Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Arrivederci


my firstborn

Greetings, friends!  I can't believe my PPD baby is about to turn six and that I've been writing this blog for five+ years now!  It's been a wonderful journey...
  • The catharsis of both writing and knowing that others were out there reading and walking the journey with me.
  • The ability to utilize this site to get resources to people who need them.
  • Knowing that moms felt less isolated and alone when they read my raw and honest account of the ups and many, many downs of a long recovery process.
  • The joy and reassurance of my readers that I was not alone as I embarked upon a second pregnancy and postpartum experience.
  • The amazing community of "virtual" friends, who feel VERY real, I have gained via social media, all because of those first published posts.
  • The path that God provided me by allowing a blog to turn into so much more...a blog, Twitter, Facebook page and groups, and on and on...which allowed me to shift into a paid position in my church focused on what else...?  Social Media!
There is much to be thankful for.  And while this is not a goodbye at all, I felt I owed you a bit of an apology for being absent so long and so often of late, as well as a warning that I won't be posting here regularly any longer.  I will continue accept and publish appropriate guest posts, as I want to always be a safe place for women to share their stories privately or publicly.  But, I have found that the best way for me to do the work I am called to do is to simply be available.  Being available means that this blog will become more of a resource website now.  The five years of posts are easily searchable through the search box or via the labels related to the subject matter of the posts.  I am confident that those in need can either sift through my posts to find the best fit for their situation or that reach out in other ways.

Here are just a few of the places you can find me:
Email me at atlantamom930 (at) gmail.com

Arrivederci: From Italian arrivederci, from a (to) with rivederci (we see each other again), from the infinitive rivedersi (to see each other or meet again), from ri- with the infinitive vedersi (to see oneself), from vedere (to see) with si (self). 

From the very bottom of my heart...thank you, thank you, thank each and every one of you.

See you again,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Postpartum Depression Decades Ago

Earlier this year, a woman with an adult son reached out to me after having found this blog a few years prior and occasionally commenting from the perspective of a woman born in the 1950's.  I was elated to hear from someone who was willing to discuss their experience so many years later, particularly as B. brings the perspective of a different generation, in fact that of my own parents.  As we know, parenting methods and medical practices were much different in the 1970's than they are today.  Many things have changed in 30+ years, some for the better and some, like mothers generally shifting from supporting one another to judging each other, for the worse.  Thank you to B. for taking the time, decades later, to care enough about other moms to write the following letter.


I survived PPD in the late 70's after the birth of my son.  I was hospitalized for a few months when the depression became so severe I was suicidal. I was able to get well with ECT and returned to my old self when my son was nine months old. My illness was not discussed in my family openly and I had no further children. I returned to work and had a very successful career and hope to retire soon.  The memory of my experience is still painful.  I have huge admiration for the courage and perseverance of young women, like yourself, who can be open about their experience with PPD and even have more children.  We've come a long way in 30+ years and even further since our grandmothers were young mothers.  As an example, I recently found a book titled, “Expectant Motherhood” by Nicholson J. Eastman, M.D.  It was originally published in 1940, updated in 1947 and lastly in 1957.  Following is the only information it has on postpartum depression:

“The Baby Blues.” – There are sound scientific grounds for believing that the nervous system after delivery is more sensitive than at other times.  Even if this were not so, it would be surprising if this long-anticipated event of childbirth, so epoch-making to the young woman, so far-reaching in its ramifications, did not occasionally evoke profound emotional responses.  Most common among such reactions, perhaps, is what is colloquially called the “Baby Blues.”  About the time that everything is going perfectly in the puerperium, with mother and baby both flourishing and everybody happy, the mother, for no accountable reason, bursts into a good, long cry.  Nothing can stop her; persuasion is futile; she simply continues to sob and weep for a good half hour.  When the episode is over, she can offer no explanation, “It just came over me, “ she says.  Such reactions rarely recur and following them the mother usually feels much better.  In view of all that has taken place during the past nine months, it requires no psychiatrist to interpret episodes of this kind, but simply an understanding heart.” [bold added].

