CEO, Moms in Power
She Helps Women Break the Stigma of Postpartum Depression and Find Peace
Like many new moms, Arlyana Dalce-Bowie’s struggle with postpartum depression was twofold.
First, she fought to get to a place where she could be a caring, loving, and present mother. Then she had to rediscover herself.
The latter was, frankly, a lengthy process, but also a powerful one. And by not only working through the dark times, but sharing that experience with the world through an online community called Moms in Power, she’s making a real impact for women who might otherwise suffer in silence, or think something is wrong with them.
“This is something a lot of women go through, which is why I created Moms in Power,” she told BusinessWest. “Although we’re moms, people need to understand that we’re still women too. Not that motherhood is easy, but it was easier to nurture my baby and to love her and to make sure she’s protected — I just couldn’t do all that for myself. And Moms in Power literally speaks to the woman you’re becoming in motherhood.”
She was able to take six months away from her job at the Department of Children and Families, which allowed her to focus on her mental health — and navigate parenthood — while waiting a frustratingly long time during the pandemic to access therapy for her own healing (more on that later).
“That’s really where Moms in Power was birthed. It was me trying to do the work until I was able to get counseling. And then, of course, with the counselor, finding different ways that I can still navigate my postpartum.”
A licensed social worker and nutritional coach who now works for Springfield Public Schools as a City Connects coordinator, she’s in a much better place — largely because she’s grown through her own difficult experience while helping other women manage theirs.
“It is because of her resiliency, drive, and unselfish commitment to community that I strongly believe that Arlyana Dalce-Bowie is a Woman of Impact,” wrote Arlela Bethel, owner of the Movement LAB, who nominated her for the award. “When a woman is able to share her story with others in a meaningful way to begin to impart change, that is recognizable and commendable.”
Bethel added that “Arlyana’s passion for supporting the healing and recovery process of mothers who have or are dealing with postpartum depression diagnosis is a true testament to her ability to show vulnerability within her own personal struggle and, out of that struggle, create resourceful ways to help others. Moms In Power was born out of hardship and pain, but this amazing resource was designed to give other women the opportunity to feel empowered, to heal, restore, and to find purpose and strength within themselves not only as mothers, but as women.”
Dalce-Bowie’s pregnancy began at a difficult time for everyone, near the start of COVID-19; she gave birth in February 2021, when the pandemic was still raging.
“That was hard to navigate in and of itself. We didn’t know what was going on. And because I was a single parent, I couldn’t have my support system go to my prenatal appointments and things like that. Life was still very uncertain,” she recalled. “So I was kind of separated from my support system, and I was coming to terms with the fact that I was a single parent. And, of course, that just took a toll on my mental and emotional health.”
Even during her pregnancy, Dalce-Bowie was experiencing some depression and anxiety, so it was no surprise when she was diagnosed with postpartum depression six weeks after her daughter was born.
“When a woman is able to share her story with others in a meaningful way to begin to impart change, that is recognizable and commendable.”
“I didn’t see a therapist until she was almost 1; that’s how long the waitlist was. It took a really, really long time to get into counseling, to get the support that I actually needed.”
So, during that year, she started journaling because she felt she needed an outlet to process her emotions and experience some kind of release “so I wasn’t just in my head,” she explained, adding that “journaling has been something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, so I kind of reverted back to it.”
The prompts she has used in her own journaling and then with others, through Moms in Power, include “dismantling me,” which deals with the words women place on ourselves.
“When you have PPD or any other diagnosis, you kind of label yourself that way, saying that ‘I have this diagnosis, and that defines me,’” she said. “‘Dismantling me’ is an activity where we literally dismantle things that we feel about ourselves or that society has put on us or that our support systems have put on us.”
Another writing prompt is “a letter to myself,” she added. “I want you to write a letter, knowing what you know now, to your past self, encouraging yourself for the journey ahead. That’s probably my favorite one.
“Those two are probably our biggest prompts,” Dalce-Bowie noted. “They provoke a lot of tears. But it opens us up and gives us a place to come out of ourselves. I think a lot of us have our own guilt and our own shame, and we don’t like to talk about it openly.”
