PPPSS News & Events

In the Bleak Midwinter

Image copyright www.andreapaterson.com

Article by Andrea Paterson

We have come to the middle of January and if there is ever a time of year when the environment can contribute to low mood, lethargy, and depression, this is it. It feels like the grey days will never end. There aren’t any signs of spring yet. The frozen ground is hard and painful under your feet. The scum of road salt over everything feels like a disease that is mirrored by chapped hands and lips. Sometimes the winter is not kind and it can be difficult to lift yourself out of a dark place when the earth itself feels so heavy and solemn.

There’s a word that keeps cropping up in my social media feeds these days, and it may provide a key to coming through the deepest parts of winter. The Danish  art of “Hygge” (pronounced Hooga), is a process through which people aim to be cozy, create feelings of physical warmth, and surround themselves with great people in order to cultivate a warm atmosphere. You can read more about it here. Hygge is really a socially constructed system of self care the the Danish people use to improve their lives and it’s something new parents could incorporate into their days, especially in the winter months.

Having a newborn baby is actually quite conducive to Hygge, because babies force us to slow down, appreciate small moments, and get your cuddle on. There is nothing warmer or cozier than snuggling with a sleeping baby. Yeah, I know that’s a bit idealistic and babies are not always snuggly. Sometimes they scream and have colic and refuse to sleep and fuss because they’re teething. But they also provide us with great opportunities (and the social license) to stay in your pyjamas all day and spend hours rocking lazily in a rocking chair with a ten pound hot water bottle sleeping peacefully on your chest.

When the winter doldrums are really getting you down and you’re exhausted from the marathon of parenting, it might be helpful to ask yourself: “How can I bring warmth into this moment?” Maybe you’re stuck at home with an infant and a toddler who has the flu. This is not a happy scene, but can you bring just a tiny spark of Hygge to your day? Could you wrap everyone up in blankets and watch a movie? Could you put a log on the fire and read stories? Would a hot chocolate with marshmallows perk everyone up a bit? Maybe you could invite another parent over in the evening once the kids are in bed to keep you company and work on a craft project. It doesn’t need to be anything big, and as always, self-care shouldn’t be just another task that you have to complete. Which is why I like the idea of Hygge since it is more of a philosophy than a particular list of things that you should do.

To all the parents out there in this bleak midwinter, I see you. I know that you’re inside more than you would like. I know that you’re dreaming of an escape to Hawaii and envying all of your child-free friends who are taking off on tropical holidays. It’s hard not to despair and feel that life will always be like this–cold, difficult, and isolating. But just as winter always gives way to spring, so will this postpartum period give way to more ease. If it speaks to you, let the idea of Hygge rattle against your winter bones. Put on your most comfortable yoga pants, cuddle your baby on your lap, and read her a novel that you’ve been dying to delve into. She’ll be warm and comfortable, and you’ll get to read something that isn’t Goodnight Moon.

In these days of early sunsets, spit up, and endless laundry I wish you small moments of warmth. It’s in those moments that family is built and you give your children the gift of learning how to care for themselves and the ones they love.

And if a warm and kind listener is what you crave you can always call a PPPSS counselor who can help you access the acts of self care that will serve you best. Call 604-255-7999 in the lower mainland or  toll free 855-255-7999 to speak to a counselor.

Finding Reasons to Celebrate

Image copyright www.andreapaterson.com

Article by Andrea Paterson

Now that most of the holiday festivities are over, and we are entering the dreary core of winter, there can be a tendency for mood and energy to take a nose dive. There doesn’t seem to be anything to celebrate, and if you happen to be stuck inside with a fussy baby, staring out at the relentless West Coast rain, or the icy sidewalks, or the three feet of snow outside your door, you might begin to feel trapped and anxious.

My first baby was born in February, and looking back on it I believe the timing had something to do with my postpartum depression. In the winter it can feel extra daunting to leave the house–it involves layers of clothes for you and the baby, rain covers for strollers or carriers, anxiety about how you’re going to feed your child while you’re both bundled up in coats and hats, and worry about whether or not the baby is warm enough, can breathe under all the clothes, or is in some way uncomfortable. Now with my second baby reaching the 6 month milestone I’m facing winter with an infant again, and while I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence, I still find myself throwing in the towel and choosing to stay indoors regularly. The logistics of leaving the house quickly become overwhelming, and while I feel bad for my cooped up five  year old, some days I just don’t have the energy to slog to the muddy park with two kids. My anxiety rears its ugly head and we stay home.

The difference between my first winter with an infant and this second one is that this time I’m not berating myself for hunkering down with a cup of tea and letting my older child watch a bit of extra Paw Patrol. I’m not feeding myself the message that I’m a bad mom because my kid didn’t get a bike ride or a trip to park. He gets outside at preschool, he has hockey to go to twice a week, and his dad takes him out on the weekends. He’s not totally lacking for exercise or stimulation. On the darkest and rainiest of days, no one will die if we all stay inside. The winter is tough, and I’ve come to understand that a bit of extra self care is required to survive it. Keeping expectations for outings low can be a form of self care, but sometimes its also nice to find excuses to celebrate (indoors!).

