Mother's Day!


A big heartfelt thank you to the selfless women who sacrifice their needs every single day to raise the next generation...

-pregnant moms

-moms recovering from labor and delivery

-moms who had a traumatic birth

-moms with PTSD

-the new mom finding her way in the fourth trimester

-NICU moms

-moms of multiples

-moms of children with special needs

-moms of toddlers

-moms managing teenagers

-single moms

-teen moms

-those struggling to conceive

-IVF moms

-moms who have experienced loss

-surrogate moms

-moms who have experienced adoption

-moms grieving an unplanned pregnancy

-moms working inside the home 

-moms working outside the home

-moms trying to find work/life balance

-moms facing challenges with maternal mental health

-moms who are suffering in silence with PMAD

-moms working hard to overcome PMAD

-moms without support

-the formula feeding moms

-the pumping moms

-the breastfeeding moms


-sick moms

-moms in heaven

Regardless of where you find yourself in your journey, we all have our challenges and our triumphs. The mothering profession is fiercely overlooked and undervalued, but please know that I am here cheering you on!!!


WIth love,


The Village Doula GR


The Village Update

It's been a busy week for The Village Doula GR and I couldn't be more excited about what the future holds. It started with my business open house that was graciously hosted by Joana Hively, owner of Global Infusion in Eastown. Thank you to all that were able to join me. It was a perfect night to gather with friends, family and colleagues to share my journey, my advocacy roles, community involvement and plans for the coming year. Here is what is happening...

-Check out my new “Resources” page at which I will continually update. If you are a postpartum practitioner and would like to be listed please contact me

-The Village Doula GR, LLC was named a Top 10 Postpartum Doula by Care Providers Guide 2017. Thank you to all of you that voted!


-Wednesdays in February, I’m conducting a Postpartum Planning Workshop at Renew Mama Studio, 6:30-8pm, $85...women that take part will receive a 10% discount on any doula packages (please see photo for description).


-In April, I’ll be adding a birth service to my postpartum services by getting certified as a Hypnobirthing Instructor-a program that considers the psychological, as well as the physical well-being of the mother, her birth partner, and the newborn, independent of context, whether that be in the quiet of a home, a hospital, or a birth center.

-May is PPD Awareness month so it’s fitting that 2020mom’s Maternal Mental Health walk will be taking place on May 5th in Grand Rapids; I’ll be sponsoring the walk and raising money so the organization can continue their mission. We will also be marching on the steps of our Lansing capital on May 9th to bring MMH awareness to our state's policymakers.


Thanks again to those that continue to support my mission. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out, I'd love to hear from you. 



1 in 4...

 "Miscarriages are SO real and so common, in fact, one out of four women experience a miscarriage; but don’t let that confuse you into thinking it hurts any less. As large as this statistic is, I still felt alone and I have finally figured out why: because no one talks about it."


One woman's take on loss:

29 out of 30

I continued my recovery at home with the helpful support of John and my dear mom. My mom did night duty with Riley so my sleep pattern was uninterrupted and John could be rested for work. The week after my discharge, I attended a postpartum adjustment support group. I instantly knew this was the place that was going to help me heal. I heard other moms talk about similar feelings and thoughts that I had been having for far too long. Finally, I no longer felt alone. This was the place that was going to help bring me out of the darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel was getting brighter. Just being able to relate to those around me was such good medicine for my soul, my mind and my spirit. A number of these mothers even went on to have more children, a thought I could not comprehend while in such a fragile state. Who in their right mind would voluntarily put themselves through this type of hell again?

I faithfully attended this group every Tuesday evening for a year only missing a handful of times. At first, it was for my own sake. But once I was healthy, I attended to offer up hope for the sake of other struggling mothers. At the time, it was my way of giving back. Along with group, I also saw a therapist regularly that specialized in perinatal mood disorders who gently guided me while teaching me coping skills to help manage my anxiety. 

On Friday, July 9, three weeks after I had been discharged, I was scheduled to see my outpatient psychiatrist. When I returned to the hospital campus for my appointment, a mild pit sat in my stomach. The trip evoked numerous emotions...fear, hate, sorrow, anger, hopelessness, anxiety, and sadness were just a few.

