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"Motherhood Moth: A Shame-busting Storytelling Event"

“Motherhood Moth” events will inspire mothers to share taboo stories and create supportive local and online communities.

Photo of Alexandra Sacks

Written by

In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

Our series kicks off with a NYC performance event (for local mothers and broadcast online for wider outreach) to foster the healing power of telling motherhood's messy truths. Stories will be selected from submissions to our #motherhoodunfiltered social media movement that celebrates imperfect narratives of pregnancy and the postpartum to reduce social isolation and stigma. Our events will help mothers reimagine a new life experience where they can speak openly without guilt and shame.

The mission of "Motherhood Moth" is to improve equity and accessibility for pregnant and postpartum women by reducing stigma around mental health issues. Data from an August 2017 study found that 21 percent of recent mothers experiencing postpartum mood disorders do not disclose their symptoms to healthcare providers. Yes, screening is essential to treat mental health issues, but how do we break down invisible barriers that are keeping women silent even when asked about their symptoms? As a reproductive psychiatrist, I believe that cultural stigma around distress in pregnancy and the postpartum are behind this barrier to care. I have spoken to hundreds of women who feel that admitting anxiety or depression is the same as admitting a weakness. They fear that if they speak about these feelings out loud, it will make their problems more real. By saying, "I feel well," even when they’re suffering, what they really mean is "I'm a good mom and I don't want to be labeled as a failure.” Public health initiatives are needed to educate that anxiety and depression have nothing to do with being a bad mom. I believe that the best way to do this is by entering the cultural conversation about motherhood, to destigmatize narratives of distress. This project goes beyond tradition by using a storytelling performance to merge the clinical with the cultural. By making “Motherhood Moth” a performance event, we can engage women who would not otherwise sign up for a therapy group due to stigma that would make them avoid an experience viewed as "psychiatric". This NYC performance will start local, but will include and engage a broad and diverse population by soliciting stories from our national and international social media base on Instagram @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered and Facebook (@MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered). After the local NYC performance, this event will be broadcast on our facebook stream to reach a larger number of women and networks. Eventually, our hope is to partner with larger social media communities to host additional online “Motherhood Moth” events to magnify our outreach to national and international communities of mothers.

At what stage is your idea?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I have already engaged with local mothers to participate in the NYC event, and several performers/influencers/leaders (Zosia Mamet, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Christy Turlington) to perform stories submitted from women online who cannot attend in person. I have found producers who have volunteered to record the event so that we can stream it on Facebook for social media outreach, and have a secured a NYC based location to rent to hold the event.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

My mentor meeting with Brynn Harrington helped me learn how to use my current social media to engage more women to share stories and sign up for the live-stream of the performance on Facebook. She is helping by running a Facebook ad for the event and connecting me to "Mothers In Tech." I would love more social media mentors. OpenIDEO members @LesleyNeadel and @OliviaHinebaugh connected me to the This is My Brave storytelling. @Laurenito connected me to OpenIDEO's "I Know Something About This."

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a clinical Reproductive Psychiatrist who writes about women's mental health for The NY Times, and am coauthoring a related book (Simon and Schuster 2018). For more on my work and #motherhoodunfiltered, please visit www.alexandrasacksmd.com, www.theemotionalguide.com, @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered

This idea emerged from...

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • no

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • yes

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no

How would you describe this idea (in 2-3 sentences) while in an elevator with someone?

If women spoke openly to each other about the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy and early motherhood, they would feel more supported and less isolated. As a Reproductive Psychiatrist, I know that this kind of grassroots "talk therapy" would reduce PPD. "Motherhood Moth" is a night to inspire a new beginning for speaking out-- influencers and real moms will perform stories from real mothers at a live NYC event and mothers can continue to be inspired globally via Facebook live stream.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Stigma and shame around the normal emotional ups and downs of pregnancy and the postpartum period cause social isolation which fuels postpartum depression.

How has your idea improved or evolved throughout the Refinement Phase?

