Friday, January 27, 2012

Moments with Madison #2

Playing with "trees."

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Cuddled with kitty

Its always cozier with a friend.
Walking the Trail

Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky,
stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant,
sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside -
children have their own agendas and timescales. 
As they find out more about their world and their place in it,
they work hard not to let adults hurry them. 
We need to hear their voices. 
~Cathy Nutbrown

Children need the freedom and time to play. 
Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. 
~Kay Redfield Jamison

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. 
It is to decide forever to have your heart,
 go walking around outside your body. 
~Elizabeth Stone

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All new mothers need to be screened for postpartum depression

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when Madison was about 3 mos. old. This was overwhelming both physically and emotionally, and it was extremely hard for me to seek help. I believe in mandating this screening with all my heart; its time to wipe out the stigma, embarrassment, and shame that keeps women from receiving the help they need and deserve!

All new mothers need to be screened for postpartum depression
By Ellen Story

Postpartum depression hits approximately 15 percent of new moms during the first year of their babies' lives, and is often marked by severe despair, guilt, anxiety, and fears of hurting oneself or one's baby. Although awareness of postpartum depression is improving, the illness is often hidden by new moms' successful covering-up of these painful symptoms for fear of being deemed a "bad mother." The illness is also frequently missed by health care providers who feel unprepared to deal with the consequences of digging deeper into moms' mental health. Fortunately, however, if addressed early, this depression is eminently treatable, and any adverse consequences it has had on children can be successfully remedied.

Many states are addressing this issue through various new screening protocols, public and professional education programs, and innovative pilot programs. Massachusetts should match these efforts.

As I began to work on a state bill that addresses postpartum depression, I discovered outsanding work that was already being done here. I met Dr. Howard King, a pediatrician from Newton ,who has found innovative solutions to addressing the illness and developed a training program to help other pediatricians see mental health issues in a more holistic, family-oriented way. I learned about regional nonprofits like MotherWoman in Western Mass., the North Shore Postpartum Depression Task Force, and the Cape and Islands Maternal Depression Task Force, that are working locally to get women the treatment they need. I got to know the state Department of Public Health's Maternal and Infant Mental Health Project, focusing on prevention and treatment of postpartum depression through home-visiting and other programs for at-risk moms. I learned that the nation's pioneering work on the safe use of antidepressants and other psychiatric medications sometimes necessary for pregnant and nursing women is being done right here at Mass. General's Center for Women's Mental Health.

Wanting to build on the good work of these leaders and many others, I brought together health care providers, activists, mothers, and policymakers in both small and large groups to learn from each other, prioritize top issues, and finally, to draft a bill.

What I learned from these experts was that an effective solution to postpartum depression must be comprehensive: all women must be screened. Moreover, it's useless to screen if you have nowhere to refer women for treatment. Also doctors and families need a better understanding of the illness to be able to identify and support suffering moms. The bill, called "An Act Relative to Postpartum Depression,'' addressed all these areas.

In January 2010 our bill received a hearing before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Financial Services. Doctors, child psychiatrists, survivors, spouses, and many others offered powerful testimony about the painful effects of postpartum depression on moms, babies, and families -- and also about how it can be treated. With strong momentum from this hearing, the legislation passed in August 2010.

As the bill made its way through the legislative process, however, it was changed. The heart of the bill, universal screening, raised concerns for insurers and doctors. And funds for the bill's other provisions, such as public education, were nearly nonexistent. Fortunately, the law that passed does take important steps forward. It calls on the state Department of Public Health, a strong partner throughout the process, to issue regulations on best practices and data collection for screening. They are making excellent progress.

The law also created a diverse 34-person Commission, including health care providers, insurance representatives, survivors, legislators and state agency representatives, and many others, charged with advancing best practices in screening, referrals, treatment, and public and professional education.

I am co-chair of this commission, which held its first meeting in mid-December. I am hopeful about the group'ss ability to develop systemic solutions to postpartum depression like the ones in our original bill, and to be sure those solutions are really working to get women and their families successful treatment. If we succeed, we will all benefit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Moments with Madison #1

Madison fell off  a chair the other night and after crying for a bit, getting kissed and cuddled, etc., she headed over to another chair and said, "On this one, not fall off!" Lesson learned? Be careful which chair you choose to sit in.

