Tag Archives: communication

Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication

Starting a family is no small decision. Expected or unexpected pregnancy involve major decisions and choices. How will you parent? How will you care for the child? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will you share responsibility equally? Attachment parenting? Extended breastfeeding? No breastfeeding? There are so many decisions to be made once a child enters your relationship. These decisions affect family dynamics and should not be made independently of your partner. They should be thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon. One of you may end up having to compromise but ultimately, you must do what is best for your child within your personal parenting philosophy, hopefully with a partner who sees along the same lines.

Parents these days have a bevy of knowledgeable resources available to help with their decisions regarding parenting. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, other parents, and just about everyone on the planet.

We all love to chime in on how others parent, don’t we? Especially with the explosion of social media. Judgment runs amok when a parent asks even the most innocent of questions.

Today, the NY Times posted a piece by James Daly which explores the effect of extended breastfeeding on a couple’s sex life. Daly states:

“Other men — me, for example — might be driven to engage in something even worse: sexless fidelity. Mine crystallized in Central Park one evening, while watching my wife sit under a tree with my older son, a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores, stretched out to roughly the size of a foal, suckling. By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon. There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.”

Breastfeeding is recommended for at least two years or beyond by WHO, exclusive nursing for the first 6 months with complementary foods added until two years. Now, the WHO code implies “beyond” is solely between the mother and child. While I don’t think Daly’s threat of infidelity based upon his wife’s choice of extended breastfeeding is kosher, I understand where he’s coming from.

A family, when a father is present, is not just a mother and child. All too often, the father’s needs and desires are often thrown out the window. He doesn’t matter and should shut up if he so much as voices any disagreement to how his wife chooses to raise their children, run the household, or anything else.

It’s not about who wears the pants in the relationship. Feminism doesn’t mean we get to make decisions without our partner. it means we are equal to them, not above them. Isn’t that what we fought for? Not to be beneath men? So why should they be beneath us and suddenly not matter? Where’s the victory in that?

Granted, women HAVE run things in the home and the childcare realm for quite some time. But more and more, men are involving themselves in these situations. Stay at home dads are increasing in number.

Sex is also an important aspect of a relationship. It’s how we’re intimate with our partners. It’s nurturing, releases hormones, stress, and brings us closer. Yes, intimacy IS possible without sex. However; intimacy is NOT possible without communication.

That’s where I believe this issue with Daly and his wife has broken down – at the communication level.

Clearly he’s not happy about his wife’s extended breastfeeding to the point of losing his appetite. Whether he’s actually considering infidelity or not is up in the air – he may just be using that as an example. I know that when I was breastfeeding, I was not terribly keen on my husband playing with my breasts. When I’m breastfeeding, my breasts are functional, not sexual.

What many men miss is that breasts are primarily designed to be functional, not sexual. Yes, breasts are visually appealing and nipple stimulation does provide sexual pleasure for many women, but ultimately, the breast is phenomenally designed to create and make milk to feed infants, a process which starts during pregnancy.

At the end of his piece, Daly states:

“I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”

Daly is right but he’s also wrong. The parent-parent bond IS important to the development of a child. But many successful children are raised by single parents. We’re specifically discussing a partnership here though so we’ll address this aspect. This goes back to what I stated earlier – when you decide to have a child, how that child is fed should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Granted, that doesn’t always happen as life does not occur in a vacuum. But Daly himself states that he SUPPORTS his wife’s choice to breastfeed their sons, thereby accepting the flashing of “mommaries” instead of the “mammaries” which allegedly attracted him to his wife in the first place.

Attraction should be comprised of several things –not just appearance and physical attributes– it should include intellectual capability, sense of humor, communication skills, compassion, etc. There’s a reason eHarmony is so successful –they don’t just toss the physical at you. (not a sponsored mention.)

Physical fades. It changes. Your spouse/partner may have medical conditions (mental or physical) which impede sexual interaction. What then? If you don’t have any other basis for attraction to your spouse/partner, you’re screwed, and not in the way you desire. But is that justification for infidelity?

No.

