Manufactured Memories (or Poop Jokes and Yoga Pants)

22 Jul

“The funny thing about taking family photographs,” my husband quipped in-between poses, “is that you’re basically documenting manufactured memories.”

I have to be honest.  Our family doesn’t often look like this:

Family Portrait

All of us smiling, standing in a field brushed with sunlight, and dressed to the nines in a color-coordinating palette of blues and oranges. There is a dramatic lack of yoga pants and mis-matched toddler socks here, along with way too much grooming.

And, can I tell you a secret?  The only reason my girls are smiling is that our wonderful photographer was cracking poop jokes from behind her lens, on my suggestion (I’ll take my Mom of the Year Award now, thanks).

But despite the surreal nature of the shots Shannon caught last weekend, I disagree that they fail to capture our family.  While we may not always look just like this, it’s a perfect depiction of how I feel inside.  My girls?  They fill my life with light. And though the mundane tasks of the day and sibling squabbles dominate my schedule, there is a contentment in my family that I rarely get the chance to capture.

The closer I look at our portrait, the more I see that Shannon photographed each of our personalities perfectly.  My shy, snuggly Bean and her comedian older sister.  My husband, with his arms wrapped around every one of us, the backbone of our family.  And me, with a genuinely happy and relaxed smile.

Manufactured?  Staged?  Maybe.  But not one less bit real.

Girls in Field Photo Shoot

 


If you are in the Boston area, Shannon (who is uber-talented) is running an unbelievably amazing summer special for $149! If that wasn’t enough, she loves Warrior Moms.  Creative Images Boston will donate $15 for each session that mentions Postpartum Progress!

Summer Special

Disclaimer: I received nothing in return for my post or sharing of Shannon’s summer special.  My post was completely unsolicited.  I just adore her and her work and love to help out a fellow mama.  Shannon, you’re amazing and I’m so grateful to you for capturing my family so perfectly.

First and Last: Happy Diamond Anniversary, Postpartum Progress!

7 Jul

Since having children, I find my life is often measured in firsts and lasts.

First poopy diaper, first bath, first words. First steps, and a first day of school.

Last swaddle, last bottle, last diaper.

Each milestone a testament to the bittersweet passage of time, and a common experience among all new mothers.

And then some unique to 15% of us.

First intrusive thought.  First time I screamed at my baby.

Last time I felt like myself.

My time as a new mother is marred by these moments.  Like scars, they fade with time but will never disappear altogether.

First antidepressant pill. First therapy session.

I can accurately recall dates for the onset of each depressive episode and panic attack.  Appointments for hospital visits and therapy sessions are buried in my phone’s archive.  At times it seems that the history of these 5 years is written in the margins of patient files and on the labels of pill bottles.

But as I look back at my journey through PPD, I find moments of light.

First tweet to Lauren Hale.

First visit to Postpartum Progress.

Last time feeling alone.

I wish I could remember which link brought me to Postpartum Progress…that I could point to a date or a website or a moment and bring back the relief I know I must have felt when someone finally told me I was not a bad mother.  I was not a freak.

First blog post.

And though I know I deserve credit for all the hard work of recovery, the simple truth is that I could not have done it without my tribe.  I would not be who I am today without Postpartum Progress, without Katherine Stone.

Last baby.  First joyful birth.

Because of Katherine, I found the doctors I needed to finally have the pregnancy and postpartum period I never knew was possible. Because of Postpartum Progress, I discovered a tribe of women just like me, whose strength and courage filled me when I had none of my own.

First time meeting Katherine.

Last doubt of my calling as an advocate.

And as she has morphed from a Bono-like celebrity in my eyes to a mentor, resource, teammate, and finally friend, I have constantly found myself honored by her presence in my life.

When I think of her impact on my life and multiply it by the TEN YEARS she been advocating for women and families, I am inspired to do more and be more.  You see, Katherine’s gift is that she doesn’t just help women like me.  She doesn’t only provide them with resources and information. She empowers them.

Last shame.

Last regret.

With Katherine by my side, I find myself grateful for where PPD has led me and who it has helped me become.  So when I tell her “thank you,” that really doesn’t even begin to cover it.

She didn’t just save my life.  She gave me a new one.

katherine and me

 

Postpartum progress 10 year

July 13th marks the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress.  YOU can help moms just like me by donating to the non-profit by clicking HERE.

