Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel

I left work early one day and hurried to my daughter’s house to visit with my 1st grandchild who was only 3 weeks old.  As I pulled into the driveway, I was so excited to see my daughter sitting on the back porch.  Although we have always been close, we had not spent much time together recently, so I guess I was also looking forward to visiting with her as well as my grandson.  As I got out of my car and walked up the gravel path, I got a better view of my daughter. My heart sank.  She was sitting in a plastic deck chair holding her head in her hands.  She was wearing a blue and white checkered gown (one I had actually given her several years ago, so the blue was somewhat blue-gray-faded and the white was a bit yellowed.)  Her long brown hair (usually beautiful and shiny) looked dull and matted.  It was piled half-way upon her head, barely clasped with a spring clip on the top.  On one side of her face, strands of her hair that had missed the clasp hung down covering part of her face.  When she heard me walk up, she lifted her head from her hands, looked at me and started bawling.  She cried for a full 4 minutes without stopping.  She said, “I can’t do this.  Mama, I can’t do this.  I don’t know how to take care of a baby.  I don’t know what to do when he cries and won’t stop. I haven’t had a shower in 3 days.  He is up all night and all day.  I’m trying to nurse but it isn’t working.  I don’t know how to do that.  I think he’s hungry and I can’t satisfy him.  Ben (her husband) is working all day, then comes in, changes clothes, and goes back out to deliver pizzas till midnight, just to be able to buy diapers.  Mama, they are so expensive.  I feel like a failure as a mother.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t keep going like this.  What am I going to do?”

My heart was breaking...I knew my daughter was a loving, caring, smart, all-together type of person.  How could she be suffering from Postpartum Depression? This did not seem like her at all.  But what could I do? I simply loved her through it. First, I took care of my grandson while she took a shower and a nap.  I then encouraged her to get out and get physically active, and also to specifically schedule time with friends.  After all, she had the perfect babysitter…me!  The next few months were pretty tough, but with help she soon became her “old self.”

Sometimes, the experience of being a new mom can be a bit overwhelming.  You are not alone.  In fact, over 50% of ALL moms experience “baby blues” symptoms. And over 12% of all postpartum women experience some of the symptoms of postpartum depression, including feeling sad, intensely anxious, worthless or incompetent, and feeling inadequate to cope with an infant.

When these “overwhelming feelings” get out of control, please know there IS help.  You may feel like you are in a dark tunnel headed to a horrible end, but be encouraged….there IS a light at the end of the tunnel!  And the tunnel is not as long as you think!  In the meantime, you can help yourself by being physically active, spending fun time with friends, eating healthy foods, and being intentional about relaxing.  Hope Clinic for Women can also help.  We provide postpartum counseling on a sliding scale making this affordable for anyone. Please consider seeing one of our professional counselors who can provide an assessment and counseling through this difficult time. If needed, our Nurse Practitioner can prescribe medication to help as well.

Postpartum Depression does not have to keep you down. With the right help, you too can make it through the tunnel where there is light abundant at the end!

Marie Gilland, LMSW is the Client Program Director at Hope Clinic for Women. She has 7 years of experience in Counseling. Marie received her master's degree in social work from the University of Tennessee and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Tennessee State University. She previously worked as the Child Welfare Program Coordinator at Catholic Charities in Nashville, TN. Marie has lived in the Nashville area for 37 years and has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parenting: The Greatest (and Hardest) Job in the World

After 24 years of working with families, you would think I would have all the answers.  The reality is that I don’t.  People ask me all the time, “How do you talk with your children about certain subjects?”  I then ask them to specify what they are talking about.  The answer is often about sex, drugs, alcohol, dating and other subjects.  I think to myself, “Why are you asking me?”  Then I stop and think about how nervous and afraid I was when doing this with my own children.  The world can be overwhelming to parents on a daily basis. 

In the United States you have to have a license to drive, hunt, fish, and work in many different fields such as medicine, law and therapy.  We study for these exams and read books and listen to teachers who have years of experience.  For parenting, there are no classes or exams that you have to take, and you can't really count on the information that's out there.  It is all about life experience. 

