Let’s Face It, Your Kids Can’t Avoid Bullies and Mean Kids – But You Can Help Them Develop Problem Solving Skills

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

I am so tired of feeling devastated, seeing the constant posts of children taking their own lives.  Reading about teen suicides that seem to be occurring more and more frequently is truly heartbreaking.

There’s 11 year old Michael Morones who was bullied (and is now in a persistent vegetative state from hanging himself) for being a My Little Pony fan.  Every time I see his beautiful face on my Facebook feed, I just want to break down and cry.

Then there’s Ashley Payton who was driven to bullycide on February 5, 2014,  just shy of her 16th birthday.  A girl who was so beautiful and yet was convinced she wasn’t.  Self esteem issues seemingly at play here, as is at the heart of all too many other teen-related issues like eating disorders (anorexia/bulimia), cutting, drugs, and depression….just to name a few.

And finally, there’s the article in the Clarion Ledger dated April 12, 2014 titled “Anti-bullying Laws Fail to Stem Youth Suicide” by Emily Le Coz, which is what motivated me to write this post today.  The article reveals frightening statistics of the numbers of youth suicides each year and how bullying is most often cited as the root of the epidemic, despite anti-bullying laws in place in most states.  The article mentions 15-year-old Lyndsey Taylor Aust, bullied for merely having acnie, was but one of THREE suicides in her school within ONE MONTH period (this is what is referred to as a “contagion effect”).

Sure, schools have some form of anti-bullying policy in place, but I have yet to hear about a school that has an effective one.  For one thing, instead of an environment of transparency in schools, you have one that is controlled by fear that stems from the stigma of depression and suicide. Instead of transparency and a culture that TRULY cares about the welfare of students, schools fear doing anything to change the negative culture, hence the sweeping of depression, suicide and bullying under the rug.  There is a price to pay for such willful ignorance.  Look at what happened at Scott County Central High School in Mississippi….three suicides in ONE MONTH.

The fact of the matter is our children are feeling hopeless and helpless enough to end their own precious lives.  There have been arguments that bullying is not necessarily the sole and direct cause of all youth suicides.  That it might just be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Well, there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between victims of bullying and suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to a study published in the March 2014 edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

If there are self esteem issues that are leading toward changes in behavior/sleep/eating, depression should be looked at and treated. In a number of recent cases I’ve read about recently, I noticed that parents indicated there was absolutely no sign whatsoever that anything was out of the ordinary.  Their children seemed like their happy, normal selves.  I don’t know any of these families’ situations, but there is a greater tendency to bully or be bullied in the following situations in which a stable support system is lacking:

  1. Greater numbers of single parents than ever before
  2. Dual-career parents who are busy working long hours at full-time jobs and spending less time at home with the kids and providing positive behavior role modeling, interaction, and simply listening opportunities
  3. Risk factors for depression and other mental health issues, like eating disorders, self esteem issues, family history of mental illness, extreme poverty, emotional/physical abuse, lack of nurturing, etc.

I am not in any way blaming any parents whose children took their own lives.  I’m imploring ALL parents to be more in tune with their children. If there is an underlying mental health issue, then PLEASE get help for them.  If you see that there are changes in demeanor, behavior, diet, and sleep, please observe, talk to and listen….REALLY LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY AND REALLY OBSERVE THEIR BEHAVIOR AND MANNERISMS CLOSELY.  If they refuse to open up to you, please try to get them a neutral third party–someone experienced with teen issues and depression, like a family counselor–to talk to them.  Put aside any feelings of shame or fear from the stigma of mental illness.

If you are of the camp of parents who believes the best way your children will learn to adapt to and survive in this world is by doing it with very little to no guidance from you, I implore you to put aside any feelings you may have that, since you toughed it up and lasted through mean kids and got through tough times in school, your child can too.  Don’t think for one second that what you went through growing up back in the 60s, 70s or 80s is the same as growing up today in the 21st century when kids are heavy users of social media and can be cyberbullied day and night via texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, and online forums in which teens “hang out” in an often anonymous fashion.  Anonymity affords cyberbullies/trolls access to an easy–albeit even more cowardly than in-person bullying–means to harass, intimidate and taunt in a public forum, and gives others to join in/gang up to make an emotionally vulnerable young individual miserable.  And put aside the belief that it’s impossible for them to ever have any mental health issues because “depression just doesn’t happen to anyone in my household; I wouldn’t allow them to be weak like that.”

In these cases–since we all know that middle and high schools are a breeding ground for kids undergoing hormone changes who, as part of the socialization process that goes with growing up, try to assert themselves in inappropriate ways–we need to ensure our children are prepared.  I’m  not saying we need to be like the helicopter parents that are so oft criticized in parenting articles, and solve all our kids’ problems so we can keep them out of harm’s way.  No, not at all.  I’m saying that we need to provide guidance to our children.  After all, that’s what parents do.  We use our own experiences and wisdom gained from living and learning….and from our own parents.  From the time our children are toddlers, we teach/coach/guide our children to feed themselves, go potty themselves, talk, stand up, walk, change themselves, brush their teeth, behave appropriate/use inside voices in public spaces…and so on.