Daly and his wife need to have a discussion about the state of their relationship because for now, I have a feeling he’s going to see a lot more of the “mommaries” than the “mammaries” if he fails to vocalize his feelings about his wife’s extended breastfeeding of their sons.

You could argue that extended breastfeeding has amazing benefits – nurturing, intellectual, etc. But you could also argue, as Daly does, extended breastfeeding impinges on the sexual relationship and therefore the intimacy of the parent-parent bond.

Here’s the thing – if your parent-parent bond relies solely on sexual interaction and seeing her “mammaries” instead of her “mommaries”? Your relationship may not have the best foundation.

Communication. THAT’S where intimacy starts. Daly should give it a shot.

A Father’s Insight

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

Saturday Sundries 02.05.11: Nutrition and taking Postpartum out on your husband

Hey Mamas and Dadas! How’s it going?

Hopefully your little ones let you sleep in today. If not, then my sympathies. Lots of coffee. Lots.

Our family has been taken out one by one this week with something which can only be described as a Plague from Dante’s fifth circle of Hell. It starts out with a nasty sore throat, proceeds to cold and congested status, then a cough, and then it steals your voice in the middle of the night. Oh, and while I had the girls at the Pediatricians, I was lucky enough to slam the four year old’s hand in the door of the car. Her middle finger? Broken. We had to trek (in the rain) to the hospital for x-rays. Then yesterday out to an Orthopedist 30 minutes away. Trying to drive a car with a gabby four year old in the backseat whilst fighting off the Black Plague should be an Olympic Sport. Turns out her finger is barely broken and we only have to tape it together for two weeks. In three weeks, we go back for a re-check to make sure things have healed properly. Here’s to hoping.

We have humidifiers going, homeopathic cough and cold medicine, Dayquil and Nyquil for us big people, OJ, chicken noodle soup, and rest. Lots of rest. Thanking God for Netflix.

If my kids aren’t well enough to go back to school on Monday, I’m going to Lowe’s to buy what I need to build them their own bubbles. They can go in bubbles, right? Right?

Enough about my family’s close brush with the Plague.

This week, I only got one question for today. The second question is from a statements/concerns from search terms for my blog. They seem to crop up quite often so I wanted to bring them to light and share them with y’all. I had plans to do more than just one but I’m flat worn out from this past week.

Enjoy today’s Saturday Sundries!

1) @Granolamom asked about using Vitamin D to ward off Postpartum Depression. I took the question to the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to Postpartum and Nutrition, Cheryl Jazzar. Her website is linked at the end of the post. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not received any compensation for linking to it. And as always, if you are already under the care of a physician, check with him/her prior to discontinuing any current treatments and/or introducing any new therapies.

 

Thanks for this interesting question! The use of vitamins for perinatal mood and anxiety issues is becoming very popular. As with any treatment options, it is important NOT to self-treat. Having support and guidance from a professional can prove invaluable. There are many different types of care providers out there, including those who can help with non-pharmacological options.

First, using nutrition for mental health challenges is a strongly emerging treatment for a reason: there is a great deal of scientific data to support it’s use. The problem with scientific data is similar to the problem of using one supplement to help with symptoms: one ‘ingredient’ usually doesn’t work for either symptom control or data collection!

Many women find a great deal of symptom relief by using a few different things together, depending on their presenting symptoms. Typically the same things that new mothers are lacking are the same things curiously absent from prenatal vitamins- things like calcium and magnesium. Some women have a higher need for stress-busting b vitamins; and some have a need for natural progesterone cream. Normally these moms are suffering with a more severe anxiety reaction and they could be high in postpartum copper stores. In these cases, specific trace minerals also play a part in healing.

The good news is that nutritive approaches can work very quickly! This was the case for me when I suffered a severe, lethargic postpartum depression 13 years ago. I was guided in using nutrition by my mentor, Sheryl Cozad of Postpartum Support International and significant relief came so fast I thought it was a placebo effect! Years later I was visiting with a world-famous perinatal mental health expert who said her patients mood symptoms turn around dramatically using supplements, too.