How difficult it must have been to have PPD considered rare and requiring nothing but an understanding heart!   Today it is recognized as a risk of childbirth and hopefully discussed with mothers-to-be and their families.  There are more treatment options and support available while healing and getting back to “normal”.  I would encourage mothers and daughters to share not only the best parts of pregnancy and childbirth, but also if they had PPD, to discuss it openly and honestly and take steps to deal with it if it should occur.  We are not “bad” mothers, but mothers with an illness that can be cured.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two Years and Climbing (Higher)

Today we welcome guest Amber Rhea back to Beyond Postpartum.  She recently celebrated her son's second birthday and is joining us to reflect on her postpartum journey.


Recently, I took a step out of my comfort zone and did something I never would have imagined myself doing – I joined other Atlanta-area PMAD survivors and climbed Stone Mountain as part of Climb Out of the Darkness. On one hand, the experience was sweaty and unpleasant (to say I’m not the outdoorsy type is putting things mildly) – but it was also immensely satisfying to be with a group of moms and supporters who get it. I climbed a bit more than half of the way up the mountain before realizing I had hit my limit for the day, and came back down, feeling tired, a bit yucky, but most of all, proud. And, always one to stretch a metaphor to its limit, I saw that this was a perfect encapsulation of my experience as a PMAD survivor.

The metaphor of “climbing out” is obvious enough. But what about the fact that I didn’t go all the way to the top? I am my own worst critic, and it would be easy for me to see this as failure. But not only is that not true, it’s simplistic. My decision to stop climbing and go back down did not represent a descent back into the darkness of PPD – rather, it was a shining example of me listening to my body, honoring my limits, checking my expectations, and taking pride in my accomplishments. This has been the greatest lesson I have taken from my experience with severe postpartum depression and anxiety.

My son turned two years old a few short weeks ago. As I reflect back on the past two years, I see this lesson again and again. My therapist once told me, “You can’t compare yourself to others. You can only compare yourself to yourself.” Throughout a tumultuous time this summer, of buying a new house, moving, and renting our old house, I have repeatedly come back to her words. I marvel at how well I have handled these upheavals. A year ago, and certainly two years ago, I could not have comprehended undertaking something as massive as a move with my mental health intact. There have been setbacks along the way, as the stress of the transition has started to wear on me, and there have been a few days when I’ve forgotten to take my medication and felt the effects. But as I take the time to reflect on my therapist’s words, and with the perspective of two years, I see that the setbacks are temporary, rather than an existence I’m doomed to live forever, as I once believed.

I also know that I have a toolkit full of tools I can use when setbacks arise. Simply having perspective is a big part of this toolkit – I can, as my therapist has said, “look at the evidence.” I can see clearly that I have been through hell and back. I have lived through it, and if I can survive that, I can survive anything. I know that I can call my therapist or psychiatrist if I feel I need a change in coping techniques or medication. I know the importance of being well balanced and prioritizing my own needs. And I now have the courage to put my energy where it will be most useful, and let go of things that are not helping.

If there is one gift I could give a new mom suffering from a PMAD, it would be this perspective. Two years ago, I couldn’t see past the next minute, and I was sure I was doomed to be mired in this hellish reality forever.

I have come out the other side. But what I have also learned is, I am still climbing. You don’t wake up one day completely released from the experience of living through a PMAD. It changes you forever; it has certainly changed me. And although I would not wish a PMAD on my worst enemy, I can say with no hyperbole that it has changed me 100% for the better. I am more patient, with myself and with others. I communicate better. I am more flexible and willing to make changes when something isn’t working. I work hard to meet the needs of my body, mind, and soul, and acknowledge that those needs change. I see that there are many paths to wellness. I have become very, very good at tuning out the voices that tell me I’m doing things wrong – because all that matters is that I’m doing what’s best for my family and my situation.

May Day, the day of my son’s birth, traditionally has been a holiday celebrating life, growth, and rebirth. For me, it will always be a time to reflect on the day my life changed forever – and to acknowledge that I am always, always, still climbing.


Amber Rhea wears many hats: full-time grad student, working part-time and proudly mothering an energetic little boy who was born in May 2011. She is a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety and feels strongly about raising awareness of these conditions and increasing support for moms in the Atlanta area.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Support Looks Like

We write a lot about support here.  About asking for help, about the benefits of peer and professional support, and about self-care.  Oftentimes, the help we need comes in the form of a therapist, a night nurse, a physician, or a childcare provider.  Sometimes the help is offered through helpful hands- cooking, cleaning, baby-rocking, and running errands.  For PPD moms, it is most definitely found in friends and family who don't judge and who listen and offer a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold during those awful anxiety-ridden, dark days.

