singing.

Joking with the ladies in my aqua-aerobics class.

Seeing the sunshine.

I know my advocacy has affected those around me and increased their knowledge and understanding of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Have you found the same to be true about your loved ones?

Oh my, yes!

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

Most challenging: consistency and discipline.

Least challenging: loving, enjoying and genuinely liking my children.

If you had one chance to speak with an expectant mother (new or experienced) about Postpartum Mood Disorders, what would you tell her?

I would tell her that, unless she has a medical history that would indicate otherwise, it is unlikely that she will have a PPMD. But if she does, there is NOTHING she could experience that other women have not thought or felt and that ALL postpartum mood disorders are treatable. So if she does not feel right in any way, she should tell her doctor and contact me OR someone else through www.postpartum.net for peer support and information.

Thank you for this opportunity Lauren.

Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness

understanding-postpartum-depressionA new book by Teresa Twomey with Shoshana Bennett became available today. This book is not for the faint of heart.

This much needed volume is broken into three parts.

The first section addresses Legal, Psychological, Historical and Media-based views of Postpartum Psychosis.

The second section includes stories from women who have experienced Postpartum Psychosis and recovered.

The third part addresses the stories of two women whose PPP experience had “Tragic Conclusions.”

You can order the book by clicking here.

And if you’d like to get to know the author, Teresa, check here. I’ve scooped her up for an interview!

Gettin’ my Party On!

This week is Ultimate Blog Party Week over at 5 Minutes for Mom.

FYI, there ARE Prizes!!

My favorites are:

Afternoon Tea in a Box (111)

$25 gift certificate for DOVE Chocolate Discoveries (130)

A surprise box filled with goodies ($50 value) (103)

Any of the prizes related to relaxation or taking a deep breath for Mom are great, actually!

Welcome to those of you who are new here and hopping over via Mr. Linky.

A quick bit of history about the blog for those of you gaining your bearings:

I’m a mom of three who’s survived two episodes of Postpartum OCD and am now dedicated to advocating for and providing support to families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders. This blog is a huge part of my work. You see, it was started after discovering my third (and quite unexpected) pregnancy, hence the title. I aim to share my journey and empower others through theirs so they do not have to suffer alone and in silence as I did.

Through this blog I not only share research and information but insight about my own life, which includes not only overcoming PPD, but parenting a child born with a cleft palate, accepting and overcoming my husband’s marijuana addiction, and the challenges that come of course, with the normal motherhood territory.

I also post weekly interviews with moms who have been on the front lines of the PPD battle or those who work with those who have. (Are you a mom who’s survived PPD and willing to answer 10 questions about your experience? Email me at ppdacceptance@gmail.com with Interview Request in the subject line!)

And on Fridays, I post a really cool pic with an inspirational or thought-provoking quote to encourage my readers to slow down and smell the roses. You can search over to the side for “Friday soother” to find some of the recent posts.

Other features include Grace Awards for Journalists who treat reporting about Psychosis with compassion and responsibility. I also scour the internet to point out the misuse of Postpartum Depression. Know of any? Email me at ppdacceptance@gmail.com with Misnomer of Postpartum Depression and include the link of the sighting. (You’ll receive credit and be added to my blog roll if you’re a blogger!)

Most importantly I emphasize self-care. I practice it too and have been known to leave the blog untouched for a week (or two) while I tend to myself and my family. I do return, usually with some really good stuff, too!

I hope you enjoy nosing around and I hope some of you stay or at least help to spread the word and raise awareness that Moms with Mood Disorders do exist, they are not alone, they are not to blame, and they WILL Be well!

Warmest Wishes,

Lauren

p.s. And for the man in your life, I also have a little project called The Postpartum Dads Project. Check it out.

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.

Mommy-Muse Day is here!

Today I’m the featured blogger over at the Mommy-Muse website.

Later today at 3:00pm EST, you’ll get an entire hour of me on the radio with her. I’ll be discussing my journey as well as sharing some general information and tips! (There’s information on how to listen at the above link!)

As if that’s not enough, Christy (Mommy-Muse), has agreed to allow me to share her journey with her. Look for her interview to post here on Thursday!

Sharing the Journey with Tara Mock

Tara has been a true source of inspiration for me through my advocacy journey. Her strength, faith, and dedication to supporting other women has made me examine my own work and my increasing awareness of the role my faith and God held in my experience with Postpartum OCD and my subsequent passion for advocacy. I often refer women to her website when they are in need of faith-based support. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and have connected with another wonderful Christian PPD supporter – Sue McRoberts – through Tara. Thank you, Tara for all you do for Moms who are still on that dark path. Thank you for showing them the way Out of the Valley.

valley2

Share a little bit of yourself with us. Who IS Tara Mock as a woman?

