Amal Unbound – A Middle Grade Novel

My daughter is beginning middle school in the fall.  Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed is a book I would love for her to read; but she doesn’t read recommendations from me.  However, I thought she might be interested in this book because one of her favorite authors, Laurie Halse Anderson, quote on the back cover states.  “This heroic story about a girl’s struggle to become educated against overwhelming odds will open readers’ eyes and hearts.  A gorgeous and compelling read.”

She has a cousin and a friend or two who actually like for me to recommend books.  So AB, SJ, B and M this one’s for you.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

It wasn’t until I read It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozah Dumas that I delved into the history of the Iran Hostage Crisis, as an adult, instead of relying on my childhood memories.  I’ve never insisted ML read a book.  That may change.  This book captures the awkwardness of middle school and the prejudices of others during a time in history that her old mother lived through.  The summer before sixth grade is a perfect time to introduce this book to she and her friends.

This synopsis created by the publisher does a much better job than I could describing the book.  “Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.”

A day before I turned seven the Iran Hostage Crisis began.  My only memories are the yellow ribbons, a man from the town over was a hostage, every night the news would update the number of days the hostages where in captivity and they weren’t released until Ronald Reagan was sworn in.  They were hostages for 444 days.  All of which I enjoyed the freedoms of living in a country where a girl could go to school, wear whatever clothes her mom would let her, climb trees, swim and compete with the boys.  I had no knowledge that in a country across the ocean girls my age were losing rights.

Where I lived at the time, diversity of skin color was almost nonexistent  Surrounded by White  Anglo Saxon Protestants, the most diverse children in my grade where two Christian African Americans.  I had never heard of Islam. Judaism or Catholicism. At that point in my life, you were either Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian.  My family was probably considered liberal.  We were members of the Methodist church, I attended  preschool at the Presbyterian church and graduated from kindergarten at the Baptist church.  I don’t think kindergarten started at my elementary school until 1979.  My first year of elementary school coincided with the Iran Hostage Crisis.

While I was making cookie monsters and learning to read, I had no understanding of the challenges children around the world and even the United States suffered.  In theory I knew there were starving children in Africa but (spoiler alert) a middle school girl from a different country finding a dead hamster left on her doorstep in the United States out of prejudice would have been incomprehensible.

 

 

 

Fifth Grade – 30 Pages a Night

 

Ml started 5th grade yesterday.  Word on the street was one of ML’s teacher’s has high expectations; and middle school will seem easy after having her.  All good words for a mom to hear.  BUT I didn’t know how much I was going to love this teacher until yesterday.  Here’s a portion of the email she sent yesterday.

“They also received their first assigned novel to read. Typically students are accustomed to hearing “30 minutes” of reading per evening, M-F. However, in my 18 years of teaching I have learned that 30 minutes for one child may be 3 pages, while for another it may be 40 pages, depending upon concentration, interest, and other factors.  I have told the children that I would like them to read 20-30 pages per evening, rather than counting minutes. It is more tangible. If your child finds the book too difficult to read 20-30 pages in a reasonable amount of time, then I can get them another book more suited to their level. We will be using these assigned novels for writing assignments. Thank you for your patience and support!”

ML’s first assigned book is Gregor the Overlander.  As pictured above, the other books they will read this quarter are Hatchet, Wait Till Helen Comes, and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  Those are the ones she remembers.  I’m eager to see if there are others.  And wondering the total amount of books ML will read this year.  Based on a secret algorithm I created using my knowledge of number of days of school and average number of pages in a chapter book for fifth graders, my guess is 15 books.

I’m giving myself homework too.  Thirty pages a day of contenders for the 2018  Newbery Award.  The four books I’m starting with are below.  I feel certain I won’t read all the books completely; but I’ll at least give them thirty pages.  And if I end up reading the entire book, you can bet it will make my list right before the awards are given on what I think should win.

