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.
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.