I have found over the years that the best way to talk about these subjects with your children it to be totally honest with them.  Is it scary? Sure it is!  Children and teens are very inquisitive and want to know what you think about things.  They may not come out and say it, but they want and need your input.   Hear me on this: They want you to talk with them about these subjects. 

Let me give you a few tips I have used in the past and it turned out pretty well for me.  First, communicate openly with your children.  If they ask a question, no matter how young they are, answer it.  If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and get back to them.  Remember, the reason they asked the question is because they have heard about it at school or from a friend.  I believe you would rather have the answer come from you than from a friend who has no clue what they are talking about.  Secondly, hear what your children are saying.  We all listen to our children but are we really hearing what they are saying?  There is a big difference.  And lastly, make these conversations a daily thing.  Talking with your children about sex, drugs, and other tough subjects is not a one-time gig.  It should occur every day.   Be open, honest and transparent with your children.  They may act like they “already know all this”, but in the end, your children will respect you more than ever before.  It shows that you have an undying love and concern for your child.  Don’t be afraid;  you can do this!

If you need help in any way, Hope Clinic for Women can help.  We offer a parenting program that will teach you how to talk to your children about all these subjects and many more.  Just remember, it does not show weakness to ask for help when you need it.

Terry Cheatham has worked with teens and their parents for more than 20 years.  He currently serves as a counselor at Hope Clinic for Women, where he specializes in male and couples counseling, parental issues, and prevention education. In addition, he serves as an adjunct professor of psychology at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Terry received his bachelor’s degree in law from Abilene Christian University and his master’s degree in counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Terry and his wife, Karise, have three children.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Let Freedom Ring!

July is all about the 4th. It is honored with fireworks, food and friends. It is a time to celebrate our freedom from Great Britain and the Declaration of Independence. Over the years, we have challenged what that document means for us today. (Just consider the fact that in the 220-plus years since ratification of the Constitution, more than 11,000 amendments have been proposed, but only 27 have been enacted.) 

Today there is nothing we seem to fight more strongly about than our right to ‘bear arms’ and the right for women to ‘choose’. I don’t see either of these debates ending quickly, but what I love is that Hope Clinic for Women is tackling one of these issues practically with enormous compassion and grace. Just over 10 years ago, I didn’t know a place like this even existed. Today I am so proud of the women and men who work (paid and unpaid) directly with our clients and those who financially keep our doors open. If the rest of the world could step into our doors for just one day, they just might stop fighting so much because we are a safe place in this midst of this tough issue and every day our client already wins.

At Hope Clinic, women and men CHOOSE to call us and ask us questions. They choose to walk in the door. They are not shamed or guilted into coming here. They are simply invited. They choose to receive the care we have to offer. They choose to hear about all of the options in front of them if they are pregnant. They choose to continue care with us or walk out the door. They choose to come back to us for counseling if they have an abortion and find it did not just ‘go away’, and they never hear: ‘I told you so’. They choose to talk about God. They choose to enter our Bridge Program which includes access to spiritual mentorship, professional counseling, education classes and practical support. They choose to meet with someone if they are dealing with an STD, related women’s issues, other pregnancy loss, or postpartum depression.

Recently, we have dealt with a spike in our pregnant women suffering from a miscarriage. Something that happens in 25% of all pregnancies. It has been a burden for them and the staff. How do you handle that? But we are thankful clients choose to process that grief with us. They choose how long they grieve and how they grieve. And they choose to let us hold their hand.

Mostly I celebrate that our clients choose life. Life for their baby. Life for themselves. Life in general. And they do that because at some point they choose HOPE. When they are faced with their crisis, they choose to let this be an opportunity to change vs. the choice to give up.

This month you celebrate your freedom, which includes your freedom to make a whole lot of choices: what you eat for the day, whether you exercise, go to work, go to church, serve your community, be nice to the cranky but possibly exhausted person behind the register at Walgreens, show grace and forgiveness or hold a grudge, speak well of someone or gossip… get the idea. I just ask you take a moment to celebrate that people of Middle Tennessee have the freedom to choose Hope Clinic for Women. And that’s a good choice!