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

The Goblin’s Puzzle – Mock Newbery 2017

goblins-puzzle

My dear friend and mother of ML’s best friend recently asked for ideas for potential 2017 Newbery Winners.  Begrudgingly, I am making recommendations.  They moved a few weeks before school started.  ML and I were both heartbroken; but I can never resist giving book recommendations.  The fact that ML and SJ will be together next weekend is making this post easier.  A week from tomorrow… not some much.  It will be the day they have to part again.

There are plenty of Mock Newbery Lists out there.  I’ve yet to see the The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew Chilton on any list; but it should be.  The only books I include on my list are ones I finish.  I devoured this one.  My friend is a lawyer so the logical thinking this book encourages will make her happy.  Her son is into millitary history; so the  battles will make him happy.  The two Alice’s in the book are feisty, independent girls; just like ML and SJ.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.

All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

Don’t believe me that it’s worthy of a look?  School Library gave it a starred review.

“Brimming with sarcastic, cheeky, laugh-out-loud humor, this is a smart, original, and completely engaging adventure.” —School Library Journal, starred review

Books for a Rising 4th Grade Dog Lover

I’m taking orders for personalized summer reading lists.  My first request was for a rising 4th grade girl who LOVES dogs.  There are 238 chapter books with the subject heading of dogs at my branch alone.  Below are my recommendations for AB.  I’ve added a story about a cat and another about a sassy girl to provide a little variety to AB’s summer reading.

rain reign

Rain Reign by Ann K. Martin – “Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.  When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.” (from publisher’s website)

Handful Stars

Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord – “When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.  After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant-and possibly win?” (from publisher’s website)

Honey

Honey by Sarah Weeks -“Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It’s been just her and her father, and she’s been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone “Honey” and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It’s up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden.  Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn’t remember much from when he was a puppy, but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he’s sure, will change everything.” (from publisher’s website)

dog diaries

Dog Diaries by Kate Klimo – “For anyone who has ever wanted a puppy, the DOG DIARIES series tells a dog’s story in a new way–from a dog’s point of view! Focusing on a different breed for each book, starting with a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd, these stories are based on true dog stories or on true-to-life situations.” (from publisher’s website)

Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie Schmidt – “An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It’s almost as if she’s a cat herself. But how can that be?” (from publisher’s website)

When Mischief Came to Town

When Mischief Came to Town by Katarina Nannestad – “When Inge Maria arrives on the tiny island of Bornholm in Denmark to live with her grandmother, she’s not sure what to expect. Her grandmother is stern, the people on the island are strange, and children are supposed to be seen and not heard.   But no matter how hard Inge tries to be good, mischief has a way of finding her.     Could it be that a bit of mischief is exactly what Grandmother and the people of Bornholm need?” (from publisher’s website)

Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat

I LOVED Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan!  It includes the funniest scene I’ve read in children’s literature.  Let’s just say karma happens to a kleptomaniac, bully in such a way that you can’t help but cheer and laugh out loud.  I will be nominating this book to be included on the 2017-2018 North Carolina Children’s Book Award contenders.  Plus forcing it into the hands of every 4th-6th grader I know; especially boys.  First stops, Cole and Eli

Here’s a synopsis from the publisher:

“Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: school.

Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.

Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common, but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.”

ML Reads is Three Years Old!!!

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I started this blog.  I started it on a whim ML’s last month of kindergarten.  This weekend, I realized how very grown up and mature my soon to be fourth grader is.  The blog has evolved these past three years.  I’m certain it will continue to evolve each year.  Expect to see more chapter books and nonfiction books.  Maybe even a young adult book or two.  Don’t worry picture books are my first love; so I’ll continue to share my favorites.  Below are some books with three in their title.  I’ve read two out of three.  Three Times Lucky is on my to read list.  I’m embarrassed I haven’t read it.  It’s a Newbery Honor book by a North Carolina author.

Goldy Luck

Goldy Luck and The Three Pandas by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Grace Zong – One Chinese New Year, Goldy Luck’s mother asks her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results.