You can learn more about Postpartum Progress and our mission HERE.

You can read other Diamond Anniversary Blogathon posts soon!  Link is coming!

Stigma Fighters

2 Jul

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Stigma Fighters today, writing about how stigma continues to affect me, even 5 years post-diagnosis.

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I’d like to say I’m immune from stigma. After 3 years of blogging about mental health, and 2 years as an advocate, you’d think I’d be able to shake the shame surrounding my diagnoses of postpartum anxiety (and postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder) with ease. And from the outside, it must seem that I do.

I speak freely about my experiences with friends and family. I’ve hosted public events, fundraising and educating my local communities. I write for Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog on maternal mood and anxiety disorders. And I’m helping organize and direct an entire conference dedicated to those Warrior Moms who have survived from them.

But what you probably don’t see? Is that when I speak in person about my mental illness, I measure my words carefully, making note of my audience and surroundings before I ever open my mouth. I watch the face of my conversation partner for signs of disgust disguised as pity, and I find myself wondering at times if that mom from playgroup doesn’t ever drop her kid off to play because “she’s afraid I might go cray-zee.”

You see, the only stigma I’m immune to is the one I hold against myself…

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To read the rest of the story (you know you want to!) please head on over and say hello at Stigma Fighters.  The work Sarah is doing to raise awareness and change the way the world views mental illness is so important.

Stigma Fighters

Warrior Mom, Climber of Mountains

22 Jun

I slept for almost 13 hours last night after climbing 4.2 miles and 4,300 feet up to the summit of Mt Washington for Climb Out of the Darkness yesterday. 13 glorious hours. And as I massage my sore muscles, I am struck by the fact that I just accomplished an amazing feat.

In the last five years, I have struggled with three lumbar disc ruptures, a neck strain that sent me to physical therapy, and have been diagnosed with kidney disease. I have birthed two babies, leaving my core in ruins and with little time or energy to care for myself. And I have found myself fighting to love my body where it is while also wanting it to be better – stronger and more healthy.

Conditioned by society and pop culture, despite the wisdom of my rational mind, I have pulled and tugged at my stomach, cursed my thighs, and wondered how I would ever teach my girls to love their own bodies, when I could find only criticism for mine.

But today, in the shadow of yesterday’s glory, I am inspired by what my body was able to do and the courage it took to continue up the mountain. One rock at a time, I ascended 4,300 feet into the clouds. Though my back ached and my legs wobbled beneath me, I pressed on, honoring my body’s strength for the first time in a very long time. I am filled with gratitude for each and every pound that carried me up the hills and traversed the ravine.

As I crawled up the final push yesterday, I said out loud, “this is for every morning I thought I couldn’t get out of bed. For that moment when motherhood so overwhelmed me that I wanted to run away and leave it all behind.”

I have always been a Warrior Mom. Now, I’m also a mountain climber. Watch out world, there’s nothing I can’t do.

20140622-110742.jpg

Melissa and Juli, Andrew and Saige, and my husband Adam. I could not have done it without your support. Thank you.

You can learn more about Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.

In Mourning

19 Jun

Bean Nursing 2 years old“You have any milk you, mama?” she asked me as I rocked forward in the glider to scoop her up in my lap.  Not a request.  Not a whine.  Merely a curiosity.

That had become our routine each bedtime, and I expected her question.  What surprised me was my answer.

“Yes, sweetie.  Mommy has milk for you.  But this is the last time the milk will be there.  When babies get old enough, the mommies stop making milk.  You don’t nurse very much these days, so mommy’s body is almost done making milk.  You can have milk and we can talk about how special it is and we will snuggle, but then we will be all done, okay?”

She nodded in response and leaned in for her pre-nap nurse.  As we rocked, I pressed my nose into her curly hair, breathing in what I imagined to be the last molecules of baby smell.  I traced my fingers down her chubby calves and around her still-tiny feet and she giggled as she mumbled “mommy no tickle me,” without jeopardizing her latch.  I meditated on the weight of her head in the crook of my arm, how the curls tickled my skin and how, even at 30 months, she always found a way to curl her body around mine.

“Mommy’s really sad that the milk is going away,” I told her, “It’s been so special and I love you so much.”

