When addressing the “why” of the Warrior Mom’s Conference, Katherine explained that there are two reasons. The first reason is YOU (the mother who has survived–who is climbing back up out of the darkness of perinatal emotional complications). The second reason is all the other moms who will fall off the edge of that cliff. They need some of us, their fellow adventurers in the wilderness of motherhood, to circle back around and pull them out. Those of us who are beginning to see the sunlight on the horizon can be the safety rope that keeps other moms from sliding too far.
And so…we have #WarriorMomCon, where we learn to tie off, to smooth our own frays, and where we can maybe even grab a climbing buddy or fifty.
We began with the Educate & Empower session, where we learned some of the basics of perinatal emotional complications: stats (including a presentation on the startling disparity between the numbers among different ethnic groups), risk factors, treatments, and community supports. In short, the explanation of why maternal mental health is such a crucial and impactful topic. And let me tell you, even suffering as I have with my own experience did not quite give me the “Oh shit” moment that I had when faced with the stark reality of these numbers and basic truths.
During lunch, I got to participate in a focus group on some exciting new tools coming to make it easier for pregnant and new moms (and their loved ones) to recognize and find help for maternal mental illness. I can’t say much more, but I CAN say that I’m truly excited by the concepts I saw, as well as by the fact that the target audience for these tools was sought out for feedback. If they do, in fact, incorporate our feedback? This will not be the standard doctor’s office pamphlet fare that you look at and wonder, “Who comes up with this shit? Do they even really understand who they’re talking to?!”
I think, because of where I am in my own personal journey, one of my favorite sessions (from which, as I mentioned, I’ll be sharing some exercises that I found to be particularly helpful and enlightening) was Thriving After Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs). In this session, we learned the concept of self-FULLness (as opposed to what we mothers often perceive as self-ISHness) and what things moms who thrive are doing that help them go beyond just surviving to actually enjoying the ride. The key takeaway? Moms who thrive love and respect themselves. It sounds so simple. But you guys? It’s not. And I get that it’s not. And that’s why I want to explore this topic in more depth with you later.
Because moms who suffer from maternal mental illness are not just middle class white women, (and those who ARE, like myself, can feel a little lost about how to reach out to their sisters in a sensitive way) I was thrilled to see a session on expanding outreach to underserved communities. In order to truly effect a revolution in maternal mental health, we have to be sure that, in our efforts to support and connect, we are recognizing and identifiying cultural differences and the ways in which they impact a mother’s ability to get help (as well as the methods of help that will be most effective).