Thre Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage – Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Breakthrough

Breakthrough:  How Three People Saved Blue Babies and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy – In 1944 an unprecedented surgical procedure repaired the heart of a child with blue baby syndrome—lack of blood oxygen caused by a congenital defect. This landmark operation opened the way for all types of open heart surgery. The team that developed it included a cardiologist and a surgeon, but most of the actual work was done by Vivien Thomas, an African American lab assistant who was frequently mistaken for a janitor.

 

The Wild Robot – Mock Newbery 2017

Wild Robot

Can a picture book author/illustrator write a chapter book?  Of course.  But can they write a good one? Peter Brown can.  Since I first read The Curious Garden, I’ve been a fan of Peter Brown’s picture books.  Now, I’m a fan of his first middle grade novel, The Wild Robot.

This book is a definite read aloud.  Hopefully, MLs teacher will let me come to the class and book talk some books before summer.  This will be on the list.  I can’t wait to read “Have the nicest evening Pinktail.  I shall look forward to the pleasure of encountering you again in the future.  Soon, I hope.  Farewell.” (page 68)  The other quote that will be shared is when the animals are helping Roz with a garden.  She thanked all the animals for their help.  “I am not capable of defecating so your droppings are most appreciated.” (page 94)

It’s hard to find books for children who read on a higher grade level but aren’t emotionally ready for some of the themes explored in middle grade novels.  I’m adding this book to my post titled First Graders Who Fly Through Magic Tree House Books I wrote after ML’s first grade teacher asked for recommendations.

I hope Peter Brown has another middle grade novel in the works.  And some picture books.  His talent for both types of books is phenomenal.  Another book for my Mock Newbery 2017.  So many good books are being published this year.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to choose which one deserves the medal.

 

Booked – Mock Newbery 2017

Booked

Reading a novel in verse is a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month.  Though I don’t need a reason to read novels in verse.  I love them.  Oftentimes, it’s a love or hate relationship people have for these poetic novels.  Booked by Kwame Alexander will be a love for everyone… adults, girls and most importantly adolescent males.  The online catalog describes Booked as “Twelve-year-old Nick loves soccer and hates books; but soon learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.”

Reading this novel is like going down a rabbit hole.  You find yourself learning new words that you want to memorize and bring out in conversation:  yobbery, limerance, onomatophobia, sweven and irascent.  Then, there are the book recommendations provided in the poems:  Out of the DustLocomotion, Peace, Locomotion and All the Broken Pieces.  As a lover, of novels in verse I was surprised I haven’t read All the Broken Pieces.  Then, I saw the publication date. . . 2009.  ML was three.  I wasn’t reading many books over the standard 32 pages picture books at that time.

I’m off to read All the Broken Pieces; but first let me assure you Booked is on my Mock Newbery 2017.  Alexander’s The Crossover won the Newbery in 2015.  Booked is just as worthy of a medal.  These books need a jazzier genre name.  Novel in Verse doesn’t cut it.  Rapping Read is a better term!

The Key to Extraordinary – Mock Newbery 2017

Key to Extraordinary

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd stating I wasn’t reading another page of the book until I thought ML would both enjoy and get it.  My guesstimate was somewhere between fourth to seventh grade.  Currently, I’m in a conundrum.  ML has matured a lot in the past two years.  She’s ready for Snicker of Magic; but she’s also ready for Natalie Lloyd’s current release The Key to Extraordinary.  We have limited time to read aloud with each other.  I’ve thought long and hard about which book she and I should read together.

Finally, I had an AHA! moment.  It’s more important for she and I to read The Key to Extraordinary together.  One story line throughout the book is grieving the death of a mother.  Something I know about.  Thankfully, I was thirty when my mother passed away; not an elementary school girl.

ML and I talk about Grandma Nell often.  This book provides new ways to share about mom with ML.  Flowers and their meaning play a big part in The Key to Extraordinary.  Flowers were a big part of mom’s life too.  Some of my earliest memories are in mom’s flower garden.  I fondly remember her yellow roses, yellow marigolds, orange day lilies. . .