I can’t help but view a school as one huge boxing ring within which kids are forced to demonstrate their survival skills.  Because school ends up being where kids spend most of their time every day of the school year, it’s not unreasonable for me to say that every school district should help kids with training on how to cope with mean kids.  In fact, I fervently believe schools should be mandated to add to their curriculum–for first grade all the way through twelfth grade–a year long training on social skills.

It’s one thing that schools observe a Week of Kindness every October.  That’s only five days out of a 183-day school year.   Schools will generally have a mission that includes words like emotional wellness, appreciation of diversity, fostering respect.  But let’s face it, since we can’t even get the majority of schools in this country to deal with bullying effectively, the responsibility for teaching our kids coping skills rests on parents.

It is inevitable that there are mean kids in every school.  What we need to focus on is how to provide our children with guidance on how to cope with mean kids.  It is crucial that parents teach their children to adapt to and survive in this world by nurturing, guidance, and simply being there for them.  Providing guidance is not the same thing as making things easier for our kids and fixing all their issues so down the road they have no problem solving skills of their own. I’m talking about helping our children develop skills they need to fix their own problems. Self esteem is a huge issue for all too many teens. Not every teen is going to know how to let mean behavior slide like it took me years to learn how to do myself.

Resources I would like to recommend for both parents and educators (I am early in my research, so more to come in future blog posts):

Seleni Institute – We Need More Comprehensive Women’s Reproductive Health Services Like This!

Something caught my attention today.  An article appearing on my Facebook feed about a workshop offered by Seleni Institute this Wednesday, July 31st, titled: “Preparing for Your Newborn,”  which will assist the expectant mom in knowing what to expect in her first days after childbirth.  When I looked at what the workshop will be covering, I quickly realized that it’s way more than what the standard childbirth and parenting classes at hospitals offer.   It offers many things I complain about in my book that are lacking in standard hospital classes–things that are the source of much anxiety to first-time mothers, like how to choose a pediatrician,warning signs and when to call your pediatrician, soothing techniques, and taking a baby’s temperature.  To find out more and to register, click here.  I will have to inquire whether they also cover the startle reflex (the reason why we swaddle) and what to do if reflex, colic, eczema and/or cradle cap occur.

In Chapter 14 of my book, I talk about the changes needed for progress with respect to ending the ignorance about postpartum depression (PPD), ending the stigma caused by that ignorance, and making sure there are enough support services to help new moms and their families.  In this chapter, I provide my “wish list” of what it would take for such progress to occur, one of which is an increase in peer-led parenting and PPD support groups (one example is MotherWoman, which I have blogged about previously, even on Huffington Post).  The other is the establishment of comprehensive women’s healthcare facilities that are founded on the realization that the emotional well-being of the new mother is absolutely essential to the survival and normal development of her child.  Mental health should absolutely be an integral component of reproductive health, whether it be for issues relating to infertility, miscarriage, still birth, child loss or the postpartum period.

I recently learned of such a facility that I wish I could’ve taken advantage of but couldn’t because it didn’t exist when I was having difficulty conceiving, after my first failed IVF cycle, after childbirth and when I was battling PPD.  It opened its doors earlier this year.  Not sure, however, WHETHER I would’ve taken advantage of such a facility back then, before I came out of my PPD knowing what I know now.  Yes, it’s one of those hindsight is 20/20 kinda situations.  Well, knowing what I know now, I want to encourage women to seek such services early on.  Continuing along the vein of what I wrote in my book’s Chapter 14, knowing the importance of and being able to easily access such services are extremely vital if we want to stop seeing women experiencing the kind of bumpy road to motherhood that I experienced.

This facility is the Seleni Institute in Manhattan.  I hadn’t realized until today that the Advisory Board consists of such esteemed individuals in the field of reproductive mood disorders as Dr. Lee S. Cohen and Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW.  Seleni’s services include–but are not limited to–the following.

  • Support groups for, miscarriage/stillbirth/child loss, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, pregnancy, new moms, unexpected childbirth outcomes, parenting support/mindful parenting, and body image.
  • A certified lactation counselor providing clinics, classes, workshops, and one-on-one sessions to help the expectant mother know what to expect and the new mother on how to improve her breastfeeding experience.
  • Experienced psychotherapists and social workers on staff to provide counseling on infertility, coping with physical changes during and after pregnancy, infant bonding and attachment, life and career transitions, relationship/marital/partner difficulties, parenting concerns, and body image anxiety.
  • A website offering valuable insight into all things relating to reproduction.  It is filled with an amazing amount of information that, once again, I only wish I had had access to during my IVF cycles, pregnancy, and postpartum period.

