Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

What is PPMD?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

PPMD“So what brought you into the emergency room tonight?” I was seated across from the patient’s bed, desperate to remain composed and professional. It was the beginning of my shift, so professionalism should not have been a problem: I was rested, refreshed, and should have been focused. However, this particular patient had a three-week-old baby in the room, and it was taking all of my energy to pay attention to the adult and not the adorable bundle she brought with her.

My priorities realigned, however, when I noticed the strained smile on her face. There was a pause before she answered, as she struggled to compose her response, and suddenly tears spilled from her eyes as quickly as the string of words expressing desperation, sorrow, and guilt over how she was feeling about her new role as Mom.

Postpartum mood disorders affect up to 25 percent of new mothers, and symptoms can develop immediately after birth or months after your little one has come into the world. Depression manifests differently in different people, but typical symptoms include chronic crying, increased anxiety, feelings of despair or guilt, weight loss/gain, sleep disturbance, feeling distant from your child, and fixation on your child’s safety out of paranoia that something dangerous could happen, or thoughts of hurting your child yourself. Dealing with depression by itself is an exhausting task, and doing it while caring for a child can border on the impossible. Doing it without help can create dangerous situations, for both you and your child, and it’s important to ask for support when you recognize that things feel harder than they should.

So what can you do if you feel you or a loved one is having a hard time adjusting to parenthood?

  • Know the signs. Postpartum mental health concerns can arise at any point of the journey, including during pregnancy. Taking the time to check in with your own mental health on a regular basis can help you recognize when things are taking a turn, and knowing what to look for can help you see the red flags sooner rather than later.
  • Have a support person. Depending on where you live, the resources available for treating postpartum mental health can be difficult to navigate. Having someone to advocate for you while you find a good therapist and/or medication provider can make the difference between getting help and giving up.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. There are more individuals who experience postpartum depression each year than who sprain an ankle in that same year. As postpartum mental health becomes more widely understood, a “Congratulations!” will ideally be accompanied with a genuine, “How are you doing?”

When you’re feeling isolated, alone, and experiencing all the difficulties of depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help. If you are struggling, know that you deserve support, not only because it will benefit your child, but also because it will benefit you.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 5

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

postpartum week 5Postpartum anxiety and depression are very real things for many mamas. It is not something I can speak about from personal experience, so I will link a resource below. I will speak to my daily experience as just a typical overwhelmed mom—I imagine all new mamas feel overwhelmed.

I feel overwhelmed for short bursts about half the days of the week. I feel tapped out, sometimes as early as the moment I wake. I’m an introvert and spend all my hours with children. I’m the classic prototype for the flourishing mommy presence on the Internet, particularly in Facebook groups these days. I did the working mommy thing for a year last year but I’ve mostly been a stay-at-home-mom. It’s very isolating unless you make effort to connect with others. For some mamas I’ve heard it’s isolating even when you make the effort to connect or are already well connected.

I’m introverted in my socialization. I don’t say that as an excuse but rather to emphasize that it’s not my style to initiate friendship. At the playground I sit to myself. I am not one to jump at social outings like mommy and me or MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) groups. Did I mention I’m already tapped out? Strangely the bonding with other people over three feet tall would probably do me good but it comes at the cost of energy, which I have very little of these days. Luckily I have a couple of mamas I can rely on when I need some contact.

My occasional isolation plays with my mind sometimes. Seeing the clock says only 9 AM and knowing I won’t come in contact with another adult for eight more hours can make me feel a little on edge. I get sad and feel desperate for a half-day here or there. I have short patience with my children sometimes and then feel guilty that I’m not fully engaged with them all day. I get anxious, a little fearful sometimes. I lend this, again, to my years in social work and hospital chaplaincy, fields that tend to see tragedy far too often, far too up close. Every night I check our doors to make sure they’re locked even though I am fairly certain I already locked them.

I say all of this to share that being a mama is hard for everyone. We’re human. But if it’s more than what I’m describing—if there is no hope, little or no connection with your child, strong feelings of guilt, sadness, unexplainable or frequent tears—talk to your doctor. If there is deep anxiety that harm will come your way or to your child, maybe you don’t often leave the house because of that fear, you can’t sleep or eat because your mind leaves you too tense or shaky, talk to your doctor.

