Brittney's Story & How the Campaign Began

Several years ago, I suffered from a debilitating battle with depression. After months of torment and solitude, I began to go to counseling. My husband was the one who really convinced me to go and during my very first session, I began to feel better. Weeks went by and eventually months and then years. That experience was "behind me" and I became pregnant. Everything was going really well and I had an exceptional birth experience. My daughter was the first grandchild on my side and the first granddaughter on my husband's l. We were well looked after. In Canada, I am able to take about a year of paid leave, so I had lots of time to bond. Although our breastfeeding relationship was extremely difficult and cost nearly $1000 to improve, we persevered. I bonded with my daughter and began bonding with my mom more than ever, since she visited almost daily. A few months went by and we moved from our apartment into a small home a few blocks away. We anticipated this move because our apartment building didn't allow for children and our friends were leaving for one year, so it was a serendipitous arrangement since we needed that time to look for our first house. I knew that major changes like moving house could trigger postpartum mental issues so I prepared myself for such an event, but it didn't seem to affect me! I had worn my daughter for a couple walks by this time but after we moved, I bought a woven wrap and started babywearing daily. Despite a few large changes in our lives, I felt very grounded. I enjoyed motherhood and felt that it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Months after the move, when I as around 5 or 6 months postpartum, something began to shift. I was feeling out of sorts. I began to isolate myself more and I began experiencing panic attacks. I stopped wanting to see most of my old friends and found that the only times I felt calm were while breastfeeding and usually while babywearing. Housework, cooking, and venturing outside became increasingly difficult. During this time, my mom continued to visit on her lunch hours since her office was less than 10 minutes away. I relished in her visits because she was the only person  I trusted enough to leave my daughter with and not feel extremely anxious. I could shower and she would often bring lunch so usually I would feel a bit more in control of myself after she left. My mom has never been one to discuss feelings in-depth, so I never worried that she would make me face my growing fears.

I stopped wanting to see my old friends because I worried they would ask me questions that I didn't want to answer or notice the change in me and begin to worry themselves. So I began to make new friends, friends that would have no idea what I was like before; confident, loud, opinionated, social and playful. Knowing that I could be whoever I wanted to be, allowed me to actually open up and be myself again, if only for a short time. When I was with them, I wasn't tortured by my anxiety because I could momentarily lock it away. It didn't matter if it came back even worse that night because I was elated for it to be gone for even 5 minutes, let alone an hour or more. I still didn't like to leave my safe zone often - and especially not for longer than a couple of hours - but I was lucky that I had social opportunities closeby. In particular, my issues with breastfeeding drove me to monthly La Leche League meetings (which is an international organisation designed to support breastfeeding) and those were held literally, about 4 houses down from the house we were renting. I was never nervous about breastfeeding around these women so if my anxiety started to climb, I could easily sit down with my daughter and calm myself down.

As the weeks went on, I couldn't deny the signs. I knew panic attacks weren't normal and I recognised the signs of depression from my previous experience. To help myself, I began attending an exercise class 2-4 days a week and made an appointment with a postnatal therapist. Again, I was lucky. We had the money for me to go to the gym, which offered classes that allowed you to bring your baby and the therapist was covered by our national health insurance. Except I had to cancel my second appointment because I just couldn't leave the house that day. And then somehow the number I had, no longer worked for that therapist and my anxiety worsened because I began to feel abandoned by my medical support. Who was left for me? I didn't want to talk to my husband, my family doctor was of no help, I couldn't track the therapist down without having a panic attack in the process, and my La Leche League meetings only happened once a month! So I turned to Facebook and the babywearing community in particular. My daughter was often being worn while I was panicking, and feeling her and hugging her helped me a lot, for many reasons - not the least of which because she reminded me that someone loved me and needed me.

As some of us know, babywearing can be a bit of a rabbit hole. I would spend hours reading through Facebook, hoping to distract myself from my anxiety and stave off another attack. I would scour the different groups reading threads, learning about babywearing. At this point, I didn't understand how anyone would need more than a handful of carriers and promised my husband that I would never own more than 4. I wondered if I could ever own that many because I struggled to understand how I would find use for them all... Needless to say, I quickly accumulated 4 but luckily, kept my promise to go no further. I am not advocating an unhealthy level of attachment to your electronic devices but my night-owl behaviour and addiction to Facebook began bringing me friends; some were pen pals whom I have yet to meet, but others were local moms whom I now see regularly. We bonded over our children, our battles with depression, babywearing, and other parenting choices. This, combined with regular exercise, began my healing process. I had found my tribes to get me through. I had my daily Facebook tribe, my frequent workout tribe and my monthly breastfeeding tribe. Slowly, I stopped feeling so anxious. My depression remains to this day but I feel that the light is more frequent than the dark now and I'm okay with having a light shade of grey frequently clouding my experience if it means the dark stays away... For now at least.