The origin of the name Seleni is in and of itself extremely creative and a lot of thought was put into an appropriate reflection of the organization’s mission. In combing through everything on the site, I’m filled with wonder at the promise this organization holds for women, and I really hope to see more organizations like this open throughout the country.  Even better, I would like to see this organization become national!

Spotlight on the Royal Birth

Wow, two posts in two days!  This is a record!  Everyone else has been blogging, tweeting, commenting on news articles, and talking about the royal birth.  I figured I might as well too.  I was all set to go to bed at midnight, which for me is early, but I had to check something on the computer and then all of a sudden I found myself feeling the sudden urge to blog about the royal birth.

Was I obsessed as some people were about Kate and William and their much-anticipated prince or princess?  No, not really.  Then why am I blogging about it?  Well, for one thing, I’m annoyed.  From morning til night, all I saw in my Facebook feed were comments about the royal birth.  Let me clarify.  I’m not so much annoyed by the amount of coverage as I am about the number of people that are annoyed about the amount of coverage and the nasty ol’ things that they had to say about it all.

As with everything including politics and religion, there will be the extreme camps.  In this case, you have the people who don’t give a rat’s butt about the royal family, angry that we are focusing so much on a baby’s birth (something that happens every second around the world) instead of more relevant issues like the state of our country and our economy, insisting that no one here gives a hoot (but plenty of people around the world and in this country do give a hoot or else why would there be such excessive coverage?).  While the other extreme camp has gone on and on and on for weeks leading up to the childbirth to try to predict the baby’s sex and what the baby’s name will be.  And then you’ll have what I refer to as the neutral camp who just want to go with the flow and carry on with their daily routines and not really care about the coverage in the news about the royal family.

I happen to belong to the neutral camp.  That is, until I was triggered.  What was I triggered by?  But of course, the meanness in people.  Meanness that stems from ignorance!  Yes, I stumbled across some mean comments/tweets on today’s Christian Monitor article titled “First glimpse of British prince brings comments about mom’s postpartum body.”  As soon as I saw the title, I thought to myself  “Do I honestly want to see the comments, which will no doubt be extremely ignorant and dumb, to put it mildly?”  I braced myself and read through the comments and quickly grew infuriated.  When I saw Kate and William walk through the hospital door earlier in the day to introduce their baby to the world, I instantly thought “Uh boy, Kate is still showing her bump, and I will bet you any amount of money that that will be the cause of a lot of mean-spirited comments from a public that is already weary of the extensive coverage about the royal birth.”  And here we are.

People calling her fat. <– omg, Kate, fat?  What, are these people nuts?  If she’s fat, then that makes me an elephant.  Ridiculous.

People joking that it looks like she’s still pregnant. <– Well, duh….this is how ALL mothers look after they have a baby.  And all mothers and their husbands/significant others know this because they have been through this themselves and know that you simply don’t blink away the belly that has been carrying a baby for the past 9 months.  It’s just NOT POSSIBLE.  What do people think really happens after childbirth, anyway?  That the entire contents of the belly simply come out with the baby, and that’s it?  What about all the skin and muscle that have had to stretch over the course of 9 months to accommodate the growing baby?!  I may have dropped my weight rapidly, thanks to the postpartum depression (PPD) that caused me to UNWILLINGLY lose my appetite and not want to eat anything for several weeks….this, after being literally starved for a week in the hospital after having my baby because my doctor wanted me to be prepared to go into surgery at any moment’s notice, thanks to my placenta accreta.  BUT I still had a residual belly when I left the hospital.

People joking that perhaps there’s still a twin in there. <– This is such a stupid comment that I’m not even going to address this.

What these idiotic comments show is that the image of a perfect postpartum body–thanks to celebrities and their personal trainers and not showing themselves in public until their tummies are gone–that the media focuses unhealthily on is causing the general public to have this unrealistic expectation of mothers all miraculously ridding themselves of their bellies and returning to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately after they give birth.  I have blogged about this previously, and I’m actually quite sick and tired of this…I really am.

So, if women who have been through pregnancy can all vouch for the fact that the rapid return to pre-pregnancy selves is a myth, then why does this false perception continue to exist?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they don’t want others to know about their struggles to return to their pre-pregnancy selves, much like mothers who have suffered from PPD don’t want others to know out of feelings of guilt and shame that they didn’t experience the perfect childbirth experience they’ve been longing to have and society expects all mothers to have.

So…..with mothers not speaking up, the only examples we see are the celebrities flaunting their perfectly fit, postpartum bodies for all the world to see.  Therein lies the problem that we continuously and persistently perpetuate in one annoying, vicious cycle.