There is another kind of help, though.  The kind of quiet, subtle help that is almost anonymous.  The kind of help that clearly understands and supports.  The kind of help that is in it for the long haul.  Available, but not obvious.  The kind of help that tells you someone has been paying close attention and looking for gaps or opportunities in the proverbial "village" it takes to raise a child, particularly in the midst of or following a perinatal mood disorder.

When we had our first son, L1, in those early weeks, before I knew that what I was experiencing wasn't a typical and normal new mom reality, we received a box of organic, local produce that was so large it almost filled our refrigerator.  A thoughtful and caring note accompanied it.  While I still prefer natural and organic healthy foods, back in 2007 I was a bit of a fanatic about the whole thing, particularly while pregnant and breastfeeding.  A few months later, after having been diagnosed and beginning treatment for PPD/PPA, we went to visit the givers of those fruit and veggies.  Our baby, not a great sleeper anyway, didn't sleep well while we were there and neither did I, thanks to the anxiety that still riddled me.  The second night in NY, I was excruciatingly tired from traveling, being depressed, and life in general.  One morning, though, I awoke to discover it was almost 10am.  I had last been up around 5am.  I couldn't believe it!  There was no way little L1 had actually given me a 5 hour stretch.  And he hadn't.  I looked in his pack n' play, to discover it empty, and walked upstairs to see who had "stolen" the baby. ;-)  There he was, happy as a clam in the bouncy seat talking to his godmother.  He had been up for a couple of hours, but she had quietly brought him up and taken care of things so I could rest.  Over the years, lots of thoughtful gifts from the Godfamily arrived at unexpected times (not usually on the traditional gift-giving occasions like birthdays or Christmas).  A cool self-propelled wooden bike.  A personalized step-stool.  One of those books that you an record yourself reading- and everyone in the whole family had participated, including L1's beloved friend...their dog.

And lots of visits occurred.  Us to them and them to us.  North to South and South to North.  Each time, everyone was happy just to be together and had just as much fun sitting around a fire-pit in the backyard or sleeping on the couch as going into NYC or visiting the Georgia Aquarium.  It wasn't stressful or pressured.  It just was.  The visits strengthened the bond and kept the ties across the miles for the nearly 8 years we lived apart.

And when we were together there wasn't a lot of talk about PPD, or "my anxiety"- something that people in my life often mention and blame my behaviors and preferences on.  There wasn't a stigma or judgment around what was going on or had happened with the rough entry into motherhood.  The steady, quiet support was just there.

And over the years, several memorable things happened.  A few years ago, I participated in the Strong Start Campaign for Postpartum Progress.  I wrote about that here.  And then I wrote about what Postpartum Progress meant to me here.  And few days later, one afternoon, I brought the kids inside from the backyard where we'd been playing for a few hours and glanced at my computer.  I had left with only a few emails in my inbox and all of a sudden there were many more.  I checked to see what had occurred in such a short period and realized that Twitter was bustling with excitement because someone had donated a large contribution to Postpartum Progress in my honor.  I almost fainted with gratitude at first and then I wrote this post at postpartumprogress.com in response.

I continue to be humbled by the undeserved and unfailing friendship turned family of this relationship.  The gestures and generosity of the years are too many to write about here.

A few weeks ago, when I joined Climb Out of the Darkness, I sent an email about it to my closest friends and family.  People who had been integral in my journey out of PPD after my first son and in working to minimize my risk during my second pregnancy and postpartum period.  I expected that a few folks who like me, really felt strongly about families and healthcare providers being better educated about PMADs, might donate.  I thought a few people who lived in the Atlanta area, and liked the outdoors, including the Godfamily (who blessedly moved here a year and a half ago), might hike alongside me.

I was completely overwhelmed by the response to the Climb- 20 donations and seven fellow Climbers at Stone Mountain- very unexpected indeed.  Thank you to everyone who donated, supported, and prayed for those involved in this fundraiser event!!!

What I didn't anticipate at all, however, was that since the Kellys couldn't be here in Atlanta to join me last Friday for my Climb, not only would they make a financial contribution...they created a Climb all on their own at the same time in Hawaii!  That afternoon (morning there), I got a text from M. with a photo of 4 members of the family giving a proud thumbs up as they departed for their Climb at The Kings Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Wow!  This is the quiet, humble, and absolutely unique blessing that their special kind of support provides.