After my mother passed away, my dad sold my childhood home.  He encouraged me take anything I wanted.  One of the precious items I  have is  the book given to mom for being the Garden Club President.  It’s called Tussie Mussies:  The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers by Geraldine Adamich Laufer.  After reading The Key to Extraordinary, I’ll share this book with ML. I’m thinking about adding a few blank pages to the book so we can start a family “Book of Days.”  Read the book The Key to Extraordinary and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Tussie Mussie

After reading The Key to Extraordinary, ML will be eager to read A Snicker of Magic.  I’ve decided it will be the summer book for her bookclub.  Any member who reads the book, can come to the Snicker of Magic Ice-Cream Party.  Of course, ML and I will have a centerpiece with a secret message in the meaning of the flowers.  The girls can crack it using the Tussie Mussies book and the end papers of The Key to Extraordinary.

SnickerOfMagic

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost_BOM.indd

Ally Condie writer of the international best-selling young adult, dystopian series Matched published her first book for middle-grade students, Summerlost.  I haven’t read the Matched series but am eager to after reading Summerlost.  I enjoyed all 249 pages which described in poetic detail the special friendship developing between Leo and Cedar.  A perfect book to share with ML and show what healthy friendships look like whether they are between a boy and a girl, two girls or two boys.

 

We Met Cassie Beasley! I Know You’re Thinking… Who is That?

Circus Mirandus

I promise within the next year you will have heard of Cassie Beasely.  If you read the bestseller list of the New York Times Middle Grade Books, you already have.  A fellow Georgian, from Claxton, where the fruitcakes that permeated my childhood Christmas are made, visited Quail Ridge Books last night.  Circus Mirandus is her first book ever published.  It’s amazing!  Especially as a family read-aloud.  ML and I hadn’t quite finished the book before meeting her.  ML begged to finish it afterwards.  So we stayed up until 10 pm.  The last few chapters were both heartbreaking and encouraging.  Tears and laughter filled my bed as ML and I snuggled.  Then, a discussion on what should happen in a sequel.  ML had some really good ideas she plans to email the author.

At the event, ML asked the author, “What’s your favorite book?”  She responded, “That is an evil question because there are too many.”  Instead she shared her favorite books of 2015.

Picture Book
Dewey Bob by Judy Schachner

Dewey Bob

Middle Grades Fiction
Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Map to Everywhere

Young Adult
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Amber

ML’s Favorite Book of 2015
I haven’t asked yet; but I’m certain Circus Mirandus will win hands down.

***A note to the author,  I spelled your name wrong in the first draft.  It’s not just you***

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

SnickerOfMagic

I’m giving A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd the highest compliment I can give a chapter book.  I don’t plan to finish reading it anytime soon.  ML saw me reading it the other night.  The cover peaked her curiosity.  Great job Gilbert Ford.  Illustrators of book jackets don’t get the credit they deserve.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation.

ML:  What’s that about?
Me:  Magic.
ML:  Are you going to recommend that book to me when I’m older?
Me:  I don’t know.  I’ve only read the first chapter, but Miss Jenn loved it.
ML:  She did?

(I work with Miss Jenn.  ML thinks she is super cool because she was Mama Bear in the local Christmas Parade.  So any book recommended by Miss Jenn is cool in ML’s eyes.)

I’ve read half the book and I’m stopping.  I want ML and I to experience the magic of this book unfold at the same time.  I’ve read enough to know it’s going to be great.  Sometime between 4th-7th grade we’ll read this book.

Below is the publishers synopsis.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

 

Other Book Awards To Be Announced on January 27th

My posts these past few weeks are Caldecott centric.  Awards for children’s and young adult books will be announced also at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference on Monday, January 27th at 8:00 am. (EST)  I haven’t read enough books to form an opinion on awards other than the Caldecott Medal.

All the definitions of the awards are straight from the Association for Library Service to Children’s website.

Images of the 2013 winners are included in this post.

My Family

Batchelder Award – Awarded to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

AristotleMartindePorres

Belpre Medal – Presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

NotMyHat

CaldecottMedal -Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

HandInHandITooAmAmerica

Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Awarded to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.

UpTallHigh

Geisel Award – Awarded to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States.