The practitioner, while a friendly man, didn't seem to understand my hospital stay. He asked why I had been in the hospital for so long, which was a perplexing question to me. Hadn't he seen my chart? My haggard picture? Nonetheless, I gave him a shortened version of the saga. I then explained I had been feeling more and more like myself in recent days. Instead of just good moments, I was stringing together good days and enjoying motherhood as best I could. I was even able to venture out with Riley that week to Spring Lake to visit a dear friend. Near the end of my visit he reviewed and altered my medications. He was very concerned about addiction and side effects. Looking back, he made some very drastic changes, many I should have questioned. However, he was the doctor and I was going to follow his direction.  

When I returned home I told my mom about the doctor's positive review. Together, we decided I was in a good place and it was time for her to go home. I was so proud of myself and the progress I had made in such a short time.

But just when I thought I had turned a corner, my symptoms returned with a vengeance that same night. I was sure it was due to the medication changes but my fearful indecision crippled me. Once again, I was tortured with anxiety and no sleep. I tried taking a sleeping pill but it was too late. My mind was in control and the medication didn't stand a chance. Saturday I was right back in the same boat I had been in a couple of weeks prior and I was beyond terrified. John tried to convince me to continue the medication as it had been prescribed through the weekend. For some insane reason, I was afraid to go against the doctor’s orders. By Sunday, my mom was back in Grand Rapids and I was spinning out of control.

On Monday, I immediately called the psychiatrist. He was not in the office. I explained to the receptionist that I was in a major crisis, trying to take care of a newborn and needed to speak with him. Her response, “he may call you today but you probably won’t hear from him until tomorrow.” I called my therapist, Gail, to set up an appointment that afternoon. On my walk to see Gail, the psychiatrist returned my call. He couldn’t understand what was going on. Why was I having such extreme symptoms? Apparently, he didn't think his med changes were as substantial as I. We argued about the medication doses I had been taking since my stay inpatient. At the conclusion of the call he told me to cut the med doses in half and we scheduled an appointment for the next day.

After the call, I got to the therapy office early. Because of my anxiety I felt very claustrophobic in the waiting room so I decided to walk around the block. I stumbled upon a funeral procession coming out of a church. How I wished I was in the coffin versus battling these damn demons.

My therapist and I talked through everything that had transpired over the weekend. Why did he do what he did? Being in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew you couldn’t stop taking some medications cold turkey. Gail had me take the Edinburgh PPD Scale that day and I scored a 29 out of 30! I could see the concern on her face. She was at a complete loss. The previous Friday, three days prior, I had gotten a 12 out of 30. I thought I had hit rock bottom once but was headed back to that same dark place. Gail suggested that maybe I needed to go back to the hospital. I was completely against going back there. Besides, it was someone from Pine Rest that had fucked this all up in the first place. My only option was to find a new doctor. Little did I know how hard it would be.

The next four hours were spent on the phone with different people trying to once again find someone that was going to understand my situation. Of course, no one was taking new patients. Luckily, later that day I received a call from Gail. She told me she had spoken to a local psychiatrist. Based on her recommendation he was going to take me but not for three weeks. I was so relieved but still needed to figure out how I was going to get through another night.

When John got home from work that night I tried to explain the intensity of my feelings. I will never forget our conversation. I paced in circles around our driveway. I promised that I loved him and Riley too much to hurt myself but I could NO LONGER stand to be in my own skin. Unfortunately, I now understand why some choose suicide. The pain is too deep and the mind is too powerful.


That night I knew I needed to take care of myself and took the medication as it was originally prescribed. At my appointment the next day, I explained to the doctor that all of my symptoms returned once I followed the altered med schedule. I also shared my 29 out of 30 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. He had never heard of this screening tool . Really? I finally discovered the disconnect...he was looking at the medication doses I started on while inpatient NOT the doses at discharge. I could not believe this was really happening. He was a psychiatrist at a mental health facility where errors like this could be life threatening. Without an admission of guilt or apology he very coldly asked what I thought we should do. I told him I was going to take what I had been on until I was stable. He agreed, sent me on my way and told me I needed to go home and enjoy my new baby. I decided that I was never to return to this place again.