Apropos warning for PPD Climb.

M and K on the rocky and uphill Climb.

The Kelly girls at the top.

Love and support come in all kinds of packages.  I am so blessed by the way God placed our families firmly and squarely into each other's lives.  Thank you for the way you love, care for, and nourish our relationship!

Monday, June 17, 2013

SUSANNA, starring Taken's Maggie Grace and written and directed by Black Swan's Jon Avnet, features Postpartum OCD Storyline

SUSANNA, starring Anna Paquin (“True Blood,” “X-Men) and Maggie Grace (“Taken,” “Lost,” “Californication”), premiered with six episodes last Friday, June 14 on WIGS (www.youtube.com/wigs). Viewers meet struggling new mother Katie (Anna Paquin), whose emotional anguish is quickly revealed to be acute postpartum depression. Her hardworking sister Susanna (Maggie Grace) leaves an important business meeting to take Katie to the hospital and finds out that Katie’s recovery may take longer than she realized…leaving Susanna to take care of baby April.

Susanna is written and directed by WIGS co-creator Jon Avnet (“Black Swan,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Risky Business”) and also features Rob Benedict (“Waiting,” “Felicity”) and Virginia Madsen (“Sideways,” “Fire with Fire”), star of previous WIGS series JAN. In support of Susanna, WIGS is also partnering with Postpartum Support International.

Check out this preview clip from episode one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuuwPELdSFU

I had the privilege of participating in a preview of the first three episodes followed by Jon Avnet last week prior to the premier.  It was really great to see a perinatal mood disorder portrayed so realistically and then to hear what prompted Jon, a parent and grandparent himself, to choose this topic on which to focus.  He seems like a genuinely caring gentleman who wants to share the message that new parenthood is hard...and even harder with a PMAD.

I encourage you to watch these videos and to share them with friends and family. I would however, recommend a *TRIGGER WARNING* as even nearly 6 years later I was overcome with more significant emotions than I expected because of the palpability of Katie's intense and severe symptoms. If you like it, plan to watch the remaining six episodes which will post this Friday, June 21.

     
Susanna (Maggie Grace) and Katie (Anna Paquin)

Katie (Anna Paquin)

Photo credit: WIGSCO, LLC

About WIGS
WIGS was launched in May 2012 by director/producers Jon Avnet (“Black Swan,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,“ “Risky Business”), Rodrigo Garcia (“Albert Nobbs,” “In Treatment,” “Big Love”) and Jake Avnet, and is now the No. 1 channel for scripted drama on YouTube, with over 24 million views to date and more than 100,000 subscribers. The channel offers high-end original series, short films, and documentaries, all starring female leads. Popular series on the WIGS channel include BLUE, about a single mother trying to protect her son from the consequences of her secret career as an upscale escort, starring Julia Stiles, Uriah Shelton, and Jeanne Tripplehorn; LAUREN, about the consequences of dealing with sexual assault in the military, starring Troian Bellisario and Jennifer Beals; SERENA, a story of lust, temptation and forbidden love, starring Jennifer Garner and Alfred Molina; and JAN, about a young woman whose first job goes awry, starring Virginia Madsen, Stephen Moyer and Caitlin Gerard.

In February of 2013, Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) entered into a multi-year pact with WIGS. The programming, marketing and distribution partnership is designed to expand the breadth of offerings through the WIGS channel, and test and nurture dramatic concepts and talent in the digital realm. 

Visit www.youtube.com/wigs or www.youtube.com/wigsespanol to watch all the WIGS series.  And, stay updated on WIGS via social media:FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google +. For more information, visit www.watchwigs.com.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Climb. Please join me?


