Postpartum Progress

Postpartum ProgressMothers who have had a difficult pregnancy, traumatic birth, a baby in the NICU or a loss experience know firsthand the complex “roller coaster” of emotions, anxiety, stress, trauma and grief. While these are natural response to extraordinary circumstances, it is all too common for some mothers to suffer from lingering mental health issues postpartum. As May is “Maternal Mental Health” month, we are pleased to feature nonprofit support organization Postpartum Progress® that is doing so much to raise awareness of postpartum mental health and the support that is available to all mothers.

Postpartum Progress® is the world’s most widely-read blog on postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth, including:

  • postpartum anxiety,
  • postpartum OCD,
  • depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression),
  • post-adoption depression,
  • postpartum PTSD,
  • depression after miscarriage or perinatal loss and
  • postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum Progress® focuses on positive messages of empowerment and recovery, because they believe PPD and other disorders are temporary and treatable with professional help.

Katherine Stone

Katherine Stone

Postpartum Progress® was founded in 2004 by Katherine Stone after a devastating bout of postpartum depression following the birth of her first child. Katherine Stone is now a nationally-recognized advocate for woman and her award-winning blog consistently ranks as one of the top sites for information and support for woman on the subjects of depression and pregnancy/childbirth. The site offers original articles written by Katherine Stone and her expert contributors, guidance on the symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after childbirth, how to get help, support from other mothers and daily hope and inspiration for mothers who are trying to navigate through the daily challenges of postpartum depression and anxiety.

Hand to Hold asked Katherine Stone what she felt was the importance of highlighting maternal mental health:

She shares, “I’m so grateful people are recognizing the importance of the emotional health of new mothers in May via Maternal Mental Health Month. I’m hoping it really catches on, because a mom’s mental health is crucial for the health and future success of her new family. The more we talk about this, the more new mother’s will know if they need help and where to get it.”

On Mobile, view her video “One Thing You Should Know About Post Partum Depression

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Kasey Mathewsauthor, blogger, and mother of son Tucker and daughter Andie who was born at 25 weeks and weighed just 1 lb, 11 ounces at birth

The Gifts of ImperfectionWhen you first found out you were pregnant, what did you imagine your life would be like? Did you have visions of a round swollen belly draped in the latest maternity clothes?  Did you imagine yourself in the last months of your pregnancy putting the final touches on the nursery you’d so lovingly created for your newborn? Had you created a detailed birth plan to share with your doctor/midwife, one in which the end result was a healthy, round bundle of joy?

If you’re like me, you had these visions and more.  And if you’re like you’re me, your pregnancy/birth dreams never involved a traumatic birth followed by the uncertain rollercoaster ride of life in the NICU.

But if you’re like me, that’s exactly where you ended up.

When my daughter Andie was born so unexpectedly at 25 weeks, I spent hours of each day replaying the months prior to her birth, trying to figure out exactly what I had done wrong to cause her early arrival. After her birth, every cell in my being was satiated with guilt, shame and fear.  It took me years to let go of my vision of the perfect pregnancy, perfect delivery and perfect baby, and many more to finally see her birth for the amazing gift it would prove to be.

When I read Dr. Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreI wanted to stand in the middle of every NICU and pass out copies. The book is not about being a premature parent, it’s about learning to love and accept yourself and the path you are on, so wait a minute, it is a book about being a premature parent!

Brené Brown calls her book a “Guide for Wholehearted Living,” and believes the first step to living Wholeheartedly is learning to love yourself.  For me, that meant forgiving myself and no longer carrying the blame for Andie’s early birth.

I’ve underlined so many poignant passages throughout the book that it was hard to choose just a few.

The book opens with the following line:  “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Throughout the book, Brené talks about courage – something we preemie parents need a whole lot of to face the daunting task of raising and loving such vulnerable babies.  Courage, she says, is “to speak one’s mind by telling one’s whole heart.”  I know that after Andie was born, I was so afraid to say how I was really feeling, afraid if I shared my thoughts of uncertainty and failure, I’d only feel more ashamed.  Dr. Brown writes, “shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story,” and interestingly, by giving voice to mine, I felt less ashamed and learned that so many other preemie parents felt many of the same feelings.

One of the things I loved so much about the book is how Dr. Brown doesn’t come across so much as an expert, but a friend, sharing many of her own personal stories:

“I’ve always been prone to worry and anxiety, but after I became a mother, negotiating joy, gratitude, and scarcity felt like a full-time job.  For years, my fear of something terrible happening to my children actually prevented me from fully embracing joy and gratitude. Every time I came too close to softening into sheer joyfulness about my children and how much I love them, I’d picture something terrible happening: I’d picture losing everything in a flash.”

And one last final favorite passage that really resonated with my experience as a preemie mom:

“Joy is thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions.  To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain.”  

If any of those passages speak to you like they did to me, perhaps this is just the book you were looking for. Also, be sure to check out Brené Brown’s amazing Ted Talk and her blog Ordinary Courage.

