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.