I had a phone meeting with @Brynnharrington who focused in on my @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered social media and gave me tips to increase accessibility to real moms to share stories, attend the event, or experience the event via Facebook live. I have prototyped my concept in the community by soliciting stories for a #motherhoodunfiltered project on my @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered Instagram account and am learning what types of images and stories resonate most with mothers. My mentor @AlyssaNewton has been invaluable in helping me articulate the core value of Motherhood Moth: to breakdown the social stigma around the complex emotions of pregnancy and the postpartum period as part of improving barriers to quality health care. The "influencers" who are going to participate in Motherhood Moth are going to bring their talent and appeal to these otherwise stigmatized stories--when real mothers see powerful positive women sharing their hard truths at Motherhood Moth, they'll be able to imagine that sharing their own story could be profound and inspirational, rather than shameful. This ultimately would create an online village of support where mothers can continue to share stories via @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered and @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered and ultimately create their own local live Motherhood Moth events. As a Reproductive Psychiatrist, my social media community already includes healthcare practitioners, partners, extended family members, social workers, and community organizations who will be able to participate in the event in person or via Facebook. The project will cast a wide net for stories about experiences ranging from the decision to conceive, until 12 months postpartum. As @MakeMotherhoodUnfiltered Instagram reflects, the mothers engaged in #motherhoodunfiltered are diverse- that will continue as a value to engage mothers across cultural, socioeconomic, racial, religious, and LGBTQ communities.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

1) How many stories submitted to motherhood mother via social media 2) How many live attendees to event in NYC. 3) How many participants engage in viewing Facebook Lifestream of the performance 4) How many more followers join my social media accounts where I provide daily education on PPD prevention and treatment. 5) How many new live events can be planned in other local communities to follow. 6) Overall trends on social media to reduce idealized messages for women

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

1) solicit stories online 2) plan live event 3) plan facebook streaming 4) plan additional social media outreach to engage wider global audience for participation 5) Engaging with new additional influencers to expand outreach and project positive images of stigmatized stories.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

This idea is unique as never before (known to me) has a psychiatrist used social media/storytelling as a public health PPD project.
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Attachments (3)

Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves? | TIME.pdf

Recent cover story of Time Magazine about the cultural idealization of motherhood in part inspired by my NYT article (which is referenced in this article.)

EmmaSvanberg-The Guardian.pdf

A recent article about how mothers may not admit to symptoms of anxiety and depression due to stigma and shame.

AlexandraSacks-NYTimes.pdf

An article I wrote for the New York Times about the cultural idealization of motherhood that contributes to stigma and shame.

24 comments

Join the conversation:

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Alexandra Sacks 

The refinement phase closes on Nov 5 at 3:00pm PST. Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all.

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Thanks @Laurenito and @Katerushton for feedback. Alyssa and I are finishing a powerpoint to add to the visual aid section.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

I look forward to seeing the powerpoint. If you have any issues, please send me or Lauren a message.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Alexandra!

It is great to see you in the challenge.

What will the experience be like for women attending the NYC performance event?

What do you see as the role of Sutter Health and/or UCB in developing Motherhood Moth?

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

HI Kate!
Thanks so much! Women attending the NYC performance event will leave feeling energized by the positive examples of women who will be sharing their "negative" stories with affirming gusto. They'll leave feeling inspired to take a risk and share an authentic story with other moms, and we'll continue to reinforce these genuine and appealing examples on social media. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our event!

Sutter health/UCB should join forces in "speaking the truth about motherhood"-- that seems very much behind your mission as well! Do you have any practical suggestions about how to make this happen?

Looking forward to collaborating!
Alexandra

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

I will put my 'thinking cap' on Alexandra!

One suggestion I do have is connecting to the OpenIDEO New York Chapter - https://beta.openideo.com/chapters/29

They are super active and very familiar with the OpenIDEO approach.

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Awesome! I will definitely reach out to them to help with the NYC based event!

Photo of Lesley Neadel
Team

Hi Alexandra Sacks ! I am a survivor of PPD and Postpartum anxiety who loves this idea - I have looked below and saw someone already suggested you talking to This is my Brave - have you connected with The founder yet? If not I can hel with that too. Also check out Listen To Your Mother - seems very much on the same vein as what you are creating and is performed in a franchise type of way all around the country every year. I’d love to connect though - and tell my story if possible! - and brainstorm how to get this project out there further.

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

@lesleyneadel thank you so much for sharing your story here and for your thoughtful reflections on motherhood moth. This is such an amazing community that through IDEO i've already been connected to those two groups via the generosity of @oliviahinebaugh. I'd be THRILLED if you want to share your story for this project and would love to talk more. Please check out my project on Facebook @mothermindbook and instagram @mothermind and think about submitting a photo/short story there---and then we could work on fleshing it out for the Motherhood Moth? So excited to continue the conversation.

