PPPSS News & Events

The Good Mother Project

Article by Eran Sudds

Eran Colour-18

My son was 3 months and 14 days old. I know this because I was counting the days. On any given day, I knew exactly how old he was, what Wonder Week he was in the middle of, how many days were left until his next predicted milestone and,  in this case, how many hours were left until his daddy came home from his latest business trip.

On this particular day I was exhausted. Again. Because my husband was away, I had taken my infant son to Victoria with me to stay with my mother and have some extra help. The night before we had both slept terribly; he had been up over ten times in the night. I hadn’t slept for longer than 45 minutes at a time. I was overwhelmed, frazzled, bone-weary and completely worn out.

I had no idea how I had ended up here.

But here I was – my son, screaming with exhaustion in the passenger lounge on the ferry trip home strapped into his Ergo carrier and me, desperately bouncing him up and down, up and down and trying not to burst into tears myself.

I’m pretty sure I hadn’t showered  or even brushed my hair or teeth. The tears of exhaustion were lingering just beneath the surface.

A middle-aged woman sitting in the lounge kept trying to catch my eye. I did everything I could to avoid eye contact with her. I didn’t want anymore advice.  I didn’t need to hear what I should be doing, or shouldn’t be doing. I knew I was split seconds away from crumpling in frustration and humiliation, and I had no idea how I was going to hold it together through more words of well-meant, but unwanted, advice.

She talked to me anyways, “How old is your baby?”

“Almost 4 months”  My carefully guarded tears started brimming over.

What she said next caught me off-guard.

She said, “You’re doing a great job.”

And I promptly burst into tears. The floodgates opened, and there I was, standing amidst a sea of strangers, bawling my eyes out.

This woman knew nothing about me. She didn’t know how exhausted I was, or how alone I felt. Or how I was so completely overwhelmed with being a mother to this little person.

But she knew exactly what I needed to hear.

This woman saved me that day. And while I wasn’t about to do anything drastic, after I spoke with her I certainly felt like someone understood, like someone was there supporting me when I was feeling alone and at rock bottom. She listened to my story and made me feel like I was doing okay.

As mothers we need to look out for each other.  We are not perfect.  We are emotional and beautiful and vulnerable and aching for connection.

We need to feel like it’s ok to share our stories, to be at rock bottom, to ask for help, to feel completely clueless about our children and what the “right” decision is.

A few months after this woman spoke to me on the ferry, I found myself on the Pacific Post Partum Support Society website yet again. This time I was brave enough to pick up the phone and make the call to their support line and thus started my own uphill climb to wellness.

I think about that woman all the time. Here words were so simple – “you’re doing a great job.” We don’t say that to each other enough. We don’t acknowledge the tough jobs we have as moms. We need to recognize one another, celebrate one another, lift each other up when we’re having crappy days.

That’s why I created the Good Mother Project. Initially, it began as a Mother’s Day photo session promotion (I’m a photographer), with all proceeds from the session fees being donated to Pacific Post Partum Support Society. But as word spread, and moms heard about it, more stories started to emerge. More women and more mothers wanted to share their stories.  Each woman had the same sentiment: she wanted to share her story so that others in the same boat would not feel so alone.

What started out as simple photo sessions celebrating moms, has now turned into a full website with a blog of stories from mothers all over North America. Their stories have been shared hundreds of times, all over the world, and the site has only been up for a couple weeks.  It’s unbelievable, overwhelming, heart-warming and awe-inspiring all in one.

As mothers, we are so connected by the experience of motherhood. We understand each other, we know the hardships, the heartache, the joy.
We’re in this together. And we’re all doing a great job.

If you want more information about Eran’s photography project or want to get involved please visit The Good Mother Project:

www.goodmotherproject.com

 

 

A Dad’s Perspective on PPD/A

The Father of a Pacific Post Partum Support Society client provided the following account:

My general observations of my daughter during her postpartum depression and anxiety included seeing her: fatigued, weepy, irritable, guilty, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of misery. She was generally unwilling to ask for help and would accuse the family of “interfering” when we tried to help her. I witnessed extreme negativity and an inability to focus on any of the joys in her life.

I felt uncertainty and helplessness in the downward spiral my daughter was engaged, caught, and trapped in. My only daughter has always been full of optimism and joy. She possesses a high intellect, and has always approached everything with confidence and determination. She works to ensure a “safe landing” in whatever it is that she is engaged in. It was incredibly hard to witness what she was going through.

During this time, I made many attempts to be there for her, to act as her “sounding board” for whatever she wanted to discuss. It was a difficult, trying period due to the physical distance between us, as well as the severity of her PPD/A. Due to her insight, medical treatment, and the immense support she received from family, friends and Pacific Post Partum Support Society, she slowly started to emerge from her darkest days. It was a daily struggle, but I am happy to say that she is now feeling much better and seems to be even stronger in spite of her PPD/A. She tells me that the experience helped her to learn how to take better care of herself, and she hopes to continue helping others who find themselves experiencing PPD/A.