Have a blessed and happy 4th of July!

Renée Rizzo

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living in the 'in between time'

How do we live in the ‘in between time’?

Some of my fondest memories growing up were Easter Sundays.  In an Italian home, it was all about the sweet Easter bread that my mom spent hours kneading, breading, and baking.  Then, there was the pizé gran pie (you haven’t lived until you have tasted this decadent grain pie that is basically a breakfast version of cheesecake). But, of course I loved the floral Easter dresses, bonnets, black patent shoes and white lace gloves. New Life abounded everywhere from Church to the homes we visited. Even though I went to services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the reality of those days didn’t really sink in until frankly The Passion of the Christ. Then it became more than I could bear.

Recently though, I have been meditating on the in between time. Those endless hours between Jesus’ death on the Cross and the realization of His resurrection. Even though Jesus told his disciples that he would return, they obviously were not fully aware what He meant since they were all holed up in the upper room versus waiting right outside His grave for His grand re-entrance. On one hand, I simply cannot imagine what that kind of waiting must have felt like. The hopelessness. The despair. The ‘sick to your stomach’ pain.

But then again, we do know what that waiting feels like, don’t we? The waiting for your child to return home after years of addiction and prayers that seem to go unanswered. The Godly spouse you have prayed decades for. The womb you have prayed would not remain barren. The job you desperately need while bills are mounting. The child who has died who you cannot wait to be reunited with in Heaven.  So many of these seasons of our life can overwhelm us as we wait in the ‘in between time’.

If you have lived long enough, you have lived in this season. You know what it feels like. And you wish the ‘future you’ would show up to tell you just how much longer you have to wait before God reveals Himself. My guess is as long as we cling to His promises deep in our heart, God can handle all the crying, the doubts, the questions, the accusations we can hurl at Him. Because God does His best work in this darkness. He brings the dead to life.

My prayer this Easter is that you reflect on all the seasons of darkness in your life. Jot them down, but also write down when God did finally show up. Write of those blessings. Have those nearby so when a new season of waiting is upon you, you can look at it with eyes filled of hope. Hope that will never fail us no matter how long we wait.

My prayer is that you are reminded how much He has already given you, how much He loves you, how much He desires to truly connect with you, and How much He delights in you. 

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Healthy Relationships

You cannot help but notice that Valentine’s Day is upon us.  A quick errand at any grocery store or pharmacy quickly reminds you with all the pink, red, heart-shaped candy, and teddy bears that February 14th is coming.   Some of you love this holiday; others dread it and sarcastically call it “Single Awareness Day.”  Regardless, if you are married or dating someone, you are in a relationship.  Actually you are in many relationships (parent/ child, sibling(s), coworkers, friends, church family, etc.).  At Hope Clinic, we hope you choose and maintain healthy relationships.  

You do not get into a relationship hoping it will be unhealthy, but you may not be intentional enough to work for a healthy relationship.  Healthy relationships rarely happen without having certain goals and mutually agreed upon standards for the relationship.  Healthy relationships need people with healthy identities, who want certain characteristics of their relationship, and who will agree upon and maintain boundaries. 

Healthy vs Unhealthy Identity
You get many messages from society regarding what you should value and what you should be like.  Choosing which messages to believe and internalize affects your identity.  Women hear that their appearance is what really matters (skinny, sexy, beautiful), that they need a man to be happy, that men are basically dogs that need to be tamed, and as a woman you better have your act together.  Men hear that they need to be tough, athletic, that boys will be boys when it comes to sex, and money is what really matters.  Internalizing these messages leads to an unhealthy identity. 
A healthy identity is based on God’s message to you.  You are created in the image of God to have a relationship with God and to care for the world and others as God’s representative.   Through God’s son, Jesus, you are given access to a relationship with God and the responsibility to be God’s representative.  Therefore, you can have mutually respectful relationships, reach for positive goals, use your powers to help others, and enjoy life without having to use alcohol or have a lot of money.  What are you basing your image on, the world’s message or God’s?      

