by Elizabeth Kirts, MPH, ICCE, IBCLC, RLC
How is it September 2021 already?! I have heard that question asked by several people this week. Time is such a funny construct in that it moves rapidly and slowly at the same time. Thinking about it reminds me of what a former co-teacher of mine used to say about labor, “Everything happens in birth time, not earth time.” It was a reminder to our expectant families to allow things to happen in their own time and not put parameters on them. So often in life we are wanting to rush forward to the next big thing or to get past a challenging time only to miss the little things that happen in the middle. Mindfulness will teach us this; the past is over, the future is yet to come, what we really have is the present. This is something I have worked on a lot over the past year and a half. When we first started shutting down and everything was changing so rapidly due to the pandemic, there was so much talk of “when this is over and we go back to normal.” Well, here we are and it isn’t over and we aren’t back to normal. But we have learned to adapt, change, and be resilient. Hopefully as we work with new families we can help them with these areas because that is so much what becoming a new family is all about. Your Board of Directors continues to work hard to serve and support you as educators and doulas. We are finalizing the Strategic Planning Map, updating the Doula Education Program, working on DEI, making plans to revamp the website, beginning discussions on the 2022 conference, and planning the annual meeting. There are many other projects in the works, but listing those should give you an idea of what is happening. For more information, we will be holding our Annual Meeting on November 15. Watch for more information in the newsletter, on our website, and our social media pages. Finally, I’d like to talk about National Suicide Prevention Month. The Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance is an excellent resource for information. Postpartum Support International is another great place for information and referrals. Some key facts to know are:
- Mental Health Complications of pregnancy and childbirth affect 1:5 women and childbearing people.
- 33% of pregnancy-related suicide death had documented prior suicide attempts.
- The peak incidence of suicide is between 6-9 months postpartum.
- Universal screening for depression and suicidal ideation during pregnancy and the first year postpartum is a public health priority.
I found it personally challenging to include the information about maternal suicide in this month’s newsletter as it is a mere 3 weeks until the first anniversary of my youngest child’s death due to suicide at age 16. I wanted to both ignore the health awareness month and scream that none of it works. But neither of those would be the right thing to do. It is imperative that we keep fighting to have maternal mental health recognized as real health crisis. We also need to continue to find ways to support our families through resources, compassion, understanding, and referrals in a non-judgmental way. We should recognize and validate what our families experience and encounter; often times unexpectedly. For anyone who has experienced either first or secondhand, the tragedy of maternal mental health issues or maternal suicide, know that I am holding space in my heart for your healing. For all of us, remember to walk in compassion and kindness, be present for one another, give yourself grace when you need it, and know that you are making a difference.