Ever since I took Madison to Starbucks to try her first Hot Cocoa, she has started to randomly demand "Coffee." In her mind, Coffee = Starbucks = Hot Cocoa. This is especially fun when I am in a public place such as a grocery store, I imagine people wondering what kind of crazy mother am I that I allow her to drink coffee ...

Another thing she demands lately is Ice Cream, and when I say lately, I actually mean ALL the time. In fact she woke up this morning asking for it for breakfast and when I tried to explain to her that we actually didn't have any in the house she just yelled "Ice Cream!" even louder. I guess she's like one of those people who assumes that someone who doesn't speak English will understand if you just say it louder. "Mom, you obviously don't get what I am saying so I guess I will continue to yell until you do!"

If you tell Madison to do her "exercises" she will pull out her now famous move which is a Downward Dog of sorts, often with one leg in the air if she wants to kick it up a notch. Recently, she pulled out her own modified version of a Burpee - which I have to say is pretty darn cute! We were watching Dr. Oz the other day and he had the P90X guy, Tony Horton, giving the audience a demonstration. She was very upset when the show went to a commercial break right in the middle of her "work out." :)

Madison loves all things musical, often she will sing and make up songs. She loves to watch music videos on YouTube, in fact just a week or two ago she actually pulled out her first air guitar while watching a video. She will make anything into a microphone, and loves to sing her own little songs, I have never been able to really make sense of what she is saying until a couple of days ago when with perfect pitch and clarity, she made up and sang, "What do Monkeys say, what do Monkeys day, hoo, hoo, ha ..." She also adores drums, and will use anything to make a beat, this is all fun and games unless were out to eat and its dish and spoon ... I am sure we are well loved in most restaurants. ;)

I love this kiddo, she's one amazing, little wild child. She fills my heart to the brim and keeps this mama on our toes!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breaking Down the Gender Barriers Begins with Me

Some of you probably read the article by Monica Gallagher Sakala, On Praising Tomboys and Rejecting Feminine Boys,* I posted to my Facebook page a couple of days ago, if not it is well worth the read.

In response to the article, my friend posted this on my page, “it has always miffed me that even women tend to buy into the notion that being masculine is better. How many women do you hear bragging that they were tom-boys as children? Why is that so desirable? Do you see men being marketed “girl-friend” jeans? I’m a very capable girly-girl and I always have been. I’m also proud that my very masculine, heterosexual sons can cook, clean, sew, and take care of themselves and others. This male supremacy notion will not die until females let it.”

This really got the wheels in my head turning and I realized how deeply ingrained and rooted this issue truly is in the fabric of our society. This is both a gender issue and a feminist issue as well. The gender stereotypes we place on each other have created a society in which we are ALL limiting individual creativity and freedom of expression.

For me I personally cringed when I realized how guilty I am of this stereotyping in a way I never considered before. My husband is a wonderful, sensitive, nurturing person. One of the very first “dates” we went on was to go jean shopping, he offered! He is meticulous about what he wears, loves to cook, is very creative by nature, bakes scones for my play dates, and even wore nail polish at times when he was in high school. I am at fault because I joke around with him and say, “You must have been gay in another lifetime!” Double whammy, big time stereotype!

Why is it “normal” for me to do all these things but so “abnormal” for him to do these things? Why is a girl who is more in touch with her masculine side labeled a “tomboy” as a child and a “butch” as an adult? Why is a man who is more in touch with his feminine side ridiculed at a young age and then labeled “gay” whether or not he really is? Because this is what society has decided is the norm and like lemmings, we have all gone along with it not realizing the damage it has done and is doing to our society. As women we cry for equal rights and for men to “step up to the plate,” and then turn around and “husband bash.” This behavior is completely counterproductive.