The writing prompts and the words and emotions that flow from them are intended to bring women to a place of understanding themselves — and realizing that what they’re going through isn’t shameful at all.
“So many people have this idea that, when you have a mental-health diagnosis, it kind of disqualifies you from some things, or you’re not as great of a parent,” Dalce-Bowie said. “And I know, being a Black and Brown woman, we don’t seek therapy and counseling enough. It’s still kind of taboo in our culture.”
Before she started reaching out to others online, she found herself having to explain her needs to her family and others in her support system — in itself a necessary step in breaking the stigma of mental health.
“I said, ‘this is how I need support. I have a serious diagnosis.’ Because postpartum depression looks very different for many women, and for me, it was very severe. So I had to kind of coach them: ‘this is what I need, and how I need it, in order to get me into a better mental space.’”
The journal was a major part of getting to that better place, and so was aromatherapy, which she came upon while looking for other mental-health resources. “There are so many healing properties with candles; it creates a safe space, a calming space, and it just helps me cope in different ways.”
From there, Dalce-Bowie started sharing her story on her personal website — and found a like-minded community.
“There were so many women who were like, ‘we’re going through the same thing’ — especially those of us with pandemic babies, who didn’t have direct access to services right away,” she noted. “A lot of people were on the waitlist, so we just started reaching out to each other and having these group text messages and Facebook groups.”
On her social-media pages, she shared elements of her journey — “the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between” — and developed a business page for Moms in Power, on which she shares journaling prompts, sells aromatherapy products, and directs women to other resources.
“Journaling has been something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, so I kind of reverted back to it.”
Like the virtual Mommy Moment workshops, which came about because Dalce-Bowie and the moms she was connecting with needed a deeper, more personal outlet.
“We literally come together and have moments as moms. We talk about our postpartum depression; we talk about other diagnoses — because there are a few women that have been here with other diagnoses. We talk about married life and parenting, for those who are married. We talk about the single life and parenting and what that looks like for us.
“And there’s so much healing that comes from it because you’re relating to other women that may not have talked about it out loud, but we’re still going through the same struggle,” she continued. “The outreach part literally came from me sharing my personal journey and women saying, ‘we need more of this.’”
Dalce-Bowie said the moms she connects with tend to keep in touch even beyond the workshops, to check in with each other and see how they’re doing; she’ll often help members access therapists when needed.
The connections — and impact — she’s made have been heartening, she said.
“I can’t even put it into words. At the end of every workshop, we’re all so emotionally charged. I know my specific journey, but hearing other women reminds us all we’re not in this alone. So many times in this journey, you feel like you’re alone. So knowing that I’m helping to motivate them — in a way that I felt like I needed to be pushed and motivated at a certain point — is extremely gratifying.
“The fact that we get to come together and we don’t ever have to feel so isolated again is the best part for me,” she went on. “The stories that I hear literally bring me to tears because sometimes the journey feels extremely hopeless, so when you’re in a place where you realize, ‘I helped another woman realize their worth, and I helped another woman understand there is purpose after pain, and I see other women regaining their confidence and finding themselves again and starting their dreams again’ … there really are no words to describe that.”
Tears are not uncommon, she added. “We cry a lot because we’re reaching milestones together. It’s more than fulfilling. It’s really a blessing. It’s awesome to see.”
In a society that seems to demand that women must be great at everything, all the time — at being a mother, but a great woman too — Moms in Power helps redefine who they are as women in motherhood, Dalce-Bowie explained.
“I had to get over my trauma. I had to heal from a lot of things. I had to be present for my daughter. But once I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got the mom thing under control,’ it became, ‘let me start working on myself. Let me start working on my self-esteem again. Let me start working on my own dreams and goals.’ Because they were kind of pushed to the side to take care of my baby girl. So it was important to get back to a place where I’m confident in who I am as a woman.”
For not only succeeding in that journey, but helping other mothers achieve confidence and self-worth during what can be a crushingly lonely time, Dalce-Bowie is truly a Woman of Impact.