At the Intersection of Life-Saving Help, Child Well-Being

Books for Babies: woman reading to her son

Stephanie reading to her son during the Books for Babies program. (Photo courtesy of the Pregnancy Help Clinic.)

Forty-seven percent of American children are starting school at a disadvantage, but the solution is simpler than you might think.  (Tweet that!)

As obvious as it may sound, parents just have to read to their kids regularly at home. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 53 percent of preschoolers enjoy that advantage.

Through their partnership with the Brighton District Library, the Pregnancy Help Clinic in Brighton, Michigan, is working to change that statistic.

For the first 35 years since its founding in 1975, the clinic concentrated on offering peer counseling to women in crisis pregnancies, adding free ultrasound and testing for STIs along the way.

African American mom kissing baby son

Photo courtesy of pregnancyhelpnews.com.

In 2011, the center branched out to partner with the Brighton District Library’s Books for Babies program. Continue reading this article on PregnancyHelpNews.com.

My Heart Behind Snow out of Season

What’s the significance of a single soul? How far does one life reach?

In Psalm 139, King David says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

As a teen and young adult, I longed for a God-scripted love story. I devoured books like Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love and Passion & Purity. Realizing my Creator knew me better than anyone, and knew every man as well, I asked Him to choose my husband.

And He did.

Mark complements me perfectly and has been an incredible blessing to me and many others. But when my mother-in-law was pregnant with him, her circumstances would have led many women to have an abortion. What if Mark had never been born?

A story grew in my heart, one I felt compelled to share. I wanted to speak about this issue of life in a way that readers could experience its impact. I wanted to teach these truths through a story, so I could reach more people with the message.

So began Snow out of Season, the dual stories of two women of two generations who struggle with the same questions. Is the child each carries worthy of life? What will it cost to keep the child? What will happen if each decides not to?

These are questions women across our country have wrestled with for 44 years. Since Roe v. Wade, 60 million unborn children have died in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I want you to pause a moment and take in that staggering number.

The number of Americans we’ve lost to abortion is greater than all the Americans we’ve lost in all our wars. That includes the world wars, the Civil War, and the Persian Gulf War, not to mention all the others.

Photo courtesy of stonethepreacher.com.

In my novel, I attempt to give faces to two of those 60 million unborn lives. To help readers feel the significance of each lost—or saved—unique person. (Tweet that!)

Snow out of Season starts with two pregnant women separated by time. On the one hand, we have 35-year-old Shannon Henry. She’s just starting to put her life back together after the death of her infant daughter when she discovers she’s pregnant again.

Afraid of losing another baby, she hides the news from her husband Wade. When her doctor presents her with the choice of raising a child with Down syndrome or terminating the pregnancy, Shannon is torn.

Then things strangely start going missing. Their wedding picture. A bracelet with charms for their three children. Wade’s clothes on the floor which she’s always complained about. And why is she having nightmares about losing her husband?

The other pregnant woman in the story is Leslie Gardner. A high-school senior in 1978, she dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. But if she keeps the baby, her chances of a dancing career and college are probably over. If she secretly has an abortion like her boyfriend wants, her life can go on as planned.

While Shannon wrestles with her sanity, Leslie struggles with whether to tell her parents. Each woman must make a decision that could change the future, and the past, forever(Tweet that!)

Learn more about Snow out of Season here!

When Postpartum Packs a Punch: An Interview with the Author

“The world needs more educated conversations on maternal mental health,” [tweet that!] Kristina Cowan says in her new book. “We should have these talks until the truth becomes second nature” (p. 126).

Two weeks ago, I reviewed Kristina’s book about perinatal mood disorders. This week, I have the privilege to interview her.

Kristina, along with other women’s stories, you share your own struggle with postpartum depression. In the first chapter, you write, “Silent suffering isn’t my style. I didn’t hide my tears. I shared my intrusive thoughts, as they’re called, with my husband, and with our families and friends. Eventually I called my OB” (p. 23).

What advice would you give women who tend to keep their mental and emotional pain private?

Photo courtesy of loving-lessons.com.

Find at least one person with whom you can share your story.

Postpartum Support International offers an excellent resource to help new parents, the PSI Warmline. You can leave a confidential message anytime, and a volunteer will call you back as soon as possible. Volunteers offer encouragement, and they can connect you with local resources. The Warmline is 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD).

If you’d rather talk to someone you know, seek a trusted friend, coworker, or family member.

While researching this book, you interviewed many women who struggled with perinatal mood disorders. What was the most interesting thing you discovered?

It’s hard to pick one. I learned something interesting every day I did research and writing, and that was close to five years.

What I still marvel at is how the United States—the most advanced nation in history—isn’t more progressive with mental health. Mental illness often is still portrayed as a weakness or character flaw. We’ve made strides in the last 20 years. But the road ahead is long.

We should take a cue from other countries, like the U.K., which leads the way in mental health care. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, for example, lead initiatives, launch organizations, share their stories, and spur others to follow suit. There’s immense power in that.

How did you find out you have hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s Disease? How do you think undiagnosed and untreated Hashimoto’s thyroiditis contributed to your postpartum depression?

Kristina with her husband, Matt, and their two children.

When I was six months postpartum, I had a wave of odd symptoms: joint pain, extreme fatigue, inexplicable bouts of sadness. My OB ordered bloodwork, which showed my thyroid levels were off. I later went to an endocrinologist, who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s disease.

I believe Hashimoto’s played a key role in my PPD. A new study shows that women who develop an autoimmune thyroid disorder after childbirth are twice as likely to face a postpartum mood disorder.

While reporting for the book, I talked to several women who similarly developed thyroid problems after they had children. We need more research and screening along these lines, and caregivers should test the thyroid levels of all women with postpartum mood disorders.

If you could ensure readers take away just one thing from your book, what would it be?

Share your story—whatever it is. Stories are the stuff of healing and hope, the very way we get through our days. At first sharing helps you heal. Eventually, sharing your story of illness and recovery will help others heal. There’s nothing better than that.

Whether you, a patient, or a loved one is facing a perinatal mood disorder, help is available. Order your copy of When Postpartum Packs a Punch here.