PPPSS News & Events

Those Affected by Postpartum Depression: Partner Support

PartnerSupport-postpartum.org

By Rosemary Rukavina

Postpartum Depression does not only affect the diagnosed individual, it affects the whole family.

Both partners in a couple have a shared view of what the experience of expanding their family will look like, and when the reality does not match their expectations, disappointment, shock, and anxiety can be common reactions.

If you are the partner of someone who has PPD you may be feeling many things. You may be feeling helpless because you don’t know how to make this easier for your partner, or any attempt at a solution doesn’t work. You may be feeling confused because your partner seems like a completely different person than you are used to. You may be feeling frustrated because you may perceive your partner as not doing their part. And you may be feeling exhausted with all the unsuccessful attempts at making things better.

Postpartum Depression: Partner Support

So what can you do to support your partner and relationship without creating more tension? A great starting place is to acknowledge how you’re truly feeling. When we try to suppress or deny our feelings, they find some other way to be released and they usually surface through anger eruptions. Another helpful strategy is seeking your own support. Although your partner may have been a great support to you in the past, they may not be in a place to give you that same level of support. Although you are entitled to your feelings, sharing these with your partner may exaggerate their own feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

It can also be helpful to ask your partner how they would like to be supported. The solutions we come up with, that would be helpful for us, are not always helpful for others. And if your partner responds, “I don’t know,” try asking what is not helpful. It might take some creative problem solving to find out the right combination of words and actions that will be helpful to your spouse.

Our telephone line offers support to family and partners as well. 604-255-7999.

Image Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

Postpartum Stress

By Sheila Duffy

There are many myths surrounding motherhood. One of the reasons that many new moms and dads struggle is because no one talks about “what it is really like”. We then often blame ourselves, and may have thoughts along the lines of “What is wrong with me?” “I was not cut out for this” or “I’m a bad mom”. The truth is that, along with the many amazing gifts that come into our lives when we have a child, the early days and months can be the most stressful time for us. This is not only for the new mom who is undergoing enormous changes physically, emotionally, and socially, but also for her partner, who is going through his or her own adjustment. These changes are so all-encompassing that it can be a time of extreme stress individually as well as within our relationships.

Again, rarely do people talk about this, and so often what happens is that we start think there is something wrong with us. We ask ourselves why aren’t we happy, why we aren’t able to manage, etc. These are just a few common thoughts that go along with the intense feelings of early motherhood. Couples can often feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with their relationship rather than seeing the situation itself as stressful and attributing that stress alone as to why they are not getting along.

Another important thing to think about is how individuals react to stress. Everyone is different. If you are predisposed to depression and anxiety then stress can be a huge risk factor. At Pacific Post Partum Support Society we talk about the fact that self-care is one thing we can do and that we have control over. In other words, we may not be able to change the fact that our baby does not sleep very long, but we can make sure that we build in a half hour (or more if possible) of time for ourselves where we can somehow rejuvenate. In my personal experience, once I recognized that ongoing stress was a trigger for anxiety, I then took self-care much more seriously. I began to treat it as a “have to”, just like sleeping and eating. It was non-negotiable. This made a huge difference in my ability to manage during times of stress. Having said that, it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s always been easy! In fact, with very limited support when my babies were young it was not an easy problem to solve.

I had to start with very small steps and it took a while to begin to build my support network. Eventually I went from having “no support” to having a “small army” of support. This support remains crucial for my well-being. Try to think about and notice any red flags when you are stressed. For example, quite often when I am stressed, I hold my breath. I never was conscious of this before, but once I realized that I tend to do this and that it increases my anxiety, I began the process of learning how to breathe from my belly rather than my chest. It sounds simple but for me it took a long time to learn to breathe. Yoga played a huge part in my self-care, as it allowed me to slow down, and through this I learned how to breathe. Now I notice my breathing when I’m stressed and I’m able to breathe through things that used to feel unmanageable.

Think about how you manage stress. How have you managed stress in the past? Sometimes just acknowledging with your partner that you are both stressed, and therefore need to be gentle with each other as much as possible, can alleviate stressful feelings. Talk about ways to support each other to do something every day to relieve some of the stressful circumstances. Try to remember that it is a process. Sometimes we do the things we think should alleviate stress only to find we are still anxious. It takes time, and includes a lot of ups and downs along the way, but everyone does find the answers and becomes attuned to their own needs. Please also see our “Tips for Managing with Anxiety and Depression” post from last week for more ideas.

If you want to receive more information about the support offered at Pacific Post Partum Support Society please contact us by telephone at 1-855-255-7999 or via email at admin@postpartum.org.

Your #ppdtoolbox: Tips for Managing with Anxiety and Depression

Your Postpartum Tool Box - Coping Tips on Postpartum.orgWe all have methods for coping with hard moments. Even if you are newly suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, chances are you have a few tools in your toolbox. Certainly, as you go along this journey you will gain more and more. So we wanted to ask, “What do you do to cope?” When you have an anxious moment, or one filled with sadness, what do you do to make it through to the next hour, minute or second? We asked our staff and volunteers to share their coping techniques; and we call this (y)our #ppd/A toolbox.

