Surviving, Living, & Thriving: A Hope For All Women
By Sadie Stone
Yale Divinity School M.Div ‘10
Sadie Stone holds a BA from the University of the Pacific in religious studies and will graduate from Yale Divinity School in May 2010 with a Masters in Divinity. She is pursuing ordination with the United Methodist Church. She and her husband, Marcus, are the parents of one year old twins Eli and Emerson.
I was first introduced to my twins Eli & Emerson one year ago today when they were 36 hours old. My husband wheeled me down from my fourth floor room where I had spent the last 36 hours recovering from my emergency C-section under general anesthesia.
Together we entered the NICU where I saw my tiny 3 lbs babies covered in tubes, wires, IV’s, with Emerson hooked to breathing assistance, unable to hold them and allowed only limited touch made difficult by the many wires.
They were so little, and I was so scared. As I looked at them inside their incubators I kept trying to remind myself, “These are my babies?” A few days later I was released from the hospital after 5 weeks of hospital bed rest.
I went home, with my husband, and armfuls of flowers and balloons cheerfully announcing, “It’s a boy!” “It’s a girl.” My life had changed forever, but I felt like all I had were balloons reminding me of this new reality.
I went home feeling detached, anxious, exhausted, confused, angry & sad. I now know I was entering into a dark period of Postpartum depression (PPD). After a month in the NICU Eli & Emerson came home, and thus my life as a mom to preemie twins became my new reality.
Around the clock feedings, every three hours, night and day. A small 4 pound baby who still didn’t know how to eat from a bottle, Exhaustion, fatigue, loneliness, failure, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, restlessness, isolation
Negative thoughts about myself and the babies And lots of crying. Not only from my babies, but from me. I kept waiting for the instantaneous love people so often described. kept waiting to feel like these two little beings to feel like they belonged to me. I kept waiting for the joy and the excitement that new mothers often gush about, the desire to be around ones baby, to never want to leave. I kept waiting, and waiting,
The months wore on, my thoughts grew darker, my crying grew worse and I grew increasingly dependent on my husband. Who came home to a crying wife, who took care of all the nighttime feedings, because he knew I couldn’t.
The moment of true clarity for me that something wasn’t right, was running into an old friend who excitedly gushed about my babies and asked,” Don’t you just love it?”
And with an aching, breaking heart, I stumbled out an answer. While on the inside I was screaming, “No! I don’t love it! I’m not good enough! I can’t do this!”
I can remember so clearly the day when I broke down in my therapist office as I described my thoughts and feelings of the last few months. Full of guilt and shame I cried and I hated myself. What kind of a mother am I?
I wanted to share this story, my story, because it’s not unique story at all. Yet, the other person I “know” who experienced PPD Is Brook Shields (and I say “know” very loosely because I don’t really know her) And that brothers and sisters is a problem
According to a January 2008 Article 800,000 women each year suffer from PPD.
The author of this article goes on to note,
“In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses this year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. This is not to minimize these other terrible diseases, of course. I simply want to illustrate just how prevalent postpartum mood disorders are.”
So where are the other 799,999 women?
As I was reflecting on the many concerns that uniquely affect women across the globe, I wondered: What happened to our unity the Bible claims we once had?
The story of the tower of Babel in Genesis has several functions. First, it serves as an explaining story or myth about the root of our many languages and cultures. A question that no doubt those in ancient times would have sought to understand however, this story is about something else too.
In this story we learn that their one language united all the people of the land. They could all communicate with one another and they actually feared being scattered across the globe away from one another.
As our biblical narrative accounts, “Come let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top to in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves. Or else we will be scattered all over the nation.”
At one point humanity was so united and committed to one another they desired closeness and they actually feared being separated. Yet, look at us now. We use difference and distance as a justification to ignore or discriminate against one another. We use difference to find weakness and justification for our ignorance and judgment about the many national and global issues and concerns we ignore.
I lift this story up as a reminder that ultimately we are all connected to one another, but because we are divided by so many languages and by our borders it is easy to forget that we are all one human family. We are all the children of God.
And yet woman here and around the world struggle as they encounter the many issues particular to women. As our prayer so clearly lifts up there are women here and around the globe, “who die while bringing new life into the world—who dies because she could not access medical care.”
And we ask. Are we our sister’s keeper?
“We remember every infant life that ends too soon, due to lack of health care. For the pain of that mother’s “
And we ask. Are we our sister’s keeper?
“For every woman who wishes to be a mother but cannot. For every woman who does not have the resources to have a healthy pregnancy and to care for the children she already has.”
Are we our sister’s keeper?