For the three weeks that followed, I feared another setback. Who knew what was around the next corner? Though I knew this particular setback was because of the medication I couldn’t help but think that I was still in the danger zone.

When I met the new doctor, he verified my concerns and couldn’t believe my story. Discontinuing the medication as I had could have been far more detrimental to my health. I continued on the course of meds and saw him on a regular basis. In no time, I was off most of the medication and participating in everyday life. It’s amazing how the positive interaction I had with Dr. Vandervelde changed my mindset and my outlook. Sometimes just knowing there’s someone that cares can make all the difference.

On August 12, approximately 10 days later, my mom went back to Detroit.  I will never be able to thank her enough. She spent long nights talking me through surges of anxiety and panic attacks. Her selfless acts helped to save my life. She provided John, Riley and I with the best care possible. Through this I know it takes a mother to raise a mother.

On October 1, 2010 I returned to work at the end of my 6 month childcare leave as scheduled.

Thanks again to those of you who have followed my story and have reached out over the course of my posts. I greatly appreciate your support and kind words. Again, if I can touch one life, one family, one mom then I have done my job. I'll continue to share inspiration and honesty about the parenting profession as well as maternal mental health.



Please follow @thevillagedoulagr on Instagram and like The Village Doula GR, LLC page on Facebook. 

The Climb

From that day forward my stay was a bit of a blur, all the days seemed to blend together. I attended group therapy when I could, rested when I needed to, medications were adjusted while neurotransmitters and hormones continued to fluctuate. I still struggled but not as intensely as the days prior.

That Sunday was John's first Father's Day. Some of it was spent with me at the hospital, not with our newly formed family of three. "Firsts" of any sort should be celebrated but this was one of deep shame and humiliation. Holidays are supposed to be spent with family. It breaks my heart that we both have to live with this memory.  That evening we sat outside on the bench in the green space provided. It was surrounded by a chain link fence topped with razor wire. I felt more like a prisoner than a new mom.

By the end of my stay I was sleeping comfortable through the night. The more rest I got, the better I felt. For me, one of the best things that I received while at Pine Rest was the aggressive pharmaceutical intervention. Every day, my mood and progress were assessed and changes were made accordingly. I was finally linking together good moments together. The good emotions were starting to outweigh the negative emotions. My fear of tortuous nights slowing dissipated. 

On June 23rd, after an eight day stay, it was my turn to go home. I was so excited to see Riley but nervous about being engrossed in the stresses of life once again. After all, I had been able to totally focus on myself during my stay at Pine Rest. Would I be able to handle anything more? I knew it was going to take a tremendous amount of effort on my part to continue down the path of recovery. 

I remember the ride home so vividly it could have happened yesterday. Ironically, a song came on the radio that I could relate to. I realized just how far I'd come and how far I still had to climb. 

Unfortunately, my story doesn't end here...

Thanks again to those of you who have followed my story and have reached out this week. I greatly appreciate your support. This process makes me extremely vulnerable but this is not about me. If I can touch one life, one family, one mom then I have done my job. Please stay tuned in July to see the rest of the story that inspired The Village Doula GR. 



A Dose of Hope

I lifted myself off the shower floor with all my might and pulled it together as best I could. I needed to give this one last try for myself and my family. I needed to have trust in the healthcare providers, the facility and the process of the program.

Finally, my case worker was ready to see me. While I tried to force feed myself breakfast, I explained to her what I endured over the course of the night. I hoped this wasn't the standard of care, however, she didn't seem the least bit fazed by it. She shared with me that she had spoken to John that morning and he was very upset. I was happy to hear that I had at least one ally on my side. We discussed postpartum depression (not anxiety), expectations while on the unit, what my first official day would entail, and then she handed me a book called, "Beyond the Blues" and sent me on my way. Still, no one could tell me when I might see the psychiatrist. 