Last night, I saw a USA Today article titled “Will and Kate: New parents face joy, challenges” come up in my Facebook feed.  At first glance, when I saw that it was another article about the pending royal birth, I was going to skip it.  But then I saw who was interviewed for it.  My friend Dr. Diane Sanford, psychologist in St. Louis and co-author of Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide.  I read it, and I was quite pleased to find that it offers refreshingly REALISTIC information about what Kate and William–like all other parents–should expect when it comes to becoming a mom and dad for the first time.  It was, quite frankly, a really great platform to educate on the realities of having a baby and parenthood…after all, it’s an article about the ROYAL BIRTH in USA Today, and bound to generate a good number of views.  So, I applaud the fact that Dr. Sanford was called upon as a resource for educating the public. It’s NOT just an article about the royal family’s baby boy.

I can only pray that, over time, the number of smart articles educating the public about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period will increase so there will be fewer articles spreading false perceptions of what it’s like to have a baby.   More education will mean less idiotic remarks like the ones people have been making about the Duchess…who by the way, was brave for showing the world her REAL postpartum body!

MotherWoman and The Raise for Women Challenge at Huffington Post

Just a very brief post today to let you know that I am both honored to be posting for the first time on Huffington Post and excited to have the opportunity to help spread awareness about MotherWoman and the wonderful work that they do and their participation in The Raise for Women Challenge running from April 24, 2003 – June 6, 2003.  The Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation and Half the Sky Movement have teamed up to launch this fundraiser to help get the word about 112 female-focused not-for-profit organizations.  The 3 organizations that raise the most money will earn cash prizes, and many other prizes will be given out as well.

For all my blog followers, please check out the other MotherWoman blog entries written by others who have been touched by the amazing work that they do, as well as my post titled Hindsight is 20/20: Taking Personal PPD Experiencing and Helping Other Moms when you get a moment, and please show me support over there by leaving me a comment.  I would so appreciate it!  :)

THANK YOU!!!
xoxo

We Need Empathy and Anti-Bullying Programs in Every School, Not to Mention Make Our Mental Healthcare System a National Priority!

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from depression and are sensitive to negative news events ***

Today was a day that will go down in the history books as one of the worst school shootings in this country.  So many young children and school employees killed.  I write with a heavy heart.  I am praying for the families who have lost loved ones in today’s tragedy.  And I am praying for all the survivors who witnessed what happened.

It’s very coincidental that I have been planning to put up in the next day or so another post about bullying, teenage angst, empathy, and the state of our current school culture and what I believe we desperately need if we are to make a difference for our children.  They are our future.

The way it works for me is, as I come across articles in the news/blog posts that catch my interest, if I don’t have time to blog about it right away, I save them to my “Next Posts” folder to provide inspiration for future blog posts.  I have the following 6 links about bullying and empathy saved in that folder:

Onward to Change:

Support for Teens:

Educational Info:

Links to Resources:

  • Please refer to the Anti-bullying/Teen Resources links I list on the right side of my blog
  • Please refer to my recent blog post for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this PPD blog
  • Start Empathy Facebook page

I’m writing this post to help me process the news that hit me as I left work today.  I had no idea this had even happened until after 3:00 pm today, hours after it took place, because I never had a chance to go onto the Internet, as it was a really busy day at work and no one at work brought it up…..not until a colleague mentioned it to me shortly before I was supposed to leave the office for the weekend.

I posted this on my Facebook timeline on my way home from work:

We really need to do something that will end these senseless killings. More mental health programs, for one. More empathy programs in schools too. In all school systems, for all school-aged children. I think if we made these changes, we have a better shot at making a difference.

It will take a few days for the investigation to determine the circumstances that led to this tragedy.  But seeing how it happened in a school, like so many of the other school massacres that took place in the past decade, I am pretty certain that it’s issues stemming from school days/environment that drove the shooter to choose this school as the backdrop for seeking vengeance or playing out whatever was going on his mind, spurred on by what could have been years of bullying and/or other emotionally scarring incidents that occurred in school.

I cannot even begin to imagine what the families who lost their children are going through.  Tears welled up in my eyes during my commute home and before, during and after dinner with my family.  And now I sit here with a lump in my throat. And then I see my news feed show posts and links to blog posts criticizing anyone who would express any opinions on the tragedy.  In all honesty, I’m not writing this post out of disrespect for those who were senselessly killed today or their families now grieving.   I am so sad, I had to get my thoughts out.

I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD), and now I’m a PPD advocate.  I wasn’t about to let my experience merely fade away with my recovery.  I want to share my story and try to help others, to make a difference for other moms by making them feel less alone in their experience and help empower them with knowledge so they can understand why it happens so they feel less guilty and more empowered to recognize symptoms and know their treatment options.  I want to help spread awareness and stomp out the stigma associated with mental health issues (not just maternal).  Bottom line, I’m trying to prevent other moms from suffering the way that I had suffered.

Back during my school days, I was a victim of prejudism and bullying, and now I’m an anti-bullying advocate.  I want to do what I can to make a difference for children and teenagers who feel alone in their experience, lack self esteem, and don’t know where to go for support–all of which describes the nightmare of my teenage years, from the time I started 7th grade until I left for college.  Bottom line, I’m trying to prevent other youth from suffering the way that I had suffered.

