Pec is one of the warmest people I have had the pleasure of emailing. Ever. She has been super supportive of all that I do and for me it’s amazing that in just four years, I’ve gone from an unsupportive OB to being able to email an expert like Pec and get a response in mere seconds. What a road! Pec is whole-heartedly dedicated to women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders and like me, I know she’ll never stop doing what she’s doing. Keep up the amazing work and thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us!
Would you share a little bit about yourself with us?
I grew up in a very loving family. My parents were active in political movements that supported causes including civil rights and the women’s movement. I became a family practice trained Physician Assistant in the 70’s, and worked in Family Practice and women’s health. After deciding to go back to school, I completed a Master’s in Health Psychology, and then a Doctorate in Counseling. I had Megan, my first daughter just after I completed my doctoral coursework. Emily was born almost six years later, after treatment for fertility problems and a miscarriage.
How did you become focused on Postpartum Mood Disorders? What drew you in to the subject?
About 12 years ago, I was in an OB/GYN waiting room and happened to see a flier by Postpartum Support International (PSI) about Postpartum Depression. I realized that although I had years of training and experience in women’s health and mental health, and had delivered two children, I had been taught nothing about mood disorders related to childbearing. I was horrified and angry. I am still outraged that my Master’s program in Health Psychology never covered anything related to specific issues related to women’s reproductive mental health (for example, PMS, perinatal, or perimenopause/menopause). So, I joined PSI, read everything I could, and went to trainings and conferences. I began teaching for PSI and co-authored a book, Beyond the Blues, A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression. We’ve updated it several times to reflect the latest information and research, and are proud to have it in Spanish, as well. I’ve been honored to be invited to participate and contribute in the creation of several federally funded projects on perinatal mood disorders. I feel very honored to do this work. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve done. It’s also the most fun; I work with nice moms, sometimes they bring their babies, and everyone gets better! What could be more fun?
I know different approaches work for different people. What have you found to be the most successful in your practice with Postpartum Women?
My clients describe me as “warm and fuzzy.” I like to think my office is a comfortable place where women and families can feel safe and free from judgments. One of the things I find that women and families thirst for is information. So often I hear, “why didn’t anyone tell me I was at risk?” I practice a model of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is a very practical model that helps people learn how depression and anxiety distort thinking and teaches people how to think differently. My clients really appreciate the practical skills and tools.
As a mom, what have you found to be the most energizing about motherhood? The most challenging?
I feel enormous pride when I watch my girls achieve something they have worked hard to accomplish. The most difficult thing has been standing by while they have experienced life challenges, knowing I can’t take away the disappointment and pain.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in balancing motherhood and work?
I think the idea of “work/life balance” is an impossible goal that sets women up for feeling not good enough. I see it as a juggling act. Sometimes one ball is on the floor-it might be the laundry or the dishes. Or, sometimes a kid gets sick or there is a client emergency. There is no “balance”. I think the key is to be flexible and have clear priorities. Laundry and dishes will always wait for you. I am extremely lucky in that I can arrange my work schedule around my “chauffeur” mom job.
We often encourage mothers to remember to take time for themselves. What is it that YOU do to recharge your batteries?
I am an avid scuba diver and tropical fish lover. My whole family dives, and we just had a delightful family vacation in Cozumel, Mexico. I enjoy taking underwater photos, and my husband takes underwater video. So, when I can’t be with the fish, I can still enjoy their beauty and the magnificent underwater world.
Postpartum Mood Disorder recognition and acceptance has come a LONG way but we still have miles to go. What do you see as some of the hurdles we still have to cross?
We have come a long way, but we have a lot more work to do. Ideally, all women should be informed about risk factors for perinatal mood disorders, before getting pregnant or at a diagnosis of pregnancy. Women should be screened for mood problems during pregnancy and throughout the first year. In order to do this, health care providers need have a better understanding of perinatal disorders and why it so important to take them seriously. And we need to train providers to treat women and families suffering. I am appalled that the most common complication of childbearing is still so misunderstood and poorly treated. I think we need to dispel the myths that still surround perinatal mood disorders. We need to educate women and families about the problem and to be good consumers in seeking treatment. We need to train health care providers to ask the questions and screen, and we need a trained therapist on every street corner.
I believe one of the biggest keys to positive recovery for women is full family involvement -i.e., a supportive and educated husband/partner and family. Of course, education prior to an episode is wonderful but how can we best aid in this process when the family is in the midst of a Postpartum Mood Disorder Crisis?
I agree that family involvement is critical. Whenever possible it is important to include the family in the process of treatment. Often the family is confused and unsure what to say or how to be supportive. Treatment should include family whenever possible.
What makes you smile?
Hanging out with my family, being in a clear turquoise tropical ocean (I did have to learn not to smile at the fish, because it would cause my face mask to leak!), and hearing a mom say “I got my self back”.
And last but not least, if you had a chance to give just one piece of advice to an expectant mother (new or experienced), what would you say?
I have a few words of wisdom:hug and kiss your kids as often as possible, notice the positive, and remember to be emotionally flexible. Know what is developmentally appropriate for your child and have realistic expectations of them. Lastly, if it’s not a health or safety issue, be able to let it go…… somethings aren’t important to make a big issue over.