Tips for Managing Anxiety and Depression

When I get overwhelmed/anxious/sad I …

“…get out of the house, ideally for a walk or run.”

“…take a deep breath, try to remember that I’ve dealt with this before, and remind myself that it will pass.”

“….go walk by the ocean and breathe in the powerful energy there.”

“…go to my schedule and pencil myself in to ensure I have breaks and nurturing activities mixed in with my busy days.”

“…distract myself. I look at a certain colour of something around me and take deep breaths.”

“…. stretch or exercise.”

“…go outside. I focus on nature, like the birds chirping or the clouds in the sky.”

“… make sure my children are in a safe place and then I go in my room to breathe and just shut my eyes for a second.”

“…ask myself what could be the trigger? Lack of sleep? Have I eaten?”

“…remind myself of a small victory or joyful moment from the day or week.”

“…get up, get dressed and put some make-up on.”

“…allow the tears to flow.”

“…am gentle with myself.”

“…sit quietly for a few minutes and breathe deeply, even if I am in my car.”

“…leave the room and go out on the balcony to change the view.”

“…find time to have a nap.”

“…write furiously in my journal.”

“…retreat to the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library, buy myself a gigantic tea, hide in a study carrel and read.”

“…stop and stretch. Bend my knees and touch my toes, stretch up into a five point star and breathe into my heart. As I breathe I say “gentle, gentle.”

“…drink water mindfully. Feel the coolness slide down my throat.”

“…practice yoga, even if for a few minutes. This grounds me and reminds me to let my thoughts go.”

“…go for a walk. The exercise and being outdoors helps to calm me. And when I take my dog, I can attend to his simple needs for a short while.”

“…have a timeout. I curl up in my room with a magazine and a cozy blanket, even if for 15 minutes.”

Which ones will you try the next time you are feeling overwhelmed? What can you add to our list? Tweet us at @PostPartumBC with the hashtag #PPDToolbox.

Support from family and friends

I am certain I would not have survived my postpartum depression and anxiety without the supports I received. The depression was so difficult, because connection with others was what I really needed, but all I wanted to do was isolate and be completely alone. Motherhood was isolating. I could no longer connect with friends and family on my own schedule. I was completely exhausted, hormonal, stressed, and everything was based around my daughter and her schedule.

Support from my family and friends came in many different forms. My husband was my biggest support in that he helped me through each day and he took over the majority of the childcare. Just knowing that my daughter was safe and in good hands was the biggest relief I had. It was frustrating, at times, as he just wanted to fix what was happening, and there wasn’t one obvious answer or quick fix. In hindsight I think the biggest help was his being there for me each day, not leaving (which was a huge fear of mine), not making me feel guilty for feeling the way I was feeling, and reminding me on the bad days that they were just that – bad days – and that I would get better.

I had a large group of family and friends, both near and far, who were supportive in many different ways. People called daily, dropped busy lives and came to help when I needed it the most, sent emails, brought meals, took care of my daughter, and just listened. When I felt my lowest, I found comfort in knowing that people were there, without necessarily having to talk with them frequently. The phone calls seemed like too much effort, and at the time I felt some guilt if I wasn’t able to report that I was feeling considerably better. I gave myself timelines for when I should feel better, and I was certain that others were doing the same thing.

One specific thing I recall doing, based on a suggestion from a woman in my weekly support group, was a “gratitude email” with a friend. The idea is to have a daily email exchange with a friend to identify one thing you are grateful for each day. In the midst of the difficult, emotional, raw feelings I was experiencing, it was nice to change perspective a bit and focus on something positive, no matter how small. I still read through them at times, and smile at what I wrote (e.g. sunshine on my face, a warm bath, a delicious cookie, a smile or laugh from my daughter, a nap).

My weekly support group was immensely helpful, both because of the expertise and support of the facilitators, and also because of the friendships I made with the other women in the group. It was comforting to hear things said out loud that I had thought but never verbalized. It was amazing to see a bit of myself in each and every mother I met in the group, and to see the strength, courage, and willpower in each of us. I still remain in touch with many of these women, and I believe it is a bond that can’t be broken because of what we experienced and helped each other through.

I think it was most helpful when I was able to be specific about what support I needed from others. So many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how. Telling them “I need meals for the week,” “I need a break on Wednesday,” “I need laundry done,” or “I need help cleaning the house” was very helpful, both for myself and for those offering support. On some days it was also “I need to be alone” or “I appreciate your calls and messages, and I will call you when I am feeling better”. When I wasn’t able to be specific about what I needed, my husband could be, and that really helped.

