PPPSS News & Events

Holiday Wellness

holiday-candy-canes

Article by Hollie Hall,  Pacific Post Partum Support Society phone counsellor and group facilitator

 

This time of year can bring with it a whole mixed bag of emotions for new parents. Usually our call volume here at PPPSS goes up with the darker days. For many of us the negative feelings can be very hard to cope with. I’ve been asked to contribute to our blog by writing about some triggers and self-care ideas. This is a pretty easy job for me as I remember this time of year to be particularly hard when my girls were very young.

Triggers:

Christmas ads are all around us. On the television, magazines and even YouTube. They usually have the picture perfect scene: Mom and Dad look amazing, babies and children are well behaved, the turkey dinner is scrumptious with all the trimmings and everyone is getting along. No chaos. In the real world many of us find a great deal of pressure to buy the best toys and gifts for the family and to create a perfect family holiday. For me, this was a big trigger and tied into wanting to be a perfect mom to my girls and to keep everyone happy.  My kitchen wasn’t big enough to fit three adults, let alone be able to cook a full turkey dinner but I wanted to live up to the standards set by those picture perfect holiday cards.  I had two very well behaved children, thankfully. However, my anxiety was keeping me from feeling relaxed especially during the holiday season. Loss plays a big role as well. We are often missing our families that are not near us or the loved ones who have passed on. Whether it be hosting a party, dinner or even trying to fit into the “perfect” party dress, feelings of sadness, anxiety, frustration and even anger can arise. That is why self-care is especially important over the holidays. A short list of self-care ideas may help you to keep things in perspective over the next weeks.

Self-Care:

Pace yourself

Lower expectation (of yourself and others)

If you are shopping for gifts, try little bits at a time and maybe start earlier rather than later

Try to get enough sleep and exercise, if sleep is an issue, think of lying down and resting as a good rejuvenation.

Cherish your body…try to celebrate the changes. You grew your baby, what an amazing feat!

Don’t beat yourself up for over having one too many treats. This is a time to enjoy food.

Allow yourself to grieve the loss of a loved one or even the loss of your old self.

Most of all, congratulate yourself on the wonderful job you did having your baby and watching your little one grow. This is because of you.

Seek out support if you need to talk to someone. This could be a good friend or any one of us at PPPSS.

These are just a few self-care ideas that may help during the holidays, however, they can be used at any time of the year.

On behalf of all us here at PPPSS, I would like to wish you all the best of the holiday season.

Remember to take good care of yourselves!

The Mourning Moon

By Niklas Gunsberg

Image by Niklas Gunsberg

Article by Andrea Paterson

There are those who celebrate the “mourning moon,” the last full moon before the Winter Solstice. This year’s Mourning Moon just passed and its symbolism struck a chord. It is the last point of brightness in the descending dark. As the longest night of the year approaches it is a chance to let go of the things that no longer serve you so that you can move into the blackness of solstice with an unburdened heart and step into the New Year refreshed. The words Mourning Moon give me goosebumps. There is something so evocative–something that brings to mind honeymoons and babymoons and turns them on their heads. Because don’t all of our honeymoon phases come with a mourning moon too? At the moments where we are celebrating a shift into a new phase of our lives we are also called upon to mourn what we leave behind and wash away the trappings of our old worlds, our old selves. The honeymoon and the mourning moon are not separate things, but two sides of the same coin. But we have forgotten the mourning moon. We expect people to revel in the joy of a new adventure but don’t provide space to let them mourn what they will have to abandon, sacrifice, or set aside in order to make that adventure possible.

When I had a baby I was told to expect earth shattering changes–all of which would bring untold joy. Birthing and motherhood are always celebrations of new life, they embrace the notion of the honeymoon with its accompanying sense of wonder, idealized love, and euphoric happiness. But I needed the funeral. I needed the black crepe and the veils and the wailing to ferry away the ghost of my pre-baby self. I needed the Mourning Moon so badly after the birth of my son, and it shocks me that there was no one there to provide it, to hold space for it.  The new mother needs comfort, yes, and she needs encouragement and hope but she also needs a mortician who will help prepare the shell of her old self for burial. This is necessary: to wash the soul of the Un-Mother and lay her to rest, to acknowledge her passing, to weep for her and stroke her hair and tell her that she was loved and then to let her go.

