Climbing Out of the Darkness

I used to feel shame. Now, I just know that I am being brave.

Just like the thousands of other mothers across the country who are participating in this year's PostPartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness walk on June 18. I'll be climbing with my dear friend, Susan Petcher, in Boston. Eliana will be coming with me. I couldn't be more excited.

Only recently, and thanks to Susan's gentle prodding, I shared my own experience with postpartum depression. Not on my blog, I think, because I needed to share it elsewhere first, but I did share. Baby steps. Shaky, tentative baby steps. This is a big thing, this self-identifying as a survivor of postpartum depression. In a world where so many shy away from labels not already attached to jam jars, stepping up and saying I EXPERIENCED THIS...it's a big thing. It's a brave thing. 

I'm being brave. I know that now. So many mothers before me are leading the way. Postpartum Progress founder, Kathryn Stone, is leading the way. I'm grateful for this.

The thing about mental illness is that so many of us say that there is no shame...but there is. There shouldn't be...but there is. I'm no less a mother now than I was before sharing my experience. But it's almost easier for me to say these words now than it was for me to push for help when Eliana was a tiny baby and I sat up nights crying, convinced that the only safe place to break down was in the dark. I wish I had been braver, stronger...but it is what it is and I focus on today and the power of a community of warrior moms advocating for awareness, education, and services. 

I'm working with a therapist. Things aren't exactly roses right now inside of my head. ADHD, depression, anxiety...it's all still a very real part of my reality. So much so, in fact, that I'm now on crunch time to raise funds for the climb! I'll be back tomorrow with an update and a few items in my etsy shop that I am posting specifically to raise funds for my team, but for now, here's the link to my crowdrise page.  

How will your donation help? 

  • $10 helps Postpartum Progress keep current (and continue to grow) our referral list of more than 400 specialist providers in maternal mental health.
  • $20 Provides one set of free patient education materials, including Hugs Cards and our New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help, to a clinician or other provider who serves pregnant and new moms.
  • http://postpartumprogress.org/tools/awareness-materials-order-form/
  • $30 Provides an entire year of support via the Postpartum Progress Private Forum to a mother who otherwise has no access to support groups
  • $50 Provides one mother with Daily Hope. Postpartum Progress’ daily email service created to provide messages of support and encouragement for moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, for a full year. 
  • $150 Provides a culturally relevant, medically correct translation of our patient education and support materials into another language. 
  • $200 Provides for one week of our award-winning educational website PostpartumProgress.com, reaching a minimum of 30,00 page views.

A little goes a long way and more goes even farther. Every step of the way, you are making a difference for a mother in need of services.

My name is Pauline Campos, and I am a survivor or postpartum depression. 

No shame in that. Not anymore. 

 

Because Your Mama's Worth a Buck

At least, I would assume she is. I know I am. I even asked The Husband I was worth a buck and after his face stopped contorting itself into inexplicably pained expressions, he totally gave me the thumbs up.

I figure that means he was too overcome with emotion to say the actual words, but awkward silences and dirty jokes are our love language, so I am confident in telling you that his thumbs up meant "Yes, my love, I would certainly buy you your book for 99 cents on Amazon as it is currently on sale through May 9 for 99 cents if your book was not, in fact, your book." And then he would pause, look into my eyes lovingly while trying not to laugh, and say "You are totally worth a buck. I'd give you a buck all day long."

Isn't he romantic? This is exactly why I said yes to becoming Mrs. The Husband fourteen years ago. He's a keeper, this guy.

To celebrate Mother's Day and the BabyFat sale, I'm going to have a little fun. I have a 24-hour giveaway on Amazon for ten winners to get a kindle copy of my book. No purchase is necessary, but you can't win the book if you already own it. (I might even run another contest before the sale is over just for fun!) 

How else can you be amazing and support me and this crazy writing dream?

If  you just wanna be awesome and help me claw my way to a spot on the Amazon bestseller list, you are more than welcome to gift Babyfat to everybody you have an email address for. Your mother-in-law, wife, girlfriend, sister, best friend forever, and that mom you made eye contact with at the last PTA meeting would be very grateful for your consideration and very impressed with your taste in books. Because really, BabyFat is like six degrees of separation from Neil Gaiman because Jenny Lawson blurbed the book and I tweeted Neil asking if I could send him and his wife, Amanda Palmer, a copy of BabyFat and he actually wrote back and said yes and...

