Writing Session 7:

I have finally made it. No more outline. There are areas to go back to—to emphasize, to support with specific references, to squish around a bit; but I’m willing to say the first draft of the Methods section is complete. I estimate the the dissertation in full will come in at around 175 to 200 pages. And given that I will be running SO MANY ANALYSES and will have many pages in the appendix (showing images of the screener, the survey, the protocols, etc.), I’m guessing the proposal, which includes the introduction, the theoretical framework, and the methods, will probably end up being about a third of the dissertation—so no more than 70 pages.


The next time I pick this up (next week), I’m going to attack the introduction. I have to dig into the survey data for this, but I’m coming around to the idea of printing out the responses and reading them over coffee in the morning, crafting my composite characters in the early morning and letting the darkness fall away as I enter into my busy days. 5 pages for an introduction and 25 pages for the theoretical framework will bring me to about 52 pages, which leaves me 18 pages to extend my methods section in the ways I know it is so very needed.

I was feeling very bewildered at the start of the week, but now I have a rhythm. My advice for anyone enduring this is to skip the details on the first go around. If you go down a rabbit hole or two, you’re going to get discouraged. But if you get the essential information documented, you’ll reach the end of a section, and once you see the end, you wont be so afraid to go back in.

Pages: 22

Words: 4742

Feeling: Ready for the survey data!

PS: I wrote about a thousand words tonight!!!

Writing Session 6:

I have made it to the validation methods. the next section will be intricate. and today i am just not there. it’s best i start and end that in one go. i did add over 3 pages today (double-spaced). my goal was 5 each day, but after 3 hours of writing—after a full 10 hour work day—i am happy with three well written pages (no tables either!!)

Pages: 18 (17.5 sans outline)

Words: 3944 (3872 sans outline)

Feeling: Not terrible…

Writing Session 5: The honeymoon is over

You guys….writing …about writing…sucks. Perhaps, like the seven phases of greif, there are seven phases of dissertation writing.

  1. Procrastination: “I have plenty of time!!!”

  2. Motivation: “Genius has struck me! I must write this thing now!”

  3. Boredom: “I’m only on page 20? Are you kidding me?”

  4. Regret : “Why didn’t I just stay at that waitressing job at Friendly’s????”

  5. Persistence: “Okay. I can do this. One step at a time.”

  6. Denial: “It wouldn’t be THAT bad if I just put this down for a few….err…years….”

  7. Acceptance: bill arrives from student loan company—student writes entire dissertation in following 72 hours

Continuing through the methods section….

Pages: 11 (8.25 without outline)

Words: 3158 (2764 without outline)

Feeling: I could be doing so many other things right now…..

Writing Session 4: All the words

No struggle tonight for words. Writing about the development of the screener items and the score report was incredible easy. Tonight is my last writing night for the week and I am very please with my progress. I might actually be able to pull this off!

The next time I sit to write (next week), I will begin with discussing decisions about portrayal of symptoms. This section will be a bit tricky for me to explain I believe. It’s all a bit wishy washy. But it seems perfect that I will have a few days to think about this and mull it over before I dig in.

Word Count: 2738 (2196 w/out outline)

Page Count: 10 single-spaced (7 ss without outline)

Feeling: Accomplished

Writing Session 3: Yes, I cold-called all those hospitals...

I’ll start today by writing about recruitment for the survey hosted on this site from February through June. This should be fairly easy, as I have written extensively on the subject for IRB protocol submissions. I’m guessing this part of the methods section will take up about a page and a half of the paper. I aim to write the clinical interview section tonight as well. Then, next time, I’ll begin writing about item development. No worries about tonight’s writing.


The section on recruitment is complete and I am ready to begin writing about the development of the screener items. That, however, is for another day because THAT will be quite a challenge.

Words: 2343 (1652 w/out outline)

Pages: 9 single-spaced (5.5 w/out outline)

Feeling: Like I should probably start writing the items for the screener

Writing Session 2: I can't go back there yet

One of the struggles I knew I would face is my fear of going back into the darkness. Today, I am supposed to return to the qualitative data, read the stories of suffering mothers, and compose a unified symphony of pain and strength. But I can’t. I can’t bring myself there today. It pains me to see women pouring their hearts out, but then indicate that they were never diagnosed. Over and over again. I was there with my first baby. It hurt me and everyone around me. And it seems too close to conquer now. Another time. So I suppose I move on to something else. Another time I will be brave.

Today, I will transform the outline of my dissertation proposal into sentences, which will evolve into paragraphs, and pages, and sections. My goal is to write five pages tonight, leaving ten pages for the rest of the week to meet my deadline.


Almost two hours later I am wrapping up with three single-spaced pages (over five double-spaced….hooray!). I focused on the methods section—procedural writing was good for my heart today. Now, as I prepare to switch from discussing instrumentation to recruitment tactics, I feel it’s a good time to pause. To rest. To let the words sit.

The next time I sit to write I will hope to add another 2.5 - 3 single-spaced pages to this work of art. I’ll pick up right where I left off, detailing the ways I chose to recruit mothers to participate in the survey that has been hosted on this website since February. Off I go!

Words: 1799 (w/out outlined section: 1019)

Pages: 6.5 single-spaced (w/out outlined section: 3)

Feeling: Proud

Writing Session 1: Introducing....the Introduction

How can I start a 200-300 page paper? How do I begin writing the words that will capture an audience that likely never expected to read such a paper? How do I encompass all that is postpartum depression in JUST ONE OPENING PARAGRAPH?

It came to me while I was walking up the stairs for the fifth time, trying to get my toddler to sleep. Five women. Five women in different places, all at the point where they COULD have asked for help, but didn’t. Five women, five mothers, five “liars.” Five unique stories all balanced haphazardly on one common fulcrum: postpartum depression. The lies are why I am here. The stigma is what must be eradicated for any research to truly reflect the experience of maternal mental health. The world does not need one more screening tool that is “good” and “sufficient” but unaccessible. The world needs a screening tool that allows mothers to look inside themselves without feeling like they are “turning themselves in".” A screening tool that allows providers to make truly informed decisions and targeted referrals. The world needs a new postpartum depression questionnaire that looks nothing like what we have today. And I am rising to the challenge.

I begin with mere 86 words, solidifying my intentions. When I return, I will challenge myself to comb over the qualitative data collected over the past few months to create these five composite characters. Postpartum depression is not about clinical materials, it is about humans. So I will start there.

Date/Time: Friday, May 31, 2019 @ 9:12 PM

Word Count: 86

Feeling: Centered

And so it begins...

The literature has been read (all 350+ articles). The qualitative data has been collected. It is time to begin writing the largest written artifact of my life: the dissertation.

I don’t find enough communal support for mothers in higher education, and I also don’t hear enough about what the dissertation process is actually like. So each time I sit down to write, I’ll reflect here. I’ll discuss maternal mental health, new ideas, terrible ideas, frustrations, and celebrate connections made throughout the process.

I hope you’ll enjoy the guided tour….

from mom to “Dr. Mom”