For women who suffer the after effects of a traumatic birth, for young mothers without the support they need, for those who suffer from the many variations of mental health including post partum depression.
And for all those who suffer in silence because of the fear and the stigma that is associated with all kinds of mental health concerns.
Are we our sister’s Keeper?
Each of this issues, maternal death, lack of access to sufficient medical care and family planning, infertility, miscarriage and other kinds of reproductive loss all deserve their own sermon, their own attention. Each of these concerns affect millions of women not only in the United States but also around the globe and many suffer alone and in silence.
Women around the Globe lack access to proper health care, support systems and resources, which help make a healthy family, and a healthy life possible and today I chose to give a voice and a space for those mothers who suffer from post partum depression.
An invisible sickness that carries a heavy stigma, and something, which is so very common and yet goes unvoiced. Today I want to remind each and everyone one of us that
we are our sisters keepers, we are our brothers keepers, we are each others keepers. Each and everyone one of us.
We are a global community of God bound together by our common humanity despite the differences of language, culture, religion, ethnicity, sex, orientation or age. Yet, we don’t talk about it the many issues and concerns that plague women around the world including post partum depression. Many of these topics are taboo or carry a heavy stigma. It is much easier to pretend they simply don’t exist. This refusal to acknowledge the many concerns leads to continued silencing.
After all, how do you explain to someone who hasn’t suffered from PPD, that you’re having a hard time liking your baby? The feelings of sadness, shame, and guilt when all they see is a precious tiny bundle of joy.
Then the judgment starts and I unfortunately think judgment from women, of other women is one of the worst problems. In fact there was an article on the CNN website in April called, “Surviving the mommy mafia” Just think about that title. The mommy mafia as though we are out to get one another, looking for any sign of weakness on the part of the other. In the article Jen Klein writes,
“Working-outside-the-home or stay-at-home, breast or bottle, cloth diapers or disposable, organic or processed, public school or home school, or any one of a myriad of topics from pregnancy to adulthood.
You make your decisions and hope you got them right, but a friend or a "frenemy" makes a comment or gives you the stink-eye and you doubt your decisions all over again -- or you're the one making the comments or giving the eye to a mom who dared to do it differently from you.”
And as a fairly new mother of only one year I can tell that this judgment and questioning is true and it comes from mothers and non-mothers alike. No wonder we don’t talk about PPD.
If we’re getting ridiculed for what we feed our children or what kind of diaper we use, then it is surely not safe to enter in the mode where a mother feels isolated, angry, detached, sad and distant from her child. And In some of the most severe cases of PPD some mothers even think about harming the child,
This is uncomfortable to hear. It’s uncomfortable to talk about .It can be Scary, terrifying stuff that is really hard to understand. Perhaps even hard to have compassion for, and yet it seems so easy to judge, and this is why women don’t talk about it. We lack the compassion, mercy and kindness.
As I was thinking about this sermon topic and the Bible I couldn’t help but think about
the many mothers in the Bible. Women who didn’t get much of a voice, women who often gave birth in difficult or frightening circumstances or situations. Of course we have no way of knowing how they felt or how they were affected, but we can know how women today handle similar circumstance. The United States has the ability to support women and women health initiatives around the world. We can help women here and around the Globe find their voice, we can all make that reality. We can stop the silencing, the deaths, the pain, the loss.
We need to remember that today despite our distance in language, cultures and barriers we are one people in God. All of us, the men and women around the globe.
Again as our prayers calls for, “We think not only of mothers we know, mothers in our family, in our community. But for all women: In this our global family, every woman is my sister. Every woman is your sister, even those whose name and face we will never know, they are our sisters, a fellow child of God.”
As for me today, one year later with weekly therapy, medication, a supportive husband and community of friends and a wonderful community of faith I have gone from surviving, to living, to now thriving. And I know that I am among the very fortunate and privileged with access and resources to get me the help I need so that I can enjoy motherhood.
My hope is that this access to resources can be a right for all women everywhere. My hope is for greater awareness and funding for the many women’s health initiatives around the globe so we can work to bring a voice and a name to the many other concerns that uniquely affect women of the world.
So that our spokes models don’t only sit with celebrities like Brook Shields, but in the lived experiences of our mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, friends and women around the globe.
And so I offer my story not to become the spokesperson, or as someone who has all the answers, but as one mother who had a really hard time. A mother with a complicated pregnancy, and delivery and two very tiny sick babies, a mother who motherhood did not come easily or naturally, but a mother with privilege and access to medical care and resources. One mother who wishes for all mothers around the globe to have the same privilege, as we remember that we are all united as the children of God.