We write a lot about support here. About asking for help, about the benefits of peer and professional support, and about self-care. Oftentimes, the help we need comes in the form of a therapist, a night nurse, a physician, or a childcare provider. Sometimes the help is offered through helpful hands- cooking, cleaning, baby-rocking, and running errands. For PPD moms, it is most definitely found in friends and family who don't judge and who listen and offer a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold during those awful anxiety-ridden, dark days.
There is another kind of help, though. The kind of quiet, subtle help that is almost anonymous. The kind of help that clearly understands and supports. The kind of help that is in it for the long haul. Available, but not obvious. The kind of help that tells you someone has been paying close attention and looking for gaps or opportunities in the proverbial "village" it takes to raise a child, particularly in the midst of or following a perinatal mood disorder.
When we had our first son, L1, in those early weeks, before I knew that what I was experiencing wasn't a typical and normal new mom reality, we received a box of organic, local produce that was so large it almost filled our refrigerator. A thoughtful and caring note accompanied it. While I still prefer natural and organic healthy foods, back in 2007 I was a bit of a fanatic about the whole thing, particularly while pregnant and breastfeeding. A few months later, after having been diagnosed and beginning treatment for PPD/PPA, we went to visit the givers of those fruit and veggies. Our baby, not a great sleeper anyway, didn't sleep well while we were there and neither did I, thanks to the anxiety that still riddled me. The second night in NY, I was excruciatingly tired from traveling, being depressed, and life in general. One morning, though, I awoke to discover it was almost 10am. I had last been up around 5am. I couldn't believe it! There was no way little L1 had actually given me a 5 hour stretch. And he hadn't. I looked in his pack n' play, to discover it empty, and walked upstairs to see who had "stolen" the baby. ;-) There he was, happy as a clam in the bouncy seat talking to his godmother. He had been up for a couple of hours, but she had quietly brought him up and taken care of things so I could rest. Over the years, lots of thoughtful gifts from the Godfamily arrived at unexpected times (not usually on the traditional gift-giving occasions like birthdays or Christmas). A cool self-propelled wooden bike. A personalized step-stool. One of those books that you an record yourself reading- and everyone in the whole family had participated, including L1's beloved friend...their dog.
And lots of visits occurred. Us to them and them to us. North to South and South to North. Each time, everyone was happy just to be together and had just as much fun sitting around a fire-pit in the backyard or sleeping on the couch as going into NYC or visiting the Georgia Aquarium. It wasn't stressful or pressured. It just was. The visits strengthened the bond and kept the ties across the miles for the nearly 8 years we lived apart.
And when we were together there wasn't a lot of talk about PPD, or "my anxiety"- something that people in my life often mention and blame my behaviors and preferences on. There wasn't a stigma or judgment around what was going on or had happened with the rough entry into motherhood. The steady, quiet support was just there.
And over the years, several memorable things happened. A few years ago, I participated in the Strong Start Campaign for Postpartum Progress. I wrote about that here . And then I wrote about what Postpartum Progress meant to me here. And few days later, one afternoon, I brought the kids inside from the backyard where we'd been playing for a few hours and glanced at my computer. I had left with only a few emails in my inbox and all of a sudden there were many more. I checked to see what had occurred in such a short period and realized that Twitter was bustling with excitement because someone had donated a large contribution to Postpartum Progress in my honor. I almost fainted with gratitude at first and then I wrote this post at postpartumprogress.com in response .
I continue to be humbled by the undeserved and unfailing friendship turned family of this relationship. The gestures and generosity of the years are too many to write about here.
A few weeks ago, when I joined Climb Out of the Darkness , I sent an email about it to my closest friends and family. People who had been integral in my journey out of PPD after my first son and in working to minimize my risk during my second pregnancy and postpartum period. I expected that a few folks who like me, really felt strongly about families and healthcare providers being better educated about PMADs, might donate. I thought a few people who lived in the Atlanta area, and liked the outdoors, including the Godfamily (who blessedly moved here a year and a half ago), might hike alongside me.
I was completely overwhelmed by the response to the Climb- 20 donations and seven fellow Climbers at Stone Mountain- very unexpected indeed. Thank you to everyone who donated, supported, and prayed for those involved in this fundraiser event!!!
What I didn't anticipate at all, however, was that since the Kellys couldn't be here in Atlanta to join me last Friday for my Climb, not only would they make a financial contribution...they created a Climb all on their own at the same time in Hawaii! That afternoon (morning there), I got a text from M. with a photo of 4 members of the family giving a proud thumbs up as they departed for their Climb at The Kings Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii. Wow! This is the quiet, humble, and absolutely unique blessing that their special kind of support provides.