Mothers in the Middle

The closing of Postpartum Progress two weeks ago now has left many women feeling broken and adrift.  Initially, I felt like the closure of PPI was a slap in the face to the thousands of us that have raised money for the organization, volunteered our time, and spent our family’s hard earned money travelling to and attending the conference, among other things.  I thought that was what was bothering me.  But as the weeks have gone on, it’s become more clear what feels so broken about this.

Trust.

Those of us that were involved in PPI trusted the organization to hold us up when no one else would.  Within the ones and zeros of PPIs virtual walls we found the all important “me, too” and “I’m okay, you’re okay, and when we’re not okay, that’s okay, too”.  That kind of acceptance allowed us to be vulnerable and, when you are dealing with perinatal and postpartum mental illness, vulnerability doesn’t come easy.  We trusted that we would be safe there.  We were told that our deepest, darkest, scariest secrets were okay here.  So we told those secrets, we freed them, and we started to heal.

While the dissolution of the organization feels like abandonment in some ways, what feels so much worse is watching women who once had your back, turn theirs on you.  People are disconnecting themselves from each other by unfriending and blocking on Facebook (the 21st century version of the silent treatment).  There are sides and people are expected to choose one or the other.  There is splitting… the idea that something or someone is all good or all bad.

But what about those of us in the middle.

I’ve never been an all or nothing person.  Very few things, in my mind, are all good or all bad.

I am absolutely not okay with Women of Color being marginalized, being the victimized by people they trusted, and having their pain dismissed. It is clear that many Women of Color have not been able to trust PPI for a long time and that is absolutely, unquestionably unacceptable.

I am also not okay with the mob scene that ensued when the leadership was asked to be accountable for the systemic racism that was coming to light within it’s ranks.   When a petition was started to oust the CEO, and letters went out to sponsors asking them to pull funding, it felt like a freight train barreling down hill with no brakes.  Social media moves at the speed of light and what made PPI so accessible, in the end, was it’s undoing.  Even so, I still feel like more could have been done to salvage the organization. The leadership, however, did not and allowed itself to be engulfed in flames.

We all do the best we can with the information and resources we have at any given time. I do not blame any one person for the collapse of PPI; there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen for this one. And no one’s feelings are wrong.  However, what one chooses do with those feelings can have an infinite number of outcomes. When we choose to do nothing and turn the other way, we have indeed made a choice that speaks loudly and evolves, or devolves, depending on who takes the reigns when we drop them.  When we are reactionary and full of rage, those outcomes will generally take on lives of their own and lead down paths we may have never intended to go.

My community evaporated literally overnight.  No matter how many Facebook groups are created, or organizations take up the work of PPI, it will never be the same.  Maybe this is grief.  Maybe it’s anger.  Maybe I’m feeling abandoned.  I don’t know.  But I don’t like it.  And I don’t know where to go with all of it.

I’m glad PPI was held accountable, finally, for the systemic racism within the leadership.  And I’m glad that new organizations are being created that are far more inclusive.  But there is no trust there yet, for me, and with the way things fell apart I don’t know if there ever can be.

So where does this leave those of us in the middle?  I have felt like I’m floating along not wanting to speak or say the whole truth of what I am feeling because, depending on what I say, I’ll be pigeon holed on one ‘side’ or another.  I don’t want an echo chamber. I don’t want to be in a silo of whiteness and I don’t want anyone to wipe my white woman tears.  I also don’t want to be dismissed.

