PPPSS News & Events

Grieving the Loss of Florence Leung

florence-leung
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we share the news of Florence Leung’s death. Many will have heard that the missing New Westminster mother was found, after an extensive search, in the water off of Bowen Island.  Reports say that Florence was suffering from postpartum depression and leaves behind a husband and 2.5 month old son.

Pacific Post Partum Support Society would like to extend their deepest sympathy to Florence’s family at this time. We are holding Florence and all of her family and friends in our hearts today, and sharing your grief. We hope that you can feel our collective thoughts and the light of the candles that were held high to guide Florence home. Your community stands with you now, as you move through your loss.

 

For those currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, we know that this event may be causing fear, worry, and anxiety. If you need help working through your feelings at this time please don’t hesitate to call the PPPSS support line at 604-255-7999 in the Vancouver area or toll free 855-255-7999.

Please remember that these sorts of tragic outcomes are extremely rare. In the aftermath of this devastating news there are some things you can do while processing: 

Reach out for help. Talk to your family and friends, or call a support worker at PPPSS. If your own postpartum symptoms are being triggered or worsened don’t hesitate to call your doctor, counselor, or other health care professionals. 

Make some space for your grief and be gentle with yourself in the coming days. You may find that the emotional impact temporarily affects your mood or causes depression and anxiety symptoms to worsen. Acknowledge that you are working through a very triggering event and know that any setbacks are only temporary. 

Take a media fast if you need to. Sometimes the best thing to do is get off the internet and take a break from the news. You may consider unplugging for a few days until you can get your bearings again. This can be an excellent form of self care during challenging times. 

Ramp up your self-care practice. Tragedy takes a toll on the mind and body, so it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to your self care. What might you do to calm yourself and re-center? It might be a good time for quiet, meditative activities–knitting, art, a bike ride, a long walk, a bath. 

Find comfort in small rituals. Many people are helped by performing small rituals that acknowledge and release grief. Use whatever ritual fits into your life whether that’s meditation, prayer, writing, art therapy, or gathering with supportive friends and family. 

Take care of yourself in the coming days and reach out for help wherever you need it.

Becoming Enough

Article by Janice Milnerwood

Remember that time before you became a parent when you were positive you’d raise your child a certain way?  I do.  How you’d never feed her pizza, or give him candy before age two.  Maybe you’d have a routine by three months of age and never, ever let your baby come between you and your husband. I remember a discussion with my husband where we agreed we’d never ignore our baby’s attempts to speak, always wanting to encourage language development.  We thought we’d never ever want our child to JUST SHUT UP FOR ONE MINUTE.

Fourteen years later and the impacts of these early ideals are still palpable.  Let me explain.  When our first born arrived I suffered with almost paralyzing anxiety.  I thought something was bound to go wrong, that I was going to make a mistake that would result in serious injury or worse.  He got sick a lot, and naturally I worried a lot.  It started with inability to breastfeed (which we resolved after the longest 7 days of my life), and continued with coughs, ear infections, copious vomiting episodes and slow weight gain.  Having been born a healthy, average size he was slipping down the chart for weight, so that the trips to the nurse to have him weighed became a stressful ordeal.

But we survived, and a few years later we welcomed number two.  I thought I had it all worked out.  However, number two had different ideas.  Less anxious and more confident, my desire for perfection increased.  I set the bar so high I was constantly pushed to the limits, with enriching activities (sports, music etc), home-cooked meals and never anything from a jar or packet.  Kraft dinner was my enemy.  My kids deserved mac and cheese from scratch.  And so it continued.

When number three arrived I (wrongly) assumed that the jump from 2 to 3 kids must be easier than 1 to 2.  How I laugh now looking back at my naivety.  We were outnumbered, and our third baby had reflux.  He was a completely delightful, smiley kid so long as you didn’t lie him down.  On his back he was miserable.

After three months of the worst sleep deprivation I had experienced as a mom something switched inside me and I realized I was not okay.  I’m sure the majority of moms cry at times, but I couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t good enough for my children, that I should be able to meet all of their needs all the time.  I was missing most of my older kids’ bedtimes.  The evening was when the reflux was at its worse and feeding was almost constant.  My husband would return from work and do his best to join the fray, taking up all the slack juggling bathtime and storytime for our 4 and 8 year olds, and I would hear my other kids crying for me through the walls and wonder why we couldn’t all snuggle up on the couch together for stories.  Because I wasn’t good enough, because of reflux which was definitely my fault – have you read those articles about how the food we eat affects our breastmilk and therefore our babies?  Needless to say no matter what I did with my diet the reflux continued.

