If You Want to Talk About Maternal Mortality, Let’s.

Let's Talk About Maternal Mortality

I talked about death a lot at BlogHer ’16.

I mean, I guess I did the last time I attended, in 2014, when I won a Voices of the Year for a piece on suicide. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Mental health remains a passion of mine—an issue I’ll continue to live with—so, the continued discussion makes sense.

My coworker Jasmine Banks and I accepted an award on behalf of Postpartum Progress last Friday night. As a team, we won a Voices of the Year in the category of Impact for our #meditateonthis campaign which broke down the stigma surrounding maternal mental illness.

I sat at my computer for well over 14 hours that day as the campaign didn’t switch into gear until my normal workday nearly came to a close. I tweeted and retweeted and shared statistics on Twitter for hours. Our reach, our engagement helped break down stigma, helped save lives that day. We did it as a team because moms need to know that when meditation doesn’t work, when prayer, exercise, fruits, supplements, oils, and everything else just doesn’t work, they’re not failures. They’re not alone. They’re not bad mothers.

They’re human.

Jasmine and I each said our peace, accepting the award, and then we threw it to Skype for Katherine, our boss, CEO, and founder, to say hers as well.

If you watch the video, there’s a moment. It happens in the lower right hand corner—the little video box of me and Jasmine—when Katherine is speaking.

There’s a moment in which Jasmine and I look at each other. We make eye contact. And we both look away. I look down even. Because I’m trying not to burst into ugly tears. I didn’t bring waterproof mascara and it seemed like a bad choice. But I wanted to. I wanted to cry.

Katherine said, “I think it’s really important to say whenever a mother dies, it’s serious. Whether it’s postpartum hemorrhage, whether it’s suicide, whether it’s Korryn Gaines in Baltimore, it matters. We need to pay attention, and we need to stand up and speak up for moms.”

Earlier in the day, the discussion of maternal mental health was shot down by a respected doctor. Dismissed.

But listen, if we’re talking about maternal mortality and we’re not talking about maternal mental health, there’s a problem. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States in the first year postpartum for moms. It’s the leading cause of death for moms worldwide. WHO finally recognized the problem for what it is and is starting the research process.

So for the answer to breaking stigma and reducing the statistic that 1 in 7 women will endure a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder be that “we should just visit new moms,” felt like a slap in the face.

Additionally, if we aren’t ready to discuss the racial disparities that lead mothers both to postpartum depression and hemmorhage and untimely, unjustified death in a real and concise way, we’re not ready to address anything about maternal mortality. It deserves more than two minutes at the end of a session. End of discussion.

For the leader of our national non-profit to address those three things in her speech gave me hope. It was a big moment. It made my heart fill with pride. It let me know we’re on the right path right now, doing the things we need to do.

After I asked my question, three moms immediately turned and told me, “Thank you.” Throughout the day, mothers came up to me to have real discussions about maternal health as a whole—physical and mental. I was thanked more times than I could count. For speaking up that day. For things I’ve written in the past. For working my butt off in order to help moms. For continuing to use my voice to make positive changes.

There’s more work to be done. Moms are still suffering in silence, still not being screened, not being informed of risk factors, still dying in all sorts of unnecessary ways. I’m glad to be present, to be a part of the whole solution. I’m thankful that BlogHer honored the work we’ve done, but trust me, we’re by no means done. Keep an eye on us.

We’re in this discussion, this fight for moms’ lives.


Why I Climb #ClimbOut

On Saturday, I’ll join with other Warrior Moms in Newark, Ohio and around the world to Climb Out of the Darkness, the largest event in the world raising awareness for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. I’ve already written about it, but I’m joining with a bunch of others to tell you why I Climb.

I’ve written about my journey with postpartum depression and anxiety before; I’ve shared about my intrusive thoughts. I remain open about living life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression.

But I have a good story about Why I Climb.

Late in the school year, the fourth grade social studies teacher put on a Market Place. Teams of three or four worked together to create something with their own hands, market it via signs and word-of-mouth, set up a display at the market, and sell their goods.

BigBrother worked with three other great students to create an inventory of rainbow loom bracelets. In the first letter that came home to parents, the teacher asked us to help—but not do all the work. Following these instructions, I reminded BigBrother to work on his bracelets in the evenings when we watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune together.

The final weekend before the big event, I sat and worked on a number of bracelets with him. I couldn’t get the actual loom process down, so my oldest son walked me through the process of making a bracelet on my fingers. His hands guided my hands as he helped me put little rubber bands on my fingers, helped me count enough to make a bracelet, helped me latch that first one. And the second one. And most of them; I wasn’t very good at latching. We spent an hour, just the two of us, working on bracelets, picking out colors, and generally enjoying each other.

We arrived at the Fourth Grade Market Place right as it started that morning. Our kid and his three teammates grinned from ear to ear. I picked out a few bracelets—ones I didn’t make—and paid for my purchases. All four students thanked us for coming and supporting their project. We walked around and checked out what each group of kids made. We congratulated them all on a job well done.

That afternoon, about an hour or so after the boys got home from school, BigBrother came into my office.

“Mom, when we split up the profits, we each got to keep ten dollars!”

I stopped typing and turned to him. “That’s great, Buddy. You worked really hard!”

“Our teacher suggested saving some or donating it to a charity. So I want to give mine to your charity to help moms.”

And then I couldn’t feel my toes.

You know that thing where you talk a lot and you think maybe your kids aren’t hearing anything you say? Or, maybe hearing but not retaining any of it? I live in that space. I talk a lot. I talk about big topics because my husband and I have this giant desire to raise kids with awareness and respect for their world. When I changed jobs last year, they asked questions about the work I do. I answered them. I said that I worked for a charity that helped moms. I explained more; I included talk about my anxiety of which they are already aware. They asked on and off for a few months, and then I thought they forgot or didn’t care or maybe it finally stuck, but I didn’t expect the latter.

Turns out it stuck.

I gathered my son in my arms, which seems increasingly harder as he won’t stop growing, and hugged him so tight. I then took us straight to my CrowdRise page, explained each step of the donation process, and had him enter his information. In his donation note, he typed, “Thank you for helping moms.”

If you had told me ten and a half years ago that someday my oldest son would stand next to me and type those words as he made a donation to Postpartum Progress, I would have laughed at you. Or not laughed really. I would have stared blankly at you. I would have worried you had it all wrong, had me confused with some other mother who knew what she was doing and could raise a child to ten, let alone one.

But here I am. Here we are. I Climb to help all moms so they don’t have to suffer in silence like I did.

Why I Climb Out #ClimbOut

I Climb for all three of my children. I fought hard to become the mother I am today, and I hope as they grow, they too know they’re never alone in anything they face.

You can still register for Climb Out of the Darkness. Find a Climb and register today. It’s free and you don’t have to fundraise. If you can’t make it to a local Climb, I’d be honored if you’d donate to my Climb.