I began organising babywearing get togethers in my city because I could only convince myself to actually attend an event if I felt I needed to go, which meant I had to organise it. Those hangouts motivated me to train and become a babywearing educator. I had made myself a 6 month business plan but I was doing better than I expected so I decided it was time to do more planning. As I sat down to write out my business goals for 2015, I wanted to do some charity or good will but it needed to be genuinely motivated so that I would feel passionate about it. High on my list was postpartum mood disorders, although I didn't know what to do. Then the stars began to align. I searched for postpartum depression awareness days and discovered that January was Postpartum Depression Awareness month in several Canadian provinces, including my own. Add to that me stumbling across a thread on the Pavo Customer Appreciation chatter group started by a recent friendly acquaintance asking about postpartum depression support. The wheels began turning in my head and suddenly things really clicked. I wanted to host an awareness week for postpartum mood disorders and focus it on the babywearing community, and especially on how babywearing can be a tool in the battle against postpartum mood disorders. I wanted information to be accessible to all parents but hopefully encourage healthy bonding at the same time, which babywearing can do very well.

I am not the model for recovery. I am not the picture of health. I am a mother who is suffering; who feels awkward when the subject is broached; who winces when she thinks about the cycle repeating itself if and when a second child is brought in to our family. This campaign is for me, so that I can hold my head up a little higher. It's for the mom who worries that if she asks for help that she'll be separated from her children. It's for the dad who doesn't understand why he's not feeling connected to his baby. It's for the parents who finally adopted their child after years of paperwork and tearful dreams only to feel paralysed by the thought of leaving their house. And this is for the children of those parents so that they might understand that no one is immune to these battles but that they are not the cause, they are the reason we fight.

What Can Businesses Do To Help?

You might have just started your own business or have a well-established brand, but either way, this campaign could use your help. Here’s how:

1) Share the campaign on Facebook

  • Share a link to the website or an update from the campaign page on your business’s public page.
  • Add the campaign face or hashtag to your page’s profile picture or banner. The profile pictures and hashtag banners on the website have no background so they can easily be downloaded and added in the corner of your page’s existing profile picture or banner. You are also welcome to change your profile picture or banner to only be that of the campaign.
  • Use the hashtag at the end of posts even if they aren’t specifically about the campaign.
  •  If you have input in your brand’s chatter groups, the same suggestions can also be applied to them.

 

2) Share it on Instagram/Twitter/other social media outlets

  • The campaign hashtag cannot be over utilized here. People tend to search using hashtags more on mediums such as Instagram and Twitter so that is one of the main ways to connect people to this cause. Use it often!!
  • The campaign profile pictures are the perfect size for Instagram, so it’s very easy to post! Plus it is graphic so it really stands out in your audience’s feed.
  • In addition to the hashtag, you can include the website address (www.portagebabywearing.com) or a brief description (Postpartum mood disorders are very common amongst parents and the No Flaws, Only Human campaign helps to bring awareness and help through the babywearing community.) to the campaign photo.
  • Check out other people’s posts using the hashtag and like them/comment to drive people to your own feed.

 

3) Share your own story

  • If you or someone at your company has suffered from a postpartum mood disorder and are able to share a story along with the connection to your company, it will show others that no one is immune to these battles.
  • Submit your story by email or through the website to have it published on the main campaign page, but you can also share short stories through your social media and link up using the hashtag.

What Can You Do To Help?

Here are a few ways that you can support No Flaws, Only Human.

1) Send in your story. 
Stories are able to be added throughout the campaign, so feel free to send yours in at any time during the week. It can be short or long (though we may have to edit it to fit on the site page) and includes as much information as you'd like. The only things that need to be included are a first name and a country. If you do not want your first name to appear, you can include a note and we will change it. Please note that your email will NOT be shared publicly.
Stories can be sent directly to portage.babywearing@gmail.com or through the website at http://www.portagebabywearing.com.

2) Spread the word. 
This can be done by changing your profile picture, spamming a babywearing/parent group on Facebook (be sure to run it past an admin if there are spam rules), by using the hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and by talking about it with friends. Talking about it with anyone you know is great, but especially if you know someone with a wide-reaching audience, encouraging them to participate could give a major boost to the efforts. The more people know about the campaign, the more effective it will be in its goal of making sure people do not feel alone. #noflawsonlyhuman 

3) Encourage others.
If you know someone is sharing their story (with the campaign or not), tell them how helpful they are being by trying to break the stigma around mental illness. If someone has changed their profile pic or cover photo, like it, or even better, comment thanking them for doing so. If you notice a company endorse the campaign, liking their page and liking the post will signal to them that this campaign benefits in every way, including business.

4) Like the page. 
I will continue to do regular updates on the Portage Babywearing page but I felt it important to have an official page in case people try to run a search for the campaign HQ. http://www.Facebook.com/noflawsonlyhuman

Thank you for asking how you can help and for reading through this. As always, any questions can be sent to me via Facebook pages (Portage Babywearing or No Flaws Only Human), on Instagram (@portage_yeg) or through e-mail (portage.babywearing@gmail.com).