Van der Pop

I'm A Mother - May I?

VdP VOICEVandy

My journey to empowerment as a cannabis consumer + parent

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I suffer from PTSD and have social anxiety. This doesn't make me a bad person – or a bad mom – but to some, my medication of choice does. PTSD is something that most people have a hard time understanding, so I’ll give you a little backstory. 

I lost my mother at a young age. I moved in with my biological father and his wife (my new step-mother).  She was abusive towards me, mentally and physically, for roughly three years before I’d had enough and ran away. I lived under a bridge near my high school – which I was attending as a sophomore – for a short time. After being found out, I was placed in the foster care system as a ward of the state.

After aging out of the system, I made my way to Portland State University. I lived near campus with my boyfriend at the time. Holding down three jobs and going to school, you would think I couldn't handle any more on my plate. My boyfriend was sexually abusive and a heroin addict; I saw him go from rehab to relapse to rehab to relapse, until I had enough and got away. A week after escaping, he overdosed. I was asked to go see him at the hospital. I went as far as standing next to him until they discontinued life support, and I watched him die.

Towards the end of 2014, I made the switch from pills to pot to treat my PTSD-related anxiety. I never experienced what some call “coming out of the green closet”. I was an orphan and didn’t feel I needed anyone's approval. My husband was very supportive of my decision to medicate with cannabis. He helped me with the switch, which took a toll on me mentally and physically. He’s the founder of Kind Scientific, a research lab for the development and production of nutraceuticals, specializing in generic and proprietary blends of hemp extract, terpenes, and other ingredients.

I now believe in the power of the cannabis plant, and I wanted others to know how it could possibly help them as it helps me every day. I’m now an advocate for medicinal use and I have parlayed my experience into content creation and other cannabis business ventures. 

After discovering I was pregnant mid-2016, the first question that came to mind was, "Can I continue medicating with cannabis while pregnant"? This is where I first experienced coming out as a cannabis consumer. It wasn’t good.

I decided to halt my consumption after my introductory visit to the OBGYN. She asked, “Do you smoke?” and I respond with, “Smoke what…?” I explained to her that I used cannabis to treat symptoms of my PTSD, and she immediately went into judgment mode. I have never felt so vulnerable, scared, and confused in my entire life…and coming from me, that is saying something.

In fear of the doctor and her threats that CPS will interfere – and after reading some studies’ findings about the negative effects cannabis can pose to a fetus/newborn baby – I decided to halt my medication. I can’t even explain to you how difficult that decision was for me. Cannabis is my medicine. Instead, I practiced yoga and meditation daily while pregnant; although these rituals helped in some ways, I missed the calm sensation achieved when medicating with the cannabis plant.

I spent my entire pregnancy researching cannabis pregnancy/breastfeeding/post-partum depression. Are there negative effects? Positive? Could THC potentially cause birth defects, psychological damage or stunt growth? What about CBD? Why did my OBGYN feel so certain with her convictions? Why did she judge me without much evidence to her claims?

Knowing I surely wasn’t the only woman with these questions, I started a Facebook group called Cannabis and Motherhood, where moms interested in discussing cannabis-related topics can speak freely. It’s a platform to share experiences about medicating while pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as personal struggles – dealing with the judgment, CPS involvement, and postpartum depression. This community is a safe space and a resource for women who are curious and looking to network with like-minded mothers as we all help each other to discover the answers to questions we all have.

One week after giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, I resumed my previous routine, returning to medicating with CBD (the non-intoxicating cannabinoid) during the day for PTSD, and THC (the cannabinoid that creates a “high”) at night for a job well done – and a good night’s sleep. I consumed and breastfed for the first four months; the comfort in my decision to do this came from months of intense research.

This study was a great place to start; it’s important for women – and I reiterate this in our group – to learn how to read between the lines, how to identify bias claims, and thoughtfully measure everything that isn’t definitively proven against other pieces of information.

Even though I’ve been able to find some answers to my questions, there’s still a long way to go. My hope is that as legalization spreads, studies and research will grow – because a better understanding of cannabis and its effects will benefit us all, and it will also help decrease stigma if unknowns are eventually made certain.

Coming out of the green closet gave me the courage to not be afraid anymore and has helped me cope with my past. I am starting a whole new chapter in my life. And every day gets better, one puff at a time. 

With much love, 
Keira Fae Sumimoto 

All opinions expressed are the author's own.

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.

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