Bump Club and Beyond

Bump Club and BeyondAre you pregnant? A new mom? Looking for a connection with other moms and moms-to-be who know what you are going through? Bump Club and Beyond, which started in Chicago in April 2010 and has now expanded to Austin, offers Girls’ Night Out events, lunch and dinner seminars, discounted shopping, exercise classes and more. Member and Austin founder Jenn Larson happily became a fixture at BCB events after she moved to Chicago and learned she was pregnant. When she realized she would be moving back to Austin, she and Chicago founder Lindsay Spolan Pinchuk decided the women of Austin would benefit from the same supportive, social community that Chicago had embraced.

Austin’s Bump Club and Beyond debuted with its first event in October 2011 and will be hosting a number of upcoming events – some for families, some just for moms and others for moms and babies. Hand to Hold is excited to highlight a BCB-hosted Family Boot Camp Fitness Class, appropriate for all fitness levels, set for Nov. 19 at 11 am at Shoal Creek led by Meagan Linstruth of Baby Boot Camp. Registration is $15 and will directly benefit Hand to Hold. Registration will open the first week of November.

“I have a special place in my heart for the super parents of preemies after experiencing challenges with my own pregnancy,” said Jenn Larson, Austin BCB founder. “Bump Club and Beyond provided me with a support system similar to what Hand to Hold does for a very special group of new moms – those that endure less than ideal birth experiences.”

As the first and only social event company of its kind in Chicago and Austin, Bump Club and Beyond strives to provide the best resources in the city to connect moms and moms-to-be. Find out more about the upcoming Family Boot Camp and other BCB events by visiting or on Facebook.

Melissa McSpadden and Her Sons Landon & Gavin

October is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.  78 infants are lost each day in the U.S. — 2,474 babies in Texas each year.We were so excited to give our two-year old daughter Camryn a sibling so imagine our shock and joy when we found out we were having twins!

For 4 months the pregnancy progressed normally. We found out they were boys and identical. We started on their nursery; painting it blue, buying the furniture, the bedding, and even several matching outfits.

At around 20 weeks I had tremendous pain and swelling in my belly. My husband took me to the emergency room and the ultrasound revealed that I had excess fluid in the sac where the boys were growing. A specialist would see me the following Monday but that appointment never came.

In the middle of the night I had a “rolling” feeling. “There is no way this could be labor”, I thought. I was only 22 weeks and 5 days along. We sped to the hospital, running red lights and all.

[Read more…]


Brens-family-in-NICUPregnancy is a gift and babies are nothing short of miraculous. Sometimes, however,  things don’t go as planned. If you are a parent whose life has been changed by a NICU stay we invite you to join the Hand to Hold community.

We are parents of preemies, parents of children with special health care needs, and parents who have suffered the loss of a baby. We’ve counted A’s and B’s. We’ve celebrated successful feedings. And we’ve suffered setbacks along the way. But we have survived – and even thrived – in our new role as NICU veterens.

Everyone’s journey is unique, but the road is similar. And the impact is undeniable. Especially the emotional toll on you and your family. Hand to Hold provides support when you need it the most and opportunities for you to help others when you are ready.

Do You Need Support?

Request Support or a Peer Match

Would you like to talk to another parent who has been where you are now? You can request a Helping Hand through our  peer-to-peer support program. If you are interested you will be matched with a trained Helping Hand volunteer. You can connect with your mentor online, by text, or by phone. (Peer support is also available for parents who have suffered a loss.) Whether you just have a few questions or want to talk to someone who “gets it” –  we want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Call our toll-free hotline or contact us via email for assistance. CALL 1-855-H2H-NICU, 1-855-424-6428. Or email support [at] handtohold [dot] org

Tap into Information for Parents Like You

Hand to Hold prepares a monthly e-newsletter with helpful articles, information on upcoming events, and opportunities to connect with other parents. Our print newsletter Hand Prints is delivered to parents in NICUs and medical clinics to give them the information they need and invite them to become a part of our larger NICU community. In addition, as you explore, you’ll find links to:

Do You Want to Help?

Your experience is valuable. Sharing what you’ve learned can make a lasting difference to a fellow NICU family. Being a mentor to others can also help you feel connected and empowered! Join our volunteer list to request a volunteer role.

Help Us Reach Other Parents

With the touch of a button you can help spread the news that NICU families are no longer alone. With your help, we can instill hope and provide vital resources to empower families to achieve health and stability. Please consider sharing information about Hand to Hold with your friends, family and health care providers. You can connect with us here or on social media sites. Please join the conversation – and join our community of  parents and professionals. Do you want to bring services and support to a particular NICU? Find out how to sponsor a NICU Resource Library.

Share What You Know

Help us improve our online resource directory by recommending websites, books, health providers and other resources that have been helpful to you. Consider contributing to our PreemieBabies101 blog.

Make a Donation

Donations of any size will be thoughtfully applied to further the mission of Hand to Hold. Contributions may be made simply in the spirit of giving, in honor of a loved one or in appreciation for a caregiver. Read more about how Hand to Hold empowers parents. For a limited time lifetime recognition is available by joining the Founder’s Circle.

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions section to find out more.