As I conclude this post, I just wanted to ask that we all hold our loved ones closer as we struggle to process this senseless tragedy.   If you’re wondering, like I’m wondering, how we can put an end to tragic suicides and shootings in our schools, ask yourselves:

  • Do we want to end bullying and bullycides?  If so, then realize we have the power to make a difference….don’t just continue to sit there and complain about the incidents of bullying and bullycide. Let’s work within our communities to come up with ways to prevent these incidents from happening.  We can’t wait for schools to do it because schools are dependent on budgets, and as we all know, budgets now are being cut down to the lowest levels ever.  We have to think outside the box.  Where it concerns the safety of our children, we can no longer tolerate the “Oh, but we can’t establish anti-bullying / empathy programs because it will cost us money that we don’t have” attitudes we’ve had for years.  If it takes state anti-bullying laws to be passed, like in New Jersey, then so be it.  If state laws are not passed, then we need to work with the Board of Education and district schools to incorporate empathy in each school’s curriculum and/or establish empathy programs for all school-age children from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Do we teach our kids to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves?   If so, then be a positive role model and lead by example.  Model empathy in our daily interactions with others.   Have your child be kind to and accepting of his/her fellow students, and avoid excluding others because that, after all, is a form of bullying.  Encourage him/her to stand up for others who are being bullied, rather than acting as merely a bystander.
  • Do we want to help our children/teens find the right help/support when we realize they are experiencing challenges in school and/or emotional/behavioral issues (e.g., lack of self esteem, depression, cutting, eating disorders)?   If so, then we need to find the right resources (i.e., counseling, mental health professionals, online support) for him/her as soon as possible.  Do not assume that it must just be some passing phase/part of growing up, being in denial that your child may need such help.  DO NOT WAIT and think that things will resolve on their own because they WON’T.  Put aside any qualms about stigma relating to mental health issues, as it’s not going to help your child.

We need to strive to make our schools safe for our children and for the staff to whom we entrust the care of our children.  In the words of our President: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”    Granted, we are no doubt in need of stricter regulations that will help prevent the wrong people from getting access to guns.  But much more importantly, we are in dire need when it comes to improvements in mental healthcare.   Former First Lady Mr. Rosalynn Carter’s book “WITHIN OUR REACH: Ending the Mental Health Crisis” is a must read if you want to get a better understanding of the reality of our mental healthcare system as it stands today.  I’m sure there are many other books that can be read about this, but her book was the only one I’ve read (she signed my copy of it at the Postpartum Support International and Marce Society conference I attended in 2010).  It’s a quick read and  does a very good job summarizing today’s state of affairs.  This article I just stumbled across on Alternet.com titled “In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Let’s Talk About America’s Dangerously Gutted Mental Healthcare System,” by Lynn Stuart Parramore is also a must-read.

WE NEED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!   Or we are going to continue to see bullying and cyberbullying–and unfortunately shootings–claiming the lives of innocent young people.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from depression and are sensitive to negative news events ***

Boy, am I ever late in writing this blog post, with only 2-1/2 days left to October!   Things have been ever soooo busy in my neck of the woods!   While there are so many articles out there about bullying from not just this one month but in general, I wanted to focus on a few things right here, right now.  It took me a couple weeks to process the Amanda Todd story and feel ready to post my thoughts in a blog post.

Here goes…

1.  The frequency of bullying is increasing.

2.  Parents and other adults are crucial in role modeling and raising the younger generation to be empathetic.

3.  Twitter and Facebook must find a way to help monitor activity for suicidal warnings.  There must be a way for these 2 extremely popular and key social media sites to partner with an organization like National Suicide Prevention to intervene when there is a clear risk for suicide in a tweet/post.  Either that, or it’s simply a matter of parents and/or other loved ones who also use these sites to “friend” their kids on Facebook  and open a Twitter account to “follow” them (plenty of people use pseudonyms).

4.  Parents need to be engaged and aware of their children’s activities, especially their online activities (including blocking inappropriate sites that are a breeding ground for disaster when it comes to their own children’s well-being and–should their children be the ones tormenting someone else’s children online–the well-being of other children).

5.  Bystanders–be it other students, people online (if this relates to cyber-bullying), and/or teachers–should speak up when they witness any bullying incidents.  If everyone maintains the attitude that it’s “Not my concern,” we will stay in this rut that we find ourselves in, with children feeling unnecessarily alone, desperate, and hopeless….and feeling like they have no other options to help them escape their torment and pain but to end their own lives.