The short answer is, yes, vitamin D is a fantastic element to get more of at any phase of life. However, most postpartum moms are so deficient in so many different vitamins (according to the USDA), that a deeper look with a qualified practitioner can yield quick, lasting results.

 

Cheryl Jazzar, founder of WellPostpartum Consulting, has provided support and encouragement to thousands of women suffering with postpartum depression and related issues.

2) Why am I taking my postpartum out on my husband?

Ever been to the beach? I ask because going to the beach sounds awesome in the middle of February. Unless it’s a beach in the northern part of the US in which case you’ll freeze your bum right off. But I’ve digressed.

So.. let’s say it’s a warm summer day. You pack up the kiddos to go to the beach. Lunch, towels, sunscreen, you’ve got everything. Everyone goes and has a blast. You shower off before you come home. Shower again when you get home. Cook dinner, hang out, put the kiddos to bed. Then you and the hubster cuddle to watch a movie. About thirty minutes into the movie, you start to squirm. There’s something stuck down THERE. It’s uncomfortable. Begins to burn. You can’t shift into a comfortable position. You go to the restroom to try to see if it’s your underwear or toilet paper. Then it hits you – it’s a piece of sand. So you hop into the shower and try to get it rinsed out. But you can’t. It’s stuck. It’s not going anywhere. You go back to the living room. There’s your husband, conked out in the chair. HE’s not dealing with this sand in his vag issue, now is he? Nope. He’s all comfortable and drifting off into la-la-land. You? Want to smack him clear to Beijing. But you can’t because it’s illegal. And mean. So instead you do a few deep squats and jiggles. Take a bath. Eventually the sand dislodges and it’s a distant memory.

Postpartum is that damned piece of sand. It gets lodged in your mind though instead of your vag. You find yourself stuck in a whirlwind, crap flying at you from every direction while your husband seemingly sits in his recliner, completely un-phased by your discomfort and struggles. He’s not doing enough to help with the baby. Where the hell was HE at 2am this morning anyway as you tried to nurse/feed Jr back to bed for what felt like the billionth time in three hours? Asleep. In bed.

Often times, when we are hurting, we lash at those closest to us. Why? Because they are there. We want them to catch us when we fall. Thing is, if we push them too hard, they’ll fall right along with us and won’t be able to or want to catch us. When loved ones react negatively to our behaviour as we fall into a mental illness, it is often hard for us to handle. We react negatively as well, not because we mean to – but because it’s a natural reaction. Not logical, but natural. When mental illness surrounds us, it’s as if we are lost in a dense fog or deep jungle. We have to fight to get out. Sometimes, our loved ones get in our path.

I had tremendous arguments and fights with my husband when I was in the middle of my own episodes with Postpartum OCD. We yelled and screamed at each other. Often, I assumed he would know just what to do – that he could read my mind. When he didn’t do what I had not communicated to him needed to be done, I got angry. But it wasn’t his fault. I also became terribly jealous that he got to go to work every day and spend time with adults. He got out of the house. I was stuck at home with an infant.

Turns out he was jealous of me. I got to stay home with our daughters and watch them grow up. I didn’t see it as spectacular. For me, it was torture. Our communication had completely failed. We were totally jealous of each other, not sleeping, frustrated, angry, and as a result, had become very short with each other. It sucked.

So many postpartum women report issues with their husband as part of what is going on. He doesn’t know what you’re going through. It’s hard for him to relate, hard for him to support you when he doesn’t understand. Take him to the doctor with you. Have them talk with him about his part in your recovery – how he is an integral part of the equation to heal his family. You have to be willing to work too though. Anger is a two way street. BOTH of you have to agree that it’s closed. It’s okay to disagree and have a rational discussion about what’s going on – but rage and tantrumming is not cool. At all.

If you find yourself angry at your husband – start asking yourself why you’re mad at him. Walk away if you have to. Breathe. When you go back, talk with him calmly.

I’ve found the following formula very useful:

“When “x” happens, it makes me feel like “X.” How can WE fix this?”