I am a formerly-shy-now-outspoken woman who loves Jesus dearly, my husband 0428whole-heartedly, and my children with everything I have.  I am a pianist and an avid reader.  I can have a sarcastic sense of humor, but I love to laugh and believe the best memories are those with lots of laughter and smiles.  I hate pickles with a deep and abiding passion, but will eat chocolate with anything.  I love to have dinner and/or coffee (I prefer hot chocolate) with my girlfriends.  They are so precious to me, so encouraging and wise, and as a mom of young children, I love that.  I’m not sure what I would do without them!

You’ve walked the dark path of Postpartum Depression. Share with us what that was like.

In one word –  horrid.  I would not wish what I went through on my worst enemies. PPD hit me hard and fast in the week after my son’s birth.  I was in a lot of physical pain to begin with and then my emotions began to snowball, running the gamut:  sadness, anger, apathy, despair, hopelessness, frustration, to eventually suicidal.  That terrified me and it was then, and through the encouragement of my pastor’s wife, that I told my doctor.  Even after that, those crisis days were not over and I still had another couple of weeks to trudge through – including a hospitalization, suicide watch, meds, 24-hour care by a nurse-friend, and lots of sleep.  In the subsequent days and weeks and months, I gradually learned how to care for my son and gain new confidence as a mother, with my eyes towards hope for the future. There were good days and there were bad days, but when the good started outnumbering the bad, I knew I was getting better.  It was about nine or ten months from the time of his birth before I really felt like I had my feet on solid ground and out of that valley.
How did your faith affect your experience and recovery?

Greatly.  My Christian faith is who I am, but with this experience I initially felt like I had been “kicked while down.”  We had gone through infertility treatments to even conceive this baby, my husband had been laid off on the very day we found out I was pregnant, and I was very angry that PPD was happening to me after all that.  I repeatedly asked God “Why?  Isn’t it enough what I’ve been through already?”  But I learned that I also could not get through it without Him.  I clung to encouraging Scriptures with everything I had, even taping them on note cards around my house.   Unfortunately, there were Christian friends who said well-meaning but hurtful things (pray more, just be grateful, etc.), but working past that and learning what the Bible really says helped me grow so much.  I hated going through PPD, but I can also say that I am grateful for the experience and for who it made me today.  (Please know that it is ok if you do not feel the same way!)
At what point did you decide to become an advocate and source of support for other women who are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder?

There were a series of events that solidified my resolve to become an advocate for women going through what I went through.  First, on my first Mother’s Day, the one I had longed for for quite a few years, I went to a local bookstore to purchase Brooke Shields’ new book, Down Came the Rain – it had just been released.  The lady behind the counter started commenting on my son, mentioned she had a baby the same age then started to tell me how she could not understand how anyone who had had a baby could be sad.  I was stunned.  Here I was purchasing a book about PPD and she could not put two and two together that I might be hurting?  I mumbled something about that it had happened to me and thankyouverymuchgoodbye.  I cried all the way home.   (Not to worry, I went back the next day and spoke with the manager about that employee.)  Second, the argument between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise was a highlight in the news sometime around then and I was angry at the sheer ignorance that some people had about this illness as well as the fact that this Hollywood figure was spreading so much misinformation.  Third, I was part of an online Christian group and some lady (or two, I do not recall) had a discussion about the Brooke Shields book and began degrading her and what she went through.  I took it very personally because I was going through it as well – and these were fellow Christians.  Ouch!  The misinformation out there was stunning – I had just encountered it three times in a short time span.  I decided then and there to not be ashamed of my story, to share it and not hide it, and to encourage other women also sick with PPD.  That was the beginning….  I then began to search for Christian resources for this illness and at the time, there were none.  (Now, there are a few and the number is growing quite quickly, yea!!!)  After my son’s first birthday, I felt led to fill the gap – to provide a non-denominational Christian ministry for women, their families, and churches to know how to deal with Postpartum Mood Disorders.  Thus was born the (currently) online ministry, Out of the Valley Ministries, Inc.

You have two beautiful children. Did you experience PPD with both? If not, what do you think made the difference?

Thank you!  With my daughter, I experienced a small amount of anxiety, but overall the experience was remarkably better with no real recurrence of PPD.  We planned very, very carefully for her birth.  The planning itself was therapy, helping me feel like I had some control, whereas I felt I had none when I had PPD with my son. Medications were discussed with my doctor.  I had a therapist I could call if needed.  I had a schedule of family and friends to be here with me for at least six weeks.  My husband was insistent that sleep be my first priority (sleep deprivation being a huge trigger for me) and he was so wonderful in making sure that I got that.  I had a self-care plan in place for my return home to minimize anxiety.  I had the same doctor as I did for my son’s birth and amazingly, the same nurse who was there for our childbirth education classes, my son’s delivery, and who cared for me when I had PPD  – she was standing there when I walked into the birth center in labor with my daughter.  What a blessing!! She knew me and exactly how to take care of me.  As much as I had it under control, that told me that God had it in His hands as well.  I believe prayer and the pro-active approach we took to minimize/prevent a recurrence of PPD was really key.
Self-care is of the utmost importance on this road called Motherhood. What do you do to make sure you are taken care of on a daily basis?