climblogoFB
Perhaps like many of you, the arrival of my first son in 2007 was anything but the joyous experience I anticipated during my pregnancy.  I was one of the 15% of new or pregnant moms who experience postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis or other related mood disorders.  One day in despair, looking for answers and support, I stumbled upon a blog.  In addition to an effective treatment plan, finding Postpartum Progress (www.postpartumprogress.com) and the resources there helped me to heal.
Postpartum Progress was there for me when I needed it, and I want to help them reach even more pregnant and new moms. I am proud to be participating in the first worldwide event to raise awareness of postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to childbirth, called Climb out of the Darkness.  On June 21st, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, PPD survivors all over the world are organizing to climb or hike a local mountain or park to symbolize our collective rise out of the darkness and stigma of these diseases as well as to raise funds to help support Postpartum Progress, Inc., a non-profit organization in the U.S. founded to help sustain the blog and create new programs that support moms around the world.
As of today, there are more than 80 different Climbs that will take place in the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe and New Zealand, including mine in Georgia.  The funds raised from this event will be specifically used for two purposes: Postpartum Progress, Inc. (a 501(c)3 public charity, federal tax ID 27-3100405) is creating new PPD educational materials to be used by obstetricians, pediatricians and others, as well as new materials to help educate the media on the public health impact of postpartum depression and related illnesses on mothers and children.
Supporting my Climb is quick and easy.  You can donate online at my Crowdrise fundraising site at http://www.crowdrise.com/postpartumprogress/fundraiser/atlantamom.  
If you aren't able to offer a financial donation, there are still ways you can help...
~Promote the event by sharing the link to my Climb page with others whom you think might be interested.  
~Share the Postpartum Progress and Beyond Postpartum blog links with women/men of child-bearing age.  Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders don't discriminate and I'm certain that whether you realize it or not, someone right now might actually be suffering and this information could save lives.
~Offer prayers for the fundraiser, the increased awareness, and the effective treatment for those who are/will suffer a PMAD.  I'd also appreciate specific prayers for the Climbers on the day of the event, June 21st.
~Write a little note or email to someone you know who is surviving or has recovered from PPD or a related disorder.  Let them know how proud you are of them and remind them how much they mean to you, their family, and the world.  Words of support, even years after recovery, really are a salve to the grief and guilt the most PPD Survivors experience long after their children are past infancy.
~Join me in Atlanta on the Climb day as L2 and I take a little hike up Stone Mountain in support of this effort and as a reminder of my personal journey out of postpartum depression and anxiety. (see more info below)

ATLANTA FRIENDS...PLEASE JOIN ME!!!
RSVP to atlantamom930@gmail.com so we can plan to meet in the parking lot that morning. 

*Postpartum Progress has put together a great list of FAQs: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/climb-out-of-the-darkness-faq

Please help me to help new mothers all over the world heal quickly from what is actually the most common complication of childbirth.

Peace,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Over at Postpartum Progress: The Mother's Day Rally, Warrior Mom Book Club and more...

Hey y'all.  Apologies for my spottiness in blogging lately.  Truth is that after five years, and with my youngest now TWO (insert sigh and sniff), writing about the everyday is well, overwhelming and kind of boring at the same time.  Beyond Postpartum was never intended to be the kind of mommy blog that serves as a journal or scrapbook of my family life.  Not that I wouldn't love to have something like that to look back on someday...but, really the mission of this blog was to raise awareness and most importantly to be an honest account of motherhood during and after PPD.

Silly photo of my boys playing "Fibber" on a rainy day.

As I write, I am sitting on the couch as the cameraman from Fox News moves photos and knick-knacks around my house so he can film me doing this; what they call "b-roll" for the news story that is about to break about the study on the blood test that can potentially predict that a woman is at great risk for postpartum depression. While a small study...this study proved of the 52 women with 85% accuracy which were at risk of suffering.  As we know, knowledge is power and if just one woman can prevent or lessen the severity of her PPD as a result, then I feel that we have put some currency in the bank.
(The story never appeared on Fox because as the cameramen drove back to the studio the OK Tornado Outbreak was beginning.  For logical reasons, the national news in the U.S. for several days after was focused entirely on the tornado coverage.  Everyone, including the news anchor and producer of the story, and especially me, was disappointed that PPD got booted from the headlines that week.  However, the research is still a big deal because a much larger study is now planned, thanks to the overwhelming results.)

In the meantime, I do want to catch you up on what has been happening over at Postpartum Progress.  First of all, it's a little bit of old news now, but on Mother's Day the incredible Rally for Mental Health occurred.  If you have not yet, then please make it a priority to head over to read ALL of the posts.  Each of them brings a unique perspective to the experience.  Some are written by moms who are newly recovered and others by women who suffered years ago, when resources were much more scarce.  You'll even hear from therapists who themselves suffered...some multiple times.  I know that you will find much hope and help there.  From treatment plan ideas to stories of personal help, these letters to new moms are priceless.  Here's a link to my post, "On Navigating Your Way Through PPD".