This approach does two things. One, it doesn’t accuse him of anything. It’s non-attacking. Two – it presents a problem/issue which he can then help solve, creating a teamwork atmosphere. It takes a bit of practice, a lot of compromise on both parts, and time to get back to a place in which you don’t hate him. But eventually you’ll get there if both of you are dedicated to making things work.

 

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Dirty Talking with the hubs about PPD

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFpnPZpFTEk]

Harry: Why are you getting so upset? This is not about you.

Sally: Yes it is. You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman.

Harry: Hey I don’t feel great about this but I don’t hear anyone complaining.

Sally: Of course not you’re out of the door too fast.

Harry: I think they have an OK time.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: What do you mean how do I know? I know.

Sally: Because they…

Harry: Yes, because they…

Sally: And how do you know that they really…

Harry: What are you saying, that they fake orgasm?

Sally: It’s possible.

Harry: Get outta here!

Sally: Why? Most women at one time or another have faked it.

Harry: Well they haven’t faked it with me.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because I know.

Sally: Oh, right, that’s right, I forgot, you’re a man.

Harry: What is that supposed to mean?

Sally: Nothing. It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and

that most women at one time or another have done it so you do the math.

Harry: You don’t think that I could tell the difference?

Sally: No.

Harry: Get outta here.

 

Fake it till you make it, right?

SO many moms I have talked to have shared that they have not told their significant other the true depths of their suffering as they move through their Postpartum Mood Disorder.

He goes to work.

I don’t want to burden him when he gets home.

He deserves to come home to a happy home.

He won’t understand.

He thinks I am using a PMD as an excuse to make him do everything.

He deserves time with his friends so I’ll lie and throw myself under the bus.

Ladies?

Your husband cannot read your mind.

Gentlemen?

If your wife is smiling on the outside but it’s obvious there is something going on, sit her down and ask if she’s okay. If you’re struggling too, let her know. It will help her feel less alone in her hell. (And trust me, it IS hell!)

A good relationship is centered on trust. Trust relies on open communication. Open communication fosters a strong sense of intimacy. Intimacy suffers when open communication falters. When open communication falters, trust cracks wide open. When trust cracks, good relationships are monumentally at risk for destruction. Relationships at risk for destruction are toxic to all involved – there is a ripple effect that reaches out in every direction, including your children.

Postpartum Depression is nowhere near as exciting or pleasurable as an orgasm. (And never will be.) But recovery will only lead to a pleasurable place IF you’re honest. An honest recovery as opposed to a faked recovery is infinitely more pleasurable for all involved. We owe ourselves honesty, we owe our partners honesty, we owe our CHILDREN honesty, we owe our medical professionals honesty.

Because without honesty, we have nothing.

I am just as guilty as the next mom for lying about my Postpartum Depression. I minimized my symptoms, lied to my husband when something was wrong, lied about hating him, about resenting him, sucked it up when he came home – how could I tell him about my hard day when he had been at work for just as long as I had been at home? I threw myself under the bus. The only person I hurt in the process was myself. I let it slide until I was having good days – until he got home. All my built up resentfulness would burst through the door along with him – and suddenly I morphed into super bitch. He couldn’t do anything right:  he was in the way, he was a bad dad, MY life was interrupted the instant he arrived home annoying me to the zillionth degree. But none of it was really his fault. Why? Because I didn’t share with him what was really going on with me. Once I started talking WITH him instead of yelling AT him, things began to improve. It took both of us nearly five years to begin to truly communicate with each other after the birth of our first daughter, making it almost three years after the birth of our second.

The other night I came at him the wrong way about something as we were putting the kids to bed. We moved on with what we were doing instead of arguing in front of the kids. Once the kids were down for nap, I apologized for handling it poorly. He apologized as well. We moved on with our evening and put it behind us. The old us? Would have argued in front of the kids. We would probably still be arguing about who was right or wrong. Instead, I’m throwing the remote control into his shin, nearly gimping him for life, and we’re cracking jokes about it on Twitter. I am SO madly in love with the new us.

Postpartum Depression sucks. It sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks. Did I mention it sucks?

But given the chance, it allows for such amazing and miraculous growth within yourself, within your marriage, within your relationship with your children.