I want a place where I can work this out safely; a place where I can ask hard questions of of myself and other people. Racial issues are complex and confronting your internalized racism and challenging your privilege is no easy task.  These are issues I’ve been examining deeply for the past several years.  I don’t want any awards, I’m just stating my truth.  I want to have the discourse. But I’m hesitant to talk about how I feel about the closing of PPI without this constant fear that if I say the wrong thing I’ll be branded and excommunicated.  Maybe that fear, in and of itself, is part of my white privilege.  Maybe not.  I just don’t know.  And the point is, there feels like there’s no where, no where at all, to unpack all that and figure it out without the risk of it all getting turned on it’s head.

~~~

photo credit: kitch Broken via photopin (license)

Warrior On

Six years ago I was a month postpartum with my youngest child.  I was having a glorious postpartum period; far better than what I had experienced with my other two children.  There were a lot of factors that played into this healthier postpartum period, however, they would soon become irrelevant.  What I didn’t know six years ago was that it was all going to come crashing down around me in just a few short months.

When the darkness started to close in and I was alone and not sleeping, I found Twitter.  Then I found #ppdchat.  Then I found Jill Krause and Baby Rabies who helped me learn that Postpartum Anxiety was a THING (and something I had).  Then I found Postpartum Progress (PPI).

As my healing progressed, my involvement with PPI progressed.  I participated in the annual Climb Out of the Darkness event on my tiny little personal scale.  I went to the annual conference twice – both times were life altering.  I became a Warrior Mom Ambassador so I could bring PPIs wisdom and support to my corner of the world.

I began to believe that my experience mattered.  I began to really feel like a Warrior Mom. 

I loved Postpartum Progress.  I loved what it signified.  I loved the community.  I loved the guidepost it was in my healing journey.  I loved, and still love, the women I met online and in real life.  These women were the most critical part of my story.  I read their blog posts and comments on social media and thought “me, too!” a million times; I got to meet them in person, to sit across from them and say “me, too!” a million times more.

In the past week it became clear that the organization that I loved, that I thought I knew, was not in line with the image it presented.  More importantly, that it was horribly misaligned with my own values.  Accusations of gross cultural incompetency and racial insensitivity came to light.  One woman spoke up, then another, then another until a cacophony of voices, women of color and those who love them, rose up and said “I was hurt, I was used, I was abused”.

It never mattered to me to know exactly happened.  It happened once.  It happened many more times.  And the silence from the beloved leadership was deafening.  When that silence was broken it was a string of platitudes upon platitudes.  A once bright beacon of light for so many flickered until it finally went out.

Today Postpartum Progress announced they were shuttering the organization.  Rather than do the work of becoming culturally sensitive and fighting systemic racism within its own ranks, it took it’s ball and went home.

I am so deeply disappointed.  I have vacillated between sadness, grief, and rage all day (while trying to work a 12 hour shift at my job).  I feel betrayed, I feel cheated, I feel duped.  I feel like leaving hundreds of people high and dry is grossly unethical.  Walking away from this is a slap in the face to all of us who have championed this organization, who have helped built it brick by brick, dollar by dollar.

But within minutes of that announcement I saw, on the horizon, pin pricks of light.  First one, then two, then dozens shining their light, beckoning us all home.  

Postpartum Progress was never about just one person.  My journey to healing was never about just one person.  We were blinded by the light of its leader, we let ourselves fall for an idol that we wanted so badly to exist, and we are crushed by the weight of the truth.

But the most important truth is that the Warrior Moms I came to know and love were the ones lighting the way the whole time.

One person doesn’t make a movement.  We made this movement.  You and me.  In every Tweet, in every Facebook post, in every text, support group and phone call.  We did this.  We created this space to heal in.  We demanded that space be safe for everyone. We have all been here, the whole time, lighting the way for other parents struggling with Postpartum and Perinatal Mood Disorders.  We will continue to be beacons.  We will continue to be the Warriors we are.  We will continue to help other parents believe that they, too, are Warriors.

I’m not going anywhere.  I’m here for you and I know you are there for me.

Warrior On my friends, Warrior On.

Warrior Lego.jpg

~~~

photo credit: Reiterlied The Viking via photopin (license)

I put lube in my hair

No, really. 
Eight months ago I started my Curly Girl journey. Simply put, the Curly Girl method means no shampoo, cleansing with non-silicone conditioners, and styling with products meant to keep your curls moisturized and healthy. There’s quite a bit of minutiae to it, but those are the basics. 
And there’s a lot of trial and error to find which products work well with your particular hair type. I’m in a large Facebook group where we talk about different products and methods of managing our curls. I’ve heard lots of folks rave about using water-based lubricants as a styling agent but couldn’t quite make the mental leap. 
This week in particular so many women were singing the praises and showing off their gorgeous soft curls. I finally decided I had to try it! A bag of cheetos, a selfie stick, a tube of generic lube, and an offhand comment about Tinder to the sales clerk and I was on my way. (Just kidding… maybe.). 


I’m a little giddy about the results even though I’m still working it into the routine. Some women use it as a stand alone styler, others in conjunction with gel or curling custards. I just have to figure out what works best for my hair and curl pattern, but it’s clearly worth the effort. 

What’s the craziest beauty product you’ve used?

Work

This aquarium sits in the 3 foot wide space that is my only entry in and out of my kitchen. I try to keep things in order, ideally, because it helps my brain feel less chaotic. My impulse to make him clean it up at the end of the day is strong. But he’s so clear that his work isn’t finished. I push down my needs for order to make space for his needs for creativity because this is his work, and my ability to leave it is mine. 

Half way

I made it halfway through NaBloPoMo! I will admit, however, I’m half-assing it here and there because these just a lot of transition happening right now. And in the last 2 weeks I’ve worked 100 hours at my new job and old job, dealt with some unpleasant financial situations, been turned upside and inside out over this electing, and learned today that I like won’t get into the graduate school program I applied for. There’s an outside chance I could still get in, but it doesn’t look good. I know I need to get this degree, so onward and upward. I have other option. This ain’t over. 

Sorry for the stream of consciousness, it’s late and I’m sucked into Vikings. Like I said, half-assed. 

Strong

Oh Cotton Babies! They have a gorgeous new line that benefits Postpartum Progress, an organization so dear to me. 

It takes incredible strength to live with and survive a postpartum mood disorder. Cotton Babies knows that. And they have been an integral supporter of Postpartum Progress and the Warrior Mom Conference. 

I got to see and feel many of these items at this years Warrior Mom Conference, but they sold out quickly because they are so beautiful and touched our hearts. They just released this diaper design for pre-order and oh. my. god. does it make me wish I had a baby bum to put one on. 

Alas, no more baby bums for me, but it is time for Christmas shopping and I really really like that mug, hint hint.  

(This is not an affiliate post, no one paid me to profess my love for this line, my opinions are 100% my own).