POSTPARTUM PROGRESS's Photo
We are currently doing a fundraiser called "Climb Out of the Darkness".  I hope you'll read up on it and participate, if able.  If you've been blessed by this blog, the postpartum support group, or my personal support, I'd be ever so grateful if you would make a donation of any amount...every dollar counts...to this effort.  I mean, how KICKASS would it be if all doctors had an accurate PPD brochure to share with moms and if there was an easy to read and understand infographic about PMADs??? Well, that's were the donations collected will be headed.  Cool, huh?
My Page:
http://www.crowdrise.com/postpartumprogress/fundraiser/atlantamom
FAQs:
http://www.postpartumprogress.com/climb-out-of-the-darkness-faq

If you are local and want to join me on my "climb" on the morning of June 21st, just email me at atlantamom930 at gmail.com.

Lastly, the next read of the Warrior Mom Book Club is The TurnAround Mom.  We'll be reading it leisurely over the summer and beginning the interview process in late July/August.  If you'd like to join the WMBC you can either email me or join the Facebook Group.

Take good care,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Postpartum Support International Blog Hop: On Recovery and Coping

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop

It’s May.  Which happens to be the second busiest month of the year for me.  In a month that focuses on Mental Health Awareness and in which Mother’s Day falls smack in the middle, I am scrambling to finalize summer camps, childcare, and to appreciate our teachers, as well as do all those end of the school year things for my older son, I am also trying to remember to practice what I preach.  To continue to focus on self-care.  To participate in doing the things that “fill my bucket” like blogging, the Atlanta support group, and volunteering at Postpartum Progress, MHA, and in my church.

Balance is too lofty a goal for me, even nearly 6 years into this motherhood gig.  Staying at least mostly sane most days is more reasonable, I think.  That means in order to care for myself and as a result be able to do so for my family, I need to say both yes and no.  A LOT.

Before I had kids I was a strong-willed, rigid, inflexible, control-freak.  I admit it.  I don’t think that being that way made me completely unlikeable (though perhaps confusing) to others, but it sure made life harder for me.  Because my childhood was so unpredictable and riddled with neglect and emotional abuse, I had a) learned to care for myself, others, and the home at a very early age and b) determined that no matter what, once I reached adulthood I would control my own destiny.  I was tired of being both neglected and completely isolated and controlled all at once.  I was also a perfectionist.  I never seemed to be able to earn my mom’s sobriety or freedom from her obsessive grasp, but I continued to try, because what else was there to do?  This constant state of anxiety and need to be “perfect” created a whole host of risk factors that were the cherry on top to my traumatic childhood and genetic predisposition to mental health issues.

And so, in hindsight, it was no surprise that after an extremely unexpected traumatic birth I went bat shit crazy.  Of course, no matter what your history, no one expects to have a traumatic birth and then to be paralyzed by fear and dread of their own child.  To hate themselves so much that even sleep is impossible because it inevitably results in waking to the same disgusting feeling of worthlessness and angst.  To be wracked by inexplicable and irrational obsessions for months upon months and to have those impact the family, not only because of the need to care for the mother, but to manage the mother's strange "methods" of scheduling and feeding and complete ritual with the infant.  For complete recovery to take nearly three years.

Making the decision to have a another child after surviving a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder is beyond difficult.  Thankfully, I had the opportunity to make that decision, though many moms are thrown into the deep end while still treading water during recovery because of a surprise pregnancy.  Still, there are a lot of emotions involved in not only the decision-making around "yes or no", but also the details of the how, the when, and the who when it comes to the next time.  For me, everything about the second time was different.  Thankfully, from how I told my husband, to with whom and when I shared with loved ones the news that I was expecting, nothing about #2 (aside from the nausea) looked or felt the same as with L1.