Because we can’t parent if we are holding on to a version of ourselves that is at odds with our new reality as mothers and fathers. We can’t grow into our new role as parents if we are clinging to a life that we no longer inhabit. Postpartum depression creeps into the places where we are resistant to change and where flexibility comes hardest. In the places of rigidity anxieties take root and rob us of the possibility for happiness. We need, all of us, that last glow of the Mourning Moon in which to strip down to what is essential.

In parenthood, like all major life changes, we are asked to become something entirely new. I am a mother now whereas I wasn’t one four years ago. That doesn’t mean that aspects of my pre-mother self don’t survive, but they survive in a new form. Had I been given permission to mourn the things I lost, either forever or temporarily, I may have had a very different postpartum experience. Instead I bought into the message that I could have it all–I could maintain my old self and tack on this Mother-Self. Nothing would truly have to change. The container of my life would remain the same shape and I would somehow cram a baby into it. But it didn’t work that way. A baby didn’t fit in the contours of my life and the more I tried to make it fit the more battered I became. Only through allowing my life to dissolve and reform around me could I carve out a comfortable space for the new human being I brought into the world.

And things DID change. Boy did they change. I couldn’t have it all, and much was sacrificed. And much was gained. I don’t want to forget that. And that’s my point: the two sides of the coin. There is the Babymoon or the Honeymoon with all its showering of gifts both literal and figurative and there is the Mourning Moon where things are laid to rest, put away, let go.  As the Winter Solstice approaches it feels good to meditate on the Mourning Moon and hold space for its magic. My joy and my sorrow are one. There is not one without the other. How I wish I had known that a long time ago on the day I became a mother.

Our Most Heartfelt Thanks!

On November 14 The Good Mother Project hosted a spectacular photography fundraiser at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Seventy-one moms, accompanied by their children, had portraits taken by volunteer photographers. The project raised $3238 for Pacific Post Partum Support Society. You can see an article about the event in the Vancouver Courier. 

Sheila Duffy, Director of Pacific Post Partum Support Society shares this message:

We are so grateful for the support and photo shoot fundraiser by The Good Mother Project. I was deeply moved to see so many moms coming out to have their pictures taken and to give back to all the moms who struggle with this debilitating condition. There is a huge stigma around postpartum depression and anxiety which acts as a barrier to moms and families who need help and support. It is highly treatable but often moms are very isolated and suffer alone.

This project brings those stories out of the darkness in a way that is truly a beautiful and lovely way to honour all mothers! We appreciate all the support we received and continue to receive from the Good Mother Project. For anyone who wants to know more or who wants to make a donation, please see our website at www.postpartum.org. If you or someone you know needs support because they are dealing with PPD/A or just are having a bad day, (we all do!) please call our support line at 604-255-7999 or toll free support 1-855-255-7999.

Motherhood with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

A new mom shares her story of becoming a mother while battling the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Having an underlying mental health challenge can make pregnancy and the postpartum period even more overwhelming. This mother talks about acknowledging her challenges and finding the appropriate help before even bringing her baby home. Preventive measures can go a long way to making the postpartum experience less stressful.

 

Article by Natalie

 

OCD.  Those three letters have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Throughout my life Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has risen up to take my happiness and, most of all, my hopes and dreams.  I lost the ability to live in the moment and the simple things in life became giant hurdles.  I spent hours, which turned into years, in endless compulsions.  My mind was in a loop of  “what ifs?” Could I hurt someone, would the food I cooked poison my husband, if I have a cold could it infect someone who is immune compromised and cause them to die, if I don’t wash my hands right I will transfer germs, what if I hurt my baby?…all this prevented me from living the life I wanted.  I was a shell of myself.  I couldn’t leave the house let alone hold down a job.  My marriage was suffering and I knew I had to make a change.  I ended up at my doctor’s office after a three day panic ridden state.  It eventually lead me to therapy.  I saw amazing psychologists at North Shore Stress & Anxiety Clinic.  With the help of medication and specialized therapy I was able to function and enjoy life again.