The staff highly recommended that I attend all group therapy sessions. I could hardly stand the added stimulation mixed with the ongoing noise in my head. I went to what I could, but at times the conversations were much too deep increasing my already severe anxiety. I ended up back at my post, the couch in the common area. I waited there to see how this hellish day would unfold. Existing one minute at a time.

I saw a plethora of providers into the late morning. I recall the activity therapist that pulled me aside to chat. Her great smile and perky demeanor pissed me off and so did her questions. She asked, "So what do you like doing for fun? What are some of your interests?" Fun? That was no longer a word I could relate to. At this point, I was merely surviving. Frustrated, I looked at her and said, "Apparently I've come to the wrong fucking place for help. I can hardly stand to be in my own skin right now let alone think of anything fun."

At lunch, I tried to shove food down my throat so I'd get a check on the care provider's tally sheet. After every meal I was to give them the percentage of food that I consumed. Then I stood at the desk retrieving my breast pump and retreated back to #636. My anxiety caused me such claustrophobia especially when I was in my room. Once my pump was hooked up, I would try to close my eyes and then lay my head on the desk or look out the window. Over the course of my time there, every time I pumped someone would inevitably knock on my door. It shot my heart through the roof and my mind followed straight into a panic attack. It was due to a unit policy-every 15 minutes a staff member rounded the unit taking headcount. (After the fact I clearly understand the reasoning behind regular unit headcounts, but at the time I didn't have the capacity to create a solution.)

FINALLY I got news that the psychiatrist, Dr. Sanders, was ready to see me. He spoke to me quietly and kindly as he went through his evaluation. He was the first person who made me feel like I could reignite the light at the end of the tunnel. For most of the interview, I sat in the corner of the dim room with my hands covering my eyes while my head rested on my knees. We discussed things in my life that were important to me like breastfeeding, my support system, medications and what I would need to do in order to get better. After our discussion around meds, I decided to stop breastfeeding because I wanted the best chance at getting better without exposing Riley. If it meant that I was going to get a grip on life then it was going to be worth it. My mental, emotional, and physical health was more important. Life could no longer go on this way. (See a portion of my medical files from the evaluation below.)

Dr. Sanders came up with a medication plan for me which included Lexapro, Ambien, Seroquel, and Xanax. At the culmination of our appointment, he gave me my first dose of Xanax to see how I would respond. I took the pill and he would be back later to check on me. He also gave me permission to rest whenever I felt I needed to because that was one of the most important points of my treatment plan.

That one little pill gave me more relief in that moment then I had felt in weeks. It was the first time since Riley's birth that the pit in my stomach disappeared. The resident psychiatrist checked back on me. I assured him that the Xanax did exactly what they said it would. Dr. Sanders gave me what I was in search of...a glimpse at hope.


Days later, I was able to concentrate enough to read the book, "Beyond the Blues". In it I found a woman's description of what she had been through. The excerpt described so much of what I was experiencing that it could have been written by me. During the evening visitation I had John read that section of the book. Perhaps it would help him get a better idea of my diagnosis as well as the disorder I was suffering from. It was this day that I committed to myself that i was going to do what it took to find my new normal, a brighter light. 

Continued thanks to those that have followed my blog series. I do not aim to place fear in anyone's mind but to create awareness around Maternal Mental Health. It affects 1 in 7 women. It's common, it DOES NOT not hide, do not suffer alone, reach out and with help you will be well. There is one last installation in the series, The Climb, that will be published on Friday...please stay tuned!


Your Village Doula,



The Monsters in my Head

After group I lingered around the common area, chatted with a few of my peers and forced myself to eat. Soon everyone lined up at the nurse's station so I followed suit. The line became a ritual every morning, noon, and night. It was during this time that we received our prescribed cocktail of meds. I was hoping they would knock me out for the night and put me out of my misery but I wouldn't be so lucky. At the time of my admission I was on Ambien 5mg so that's what was given to me. I told the nurse that it hadn't worked the last couple of nights. It didn't matter, I'd have to wait until tomorrow to see the doctor to be prescribed anything more. I was terrified. I had to wait at least another twelve hours for my psychiatric evaluation to be done. That night, after the line diminished, most made their way to their room. So again, I followed suit. One more night of hell was about to ensue. 

