‘Just a minute before 7 pm Samsara grabbed a mirror from the wall in the hallway and with me squatting on our nest, Dave behind me and Samsara and the midwives in front, we all witnessed the miracle of Pear being born. It was AWESOME. I was so glad for Samsara’s quick thinking as I was able to see Pear’s head then body slip out like a dream. We had him straight on my tummy and he just looked right at me and we fell in love instantly’. [Read more...]
There is no question that Hilary Rosen should have chosen her words more carefully when she said that Ann Romney, mother of five sons, “never worked a day in her life.” Raising children is work. It’s immensely rewarding work, but it’s work just the same. Ann Romney is justifiably proud of the work she’s done raising her children.
Now that the spotlight is on motherhood, rather than fanning the false flames of a “Mommy War” that doesn’t really exist, it’s time that we as a nation recognize that regardless of whether or not mothers’ work is paid or unpaid, the work of caregiving is important to us all and should be valued.
That’s right: Mothers’ work should be valued.
But too often it’s not.
For moms battling depression, a first-of-its-kind psychiatric unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers intensive, inpatient care.
Jenna Zalk Berendzen gave birth to a son in June. It was a difficult labor, and after Maxwell was born, Berendzen “just felt different.” She was anxious and had trouble sleeping. When she told the nurses, they soothed her, saying, “Oh, it’s just new motherhood.”
But Berendzen, a nurse practitioner herself, suspected it was much more. And she was right. “The night I got home, I started to feel I was going to die,” says Berendzen, from Cedar Falls, Iowa. “I felt maybe I shouldn’t be here so my son could have a better mom. “
Over the next few months, Berendzen, 36, started on antidepressants and antipsychotics. At one point, she had up to 15 bottles lined up in her bathroom. Despite the medications, she still felt overwhelmed. She told her husband she thought she needed to be hospitalized in a psychiatric unit, but being separated from Maxwell — whom she continued to breast-feed and care for — only exacerbated her precarious emotional state. “I knew I wasn’t safe at home, but I also didn’t feel safe there because I was away from my son,” she says. “Being in the hospital perpetuated my feelings that I’m a bad mom because I was away from him.”
It’s a crossroads faced by the sickest mothers who struggle with depression both during and after their pregnancy: a general psychiatric ward that treats drug addicts and schizophrenics doesn’t feel welcoming to moms whose mental health struggles have a very clear cause, the birth of their child. Historically, they’ve had no place to turn.
Then last year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) opened the nation’s first stand-alone inpatient psychiatry unit specifically for expectant or new mothers struggling with depression and anxiety. It’s not somewhere moms hope they’ll ever end up, but for those who need round-the-clock care, it’s a place where treatment focuses on the needs of both mother and baby. Perhaps most significantly, a hospitalized mom is able to be with her baby most of the day, which stands in contrast to many general psych wards that don’t allow infants.
There’s weekly therapy from psychologists who practice mother-infant attachment therapy, which works on how mom relates to her baby and reads her baby’s cues, and there’s partner-assisted psychotherapy, which helps dad understand how he can be most effective. Moms learn stress-management skills, practice yoga and participate in biofeedback sessions and mindfulness-based stress reduction groups. They have access to lactation consultants and hospital-grade breast pumps if they want to express milk. Coping skills and medication help get these moms back on track; counselors help connect departing mothers with hometown resources or transition them to outpatient programs.
Outpatient programs serve the majority of mothers who battle postpartum depression. Up to 15% of moms are thought to be affected, but most experience mild to moderate symptoms that don’t require intensive therapy. About 5% of those who become ill are affected so severely that they need to be hospitalized. Think of it like heart disease, says Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at UNC and an associate professor of psychiatry. Most of the time, the condition can be successfully managed with outpatient therapy; in the event of a heart attack, however, patients will need state-of-the-art care in a cardiac intensive care unit (ICU). “This is our ICU,” says Meltzer-Brody.
The unit evolved from a pilot program launched in 2008; it was so successful — attracting hundreds of women from across the country — that hospital administrators were persuaded to carve out a separate space for the program. They set aside five patient beds and have treated 61 women since August, when the unit opened.
