Need a minute,
mama?
Get the best of Motherly—delivered to your inbox.
(We thought so.)
Subscribe to the Motherly Minute
for need-to-know parenting
news + top product recommendations
delivered daily to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
and Terms & Conditions

Welcome to
#Team Motherly.

Check your inbox for an email
to confirm your subscription
—we can’t wait to start bringing
the best of Motherly right to you.

x

A mother seeking help for her mental health loses custody of her children, instead—and it’s so wrong

Print Friendly and PDF

We've come a long way when it comes to talking about maternal mental health. These days celebrities speak openly about their experiences with perinatal mood disorders and many regular mothers share their experiences on social media. In 2019 it's okay to say "this is hard and I need help," but what actually happens when we ask for help varies and, in some instances, is downright unacceptable.

Recently an Alabama mom to a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old—we'll call her Beth to protect her privacy—showed up at her obstetrician's office seeking treatment for depression and unwelcome thoughts. But Beth didn't get the help she expected. Instead, her children were removed from the home she shares with her husband and were placed in the care of a relative.

FEATURED VIDEO

What Beth experienced here is not uncommon and evidence that more work needs to be done to support mothers with their mental health.

Research indicates that maternal descriptions of violent, intrusive thoughts can result in children being taken out of a parent's care when that is not necessary. But research also indicates that such thoughts are common. A study published in the journal BCM Psychiatry this year found "unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm-related to the infant are reported by the vast majority of new mothers, with half of all new mothers reporting unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harming their infant on purpose." But preliminary evidence suggests that these thoughts are not associated with an increased risk of harm to infants.

Beth's case is similar to one out of California last year and highlights how much work needs to be done to ensure that when vulnerable mothers seek treatment the systems and people receiving them are able to help them in a way that doesn't feel like punishment.

Beth is now bravely speaking out about what happened to her. In an exclusive interview with Motherly, she explains how she went to her OB's office (with her exclusively breastfed infant in tow) to seek help for a feeling she thought was postpartum depression. She says she described her feelings to a nurse at the OB's office, including a fleeting, intrusive thought she'd had about ending her life and her baby's. She tells Motherly it was not a thought she would act on—that the thought of harming her baby repulsed her—but the fact that such an image would pop into her mind concerned her a great deal.

When the doctor came into the exam room about an hour later Beth told her story a second time, telling her OB: "I feel hopeless and I'm crying a lot, and I had this fleeting thought of hurting myself and my child," she says. According to Beth, the doctor then left the room and returned with a plan for Beth to go to a nearby Emergency Room. Beth says she was told she could keep her baby with her, would be evaluated and sent home that evening with medication.

But things did not go as she expected once she arrived at the ER. While she was waiting to be seen by a doctor she called her mother, who suggested she leave the hospital, but Beth says nursing staff encouraged her to stay. Hours later Beth was admitted to the women and children's hospital where she'd given birth just weeks earlier. There, Beth was evaluated by a psychiatrist. Shortly afterward, her husband (who had been at work) arrived. It was now after 5 p.m. and the couple was growing concerned.

With her husband and her mother-in-law now by her side, Beth decided to sign out, advising staff she wanted to seek outpatient treatment. Hospital staff tried to convince her to stay, but she decided to leave with her husband. As they left the building a security guard followed them, telling them Beth was now on a "psych hold."

As Beth tells it, while the couple was getting into their cars (they had arrived separately) the hospital issued a Code Adam (a code for a missing child or baby) for her infant daughter, but Beth was able to simply pay $14 to leave the parking structure with no issues. The couple didn't go home, but rather to pick up their 2-year-old and head to Beth's mother-in-law's house. When a neighbor called and asked Beth why there were several police cars in front of her house she realized how serious the situation had become.

Beth's mother-in-law went to speak with the police and called Beth to bring her daughters to meet police and social workers from the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Beth was not allowed to spend the night with her children and was told to be in court the next morning.

