PPPSS News & Events

Erika’s Story Part 1

By Erika Mitchell

I had the perfect birth. It was exactly what I had hoped for: a peaceful home water birth with my husband, doula, and midwife all present and supportive. I labored beautifully and transitioned through my ‘gates of great doubt’ with a whimpered “I don’t think I’m doing very well” followed by 20 intense minutes of pushing, and inevitably the slithery rush of my beautiful son’s body into my surprised hands. I remember reaching down between my legs to grasp him for the first time; my eyes were closed as I savored the warm, slippery feel of him, and I panted out a few cries of relief, exultation, fear, and love. I was so intensely proud of myself. I felt I could conquer the world, achieve any goal and move mountains.

Doubt and fear began to creep in within 24 hours. I had been told about the baby blues and expected a little roller-coaster of emotion over the next few weeks. I was not prepared for the body wrenching sobs that ripped through me like earthquakes as I clutched my nursing son at 2 am on day three. I was not prepared for the terror that stole my joy as I looked at my husband with despair and begged him to ‘give me my life back’. I was not prepared for the loneliness, the fear, the sleeplessness, and the grey and lifeless world I would inhabit for 20 out of 24 hours of each day.

I remember being told at one point not to talk too much about my birth, not to tell people how perfect and beautiful it was because most people don’t get to experience such a wonderful transition into motherhood. I internalized that and told myself that I had no right speak of my birth, period. I believed I had no right to feel depressed, scared or lost because I had had such a good birth; therefore I gave up my right to experience any postpartum sadness. This added to my isolation. Every time I tried to speak about my spiraling descent into darkness I felt blocked, selfish, ridiculous, and unworthy of support. How dare I complain when I had so much to be thankful for?

I struggled like I know other women struggle. I was told by well meaning midwives that I may need medication, which undermined my belief in myself and added anger to my feelings of shame for needing help in the first place. Friends who could see no reason for my pain dismissed me; after all I had had such an easy birth and a healthy baby. I was hardest on myself, denying my need for help and depriving myself of comfort, counseling, and support from my peers by keeping myself isolated from other mothers.

But I was lucky and still am. I had a supportive husband who drew me out into the light and held my hand when I was lost in the darkness. He let me cry, he let me sleep, he loved me and was patient with me and our son. Our little family was held together by his strong arms and understanding soul. My mother and I had been estranged, but the birth of her grandson gave me a window into her world and opened my eyes to her strength and perseverance, and she became a rock I clung to, a phone line that was always open and arms I could retreat to when I needed another woman who understood my pain. I am lucky because I was allowed to find my personal strength, I was given the space to fall apart and put myself back together knowing there were people there to hold on to me if I fell too far.

I had a perfect birth, but I still had postpartum depression. I deserved help, support, comfort and compassion and I know that now. I am not alone and I know that too. All mothers deserve and need support.

 

Erika is a mother of two and an aspiring midwife living on beautiful Bowen Island, BC. She is slowly learning the art of self care, remembering to breathe deeply and appreciating one day at a time.

For more information about the myths of motherhood that can lead women like Erika to feel that they are unworthy of support please see this video.

You may also want to read  a prior blog post about how the myths surrounding motherhood can contribute to postpartum stress.

Is seeking online-based support helpful?

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By Rosemary Rukavina

Many parents actively use the internet to find information, seek advice from professionals, and receive support around infant care issues with peers. This online support can enhance your knowledge and positive attitudes related to various topics about infant care. As well, internet-based support can create a virtual sense of community with peers, which can help close the isolation gap that typically occurs postpartum.

Most research has found that internet-based support is helpful to both mothers and fathers adapting to parenthood. However, there are some safety measures that may be important to consider while engaging in this type of support. To begin with, the trustworthiness of the source of information is an important area to consider. On any given topic (like breastfeeding) the opinions can be vastly different from one another. It can be quite hard to tell if the opinions given by an anonymous user are actually valid and safe to consider. Try seeking knowledge from various sources, look for pages that are regulated (like www.postpartumprogress.com) and when in doubt, it’s always best to seek advice from your health care professional.

Also keep in mind that not all information shared on the internet is credible or going to be helpful to you. Some information can actually be harmful or shaming. If you find that you have a negative reaction to something you experienced online, talking to someone can be a helpful and good way to release some of the feelings and emotions you may be holding on to.

Online-only moderated support groups are also becoming increasingly more available, in environments such as closed Facebook groups or a dedicated online space. In these spaces, members directly interact with each other to share struggles and offer support.  When joining an online support group, it is important to consider if the group is moderated by volunteer peers or trained professionals.  Either approach can be appropriate and useful, but each also has disadvantages. Online-only support groups moderated by volunteer peers can be warm, empathetic and effective sources of support, but can also be less safe as the moderators may be less present and there may be less ability to control membership.  Online-only support groups moderated by trained facilitators can also be effective sources of support, but are much less common and may include large numbers of participants.  In addition, the facilitators may be trained in online support group management, but not have any particular experience with postpartum or parenthood.  As in many situations, a personal recommendation about a particular group from someone you trust can be very helpful in finding the right fit.

