Mothering Through the Darkness

  • Mothering Through the Darkness: One Year Later

    It’s been just over a year since we published Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, an essay collection written by 35 women sharing their experiences with postpartum and post-adoption depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

    Since its publication last November, the Singapore Committee for UN Women endorsed the book, and it was one of Foreword Review’s IndieFab Book of the Year Finalists. We still believe the essays in this collection have a powerful message to share. Journalist Lisa Belkin wrote of the anthology:

    “Every one of these stories is about the descent into the depths, the belief that these mothers feel alone and at fault, and then their recovery. Each story has power on its own, but the essay collection as a whole really drives home to me how many women suffer, how similar their suffering is, and how it’s a tragedy that they think they are the only ones going through this and it is theirs alone to bear.”

    Our incredible contributors continue to be powerful advocates for spreading their messages to their community: you are not alone, ask for help, you can get through it.

    Recently, in my home state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment launched an educational campaign to help women recognize the symptoms and get help. As part of Postpartum Support International, this organization shares resources for both mothers who are struggling as well as their family members and friends. It is a powerful campaign designed to spread awareness and make resources for seeking treatment more accessible to mothers.

    This campaign reiterates the important message the contributors of Mothering Through the Darkness conveyed so powerfully:

    800x800-moms2For women with pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, each day can be a struggle. Having a new baby is hard but we can help make it easier for you. You are not alone. You are not to blame. You can get help. #youarenotalone #Colorado #newmom #mentalhealth #PRD

    One of the campaign’s most important messages is how to support a loved one experiencing postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders. They remind us: 

    Pregnant and new mothers need empathy and support from loved ones. They may find it hard to be honest about their feelings and accept help in the beginning. Be patient and be available.

    • Encourage her to get help from a professional.
    • Help her find a support group and local resources.
    • Spend time listening without needing to offer solutions and advice.
    • Look after the baby or older children, or discuss other childcare options so she can have a break.
    • Take a simple action like cooking and cleaning without taking over these activities or expecting anything in return.
    • Encourage her to take care of herself by eating, resting, walking and limiting alcohol use.

    If you are suffering, please remember that you are not alone, you are not to blame, and help is available to you. If you have a loved one who needs help, please reach out. You can find more information on the campaign, including resources for families, here.

    For providers and others (bloggers, advocates) who want to spread awareness and provide resources, please use this fantastic toolkit. We encourage you to spread this message on social media, so please take advantage of the materials here!

    And to the brave and gifted writers who shared their words with us in Mothering Through the Darkness, one year later, we are still so grateful for your words, so moved by your stories, and so honored to have worked with you on this deeply important project. Thank you so much.

    ~Stephanie & Jessica

    **You can order a copy of Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience here.

    **We recently announced our brand new online writing course, which will begin November 28th. Using Our Words to Change Our World is for anyone—professional writer, blogger, or not— who wants an opportunity to process our emotions after a difficult election, to understand better how to have an empathetic dialogue with those who may not agree with us, to practice self-care, and to learn from some incredible guest instructors about how to more effectively write opinion pieces. Please join us for a unique self-paced course unlike any we have ever offered– it will undoubtedly be a powerful experience within a supportive community. You can find out details and sign up here.

    **You can purchase our most recent essay collection, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood, right here. Like Mothering Through The Darkness, it aims to make motherhood less isolating and to shed light on those less-than-perfect moments and real life parenting challenges.motherhood-web1 (1)

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  • The Singapore Committee for UN Women Endorses Mothering Through the Darkness

    It has been one month since the release of Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, and we have been so moved by the powerful response to this book. We were beyond honored when the Singapore Committee for UN Women included a discussion of Mothering Through the Darkness in their recent meeting, and it was an absolute thrill to receive this endorsement:

    UNWomen2We think this statement encapsulates the important of this topic, and we are grateful to the Singapore Committee for UN Women for their commitment to continue to discuss perinatal mood disorders and support the families affected by them.

    MOTHERINGTHRUDARKYou can buy Mothering Through the Darkness at Amazon,Barnes and Noble, ​IndieBound, and Books-a-Million. (**Amazon has run out of stock several times since publication, but more copies have been shipped and you can still place an order.)

    Have you already read it? We would be grateful for any reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!

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  • Release Day for Mothering Through the Darkness!

    It’s finally here! For the past year, we have been preparing for the publication of Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience. We read over 200 powerful submissions, carefully selected and edited essays, ran our first ever writing contest (with help from some fantastic, talented judges), and along with our publisher, She Writes Press, created a powerful anthology that we are incredibly proud of.


    We’re proud of the 35 gifted, brave, honest, and inspiring contributors of this book. We’re proud to have Karen Kleiman as our foreword author. We are grateful for the women who shared their stories with us throughout this experience, and we’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from our HerStories Project community.