Once in my room, the isolation immediately set off an increased amount of anxiety, panic, and fear which meant the racing thoughts raced even faster. I felt claustrophobic, my heart pounded and it was hard to breathe. My eyes were red and bloodshot. They burned from the lack of sleep but I couldn't physically close them no matter how hard I tried. They twitched and fluttered like they had so many nights before. My mind and its thoughts went in a million different directions. At times, I'd quietly sing a song hoping to derail the nasty tricks it was playing on me.

When I couldn't take another minute alone, I'd wrap myself up in the bed sheet and find the couch in the common area. When I got real desperate, I'd track down the nighttime care providers on duty while they were in the midst of head count. I pleaded with each of them to do something more for me, something that would wake me from this horrible nightmare. They recommended I stay in my room and try some different relaxation techniques: deep breathing, a hot shower, listen to music, try to read or have a snack. Really? What was I doing here? If it were that easy I would be at home with Riley and the support of John and my mom. This vicious cycle continued ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

I stood by the phone and at 7am, when they were turned on, I immediately called John. He was horrified and furious that I hadn't received any serious care since my arrival. He was going to see what he could do to have me discharged as soon as possible. 

The next thing I knew I was standing in yet another line to have my vitals taken. It was morning protocol before meds were dispensed. I sat, trying to hide my breastmilk soaked shirt, while being weighed and my blood pressure taken (142/89). I wandered around the unit as the day shift crew filtered in begging any fresh face for help. It didn't get me anywhere. I felt ignored, rejected and extremely alone. I needed someone to listen. Someone that cared enough to get me the help I so badly needed. I was truly at the end of my rope. 

Disappointed and drained, I headed back to my room. I decided to take a shower, perhaps I could wash this all away. Just when I thought I had hit rock bottom I literally slid even further into my own personal hell. It turns out, this would be the worst shower of my life. I felt imprisoned, not by the four walls around me, but by my very own body, my brain. They were betraying me and turning one of the happiest times in my life to one of dread and darkness. I had hit the lowest point in life. My weak body slid down the shower wall and there I sat on the wet floor humiliated, scared and broken. My world had been shattered into so many pieces, there was no way I was ever going to be able to put it back together. My hope, my strength, and my energy were depleted. Something had to give, I could no longer stand the torture, the monsters in my head. I sat there bewildered for what felt like hours wondering if I'd ever be me again.

Thanks again for the wonderful feedback and support, it means the world to me. Please continue to follow my story as I document my fight to get well, my road to recovery and the journey that inspired The Village Doula.


Your Village Doula,




My Admission

Once we arrived at Pine Rest's contact center, we met with a social worker for my assessment. A question kept circling my brain...was I really at a psychiatric facility? A mental ward? This couldn't be happening to someone like me. While in the consultation room, I remember kneeling down in front of John in desperation, apologizing profusely for putting him through this awful situation while vowing that I was somehow going to get better so he could have his wife back. 

The admissions process seemed long and a bit redundant. Explaining myself over and over again added to my exhaustion. Questions about suicide ideation and plans to hurt myself or others created new intrusive thoughts that I hadn't dealt with prior to these conversations. I really wanted to see the unit but John and I weren't able to due to patient privacy policies. Visions from Girl, Interuppted flashed through my head. To ease my inquires, I was told that I'd be on a high functioning unit, "The Taj Mahal" of Pine Rest, where pregnant women and new moms came to be treated for numerous things. To me, this meant that I'd have someone to relate to, someone who was battling the same hell as me. Then, as the initial assessment was coming to an end, I had to sign a waiver stating that the hospital could keep me for up to 72 hours if they deemed it necessary, or could petition the court to have me detained longer. This meant I wouldn't be able to leave voluntarily. Once again my hope was shattered. John and I discussed other possible options but there were none. Staying in a hotel for 24 hours to rest was not going to "fix" me and I knew that. I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, one that probably saved me. I had to stay.