Be honest with your significant other about your journey, your feelings, your emotions. Get dirty. Get into the nitty gritty. Life is messy. Emotions are messy. We cannot wrap everything up in a neat package like we do before Christmas. Not everything has a shiny sparkly bow on top. Sometimes they look like they’ve been in the gutter with Edgar Allan Poe after a bender. It’s hard to admit you are not okay. But until you do, you’re just lying to yourself and those around you. You? Deserve better. So do those around you.

Write it down. Reach out. Get the help you need. There’s no need to continue to fight in silence or in loneliness. There is hope. There is help. You are not alone. You are so not alone.

Just Talking Tuesday: Through the eyes of another

It’s dark. You are both collapsed into heaps, this time, you managed to make it to bed. You sigh, close your yes and mutter goodnight into your pillow.

It’s 234 a.m., your wife notes.

“Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

You lift your head and glare at the clock.

It’s 315 a.m.

You shove your face back into your pillow and silently scream.

Really? 46 minutes?

Sighing, you get out of bed to get the baby. Check the diaper. A little wet so you change it. Rock, sing, soothe. Nothing works.

Time to get mommy. She’s got the food.

You walk into the bedroom to wake her up. She sighs, shifts, and snuggles closer to the bed. When you do manage to wake her up, she snaps at you.

“But I JUST nursed! Did you check the diaper? Try to put him back down? I’m tired. I don’t want to…. ”

“Yes. Gimme a little credit. I’m not an idiot. I’ve tried everything. Clearly he’s hungry. You’re nursing so…”

“Dammit. I’ll be there in a minute.” She snuggles back into the bed.

You sigh, loudly, frustrated, knowing it will be a good 30 minutes before she even attempts to get out of bed. She will fall back asleep and you will have this conversation all over again before she finally gets out of bed, cursing you under her breath for interrupting her sleep.

She won’t mean it. She’s exhausted, just like you. And yes, you have work in the morning and should be sleeping but she won’t get to sleep much during the day either. Oh, she may rest, but it won’t be restorative. She’ll nod off while nursing, try to snooze when the baby does, but if the baby is up, she is up. And then there are chores. Dishes. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. Possibly other children to care for. Errands. Her job? Never.friggin.ends.

Your job never ends either. It’s hard for her to see that though. What SHE sees is you, walking out the front door toward other adults. Toward freedom. Toward conversation that involves more than a few garbled syllabic words at a time. What SHE sees is you, showered, shaved, dressed in something other than the same pajamas she’s now lived in for two weeks. What SHE feels is jealousy, hatred, sadness, grief. For the most part she knows it’s not rational. Somewhere, deep down, she tries hard not to feel this way. But she’s been moody for weeks now. Snapping at you for the simplest comment or action.

You bring home dinner. It’s not what she wanted but she loudly sighs and announces “It’ll have to do.” You pick up the baby and she watches your every move with him like a hawk, waiting for you to falter. You begin to falter yourself. Are you built for fatherhood? Are you doing things wrong? What if you’re screwing up your kid for life at just 3 months old? What if she never lets you really be a father? How will you ever learn what to do? Will your marriage survive? Where the hell are you?

What she doesn’t know is that as you walk out the front door every morning, your heart hurts. YOU are filled with jealousy because she gets to enjoy every moment with your son. She gets to watch him grow, change, and do new things every day. You mourn your fatherhood as you shower, dress for work. You fumble under her judgmental stares, worrying that your fathering skills are not up to par with her expectations. You’ve asked  a million times but you can’t for the life of you get her to tell you what her expectations are for you as a father. What are the rules to this ball game? If you only knew, life would be so much easier. After all, you’re not a mind reader.

___________________________

Today’s Just Talking Tuesday is cross-posted with The Postpartum Dads Project. If you’re a mom, please go visit the Postpartum Dads Project and share what you wish your husband had known about Postpartum Mood Disorders and parenting. What would have best helped you when you were suffering? If you’re a dad, share here. What got you and your wife through those dark days? How did you keep communication open if you managed to do so?