Wait. That's only three degrees and now possibly a PPO, so it's probably a good thing I screen-shot that tweet so I have something to hold on to. Did I have a point here? Oh yes...BabyFat is on sale, I want to know how many mamas you know that you think are worth a buck, and I love you. 

Don't forget to enter that contest

The end. 

One of my favorite features in the book is that each chapter starts with a social media update from friends and followers. 

One of my favorite features in the book is that each chapter starts with a social media update from friends and followers. 

Have Kindle: Will Sign

Did you know that Babyfat for Kindle is still on sale for only 99 cents on Amazon? Or that if you buy the kindle copy, that you can then sign up for a free account on Authorgraph and request my signature? Of course, if you bought BabyFat for kindle already, I can sign that, too. This doesn't just apply to new purchases, y'all. 

That's right, people...I CAN E-SIGN YOUR E-BOOK BECAUSE TECHNOLOGY IS FUCKING AWESOME. 

Observe:

I've been meaning to write about this for months, but we all know that I'm nothing if not always behind myself on getting the To-Do list done, so technically I'm pretty much right on time. 

Before I go, I've got a contest for you. I'm giving away one signed paperback to one lucky reader. All you have to do is follow me on twitter and RT this update: 

One winner will be randomly selected and notified on twitter at the close of the giveaway. Good luck! 

Rush Shipping for the Christmas Save with Collage.com

Fine Print: You're about to read a sponsored post, which means I was compensated in exchange for sharing about my experience. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. But I figure you already knew that. 

Okay so if you're the devoutly religious type, maybe you'll think I'm off my rocker and Jesus trumps rush shipping at this time of year on the Level of Importance scale, but let's just pretend that I'm on to something for a minute here.

I used to be the chick who bragged about finishing my Christmas shopping by Halloween and having every gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree while the Turkey was roasting on thanksgiving day. I know...I know...I kind of hate Past Pauline right now, too. What a bitch, right? 

Don't worry, Karma evened things out in the end. I'm older now. I've got a kid and too many things to do on my to do list and I'm sitting here finishing my Christmas shopping on December 14 because Life. That's where rush shipping is my new favorite phrase and collage.com is my new Happy Place. 

Living so far from family means that they miss out on a lot when it comes to seeing Eliana grow up. Photo gifts are always a win in this case, and that's exactly what my mom, in-laws, and a few close aunts and uncles are getting: a beautiful 16x20 wrapped canvas print featuring one of my award-winning photographs of my favorite little muse.

It's easy enough to create the perfect gift on Collage.com, and your not limited to canvas wraps. You've got options like photo books and fleece blankets to choose from, too! And just so you know, you've even got plenty of flexibility with the canvas wraps themselves. I may have opted to go with a single image here, but you can upload more than one image for a wonderful collage someone on your gift list is sure to love. 

Just keep in mind that Rush Shipping isn't going to make Christmas happen if you wait too much longer. As of right now, this is what you're looking at if you get your order in tonight...

I know I am not the only one on the internet running around in circles screaming that the sky is falling because I am so unorganized when it comes to holiday gift-giving this year. There's no shame in scrambling at the last minute. I would even venture to say that the grandparents wouldn't mind if something special made just for them showed up a day or two late if you'd like to stick to the regular shipping rates. Whichever route you take, I'm pretty sure you're on the right one with collage.com. 

Happy Last Minute Christmas Shopping! 

I received free products in exchange for my post. All opinions are - and always will be - my own. Thank you to Collage.com for sponsoring this post. 

Irrelevant

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I'm not an It-Girl.

I don't have legions of fans. I am not a household name. The Internet is not waiting with baited breath for my next witty social media update. I know all of this. Usually, I'm good with it. 

My blog comment section is made up of mostly crickets with a few (welcome) exchanges tossed in for good measure. My Latina Magazine column is widely read but I've yet to see a letter to the editor from anyone who has ever promised to send one in after stopping me in a public bathroom gushing about their favorite question and answer - I think the reigning champ is the on where I told the woman complaining about hating sex with the boyfriend who paid for her prescription medication that she needed to get a J.O.B. (For the record, I love that one, too.) My book cover is a thing of beauty with blurbs from authors I admire and still can't believe were happy to go on record in front of all creation as saying it's worth reading. Sales are decent -it's a slow build - but I'm nowhere near the literary sensation I had let The Husband's supportive cheerleading convince me I was going to become once the book launched. 

I'm not an It-Girl. In the grand-scheme of things, I think, I fall in to the irrelevant category. 

