Postpartum Depression

Remembering Ruth

On Dec. 5, 1999, the unthinkable happened.

A father arrived at his home in Lexington, S.C., and found his wife and the mother of his 2-month-old son had committed suicide after a short but fierce battle with postpartum depression.

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Her name was Ruth Rhoden Craven, born and raised on Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant. She was 33 years old and was very much loved by her husband, her friends and her family. She was a perfectionist and loved her job, and she had been excited to be a mother.
 

Back then, no one really talked about postpartum depression. While things are a little better now, too many women still struggle with the shame that comes with it and the lack of education for treatment by health care providers. Ruth’s story is all too similar to the millions of mothers who have struggled with similar prenatal or postpartum battles with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

But what makes Ruth’s story different is what happened in the aftermath of her death.

Through their grief and anger, Ruth’s mother and two of her best friends started the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation in Mount Pleasant, S.C in March 2000. They wanted to bring more awareness to the disorder that took their beloved daughter and friend from them. They wanted to make sure that no more Lowcountry women took their life over a treatable illness, and that no more children would be left behind without their mothers. When they felt ready, they passed the baton to the board members of what is now Postpartum Support Charleston.

We are quickly approaching the 18th anniversary of Ruth’s death, and we want to bring her story back to the forefront of our organization. We are meeting with Ruth’s family members and friends, as well as other integral members to the founding of what is now Postpartum Support Charleston, and we are retelling the story. We want you to know about her and why her story is important to the health of our community.

Postpartum Support Charleston wants to erase the stigma surrounding perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and we want EVERY mother to be screened. We want to remove barriers that keep women from getting help, and we want to connect them with other women who have recovered, so they can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

One way you can help us is by participating in our Stand For Moms T-shirt campaign. Proceeds from this fundraiser will help with our awareness efforts in the Charleston area. Your money can help us in our work, and believe us, we are on fire for this cause.

Thank you, and be on the lookout for Ruth’s story and how you can help make a difference to a local mom and her family.

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Mothers & More Summerville Supports Grants for Women with Postpartum Mental Health Disorders

The Summerville Chapter of Mothers & More has donated more than $4,000 to Postpartum Support Charleston – a decision that came after the national organization of Mothers & More disbanded and the local chapter closed.

As the national organization closed, so did all the chapters, including Chapter 15 with 30 members in Summerville. Because all money raised by Chapter 15 was done so under the Mothers & More name, all funds were required to be turned back into the national organization when the closing date came. Prior to that, the group voted to donate its funds to Postpartum Support Charleston, explained Keri Scougale, former co-leader of Mothers & More Chapter 15.

Members of Mothers & More have launched a new organization, Summerville Moms, which now has almost 40 members. Summerville Moms is continuing where Mothers & More left off by being dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, connection and advocacy.

“There was no way to know if we would see any of that money again, but when we got the call that the majority of the funds we worked so hard to raise here locally were able to stay close to home and benefit other mothers in the Lowcountry, we were elated,” said Scougale, current co-leader of Summerville Moms. “As a chapter that was thriving, the closing of Mothers & More was very upsetting to all of us, but we’re glad to see something good come out of it. We are proud and honored to be able to help Postpartum Support Charleston and support their mission.”

The donation of $4,014.75 will further the work Postpartum Support Charleston helping Charleston area mothers struggling with postpartum mental health issues, such as postpartum depression or anxiety.

“This generous donation from Mothers & More Summerville chapter will allow our organization to do so much for mothers in the Lowcountry suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety,” explained Elaine DeaKyne, Postpartum Support Charleston board president. “Not only will we be able to provide more grants to mothers looking for financial assistance with therapy, but this will gives us an amazing opportunity to give back to the Summerville community. We have long talked about bringing a support group and providing more outreach materials to the Summerville area, and this money will allow us to continue spreading our message and offering much needed support to this community.”

Postpartum Support Charleston, run largely by volunteers, works with the local medical community to educate health care providers about postpartum mental health as well educating new moms, moms-to-be and their families about this issue. PSC also offers a number of peer-led support groups for moms who are struggling with postpartum mental health issues. For more information, visit www.PPDSupport.org.

About Postpartum Support Charleston Postpartum Support Charleston is dedicated to educating and supporting mothers and their families, the medical community and the general public about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, available treatment options and community resources. We strive to increase awareness, inspire support and break the stigma of this widespread and often misunderstood illness both in our local community and across the country. For more information, visit www.PPDSupport.org.

I Can't Hear You

By: Graeme Seabrook.

People ask me quite regularly about what it took for me to get better. Usually these people are mamas who are suffering and they want a formula, some path they can follow back to their old selves.

I did so, so many things to get better. Almost anything that I heard about or read about I would try. I went to therapy and took medication. I exercised and (sort of) ate better. I made rest a priority and drank more water. I took vitamins and considered acupuncture. Woman Using Megaphone

Writing saved me. Telling my story saved my life, my relationship and my sense of myself as a mother. I couldn't have done the writing without the therapy and the medication, I want to be very clear about that. Everything else that I was doing was also quite helpful, but writing was the key for me.

What I couldn't have known at the time, but what keeps me going on rough days now, is that my writing didn't save just me. My writing reached other women and encouraged them to reach out for the help they needed. My writing reached family members of women who were suffering and gave them hope and resources to help their wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter to heal.

photodune-1061133-woman-with-megaphone-xs-300x199Each of us, every single survivor, is immensely powerful.  Right now there is a mama out there struggling with intrusive thoughts. She thinks she's going crazy. She thinks if she tells anyone they will take her baby. She thinks she's alone. Your story could save her. You could save the mom who can't get out of bed, you could save the mom who can't stop moving, or the one who has washed her children's clothing four times today because she can't stop worrying about that sniffle that's going around.