This father notices a large number of very common PPD/A symptoms in his daughter but struggles to find a way to help her. Many women don’t want to ask for help when they are suffering from PPD/A. It’s common to want to deny the presence of mental illness and it’s also common to be afraid of the repercussions of admitting to having PPD/A. Being present and continuing to listen, as this father did, can be a huge help, even if it seems like a small gesture. PPD/A can be very difficult for the family members of those suffering. It’s important that close family members find support for themselves as they work to help their loved one through PPD/A. If family members are aware of the signs and symptoms of PPD/A it can make a huge difference in the timeliness of treatment and eventual recovery.

 For more information about how to help the new mom in your life, whether you’re a partner, friend, or family member, please visit our Supporters page on the PPPSS website. The page includes information on how to help a mother with PPD/A, what to do if she is refusing help, and how to take care of yourself during a very challenging time.

 

 

Anger During the Postpartum Period

Article by Kelley Allen and Andrea Paterson

Anger is probably one of the least discussed components of the motherhood experience and one of the least acknowledged facets of postpartum depression and anxiety. No one is prepared for the anger that is sometimes born alongside their infant, but it’s a completely normal reaction. Women might be angry at their babies for causing sleep deprivation or for making it impossible to engage in things they used to love. Women might be angry at their spouses because it seems like the partner’s life carries on as usual while the mother’s life has imploded. Anger might be leveled at a whole range of other people who are perceived to be unhelpful or who don’t understand or support the challenges of new motherhood.

Here Kelley shares her story of anger as an aspect of her PPD/A:

One of the hardest parts of my PPD/A was anger. I couldn’t really identify with it, yet it consumed me. I was angry with everything and everyone.

 I was angry with doctors for not fully understanding the severity of how I felt, or the urgency to fix it. I was angry with my friends and family for not understanding and for continuing on with their lives as if nothing had changed. I was angry with my husband for still having his job to go to and for not going through all of the hormonal and emotional changes I was experiencing. And I was angry with myself for feeling angry at others and not being better prepared for motherhood.

 I felt that I had been lied to–that motherhood didn’t meet my expectations and I felt so damned angry about it. It had changed me into this fragile, unhappy, anxious person that I didn’t recognize. I searched and searched for someone to blame, and eventually that person ended up being me. I never once regretted having my daughter or choosing to become a mother. She was perfection. How I created something so beautiful was beyond me. What I felt was anger with myself. “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? How was I not better prepared? Why am I so weak?”

 In the midst of my hardest days, I would hear someone say they were busy and I would get angry. For me, busy meant not getting even one minute alone all day. Not even having time to shower. Not having time to think. I would hear someone say they were tired and I would get angry. I hadn’t slept in months and couldn’t go anywhere to sleep as I was still nursing. I felt I could not get away. I would hear someone say they were feeling down and I would get angry. Did they lie awake at night wondering how they were going to get through the next day? Wondering how they would take care of their families, and if they couldn’t who would?

 I have heard a lot of theories about anger as part of my PPD/A. Was it actually grief? A feeling of completely losing myself and my independence? Anger at motherhood? I don’t know. I continue to feel anger during my tough days. I am not sure this will ever go away. I was reading an article recently about emotions, and how dark emotions can be a good thing, an impetus for change. They make you realize that something in your life is not working, forcing you to change it. There was an entire section on anger, in which it explained that anger is a response to feeling undervalued. It resonated with me, and made me look a bit further into my feelings. I wonder if I feel anger at times because this parenting gig is so undervalued on a societal level. Because being at home with a child is incredibly hard work, the hardest work I have ever done, yet I don’t get paid for it. Because the days do seem to run together at times, and between the schedules and routines of eating, playing, and napping, things can start to feel mundane…wherever it comes from or whatever its cause, anger is part of my reality as a mother.

 Kelley’s story represents a common experience of anger during the postpartum period. Other manifestations of anger are also possible. Kelley never experienced anger at her baby, but that sort of anger is normal too. The important thing is to accept that anger is a legitimate and normal part of new motherhood and to work towards healing the anger. It’s also important to note that anger is a very real component of PPD/A and it’s okay to ask for help if this is how your PPD/A manifests.

Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful book called Anger that really helped me to reframe anger and my response to it. We tend to see anger as a “negative” emotion that should be repressed or rejected. Hanh maintains that all feelings serve a purpose. He writes that “both our negative and positive feelings are organic and belong to the same   reality…You may think that you have to combat evil and chase it out of your heart and mind. But this is wrong. The practice is to transform yourself. If  you don’t have garbage, you have nothing to use in order to make compost.  And if you have no compost, you have nothing to nourish the flower in you. You need the suffering, the afflictions in you. Since they are organic, you know that you can transform them and make good use of them” (69).