Pacific Post Partum Support Society was vital to my slow recovery and filled the long gap before my referral to a psychiatrist came through.  The support group showed me that we’re all just doing our best.  Sometimes our best is picking up the phone to order a pizza and putting the TV on so we can have 20 minutes with our eyes closed on the couch.  It didn’t make me a bad person, it made me human.
I’d like to say that I made a swift recovery and got on with having the perfect family but life doesn’t work that way.  PPD changed me permanently, but mostly for the better.  It is a constant practice; being kind to ourselves, letting go of our ideals, making do with what we have, accepting that we aren’t perfect and that’s okay.  Each day I have to challenge that person with the ridiculous to-do list.  Take that list and tear it in half, that’s plenty for now.  When I had PPD the self-care was for my child.  I wanted to be well so I could be the mom my kids deserved.  Now it’s for me.  I’m worth it and I deserve it.  It’s not to make me a better wife or mom, it’s for me.  I think that’s the point at which I realized I was doing well, when I could see that self care was not about allowing me to be there for other people.  It was for me.  Accepting that I am enough is a constant practice and I work on it every day.

Look How Far We’ve Come

Heather Naus shares her story about postpartum anxiety and depression. Despite going through a very dark time, she emerges finding that she has much to be thankful for. Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving from Pacific Post Partum Support Society, and hoping that you have a chance to find gratitude, even in the midst of challenging or chaotic times.

22467179335_e5710795a6_zPhoto Credit: Andrea Paterson www.andreapaterson.com

When I was 13 weeks pregnant with my daughter (who is now 2.5 years old) an alarming thing happened. My husband was traveling for work for the first time in my pregnancy, and I was solo-parenting my son Dylan (then just over 2 years old, now 5). It was our first day alone, and we had muddled through the day as I fought the lingering first trimester nausea and exhaustion. Once we were both in bed the weight of being totally and utterly ALONE for the first time this pregnancy settled down on my chest and threatened to suffocate me.

That night, I had my first panic attack.

As my pregnancy progressed I grew more and more anxious by the day. By my 3rd trimester I had lost my appetite completely as I feared food poisoning, gestational diabetes, a huge baby. I couldn’t eat and lost weight. I doubted my ability to love my new baby. I was constantly nauseous, I couldn’t breathe, and I was convinced I would die.  I assumed it was normal to worry and feel such deep-seated anxiety, given what a vulnerable stage of life I was in. I failed to note that I had not experienced this level of angst during my first pregnancy.

Finally, at 42 weeks, my beautiful baby girl made her debut. I think she was ready to come much sooner but my emotional state was holding both of us back. She was born magnificently and quickly, right into my own hands; 9lbs and 10oz of beauty. Her birth went perfectly, an experience that I clung to during my darkest moments that were yet to come.

I had assumed that my unspoken anxieties would dissipate once she was on the outside and I could hold her in my arms. The first few days were a whirlwind of milk soaked sheets and soiled diapers and midnight feedings; surprisingly they were relatively blissful and calm. But as the days went by, I again began to battle with disturbing and intrusive thoughts. I imagined terrible things happening to my babies; images of violent deaths and disease would suddenly pop into my head and I would cry and cry for days. Deep down I “knew” that Mica was going to grow up to be a bad person and it was all my fault and there was nothing I could do about it. The littlest things suddenly became completely overwhelming: being asked what I wanted for dinner would send me into a tailspin.

On top of the intrusive and catastrophic thoughts I started to feel physical symptoms of anxiety that had me convinced I was on death’s door: my body ached like I had the flu; I woke up in the middle of the night choking; I was nauseous constantly and totally lost what appetite I had left; I had chest and stomach pains; I felt jittery and slightly manic all the time (existing solely on coffee and chocolate couldn’t have helped this).

Finally, at about 4 weeks post partum I had to admit that something was wrong.

“I think I am going crazy,” I cried to the midwife on-call. I was not coping.

I will forever be grateful that she heard my pain and knew what to do. I quickly got into the reproductive mental health program at BC Women’s Hospital, and was able to begin the journey towards healing. It was a long road to recovery but now I feel better than I ever have. The biggest epiphany I have had since my diagnosis of postpartum anxiety and depression is that as far back as I can remember I have struggled with mental illness. I just never had the support to help me recognize or treat it.

I will forever be thankful for my beautiful daughter. Not only has she brought immeasurable joy to my life, she has given me the impetus and courage to heal.

I do continue to struggle, sometimes daily, but now I am equipped with tools and strategies to keep myself as mentally healthy as I can.

