The grass was cold and wet as I sat down at the bottom of the hill, but I didn't mind. The crowd had dissipated, except the few strangers on bikes training for a race in the distance. Otto was just learning to walk on his own, and his light blue pants got stained with every stumble. His lips pursed and his legs bowed as he shifted his weight to take a step. His curls lifted in the soft breeze as his fingers pulled away from mine, leaving me to thread my fingers through the long green stems beside me instead. I let go, and watched him with a hesitant grin; I didn't want to distract him from his task. We were both testing our bravery that sunny Saturday morning.
See, before we finished Climb Out of the Darkness 2014 at Cannonsburg park that day, I probably would have stayed on the sidewalk. I probably would have already wrapped him up so he wouldn't touch anything dirty or get too far away. My life before the Climb didn't have room for him to learn to explore unless he was held tightly in my arms.
Before the Climb, decisions about Otto were guided by a familiar voice saying: It's your fault if he gets hurt. You can prevent him from crying when he falls, from getting sick from the dirt. He's never going to trust you.
There's truth there. Kids do get sick from poor hygiene. Kids do need boundaries in order to make sense out of their relationships with parents. But because of my illness (perinatal OCD and anxiety) I was negotiating with lies all the time. That voice in my head turned conventional wisdom into rules with permanent consequences, and that made it harder to find the balance I saw in other mothers between instinct and science.
I felt constantly guarded, and constantly guilty. And I was ready to stop.
And so, I decided to Climb. In Grand Rapids, up a breath-taking elevation, with about 10 other families I had never met but who knew what it felt like to be me. And they didn't have to ask why I arrived alone; they knew that stories like ours are tough on a marriage. We talked and cried as we hiked, and they asked to take my picture at the top, because they knew I'd want to remember the moment I first fought back.
Sitting in that grass after the Climb, I thought about all the brave and beautiful things I wanted Otto to become and realized they had to start with me. If I wanted his heart to be open, I had to stop protecting my own from disappointment . If I wanted him to be brave I had to stop being so afraid of failure. If I wanted him to have hope through hardship, I had to stop fearing the worst would happen. I had to start trusting in the good, because I so wanted HIM to. His every move is a risk to discover his own ability, to feel just a little bit more alive, I thought. I didn't want to jeopardize his amazing courage by being a slave to my illness. It was the moment my almost-toddler, teetering through the grass, wondering at the simple sky and feeling the mud between his toes, became my biggest role model. It was the moment I became a Warrior Mom.
Climb Out of the Darkness helped me shine light on painful experience to light, so that I could get help to grieve it and move forward. It is an annual event that supports Postpartum Progress, Inc. (PPI), a national nonprofit organization working to increase awareness of maternal mental health disorders and to connecting suffering families with support systems. Read about their specific resources here
. One in seven women will struggle with maternal mental illness, and most of them remain undiagnosed and living in the darkness. They need our help to get educated, know their treatment options and heal their relationships.
Team leaders from over 40 states and 8 countries host local “climbs” (walks or hikes) on or near the longest day of the year. This is the 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness, and the first year a Team Lansing will be joining the other 3 Michigan teams! On June 20th, our local team will gather at 10:00 am at Woldemar Nature Center to hike together (partners/children are welcome).
Here are some ways you can support us:
- Watch this video. It has music. It's short. It means a lot to other Warrior Moms that you see their bravery to go public!
- Hike with us! The only requirement for is that you register. Fundraising/donating is NOT required. Your participation is a wonderful way to show your support
- Donate to our fundraising efforts. Any monetary or in-kind donation helps and is tax-deductible. Online donations can be made at the Crowdrise link below. Checks are payable to Postpartum Progress Inc., memo to Team MI-Lansing and mailed to: 4920 Atlanta Highway, #316, Alpharetta GA 30004.
- Share this event and cause with others. You can help by spreading awareness. You never know who might be helped by reading a single post today from this blog and the Team Lansing posts (via our local hiking club page, www.facebook.com/papooseinlansing)!