PPPSS News & Events

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.

Great Expectations Fashion Show + Other Ways to Show Support

Fashion Show Postcard PPPS

By Erin Arnold

Pacific Post Partum Support Society presents an informative, interesting and hilarious Fashion Show this October. Great Expectations features beautiful, bizarre, and memorable 20th century maternity garments from the extensive private collection of fashion historian Ivan Sayers. This innovative fundraiser will help our non profit make a difference in the lives of women and families.

Our programs are funded by government contracts, community and foundation grants and individual donors. In the light of limited government/grant funding and an ever increasing demand for our services, your support is needed now more than ever.

Donations provide for our telephone support, weekly women’s support groups, partner education sessions, community trainings and resource materials.

We had a very successful Angel Donors Fundraiser Dinner held at the Shaughnessy Golf Club in May. Over $45,000 was raised in one night thanks to our hosts Mike and BG Burdick and a champion for our cause, Catherine Chow. We are grateful for this incredible gift and the team of caring community members.

How to make a donation: Phone Our Business Line at 604.255.7955 to discuss your donation.

Mail your donation to: Pacific Post Partum Support Society 200 – 7342 Winston Street Burnaby V5A 2H1

Make an online donation through CanadaHelps or Chimp.net

Become a sponsor for Great Expectations, our historical maternity fashion show, or buy tickets and attend.

Volunteer: Without our volunteers we couldn’t do the fine work we do at the Pacific Post Partum Support Society. We are always looking for volunteer support in various capacities including fundraising, research, office support and more. If you could offer your time to our Society, we would be happy to connect with you. Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@postpartum.org

Current Volunteer Positions:

·         Fundraising – join our committee we meet monthly

·         Research

·         Office support

·         Microsoft training for staff


We look forward to seeing you at Great Expectations!

Location: Hycroft 1489 McRae Ave, Vancouver on Oct 05, 2014 1:30 PM- 3:30PM

Tickets can be purchased online for $25 at  http://pppssfashionshow.brownpapertickets.com


PPPSS 2013–14 AGM

PPPSS 2013-14 AGM

Learning Self-Love: Put Yourself First

Self-Love by Pacific Post Partum Support Society

By Georgie Hutchinson

Let’s face it – when mothers, in particular new mothers, first hear the advice: “Put yourself first;” their reactions are often of confusion and disbelief.

“Put myself first? Why, that would be irresponsible!”

“Guilt” kicks in all too quickly, even within the first minutes of motherhood. This guilt is closely associated with the constant perpetuation of the motherhood myths; these myths help to create the gargantuan and unrealistic expectations that mothers consciously or unconsciously feel they must live up to, in pursuit of being a perfect mother. While putting our baby first before ourselves can feel as natural as breathing, we may be grieving the old opportunities life before baby afforded in nurturing ourselves whenever we darn well pleased. When mothers dare to utter these thoughts, some feel they should be struck dumb in retribution for daring to speak about that part of motherhood, something that is actually a part of the natural process of adjusting to having a baby.

I can relate to the thousands of mothers who call us at PPPSS. My struggle to put myself first is ongoing. I have taken a multitude of steps forward over the years towards embracing the deep place of self-acknowledgement and self-love that felt out of my grasp when I first became a mother. This, for me, is the essence of putting myself first. I am a slow learner and luckily have had some amazing support along my mothering path to help remind me about “the unknown possibilities of goodness.”

Many of the calls we have with moms are conversations that bring me back to my early days of motherhood – when I was raw, vulnerable and emotional. I would hear the advice to put myself first by ”sleeping when the baby sleeps.” I remember being told, “Don’t hold her so much it tires you out,” or “ You need to have a break.” This only made me feel inadequate, as I thought I should be able to do it all.

My babies were not good sleepers; I was an anxious mom and carried my babies all the time. Taking the time to arrange a break seemed impossible to comprehend in my foggy-brained state. I had not yet learned that what I needed was to put myself first in a KIND and GENTLE way. I did start to learn this somewhere in those baby days, but it was a slow climb to this place of lowering my expectations, taking only what I wanted from well-intentioned others, and leaving the rest without feeling I was “less than” or did not measure up. A big part of putting myself first was stepping away from the “shoulds” I created for myself and instead focusing on what would be helpful. One of those steps forward was to ask for help clearly and directly from my husband and my family and friends. I had to take gentle baby steps in acknowledging I deserved support.