We made the long walk down the winding hallway to the Van Andel-East unit. I remember it vividly. I said a tearful good-bye to John at the desk, they cut the strings off of my sweatshirt and took me to room #636. I was told by the nurse that I would have to endure a visual body inspection or "strip search". Though I had no history of self harm, they had to record and document any and all scars. With this news, my terror turned to humiliation and anger. I stepped into my new bathroom, took my clothes off and there I stood, naked in my new surroundings, while two women investigated my postpartum body. I recall pointing out my fresh c-section scar, a scar that reminded me everyday of my first failure as a mother. There were 2 things that were very important to me: a vaginal delivery and successful breastfeeding. A grade of 50% was not acceptable in my world.

John returned with some of my belongings, which to my surprise, were delivered in a basic brown grocery bag. Everything had been searched. Items not allowed on the unit were removed. Besides a toothbrush, I didn't have any of my usual toiletries. I said another teary good bye to John, got one last hug from my husband. We parted ways and I watched as he walked through the locked doors. I was left all alone to climb out of the darkness.

That night, I decided to join the group session that was taking place versus retreat back to my room. I'd do anything to distract the constant racing thoughts in my head. The strangers that surrounded me were more comforting than the four walls of my room. While in group, I noticed that there was no one there like me. There wasn't a pregnant or postpartum woman anywhere in sight as they had stated during my admission. I felt betrayed, I really was in this alone

Little did I know that things were going to get worse before they got better. That night was going to be my worst night yet...

Thanks to those of you that read my first blog post and all of your kind comments. Please continue to follow my story as I document my weeklong stay at Pine Rest, my road to recovery and the journey that inspired The Village Doula.


Your Village Doula,





On this day...


June 16th is a very memorable day for me when it comes to my transition into motherhood. Though my story officially started the day Riley was born, 4-7-2010, this day will forever haunt me as one of the darkest and most depressing days of my life.

I had severe anxiety which turned into complete insomnia. I was so exhausted my mind had taken over and rest was just not possible any more. So after another long night of racing thoughts and no sleep, the ride to hell continued. My morning started with a desperate call to my obstetrician's office. I had been struggling for 10 weeks, doubting myself as a mother. I blamed the heart palpitations, shortness of breath, anxiety and panic on exhaustion, both physical and mental. The fluctuation in hormones didn't help either. But on this day, I felt like my deceiving mind had taken me to the brink of hopelessness, the little light at the end of the tunnel had vanished...I had come unraveled. I was scared and ready to give up, I could no longer stand to be in my own skin. 

That afternoon, John and I rode to the doctor's office for an urgent visit. Life seemed surreal once I was outside of the house. Others seemed to function just fine, life was progressing for them, they were "living". On the other hand, I felt like I was on a hamster wheel in a constant battle with my own mind. 

My physician knew the minute she saw me that I was in the midst of a crisis, I was in need of help, more help than she could offer. I told Dr. Bennett that I knew I had a great life, a wonderful husband, supportive family, and a beautiful baby girl but I just couldn't feel it any more. My mind was on a one way train, headed to nowhere, and no one could stop it, not even me. 

After discussing my birth trauma, anxiety, the intrusive thoughts I was having, OCD tendancies, sleepless nights and stress on our marriage, she confirmed that I was suffering from Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. I hoped that meant someday I was going to recover and feel like myself again. As she stepped out of the room momentarily, I felt some relief because there was actually a diagnosis for the emotional roller coaster I had been on. However, the relief was short lived. 

When she came back she stated that I was to go straight to Pine Rest to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. She gave John strict instructions to stop at home for my breast pump but I was not to leave the vehicle for any reason. This devastating news almost jolted me back into normalcy but my brain was too sick to find that on its own. I needed help, alot of help...

When we arrived at home, my mom greeted the car. She put her arms around me and held me tight like so many other times in my life. She reassured me she would take great care of Riley and support John for as long as we needed her. In a hysterical, yet deeply depressed state I said good-bye to my 10 week old baby. I sobbed the entire ride from downtown to 68th Street. Once we arrived at the Pine Rest campus, again I felt like I was detached from reality. Was this really happening? All I wanted was a baby, not a nightmare...

Please follow my story over the next couple of days as I document my weeklong stay as an inpatient at Pine Rest and my road to recovery. 


Your Village Doula,