We can’t have it both ways, either we accept each individual for who they are as a person or we continue to segregate ourselves and limit ourselves based on gender stereotypes. The judgment towards each other based on traditional roles is wide spread; working moms vs. stay at home moms, stay at home moms vs. stay at home dads. Not everyone has to fit into a perfect little box of past societal norms. Some women would prefer to return to the workforce while still others prefer to stay home. Is one right and the other wrong? One better at motherhood than the other is? Is a stay at home mom so much better than a stay at home dad? The answer in my opinion is no! Well I am a firm believer that as much as possible, a child’s main caregiver should be one of their parents, I have no doubt in my mind that a father can fill this role just as a mother can.

When we limit each other based on gender, we are limiting ourselves as well. I want a marriage based on equality; that being said I have to be willing to truly believe that my husband and I are equals. This means two things: A. I appreciate and recognize his efforts in our home as a husband and father. I don’t judge or make fun of him, thinking I could or should “do it better” because I am the woman. B. I do expect my husband to be a capable, sensitive, loving, husband and father. I do not buy into the stereotype that men are stupid, incapable, insensitive, idiots (even though this is what most commercials convey to me).

Going forward as a parent, it is my responsibility to offer my children, regardless of gender, equal opportunity to explore, enjoy, and experience the world around them. If my daughter wants to be a firefighter, bravo! If I should have a son and he wants to be a nurse, bravo! If my daughter works full time and her husband decides to stay home, good for them. I will not judge my future son-in-law or view him incapable of this task. Feminism, at its very core, is about equality and that is for ALL not just for women.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Coming to Terms with the Way It Is

This was not the plan … this was not the plan … this was not the plan … repeats over and over in my head as I lay in bed analyzing my life and the twists and turns that it has taken especially in the past two years. I agonize over ways to find a shortcut back to the plan; try to figure out where I went wrong and “what did I do to deserve this?” But guess what?? I am wasting my time … I could be spending this valuable time working with what I’ve got and moving forward because whether I like it or not, time is moving forward.

Confession, I sometime avoid situations and/or people who managed to attain part of my plan because I find it too difficult to deal with their “success” and my “failure.” Second confession, when I stop avoiding these situations and/or people I often come to realize that they have their own “failures” to deal with and their lives have veered off course just like mine has.

So moving forward, whether I like it or not, I am determined to get my head out of the past and into the present, into the future. I limit myself, I hold myself back, when I become bogged down in frustration, resentment, and discouragement. Life is not perfect, no plan ever works out perfectly, and honestly their so much more beauty in imperfection. So I resolve to move on, to break new ground, to do what I want to do and let nothing and no one hold me back.

"She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life, and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth -- It's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall and clears it for a different celebration."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Fabulously Natural Mom: Natural Parenting

Fabulously Natural Mom: Natural Parenting: What is "natural parenting", and why is it desirable? Personally I've learned labels and "limitations" can be quit judgmental,...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It’s Not Always Black & White & Sometimes I’m too Uptight

After last nights, tantrum before bed, one where Madison demanded over and over to watch a “Moona,” better known to all of you as a movie, I was ready to throw the TV out the window. Why? Because its easier in some ways to blame something, anything, than it is to really face a challenge head on and yet deal with it in a peaceful, loving way.

The TV was not the problem, we the parents were the problem. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and lose sight of what really matters to us as parents. My first approach was to wean Madi from the TV, which was not all bad and had it not been for the advice of the most kindhearted friend, that’s where this would have all ended.

Forcing myself to come up with other solutions and ways of distraction actually brought out some really great fun and moments of intentional parenting that have sorely been lacking in the stress of the Holidays, work schedules, and two weeks of off and on again sickness. Instead of TV, we listened to music, we made a snake house out of a cardboard box complete with marker decorations and stickers, and the whole family piled into her tent for a morning snack. All things we would have missed had I simply turned the TV on when we woke up.

But before we throw the TV out the window, let’s fast-forward to an afternoon play date, to a mom to mom discussion, to the realization that TV is not the enemy. To understanding that following your child’s lead may even lead to some TV time and – gasp – that’s ok! I am not advocating using your TV as the babysitter 24/7 but within reason and with parent interaction it can be a way to connect with your child. Sometimes the connection may be through the imaginary play brought on by a certain scene or idea from a favorite show and sometimes like tonight, it can be a time to cuddle and chat before a peaceful, tantrum free, bed time.