Characteristics of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships
Unhealthy relationships are characterized by self-centeredness, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and withholding of care), lack of trust, lack of respect, secrecy, poor communication, an unforgiving spirit, and poor boundaries.  Healthy relationships are characterized interdependence, trust, respect, open communication, honesty, healthy intimacy, forgiveness, and mutually agreed upon boundaries.   Reviewing the list, you will unlikely find any of your relationships perfectly meeting the list of healthy characteristics.  Perfection is not the goal, but progress.  Are you and the other person willing to progress towards a healthy relationship?  Are there more characteristics of the relationship being healthy than unhealthy?  Are you settling on a partner because you think you don’t deserve better or cannot find another?   What would God want for your relationship, for it to be improved, continued, or stopped? 

Healthy relationships have positive mutually agreed upon boundaries.  A boundary is like a fence in a yard.  A fence protects what is valuable (keeps people out and valuables in like a child or pet), shows others where your property starts and stops, and they are not easily moved.  Personal boundaries are designed to protect and honor important parts of our lives.  They are created to clarify what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors from others.  If your goal is for sexual purity, then set boundaries.  If you are single and on a date, mutually agree to not be alone in an apartment or bedroom together.  If you’re married, your boundary could be to never be alone with the opposite sex unless you are related.  Boundaries only help if you set them in advance and communicate them with others.       
Hope Clinic’s prevention team aims to counsel and educate clients and the public about healthy relationships.  While this article was not exhaustive on choosing and maintaining healthy relationships, we want you to know that we are here for you.  We provide confidential consultation, individual counseling, relationship accountability, off-site group discussions, and other services.  If you would like us to help you in one or more of your relationship(s), please contact us.   


Patrick Hamilton, M.Div.
Male Prevention Coordinator

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Year-end Letter from CEO

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”  ― C.S. Lewis

I think C.S. Lewis might be referring to our life in our final home with our Father but I think it is a great perspective as we begin the New Year. 2013 was an incredible year for Hope Clinic. That doesn’t mean it was perfect for sure. But this side of Heaven I am beyond expecting that. Instead I have learned to see the beauty of both the blessings and the shortcomings.

Our client numbers continued to climb in every category and their stories continue to amaze me. You would think after 10 years I would become complacent about their stories, but I am not. They feed my soul every time.

Our volunteers put in more hours than ever before and our internship program at the colleges continues to be strong. I am thankful everyday people give up their time to be here and do some really hard work. It is not easy to enter the lives of our clients. Their road is bumpy and filled with healthy and unhealthy choices. These volunteers pour their hearts out whether it is directly with a client, in the prayer room, stuffing mailings, or folding clothes in the maternity/baby room. 

And people like you, who met every financial need we faced this year…even ones we were not expecting, like broken pipes and a broken furnace. I am so in awe every December when over $100,000 arrives at our door in less than two weeks. I worry at times that my awe shows me how little my faith must be, but I have come to accept that this awe each year is the kind of awe we must have in Heaven. The realization of this amazing gift that we could never earn. The kind of awe that brings you to your knees.

Thank you for being a part of this tapestry. I believe your gift is marked for eternity. I pray you are blessed this New Year and that you feel God’s love and care through every moment.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beauty from Brokenness - Rebecca

The conception of my child was a miracle! I had a wonderful pregnancy and a truly beautiful natural labor and delivery story I am so thankful for. I felt God’s presence in my life so strongly at this point. I was in love with my new little baby and in awe of God’s faithfulness in my fertility.

At 2 weeks, postpartum things began to change. My quiet, sleepy baby began crying-- a lot. He was diagnosed with acid reflux and colic. I could do nothing to soothe or comfort him. I desperately wanted to be the best mother I could be, but felt like a failure on so many levels. Sleep was also very rare during this time. Due to his acid reflux, lying down at night was one of the hardest times of the day for my baby. To allow my husband to sleep, I would sit up all night long rocking and attempting to soothe my hysterically crying infant. I’m not sure if it was pride or my desire to not “bother” people, but I refused all offers of help during this time. I also did not let my friends and family know the extent to which motherhood was taking a toll on me. I began isolating myself, fearful of any unknowns that might be found outside my home.