Decorators have tried to mirror what a lot of labor and delivery units across the country have done in recent years, swapping cold tiles for warm Pergo floors and making rooms pretty and welcoming. Rooms are designed to feel more like a comfy and serene space than an institution. Walls are painted cream and blue; artwork features seascapes and mountains. There are gliders in each room, along with baby bassinets and cuddly blankets.
The real attraction, however, is the camaraderie. “To be there with people who are going through the same thing is hugely important,” says Meltzer-Brody. “You don’t feel alone.” For many women, being surrounded by others experiencing the same struggles is akin to opening the floodgates. “Everyone is in there because things are really not going well,” says Meltzer-Brody. “There is a rawness.”
By the time they check in, women are beyond the point of acting as if everything’s fine. “There is a stigma around postpartum depression, but by the time they are that bad that they need to be in the hospital, they can’t pretend any more,” says Meltzer-Brody. “There’s an enormous relief in being able to be honest with their experience.”
Insurance typically covers the cost of hospitalization as a mental health stay, assuming a woman’s symptoms are severe enough. But still, the average stay of seven to 10 days can be prohibitively expensive, after factoring in travel for mom, dad and baby.
Berendzen was lucky; her sister-in-law lives in Chapel Hill and provided family support for her husband and baby. She was admitted the day after Labor Day and quickly noticed the difference between her hospitalization in Iowa and the specialized focus on moms and babies at UNC. Maxwell was able to visit so she could nurse him. Yoga helped relax her. Meeting other women like her made her feel less alone. “I didn’t feel crazy,” says Berendzen.
Read More about Postpartum Depression
By Staff Writer – Vernon Morning Star
Published: March 04, 2012 1:00 AM
Alba Healing Arts and Rooted Birth celebrate mothers and mothers-to-be with Mama March.
It all goes back 10 years ago to when Dawn Sharman and Emma Wheelhouse met shortly after their babies were born.
“I was a doula and massage therapist and she was becoming a doula and we both had new babies. It turned into a wonderful friendship. We always talked about how we wanted to do more for women having babies,” said Sharman.
Sharman moved for awhile but now she’s back in Vernon with her new business, Alba Healing Arts, which includes yoga, and Wheelhouse is a doula who owns Rooted Birth, which supports pregnant women and new mothers in a variety of ways.
“We decided to go for it,” said Sharman. “A lot happens when you are pregnant and there can be fear of the unknown. With education and support and being with other women, it can change to an experience of joy and confidence. We put together what we can offer and what others in the community can offer. People have a lot of questions, whether it’s their first baby or their fourth.”
They call this time the child-bearing year because it includes the time when a woman who is planning to become pregnant will make lifestyle changes and the time after birth when she is getting used to being a mother.
“Women should have the support and resources they need, and feel honoured during this special time of their lives,” said Sharman.
Events, for women and couples, include Prenatal Yoga Classes, Baby & Me Yoga Classes, Balancing Female Hormones Workshop, Birth with Confidence Childbirth Education Classes, Mama and Babe Clothes Trade, Infant Massage Workshop, and a screening of the film, The Business of Being Born.
Find out more about Moms in Waiting
At 5:47 this morning*, my son Lucas let it be known that he had an urgent need.
“Mama! MaMA! Maaaaama! MamaMamaMamaMama! MAMA, I NEED YOU NOW!”
Any casual witness (like, say, our next-door neighbors, who most certainly could hear him) would assume that he was either a) dying, b) trapped between the bed and the wall or c) covered in a bodily fluid.
A Story about Finally Becoming a Mom, at Last
By Dan Irwin
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — No quality of life.
That’s what a genetic counselor told Bobbie McIlwain about the unborn twin girls she was carrying. Doctors were convinced that one would be born with Down syndrome, the other with a bilateral cleft lip and accompanying chromosomal disorders.
McIlwain was encouraged to consider abortion.
