FreeQuency's "The Joys of Motherhood": A Powerful Look at Black Motherhood in America

In the wake of the heartbreaking violence that occurred in the U.S. last week, spoken-word poet Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa's poem, "The Joys of Motherhood," provides a look at what it's like to be a black mother in America amidst the violence that threatens her community today. Through her poem, Katwiwa shares the underrepresented experience of black motherhood in America as she describes what it is like to doubt her dreams of becoming a mother in response to the treatment of the black community in our country. Though this poem was performed at the Women of the World Poetry Slam over a year ago, her sentiments undoubtedly remain true today.

Police violence and oppression of the black community are nationwide phenomena, but there are Philadelphia-specific ways to become involved in the movement for racial equality. Protestors aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement staged protests for five nights (From Wednesday, July 6 to Sunday, July 10) across the city of Philadelphia, and will be resuming their protests this Wednesday, June 13, when they gather at city hall for hopefully their largest protest yet. Another organization, Philly Showing Up for Racial Justice, also staged a protest in front of city hall this morning, "calling for police accountability and an end to racist police violence."  The group has been organizing their protests through their Facebook page. 

Mama Said is dedicated to listening and responding to the voices of all mothers.
We stand in solidarity with mamas of color. 

Philadelphia's Climb Out of the Darkness 2016: More than just a fundraiser

On June 18th at 10a.m., a group of stroller-toting families met in FDR park to participate in the annual Climb out of the Darkness event to benefit Postpartum Progress. The families were of different backgrounds and their kids were different ages, but they were all united by the fact that a mother that they loved had been affected by a postpartum mood disorder.

Climb out of the Darkness is an annual event held in numerous locations across the U.S. (and some other countries including Germany, Brazil and Israel) to benefit Postpartum Progress and raise awareness for postpartum and pregnancy mood disorders. Groups in different cities all meet on the same day to walk together, raise money, and, most importantly, to offer support to other mothers that have experienced postpartum mood disorders. Philadelphia’ Climb is led each year by Heidi Lengel, founder of Fullheart Family Support and Vice President of the Philadelphia Maternity Network.

Philadelphia Climb leader Heidi Lengel welcomed participants to the event and gave mamas opportunities to talk about their positive and negative postpartum treatment experiences.

Philadelphia Climb leader Heidi Lengel welcomed participants to the event and gave mamas opportunities to talk about their positive and negative postpartum treatment experiences.

Going into the event, I knew that I would not be able to understand the pain that these disorders had caused, but I did know the statistics—that one in seven mothers experience a postpartum or pregnancy mood disorder—and the fact that while seeking treatment can be a difficult thing to do, there are effective treatment options for postpartum mood disorders. What I was not prepared for, though, were the harsh and unhelpful responses that these mothers received from healthcare providers and therapists when they did seek help.

From being told to “calm down” to receiving recommendations for meditation tapes from Target, many of the moms’ complaints were not taken seriously, or their mood changes were being chalked up to the “baby blues.” One particularly striking story was that of a mother with a social working background, who was familiar with postpartum mood disorders and knew that something was not right as soon as her son was born. After going to the emergency room for help, she was placed in in-patient psychiatric care, and was told that this was her only treatment option. As her disorder progressed, she was told that she could not be prescribed any medication for her mood disorder since she was breastfeeding, another false statement.

While it would be easy to dwell on the unsupportive responses that these struggling mothers received, the real focus of the event was the support that these mothers did receive in their times of need, and the continued support they were offering each other by participating in Climb out of the Darkness. From family members that offered shoulder to cry on to husbands that took over childcare while their spouses got the help that they needed, these families were far more focused on what helped them to heal than what prevented them from doing so. And while the Philadelphia Climb alone raised almost $3,000, it was clear that for these mamas, the morning of support and recognition of what they had overcome was worth even more.

                       Mama Said green for Climb out of the Darkness!

                       Mama Said green for Climb out of the Darkness!






Furthering the Conversation: Postpartum Mood Disorders in the Media

A recent piece by Libby Hill for the L.A. Times examined portrayals of postpartum depression on popular TV shows, and how these shows have facilitated the conversation about the illness that affects at least 600,000 new mamas each year. From Juliette’s struggle with a postpartum mood disorder on Nashville to Caroline’s abandonment of her family on Girls to Petra’s postpartum feelings of inadequacy on Jane the Virgin, the breadth of experiences of these TV moms is representative of the real-life range of symptoms experienced by new mothers with postpartum mood disorders.

According to Postpartum Progress, approximately 14% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Many women who suffer from postpartum mood disorders have no history of depression or anxiety, and many do. Women of all backgrounds and marital status suffer from postpartum mood disorders, though Postpartum Progress notes that “in low-income areas, the percentage of women with PPD (postpartum depression) rises as high as 25%.” Just because a woman does not experience a postpartum mood disorder with her first pregnancy does not mean she will not with subsequent pregnancies.

Merion mama Rebecca Fox Starr is one such example, having spoken about her struggle with postpartum depression following her second pregnanct on her blog, Mommy, Ever After. In her post, “The hardest post I’ve ever written,” Fox Starr details her painful post-partum experience with hopes that her honest storytelling would help others who are suffering like she did. Like the writers of NashvilleJane the Virgin and Girls, with her blog, Fox Starr is helping to facilitate the conversation about postpartum mood disorders today. 

Despite the staggering number of women who suffer from these postpartum disorders, and despite the increased conversation about the reality of postpartum mood disorders, the Postpartum Stress Center reports that women today still struggle to get the help that they need due to “misinformation, uncertainty, shame, finances, embarrassment or denial.”

Located in Rosemont, PA, the Postpartum Stress Center provides treatment and counseling services to mothers and families seeking help with postpartum mood disorders, as wells as training for professionals who deal with pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders. The Postpartum Stress Center also offers online tools for mothers who think that they might be struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, including tips for how to talk to your healthcare provider, where to find therapists for postpartum depression as well as recommendations for how to best help the mamas in your life that may be struggling with these disorders.

At Mama Said, we believe that postpartum mood disorders are not a subject to be swept under the rug. With local mamas like Rebecca Fox Starr and local resources like the Postpartum Stress Center, we want mamas to know that they can talk about their experiences and that they have resources available to them if they do need help. We are also excited to attend Postpartum Progress’ Climb Out of the Darkness Walk to increase awareness about pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders on June 18th at FDR Park at 1500 Pattinson Avenue. 

To join us at the Climb Out of the Darkness Walk, register here.