In court, Beth was told she was a danger to her children, and they were placed in the care of a cousin. "My husband, since he was helping me leave the hospital, he's not allowed to have custody of the kids. They can't come to our house. I have to be supervised with the children at all times. I can't spend the night with them. It's just a big mess," Beth tells Motherly.

The Department of Human Resources responded to Motherly's request for comment on this case with the following statement: "All information regarding child welfare investigations is confidential under state law".

Joy Burkhard is the founder and executive director of 2020Mom.org, a national organization dedicated to closing "gaps in maternal mental health care through education, advocacy, and collaboration." She says Beth's case illustrates how much nuance and support is missing from maternal health care right now.

"Our health care system is completely failing so many mothers, like Beth, who speak up because they want to get treatment. By taking a mother's babies away, the system has failed not once but twice," she explains.

Burkhard is concerned that doctors still confuse symptoms of postpartum depression (including intrusive thoughts) with the more serious postpartum psychosis, which does increase a mother's risk of harming her children. She says that while awareness of maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression has increased in recent years, "most doctors still aren't adequately trained in the nuances of these disorders and nuances matter."

Back in Alabama, Beth believes the nuance was lost in her case and insists she would not have acted on the thoughts that entered her mind and was not a danger to her child. "That's not me. I know I would never do that. I just wanted help to control the thoughts," she explains.

Her case highlights some serious issues with how mothers seeking mental health help are treated, but her experience should not discourage mothers from seeking help when they need it.

"If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, the number one thing is safety. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 911," says Diana Spalding, Midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor.

Spalding continues: "If you know that you need help but danger is not imminent, try to find a professional that specializes in postpartum mood disorders. They'll understand the nuances of what you are experiencing. If this type of help does not exist, or you find yourself in the ER, ask for an interdisciplinary approach between an ER Doctor, an OB or midwife, and a psychiatrist. Together they may be able to provide a more holistic view of what you're going through."

Meanwhile, Beth is hoping no one has to go through what she is going through. She and her husband and doing everything they can to get their children back home. Beth is seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a counselor and she and her husband are attending parenting classes five days a week. She says the deadline given to her by DHR was December 23, and that she will have met all the department's requirements long before then. She is hoping to be sleeping under the same roof as her children by Christmas.

2020mom is now circulating a petition addressed to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, noting that it is "critical doctors, nurses, child protective services and judges receive training in the range of disorders and symptoms so they know when a mother is at risk of harming herself and/or her baby (with postpartum psychosis), and when she is not (with postpartum intrusive thoughts/anxiety)." More than 2,000 people have signed the petition.

If you are struggling with your mental health right now check out these resources to find the help you need, mama.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions

As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

This week isn't going to be an easy one for most of us. There are hard things happening in the world right now as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We're not going to pretend like this is an easy time to be a parent, because it is not. It's okay to say you're not okay today. But it's also okay to allow yourself to enjoy the lighter moments of life because these moments are still happening inside our homes during the pandemic.

This is a hard week, but there are still so many things making us smile.

Here are a few of the good news headlines we're loving right now:

This baby's quarantine style birthday party is going viral 

So many events have been canceled because of the pandemic, and many first birthday parties are among them. For parents who were looking forward to celebrating their little one's first birthday with friends and family having to cancel the guest list is hard.

Mama Kylie Najjar was one of the many parents having to make the hard choice to cancel her baby's birthday party, but she decided to make it special by doubling down on the theme of social distancing.

Her baby's big day has now gone viral because even in a difficult time like this pandemic, small moments still matter and can still make us smile.

This viral illustration highlights how the pandemic is impacting newly postpartum mamas 

The artist Spirit Y Sol touched so many mamas this week, letting art speak for the women who have had their postpartum experience changed so drastically by the pandemic. Through an essay and accompanying illustration Sol describes what was stolen from those currently in the fourth trimester.

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no "mommy and me" yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park." Sol writes.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Sol is right. We are in this together, mama. And we are here for you.

Some Good News with John Krasinski has a surprise for Hamilton fans 

Last week we told you about John Krasinski's new coronavirus YouTube series, Some Good News, and this week he's going viral again with his second episode.

