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

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photo credit: Reiterlied The Viking via photopin (license)

permission

I want to remember the moment forever.  Sleepy and warm from a nap, we lay on the polka dot flannel sheets in my bed as I try to sneak in a few more moments with my eyes closed.  Tucked in together, I lean my shoulder towards him so he can nurse from the other breast without having to flip us around.  My face just inches from his, his eyes are wide and looking at me.  He isn’t grabbing at my face which is normal for him at this close of proximity.  Instead, we’re just looking at each other.  The blue of his eyes is pronounced against his creamy skin and light wispy hair that can’t decided between blonde or strawberry at any given moment.  His pupils are deep inkwells in my dimly lit bedroom. I watch my breast being tugged into his mouth, thinking of the sweet warm milk filling his belly while his eyes are peacefully locked onto mine.  My mind flickers to the blue oval pills that my doctor wants me to take; pills I resist, but know I need.  I can’t help but think soon this pure, beautiful milk he is drinking will be poisoned with medicine I never wanted anywhere near his brain.  I feel the tears pooling in my eyes, the voice in my brain apologizing to him for something that I no longer have control over.

As he looks back at me, calm, placid, suckling intermittently, our eyes fixed on one another. In my mind I can hear him say “it’s okay mama; I’ll be okay, we’ll be okay.”  The tears continue to pool and crest the lids of my eyes, trickling slowly across the bridge of my nose, my cheek.  I know he is right.  I think of his older brother, exposed to the same medicine almost from birth.  That boys brain is remarkable, truly incredible, any sign of damage from the years exposed through my milk are imperceptible.  But the fear still holds a strong current and I can’t shake it, nor can I let it pull me under.  I’m rebelling like a teenager, too busy being angry at what is out of my control to figure out what I do have control over.

I wrote this in early November, when it became apparent that I had relapsed, that a post-partum mood disorder had taken hold and that I  wasn’t going to be able to move through the anxiety and depression on my own. The defeat I felt, and still feel, was almost too much to bear in some moments, which is why I needed to hold on to that image, that connection, because that was what I was at risk of losing.

(No grief about ‘back to sleep’ in re: the pic, he rolled himself this way and I’ll be damned if I was going to wake him to roll him back.)