Finally, around 5 months postpartum the colic and reflux began to vanish from my infant. He started sleeping well at night and was consolable and even pleasant during the day. Although, he was doing wonderful, I was barely functioning. I stopped sleeping. It was as if my body had forgotten how to sleep. My baby was sleeping soundly, as I lay in bed wide awake with my mind racing. I averaged 2-4 hours of sleep a night, with some nights getting no sleep at all. This left me feeling frazzled and fried and on constant edge. I was confused and felt alone in my suffering.

Not sleeping at night began to wreak havoc in all areas of my life. I isolated myself from friendships, grew bitter toward God, and watched my marriage begin to suffer. I felt like a failure, not only in motherhood, but also in life. At 9 months postpartum I turned to various professionals for help, but received nothing more than pity and sleeping pills. Because of the addictive nature of the medication I used it only sparingly, though eventually became dependent on it. Due to this I was also forced to abruptly stop breastfeeding. Nursing was the one thing in motherhood that I still felt accomplished at and brought me joy. This was not only difficult on my body, but it also left an emotional scar that took months to heal.

Around this time I began to have thoughts of self-harm. I’m not sure if this was a withdrawal symptom of the medication or due to months of sleep-deprivation and isolation. But it was alarming and scary. I felt hopeless, confused, and embarrassed. This was not at all what I thought motherhood would look like.

I continued in this state of darkness for 11 months. I slept only on nights I took sleeping pills; the other nights consisted of frantic, irrational thoughts while I watched time pass. My daytime hours were simply survival mode. I did what I had to do to care for my baby, but neglected caring for myself and my home. On really bad days I would forget to feed myself. My mind felt scrambled and on a constant loop of negativity. I felt trapped in my circumstances and with no way out.

For the most part, I was able to ignore my pain... until I watched my strong husband begin to crumble. Due to my fragile, weary state, he took on the brunt of the housework and care for our infant, in addition to his full time job. He spent many nights awake with me praying and reading scripture to me, and attempting to seek out solutions for me. Watching him suffer made me realize just how bad things had gotten. I knew I needed help.

It was in the middle of the night, as it often was, that I was searching for answers online. I had finally gotten to the end of myself and was crying out to God for help. I stumbled across a checklist of symptoms for something called “Postpartum Depression.” I was able to check off all symptoms by this point. I was amazed there was a name for the torture I had endured for so long. I felt such a relief just knowing I was not alone and I was not “crazy.” I also saw a place called Hope Clinic specialized in dealing with this.

I called Hope Clinic the next morning. I was greeted with love and compassion over the phone and an appointment was scheduled for me immediately. Finally, I was no longer alone in my suffering. I felt the tight grip around my throat begin to loosen as I spoke about my darkness out loud. It no longer had power over me. I was filled with hope for the first time in 11 months. The staff at Hope Clinic was committed to seeing me get well. And they had hopefulness for me when I still could not see the progress.

I started going to Hope Clinic on a weekly basis. My family’s budget was taken into consideration, which was an unexpected blessing to us at such a vulnerable time. My medication was monitored and adjusted, and I soon began to emerge from the mental fog I had been in. I received counseling services targeted on the Postpartum Depression. I learned new skills for coping with my anxieties and I finally began embracing my motherhood. I learned to give myself grace in the areas I thought I was failing in. I set reasonable expectations for myself and entered a new place of vulnerability with friends and family. I learned how to ask for and accept help from those who love me. As I started to live again, by body followed suit and began sleeping peacefully.

Now at 14 months postpartum, I can honestly say I am in a wonderful place. The pieces of my life, which once felt shattered, have now been put back together. What could have easily destroyed me, God has used as a blessing in my life. My character has been shaped for the better by this experience. I could not have gotten to this place without the compassionate care of the staff at Hope Clinic. They met me in a state of darkness and walked with me out of it. I am eternally grateful to Hope Clinic. Their commitment to women and families truly fills a void in this area of service.