She nursed for maybe 3 minutes, unlatched, and that was it.  The end of an era.

And I am not okay.

I chose my title not as click-bait, to sensationalize, or to diminish anyone’s loss, but to illustrate the depth of mine, because as I fumble in the dark for words to describe the these past 4 days, I keep finding myself awash in grief.

As we go about our day, the tears return at their pleasure.  I move damp laundry from one appliance to another and am transported back to her newborn days when only nursing in the bathroom with the dryer running would soothe her colic.  In the shower, I ponder how long my body will continue to live in denial, still leaking as the hot water hits my breast.  And as I throw her on my hip to carry her through the yard and her hand grazes my collarbone, I find myself aching so much it hurts to breathe.

I feel like I’m losing her.

As I dig vulnerably to search for the source of this pain, I realize this marks the end of her babyhood for me.  And though I expect she and I will fill the void weaning leaves in our relationship in other ways, I wonder if anything will ever really be as intimate as nursing.  For 30 months, our bodies were connected even after she left my womb.  And what began as a time to fulfill her hunger and need for warmth slowly matured into what I can only describe as a wordless conversation – a ritual that sealed our bond.

I didn’t plan on closing this chapter that afternoon.  As I have with my all my daughters’ transitions, I followed my gut, and true to form, Bean is fine.  She continues to ask if I have any milk, and tells me she is sad it is gone - but her inquisition lasts only briefly before she is bouncing in my lap and asking for me to “tell a story about princess Rapunzel and princess Cinderella having tea.”  We weaned ever-so-slowly, and I couldn’t have wished for her to have a better experience letting go.

Behind my sadness lies a feeling of wonderment and awe at what she and I accomplished.  The end was due to come in its time, and when the immediacy of this pain fades into merely bittersweet memories, I expect I will be filled with gratitude, both for our time together and the gentle way in which she grew out of it.

For now, I let the tears fall and try not to wish them away.  For they tell the story of a beautiful journey.

 

 

I’m Back

11 Jun

Recently, I stood in a public space for four hours and advertised my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. You would think that after years of blogging about how I suffered, I’d be used to speaking about PPD, but there’s something unique about face-to-face interactions.

b.good benefitMy local b.good restaurant was kind enough to host a benefit night that my new friend and fundraising partner, Candice, cleverly named “Take a Bite Out of Stigma.”  We felt so professional, with our glossy signs and our fancy raffle tickets, and I’m convinced we appeared professional as we greeted customers, shared b.good tattoos (fake, I promise!) with the kids, and spoke about PPD.  But deep down?  There was a part of me that wanted to shrink back from the arena, that wanted to hide behind the 15 latex balloons that announced our presence.

But then?  Then my local bestie walked through the doors and I found myself squeeeeeeeing and running to hug her.  An older gentleman stepped through the doors only to walk back out and stand at our poster, reading carefully through the information, returning later to hand me a twenty dollar bill with only a few words exchanged.  I met moms who had a multitude of questions about PPD.  I saw old friends and heard about how I was inspiring people.  And I sat with Candice and we talked about our common hell over milkshakes and strawberry lemonade.

We walked out with over $250 for Postpartum Progress, a new partnership with a great local company, and a feeling of empowerment and sisterhood.

And now?  Now we have a new video promoting our Climb Out of the Darkness and the faces of our warrior moms, with an up-and-coming musician.

Special thanks to David Gray for the use of his beautiful new song.  It speaks right to the hearts of the Warrior Moms.  We?  Are BACK.  I have watched this as least 2 dozen times and it still gives me goosebumps.

You can donate to Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.  Those are the faces of your wives, your sisters, your daughters.  You neighbors, your childrens’ teachers.  Your mother.  Honor their recovery by supporting the recovery of moms just like them.

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All local donors can be entered to win our amazing local raffle, including a night tour of Wallace Observatory!

All non-local donors are entered to win a $20 gift certificate to my Etsy shop, Crocheted Happiness!

Love Is An Open Door: A Thank You Video

1 Jun

Thank you so much to all the Climb Out of the Darkness sponsors. As promised, my husband and perform Love Is An Open Door from Frozen. Poorly. I am not a trained singer (you’ll have to excuse the lack of costume.  Our recording window was short as were our resources).