Photo of Hannah
Team

I love this. I have not had a child, but even outside the realm of post partum depression I am constantly amazed by the stories I hear from women who have been pregnant and who have had children - these are things every person who wants to have a child should know, and many of us don't.

The one thing that isn't clear to me from your description is how you will go from engaging women at these events to connecting them to resources, if they need them. I think this goes, in part, with the user journey comment below, but it might be something to think about - will you have resources listed on a website? Will you work with local organizations to compile materials and business cards for a table at the event?

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Thanks Hannah for this wise question. Yes there is a plan about connecting women to resources. I'm writing a book on this topic and have a website where women can sign up to be connected to my newsletter with tips, social media where they can ask questions that I'll moderate, and also will connect them to local resources such as postpartum support international. Also going to add the amazing groups involved in this IDEO challenge to the resource list! You're right- so important to do more than just storytelling!

Photo of Olivia Hinebaugh
Team

I love this idea. I had to restrain myself to telling you on the phone call! I was just wondering if you were familiar with the organization of This Is My Brave? The founder is a friend of mine and would probably love to share your mission/vision!

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Hi Olivia ! Thanks for your kind words and for reaching out! I just looked up “This is my brave” and am in awe! Would you mind connecting us? What an amazing community this is! Thank you!!

Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Alexandra Sacks .

Welcome to the Refinement Phase! I am excited to learn more about this concept and how you envision storytelling around such an important topic coming to life!

I'm curious about what a user journey in one of these events might look like? It may be helpful to go through the user journey exercise in the Refinement Phase toolkit and upload your user experience map to your Idea.

Also, for our End of Life Challenge, we had a few Ideas that had creative storytelling elements. These may be useful inspiration in refining your concept. I am attaching the link to our Top Ideas from the Challenge .https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/top-ideas

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Thanks Lauren for this extreamly helpful thoughts! Im working on the user experience map via then refinement phase toolkit - thanks!

Also, the “I know something about this” project looks like a great model for the digitial compoent of motherhood moth. Curious what happened with this project- I will look up the founder on twitter and appreciate any other connection or recommendations you may have.

thanks again! This is all very exciting !

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Alexandra,

Congratulations on making it to the refinement phase!

Please tag me here with questions using '@' followed by my name (Kate Rushton).

Photo of Amy Shick
Team

I love this concept of Motherhood Moth. Great work! I think this is a conversation that needs to move into the mainstream to bring awareness not only to new mothers but also those who love them and share life with them. Thank you for your important work. It sounds like you have a well structured plan. You might consider adding a YouTube channel and also break up your video clips into bite sized pieces that make it easy to share on all social media platforms. One of the other Shortlist ideas is the app Mush, which connects moms with other moms. That might also be a great platform to reach your audience. In the U.S. many women and newborns will have a well baby check, I wonder if it would be possible to add this video footage and information to waiting room televisions. This might help bring awareness to those newly postpartum moms at the right time. I am looking forward to Motherhood Moth taking shape and following the journey. Please let us know how we can be of assistance.

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

Thank you Amy for this positive feedback and constructive suggestions! Your idea You Tube is very creative- is there anyone who you recommend i speak with to how to maximize our social media presence for the event? And I'll definitely contact the Mush team!

Photo of Amy Shick
Team

Yes! Are you looking for advice on an effective social media campaign that you will then run yourself? Or are you looking more for someone who can create a social media campaign and also put it in action and manage it day to day? Please remind me of your timeframe for this event.

Photo of Adrienne McCue
Team

I'm loving this Alexandra! Glad we could inspire! When the book comes out, think about joining us on Mental Talk. Would love to learn more!

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

I would love that and think your idea is wonderful and addressing a very significant need. I'd love to participate in Mental Talk - what an amazing resource.

Photo of Adrienne McCue
Team

Ah Alexandra thanks, I sort of teared up as I was thinking about families having to deal with issues I knew all too well! (sorry, not sure how to link your name to your profile.) Just go to https://www.stepupformentalhealth.org/about/contact-us/ and send me a note. I will follow up by email to set something us! Cheers. AM

Photo of Alexandra Sacks
Team

will do!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Alexandra!

There are 4 hours left in the ideas phase. I wanted to remind you to publish your idea today (Sunday 23 August) by 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.