    Today we are honored to officially release Mothering Through the Darkness; it’s available for purchase in paperback and e-book, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other indie retailers. We will be donating 10% of our profits to Postpartum Progress, a fantastic organization that provides valuable resources to mothers struggling with perinatal mood disorders.

    In addition to the publication of our anthology, we are organizing a social media campaign during the first week of November called “Shatter The Myths.

    finalMTTDgraphic1 (1)

    The goal of the campaign is to end the widespread misconceptions about maternal mental health disorders that prevent mothers from speaking up about their struggles and getting help. This month, to shatter these myths and to help end the stigma surrounding these treatable disorders, the HerStories Project is asking survivors of PMD, other mothers, clinicians, family members, and mental health advocates to post messages, images, and signs for moms who may be struggling with these conditions, using the hashtags#endPPDMyths and #motheringthrudarkness.

    Maybe you never experienced perinatal mood disorders but you still want to help—please do! You don’t even have to make a sign or share a photo. Simply write a message like “Always trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, ask for help. #endPPDmyths #motheringthrudarkness” and share on social media.


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    We want as many positive messages of hope, whether in photo or written form, to help shatter the myths associated with postpartum depression and to begin to eliminate the shame and stigma it carries.

    Please spread the word. Share your own photos and messages on social media with #endPPDmyths and #motheringthrudarkness, or email them to us at Your voice matters. Whether or not you have experienced a perinatal mood disorder, we can work together to bring awareness and shatter the myths.

    You can order a copy of Mothering Through the Darkness here, and learn more about the “Shatter the Myths” social media movement here.

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  • Meet the Contributors to Mothering Through the Darkness

    A few weeks ago we announced the winners of our first HerStories essay contest. Those three writers will have their essays published in Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience.

    Today we’re thrilled to announce the rest of the contributors to the book with the book’s contributor page.

    Our contributors include writers of all types (essayists, humorists, bloggers, fiction writers, poets, memoirists). Filmmakers. Stay at home moms. Working moms. Writers who have never been published before as well as those who have acclaimed writers. Women in their twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond.

    It’s a diverse group, to say the least. But what they all have in common is the desire to share their postpartum struggles. They want other women to know that they are not alone. They want to dispel the myths about what it means to be a mom who has faced these challenges. They want everyone to understand that recovery is possible.

    We hope you spend a little time clicking through their biographies and reading what they have to say about this project and their experiences.



    The process of choosing essays from over 200 submissions was agonizing; there were dozens and dozens of incredibly powerful, beautifully-written essays that we were unable to use for this book. We want to give these brave authors the opportunity to share their message in another way; at the end of this month, we will be hosting a blog post linkup and social media blitz to raise awareness for this subject and to help share your powerful voices. If your essay was not chosen for publication and you published it on a different website or on your personal blog, we would love to have you link up with us so we can share your story through our website and via social media. If you didn’t submit an essay but have a postpartum story you’d like to share, consider writing an original post on your blog! Stay tuned for more details on #ThroughTheDarkness later this month– make sure you’re subscribed to our email newsletter to receive updates!

    -Mother.Writer-Learn more about our upcoming writing and discussion class in May: “Mother, Writer: Finding, Claiming, and Using Our Voices

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  • Announcing the HerStories Project Writing Contest Winners… and a Book Cover Reveal!

    Presenting our book cover!



    More than six months ago, we put out a call for submissions for our next book, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, to be published by She Writes Press in November 2015. We also announced that we would be sponsoring a writing contest, associated with the book, to be judged by a panel of several of our favorite writers, women who also experienced postpartum struggles of their own: novelist Julia Fierro (author of one of the most anticipated novels of last year, Cutting Teeth), journalist and author Lisa Belkin, author Kate Hopper, author Katrina Alcorn (author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), writer and clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker, and blogger and writer Lindsey Mead.

    We knew we would receive powerful stories of women’s experiences with postpartum depression and other mental health struggles. But we were completely unprepared for how many beautiful essays we would receive (more than 200) and by the inspiration and pain in these stories. We were, in a word, overwhelmed.

    And we knew our judges had their work cut out for them. We assembled a selection of finalist essays. We heard right away from the judges about how difficult it was to choose just a few essays because they were all so brave, so important, and so powerful.

    We are so thrilled to announce our first-prize winner, Maggie Smith, for her essay “Here Comes the Sun.” Here’s what our judge Julia Fierro had to say about Maggie’s essay:

    I love the simplicity of the language here, which, along with the matter-of-fact tone and episodic structure, inspires trust in the reader. I believed the honesty here. But the details are anything but simple–they are unique to the narrator and her experience (the figurative language- the apples!) and that made me feel as if I was allowed access into the intimate world of her love and pain and loss and joy.