There’s more. I can’t speak to your specific situation, but again talk to your doctor or read more about postpartum depression, psychosis, anxiety, and OCD whether you think it’s you or not. Because if it’s not you it is someone else, maybe even another mama you know who could use your support.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Week 32

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

my pregnancy week 32Dear Woman in Target who looked at me but didn’t say anything,

This morning I woke to a deep anxiety that is wholly unlike me. I felt the anxiety shaking beneath my skin. It started small, almost unnoticeable. With every move of my preschooler wanting to sit near me, on me, and with every call from my toddler to “help” or “get,” I felt the trembling of my spirit. I already needed space and quiet. I took a deep breath to get ready, 3 whole minutes alone, and that’s when the little one inside me decided to kick and hiccup. I am never alone these days and yet the isolation was palpable in this moment.

Pregnancy effort is setting in; I find myself getting a little tired and worn more easily. I bundled up our boys for two simple errands. We trudged to the car after all the effort entailed in getting a toddler and preschooler ready for a cold morning out. Then my toddler fell backward out of the minivan and hit his head. After consoling and cuddles in the backseat of the minivan we decided to trudge forward. In focusing on my toddler I forgot the way my preschooler will take on other people’s pain sometimes.

I thought we were ok at the barber until tears returned to our toddler and came new to my preschooler. The sweet face of my toddler getting his hair cut, looking in the mirror and visibly trying to calm his quivering lip touched my trembling heart. I was too distracted in coping myself that I struggled to be patient with my preschooler who was also upset—upset because he worried about his “long” hair getting cut and sad that his brother was sad. The barber worked steady and quick. I took great appreciation that no one else was at the salon so early in the day.

So when we made it to Target and I had to go into the toy area for birthday gifts, I was nervous. My kids do a great job in this arena usually but today we’re all on edge and buying toys for other children. As we walked through the video section I eyed you, one row over. As my boys pointed out dinosaurs and cars and “what’s that mommy” with continued, endless conversation I saw you watch us and smile. We even came near you and I was waiting, anxiety in my throat, for you to make a comment about how fast time goes or how I must cherish it now as if this sweet moment didn’t come with the sustained efforts of the rest of the day.

Your had a nostalgic look for your little ones, or the ones you wish you had, or your grandkids near and far away. I even made eye contact with you for a moment. You smiled, looked again at the boys, and moved on. In your kind silence you offered me your perspective that I could imagine. More importantly you offered me space. You probably saw cute. I saw the anxiety shaking beneath my skin, the sore spot on my son’s head, and the tender edge in my preschooler’s voice calling for nap. It’s been a long morning.

All day I tried to identify it. The best I came up with is the recent sense of overwhelming around me. I’m pregnant which, I’m told, involves all sorts of hormones. We’re painting and re-organizing closets in preparation for baby and spring which will immediately follow. I’m also processing last year’s photos and videos before I fall behind once baby comes. And there are those 400+ links I’ve “saved” on Facebook that I really do want to get to even if they are from two years ago. Don’t forget the recent deluge of celebrations and parties and tasks to accomplish and commitments to meet. All these sorts of things sit like a cloud close above me or under my skin today it seems.

Thank you for not asking me to cherish today. While I cherish every day, reality looks a little different than a Hallmark movie sometimes.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.

Managing Holiday Expectations

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Managing Holiday Expectations 1

There was that one Thanksgiving we stayed home, just the two of us. I was 9 months pregnant, so I had a great excuse for not traveling the solid six-hour round-trip drive that year. Several things make that such a warm holiday memory for me. First, it was our last Thanksgiving just the two of us. Second, it was quiet and relaxing and without expectation. Don’t get me wrong. We are those people who are friends with our families. We get along, vacation together, and look forward to seeing each other again in no more than a few weeks. Still, I will not lie about the sweet joy of bucking the system that one holiday.

Great expectations often boil up most clearly (and painfully) at the holidays. There are so many strong feelings, traditions, and schedules to balance. Somehow all those things seem tied to family dynamics growing up twenty years ago. You know, mom always understood younger brother’s unique living style; Dad always defaults to what big sister suggests. The holidays are a great reminder of all the ways we could use a little therapy. The way we’ve found to work through all this muddle is wrapped up in one word: expectations.

Managing Holiday Expectations 2The Negotiables

For us, when we really thought about it, most things turned out to be negotiable. Family and friends who married into the wonderful love of step-families negotiate a little differently than us. As a nuclear family we generally have all days available while some of our siblings have to balance sharing their children on certain days. As a SAHM I don’t have an office holiday party while some family and friends have two to attend. When we are invited to events, we take time to consider how participating will contribute to (and detract from) our holiday season. We don’t expect to have Christmas on a certain numerical day in the month. We also don’t expect to participate in everything to which we receive invitation.

