Catherine Mellinger (she/her) is a mixed media collage artist who’s works have been exhibited across North America and published Internationally. She is lead artist and installation manager of the inter-arts exhibition called Post-Part, along with Pazit Cahlon, Nat Janin and Adam Harendorf. Catherine has over a decade of experience working as an arts educator, arts outreach facilitator, and is a certified Expressive Arts Therapist, having graduated from the CREATE Institute (Toronto) in 2011. She is a mental health and perinatal mental health advocate for all birthing people. She currently provides programming through the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, as well as self-directed inter-arts and community initiatives. Catherine is currently completing her necessary hours to complete her Perinatal Mental Health Certificate exam through Postpartum Support International, and has taken additional trainings in anti-racism and in trans masculine birthing. Visit her website at catherinemellinger.com.
From Catherine: “My path to Perinatal Mental Health Advocacy came from my personal experience, as it does for most. When I was pregnant with my first son, I was not prepared in any way for how my pregnancy, giving birth and raising my son could erase all of my previously hard won coping strategies. Having been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders at 10 years old, I had many experiences of therapy and was very aware of my own disorder. I was asked for my mental health history. I was asked if I was doing well. But no one told me what could happen. No one told me I was at high risk of either an explosion of my OCD or any other of the Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and that consult during pregnancy would have helped me navigate it all from the start. I couldn’t see the line between healthy worries expecting your first child, and the worries that were in fact creeping high anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. It was only after I had my son, and with the very meaningful help of a supportive full spectrum doula that I realized I was not OK, and I had not been OK through much of my pregnancy. Thankfully they helped me to call my midwives and tell them everything before my postpartum care ended and I was able to be treated not only after my first son’s birth, but also supported through my second pregnancy, as well as learned how to advocate for myself and plan in advance for all that might happen the second time around. As I have grown into my role as an advocate, and moved from Toronto to Kitchener-Waterloo, I have had my eyes opened to the large gaps in Perinatal Mental Health services – between urban settings and rural settings, for marginalized communities, for BIPOC birthing parents who experience the impacts of systemic racism during the perinatal period, and the discrimination faced by birthing parents of all genders. I can’t close my eyes anymore.”