They were emerald green satin peep-toe stilettos, I think with an embellishment on the bridge, right by the cutout -- beads or rhinestones, some black, I want to say. The feet and legs that occupied them as they strutted past me at the morning snack table were lean and long and clad in black fishnets and a pencil skirt.
Internally I scoffed. It's not even 10 AM on a Thursday, are you serious? Truthfully, I had only noticed because I was keeping my eyes, and my head, down, refusing to look up and make eye contact with anyone out of the fear and loneliness and insecurity and mounting anxiety seeping out and making my inferiority known. It was the first session of the Pathfinder Day at BlogHer '12, in New York City, my very first blogging conference.
And I was drowning in overwhelm.
So it was easy to throw shade at women who confidently walked through the space wearing whatever they damn well pleased, women who looked more put together than me, who were less afraid of everything around them but me. My inner monologue cursed me for not upping my game, for not also showing off my lean legs and dainty feet, unarguably my best natural feature, making me more noticeable and enviable because I'd rather have had people not talk to me because they thought I was too cool than because I looked pathetic.
The heels stopped on the tile border that flanked the carpet in this hallway about ten feet away from me, paused, then turned around and headed straight for the place where I stood, trying to be invisible. Crap, did I say something aloud? Did I just have a filter failure?
I allowed myself to look up, higher than feet-level, to take in the woman that was approaching me.
And I immediately knew the blue eyes and long, red hair, the shock of realization trumping my social anxiety and before I could stop myself, I called her name.
Those crystal clear eyes focused into the short distance between she and I and a small smile crossed her face as she politely and softly drawled, "Yes?"
I short circuited.
"Hi, you don't know me, but I want to let you know that you saved my life, so thank you." I would like to pretend that this came out clear and strong, but it was a garbled mess as I choked up and sobbed through it. I had never actually spoken those words before, had never admitted aloud the truth of my situation just three years prior.
Her face softened as her eyes became kind and familiar in a way I expect it does often. She gestured to see my conference pass with my name as she reached an arm around me for a hug.
"Oh! Yes I do know you! C'mere, it's okay."
And I burst into a ball of tears that didn't really stop until I came home from NYC four days later.
I apologized for crying at 10AM on a Thursday, right at the beginning of the conference, and she smiled and told me that it happens all the time when women meet her, and it was okay because she is always happy to meet other women who have overcome this common struggle. She gently wiped my mascara off of my cheeks and reassured me that my eyeliner was still winged and in tact. She apologized for having to leave (she was on a panel in a different session than the one I was attending), but later, when I met her again in the Serenity Suite, she hugged me as if I was an old friend and introduced me to the women whose voices carried me through that terrible time, women I can now venture to call my friends.
Meeting Katherine, tears and all, was one of the highlights of that trip. Because she is just as genuine and real and kind and amazing in person. And the next year, in Chicago (where I DID NOT cry hardly at all) when she walked in the Fashion Show, my heart burst with pride because there is no one more deserving than her for that honor -- and to see the whole ballroom erupt as she came out, knowing that she had touched so many of the women there with her compassion and her determination and her love, it was nothing short of magic.
Her website, Postpartum Progress, is turning 10 years old this month. It has gone from a personal blog about her struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety to a full-fledged non-profit organization dedicated to destigmatizing womens' mental health issues and helping better the worlds of postpartum women on all fronts.
And from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you to Katherine. Thank you for being there in the dark one sleepless night out of thousands with your Plain Mama English explanation of everything I was experiencing and telling me it was okay, that I would be okay. Thank you for showing me that I was not alone, was never alone, and that I was not a lost cause. Thank you for advocating for me when I was unable to, for giving me the tools to finally be strong enough to ask for help and to be able to receive it when it came. Thank you for the community of women that held me up without knowing me and whom now I call my friends, the people I rely on to help me stand back up when I fall, and for whom I am always cheering when they accomplish the things they never dreamed possible back when we all felt like there was nothing left for us.
Thank you for congratulating me on the birth of my daughter, and offering me your phone number in case I needed you, day or night, despite you living on the other side of the country from me. Thank you for tirelessly making this world a better place for us mothers, so that some day, if my daughter does decide to become a mother herself, she will not have to suffer needlessly like I did.
And thank you for letting me cry on you that very first day. Because I mean it, and have always meant it, with every fiber of my being.
You saved my life.
Congratulations on ten years of saving lives, giving mothers a voice, and generally making the world a better place.
We literally would not be here without you.
EDITED TO ADD: (I completely ganked this from Good Girl Gone Redneck. But it bears repeating.)
If you'd like to help support Katherine's efforts with a donation to Postpartum Progress you can do so very easily online. Postpartum Progress is a non-profit organization and your donation will be tax deductible. Your donation will go towards supporting an organization that supports ALL mamas EVERYWHERE.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing symptoms of postpartum mood disorders, please consider reaching out for help. Postpartum Support International has a toll-free support line you can call 1.800.944.4PPD and a map of local support resources for you.
Looking to talk to mamas like you? #PPDChat is a weekly Twitter chat where you can find discussions related to living your life postpartum.
Looking for hope? A reminder that you WILL get through this? Check out the Warrior Mom Photo Album and see these smiling faces. That will be you - soon.