Another example of negotiation involves the age of our children. This is our fourth December with children but our first time having Christmas morning on Christmas morning. We previously opted to celebrate it that Saturday morning of my family’s get-together the week before Christmas. As they get older this expectation may change, but we’ve spent some Christmas days traveling across the country because being with family ranks higher than celebrating Christmas on a particular day of December.

Gift-giving is another point of stress in the holiday season. With some family members we openly discuss this and set a dollar amount we are comfortable spending on each other’s families. We don’t buy for every single family member; one side of the family we always buy for parents while the other side of the family does a single-name-draw exchange that includes the parents. On the chance that we receive gifts unexpectedly from family or friends, we don’t stress about it because giving and receiving gifts are aspects of the holiday season. We see them as an opportunity to accept gifts with grace and without guilt.

The Non-negotiables

Typically we spend part of the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) with each family, 1,600 miles apart. For ten years we’ve managed to balance this, though every year looks a little different. It means we don’t take family vacations to fancy locales other times of the year, but saving up to see both families during the holidays is typically non-negotiable. This year, this is not part of our expectations because I am too pregnant to travel cross-country. My doctor (and baby) turned this non-negotiable into a negotiable.

As our children grow, spending Christmas morning at home may turn to into a non-negotiable. Not traveling on Christmas day may become more important to remove stress from the season. For others there may be Christmas Eve pajamas, stockings, a church/synagogue service, or going to a particular family member’s home that is important.

I can’t gloss over the way this relaxed approach to the holidays relies on other people to balance their expectations of us. Sometimes family may or may not entirely understand. Some older family members may want to continue the old traditions even after the younger generations give birth to more. Some family may see every invitation as important, more important than balancing with family gatherings. Even the meaning of family and friend may blur as not every “family” is created with the same make-up. In all of these things, if you know what you are willing to negotiate or not then you can only handle the situation with grace and hope others will understand.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Saying “No” at the Holidays

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Saying No at the HolidaysTis’ the season for holiday parties; family dinners, office shindigs, fete’s with friends, the list goes on and on. November and December are definitely friendly to the social butterfly. What these activities are not friendly to, though, is a child’s routine and/or bedtime.

There can be a lot of pressure from outside to attend these events and there can be a lot of internal guilt on your part as well, especially when it comes to family parties. I remember clearly when my daughter was younger, back when we simply couldn’t be flexible with her routine and had to be home for bedtime, feeling a lot of pressure to go to those things anyway. I’d hear “So-and-so is bringing their child. They’ll just lay her down in an extra bed.”  Or, “It won’t hurt her to stay up late just once.” But with my daughter, it did hurt. It hurt us, badly. Sleep was so critical that almost nothing else mattered. Mine was not the child that would easily fall asleep anywhere other than her crib (and even that wasn’t easy). Mine was not the child that could fall asleep in the car and be transferred to the bed. 5 minutes of sleep in the car could possibly mean hours of screaming and fussing before she’d go back down for the night. I remember when she was about 1.5 years old and we risked staying late at a holiday party, only to have my husband sitting in the back seat desperately trying to keep her awake for the 10 minutes it took to get home. Was it really that worth it?

I felt a lot of guilt over saying no to so many social invites when my daughter was young, but I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s OK to say no to family invites that will have your kids at each other’s throats in a car for 5 hours. It’s OK to decline a holiday party that will keep you out past your child’s bedtime. It’s perfectly fine to have a few years of stay at home holidays. It’s OK to just say no when it comes to your sanity and the sanity of your family.

In just 3 years we’ve reached a point where we can be flexible in her routine and we can occasionally stay out past her bedtime. She’s old enough now that we feel comfortable accepting party invites and actually look forward to socializing as a family. We’re fine getting on a plane and spending the holidays on the other side of the country. So was it really so terrible saying no for a few years, when the benefit to us was so significant? No, it wasn’t.

Explain to friends and family that you’d love to come to their party, but that at this stage in your life, your family comes first. Or don’t. You don’t need to justify your choices. A polite “Thanks, but we can’t make it this year” is just fine too.

Kate Cunha lives in the Pacific NW and is mom to one three year old girl. She’s looking forward to spending the holidays with her in-laws this year.