On Monday, the 17-month-old girls shone more brightly at a pro-life vigil at First Presbyterian Church than did the 1,000 candles that had just been lit down the street on Kennedy Square.
Ava Marie, her wispy blonde hair tied up into tiny pigtails, toddled gleefully down the corridor outside the fellowship hall, stopping only to look up and smile at every person she passed.
Inside, Emily Grace sat contentedly on her father’s lap, later clapping happily from atop his shoulders when the audience offered applause for a speaker.
Though Emily has undergone two surgeries to correct her cleft lip and and palate, neither youngster is afflicted with any of the genetic problems her parents were told they’d have.
“Emily is very mothering,” McIlwain, 38, said. “She is nurturing and caring, Ava is a little bit more independent and bossy.
“My life would be so incomplete without them. I thank God every day for the courage he gave me to stand up and have a voice for them.”
And she did it at a time when it seemed like every other voice was telling her not to.
Bobbie McIlwain, a Liberty Mutual employee, and her husband, Jeff, who works for Goldstein’s, were married in 1999. Because they both were past their 30th birthdays — Jeff was 32, Bobbie 30 — they were eager to get their family started.
Three years would go by, though, without Bobbie becoming pregnant. At that point, the couple sought out medical help, and began a second three-year odyssey toward conception.
During that time, Bobbie was diagnosed with, and treated for, various problems that stood in the way of her becoming a mother. These included hypothyroidism, ovarian cysts, a diseased fallopian tube and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which prevented her eggs from growing by releasing testosterone, a male hormone, into her ovaries.
“So now it’s six years we’ve gone through this,” Bobbie McIlwain said. “It’s heartbreaking as a woman. Month after month after month, you’re in this loving, nurturing relationship, and it’s not happening, what is happening so easily for others. I’m seriously starting to get depressed, I’m constantly crying, thinking ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I really needed to do something to help me through this. I felt alone.”
As a Christian and member of New Life Baptist Church in New Wilmington, McIlwain said she made the decision to turn to the only one she knew who could help her.
“I turned to Jesus,” she said. “I had my daily mantra hanging on my desk. I read it every day. I’m at work, I read it to people at work, I read it to people on the phone while I’m at work. I drew strength from it.
“It says, ‘If God leads me to it, he will lead me through it.’ I just had to trust him.”
In December 2005, her faith and modern medicine yielded results. She learned eight days before Christmas that she was pregnant.
“The nurse actually had to tell me twice,” McIlwain said. “I had set myself up for another disappointment, so I actually missed it the first time she said it.”
About a week later, a ultrasound revealed that McIlwain was carrying twins. During a second ultrasound three days after that, she heard her the babies’ hearts beat.
“Not one life, but two,” she said. “What an answer to prayer. I prayed for one life, and was given the gift of two.
“I heard that sweet sound of life coming from within me. Now I was a mother and I knew all my prayers had been answered.”
In the weeks ahead, though, there would be far more prayers to come.
JOY TO DESPAIR
Bobbie McIlwain loved being pregnant. She never had a single bout of morning sickness, although she did experience a heightening of her senses, particularly smell.
“The potpourri we had in the bathroom, I had to throw it out,” she said. “It had lost its smell years ago, but I swore I could still smell the vanilla in it.”
And yet, for the first 16 weeks of her pregnancy, that was the only hitch in an otherwise “cloud nine” experience.
Then, she started to spot.
A trip to the emergency room and another ultrasound assured her that she was in no danger of miscarriage. Still, because of her age, doctors had been keeping a close eye on her all along, concerned that she faced a higher-than-normal risk of having a child with Down syndrome.
That condition, the March of Dimes’ Web site explains, is “a chromosomal disorder that includes a combination of birth defects (such as) … some degree of mental retardation, characteristic facial features and, often, heart defects and other health problems.”…Continue Reading
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More Resources on Mom at Last
There’s this amazing little site on the internet called Pinterest in case you’ve yet to hear of it. You must request an invitation to join. Pinterest is a site that allows you to create a “virtual pin board” for the many wonderful pictures you happen upon on the site. There are photos with links to fashion, design, recipes, crafts, you name it—it’s on Pinterest.
