Through the Blue

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So the last time you suffered from an illness, wellness crisis, setback, or a negative circumstance, when it was over, you decided to plan something BIG, no, REALLY BIG to raise awareness for said cause, right? What? You didn’t?! Sara Binkley Tow will make you reconsider your lack of action.

After meeting Sara, founder of MomsBloom, a perinatal support group for transitioning families, one hears in her voice the mixed urgency of preventing the unnecessary suffering through postpartum depression (PPD) and somber tone she takes on when discussing her own personal battle with PPD.

“The challenge is that we have created an environment where asking for help is a sign of weakness. As a community, we need to reset parenting expectations and invest more in the wellbeing of families from the very beginning” Tow says.

Eighty percent of new moms suffer from ‘baby blues,' a temporary psychological state after a baby is born. This is usually a time of extra sensitivity and symptoms include tearfulness, irritability, anxiety and mood changes, which tend to peak between three to five days after childbirth. For most, this goes away after a week or two. Postpartum depression on the other hand tends to be gradual and may persist for many months. MomsBloom provides tangible, concrete support at no charge to approximately 200 families per year, and the demand keeps skyrocketing. They are that extra pair of hands, the listening ear, that source of advice that many parents need once a little one comes home.

The success of MomsBloom has been overwhelming for Sara, “I kept seeing a common theme: misinformation about postpartum depression and family wellness suffering unnecessarily. More had to be done. How can we get people to see past the stigma of mental illness and feel comfortable asking for help to get through these tough times?” It was early in 2011 when she started brainstorming events for something big…no, huge in order to bring awareness to PPD.

The weight of this condition on her spirit of wellness and her compulsion to make change in the lives of others suffering is both compelling and intimate.   In order to bring international attention to the gravity that over 20% of new mothers will experience PPD symptoms, and one in eight US women who give birth will actually be treated for PPD. Sara (and her husband Jeff) will attempt to swim across the middle of Lake Michigan. “Through the Blue” is their open water swim event in early August (weather permitting) where Sara and Jeff with the aid of volunteers, sponsors and their mentor, the first man to swim across Lake Michigan, Jim Dreyer complete the 55-65 mile Ultra Marathon swim through the heart of Lake Michigan between Wisconsin and Michigan. They will become the first married couple to ever complete an Ultra Marathon distance swim together, only the second and third individuals ever to achieve this feat, and Sara will have the distinction of being the first US woman to successfully swim across Lake Michigan.

The goal of all of this Sara says is that “We hope to serve as inspiration for parents struggling with perinatal mood disorders. To show that as you step into the water (when your baby is born), you’ll battle ups and downs and feel, at times, like all hope is lost… but, soon you’ll see the land ahead and as you close in, you’ll know you can get through it. You’ll know that the hard times are behind you and you can step out of your blues and into a brighter future.”

To improve your overall perinatal wellness, boost your outlook on your current PPD condition or to help recognize PPD symptoms it in a friend, please see this links page for a comprehensive list of references that Sara and Jeff have put together. If you are interested in helping Team Tow bring awareness to PPD via “Through the Blue” please visit this link.

Written by: Adrienne Wallace is a public relations project manager at 834 Design & Marketing and adjunct communications professor at Grand Valley State University. Photo: stock.xchng

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