Home » Health&Spirit » As Mrs. Arizona, she works to support maternal mental health

As Mrs. Arizona, she works to support maternal mental health

Carolyn Larsen (second from left, wearing tiara), Mrs. Arizona, joined the Friends of the Globe Public Library this year and has already contributed to fundraising and social media efforts. Photo by Patti Daley

Carolyn Larsen, 33, is married, with two children and three college degrees and this month she’ll represent the state of Arizona in the Mrs. International pageant in Kingsport, Tennessee.

“Who couldn’t use a little more poise and grace?” she says, in response to why she decided to do it. “You get practice being on stage, and communicating in public.”

Carolyn put her two young daughters into the Cinderella pageant through Dance Elite in downtown Globe. They were having fun with it and Carolyn wondered if there was a pageant for married women that aligned with her values. She was looking for something to do that would lift her spirits, engage her mind and connect her socially.

The Pageant

Courtesy Rori Glover Studios

“It’s a fun thing to work hard for something,” Carolyn says. 

The Mrs. International® pageant  showcases women, ages 21 to 56, married at least six months and a resident of the state or a citizen of the country she represents. Carolyn applied, had an interview, passed a background check (no nudity, no drugs) and became the first Mrs. Globe in the pageant’s 30-year history. Next she applied for Mrs. Arizona and was the only applicant that met their standards. On July 21-22, she will compete for the title of Mrs. International®. Contestants are evaluated on their interview (50%), evening gown (25%) and fitness wear (25%).

For Carolyn, the most surprising aspect of the pageant so far has been how supportive the other women in the Mrs. pageant have been. 

“It is a competition and it is competitive, but it is not cut-throat,” she says. “It’s encouraging. We help each other.”

Her husband, Zach Larsen, will accompany Carolyn to the event and escort her across the stage for the evening gown competition. Zach is employed as an environmental engineer for BHP; he travels frequently for work. 

“I’m really proud of Carolyn,” he says. “I’ve always known how amazing she is, but with her doing the pageant, it’s neat that so many other people will get to see her talents.”

As Mrs. Arizona, Carolyn is sponsored by Copper Vista Dental, Bad Gal Beauty and Sonja Stafford, photographer. She travels weekly to practice in Levine with the State Director along with Miss Arizona and Miss Teen Arizona. 

It’s also been a big time commitment, but worth it, says Carolyn, because she’s trying to “help mothers who are often overlooked because they are known as the ones who take care of everyone else.”

The Platform
Mothering Mothers is an initiative to promote maternal mental health, by raising awareness and providing resources. Postpartum depression affects approximately 15% of all mothers. Symptoms are similar to symptoms of depression, but may also include:

  • Crying more often than usual.
  • Feelings of anger.
  • Withdrawing from loved ones.
  • Feeling distant from your baby.Fam
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious.
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby.
  • Doubting your ability to care for your baby.

Carolyn is working with the Arizona chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI) to host Climb out of Darkness on October 13th,  –  a resource vendor fair to promote maternal mental health. Location TBD.  

“Supporting maternal mental health is a really important and worthwhile cause,” Zach adds via text message, “and this is a way that she can help mothers and families that need that support.”

“No one is immune,” says Carolyn. “It can happen to anyone.”

It happened to her.

Postpartum Depression

Carolyn suffered her first experience with depression
after the birth of her first daughter, at the start of the COVID pandemic. Courtesy photo

After suffering extreme morning sickness, a fast labor and a challenging water birth. Carolyn was rushed back to the hospital with excessive bleeding. There was a full moon in the sky and a global pandemic in progress. No visitors. Nurses masked. It was traumatic.

Still, she thought, it can’t be that hard, being a mother. She didn’t ask for help. Her mom came anyway. So did Zach’s mom. Shortly after her first Mother’s Day, Carolyn started to have dark thoughts thinking she was not needed. For a while she was in this state. 

“What is wrong with me?” she wondered, “I’m having weird thoughts and suicidal thought. That’s not me.”

Like nearly half of the women who suffer postpartum depression, she had never experienced depression before. 

“I knew I needed to do social things to fill my cup,” she says. “Covid shut down all my plans.”

She found help in the form of Marco Polo, a video chat app and started talking to other moms, at least 3 other people a day. She spoke with a therapist friend who was her postpartum advocate.

“She validated my feelings and let me talk about it over and over,” says Carolyn.

Just over a year later, Carolyn was pregnant again. This time she got sick sooner and lost more weight. Zach continued to work in Canada for quite a bit. The second pregnancy involved concerns about Down’s Syndrome and low amniotic fluid which required more tests, weekly checks, bedrest.

“Wonderful people came and took Adelaide for playdates” says Carolyn. “Friends made food.”

Scottie, now 1,  was born still in the amniotic sac, with meconium, and went to the NICU. This time Carolyn was prepared for postpartum depression.

“I had a plan,” says Carolyn. “I knew I was at risk and was upfront with my healthcare provider, Zach, my sisters, best friends, and the midwife.”

She tried a prescription to take the edge off but found it “wasn’t a good fit”and reverted to talking it out. Instead of a baby shower, she hosted a “sip and see’ and socialized in her home. 

“Tell me that my baby is beautiful,” she says, “Tell me I’m doing okay.” 

Once again, her mom and mother-in-law came to help.

“I had to swallow a lot of pride,” says Carolyn. “This is about my children and family and in order for us to survive I need some extra help.“

Advice for treating postpartum depression includes these suggestions from the CDC:

  • Connect with other moms.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Do something you enjoy.
  • Be realistic.—You don’t have to do everything. 
  • Ask for help.
  • Rest when the baby rests.
  • Be with others.
  • ​Seek out other adults, like family and friends, who can provide comfort and company. 

A Friend of the Library

“Even when I’m overwhelmed, I can read,” says Carolyn.  

As a child Carolyn checked out as many books as she could from the library and read them in a fort she built.

“I’d have a flashlight and read until late at night,” she says. “Reading has really helped me to accomplish a lot of my academic success and goals.”

By 22, Carolyn had graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University (ASU) with degrees in Psychology and Sociology. For a year she helped her sister, abruptly widowed, with three children. She returned to school to complete a 27-month Master of Occupational Therapy program at A.T. Still University. She began her career in Phoenix, in a Title 1 school district.

“The pediatric population is where my heart is,” says Carolyn.

Currently on break because of the pageant, Carolyn is one of only two OTs in the Globe-Miami-Roosevelt area with a pediatric specialty. She is also a certified handwriting specialist. 

“Reading has been an easy and effective way to bond with my children,” says Carolyn, addressing one of the risks of postpartum depression. “They love to be next to me and have books.”

Carolyn loves reading and finds it to be an easy and effective way to bond with her young children. Courtesy photo

About Patti Daley

A traveler, Patti Daley came to Globe in 2016 to face the heat, follow love, and find desert treasure. She writes in many formats and records travel scraps and other musings at daleywriting.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *