PPPSS News & Events

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

NVWbanner2015

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

Spring Images For Healing

Photo by Andrea Paterson

Photo by Andrea Paterson

Article by Andrea Paterson

Spring in Vancouver has been early and intense this year. It’s hard to believe that the cherry blossoms and magnolias are already at their end and trees are in bud. Spring has always been a time to celebrate new life and resurrection after the death and dormancy of winter. Today Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, but Easter is only one of many spring festivals that have been observed throughout history. For those suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety or emerging from a period of distress spring can be a good time to reflect on the tiny shoots of green that may be emerging after a very dark night.

PPD/A is a long process for many. I can recall my first group session with Pacific Post Partum Support Society vividly. I sat nervously in my chair feeling hopeless. I wasn’t convinced that group support would help me through the darkest days of my life. I felt completely dead inside. The woman I once was had vanished. All that was left was a new mother rubbed raw by the experience of parenthood. I had no dreams for my future, no confidence, no joy and I saw only pain and exhaustion in my endless days of mothering.

It’s common for women experiencing PPD/A to describe their transition to motherhood as a death. When our babies are born it can require a painful sacrifice—our sense of self can be lost and we forget what it is to live fully with vibrancy and passion. We feel numb, dissociated, or lost. In PPPSS group sessions facilitators are confident that with time, a good support team, and patient practice of self-care, new mothers will slowly begin to feel alive again. In my group we were asked to look for small changes—do you catch yourself smiling more? Do you feel slightly more rested? Did you manage to do even one small thing for yourself today? Moving through PPD/A is a process of miniscule changes, tiny buds emerging on the bare branches of our winter ravaged souls that accrue and accrue until one day we find ourselves alive and vibrant again. But the changes can be so small as to seem insignificant. The work of regeneration happens slowly and a deep persistent patience is required.

In my own process I have a tendency to turn to poetry and literature as a support structure. Spring imagery is rich in the poetry of Mary Oliver who writes the following lines:

Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

 

Motherhood can be so very heavy and you may feel like deadweight, dragged down to the earth by the unrelenting nature of mothering. But sometimes small things can get you through and remind you that you’re alive. When your soul needs comforting maybe the cherry blossoms snowing down in pink drifts or the scent of plum trees can be enough to remind you of your own vitality. I can promise that you will begin to notice sparks of life in yourself as your journey progresses. Some days will still feel heavy, but some days you will fly. With spring in full tilt there are abundant reminders of what it means to unfurl tender petals and unfold wet wings. New life and new growth is always vulnerable. Be gentle with yourself.

 

If you are in the midst of PPD/A let me suggest a small spring ritual today: gather a flower or two and put them in a dish of water. Let them remind you of the quiet insistence of new life. Now think back over the past week and see if you can pinpoint one moment of change or a single bud glowing in the darkness of your experience. Can you think of one moment that was joyful, one moment that was better than the moments that came before? Can you see even the tiniest shift in the tone of your days? Hold this one tiny thing and know that it’s a promise of more growth to come. One day you will see yourself anew and realize that you are having more good days than bad and it will be as if spring has suddenly come to your spirit. While there will always be painful experiences and rough days you will know that the winter has passed and there will be hope. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that PPD/A will end, but like all seasons it can not last forever. It will yield. I promise you, it will yield.

 

While spring can be a hopeful time and may help to boost mood after a dark rainy (or snowy!) winter, sometimes people suffering from mental illness, including PPD/A, can find the spring especially difficult and triggering. The contrast between your dark mood and the sudden emergence cheery blossoms outside can be painful. If you’re finding aspects of PPD/A resurfacing or intensifying know that this is normal and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. PPPSS support lines are open Monday to Friday. In the Lower Mainland please call 604.255.7999, or toll-free 855.255.7999.

 

PPPSS is now offering a new Text Messaging Support service in addition to our telephone support. If you require support you can send a text to 604.256.8088 on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10-3. The PPPSS hopes that by providing more methods of contact the organization will be able to reach and help more people.

Returning to Work after PPD/A

Article by Kirsty
Going back to work after maternity leave can be an extremely stressful time. It can also be exhilarating if you are returning to a job you love. For many it’s a combination of both, maybe with a sizeable sprinkling of dread. For a woman who has suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety the idea of being physically separated from your baby regularly for extended periods may trigger panic attacks, intrusive thoughts and much worry.