He gets his wife Emily Blunt to make an appearance and organized a treat for Hamilton fans, having Lin Manuel Miranda and the rest of the cast put on a performance (through Zoom, of course).

We love how Krasinski is using his creativity and connections to make people smile during this tough time.

This mom just welcomed baby no. 22, 30 years after her first child's birth! 

Back in February we told you the mom of Britain's biggest family was going viral after announcing she was expecting her 22nd child.

Now, Sue Radford's 22nd baby is here. She's a girl and her name has not yet been announced by the Radfords, Sue and her husband Noel.

Sue was 14 years old when the couple's oldest child, Chris, came into the world in 1989 (Noel was 18). Both Sue and Noel were adopted at birth and when they found out they were expecting as teens they decided together to make the choice to parent.

Four years after Chris was born they got married, and a few decades (and many kids) later they became reality TV legends in the UK, starting with a show called 15 Kids and Counting. They now have more kids than their American counterparts from 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars. Besides TV appearances, the Radfords also own a pie shop.

In total, Sue has given birth to 12 girls and 10 boys so far (one son, Alfie, was stillborn), but giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic was a bit different. "I was so worried that Noel wouldn't be allowed to stay with me," she told The Sun.

Radford continued: "We have all been isolating and it seemed wrong to leave our safe bubble to go to a hospital, but when I got there I felt safe straight away."

Kristen Bell's Hello Bello launched a new 'camp' you'll want to check out 

Everyone is looking for extra ways to keep kids entertained these days and that's why Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard have launched Camp HelloBello on Instagram Live and IGTV!

Each week there's a new schedule for activities like singing, dancings and crafting (and Hello Bello is paying people creators to participate, you can apply to be a "camp counselor" at CampHelloBello.com).

According to a press release, "Schedules will be released on a weekly basis with lots of special guests (like Kristen + Dax and their friends) and members of our community to add some extra creativity to kids' days (and fill up some time for the parents too!)."

Sounds super cool!

This viral post highlights how our kids are 'little heroes' during this crisis 

There is a viral post floating around the internet that gives some credit where it is due: To our children.

Our kids have been champs during this crisis, as the post notes, "their little lives have been turned upside down...[but] every day they get up and carry on despite everything that is going on! Painting pictures, drawings to show their support to the heroes out there and to make other children walking past feel better!"

We see you, little heroes.

You're doing great and we are so proud of your resiliency!

Viral video shows even social distancing can't stop toddlers from 'socializing' 

Twitter user Toby Marriott went viral this week thanks to an 8 second clip of his nephew, "the friendliest toddler you'd ever meet." According to his uncle, this 3-year-old always says hello to anyone he meets on the street, but he's not running into any people on his daily walks these days...so he has to pretend.

"Hope this brightens up your day!" Marriott captioned a video of his nephew saying hello to an invisible friend. It's super cute and if we hang in there, one day this little guy will be able to say hello to his neighbors again.

News

With hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors' offices across the country focused on diagnosing and treating COVID-19 cases, many parents are left wondering what medical appointments to reschedule...or skip altogether. Should you postpone your well-child visits? What about dentist appointments? And if you've just given birth during the coronavirus pandemic, should you come in to your provider's office with your newborn?

Right now, experts say, any health care appointment that isn't urgent should be postponed or rescheduled until a later time. This includes dental checkups, elective procedures, some routine well-child visits (see below for exceptions) and any other routine care appointments.

FEATURED VIDEO

In a statement to Motherly, Dr. Deborah Ann Mulligan, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains: "In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefit of attending a well visit and receiving necessary immunizations and screenings should be balanced with the risk of exposure to other children and adults with potential contagious diseases."

Mulligan continues: "Many pediatricians are choosing to only conduct well visits for newborns, and for infants and younger children who require immunizations and to reschedule well visits for those in middle childhood and adolescence to a later date."