To that end I have discovered an obscure day of observance called National Bubble Bath Day. The entire point is to go out of your way to have a bubble bath. It was celebrated on January 8, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t celebrate late.  It’s silly, it’s random, but it’s achievable, and that can make for the best kinds of self care. These small acts of self care accrue, and participating in something vaguely ridiculous, like National Bubble Bath Day, just might have the power to lift your spirits. In these small gestures and movements towards caring for ourselves we, as parents who are struggling, maybe even floundering, can come back to ourselves slowly, and relearn what it is to find pleasure in our lives. Postpartum mood disorders can be slowly eroded by the tiniest acts of self care. Throw enough tiny efforts at the wall of PPD/A and it will eventually crumble, I promise you that. It doesn’t take grand gestures. Sometimes what it takes is a bubble bath today, and an uninterrupted tea tomorrow, and maybe a whole hour to yourself next week, and a 15 minute moment of quiet in the midst of a chaotic weekend. All of these small things matter, and are at the core of what it means to recover. You will find yourself again in the seemingly insignificant acts of self care and you will learn how to find balance.

So perhaps, on National Bubble Bath Day, you can arrange to have 30 minutes to luxuriate in the tub. Or maybe you can have a bubble bath with your child if that’s something you’d find fun. It isn’t much, but it might just create a miniature oasis in the desert of early parenthood. A bubble bath could create the momentum you need to begin caring for yourself in more profound ways. It’s a place to start. If you’re struggling, if you’re exhausted, if your mood is dark and you feel as frozen as the winter ground outside, go ahead and hop in the bath with your favourite book and a heap of bubbles and when it’s over check in with yourself, see if it  made even a small difference. And if it did, do it again next week–find a tiny, silly, achievable reason to celebrate and soak your weary bones it in. Let yourself be warmed. And come home to yourself.

 

New Year, New Mother

Article by Andrea Paterson

Image copyright www.andreapaterson.com 2016

As the clanging of pots and pans subsided and the final fireworks turned to smoke, so many of us went to bed in the early hours of January 1 with a resolution for the new year gripped in our hearts like a talisman against the dark. For those with new babies the resolutions might go something like this: I resolve to be a better mother, I resolve not to yell at my children, I resolve to make my own baby food, I resolve to baby wear until my child is two, I resolve to limit screen time…the list might go on. Our resolutions as new mothers tend to focus on our perceived shortcomings–we want to fix what we see as wrong about ourselves as mothers, we want to change the things that are not good enough. But these high expectations can be a confounding factor in the development of postpartum mood disorders. The more expectations we set for ourselves, and the more we inevitably fail to reach those lofty goals, the  more likely we are to suffer from a difficult adjustment to parenthood. Making a successful transition after a baby can be helped along by keeping expectations simple (I will feed and nurture my baby to the best of my ability) and being sure to devote energy to self care.

This New Year I challenge you to investigate you resolutions. Are you making resolutions that reinforce your negative self-talk and feed the story that you are not good enough? Are you aiming for perfection when it could be that you are already pushing yourself to your limit? Maybe this year you could resolve to see yourself in a more flattering light. (I resolve to believe that I am a good enough mother, I resolve to do one kind thing for myself every day, I resolve to speak to myself as if I am my own best friend). Or perhaps you could forgo resolutions altogether and, instead, focus on what you have achieved organically through the past year. Maybe you carried a baby, gave birth, gave yourself space and time for physical recovery after your delivery, and have survived countless sleepless nights since nurturing that new child.

When you’re in a dark place and emotionally fragile it can be useful to make small and manageable self care goals. The sweeping change that is encouraged through the tradition of New Year’s resolutions may not be a good fit for you right now. There will be time for big changes down the road, when you have reached a place of greater stability and confidence. With a new baby in your arms, small and simple wins the day.

It may also be that the ruckus of the holidays has taken a toll on you, especially if you have a very young infant. You may find yourself more exhausted and challenged as the new year unfolds. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that help is always a phone call away. PPPSS counselors are happy to talk to you whenever you need them, and processing the stresses and upsets that arise from the holiday season can be a really good reason to call in and get a bit of extra support.

As we all move into 2017 walk lightly, be gentle. The year isn’t the only thing newly born.

PPPSS Counselors are available at 604-255-7999. If your call isn’t answered immediately, please leave a message and someone will get back to you.

For Florence

 

Article by Amanda Ho

Dear Florence,

If I could have met you, I would have first given you a huge hug and then told you it’s ok. I know how you feel. I’ve been there. And while I can’t give you this message now, I send it out to all others who might be walking a similar path, in the hope that they will feel less alone:

I’ve felt like locking myself in my room and curling up in my bed and blocking any sounds from coming in. Pretending I’m just not here.