Before you stop me and tell me I'm being too hard on myself and tell me to believe in my ability as a writer, well-meaning reader, know this: I am not ... and I already do.

I wrote my first book when I was nine or 10 and have been looking beyond each No to the next horizon every day since.  Rejection is part of the profession and a tough skin is a requirement, but I don't think there's anything wrong with a little pity-party to get the and jou-jou tied directly to where we think we should be right now out of our systems before putting out big girl panties back on and getting back to work. 

I know I can write.

I know I am good at what I do and I take pride in my ability to craft a story that draws the reader in. If you're reading this as a writer yourself, you know damned well that no matter how panic-worthy each submission process may be that there's a little voice in your head talking all the smack because you are fucking fabulous and you KNOW it. 

Never stop believing that. That little bit of ego? That's what keeps us going when we've got nothing else with which to measure our success. 

I'm not an It-Girl. But I am a writer. Relevant or not, it's me against the blinking cursor and my words against the empty spaces waiting to be filled. I know this. And I'm good with it. 


Beautiful in Black & White: My Experience with the 4th Trimester Bodies Project

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It started with a request to sign a copy of my book. She'd be in the same state, after all, and seeing as how I only live four hours north, maybe I could meet up and we could take a few selfies together to prove we'd inhabited the same physical space after years of conversations in 140 characters and status updates. 

"Of course," was my response. No matter that I would be the one driving the four hours. When you're this far north, hotel rooms and rest stops are just real life if you want to maintain contact with real life. Besides, Target and Starbucks don't exist where I live. If I want you to like me in person, I'm not about to ask you to make a first impression while navigating around Amish buggies and breaking for moose standing in the middle of the roadway. If I had stopped there, if nothing more had come out of my mouth, maybe signing a book and laughing over bad camera angles would be all that had happened. But I didn't. I kept talking. "Maybe I should get naked for you, too."

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson.  Click here to purchase.  

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson. Click here to purchase. 

There was a chuckle in response. Or, I think there was one. I'm a writer. I hear the rhythm of the voice writing the words that would be spoken if the conversation was a spoken one. I fill in the blanks with facial expressions, uuhhhmmm's and ahhhh's, and the blinks that take up the space around the words I hear in my mind. She chuckled when she read my sentence about getting naked; eyes twinkling, probably. She knows my sense of humor. We've known each other a few years now, at least. "Maybe not naked," she said. "Just down to your bra and panties." 

"Only if you buy me dinner first," I shot back. And she chuckled again and I laughed out loud because I actually did Laugh.Out. Loud. I detest the LOL acronym. I know for a fact my sister never LOL's even though every single text she sends indicates otherwise. When I Laugh.Out.Loud, I actually am. Otherwise, I am merely SWMWME (Smirking While Smiling with my Eyes) or LIMH (Laughing Inside My Head). LOL is like the push up bra of the Facebook world. We all know you're selling us more than you've actually got, so let's drop the act and just call it what it is, okay?

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It was all in fun. No commitment. Just banter. But then she said "YES" and I knew the yes wasn't about the dinner joke but about the me getting down to my 'chonis thing because, it turns out, my friend, the famed Ashlee Wells Jackson of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, had an opening for her Portland, Maine, shoot, and she was sending me a contract to sign and ... and ... 

Holy...

Shit. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is what happens when you make a habit of pushing your own boundaries using thinly-veiled sarcasm. There's really no commitment because a No in response to your Maybe I could can be brushed off as a joke and no one gets their feelings hurt. A Yes still comes with an automatic Out because I was Totally Kidding and can quip about how I never let a date get to third base before the third date, at least, because I have fucking STANDARDS. There's alway a moment of pause when the Yes happens. The window of opportunity to wrap my arms around the Thing I Probably Really Want to Do But am Totally Terrified Of is small. Generally, it's understood that I am verbally agreeing, all semblance of general smartassery lost, because Shit Just Got Serious, y'all. 

I'm signing the contract before I have had a chance to process the ramifications, not because I'm an idiot, mind you, but because posing for a shoot in your well-endowed bra and Lane Bryant panties is scary shit, indeed, even for an outspoken body image activist like myself. If I even stop to think, just for a moment, I'm going to Come to my Senses and say But I was Joking and tell the Ashlee's in my life that they'd better give that  open slot to someone else cuz I'm not about to put All of THIS on the internet -- not when my every day is Spanxed and layered and carefully pieced together so as to maintain some semblance of containment and purposeful form. 