Here's the breakdown from experts on which medical appointments to keep, and which should be rescheduled for now:

Newborn follow-up care: Keep your appointments

"Newborns should continue to go to their scheduled pediatrician appointments, especially to receive their vaccines," advises the AAP via Twitter. That said, parents (and everybody else) are advised to avoid unnecessary travel, especially in areas with a high rate of infection. Be in touch with your pediatrician about how their office is handling newborn follow-up appointments—they may have special office hours for parents with newborns, in order to keep exposure to an absolute minimum.

According to Mulligan, "immunizing the youngest children is a top priority in the context of well child care."

Routine well-child visits: Reschedule your appointments

Wondering whether you need to keep your appointments for routine well-child checkups with your pediatrician? Experts recommend calling your pediatrician to find out if they're even offering routine care visits right now. If your child is not scheduled for an immunization, is not being treated for a chronic condition and is currently healthy, your visit can most likely be rescheduled in order to minimize unnecessary travel in accordance with CDC guidelines.

According to Mulligan, "Pediatricians may choose to limit well visits to early morning while reserving the remainder of the day for sick visits. Where at all possible many pediatricians are choosing to increase their capacity to deliver telehealth for both routine check ups 'virtual well child house call' and within reason sick visits for common childhood conditions such as rashes or pink eye."

Immunization visits + follow-up care for chronic conditions: Keep your appointments, but call your pediatrician

While receiving scheduled immunizations is important, especially for babies, doctors and parents are also weighing the risk of exposure to the virus on the trip to the doctor's office. "For children older than 2 years, waiting is probably fine—in most cases," writes Claire McCarthy, MD, faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing. "For some children with special health conditions, or those who are behind on immunizations, waiting may not be a good idea."

Follow-up care for chronic conditions may also be the exception to the "postpone for now" rule, depending on the severity of the condition, the type of care provided and your child's age. The best advice is to be in touch with your pediatrician's office to find out what they're offering.

OB/GYN appointments: Reschedule, unless you're pregnant

Unless you're currently expecting, your annual trip to the gynecologist can be rescheduled for a later time. Pregnant women should be in touch with their care providers to come up with a plan for prenatal care and appointments.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends in their COVID-19 guidelines for prenatal and postpartum care visits that women contact their providers about alternatives to in-person visits: "Some women may have fewer or more spaced out in-person visits. You also may talk more with your health care team over the phone or through an online video call." Definitely call before going in to the office for your next scheduled appointment—your care team can let you know about your options.

If you have any questions about your child's health or whether or not you should seek in-person medical care always call your doctor. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

News

Pink opened up about her family's fight against coronavirus late Friday, taking to Instagram to make a big announcement.

"Two weeks ago my three-year old son, Jameson, and I are were showing symptoms of COVID-19," Pink revealed, noting that she tested positive and has since recovered.

She continued: "My family was already sheltering at home and we continued to do so for the last two weeks following the instruction of our doctor. Just a few days ago we were re-tested and are now thankfully negative. It is an absolute travesty and failure of our government to not make testing more widely accessible. This illness is serious and real."

FEATURED VIDEO

After dealing with the virus on a personal level and recognizing her privilege in being able to access testing, Pink decided to donate $1 million to fight coronavirus and hopefully protect others.

"In an effort to support the healthcare professionals who are battling on the frontlines every day, I am donating $500,000 to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years in the Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplant Center. Additionally, I am donating $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund," she announced via Instagram.

Pink ended her update by thanking the brave healthcare workers on the front lines and reminding the rest of us to stay home.

For more information on COVID-19 and how it is impacting families, visit mother.ly/coronavirus.

News

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public in a place where social distancing would be hard. The CDC is not asking people to wear masks all the time, just when you're going somewhere public like the grocery store, the pharmacy or using mass transit—places where it may be hard to keep your distance from others.

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

FEATURED VIDEO

Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets "So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC says "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance." Babies' faces should not be covered, they should not wear masks.

For older kids, the CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

The President says it's not a rule but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters Friday, contradicting the CDC recommendation. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, howeverm tweeting, "I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

[This post was originally published April 3, 2020. It has been updated.]

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.