Amazingly, I can look at that dark and painful time in my life and feel a sense of gratitude, for the world is much brighter on the other side.

My Self Care in Transition

Article by PPPSS Counselor Shealagh Davis

 

I was talking to a mom the other day on the phone and the subject of self-care came up as it usually does.  She said that her old self wouldn’t have allowed her not to take care of herself. That the old self (pre-baby) knew to take a shower, brush her teeth and eat when she was hungry. As I listened to her share it occurred to me that her old self wasn’t sleep deprived, dealing with grief from the loss of her old life and transitioning through one of the most profound life changes you will ever go through.

After calls like this, which are many on our support line, it often makes me pause and reflect on my own self-care.  When I was a postpartum Mom the word “self-care” sounded like “selfish.” I had no idea what it meant or how to incorporate it into my life. With a lot of support, love, boundaries and practice I learned what it meant to me and it has become a part of my being that I can’t imagine living without.

As of March this year I am in Menopause.  This change has been challenging for me, my self-care seemed out of reach, all the old ways of me taking care of myself just didn’t seem to be working.  I had worked so hard to have a self-care routine and it had worked for years.  What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that I was entering into another profound life change, one that I had no experience with.

My old self wanted everything to stay the same, not adjust to my new way of being.  Eventually I became so uncomfortable that I felt forced to  re-discover who I was now and what this new self needed to take care of herself.

What has helped ease my discomfort? It’s the memory in myself of when I was so uncomfortable in my postpartum period that I had to surrender to a new way of being. Its like a muscle memory, I know that I will get through this because I’ve done the work before, I know there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to this next phase for me.  As I know myself I know I’m one to fight change. I used to hate the word “Surrender”, now it is a word that brings me ease and peace. With a lot of support, love, boundaries and practice I know I will make my way, taking inventory and adjusting my self care tool bag.

Reflecting on this time I’m reminded of one of my favourite poems, “Joy and Sorrow” by Kahlil Gibran

 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

 

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

 

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Everything Will Change

Article by Amelia Muir

At six months everything will change.

That’s what I thought. For six months I could do anything, live with anything, endure anything. I could give everything to my baby because that’s what a mom should do, and because eventually it would change.

At six months baby will stop waking up every thirty to sixty minutes with a piercing scream. I won’t have to scoot downstairs on my bum because my brain is shaking inside my skull, and I feel my legs might buckle. I won’t have to start every day with pain killers to take the edge of the headache. I won’t feel nauseous with exhaustion, or wish that I could slip into a coma just to escape the crushing need for sleep.

At six months I won’t be worried anymore. I will stop thinking about SIDS and won’t picture myself waking to an unresponsive infant. I won’t have to imagine how I would feel and what I would do, how my life would be destroyed. I won’t have to stay awake and monitor baby’s breathing or temperature.

At six months I will be able to leave the house. I will be able to talk to people, even other moms, those ones who know what they are doing and whose babies sleep and don’t cry.

At six months I will be me again, I will have friends again, I will enjoy life again.

At six months everything will change.

But it doesn’t.

At six and a half months nothing is changing except me. I can’t endure the insomnia, the aural hallucinations,  the crying.

I lie on the bed and dissolve, losing all sense of where my body ends. Maybe I’m dying. It’s been three days since I slept. I’m failing my baby, my husband, my family. I’m worthless.

I call my husband at work and tell him he needs to come home right away because I’m falling. Inside my mind I’m falling and I can’t stop falling. I’m afraid to be alone.

Everything happens quickly.

I remember the Pacific Post Partum Support Society pamphlet a nurse had given me and call for support.

It’s a small thing, to have someone listen and understand; however, it gives me the strength I need to go back to my doctor and make him listen, not laugh, when I tell him how little I sleep.

I realize that nothing will change unless I change it so I join a group, I connect with a friend who experienced PPD, I hire a sleep consultant, I write down what I need to feel calm, I put myself first.

At the group I can talk without worry of being judged or misunderstood.
Most importantly I can talk without giving pain to my partner who tried so hard to support me, and failed; I can talk without giving pain to my mother, who tried so hard to help me, but said so many things that hurt me. I can talk and I can listen and hear that I’m not the only one. Finally, I can start to feel like me again.

At eighteen months everything is changed.

At eighteen months baby sleeps through the night and so do I. At eighteen months she’s happy and bright and strong and I don’t worry about her. At eighteen months we go out every day, we play, we sing songs, we visit friends. At eighteen months I don’t care what anyone else thinks because I know what’s best for me, for her, for us.

Everything is changed because I talked to someone.