PPPSS News & Events

Taking Pride as LGBTQ+ parents

Happy Family by Bob Jagendorf

Pride Month brings to mind how much lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, and two-spirit families have accomplished, how far they’ve come, and how much there is to be celebrated.

But, of course, it’s not all rainbows for LGBTQ+ parents and prospective parents who live in places where rainbow crosswalks are vandalized, where they are threatened or even assaulted, and where support for their families often comes as an afterthought to straight families.

Same sex parents in BC were the first in Canada to be able to adopt children together, but even today they still have to jump through a tremendous amount of hoops to do so.

The legalization of same sex marriage in Canada has helped, of course, but even that has not ended the poor treatment and bigotry some parents, and their children, face.

It is easier to parent as a LGBTQ+ person these days, but it definitely isn’t easy.

So while there is plenty to celebrate this month, and at Pride festivals throughout the Lower Mainland later this summer, there is also room for improvement when it comes to welcoming and embracing LGBTQ+ parents into our parenting communities.

The Pacific Post Partum Society helps families who are experiencing postpartum mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, issues dealt with by many parents, including lesbian mothers, bi fathers, and anyone else in the LGBTQ+ community.

The early days of parenting bring on added stressors for everyone, from lack of sleep to social isolation. Gay fathers may be dealing with the sudden arrival of their adopted or surrogate child, as well as a lack of resources to help them adjust. Trans parents may deal with the hormonal fallout from childbirth, along with a lack of support from their own families.

LGBTQ+ parents need help, support, and a place to share their story, just like every other parent. Luckily, there are places in Vancouver and throughout the region where they can do just that.

There is a local Facebook group, Queer Families of Vancouver, for those who want to connect online.

For prospective and new parents, the Strathcona Midwifery Collective hosts the Queer and Trans Pregnancy and Parenting Group, which includes a closed Facebook group as well as in-person meetings.

Qmunity in Vancouver hosts Rainbow Families, a group for LGBTQ parents and kids, which meets at different events and locations in the Lower Mainland on the first Saturday of every month.

And there is the Pacific Post Partum Society, for everyone struggling with being a new parent. There is the support line, which runs from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Vancouver area number is 604-255-7999, and the toll-free number is 855-255-7999.

PPPSS offers telephone support for dads, non-birthing parents, family members and anyone dealing with stress after the birth or adoption of a baby.

PPPSS also offers support groups for mothers, and partner sessions are available periodically. Please call 604-255-7999 for more information.
Hopefully, in the future we can all take pride in the support we give to LGBTQ+ families in our communities.

Forgotten Fathers

Image Credit: www.andreapaterson.com

Article by Andrea Paterson

Father’s Day, year after year, the organizations that support those with difficult postpartum adjustments send a shout-out to the partners, fathers, and parents who, for whatever reason, don’t quite fit the category of “Mother.” We mention that postpartum depression is not specific to birthing mothers. We urge people to speak up and speak out about their postpartum struggles. We lament the lack of funding that prevents us from providing much needed support to the non-birthing parents who might be suffering, or to the birthing parents with queer or transgender identification who do not find a safe place for themselves within existing support structures. On Father’s Day, organizations like Pacific Post Partum Support Society try to raise awareness in the hope that something will change in the support structures available to parents. And then another Father’s Day comes and it seems that not much has changed at all. Stigma still exists for women suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety, and that stigma is far greater for anyone suffering who cannot claim the hormonal effects of birthing.

But the fact is that absolutely anyone who has a new baby featuring prominently in their life might struggle with mental health. And while birthing mothers make up a larger proportion of those suffering, the remaining cohort is not insignificant. The problem is that with stigma and judgement so firmly entrenched in our culture of parenting, it is difficult for people to speak up and insist that their experience is important and worthy of support. It’s exceedingly difficult to reach out for help if you don’t feel that the support structures validate or witness your unique situation.

While I don’t have answers to these ongoing support issues, what I can promise is that PPPSS is continuously devoted to expanding support programs with the hope that one day everyone who needs help will have equal access. In the meantime, while our support groups are still restricted to mothers, our phone lines are open to absolutely anyone who needs support. It’s a good place to start, because if no one but birth mothers call in we don’t have the ability to prove that other services are needed. This Father’s Day I call out for a diversity of voices. We need to hear your stories so that programs can be developed that meet your needs. Tell us what support would look like for you. Tell us what a safe and inclusive parenting support structure would look like for you. Tell us what resources would help as a father, or transgender mother, or adoptive parent, or grandparent who is acting as a primary caregiver. We must all have the courage to give voice to our struggles. The more apparent the need is, the more likely it will be that support structures can be built.