When I was ill in 2007, every single minute felt like a day.  Sadly, I wished that first year postpartum would go away and never come back.  With my second pregnancy and postpartum in 2010/11, the months and years of sadness, anxiety, guilt/regret were replaced by feelings of confidence and peace most of the time.  Sure, I had a rough patch right at mid-pregnancy that lasted about three weeks.  And then days 3-12 postpartum were almost as bad as most of my PPD days in 2007.  But by the time I was into week three postpartum I was feeling almost like myself physically and emotionally.  I believe that the incredibly intentional preparations and self-care plans I had in place and followed through on were what got me there.  Many of these specific strategies were simply exxagerated examples of coping strategies that are important in everyday life as well.

How I cope:
  • I say “no” to things that I feel fall into the “obligation only” category.  So if my doing something is not absolutely necessary or is not life-giving to my family, I just don’t.
  • I say “yes” to help when it is offered by people who are genuinely giving and whom I trust.  I’ve learned there are no awards given out for doing it on my own.
  • I have one weekly self-care appointment that I never, ever break.  I try to add in other things like yoga, time with girlfriends, a date with my husband, reading, etc.  But that one appointment?  I don’t just try to make it.  I DO make it.
  • I am open to making changes.  I have gotten past my rigidity (for the most part) and so when something isn’t working, I try something different.  Eating 100% organic food and allowing no screentime for my kids isn’t reasonable for my family.  Not taking any prescription medication ever doesn’t work for me, either.  I’ve learned that things aren’t (and can’t be) black and white if I want to be well.
  • I prioritize sleep.  When I had my second child, that even meant sacrificing some things so that we could hire a night nurse three nights per week.  We knew that the greater cost would be me have a recurrence of PPD, and so prevention was worth the financial investment.  Now, with two older kids, that looks like me going to bed by 11pm at the latest and taking a nap when the baby does, if possible.
  • I read a lot.  But,  I don’t read or watch the news live.  Since both my personal and professional work includes social media, I am online most of the waking day.  I read the headlines, but don’t click the links or look at the associated photos.  I don’t believe that anything good comes from being overly informed.  It is not a moral obligation to know the details of a newstory, local or international, buried or headline.  
  • I join in-person and online  groups and read articles that support a similar philosophy.  Ironically, for me that basically means not subscribing to any one childbirth/parenting method and articulating that a variety of approaches can garner a positive result.  I’ve learned that it is generally the groups whose mission and vision clearly states their purpose  is to promote or stand against one particular thing are usually filled with mommy war minions.  If I find that a blog, group, or board begins posting “anti this or that” campaigns (unless they are anti hate or stigma), I simply click “unfollow”.  Life is too short to afflict yourself with the judgment of others you don’t even know.  There is no one right way to parent.  PERIOD.  I repeat this so loudly because even now I have difficultly remembering this and at times can be sucked into reading the latest study about how doing/not doing this or that with your child will have “dangerous results”.  I call B.S.  Short of abuse and neglect, your children will probably grow up just fine if you have their best interests generally in mind and take good care of yourself to serve as a well caregiver and a role model of health.
  • I listen to my mind and body.  Feeling overwhelmed from running around several days in a row?  I make a date with the couch and DVR.  Feeling isolated or cooped up?  I reach out to friends for a playdate or lunchdate, or I just take my kids somewhere I can get some fresh air and there are likely to be other families.  Sometimes just seeing other adults helps to remind us we are not alone in parenting.

Though at times, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders may feel overwhelming or incurable, it is so important to remember that recovery is attainable and that it is possible to feel whole again. In Georgia, Mental Health America of Georgia’s program Project Healthy Moms is striving to raise awareness for PMADs, and to educate mothers and healthcare professionals alike that treatment is critical to recovery. Treatment looks different for every mother, whether it is through talk therapy, medication, or other complementary means (such as exercise, yoga, support groups…). Project Healthy Moms has compiled a Georgia-specific resource list where mothers or loved ones can find help from local experts in the field of maternal mental health. Project Healthy Moms also has a peer support telephone and email line called the Warmline, where mothers or loved ones can speak with a mother who is in recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety, and find comfort in sharing stories. These are ways to find help and comfort in Georgia, but first is remembering that asking for help is OK, and that you are not alone.
Information on the resources available in Georgia can be found here:  http://ciclt.net/sn/adm/editpage.aspx?ClientCode=nmhag&FileName=Project_Healthy_Moms

REMEMBER...
• If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

• If you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please contact Postpartum Support International:


Call PSI Warmline (English & Spanish) 1-800-944-4PPD (4773)

Email support@postpartum.net

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When to say "ENOUGH!"