Support was crucial to my recovery, and I don’t think I would have made it through my PPD/A experience without it. While every individual and experience is different, these are the supports that worked for me. The most important thing, in my opinion, is finding the type of support works for you and using it for as long as you need it. This is an awful, vulnerable time – but it is also temporary. Support is a huge part of recovery.

Kelley lives in Vancouver with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

If you want to receive more information about the support groups offered at Pacific Post Partum Support Society please contact us by telephone at 1-855-255-7999 or via email at admin@postpartum.org.

Andrea’s Story – Embracing the Darkness of Postpartum Depression

Andrea's Story on Pacific Post Partum Support Society's Blog

Self-portrait by Andrea Paterson

 

 

By Andrea Paterson

There was a morning, nearly a year after I had my son, when my body crumpled to the living room floor. I heard myself sobbing, saw myself throwing whatever stray toys were in reach, and watched myself give voice to suppressed rage and despair. It was a horrifying moment, like the inverse of birth when the inhuman sounds rising like smoke from my throat made manifest a strange animal wildness and power. In dark contrast, my voice from the floor was an instrument of utter brokenness, the sounds made by a woman who has come apart in a profound and traumatic way. Through the haze of my grief and confusion, I saw my little boy standing in the doorway, fearful and crying, backing away from his mother who had, it seemed, lost her mind.

When I was finally able to get up, exhausted and depleted, the truth came to me with grave clarity: I was suffering from severe postpartum depression. I could no longer lie to myself, no longer believe that the agony I experienced every day was a normal part of parenting, the feeling of suffocation just part of the transition to motherhood. Though perhaps I should say that these feelings of trauma upon beginning the journey into motherhood are normal, or are far more common than most people know, but they were not feelings that I needed to bear alone, or suffer silently.

In a miracle of foresight my midwives had provided me with the number for the Pacific Post Partum Support Society before I gave birth. And so I was aware that there was help out there, but had stubbornly avoided calling until I was in extreme distress. When my son was 15 months old, I began attending a support group in Richmond where, over the course of the next year, my life transformed. With the PPPSS I was inducted into a group of strong and courageous women who were willing to articulate the multi-faceted nature of their postpartum experiences. I saw myself in each and every one of them. They were mirrors for my struggle, my lack of confidence, my fear, my feeling that my life had blown apart and could never be reassembled, and for the deep existential confusion that can accompany the sometimes violent transition to motherhood. Together, with the assistance of our group facilitator, we began to tease apart the tangled strands of motherhood and learn to care for ourselves more effectively, we learned that unrestrained self-sacrifice can only lead to self-destruction. We learned how to save ourselves from drowning so that we would have the ability to care for those around us.

During my year of recovery from postpartum depression I read extensively, suddenly drawn to ancient mythology and archetypal psychology. I had a distinct feeling that what was happening to me was as old as motherhood itself, but that our modern culture had forgotten the dark side of new parenthood. When you become a mother today, you receive the message that a child should utterly fulfill you, should bring only joy, should brighten your days and give you purpose. So what happens when instead your life as a mother feels meaningless and mind numbing, when joy is elusive?

We have forgotten motherhood’s underworld. We have forgotten Kali, the Hindu mother goddess who is both creator and destroyer, a life giving spark and a raging fire that consumes everything before it. In focusing too heavily on the light aspects of motherhood, on the Virgin Mary ideal of sweet sacrifice and eternal calm, we have repressed and hidden the dark energy of Kali that is equally necessary for balance and health.

I came to embrace the darkness of my depression with the help of my fellow journey-women in our support group. I came to see the black emotions, the shadowy places, and the pain as indicative of the immensity of my transformation. Who can expect to have the essence of themselves changed so completely without any struggle? We don’t expect to have a painless birth so why do we expect the birth of our new Mother-Soul to be effortless?

It took a year of hard, soul-baring, sometimes agonizing work and self-reflection to begin to emerge on the other side of postpartum depression. I still have bad days. There are moments when I begin to worry once again that I can’t cope, but more and more often I can approach my life with a sense of agency and curiosity. I am coming to know my new Mother-Self more intimately and to know my son as well. I can now say with honesty that I am grateful for my experience because it took me further into the depths of myself than I had ever gone before and brought me into contact with new powers of empathy and compassion that I couldn’t have accessed otherwise.

The PPPSS was instrumental to my process, and the support group renewed my belief in the power of women to uphold each other and act as scaffolding for each person’s process of rebuilding. I am left in a state of awe and gratitude for the kinship I was gifted and I can always call upon the communal energy of support and understanding when I inevitably face dark moments. I no longer feel the need to hide or repress that darkness. I know how to hold the grief and the pain like the vulnerable infants they are and care for them tenderly. The darkness deserves as much respect as the light and I am glad that my own experience will allow me to pass on this challenging lesson to my son as he grows and faces his own dark nights. For it is only in the darkness that a seed can germinate and finally bloom forth into the full light of day.

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 the Pacific Post Partum Support Society that was provided after her son was born.