OneOnlyIvan

Newbery Medal – Awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

FaultInStars

Odyssey Award -Awarded to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Bomb

Sibert Medal – Awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States.

KatherinePaterson
Katherine Paterson

Wilder Award – Honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The Young Adult Library Services Association chooses many awards too.  You can view their site at www.ala.org/yalsa/bookawards/booklists/members  At this point in my life, I’m uneducated about potential winners.  In 6 years, this genre will be a primary focus.  ML will be 13.  Oh no!  Only 6 years til she is a teenager!

I Suffered Postpartum Psychosis

Crazy

This blog continues to evolve.  When I started this blog, I did not plan to share my journey through postpartum psychosis.  Keeping my love of children’s literature and my advocacy about postpartum mood disorders separated.

However, circumstances changed these past few weeks.  I feel compelled to share my experience.  First, we received a book titled, Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington.  I’ve only read a few chapters; but it didn’t take me long to realize the main character’s mother suffered postpartum psychosis.  As soon as it was revealed Sarah was a twin, her brother died as an infant and her mother was a patient at a mental hospital,  I knew.  Next, at least two women lost their lives to postpartum psychosis since I’ve started reading this book.  One took her life.  The other was shot.  While I am not a doctor, I know this disease takes over your life, your thoughts.  It leaves you scared, paranoid and often convinces you the only way to keep your child safe is to die.

A little over a year ago I was interviewed by Liisa Ogburn for her project, “How Motherhood Changes Us.”  As her bio states, she is “a mother, daughter, wife, neighbor, community member, friend and adjunct professor at Duke University.” She’s also a survivor of postpartum psychosis.  Liisa took my words and created a masterpiece describing my dark journey.

“I’m almost 40 years old. My daughter just turned six.

My daughter was very planned. We’d been married for a year. I got pregnant pretty quickly and we were very excited.

Her birth was an 8-5 job. When I woke up around 6:30 am, my water broke. We got to the hospital at 8 am. It was a pretty easy birth. I don’t remember a whole lot of it.

Before she was born, I fully anticipated a middle class life of staying at home while she was young, maybe teaching preschool half a day and being involved in my children’s school. We were going to have two kids, though not the dog and cat since I was allergic, but my life has taken a different course. I’m a single mom now working full time and doing the best I can.

In the hospital, not long after I had my daughter, I passed out. I woke up a different person. I woke up very anxious. I didn’t know where I was… for a second, I thought I had died. As I was being discharged, I started having an anxiety attack while my husband was getting the car. The nurse told me I needed to get over it because I had a baby to take care of.

I had intended to be the breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mom. To make my own baby food. But I wasn’t producing enough milk. I became more and more anxious. I was not sleeping well so my anxiety started fueling scary thoughts. At first I was scared I was going to drop my baby. Then I would see a target bag and I became afraid I might put her in there. I found a support group for moms who were experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

I asked my OB for help about two weeks after delivering. She sent me to a retired psychiatrist who had experience with postpartum depression, but he was an hour away and didn’t take insurance.

About six weeks after I delivered, I became desperate. My mother had passed away eleven years earlier. I called my brother. His wife was completing her medical training. They immediately came over and wanted to take me to Holly Hill, a private psychiatric facility, but I had had some physical issues…so I was taken to UNC, where they put me on the eating disorders unit.

Postpartum depression… it seems the wrong term. So many women have anxiety that just builds and prevents them from sleeping. When people are not sleeping, they can become psychotic. People think psychotic is, you know, criminal. It’s actually seeing or hearing things that are not there, which is pretty common when you’re really sleep deprived. I was hearing things like my baby’s cry. I was put on Ambien to help me sleep, but it made me want to kill myself.

I was hospitalized five times. Before I was discharged the first time, I was told I needed to find a therapist, so I searched for one online who was close to home and took my insurance. The one I found…She didn’t know much about PPD at all. I met with her, but I was still not doing well. I was scared.