The Amanda Todd case raises awareness of how relentless cyber-bullying can be and how vicious people (kids, teens, adults) can behave when it comes to someone whom they DON’T EVEN KNOW.  Her case is an example of how a misunderstood teenage girl felt so alone in her suffering, was unfortunate enough (and to this day I don’t even know how this got as far as it did….where were the parents in all this?) to have encountered what was likely a pedophile (the police are still investigating and I truly hope they find this scumbag) who stalked her–and whose actions of taking advantage of a young girl online–started her off on a road of torment, harassment, and constant school moves to try to escape the kids who made fun of her and even beat her up.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON who contributed to Amanda’s torment must be held accountable and receive punishment befitting their involvement.  Their actions led to the death of someone.  In my book, it’s equivalent to a gang of bullies physically beating someone to death with their bare hands.  And the countless hate pages that went up after she died?  Instead of letting her spirit rest in peace, they are hell bent on tormenting it even after death.  These people are so rotten, so malicious, and so vile.  The pure evil and hate that exists out there is horrific.  How these people can stand to behave like this and feel good about themselves is beyond me!  Let’s just say that if justice doesn’t prevail with the police knocking on their doors, then I pray that KARMA will!

Rant over….

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book.

  1. Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
  2. PMS versus PMDD

And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years, some of which do specifically address bullying as an epidemic in this society (scroll down to see my links to Anti-Bullying/Teen Resources on the right side of my blog, along with all my other links):

  1. Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
  2. The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
  3. Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
  4. You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child
  5. Empathy Makes the World Go Round
  6. New Jersey Leads the Way Yet Again
  7. Disturbing Teenage Trend…Hey Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?
  8. 121Help.Me – A 24/7 Youth Helpline
  9. I Am Titanium
  10. Join the Anti-Bullying Movement

I’m going to end this post with the following food for thought:
All of us have the power to make a difference.  We just have to work together to effect positive change.  Please.  Let’s stop this horrible epidemic.  Now.

I Am My Own Kinda Parent

Okay, so it’s been 3 weeks (holy smokes) since my last blog post.  That’s a long time, relatively speaking, for me.  But seriously, folks, it feels more like a week.  Where is the time going?  Why does it seem time is passing by so fast?  We are in July already.  It will be the end of summer soon at the rate we are going.  And yet it feels like it just started.  From the mouth of a summer lover.  Heat and all.  I love summer!

I haven’t posted not because I haven’t had any inspiration, but because I just haven’t had the time.  June 18th was my birthday, and that’s the date of my last post.  For weeks leading up to June 23rd, I studied for a standardized exam that I had to take for my job….and boy, do I hate standardized exams.  I passed that, and then I’ve been busy sorting through the piles of stuff that have accumulated over the past 7 years….since before my daughter was born and before I dove head first into writing my book.  I’ve been putting it off and putting it off….and now I can’t put it off any longer.  I need to convert the 3rd bedroom from storage room to actual bedroom once and for all!  And I need to do that before month end!

Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog post written by Jill Smokler (author of the Scary Mommy blog and the book, Confessions of a Scary Mommy) on HuffPost Parents titled “What Kind of Parent are You?”  Needless to say, given all the parenting feuds that have been going on of late, that title grabbed my attention.  I knew I had to write a blog post about this.

It was a short blog post, but there was plenty to get my thoughts flowing on what to write.  What kind of parent AM I?  Well, first of all, I am my own kinda parent.  I don’t care what other people call themselves or how they categorize their parenting styles.  I’m not in a competition, after all.

I parent the way I parent, and I don’t care how this compares with other parents and their parenting styles.  The less we try to compare among ourselves, the less likely we will feel bad about not meeting up to so-called “societal standards,” the less we will feel guilt and all that negativity that can eat away at a mom that is already suffering, or on their way to suffering, from postpartum depression (PPD).

What has also given me inspiration for this post are some recent pins I stumbled across on Pinterest.  Yep, I’ve fallen under the spell of yet another social media tool.  It is very addicting.  But in this, my first, week of pinning, I’ve found it very calming.  I guess it’s because you see words in pictures that affirm what is deep in your thoughts and now you can “pin” on your own personal board, letting that be your outlet.

Here’s one that is relevant to this post….about people respecting each others’ choices (from Sketch42Blog.com):

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Anyway, here goes….

I was a breastfeeding-challenged mom who did the best I could to give my daughter breast milk for 1-1/2 months before having to go on an antidepressant for insomnia, panic attacks and complete debilitation thanks to PPD.  After surviving PPD and failure at breastfeeding, I’m highly sensitive to the judgmental remarks made by others who have not suffered from PPD or had breastfeeding issues.   Not sensitive as hurt my feelings sensitive, but grate on my nerves sensitive.  To the moms who ever so readily attack others for supposedly not trying hard enough or being selfish/lazy, think before you criticize.  Like the pin up above says, you have NO idea what others are going through.  I’m not going to defend my failure other than to say that, if you had to endure what I endured with my emergency partial hysterectomy and all that followed (previously blogged about and now detailed in my book), you just might understand.