Not enough! I make sure to always put the kids in their rooms for quiet time/nap time in the middle of the day – whether they sleep or play.  This gives me the mental break and quiet moment I need to get through the rest of the day. I treat myself to a cup of tea and either a book, my favorite blogs, or catch up on a favorite TV show. The days that I am able to have a quiet moment to read my Bible and pray are definitely my better days, but doing that consistently, especially when kids like to get up at 6am is difficult!   Staying in touch with the rest of the world is important for me as well – the internet is a wonderful thing to a mom with young children!  Being a pianist, music is ingrained in my soul.  If things are getting stressful around here, I know I can put on some music and my mood can change that quickly.  I love that!
List three things that made you laugh today.

Ah, great question!  I laughed when my son came up to me and said, “I love you wotsa-wotsa-wotsa-wotsa!”  (Translation:  I love you lots and lots and lots and lots!)   And my little girl makes me laugh all the time – especially when she grins and says “I did it!” for something she shouldn’t have done.  I have to hide my laugh then!
What have you found to be the most challenging about parenting? The least challenging?

The least challenging?  When the kids are actually asleep.  The most challenging?  When they are awake.  Some days we just have no idea how to handle this or that behavior, and other days we are just amazed at what great kids they are.
Tell us a little about Out of The Valley and how it has continued to grow. When you started out, did you envision it growing as much as it has?

Out of the Valley Ministries is primarily an online ministry – I share articles and Scriptures to encourage ladies who are hurting, help churches and loved ones help those who are sick, as well as list a wealth of resources.  On my blog, I try to list practical self-care tips, include music that encouraged me, and write devotional-type pieces to encourage the hurting mom, and have recently begun to feature stories and testimonies of survivors.  Periodically, I may share my story on the blog or other information that is of the utmost importance in the PPD world.  Yours (Sharing the Journey) and Katherine Stone’s (Postpartum Progress) among others do such a great job at keeping us updated on the news that I feel no need to duplicate the information, but to rather write from a self-care perspective.  That growth has come as I have learned about and gotten to know the many wonderful people advocating for postpartum mood disorders, as well as gotten better at managing my website and finding a niche that fits me as a person.  I love seeing how God has used this ministry to touch women’s lives – and women that I had no idea that it helped until recently.  That blesses my socks off!  It made what I went through worth every second.
And last but not least, if you had the opportunity to share one piece of advice about PMD’s with an expectant mother, (new or experienced), what would you tell them?

Just one?  Gosh, Lauren, you know how to ask the hard questions!  Some days you will need to take it one breath at a time, and others five minutes at a time, but eventually the whole day will be beautiful and full of hope.  You WILL walk out of this valley, and know that God is with you the entire time!

Sharing the Journey with Michael Puline

A couple of weeks ago, we shared the journey with Amber Koter-Puline. Today we’ll get her husband’s point of view. It’s important to include dad in the postpartum experience because his support is invaluable to recovery. I want to thank Michael from the depths of my heart for sharing his story so openly and for supporting Amber so wonderfully during such a difficult experience. I hope this provides invaluable insight for new or expecting fathers who may either find themselves in a similar situation or know someone who is already there.

What makes you tick? Tell us a little bit about who you are!

I enjoy business – specifically the retail real estate business.  I enjoy all aspects of my business.  I spend a good portion of my time dedicated to being successful in my work so that I can provide for my family.  I also enjoy spending time training Gracie jiu jitsu; its something that I have always wanted to get into before but didn’t have the opportunity.  When we moved to Atlanta and I found a place to train and I immediately began.  I am a morning person!  I like to get up very early before others to accomplish things.  I am generally waiting for the gym to open at 4:45am when I arrive.   Sometimes they let us in early.  On nights that I am not at jiu jitsu, I play the guitar and enjoy spending time with my family.

You’ve walked the dark path of Postpartum Depression with your wife. Share with us what it was like to watch the woman you loved seemingly slip away into a dark shell.

It was awful.  I saw a highly motivated and capable person become so helpless and undergo such a radical change.  It is almost as if you no longer know the person.  They are someone else.  It was very difficult for me because I didn’t really believe it was happening.  I thought that it would go away on its own.  But, when Amber came to me and recognized that she was in need of professional help I knew that it was serious.  It was  very difficult to deal with.  I had to change my work schedule and Amber had to even come with me to work some days.  It was almost as if she had regressed mentally to a 4 year old.  She had to be at my side almost 24-7.  You can’t believe it until you experience it.

