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.
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.