PPPSS is working hard to extend services beyond mothers. PPPSS offers telephone support for dads, non-birthing parents, family members and anyone dealing with stress after the birth or adoption of a baby. PPPSS is committed to creating more support for fathers and partner sessions are available periodically, please call 604-255-7999 for more information.

I wish I had more resources to offer, but as we all work towards greater inclusiveness in postpartum care here are a few places for dads to start:

This article by Kelley Allen on Men and Postpartum Depression

postpartumdads.org

postpartummen.com

This article by a trans dad, celebrating fatherhood. It’s not specifically about postpartum issues, but it touches on the mental health and social struggles that transgendered parents can struggle with.

If you have questions, if you are seeking community resources, if you need someone to talk to no matter how you are positioned in your role as a parent or caregiver to a small child, please don’t hesitate to call the PPPSS support line 604-255-7999 in the Vancouver area or toll free: 855-255-7999. We provide telephone support to anyone who needs it and may be able to direct you to resources more specific to your situation. The more stories we hear the more able we are to fine tune our support. Adding your voice to the conversation is a great gift for all the parents yet to set out on their journey.

 

The challenges of the bisexual parent

Photo credit: Mark Evans

In a warm, low-lit multipurpose room, mothers gathered in a circle, carefully cradling their babies.

There were some fathers, but mostly mothers. Straight mothers, talking about how much their husbands do and do not help with the baby.

I was also a new mother, and a new bride, married to a man. I should have felt like I belonged, but I didn’t.

It all came down to those ‘how we met’ questions. My answer was not so cute, not so easy. I’d met my partner when I was terribly in love with his cousin, and I followed her to another province under the illusion that we would finally end up together. The three of us shared a house, along with my partner’s brother. It was horrible and lonely, until I finally bonded with my partner-to-be.

It did not make for great cocktail chatter. What it did was make me feel like someone playing at being the straight – and straightforward – wife and mother. My life a pretence and myself – fake, fake, fake.

How could I be a good mother if I wasn’t a good wife? How could I be a good wife if I wasn’t honest and open and myself? Maybe what was left of myself was no good at all.

That first year was difficult. There was a whole new life to adjust to, postpartum depression to battle, and the feeling that I did not belong.

When I left the hospital with my newborn son, I thought someone would stop me, would see through me and know I couldn’t possibly be a parent. Many mothers talk about this feeling. But in addition to feeling out of my depth, I also felt like I had to say goodbye to certain parts of me. I didn’t believe I could be bisexual and be a married woman with a child.

I didn’t realize I was bisexual until I was 19 or 20. All the signs were there, and I’d been called lesbian often enough to know I was probably more wavy than straight. But bisexuals weren’t real. I was told bisexuals were just going through a phase. There were think pieces everywhere about women kissing other women to impress men at clubs. When I hit university, there were jokes about the LUGs – lesbians until graduation.

When I got married, I thought it meant that part of my life, that phase, was over. I thought it was like a skin I could shed, or a way of thinking I could outgrow. But it lingered, still there in the neglected recesses of myself.

Raising my baby, I felt like a pretender. I didn’t know how to answer medical questionnaires regarding my sexuality, or how to respond when someone went off about some bisexual movie star. ‘They should just make up their mind’ comments stung, though I thought of myself as someone who had made up her mind.

Except, I hadn’t. Being bisexual wasn’t just about being sexually attracted to someone (or a variety of someones, in my case). It formed my childhood self, mostly manifesting in my confused and intense devotion to girl friends. It formed my awkward adolescence when I couldn’t seem to be comfortable with any gender, excited and intrigued by so many people. And it was a part of me when I met my partner, and when I met my son.

Things shifted when my partner and I separated. Though I still seemed to end up with men (I am a lazy dater), I knew that wasn’t all there was to me. Eventually I met my current partner and had a son with him as well, but this time, I had my baby my way. We were more confident parents.