For myself, a flight attendant who works primarily long haul flights, the thought of going back to work was a combination of excitement and horror. Excitement because it meant returning to my beloved Europe and horror because it meant leaving my daughter for several nights at a time when. After giving birth I could barely let other people hold my daughter without cringing, so imagining leaving her for days resulted in anxiety unlike anything I had experienced before. Even though I had come a long way from my early PPD/A experience going back to work caused anxieties to resurface.

My worst fears came true when I got my schedule and discovered I would have to endure seven nights away. I remember looking at my computer and feeling my heart speed up. I got that familiar fight-or-flight response that had caused me to be so unsettled during my postpartum period. Millions of thoughts raced through my head all at once. How could I keep up my milk supply for seven days? Would I have to hide in the airplane lavatory to pump? How would my husband manage on his own? Would my daughter feel abandoned? What happens if there’s an emergency when I’m overseas?

I worked with a lot of mothers coming off of maternity leave in my 15 years as a flight attendant. Most seemed happy to be working again while enjoying the company of friends and colleagues. Would I be that relaxed at work or would I be hiding in the washroom (not an option at take-off) crying into my blouse? I needed someone to talk to so I called a couple of friends from work and they almost all said the same thing: You might feel panicked right now and probably can’t imagine being so far away from your baby, but once the wheels go up you will learn to let go. I wasn’t so sure.

Before my first flight I did everything I could to prepare for my trip. I made extensive meal plans; I made sure the laundry was done and my daughter’s closet was organized; I fulfilled a prescription for anti-anxiety medication that my doctor had given me to use if my anxiety got out of control.

All my nervousness was rubbing off on my husband. He wanted everything hyper-organized so things would go as smoothly as possible when I was away. He expressed some concerns that our daughter wouldn’t eat well, that she’d be dehydrated because she wasn’t getting her usual breast milk, and that he wouldn’t be able to get her down for her naps. Yet at the same time he was up for the challenge and excited about taking some days off work to spend one-on-one time with his daughter. He reassured me time and time again that our daughter was in good hands. And of course she was–she was with her very capable father–but that still couldn’t dispel the guilt I felt about leaving her.

Finally my first day of work came and I left for the airport with butterflies. I debated calling in sick but I knew I couldn’t postpone forever. Apprehensively I boarded the plane. I prepared the cabin and before I knew it we were speeding down the runway. Up went the aircraft, up went the wheels and out came a huge sigh of relief. I had done my best this past week, this past month, this past year and I let go just a little, putting my trust in others.

By the end of the week, naturally, I was desperate to get home. The week had gone very smoothly for all of us and when I quizzed my husband on whether he felt she was missing me or not he replied, “Sadie’s only 18 months, she still lives in the moment”. How true. But of course this hadn’t stopped me from me missing her like crazy. So when I finally landed back in YVR and micromanaged the taxi driver on the fastest route home, I burst into my apartment desperate for a kiddie hug. We hugged, or more like I hugged her, and she seemed a little surprised to see me again. She then took one good long stare, reached down, pushed my work ID aside and started to unbutton my blouse. In less than 3 minutes from getting home, Sadie was happily feeding away, without resentment, not caring if there was milk left or not.

 
I survived that first week and now I am stronger because of it.

PPPSS support, now via text messaging

For over 40 years Pacific Post Partum Support Society has provided support for parents who are experiencing distress during pregnancy or after the birth or adoption of a child—and now we can text!

Provided by our experienced counsellors, support via text messaging is available to anyone who needs it:

  • Moms and dads (until youngest child is 3)
  • Pregnant women and partners
  • Concerned family and friends
  • Professional and community helpers

During this pilot project, support via text messaging is available from 10 am–3 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Just text 604.256.8088.

  • Don’t have many cell phone minutes and/or no landline?
  • Experiencing spotty reception or dropped calls?
  • Need support, but don’t want to wake the baby sleeping on you or talk about what you are feeling in front of your toddler?

Support through text messaging may be perfect for you!

As always, your safety and privacy are extremely important to us. Text message support will be provided through a secure healthcare text-messaging service already used by many help lines across Canada. This test message support pilot project was made possible through funding from the Integrated Primary and Community Care fund of Vancouver Coastal Health.

Questions? Please contact Jody Perkins at jody@postpartum.org.

Poster to share here: 2015_Texting_flyer.