I was a co-sleeper failure, having had to let my daughter start sleep in her own crib in her own room far sooner than I had originally planned.  I’ve shared this before on my blog (and now in my book) that it was due to my alarming insomnia that we had to do this, as I would wake up at every single sound my daughter made through the night (which was very frequent).  And it didn’t help that she couldn’t sleep flat for the first whole month of her existence.  She was most comfortable sleeping in her little car seat that sort of made her feel like she were still curled up in my womb.

I am a didn’t-know-any-better-at-the-time mom who let my daughter’s eczema and cradle cap get out of hand. I did the best I could with the information I was given by the pediatrician until she finally suggested we see an actual dermatologist, so I don’t blame myself that my daughter’s skin got so bad so quick.  I have genetics to blame as well. But what counts is that we finally found a remedy and my daughter’s hair finally grew back in….and what a relief.   We continue to do battle against her eczema/dry skin today.  As with other aspects of motherhood (and parenthood, in general), dealing with my daughter’s skin issues has been a learn-as-you-go experience.

I am a lover of social media that is trying hard to spend less time on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and now Pinterest.  So far, I’ve only been successful when it comes to Twitter.  If I lose followers, I lose followers (though I do hope my friends on Twitter understand). I know where my priorities lay and what I can manage each day with my full-time job and trying to squeeze time in for my daughter before she goes to bed each night.  I blog on average once a week and only late at night after my daughter goes to bed.  That leaves Facebook and Pinterest.  I believe the novelty of Pinterest will wear off in a few weeks (I hope). But Facebook is one way I stay in touch with my friends around the globe, so it is absolutely a part of my daily routine.

I am a return-to-work-when-maternity-leave-is-up mom who, until my daughter was born, had already worked nearly 2 decades and admittedly thrives on the constant deadlines, demands, multi-tasking, interactions with co-workers, and the stimulating analytical, documentation, and customer service challenges at work each day.  Faced with the reality that one salary wasn’t going to support the three of us, I had to return to work when my daughter was but three months old.  This is a reality that many moms are faced with.  Leaving your baby/ies is a very difficult transition–and one that is not guilt-free– to make.

I am a daily NYC commuter, which means that I’m NEVER able to volunteer at school….not unless I take a day off from work (or work remotely, which is frowned upon unless I have a “real” reason like a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, sick daughter, or lack of back-up care).  This also means that the people in my ‘hood think I’m anti-social.  They haven’t come right out and said it, but their not inviting us to get-togethers lately (we used to all get together throughout the year) is a clear indication that we don’t really fit in even though we do try where time and situations permit. <Here’s where the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other” comes to mind>

I am a lousy cook.  I like playing the role of sous chef, cutting up vegetables and meat, but I’m a lousy cook (because I really don’t care for it). My husband and I make a great sous chef/chef team.

I am a lousy creative player, but good at playing games and coloring…..the only activities with which I’m comfortable because they are what I grew up with.  Thank goodness my husband makes up for my lack of creativity!!!

I am a disorganized person at home, but strangely enough a highly organized one at work.  I don’t even make my bed each day…only when company comes over.

I am a good homework helper, especially when it comes to writing, spelling and grammar (which helped my book-writing tremendously).  I certainly didn’t have any help with that when growing up because my parents’ native language is Mandarin Chinese….which is why I am fluent in speaking Mandarin Chinese.  I’m pleased to have a positive impact on my daughter (see photo below).

I am a good chauffeur and provider of encouragement in terms of activities, even though my daughter would rather stay home like daddy.  I tell her that I don’t want her to grow up like I did with zero activities.  Activities are important in building a child’s self esteem.  She is not a team sports player that I hoped she would be, despite all the encouragement in the world.  I wasn’t one either, and I had wanted things to work out differently for her.  But there is only so much prodding one can do.  Forcing the issue will only serve to traumatize her.  I wasn’t going to do that because I remember all too well what it was like being forced to play piano for 4 years.  Ugh.

I am a determined playdate coordinator.  I do my best to help my daughter stay in touch with her friends from her former school, which is hard because they don’t live in the same town and the only time my daughter can have a playdate is during weekends, which is when most families try to do things together rather than have playdates like other moms can arrange during the week.  I am determined to keep them in touch because of my own nomadic experience all throughout childhood and having to make a new set of friends nearly every year until third grade.  I made friends then but lost them all when I moved four years later.  And forget about high school.  Making friends from scratch in a junior high school where I was the only Chinese girl (and a shy one who was self conscious about her looks and lack of wardrobe) out of 350 students in my class was a complete and utter joke.

I am a dedicated book reader to my daughter, seldom missing a night since my daughter was an infant.  I also didn’t have this when growing up, and subsequently, I don’t care too much for books (I know, blasphemy).  And this coming from a book author!