(Note: The Postpartum Dads Project site is down for the moment. Let’s all just share here for now and I will cross post when the site is back up! Thanks for understanding.)

Social support is key for recovery from a Postpartum Mood Disorder. The best social support starts at home with your partner. Get them involved and you’ve zoomed forward a zillion spaces on your recovery path.

Let’s get to just talking.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.25.09: Sharing the PPD news with your parents

Communication today is often done via email, text, twitter, facebook status updates. It’s become much less personal and much less formal. For some, this is good. For others, not so good. Some things get lost in translation. It’s easy to type something and hit send without thinking. It’s also easy to apply this short communication style to every day life, leading to quick judgments, misunderstandings, and worse, the planting of grudges and beginnings of the end of relationships. The art of the thoughtful conversation seems to be drifting by the wayside.

Many women and families with whom I’ve worked have expressed to me that the biggest challenge they face is enabling those around them to understand what is going on without increasing stigma or losing their formerly close relationships. It’s a struggle to go through a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder let alone try to explain the complexity of it to a loved one from whom you need support.

When I spoke with my parents about PPD, they were understanding, compassionate, and actually did their own informative research. The one thing that stood out to me when I was hospitalized came from a phone call with my dad. He said something simple yet profound (my dad is full of those – I LOVE him for it). My father told me not to let anyone tell me I was “crazy” for the way I was feeling given my situation. My situation was that two months prior I had given birth to our second daughter who was then subsequently diagnosed with a cleft palate and by then had undergone two surgeries, one major to help lengthen her jaw in order to allow her to breathe safely. I held it together as long as I could but finally collapsed on day 56. Turns out for me, falling apart was precisely what I needed in order to pull it back together.

I’ve spoken with Mothers and their Parents alike who are frustrated and upset by the lack of information, communication, and the subsequent misunderstandings that follow all too often in the wake of a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Often these very issues only serve to compound a family’s recovery.

Today, I would like to take the opportunity to check in and see how (or if) you told your parents (or in-laws) or kept up appearances with them. Did you let them see inside the dusty window or did you keep the shade pulled down and pray no one would accidentally flip it up?

Let’s get to Just Talkin’!

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.18.09: Telling Your Partner

Original photo by Pingu1963 @ flickr

Original photo by Pingu1963 @ flickr

We’ve touched briefly on seeking support and how you overcame the stigma of admitting something was wrong.

Today I want to take that topic to a more personal level.

How did your partner take the news?

My husband was so confused right after we had our first daughter. One minute I’d be fine, the next – yelling at him for simple things – like criticizing how he blew his nose or something equally inane. Or one of my favorites – the laughing hyena fits. Oh how I hated those! They hit at the most inopportune time! Him: “My day sucked.” My response: laugh so hard milk I had drank that morning would come spewing out my nose. Yeah, peachy, huh?

Once I kind of figured out what might be happening it really helped us both immensely. I stopped believing he had been born with super powers which would magically allow him to know precisely what (and when) I needed him to do with the baby and he started asking what he could do to help out. Before you knew it, we were navigating the perilous yellow brick road of communication quite successfully! (Did I mention he even talked to his parents about PPD for me? How sweet!)

By the time my second episode occurred, he knew more than enough to recognize old habits and encouraged me to seek help. We did have a bump when I was hospitalized but I think anyone with a loved one with a need for mental health hospitalization would be understandably stressed.

Third time around he was just as big an advocate as I was, knew a ton, and fortunately, sailed right through the experience with me. We were both very blessed to be able to fully enjoy the newborn stage with at least one of our children. That experience is something neither one of us takes for granted.

So – what I’d like to talk about today is how you told your significant other that everything was not alright in New Momville. How’d that conversation go? Did you initiate it? Did they? What was the reaction? What did they do to support you as you recovered?

I do want to take a moment to mention that if you have an unsupportive partner, talk with your caregiver about this. See if you can arrange to have your partner attend an appointment with you so that the doc can explain to them how important it is for you to have support at home. Good support at home is essential to a solid recovery and as your partner, they are on the front lines. In fact, it’s always a good idea to take your partner with you to your appointment because they may be witness to behavior you are not aware of in yourself.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday!