You know you are at your limit when your response to your babysitter's text calling off is to burst into tears.  Under normal circumstances I am frustrated when my childcare falls through.  Generally, I schedule childcare only for work, volunteer obligations, my children's school activities, and appointments.  While I certainly need a break whether I have something planned or not, 9 times out of 10 it is a real inconvenience and disappointment to have to shuffle things around or cancel plans.  Thankfully, often, like today, a good friend is willing to help if she can and we live close enough to make that a viable last minute option.  I thank God for placing people squarely in my life who can provide me with support and with whom I can be in close relationship.

Today, my plans during the morning when I had scheduled a sitter included a parent visitation day- one of only 2-3 per year- at L1's school.  It was to be immediately followed by the monthly postpartum support group that I facilitate.  While I was looking forward to both of these events personally, I also knew that the impact would be even greater for my son and the moms that were planning to attend the group.  My friend J watched L2 during the visitation and then we realized I could return the favor for her immediately following by watching her youngest while she went to a tennis lesson.  I was able to see God even in the midst of being overwhelmed as I realized how often "things just seem to work out".  Additionally, I thank God for a woman who has been attending the group regularly for almost two years.  Because she has worked so hard on her recovery and dedicated her time also to the benefit of the group, I completely trust her to provide, in my absence, the support and resources needed by those in attendance.

So, this morning, while different and a little more harried than I expected, did "all work out".  Yet, it would be irresponsible of me not to recognize that my tears just weren't about this morning.  As I look at the big picture, I see that I've been making poor choices in some areas of my life lately.  Going to bed too late, not drinking enough water, over-scheduling myself, letting things get disorganized in some areas of my life and over-doing it in others.  There are piles of clothes in my bedroom.  The bin of Easter decorations is still sitting where I left it on Easter Monday.  The sink is full of dishes.  While the piles will wait, what I do know about myself is that when my environment is in disarray, I feel less settled in my life in general.  Procrastinating putting clothes away or cleaning up is not helping me to relax at all, rather it's adding to the chaos in my house and in my head.

April and May are always busy and stressful months due to reoccurring events that happen every single year.  Choosing to add on additional obligations, even fun things, clearly adds pressure and spreads me thinner.

Last weekend I found myself on that edge.  I was beginning to feel tired and run down, and wonder if I had a "touch of something".  I found myself being short with my family and more emotional about things that I normally would have let slide.  Even planning a vacation or confirming L1's summer camp plans became a stressor.  When I was over the top by Monday, I should have seen this coming and taken a few things off my plate.  A girl's night out or a dinner date with your husband doesn't do you much good if having just one more thing on your calendar is what is making you feel emotionally vulnerable.

I have a lot I should be doing today.  Lots of errands, work, housekeeping, and paperwork.  But when you find yourself tearing up for the first time in nearly a year over a sitter crapping out on you, it's a sign that everything else needs to be put on pause and you need a warm cup of tea and a date with the couch and a good book or some mindless TV while your toddler naps.

I often find myself giving out great advice, but struggling to follow it.  Today, I choose to follow my own lead.  To respond graciously to my own yearning for quiet, for calm, for respite. To say ENOUGH.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Postpartum Support International Announcements for April 2013


2013 PSI Annual Conference with NAMI Minnesota

June 19-22, Minneapolis
NAMI

Minneapolis MN
The 26th annual PSI Conference is co-sponsored with NAMI-Minnesota and in collaboration with Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota. We are thrilled with the caliber of the Conference Program with keynotes, breakouts, and poster presentations selected for their quality, innovation, and expertise. Register now and check out our great group discount at the Millennium Minneapolis Hotel! Join the PSI Conference Facebook Event and let us know you're coming!

Conference Sponsors, Vendors, and Auction Donors
We are seeking sponsors, vendors, and auction donations to help NAMI-MN and PSI raise awareness and support the conference expenses. Check out the PSI Website to make a Silent Auction Donation, and find Sponsorship and Vendor options and benefits.

PSI Trainings & Events
PSI Certificate of Completion Course
"Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care"
Learn more about PSI Trainings and upcoming events.

Follow PSI on Social Media
www.facebook.com/PostpartumSupportInternationaltwitter.com/PostpartumHelp