And so it can be with anger. Our anger is organic and needs to be treated tenderly, just as we would treat a howling baby crying out for our attention. Hanh characterizes anger as a wounded child within begging for comfort and healing. He asks us to treat our anger as if it were an infant and treat it with love and caring. This seems like a particularly apt metaphor for women who are experiencing anger as a part of PPD/A. Hanh shows how mindfulness practice can work in relation to anger:

“We hold our baby of anger in mindfulness so that we get relief. We continue  the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, as a lullaby for our anger. The energy of mindfulness penetrates into the energy of anger, exactly like the energy of the mother penetrates into the energy of the baby” (34).

Later Hanh extends the metaphor of mothering our anger. He says “We are mothers of our anger, and we have to help our baby, our anger, not fight and destroy it. our anger is us, and our compassion is also us” (165).

It’s a good lesson when it comes to the mixed emotions that come with PPD/A. Everything–our anger, our joy, our rage, our sorrow, our guilt, our amazement–everything is a part of the motherhood journey.

 

Resources for further reading:

 

Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh

A Buddhist meditation on anger and the mindful ways to heal it.

 

Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enright

A psychological perspective on healing anger that focuses on the process of forgiveness. This is a really excellent secular approach to forgiveness that may be useful if your anger is directed at a particular person due to a perceived injustice. The book guides readers through a detailed forgiveness methodology. The main goal is healing the self by letting go of angry responses.

 

The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

This book addresses anger in the context of intimate relationships. Since many women experience anger at their spouse as part of the PPD/A process, this book might be very relevant.

 

Brianna: Anger and PTSD

A Pacific Post Partum Society Video about anger and Post Traumatic Stress after the birth of a child.

 

What I Learned from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Article by Erika Mitchell

 

I have struggled with this statement for a long time now. I found myself very resistant to answering the simple question – ‘what have I learned?” In part I am resistant because I don’t want to credit such a dark and lonely time in my life with imparting any wisdom or growth. I also struggle with the answer because in so many ways I am still learning the lessons that started with my postpartum depression and anxiety.

 

Once I sat myself down and really dove into my experiences I decided the biggest lesson I have learned (and am relearning all the time) is to ask for help. It seems like such a simple thing (it is something I am always admonishing my frustrated 3 year old to do) but it is one facet of my life I have constantly struggled with. It was my inability to ask for help that made navigating depression and grief as a young adult so disastrous and it was my slow discovery of asking for and receiving help that made overcoming PPD/A possible.

 

I am learning that I am not alone. The more I reach out for help the more I find people who want to help me. I am also finding other people like me, people who I can help in turn.

 

I am learning to be gentle with myself. I need to cry sometimes. I need to ask for help sometimes. I need to let go of my expectations. I need to breathe. These things do not make me weak; they make me human.

 

If a day is feeling totally overwhelming then I need to step back and deal with one hour. If that hour is too much to handle then I need to step back and deal with one minute and if I cannot handle that minute then I need to focus on one breath. Just one breath at a time.

 

I’ve learned that the priority list must start with me. I need to practice self-care so that I am able to take care of my children, so that I can be a strong and healthy partner. I need to check in with my husband when I’m feeling that dark place creeping back in so he knows I may need to hold on to something solid until I am strong again.

 

I’ve learned that all I can do is enough. That is a very tough one to live. All I can do is enough. How often do we worry about managing everything? Some days I can study for school, entertain the kids, clean the house, bake cookies, run errands and make dinner. Other days all I can cope with is getting dressed and feeding my children; that is all I can do and it’s enough.

 

What I’ve learned from PPD/A is to be gentle with myself, to change my expectations and to practice self-forgiveness. I’ve learned how to breathe. I’ve learned that one moment at a time is the most I need to focus on. Most of all, I’ve learned that asking for help may be the strongest, most courageous thing I can do.

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

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From April 12-18 Canada is celebrating National Volunteer Week. Volunteers are at the heart of many not for profit organizations and Pacific Post Partum Support Society is no exception. Here is a message from Georgie Hutchinson, Volunteer Coordinator for PPPSS:

I see Volunteer Week as similar to Mother’s Day: Just a we should appreciate the hard work and dedication of mothers every day of the year, organizations should acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of their volunteers.  We hope that we successfully convey our appreciation for PPPSS Volunteers on a regular basis but National Volunteer Week gives us occasion for some brief “ shout from the rooftops” moments to remind all our wonderful, loving, supportive volunteers how much we appreciate the work they do to help support families who reach out to PPPSS.

So thank you to our hardworking volunteer Board Members; to our Social Media Team who are helping to put us on the map; to our dedicated and compassionate Telephone Support Volunteers who work closely with staff in the office; to our amazing multicultural Telephone Support Volunteers who support women in their first languages;  to the volunteers who put themselves out in the community to attend events and promote our work;  to the administration volunteers who cheerfully assist with office tasks; to our volunteer and paid childminders who work for little and offer so much to our families; and to our staff who often volunteer their time for events and the extras. Our volunteers have been supporting the work of PPPSS for over 40 years!

We are grateful and we are blessed.

Thank You!

From the  staff of Pacific Post Partum Support Society