PPD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (postpartum OCD, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, and antenatal depression and anxiety) affect 1 in 7 women yet only 15% seek treatment. Stigma and shame keep new moms from reach out, while under-trained physicians miss the warning signs. Postpartum Progress, Inc is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of maternal mood and anxiety disorders. Together, we can drop kick despair.

LEARN more about Postpartum Progress http://postpartumprogress.org

LEARN about Climb Out of the Darkness at http://www.postpartumprogress.com/join-climb-out-of-the-darkness-2014

DONATE to my Mt. Washington #COTD2014 team at https://www.crowdrise.com/susanpetcher-COTD2014/fundraiser/susanpetcher

FIND A CLIMB near you at http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/find-a-climb/

COTD2014

Phone It In Phriday

30 May

See what I did there?

I am buried in Climb Out of the Darkness (HAVE YOU DONATED YET?), Warrior Mom Conference, and preparing all the new hat designs for their July debut.  My music studio’s recital is this weekend, I’m exercising 6 days a week, and with the added responsibilities of household chores, I’m barely keeping up.

But as I lifted my bicycle onto the car rack yesterday, I had a thought.

Six months ago, I would NEVER have been able to do this.

Lift the bike.

Take both kids out for a ride on my own.

Juggle motherhood, two home businesses, non-profit work, and preparing a child for kindergarten.

Make phone calls to hospital executives and sound official.

Write sponsorship emails to major companies.

I may be phoning it in here, but I’m definitely in the arena in all the other areas of my life.  It’s a good kind of busy.  Amiyrah would call it “full.”  I like that.  Full.

My blog may be neglected.  My toilets may be dirty.  But my life is full.

gratuitous adorable toddler photo

gratuitous adorable toddler photo

 

I’m a Boston Mama

27 May

If you need me, I’ll just be over here, fanning myself and trying to get over the fact that Christine Koh of Boston Mamas lent me some blogging real-estate this past week to talk about Postpartum Progress and Climb Out of the Darkness.

My five-year-old daughter bounded into my bed this morning, dashing my hopes of a few more winks of sleep with her Tigger-like enthusiasm. And as I returned her hugs and kisses, I cherished the small moment of happiness between us. Because there was a time when I could not return her love, when the gift of bonding was stolen from us both….

Please click on over to Boston Mamas to read more.

And if you haven’t donated yet to my Climb Out team?  This is a great time. Our fundraising website is giving away several prizes in June, including an iPad mini, Jawbone Jambox, and Reef Sandals!

Click to donate to Climb out of the Darkness, Mt. Washington

How Is It May?

18 May

I’m sorry. How is it May already?  It’s like one day my yard was barren and grey, and the next day the whole thing had been colorized a la Wizard of Oz.  I keep finding myself surprised when my windows are full of green.

I’ve been neglecting the blog as of late.  And blogging in general.  I keep wondering who is reading all these blog posts that people write.  I barely have time to brush my teeth, and yet somebody is, because we all keep writing them.  I’d like to set aside an hour a week to just read and comment.  But which hour?

Elephant HatWhat have I been up to? Crocheting.  I want to have a new line of hats for babies and toddlers for the fall, and that means prototyping.  Nothing’s quite as horrible as spending four hours on a project only to finish it and decide you don’t quite like the look of it.  But I’m excited about the successes that have come out of all that failure and can’t wait to debut them in the shop.

Now that it’s nice out, I’ve been hiking, biking, walking, and jogging.  I’m supposed to climb a mountain in 34 days, so I’ve been working out in hopes that I won’t return from Mt. Washington in pieces.  I’ve actually GAINED weight (UGH) but I feel stronger and I have noticed my endurance improving.  It’s a good feeling, knowing that I’m taking care of my body and teaching my kids to be active and healthy.

And if I happen to pick up my computer?  I am writing, but it’s been sponsorship emails to hospitals and pieces for local media.  Between the Climb Out of the Darkness and the Warrior Mom Conference, I’m getting a crash course in marketing and PR – and thank goodness I’m a quick study.  Oh, did I not mention that I’m co-chairing the first ever Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference?  Honored.  Overwhelmed.  Determined.

There really do need to be more hours in the day, because I just can’t find enough for all the things I want to do AND to watch Grey’s Anatomy while eating a sleeve of Oreos.  But I am still here.  And I’ll be back blogging before you know it.

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