I’ve felt like running away because “I just can’t do this”. My family would be better off without me.

I’ve felt like having a baby was a big mistake and what was I thinking? And can’t I just go back to my old life?

I’ve felt like I’ve lost who I was and I don’t know who I am anymore. And furthermore, who is this little being that I’m holding but just feel numb towards? I’ve felt the guilt of not being blissful about having a new baby in my life. My baby. The moms in the magazines…they’re all so happy, bonding with their babies, crying happy loving tears while I only have tears of sadness, emptiness and loneliness.

I’ve felt anxious about being left alone with this alien creature that has taken over my life and left me with no sense of structure or control. I feel so out of control when previously my life was structured and I was in control. I knew what to expect. Now everything is unpredictable and that’s anxiety provoking.

I’ve felt the emptiness and loneliness that no one can understand unless they’ve gone through this.

I’ve felt guilty for the intrusive scary thoughts that go through my mind. Harming myself or baby.

I’ve felt like I am no longer “me”. The happy, goal driven, fun person I used to be is gone. That life is gone. And I want it back. Take this baby and give me my old  life back.

I’ve been there. I know.

And that dark dark tunnel is so lonely and scary and hopeless feeling.  There was a knot and heaviness in my heart, a sad sad heaviness.

But there is light. I promise you with all my heart there is light.

Just come out of the tunnel and see all the love the world has for you. And see that it is not your fault.

We can get through this together.

Patience and love and support and acceptance is all you need. You have it.

I promise you these feeling are only temporary and, again, they’re not your fault. Soon there will be a day that you transform like a beautiful metamorphosis into the woman you’re meant to be. You’ll grieve your old self, but you’ll be so much more. You’ll be stronger, more gentle with yourself, and, most of all, I promise you’ll love your baby and your new life.

You just can’t see it yet. But I promise you, it does get better.

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Florence Leung. Photo provided by her family.

So many of of us whose lives have been touched by postpartum challenges are mourning the passing of Florence Leung. Her story runs parallel to that of every woman who has woken up to the reality of motherhood and felt unable to cope. Sometimes the battle is lost and for those who have walked in Florence’s shoes, and for those who have watched their loved ones suffer, her passing is a solemn reminder that motherhood can be a dark road. It’s also a reminder to all of us left reeling that we need to hold each other up and walk side-by-side as we navigate motherhood’s difficult spaces. Pacific Post Partum Support Society has heard from many of you who want to do something concrete to help. Members of Florence’s family have asked us to create a fund in her memory. Donations will help to assure that services are available to mothers and families who need support after the birth of a baby. Our deepest condolences go out to Florence’s family and friends at this time. 

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Grieving the Loss of Florence Leung

florence-leung
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we share the news of Florence Leung’s death. Many will have heard that the missing New Westminster mother was found, after an extensive search, in the water off of Bowen Island.  Reports say that Florence was suffering from postpartum depression and leaves behind a husband and 2.5 month old son.

Pacific Post Partum Support Society would like to extend their deepest sympathy to Florence’s family at this time. We are holding Florence and all of her family and friends in our hearts today, and sharing your grief. We hope that you can feel our collective thoughts and the light of the candles that were held high to guide Florence home. Your community stands with you now, as you move through your loss.

 

For those currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, we know that this event may be causing fear, worry, and anxiety. If you need help working through your feelings at this time please don’t hesitate to call the PPPSS support line at 604-255-7999 in the Vancouver area or toll free 855-255-7999.

Please remember that these sorts of tragic outcomes are extremely rare. In the aftermath of this devastating news there are some things you can do while processing: 

Reach out for help. Talk to your family and friends, or call a support worker at PPPSS. If your own postpartum symptoms are being triggered or worsened don’t hesitate to call your doctor, counselor, or other health care professionals. 

Make some space for your grief and be gentle with yourself in the coming days. You may find that the emotional impact temporarily affects your mood or causes depression and anxiety symptoms to worsen. Acknowledge that you are working through a very triggering event and know that any setbacks are only temporary. 

Take a media fast if you need to. Sometimes the best thing to do is get off the internet and take a break from the news. You may consider unplugging for a few days until you can get your bearings again. This can be an excellent form of self care during challenging times. 

Ramp up your self-care practice. Tragedy takes a toll on the mind and body, so it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to your self care. What might you do to calm yourself and re-center? It might be a good time for quiet, meditative activities–knitting, art, a bike ride, a long walk, a bath. 

Find comfort in small rituals. Many people are helped by performing small rituals that acknowledge and release grief. Use whatever ritual fits into your life whether that’s meditation, prayer, writing, art therapy, or gathering with supportive friends and family. 

Take care of yourself in the coming days and reach out for help wherever you need it.