On the morning I was supposed to see my General Practitioner for follow-up on an infection, I woke up and couldn’t drive. My neighbor brought me to the appointment and by the time the doctor came in, I was on the floor crying uncontrollably. The doctor asked my friend to take me to Holly Hill, which is a private hospital in Raleigh and she did. She called my husband and he said “OK. I’ll pick her up from there.” My neighbor said, “I don’t think she’s coming home today.”

I was there several weeks, all the way through Christmas. They merged the substance abuse and crisis wards over the holidays, so I spent Christmas Eve in an AA meeting. On Christmas morning, my daughter was able to visit for ten minutes.

After I was discharged a second time, I continued to get worse and worse. A couple of weeks later, I tried to kill myself. I was found in the hotel room. Luckily I didn’t know that if you take tons of pills, you would throw them up. All I knew was that it was the first time I’d slept in months. I remember hearing banging on the hotel door. The police and EMT workers came in. As they were putting me in the ambulance, I remember seeing snow on the ground and that’s the last thing I can remember for a long time.

At the hospital, one of the psychiatrists felt like I would benefit from Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). My friends and family said they came to visit me and I would just lay there catatonic, not talking. That it was just not me. They do various placements of the electrodes during ECT. They’re always trying to get the right placement. After awhile, they sent me home and my husband took me back to the hospital within 24 hours. They decided to do a different placement called modified bilateral and it worked wonders.

I finally started to feel better. I got connected with an expert on PPD. We changed my medication and continued the ECT. There was just a feeling of enormous relief. It was spring. It had been almost six months since I gave birth.

What have I learned about myself through all of this? I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was [laughing]. I’ve learned what I value. I’ve learned that I’m a very good mother. My daughter has no memory of me not being there when she was very young. I made sure there were people there who loved her and took care of her. Being a mother and these experiences have made me a deeply compassionate person. You meet a variety of people when working in a library, some who struggle with mental illness. I feel comfortable being with them and answering their questions in a way others don’t.

When I was in the hospital, I received a letter from a woman in Seattle who I’d known years ago and she shared her story of PPD… of how she would just hide in her closet and cry. I received a letter from a girl I knew growing up. The effect of their sharing their stories made me realize that I needed to share my own.

Initially, when I started feeling more like my old self, I was angry that I didn’t get the right help in the beginning, but I’ve chosen to use that anger to work towards change for others. I’m proud to say that the hospital I first went to now has an in-patient unit specifically for mothers and it’s beautiful. I would have recovered much more quickly had I been treated there. I might even still be married.

How am I different now? I’m a lot calmer. I worry less. I try to focus on where we are now and not worry about what’s going to happen in middle school or how we are going to pay for college. My daughter spends half her time with her dad and half her time with me. I try to make sure that it’s quality time, that we’re not on the go all the time.

I never thought I would be a working mom, much less a single mom. I lived a pretty charmed life. But now I am working and single. Maybe I’m a better mom? My daughter is very proud of me and my job. But at the same time, work is not my top priority.

Advice for first time mothers? Reach out for help. Put into place a support system for the first couple of months because it’s very difficult. If you do not have a mother… my mother passed away 11 years ago today, it will be an even harder experience.

Anything else? I’m just thankful to be alive and to get to enjoy my daughter.”

Sorry for the emotionally wrenching tone of the past two posts.  Tomorrow, I promise a lighter tone.

As for Sure Signs of Crazy, I can’t give you my opinion on it yet.  I fully intend to finish it, but it will probably take me awhile.  It’s hard to read about an adolescent  girl who essentially lost her mother to postpartum psychosis.  That was almost ML.

If you know a mom who is just not the same after the birth of her child, whether it be depression, anxiety, or inability to sleep; HELP HER GET HELP.  Postpartum Support International’s website, http://www.postpartum.net/ provides straight, honest information and links to places sufferers can receive care throughout the world.

It took me four years to admit I suffered Postpartum Psychosis.  I told people I suffered Postpartum Depression.  People are more knowledgeable about depression and it’s not as scary of a word.

IF YOU ARE SCARED SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS SUFFERING POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS GET THEM MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!