I liken it to flipping through the pages of a most amazing magazine. It’s a little escape for this mom.
I pin photos of kitchen design for my “dream” kitchen. You know the kitchen with plenty of cabinets and smart storage options; the kitchen with a huge island to gather my kids around for homework; the impeccably clean kitchen I’ll never have because that’s just not reality.
I pin photos of neatly organized pantries, laundry rooms and closets. Who doesn’t need to be more organized? There are many creative ideas for organization with materials and supplies you already have at home. I realize I’m not the only neat freak who dreams of organized can goods.
I pin photos of creative and imaginative recipes I want to try like crockpot boiled peanuts, homemade apple pie pop tarts, cinnamon roll pancakes, or baked pumpkin spiced doughnuts. Which that reminds me, I need to make a grocery list.
I pin inspirational quotes to, well, inspire me. Some quotes remind me that I am not alone. Some quotes remind me that I am a child of God. Some quotes remind me that I am stronger than I think. Some quotes remind me to laugh.
I really like this one: “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids”.
I hope I never need this handwritten note on someone’s door but it made me giggle: “You have missed curfew! Do not knock or ring the doorbell. You may sleep on the patio. I have been generous this time and provided a blanket”.
You’ll find many to inspire both in their words and design. Many are made into works of art as they have been painted on canvas or a repurposed wooden barn door.
I pin photos of the “put together” fashion I can’t seem to justify wearing because I am either at the gym or home cleaning. I couldn’t possibly dress up like that to go the grocery store, could I? But these photos will be my guide whenever I shop for new clothes thus eliminating the purchase that goes unworn because it just doesn’t seem to go with anything I imagined that it would….Continue Reading
Additional Resources for Moms
Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting
Perfect timing… a night of romance… and nine months… For most women, that’s all it takes to fulfill the dream of motherhood. But for millions of women throughout the world, that simple dream becomes a heartbreaking nightmare of infertility and loss. Lori Lyons was one such woman. As a 32-year-old newlywed, she was more than ready for motherhood and thrilled at the prospect. When it didn’t happen, no one could figure out why. [Read more...]
Written by AdoptingMaMas.com
I wanted to write a post for all of the moms in waiting out there. Especially the ones that have been waiting a long time and who have experienced many bumps in the road. There are a lot of moms in waiting I know right now that are having a really tough time. Adoption is not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart. So I wanted to give a shout out to all of you that are thinking about throwing in the towel.
The fact is, sometimes the wait is short. But it is not unheard of for a wait to be 20, 24, 30 or more months long. That is a ridiculously long time compared to the human gestation period of 40 weeks, and a long time to wait to become a mom. Especially following 2 or 3 or 4 years of infertility. If it were not for the fact that I myself waited 20 months, I would not be able to wrap my little brain around it. Whatever your agency, attorney or facilitator said about how long your wait would be, double it. Then, just know, that every second you wait is worth it.
The fact is, when you are waiting, you mentally know that you’ve paid for at least part of your adoption, you’ve jumped through the hoops of a homestudy and you feel like you’ve done what you needed to do and you should now, finally, be able to become a parent. But emotionally, you are terrified it will never really, actually happen. You are tired and drained, and late in the wait maybe you’ve even survived a fall through, or two or three or four. And you are ready to give up. Don’t. Not now. Not when you are so very close.
The fact is, no matter how hard you try to listen to your instinct and place your worries in whatever higher power you believe in, if any, there is still stress and pain that weighs heavy on your heart most days, and some days are worse than others. This is normal. There is a piece of you missing and that is why you are in pain. Your child is missing. This is a very big reason to go forward and stay the course. Giving up will not alleviate that pain.
The fact is, no matter how much advice you get about how to get through the wait and how to deal with the pain and stress and frustration, in reality, there is only one, single thing that is going to fix it. And that fix IS, in fact, an immediate and complete fix. That “fix” is your child being placed in your arms, forever. It is the only absolute cure for adoption blues.