 

The biggest dream I had was to become a mother.  After denying myself that for many years I realized that talking to my doctor about the risks of being medicated during pregnancy was worth a try.  To my surprise my doctor said many women stayed medicated during pregnancy and referred me to the reproductive mental health program.  I saw a great psychiatrist who explained the risks of staying medicated and I decided that staying mentally healthy during pregnancy was essential and that meant medication.  I knew I had to use the tools I was taught during my therapy at North Shore Stress & Anxiety Clinic, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure and response prevention to challenge the thoughts and behaviours that would flood my mind.  When I found out I was pregnant I was beyond happy as well as terrified.  It was real, this was happening, f@&k you OCD!

 

I was lucky throughout my pregnancy, my OCD symptoms only increased a little.  I have been able to use the tools I acquired through therapy to challenge the thoughts and prevent compulsive behaviour.   I knew the big test would be bringing baby home.  I have been honest with my husband about what to look out for.  If I started avoiding our son or obsessively preparing his formula that would be a red flag that OCD was winning.  I have many many intrusions throughout the day and it’s a constant battle.  I promise myself that I will get help if or when the battle becomes too much.  Right now, at ten weeks postpartum, I’m doing ok.

 

My advice to any soon to be mom, with underlying mental health issues or without, is to be prepared in advance.  Have a plan, seek help, let the shame go.  You deserve to be the healthiest you possible.  If that means medications, there are safe options.  If it means therapy seek out a counsellor you feel comfortable with. Struggling with mental health doesn’t mean you can’t pursue your dreams!

Preparing for Motherhood After PPD/A Part 2

A few months ago Kelley Allen shared reflections from the first trimester of her pregnancy with her second child. After suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of her daughter, Kelley is sharing her experience and tactics as she moves through her second journey towards motherhood.

Article by Kelley Allen

Writing about the darkness of winter comes at a very good time for me personally, as I have noticed a shift in my mood within the past few weeks. Less sunlight and daytime hours seems to be registering in my mind as countless hours inside the house with a 3½ year old with unlimited energy, while also being five months pregnant. I can feel my patience running thin and I can feel myself slowing down. During these times, I think back to the darkest days of my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and try to remember what helped me get through. Last week I found my “PPD journal” and read through it. Many things came back to me, a lot of them quite dark and hard to read but also quite a few positive and lovely things. Most notably, the amount of support I had. My husband. My friends and family, who were just incredible. Making a point to set aside time for myself, for walks, hot baths, writing, having coffee with friends, etc. These small efforts and periods of time to take care of myself were a priority during that time, and I see that I need to continue to make them a priority for myself again as I prepare to have a second child.

I am trying to shed a different light on the changing of the seasons this year. This is a time of preparation, to get things ready for myself and for my family. The shorter days do mean more time inside, but I can spend it organizing, getting a nursery ready, “nesting”. I am making a huge effort to stay connected with my friends and activities, and also making sure that my daughter is occupied with her activities as well. Once the baby comes, we are going to try to keep our daughter’s routine as much the same as possible. This Fall and Winter will be a great chance to put this into practice.

 
The most wonderful thing that came out of the darkness of my PPD/A was my daughter. Our relationship. She is a strong-willed but also very sensitive little girl and we are very close. She may not have known it at the time, but she watched her mother fight like hell to survive. She watched her father be the incredible man he is. She watched our little family come together and get through something awful. And this period of darkness that is coming with the changing of the seasons gives us a chance to come together again and spend time strengthening our bond so that, if by chance, PPD/A descends upon us again, we all know that we can get through it together.