How did your faith support you through Amber’s recovery?

It helped in many ways.  One of the biggest was seeing the outpouring of help from our church community.  Even people who we did not expect to come through for us came and truly tried to make a difference in our lives and help us with this difficult situation.  As a result of having gone through this, my faith has grown stronger and I can now see why God chose this to happen to my wife.

What has it been like to see your wife take something so painful and turn it into such a point of strength and grace?

It has been really nice. I know she enjoys it. Anytime you go through a challenge and are able to transform it into a positive aspect of others lives I believe it is the ultimate blessing you can receive.  Amber has done this.  She has put her heart and soul into a blog, website, communicating with others, and constantly trying to reach out and help others. It is very commendable. I love her for it. It feels really good to know that she wants to help others. She took the situation, transformed it, and is giving it back to God by helping others. It’s the only way to live.

Did PPD affect your marriage? If so, how?

Yes, in many ways. It has changed our plans for future children (we had previously wanted a larger family.) We had to change our schedules and had to change the dynamics of our child-rearing than we had previously planned. You see, Amber and I had initially thought about having several children, however when she went through such a severe PPMD it really changed her desire and made her feel as if she could never handle more than one child, as she could barely physically and emotionally handle this one. As she had continued to get better, I believe her opinion continues to change slightly. For the first 3 or 4 months I had to do the lion’s share of the night-time wakings, because she needed to rest. At first I think I resented her for it, but now I think it helped me to build an irreplaceable bond with my son. While it was difficult at the time, I am very much thankful for the opportunity to do that because the benefits clearly outweigh the sacrifice I made. Hey, whats a few hours sleep for a guy who gets up at 4:30am anyways? I think as a result we take specific time in our day to better ourselves- praying together, reading and discussing books together, etc. We truly want each other to grow and develop everyday as individuals and parents. We are much more committed to each other. Not just to having our marriage be ok or something we endure, but to flourish. It also changed how we now interact. We have a different relationship. It’s much stronger.
Fathers need to remember not to lose themselves in the process of parenting. What is it that you do to just hang out and be a “guy”?

Jiu Jitsu.  I train.  For me, jiu jitsu offers me the opportunity to escape.  Going to the gym is similar, but jiu jitsu provides me the one on one competition that drives me to do better every day.  I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that I wrestled as a child.  I always enjoyed wrestling and jiu jitsu is similar, but you wear a gi instead and the object is to submit an opponent vs. pin them.  Outside of that, I really like to watch football.  College, NFL, it doesn’t matter!  My wife will watch “our teams,” but can’t understand at all why I would watch other games.  For me, this is how I relax…sitting on the couch or in my chair, with a cold beer Sweetwater 420 (shameless local beer plug!) in my hand.  That’s my release.

3 things that made me laugh…

Telling others a story about how a rock hit my windshield.
My son saying “mango” as one of his first words.
Remembering when my wife saw a coyote walking down the middle of our street when she had PPD.  I asked her if it was real.  She replied, “I am crazy, but not THAT crazy!”  The next day we got a notice about a neighborhood coyote spotting.  :)

What do you find the most and least challenging about fatherhood?

Having patience with my son has been challenging.  I sell things…I am a salesman.  I have absolutely NO patience for anything and I don’t care to.  For me, patience was not important at all.  But now, with my son, I start to realize that there are times where it is needed.  I think that because my love for him is so strong I am able to be more patient and give him the attention that he needs.

I think just having fun with my son comes easily and naturally to me.  Ball, guitar, piano, wrestling, etc.  If there is one thing that I know how to do, it’s how to have fun!  I have spent my whole life enjoying every moment.  Get the fullest out of life.  I want to look back and say I wouldn’t have done anything differently.  It’s the only way to live.

Amber’s PPD Support means…

Alot to me because it means a lot to her.  I think it is important to her.  It helps her grow as a person and move past this terrible part of her life that occurred.

Advice…

This is REAL.  It can happen to anyone.  Don’t feel badly.  Don’t try to hide it.  Don’t ignore it.  Seek professional help right away.  Be more proactive in finding out how your spouse is feeling postpartum.  Ask her- Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Are you feeling depressed?  Can we go for a walk and talk?  Observe her.  Is she getting enough rest?  She is human, too.  She needs more than 2 hours of sleep a day.  Is she getting it?  You are much better off taking the necessary time off in the beginning to try to avoid a PPMD getting worse than to let it evolve untreated.  It will get worse before better.  In closing you’ll note that in the beginning it may be harder to detect, but easier to cure.  While left untreated, it will become VERY apparent and much more difficult to cure.  My suggestion is to be proactive.  It really can happen to your family.