I still struggled with postpartum depression after having my child. But the struggle wasn’t as linked to my bisexuality as it was the first time. I felt like a rotten parent at times, and often completely overwhelmed.

But I was lucky – I was older and I knew myself better. I could fight off the demons who said I didn’t deserve my children, that I was just a confused mom who couldn’t make up her mind about what or who she wanted. Who would never be any good.

And though, yes, I am in a long-term relationship with a man, I don’t let that define me as straight, not any longer. I have always been wavy. I have always been queer.

The Physical Effects of Stress on the Body

Article by Kirsty–PPPSS telephone support staff

Photo Credit: www.andreapaterson.com

Stress. I feel it in my back, mainly between my shoulder blades. I sometimes daydream that my daughter will grow up to be a massage therapist  and will need to use my back for her homework. In the meantime, I use a tennis ball to wrinkle out the kinks in my upper back, hoping that I do more good than damage. Booking a massage appointment can seem like such a luxury, both in time and money. And without a regular trusted massage therapist, there’s always the fear that I’ll be disappointed, left more frustrated because I didn’t get the release I so needed. And so the tennis ball and I have become close friends.

 

Stress finds places deep within our muscles.  Through stress, our body is trying to talk to us. After the birth of my daughter, I l felt truly betrayed by my body – why wasn’t it healing faster, why does my heart pound so much with fear and anxiety? Part of my healing has been getting to know my body better and listen to its rhythms and instead of being angry with it, I try to understand the weight it bears. As children we are naturally ‘embodied’ – spontaneous and present, breathing with fullness and ease. As we grow older and become mothers, we sometimes lose our connection to our body as our children’s demands seem so much more important than that tight neck or sore back.  When we are depleted, we may find ourselves becoming more physically and mentally rigid and less willing to take chances. This inflexibility, both in mind and body, can chip away at our vitality. Our mind and our body sometimes feel like they work against each other. Stressful moments challenge our comfort in our own skin.

 

With a young child in the house, I get sick a lot. So much more than than before I had kids.  I find my upper back tightening up from coughing and lack of exercise. I really want to exercise and be healthy, but my sinus headache is just too penetrating. I’m frustrated, things once again not going the way I hoped. I realize that I’m angry about being sick yet again and that my whole body is tightening up in response. So how can I support my body and how can my body support me?

 

First of all, I try to stop and slow down for 5 minutes so I can figure out what needs the most attention. I may start my recognizing where my body hurts. Sometimes I just rub my temples for a few minutes and do nothing else but absorb how that feels. When my back is sore from coughing I might just sit intentionally with good posture for a few minutes and see how that feels. I try to acknowledge the pain and accept that today might be challenging both in body and in spirit. But what I don’t need to do is to add to my pain my stressing about what is out of my control. My body is doing its best. And I will do my best to support it. Together we’ll get through the day and hopefully feel a bit more whole tomorrow.
Ten minutes here and there can be a start to finding out what it is to be in our bodies. Listening to our bodies can help us understand what needs attention. Ultimately, the more relaxed we can feel in our bodies, the more confidant we become. The more we trust our intuition. Our bodies may still disappoint us, but we’ll be a better friend to it when it does. We’ll show it kindness not hatred.  At Pacific Post Partum Support Society, our group support meetings often begin with a few minutes to settle into our bodies. Even these short practices can help with the stress and anxiety that we so often experience in parenthood.

2017 Angel Donor’s Dinner

On May 24, 2017 we held our 4th annual Angel Donor Dinner. We were overwhelmed with the number of donors attending and supporting us! It was an incredibly moving evening. Special thanks to our speakers Catherine Chow and Andrea Patterson for sharing with honesty, vulnerability and courage their personal stories of recovery. We are so grateful to both of you.

Thank you to our awesome and dedicated Angel Donor Committee and especially our Angel Dinner Founder Catherine Chow, our MC’s and hosts BG and Mike Burdick for providing the financial support for an incredibly delicious dinner at the Shaughnessy Golf Club, to Aimee Agilles-Clare, our event director, and to Kirsty Hill and Shelley Dewitt of www.umbrellasquared.com for their amazing graphic design of our program and banners. Another special thanks to Eran Sudds and  Sweet Scarlet for their beautiful performance!

We are so proud to be part of this organization as we continue to build this community of support for new mothers and fathers dealing with perinatal issues. Looking forward to next year!!

You are all Angels.