In all cases, it is important to use your own judgment when interacting in an online support group.  Different groups have different levels of moderation, from very tight (for example, all posts are approved before appearing) to non-existent.  It may be a good idea, if you choose to join a group, to look through previous posts and see if the tone and nature of the group’s interactions are helpful and supportive before sharing your own situation with members.  You may have to join and observe several groups before you find one that is right for you.  Many mothers have found an online-only support group to be particularly helpful when they begin to recover from PPD/A, and have gained coping skills through professional support such as counsellors and in-person support groups, but still need a reasonably safe place to share their daily struggles and practice their new skills with other parents who understand.

With the help of funding provided by Vancouver Coastal Health, Pacific Post Partum Support Society will be piloting an online-only support group in the Spring that hopes to bring our model of peer-support, provided in small groups and moderated by trained Facilitators, to the online environment for mothers who are experiencing PPD/A. We are excited to take the first steps into this new arena.  Stay tuned to this blog for more updates as the pilot progresses!

Giving Tuesday

 

Most people know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now Giving Tuesday is coming to Canada on December 2, 2014. We hope that you will consider making a donation to our Giving Tuesday campaign. Please click on the video above to learn more about Giving Tuesday.

Please consider giving to our campaign this #GivingTuesday!

 

Recent Article in The Squamish Chief

A wonderful article was recently published in The Squamish Chief discussing postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as PPPSS services. Click here to read it.

 

Relapse

By Andrea Paterson

I’ve been open about my postpartum journey from the start, therefore well meaning friends and relatives sometimes want to know if I’m “cured.” They ask because they’re concerned about my health and happiness but the question implies a state of unfaltering psycho-spiritual stability that still eludes me. My son is approaching three years old. I’m now well beyond the period typically thought of as “postpartum.” Postpartum depression is generally defined as depression and anxiety symptoms occurring within the first 12 months after the birth of a child. Pacific Post Partum Support Society extends their services to women from pregnancy to three years postpartum, which is an exceptionally generous time span that honours the complexity and slow changes implicit in the postpartum journey. But there still comes a time when saying that you are struggling with postpartum depression feels disingenuous. I begin to wonder, on bad days when my transition to motherhood still feels very new and very raw, if I really should be “cured” and I wonder what’s wrong with me if I’m still resolving pieces of my postpartum journey.

The postpartum process is different for everyone. Some people resolve their depression quickly while others take much longer to work through a variety of emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges. The thing to remember is that postpartum depression doesn’t magically resolve the moment your child turns one, and many people experience episodes of relapse long after their original depression has been resolved.

Holidays, travel, major life changes, family issues, and other stressors can trigger symptoms that you thought were long ago put to rest. Even three years into motherhood I have days when I don’t think I can cope, I have moments when I collapse into tears, and I have weeks when I think I’ve back-slid into the depths of my depression where I could become stuck. What I have learned over time is that relapse is normal, frequently triggered by unusual or new stress, and definitely does not mean that I will be returning to the darkness I experienced two years ago.

I have a whole arsenal of tools that I didn’t have when my son was born. My ability to see when my self-care has been lacking is well honed. I’m more aware of the signs and symptoms of flagging stability and I can often change my circumstances to support a calm atmosphere before things go off the rails. But postpartum depression is not a sickness like the flu that, once gone, leaves you completely free of symptoms. Postpartum depression is a process that I live every day. Parenthood is a process of continual revision as we learn how to usher our children into the future under constantly changing circumstances, and postpartum depression is one aspect of my parenting process. I have to deal with that particular demon less and less these days, but it’s still there, lurking, waiting to leap up and force me to confront something about myself in my role as mother.

Thanks, in large part, to the support and training provided by Pacific Post Partum Support Society, I’m a stronger more resilient woman than I was the day my son was born. But to answer the ever present question: “Are you cured?” No I’m not. Not if “cured” means that I never experience symptoms or relapse of postpartum depression issues. Postpartum depression will always be a piece of my motherhood. I suspect I will face the ghosts of the postpartum period for as long as I am a mother. And while those ghosts are sometimes terrifying they are also my greatest teachers. In the end I can do nothing else but offer them my gratitude and work to transform myself just a little more each day.

I have also found it valuable to develop my own support systems. I have some wonderful friends that I met during my time with PPPSS and we meet regularly for dinner now, continuing the work that we started in the sleep deprived months after the births of our children. We have learned how to support each other and we can be bright sparks of joy and community in each other’s lives. I’ve discovered that support doesn’t need to end when the formal support group does. PPPSS works on the model of women supporting women, and that torch can be carried out into the world. I owe a great debt to my fellow journey-women, who understand my experiences and are always ready to light a candle for me when the depressive fogs roll in. I may not be “cured” but I’m confident that I have the resources and friendships in place that will allow me to find my way home, even on the darkest nights.

To read more about Relapse Prevention, including other women’s stories and experiences, click here.

Andrea is a writer, photographer, and mother to a very active and curious 2 year old. Currently an at home mom, Andrea makes time for the passionate pursuit of knitting, art, blogging, and reading as many books as her spare seconds will allow. She is deeply grateful for the assistance of Pacific Post Partum Support Society that was provided after her son was born.