A confluence of events turned this weekend into the kind of celebration of sisterhood that might have elicited an eye roll had I seen it on television or read it in a novel.
1) I observed a weeks-long debate about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding (sort of) that became a discussion about civility (or the lack thereof) in the feminist mother blogger community. Insults flew across twitter, blog comments, blog entries, etc. Then, there were reflections about the insults. I just wanted to get different points of view about the actual issue, because I have no idea what it’s like to have a baby, yet. I felt like I had just walked into a cafeteria divided into cliques. And frankly, I was happy to have a good excuse to keep quiet (no baby, no feedings, no experience with this).
2) I attended the amazing 2011 fundraising breakfast for MotherWoman, an organization that “supports and empowers mothers to create positive personal and social change for ourselves, our families, our communities and the world.” And does it well. I saw for myself. (And now want to move to Massachusetts.)
3) I shared some of the insight I had gained at the MotherWoman breakfast with another blogger, and her response totally filled up my heart.
The sisterhood that I am celebrating now is not only female friendship, feminist support or mothers sharing knowledge with peers; the sisterhood I have discovered is both specific and huge: I have (awkwardly) named them the Mental Health Moms. Within the “Mommy Blogger” category, there is a group of women who bravely and publicly tell horror stories, name their diagnoses, admit to feeling fear and shame and just plain put themselves out there. I met them through Cristi Comes, guest poster here, and writer at Motherhood Unadorned, BlogHer, and other places, when I read her post “I’m Not a Bad Mom Because I Take Medication.”
1) You know who stayed out of the name-calling? That’s right; the moms who blog about mental health issues. I am not saying that moms who have not been Anxious or Depressed are unkind or that mentally healthy moms are unkind. I am making a generalization, so it’s obviously going to have some big exceptions. I am sure that there are bitchy Mental Health Moms. But when I read a blog post, I ask myself, “How can I help?” or “What do I have in common with this writer?” Granted, I seek out some specific topics: feminism, motherhood, mental health and all three when possible. It is therefore not too difficult to find common ground.
2) You know who attended the MotherWoman breakfast? Yes, women who either know what it is to face down mental illness or feel empathy and contribute support to the women who have survived the darkest hour. Women who fight the stigma and volunteer their time, money and other resources to help women get treatment and support for “postpartum emotional complications.”
3) Do you know how I was able to help a woman I hardly know, whose blog I just started reading? When she was wrote about the tension in her family around recent discussions about bringing a second child into the family, I noticed that she seemed afraid of losing control over her body and pointed out that this is both healthy and something that deserves to be acknowledged. I was just offering up some of the wisdom I had absorbed at MotherWoman about taking care of the whole family’s well-being (not just Baby’s), and she made the decision to acknowledge her fears about another pregnancy and go out and get the information she needs to combat that fear. Now, Diana and Sam, like Nathan and I, will make their decision based on real information and in conversation with a medical professional. Neither of us will be closing our eyes or keeping our mouths shut, like we’re on a roller coaster at the top of a big drop. And even though our connection is online, it’s there. It helps.
Here is my theory about why Mental Health Moms are kind, even online, where it’s easy to log in, sling an insult and log off: someone was kind to us when we couldn’t be kind to ourselves. We know what it means to look organized and happy on the outside and feel completely worthless inside. Maybe we hesitate another second before assuming that we know the woman on the other side of that blog post.
I have been waiting for someone to disprove my theory, or even provide an exception, but I really just keep seeing cheerleading, support, encouragement, and all of that good stuff. Mental Health Moms frequently make the blogger equivalent of hot cocoa. With marshmallows. Thank you, ladies.
Oh, yeah. And watch this video. If you don’t tear up, you’re not human. *Sniffle.*