Sharing the Journey with Jane Honikman

Jane Honikman was one of the first people I reached out to while  researching PPD support groups prior to starting my own. She very graciously sent me her books and even included a handwritten note of support (which I still have!)
And that’s the kind of woman Jane is… caring, understanding, compassionate, everything a mother with PPD would ever want to find in their time of desperation and need. She truly embodies what PSI stands for and I consider it to be a true honor to post this interview. I emailed Jane the questions a couple of days in advance but the interview was conducted via phone. The following is what I managed to capture so “listen” in and I hope you enjoy what Jane has to say.

 

 1) In your book, I’m Listening: A Guide to Supporting Postpartum Families, you mention the practice of Mothering the Mother. How important is this concept and why do you think this practice has vastly disappeared from our society?
I think what people have done is found subsitutes because immediate family is not as available as it has been in the past due to geographic separation. My generation subsituted friendship as mothering. We need to be more vocal about the need for mothering the mother and more organizational about it. Mothering is the essence of life – we can’t do anything alone, life is all about connection and partnerships.

 2) What did you find (and continue to find) to be most challenging about Motherhood? The least?

 The most challenging aspect of motherhood is keeping communication flowing. Making sure you are able to make your own wants known and yet listening at the same time to the needs of those around you. I feel that finding a balance between these is the key to successful communication.

 The least challenging is falling in love with your children.

3) How did you develop the Postpartum Mantra (You are not alone, You are not to blame, You will be well with help)?

 When I started getting educated about this in the early 80’s – listening to what was being said through the grassroots & research, it was clear that there were three simple messages. I’ve always tried to take the complex and simplify it. A lot of advocates have used this concept for other purposes as well. I have been involved with self help in the 60’s and 70’s and those experiences fed into this mantra. Blaming and being well is something also used by Alcoholics Anonymous.

4) What advice would you give to partners and families of women with Postpartum Depression? What can they do to best help the mother?

 Hanging in there as with any illness -stay mindful that it is not the person’s fault, just like the person with cancer didn’t get it on their own. With any mental illness, when the behaviour changes and it is harsh and alienating, it is hardest because you don’t want to be there for them. Encourage them to get help and be there for them. Never give up on them or yourselves.

5) When you started PEP (Parents Educating Parents), what was the primary motivating factor?

 We were a group of girlfriends providing support to each other and realized we were motivated to share the support we were experiencing in our small group with all the families in our surrounding community.

 6) Has PSI’s success in supporting women and families with PPD experiences surprised you?

 No, I knew eventually it was a matter of staying committed and patient and given my previous experience of working in communities, I knew it would just take time. I always felt that this was the right thing to do.

It didn’t surprise me – it delights me.

7) What activity refreshes you the most when you’ve had a rough day?

 Most important to me is to not allow intrusions into family life. I will turn off the computer after five o’clock then go start dinner and focus on family. I also enjoy music and play the flute. Another thing that refreshes me is friendship, including my friendship with my husband.

8 ) As a woman who has experienced PPD, what has it been like to guide your children through their parenting experiences?

 We were very mindful and the absolute most important thing is the supportive stuff. Our oldest married someone who had no idea what depression was and the most important thing was finding a simple book (english was not his first language) for him to read to educate himself about this. Once he read about depression, it was amazing to see the light go on and see him grasping an understanding of depression. We focused on getting educated, increasing awareness, and providing a lot of mothering through the child-birthing process. I am grateful that there is improved support for my children’s generation because there certainly wasn’t the same level of support when I experienced PPD.

9) Any advice for other women who want to pay their experience forward and help women with PPD?

  Take care of yourself first. The issues will still be there but you absolutely must get yourself to a strong place first. Delegate, don’t do things alone. Set up an organization so you don’t have to go it alone.

10) If there was one piece of advice you could give to an expectant mother (new or experienced), what would it be and why would this be important for her to hear?

 Listen to your body and enjoy it…every pregnancy is different. You have to focus on staying well and get help when you need it – you can’t do this alone.