PPPSS News & Events

Helpless—A Father’s Perspective on Postpartum Depression

A Father's Perspective on PPD

Helpless.

It’s one feeling that always comes back to me when I think about the period when my wife was suffering from Postpartum Depression.

At the time, I had no clue that my wife was in the throes of PPD. Pretty much all that registered in my mind was that neither of us were sleeping, due to our otherwise angelic daughter waking up practically every hour at night. That, and the fact I had to get through another day of work.

I felt awful for feeling it at the time, but work became an escape from what was becoming a daily grind at home. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, after all? Despite drifting through my shifts at work, operating in a fog barely lifted by caffeine, my heart would sink a little when I boarded the bus home.

I’d watched my wife turn from a strong, confident, understanding woman into a browbeaten bundle of frayed nerves. A mother who loved her child more than anything else in the world but would scream at her in the middle of the night, following the eighth wakeup. Occasionally I would awaken in the spare room – to where I had been banished to grab a few hours of precious sleep before the alarm went off again – to hear my wife sobbing across the hallway. Sometimes I went through to check on them both. And sometimes I didn’t, realizing I could do little to help. Helplessness.

I felt like my wife was shutting herself off from me. She seemed to feel as if it was her duty alone to cure our sleep woes, her job as the mother. My attempts to help were often rejected with a “No, it’s fine. I can manage.” A lot of the time I was too exhausted myself to argue. I tried as often as I could to take our daughter out on my own to give my wife a break. One time I secretly booked a night in a bed & breakfast for my wife. I practically had to order her out of the house.

I tried to remain objective. I tried to remain understanding. I tried to let all the irrationalities of what I just believed was sleep deprivation wash off me. It was hard. Bottling your own feelings up is never a good thing.

Having an outlet helped. You find out who your real friends are when you can just unload on them. Still, you feel a little guilty burdening them with so much of your negativity. In reflection, a confidential helpline seems like a no-brainer. If only I’d known at the time.

My wife did occasionally thank me for my support, and that helped too. I told her as often as I could that she was doing a great job raising an amazing girl. Because she was. We both were. Our daughter was happy, healthy and cute beyond belief.

And things did improve, slowly. Our daughter began sleeping better. We moved house, closer to my work, closer to friends. We felt more connected again, to the outside world and to each other. The fog of helplessness was lifting and we could see the way forward.

Jan Zeschky is a journalist and father who lives in Burnaby.

*If you are a partner of someone suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, know that there is support for you and your family. Please contact us if you need assistance.

Thank you to all of the Dads who support our women in getting strong, and healthy. Happy Father’s Day.

Overcoming Isolation’s Grasp

The first year of a child’s life can be an isolating time for mothers. Most of your time (if not all) is devoted to nurturing. It can be extremely challenging to take care of even basic needs such as brushing teeth, showering, or even just using the bathroom. Thinking about doing something like leaving the house, which likely was a simple, everyday occurrence prior to having a baby, can seem completely overwhelming.

The energy that it takes to leave the house can seem like an impossible barrier. However, always listening to thoughts such as “it’s just easier to stay home” or “I’m too tired to leave the house” may only feed into the isolation many new mothers experience. So what can one do?iStock_000007693799_Medium

Approach the situation by starting small. Instead of staying at home, ask your partner, mother, or friend to go for a walk around the block. Either have them help you get ready to come with you on your walk or ask them to stay home with baby while you go.  It can help to first aim for a short walk, for just 5 minutes. Any degree of exercising will also help you improve the sleep that you do manage to get. Or pair a “for pleasure outing” when you already have an obligation like a doctor’s appointment. When you have to leave the house anyways, that takes away the largest barrier. The park, mall, library or the local community centre can be good places to go with a small baby. Notice how different you feel after allowing yourself to breathe fresh air and socialize. Although it may seem small, these small things can be really helpful. Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for your success, no matter how small.  It’s easy to forget that part of being a successful nurturer is making time to be nurtured as well.