    Here is an excerpt from Maggie’s beautiful essay:

    I can’t find the notebook.

    My husband threw it away, or I threw it away, or it threw itself away.

    With my son I wrote everything down: every feeding, what time he started, what time he finished, when he burped, when he spit up, what the spit up looked like, when he peed, when he pooped, what the poop looked like, when he cried, what his cry sounded like, when he slept, what position he slept in, when he woke.

    If I wrote everything down, I would see The Pattern. The Pattern That Would Make Him Happy. The Pattern That Would Make Him Sleep.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Him.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Me.

    Maggie is an accomplished poet, but, amazingly, this is her first personal essay. Maggie Smith’s second book of poems, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, April 2015) was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the Dorset Prize. She is also the author of Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, and three prizewinning chapbooks, the latest of which is Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, forthcoming 2015). A 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in poetry, Maggie has also received four Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives with her husband and two children in Bexley, Ohio, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her website, on Twitter @maggiesmithpoet, and on Facebook.

    Maggie Smith_photo by Studio127 Photography


    Our second place essay is “Life With No Room” by Celeste McLean.

    Celeste Noelani McLean is the woman behind RunningNekkid, where she explores the intersection of grief, mental health, and her Pacific Islander ancestry. Her writing has been featured on Blog Her and has appeared in SisterWives Speak and Stigma Fighters. She left her island paradise home over twenty years ago and has been trying to figure out how to get back ever since. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband Ian, where they raise two children, grieve one, and make each other very, very happy. You can find her at her blog or on Twitter @runningnekkid.


    Dr. Jessica Zucker said this about Celeste’s essay:

    This essay left me speechless from the very beginning. Poignant, poetic, earnest, soft. She does an exemplary job of taking us through her journey wrapping around and all the while gleaning cogent and complicated insights. Truly remarkable.

    Here is a passage from “Life with No Room”:

    I nurse the baby in front of my therapist and we talk about my second son, the one who died. About how much my new baby looks like him, and how much I want him back. I want both of my babies. But I also want none of my babies. I am tired of babies. Bone tired. I want to be dead.I want to be dead, and I admit to this in a way, and it is so embarrassing to admit this. But also, it is a relief. I have spoken these words and I have not died. I do not want to die any more than I wanted to die in that moment before I said it. And, miraculously, nobody came to take away my children. I want to be dead, but I also do not want to be dead. I want all of my babies and I want none of them.

    I am afraid of the baby waking. I am afraid of the baby not waking.

    Our third-place winner is Jen Simon, for her essay, “It Got Better, But It Took a Long Time To Get Good.” Julia Fierro describes her piece:

    I think the “arc” of the story shows the infinite varieties in even just a few years of a mother’s life. How things can go from “terrible” to “okay” to good” to “bad” to “great.” And how a mother can feel both love and regret simultaneously. I love that the essay allows the narrator to have some perspective, which gives the reader a hint of the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

    Jen Simon is a Huffington Post blogger and a Babble contributor. A freelance writer, her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal, Your Tango, The Frisky, Kveller, Nerve, Women’s Health Online, and more. Mothering Through The Darkness is her fourth anthology, her second with the HerStories Project. Jen stays home with her sons – a toddler and a sleep-challenged 5 year old.

    You can see more of her work at Follow her on Facebook at and on Twitter @NoSleepInBklyn.


    Here is an excerpt from Jen’s powerful essay:

    I’m not sure what to do with him, so I do all the things I think I’m supposed to do. I dress him as a miniature version of my friends in jeans and hoodies and socks that look like Vans. We go to playgrounds where I push him on swings. We go to baby music classes and sing silly songs. We go to baby gym classes where I grab him, kiss him all over until his laugh, his unmistakable all-consuming belly laugh, fills the room and the other moms and nannies give us approving smiles. Do you see me? I think, Am I doing this right? I tell myself I’ll just fake it until it feels right, but it never does.

    I recently stopped nursing, my broken body no  longer producing milk, so I buy organic formula and feed it to my son in BPA, Phalate-free bottles. All of his food and my cleaning supplies boast that they are “organic” or “natural”or “green.” Maybe if I can do all the “right” things for him, I can start feeling the right way about him. But the truth is I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about him because I don’t have feelings for anything. And no belly laughs or Plum Organic pouch or tambourine sing-a-long can fix that.

    Every day, I kiss his smiling face while actively regretting having him. It is horrifying. I am simultaneously empty and brimming over with hate and anger. Every day is filled with these disparities.

    Thank you so much to every woman who submitted her story and to the judges who offered up their valuable time and insights. Stay tuned for the announcement of the rest of the contributors to the book later in the month….

     Did you hear the news that My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends has been chosen as a Finalist for INDIEFAB Book of the Year?

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