Telling your story can be healing and empowering. It can free you and lift you. It can help you to look back and forgive yourself and others. It can also help you move someone forward. It can be the hand reaching through the darkness to pull another mama up to the light. Each of our stories is unique and uniquely powerful.

Any day now my daughter will be born and I'll be stepping away from this blog for a few weeks. I already have some great posts lined up from women all over this country who have fought and survived or are fighting a maternal mental illness. If you would like to raise your voice I'd love to have you! Please email me at andrewsmamag@gmail.com.  If there is a place where you share your story and connect with other mamas we would love to know about it! Please leave a comment on this blog.

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Hold On Pain Ends

Hope. It's essential. It's vital. It gives us strength and comfort. It can get us through the darkest night. For so many women it is the one thing they desperately need to get through the postpartum period. Hope that they won't always feel like this. Hope that this won't harm their children. Hope that their relationships can survive this. Hope that someone will understand. Hope that someone will help.

Hope is one of the first things that Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and OCD tries to steal from you. Depression tells you that no one cares, Anxiety tells you that you are ruining everything, OCD tells you that you will hurt or be unable to protect your baby. They are liars. But when your own brains seems to have turned on you, where do you find hope? How do you hold on until the pain ends when you honestly can't see an end to the pain?

HopeThis is why we are here. THIS is what we do. You may have noticed that our tagline - "Educating. Supporting. Healing." We exist to show moms, dads, families, and providers that there is a way out of this. Each path is different. Some include medication, therapy, support groups, online groups, diet changes, exercise, vitamins, acupuncture, massage... there are as many paths as there are women. The important thing is that there is also hope.

950,000 women will suffer from a maternal mental illness (depression, anxiety, OCD or psychosis) each year. That's 1 in 5 new moms. What they need most of all is hope. They need to know that they are not alone, that in fact they are far from being alone. They need to know that they can reach out for help and help will reach back. They need to know that if they can just Hold On, Pain Ends.

How can you help? You can share this post with a new or expecting mama. You can share it on social media. You can contact us and volunteer.  You can donate time or money or both! You can ask a new mom how she is doing - and listen to her answer.

If you need help please reach out. Please know that we are here. Please Hold On until the Pain Ends. Please have HOPE.

By: Graeme Seabrook.

Battle Scars

By: Graeme Seabrook.

 

The sound of my son giggling through the monitor woke me. Then the thoughts began.

A good mother would have been up before him and ready to greet the day when he opened his eyes.  A real mother would have already taught him how to say Mama. Why doesn't he ever call for me?

I set his milk to warm and then set the coffee maker up and turned it on, got him up and changed and we went into the living room to snuggle and have his morning bottle.

A real mother would have been prepared the night before. The Montessori book said that he should be pulling off his diaper by now. Am I not giving him enough freedom to learn? Should he still be drinking from a bottle at 19months? Why am I so selfishly holding him back? He should still be breast feeding, he should still be breast feeding. FAILURE!

He had apple zucchini muffins for breakfast in his high chair. Which, of course, he didn't eat.

Because you're a terrible cook. He isn't eating enough vegetables. He should still be breast feeding, he should still be breast feeding. FAILURE!

He played at my feet and around the house while I answered work emails, checked our calendar and made the grocery list for the day.

You are missing quality time with your child. Why isn't he your primary focus? He should still be breast feeding, he should still be breast feeding. FAILURE! 

His father came out to play for a little while before heading off to work.

NO, you do not get to be jealous that he gets to leave and go to an office and talk to adults all day. NO, you do not get to be relieved that you don't have to get up and shower and put on makeup and look like a professional and go to an office all day. He should still be breast feeding, he should still be breast feeding. FAILURE!

I finished up the grocery list, got his socks, shoes and jacket on and threw a long coat over my leggings/t-shirt combo.

I may look like shit, but my child is always clean, fed and perfectly dressed. My mother never left the house looking like this. Is this the type of woman I want to model to my son? He should still be breast feeding, he should still be breast feeding. FAILURE!

When we got to the store there was a mother coming out with her daughter. We passed each other, smiled and nodded. The babies waved at each other - SO EXCITED to see another little person. In a moment I knew that she had showered and dressed that morning, she wasn't on any medication to make her able to get through her day, she was a contributing, functioning adult. Her daughter loved her, was happy to see her and happy to be with her. SHE was obviously breastfeeding. You just KNOW. This mother was better than me in pretty much every measurable way.

Some of the voices that live in my head come from my five year old self, dreaming about what it would be like to be a mommy. Some of them come from my pregnant self, reading books and articles, talking to the little alien swimming around inside me. Some of them come from the Depression and Anxiety that I have been battling since his birth.

Some of them are from the comments section of way too many blogs and articles because I still haven't learned to  not read the comments. Some of them come from comments left on my own blog or as a reaction to something I posted on another blog. Anonymous lives in my head too. She is perfect and she hates me.

We have to stop doing this to ourselves and we have to stop doing this to each other. We each have the power - we can forgive ourselves and in doing so we can offer grace to each other. I see it in support groups all the time - moms offering each other a hand up, moms helping to silence the negative voices in each other's heads.

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To every woman reading this I make a promise:

I will forgive myself and I will hold your hand while you forgive yourself.

I will stand beside you while we do the hard work of mothering.

We can do this, together.