Finally, if something gets in your way, as it so often does, be kind to yourself. Criticizing yourself may worsen your mood and give way to more isolation. Take a deep breath, tell yourself “it’s ok”, and make a new attainable plan.

–Rosemary

We’re updating our training materials!

Over the past several months, staff at PPPSS have been busy brainstorming how to update our training programs. As part of this effort, staff and volunteer mothers devoted an entire day to filming mock support group sessions. The videos will be used to supplement our instruction on the unique way PPPSS supports men and women experiencing emotional challenges during pregnancy and as a parents of young children. Facilitators are excited for this new addition and plan to make use of these new materials in our upcoming April 2014 training. Stay tuned for other ways PPPSS is using media to augment our services.

Call or email to inquire about how seeking training from PPPSS will benefit your organization.

–Pacific Post Partum Support Society

When the Seasons Change

Depression has many causes.  During the winter months when days are shorter and the weather is typically dark, cold, and wet, many people experience decreases in their mood.  In fact, there was once a diagnosable mental health condition in the manual that psychiatrists and psychologists use devoted to this phenomenon.  Fortunately, there are some strategies that people have used successfully to help increase their mood so that it doesn’t have to be as dependent on the season. 

The first step typically involves building on awareness.  When you reflect on the past few years have you noticed a pattern that your mood changes as autumn and winter commence?  How do you feel on a rainy day compared to a sunny day?  Understanding that your mood may be due to changes in the season or weather can be powerful because knowing how you feel is due to something external can help stop the negative feelings and thoughts that may ensue.  And so, instead of letting the depression take over, you can be prepWhy don't I feel Happy?ared for it when the season changes and start implementing those strategies that already work for you (i.e., talking to your supports, deep breathing, taking breaks for self care). 

Changing self-talk is another strategy that many people find helpful.Telling yourself, “Stop! I feel this way because it’s gloomy outside” and other coping thoughts can help stop the vicious negative thought cycle that is common when depression takes over.  As well, research tells us that diet and exercise can be as—or more—effective than taking medication.  Lastly, when we’re blessed with the nourishing rays of the sun, take advantage and get your fill of Vitamin D.

If you want to know more about the above mentioned strategies talk to your doctor or leave a reply below.

Wishing you all good mental health.

–Rosemary

Happy New Year!

Mothers nursing babies

The beginning of a New Year marks a time of thinking about how the past year went and thinking about what the New Year holds.  Many people will develop resolutions or goals to strive towards in the year ahead . . . lose some weight, save money, stop nail biting, be nicer to a family member, be happier.  Well-intentioned people set these goals and often find by the end of the year (or even by the end of January!), that little or no progress has been made.  How come?  These goals are too big and too vague.  So what’s the best way to see results?  Make your goal specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.  Or, in other words, SMART.  SMART goal setting is easy if you know how to do it.

For example, let’s say I want to be nicer to my mother.  How am I going to do this?  What does being nice to my mother look like?  How am I going to know when I have achieved this goal?  Can this goal really be reached?  Is the goal a realistic one: can I really be nice to my mother?  How long will it take to achieve it?

I decide that being nice to my mother will look like me giving her a compliment every time I speak with her for one month.  One compliment seems reasonable.  However, since this is something new I may not remember to do it, especially when I’m having a bad day.  So I will place post-it notes around my home and reminders in my calendar.  I will track my progress in my journal and at the end of the month see how I did.  Giving my mother compliments will make her feel good and I will feel good for making her feel good.  Hopefully by the end of the month this new behaviour will become natural and I won’t have to rely on the reminders anymore.  And maybe I will like being nice to my mother so much that I set another goal around being nice to her.

For a new mom, a SMART goal for the next week might be to take one 15-minute break a day from being with your kids and have a cup of tea (rather, for example, setting a goal to go out for a night on the town with your girlfriends).

Be kind to yourselves,

–Rosemary