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

 

Even after signing the contract, though, I toyed with the idea of backing out. Eliana didn't know it yet, because I needed to come to terms with the Actual Doing before I got her all jazzed up about a mother/daughter photo shoot with a famous and celebrated photographer, but she would be there, with me, celebrating herself as she is next to the mama hoping she was brave enough to do the same. I wrote a book about accepting the bodies we have right here and right now, the scale and Other People's Expectations be Damned. I have a website celebrating our bodies and ourselves in every possible way (which I suck at keeping updated because the aforementioned book takes a lot of time to write and edit and promote upon publication). I am outspoken about my struggles with mental illness - anxiety, depression, ADHD - and my eating disordered past and ever-present body image issues. Once it's a part of your story, it always will be. But until now, I've been able to hide myself behind words and stories that painted pictures for readers to relate to and see themselves in. 

I’m not important enough for media coverage. No need to find the most flattering dress for my shape to talk about my work on daytime TV. No magazine spreads to hope the PhotoShop Fairy I usually hate sprinkles her fairy dust over to maybe make a few bulges here and a few inches there smooth out and disappear. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is real. Black and white. No tummy-controlling undergaments. No bullshit. 

Period. 

It’s everything I stand for and nothing I’ve been brave enough to make happen. 

Until now.

Before packing up the overnight duffle and looking for a hotel, I told The Husband about the shoot and asked him to check out the 4th Trimester Bodies Project site, and waited for his response. I wasn’t looking for permission, mind you, but maybe I’d been hoping for an excuse to say no. “My Husband is being a giant asshole about this whole thing and I’d just rather not deal with the drama” is way easier to say than “Yeah, I know this is exactly what I stand for, but let’s pass on this round because I’m scared shitless that I won’t see myself as beautiful, okay?” But he only waited for me to tell him why I had directed him to the site to begin with because he knows me and simply nodded when I told him I had been invited to participate in the project. “You know I’d never stop you from doing something like this,” is what he said. So I was left with no way out but through my fear and self-judgement, booked the hotel room, gassed up the truck, told the excited little chingona-in-training what we were doing and why, and listened to her sing Eliana Mercedes Originals all the way to Portland about celebrating our bodies and loving who we are.

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

As we stood in the dressing room at Lane Bryant (because I’m not about to drop my pants for the world unless it’s in brand new undies, my friends), Eliana joked with me about third boobs and very solemnly pointed out the styles of panties and bras she thought fit best and so those are the ones I bought. I mentally patted myself on the back for taking the emotion out of the dressing room and replacing it with logic and reason. My audience was watching my every move and I wasn’t about to taint every future dressing room experience with tears and squished face disgust at what perceived flaws. My todays are building the foundation for her tomorrows, after all, and while I may be far from perfect, I’m working with what I’ve got. 

“Mama,” she asked me while trying on her black leotard at our last stop before we checked in for the night in Portland, “What’s so hard about celebrating our bodies? All we have to do is appreciate what we have.”

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

These are the words I remembered and held onto that night, because I didn't sleep. They are the words I remembered when I stood before Ashlee in nothing but a bra and panties the next day. The words I held onto when she pointed the camera at me and asked me why I was there during the pre-shoot interview. 

“What made you want to participate in this project?” she asked me.

I looked at Eliana, waiting patiently to join me for the session. She smiled at me because she knows I am not as brave as I say I am, and that’s okay. 

 

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Looking into my daughter’s eyes, I responded. “Because perfection is photo-shopped. Because self-acceptance is reserved for the finish line. Because you can’t step on the winner’s podium until after you’ve proven your worth until after you’ve stepped on the scale. Every day, I wake up ready to teach myself love the me that I see again. Because this little girl is my reset button. 

Because there was no reason that wasn’t an excuse to say no and every reason that matters to say yes.”

And then we did it. We smiled and we laughed and we posed and celebrated our way through every shot and then again while working with Ashlee to select the image used for the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. There was a headshot. There was a safe image. And then there was the one where I wasn’t shielding myself with my daughter’s body because I’m the one that’s supposed to be on the frontline helping her find her way, dammit. That’s what you see. This is who I am.

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

We signed books for each other at the end, as planned. We hugged and smiled and selfies and hash-tagged because we don’t know when we will see each other again. I didn’t even make her buy me dinner. 

