First, apologies for this being late. Summer break, a new family schedule, a blah day yesterday and then Internet connectivity issues today have all come into play. Starting next month, I’m going to work on planning a whole month’s worth of posts focused on one topic. So if there are any specific questions you’d like to have answered, send them to ppdacceptance(@)gmail.com. Maybe YOUR question will be a Just Talkin’ Tuesday post soon!
Looking back, I have realized our older daughter experienced a lot of things at 23 months old no child should ever experience. My husband and I yelling and screaming at each other because we were not communicating, Mommy collapsing in the floor as she wailed because something minor set me off, snapping at her for nothing at all, trapped in the house because we could never leave it, feeling abandoned as we went to Atlanta to be with Charlotte (don’t worry y’all – we had family members caring for her – not like we tossed her some cookies in her bed and wished her the best of luck!), and just the overall instability a Postpartum Mood Disorder drags with it into the household.
When we discovered our third pregnancy we decided things had to have a different focus. Instead of preparing things for the baby, we would need to prepare ourselves for the baby. By this time I had been doing advocacy work for just a few months and running a support group for nearly 4 months. I read, researched, picked a local OB known for his attention to women after delivery, and poured my heart and soul into the development of a personalized Postpartum Mental Health Plan.
Our girls, then nearly 4 and 2, sat in the middle of this potential storm. How could we best prepare them for the firestorm?
We waited until 8 months or so into the pregnancy. At every meal we would bring up Postpartum Mood Disorders. Yes, they got sick of hearing about it. But what we did worked well for us.
The conversation went something like this:
“Mommy wants to talk to you about something.”
Daughter 1: “Yes, mama?”
Daughter 2: plays with her food
“You know how you’re getting a new baby brother?”
Daughter 1: “Ahuh. And he’s gonna be so much fun and…”
Daughter 2: shoves food to one side of her plate.
“Well, sometimes, after mommies have babies, they get really super duper sad. And it’s not anyone’s fault.”
Daughter 1: “Sad? Why sad?”
Daughter 2: working on moving food back to the OTHER side of her plate.
“Well, no one really knows why yet. They just do. And like I said, it’s not anyone’s fault. Not the Mama’s, not the daddy’s, not the children’s fault, and not the baby’s fault. Got it?”
Daughter 1: “Got it.”
Daughter 2: is now parting her food as if it were the Red Sea.
“So who’s fault is it if a Mommy gets sad after she has a baby?”
Daughter 1: “The Mommy’s.”
*sigh* “No… it’s not anybody’s fault! It just happens.”
Daughter 1: “Oh. Not anybody’s fault?”
Daughter 2: Contemplating a spoonful of food at eye level.
“That’s right! Not anybody’s fault!!!”
“So – if that happens to Mommy and she gets sad, let’s think of some ways you can help mommy cheer up.”
Daughter 1: “Okay. I can tickle you. That will make you smile!”
Daughter 2: Attempting to eat said food. Instead creating a river of oatmeal down her chin.
“I like that! So if you see mommy sad or upset you can come tickle me, okay pumpkin?”
Daughter 1: “Really? I can? Yay!!!” cue really big goofy toddler grin.
Daughter 2: now smearing river of oatmeal on table. I’ve given up.
“So who’s fault is it?”
Daughter 1: “NOBODY’S!”
“And what are you going to do to help mommy if she gets sad?”
Daughter 1: “TICKLE YOU!”
And off we giggled into the sunset as a river of oatmeal flooded the plains.
But seriously – see what we did? We had a completely age appropriate discussion about Postpartum Depression. It really sunk in because if I looked sad after our son was born, my daughter really DID tickle me. So totally adorable.
As for the flip side – telling your children about your own experience with Postpartum Depression you had with them is a completely different ball game. Sure, I have share with them some of it but again, it’s in an age appropriate manner. They know mommy spends so much time on the computer because she helps women who are sad after they have babies. They have seen me cry when I’ve been touched by a story or a tragedy. And my oldest knows enough to know that if she ever has Postpartum Depression, she needs to talk to mommy cuz mommy knows what she’s doing. I hope and pray neither one of them experience this hell but with my experience, their risk goes up. So I feel I owe it to them to educate myself as much as possible, be as open as possible, and let them know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are NOT alone.
SO let’s get to Just Talkin’ here. Did you have older kids when you experienced your Postpartum Mood Disorder? Were you able to prepare them? If not, how did they react to your Postpartum experience? How did you talk with them about what was going on with Mommy? And here’s a doozy – will you ever tell your child the full unfiltered and uncensored story about what happened? Or will you continue to tell them in general terms about Postpartum Mood Disorders? (I’m still on the fence about whether or not I’ll share full details with them – if I ever write a book I suppose there’s no turning back then, right?)
I can’t wait to discuss this with y’all!