PPPSS is an exceptional place where I am constantly reminded that “putting yourself first” is a different process and discovery for every person. The discovery and re-discovery of those basic elements of self love, gentleness and kindness help to light the way to experimenting with the possibilities of modelling a deep place of acceptance so that our children will have a foundation with which to navigate the world from a kinder place.

We will take steps forward in our experiment with “putting yourself first” and then we will forget – I take great comfort in the words of Rumi, the Sufi poet,

“Come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. This is not a caravan of despair. It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken your vows a thousand times, Still and yet again come!”

In other words—Begin and begin again!

Kelley’s Story of Postpartum Depression

Tree of Love

By Kelley Allen

I have always struggled with depression. It runs in my family and, at 14 years old, I was diagnosed with it. I have managed it since with medication. Once my husband and I began talking about starting a family, we went into pregnancy knowing of my increased risk for postpartum depression. We met with a specialist before I got pregnant and made the decision that I would stay on a low dose of a well-researched, safe antidepressant throughout pregnancy. Once my daughter was born, I felt the hormonal fluctuations, stress, and exhaustion of motherhood, but was able to manage. After 3 months passed, I relaxed a bit about PPD. After 6 months passed, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My PPD didn’t hit me until my daughter was 9 months old, and seemed to coincide with weaning her from nursing. It felt like I changed overnight. And for me, the hard part wasn’t the depression, but the anxiety. I had never experienced it before. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin. I paced rooms. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t stop crying. My heart raced and I couldn’t sit still. I felt like I was in withdrawal. I couldn’t be in the same room with my daughter, not because I was afraid of hurting her, but because I couldn’t calm myself down and I didn’t want to her see me that way. I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed all of a sudden. I truly believed that I needed to go away, that my husband and daughter would be better off with someone who “knew” what she was doing. My lowest point came very early one morning, as I shot out of bed and felt like I could not breathe. I went out and paced the kitchen and my husband found me, curled up on the floor in front of the kitchen sink, sobbing. I told him I didn’t want to live. That day I went to an urgent care clinic and was prescribed a higher dose of antidepressant, along with a medication for my anxiety, and something to help me sleep. I was told to check back with my family doctor in a week, and I vividly remember thinking that I wouldn’t be around in a week to attend the appointment.

Thankfully, I was also connected with a program through the hospital that specialized in postpartum depression and anxiety. I saw a psychiatrist and began attending a weekly support group with other moms who were experiencing PPD/A. My husband took over most of the childcare, housework, and caring for me. He was incredible. My only request was that he look after our daughter and make sure she was okay. I was eventually going to figure myself out and needed him to keep her okay until then.

Every single day I tried. I tried so hard to get out of bed, take my medications, be present for my daughter, attend my support group, and be functional. I wanted things to get better as soon as possible, but I also knew that the only way it was going to end was to go through every single day. My mantra became “The only way out is through.” I expected to wake up one day and feel like my “old self.” I remember someone in my support group saying it didn’t work like that, and I left feeling so disappointed. Recovery, she said, was not a straight line, but one with ups and downs, generally heading in the right direction. It has been 18 months since I hit my lowest point, and I can now say that I agree. I don’t have a certain date or time that I can remember feeling better. I just know that there were good days and there were bad days. Eventually the good days started to outweigh the bad ones. There were times I felt like I had made such progress and had setbacks, which were frustrating and scary. But I was always heading in the right direction.

My daughter is now almost two and a half. She is absolutely the love of my life. There are still days I struggle with depression, and I think I always will. When those days come I have the tools that I picked up during my PPD/A recovery that I can put to use. There were weeks I lived only to attend my support group, in order to reach out and feel connected to other women who were experiencing the same thing. Nobody seemed to talk about PPD/A in my larger life, and I felt so awful and isolated for feeling the way I was feeling. The group provided structure and support. Support that, at the time, felt like it wasn’t doing much to make me feel better, but over time was one of the biggest pieces of my recovery. I still think about the stories, advice, and moments from those groups and the women I met, and I see the strength in all of them. Many of my supports and people in my life told me, during my worst days, that it would get better. I didn’t believe them at the time, but they were right. It did get better. And it will get better for you, too.

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.