Later that night, after hours on the road in between errands on the way home, I saw the status update in my Facebook stream indicating that Ashlee had tagged me on her fan page. There were no tears. No self-deprecating tearing apart of the self I saw standing next to the future I am raising. “Look, Eliana! It’s us!”

“We’re beautiful, mama!” She squealed with pride. She beamed. She looked into my eyes, waiting for me to answer the question she would never dare to ask.

“Yes, baby,” I smiled back and met her eyes because I know this will be one of the moments she look back on as she grows and I need her to see that I believed the words I was saying are true. “Yes we are.” 

Operation Book Launch: System Shutting Down

I'm the girl who prides herself on not giving a shit what the peanut gallery thinks.

I'm the mother raising the daughter to be a chingona and has learned that I can't raise her to be this Spanglish BadAss Bitch, write about it, hashtag instagram images with the #Chingonafest & #BitchRedefined, and then expect that the girl being raised to be her own woman isn't going to look at me sideways and ask why she can't say the word because how is it wrong to say a word that it's okay be be? Which is the long story version of: I'm the mother who's daughter loves to tell people that Chingona means Bitch and Now Isn't That the Most Interesting Thing You Ever Did Hear?

I'm the lady who likes to say what I say and write what I write because I need to - but for me first. The reader always comes second. I don't know if this is normal or self-serving, but I'm not sure how else to operate. Either I feel good about (even better for having written it) sharing what I do or I just don't share. That's bad. It's like the literary equivalent of rush hour in metro Deroit.

Total. Bottleneck. 

So I write and share I continue to do. 

I say bad words for good reasons and understand that not everyone likes what I say or how I say it and (99.999995 of the time, I'm absolutely fine with this. I'm a big girl. I expect critics and welcome trolls. Bring it, sister. I made you a cupcake for getting the party started.)

I'm all these things, and yet I'm none. For as badass as I claim to be, I'm also unsure. For as DGAF as I used to be, I'm flustered and Oh My Word and Where's the Fainting Couch, Dammit? What if I flop? What if I don't even make a ripple? What if the last six years have been wasted because I'm only good at writing and suck at making noise on my own behalf? 

And that's when the sickening realization hits: I have Stage Fright!

See, New Writers/Bloggers/Aspiring Authors? It's not just you. I'm pretty sure NOT freaking the hell out makes you an asshole or something. If I remember #Blogher14 and Rita Arens on her publishing panel, the exact quote is something like "Unless you a total dick or something, your life isn't drastically changing after you've got a book out there." 


Note to self: Stop Being a dick, keep writing, refocus, get a grip, and that just about covers it, I think. 

It's a Slow Day on the Internet

Okay so not really. I have about 47-Eleventy-nine and a half bazillion photos to sort through and still edit from both BlogHer15 and BloggerBash NYC and #BabyFat is so close to being an Actual Book I can almost FEEL IT. And then I got a #Dimelo question for my Latina magazine advice column asking if it's okay for married men to go to strip clubs with their single friends. 

I'll tell you the story about the time I worked in a strip club once, but it's gonna have to wait until I have five minutes AT THE SAME TIME, so that's totally not right now. Keep your shorts on, people, I was as a fully-clothed waitress with a penchant for losing $300 in tips in my cleavage until I got home and took off my bra. But I can't tell you THAT story until after I tell you about the boob reduction I had at age 24 to take me from somehwere north of 38GGG and land me right in DDD territory AND time to tell you about why I really don't give a shit when The Husband happens to be pegged for DD duty when a buddy wants to go out because you can't just lose that kind of cash in a training bra. (FYI for the new kids in class - the first group of D's is my boobs. The second is for Designated Driver. You're *Welcome*). Strippers are in it for the cash. It's a job. My husband is a cheap-ass, so the fact that he's ridiculous on the Good-Looking-O-Meter really doesn't give him any ground to stand on next to the nerdiest, goofiest looking buck-toothed bald man with a wad of singles in his hand. 

Basically, I got more play at the gay bar with my GBF in college than The Husband EVER will in a strip club. Also? Thanks to Kelly Wickham for my new and forever answer whenever I get this question sent my way again. 

Ladies? Should you let your husband off his leash to go see naked ladies dancing in tiny G-strings? Ummm... depends on how interesting you find this video tutorial on how to get the perfect sloppy hair bun.

Pra quem me pediu muito, mais coque no cabelo. Dá pra aprender, né?!Sigam no Snap: ricocarmoInstagram: @ricocarmo

Posted by Rico Carmo on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Any questions?