I am an empathic provider of emotional support when my daughter is distressed about something. I didn’t grow up with parents who were particularly empathetic or patient with my fiery temperament (and thanks to pubescent hormones), so my mission is to support my daughter 100%.  Though, I have to say I am completely dreading her teenage years!

I am a good schedule keeper, always making sure my daughter and I get up 1-1/2 hours before any weekend activities, including Chinese school, ballet, and swimming.  That gives us time to eat breakfast (and she’s a very slow eater) and get some TV or playtime in before leaving home.  Transitioning environments has always been somewhat of a challenge for our daughter, but thankfully, she is getting better about it as she gets older!

I am a good outfit coordinator, given budget limitations.  I’d like to think I have a good sense of style.  My daughter doesn’t have a dress on everyday like some girls in school, but that’s okay.  As long as she doesn’t deal with the conditions I grew up with (i.e., rotating among 5 outfits to wear each week in HIGH SCHOOL and having to deal with kids who don’t want to be friends with me because I don’t dress well and wasn’t the most well groomed girl in school), I am satisfied.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I used to care what other people think of me to the point that I felt pretty bad about myself.  Having survived PPD and having my daughter have put things into perspective way more than anything else has ever done before.  Now, my goal is to provide a good life for my daughter.  In order for me and my husband to do that, we try to do the best we can as parents to her.

Make sure she is healthy and happy.

Nurture her.

Be there for her.

Love her.

Who cares what anyone else has to think or say about my parenting style.  Period.

Parenting…..It Takes A Village

Here’s my second quick blog post for today.  This one was inspired by a good article titled “My Parenting Village” that I stumbled across that was posted last June by Ann Douglas on The Life Channel Network.  Ann writes about her experience as a mother for the first time and how she found that the secret to parenting success is accepting help and advice from other parents/friends/neighbors.  She participated in parenting support groups, used daycare services, looked to her neighbor for help/advice, and formed friendships with other new parents. 

I love the following:

After all, it’s not enough to care for the child: the village needs to care for the parents as well, by creating a place where support can be offered and information can be shared. It’s such a simple idea: investing in parents and children. And the dividends are incredible: brighter futures, happier families, stronger and more stable communities.

The article doesn’t touch on what happens when the stress of being a first-time mother, as well as inadequate social support, can be a major factor in postpartum depression (PPD). I devote a whole chapter in my book on the topic of social support–including what it entails and the history of it in this country (including the whole “village” approach of older generations) versus other countries–and many other relevant details including biopsychosocial risk factors of PPD, and advice–all of which I wish I had known about BEFORE I had my baby.  Having that knowledge might have prevented me from succumbing to PPD.  Consider buying a copy (soft cover, e-book and hard cover versions available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers).  Thank you!  :)

Out with the Old, In with the New……When It Comes to Parenting

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, wishing you a HAPPY YEAR OF THE DRAGON.  Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Gong Hay Fat Choy!  新年快樂

Whether you celebrate Lunar New Year or not, it’s close enough to the actual Western calendar that welcomed its new year only 23 days ago for you to observe this as yet another opportunity to bid adieu to the old and usher in the new.  Chinese traditional new year customs include cleaning one’s home, a symbolic sweeping out of the old year to welcome the new year.  I only wish I were motivated to do that today.  It’s hard when you’re bummed about how the snowstorm and ice foiled our family’s plans to celebrate today with relatives.  Boo to winter, snow, ice, sleet….! 

So, here I am, unmotivated to do much of anything, and I’m on Twitter.  I’ve been slowing getting back up to speed on Twitter these past couple of weeks, and I’ll have to say that if it weren’t for my new iPhone, I wouldn’t be.  Yes, the iPhone has actually made it possible for my return to Twitter!  Wahoo!  So, I am able to tweet before and after work and on weekends, time permitting.  With Twitter, I actually get access to some very interesting articles. 

The interesting reading I stumbled across was a Time article titled “The Parenting Trap: Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think of How You Raise Your Kids” by Bonnie Rochman. It grabbed my intention instantly and got my writing juices flowing…and hence, this blog post. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recall that I’ve previously blogged about competitive parenting.  You’ll also know that I’ve fessed up many a time about my low self confidence.  As I’ve known and as this article confirms, low self confidence (or low self esteem) doesn’t help when you feel that you’re surrounded by judgmental, competitive parents.

Who hasn’t worried about what the neighbors think of your chaotic attempt to get everyone out the door in the morning with homework and lunch in tow, or how teachers and other parents might judge the brands of clothing or food you buy?
 
Now, that there sounds like they went and plucked the thought right out of my mind! 
 
Being good parents, it seems, is all about balancing these pressures and knowing which ones are worth sweating about. New research finds that having high self-imposed standards can actually be beneficial, while caring what other playground parents think about the stroller you push or your decision to not buy organic milk may in fact undermine your confidence and up your stress levels.
 
I say Amen to that! 
 
The article proceeds to mention a very large study on first-time parents and factors that impacted their adjustment to parenthood.  The study delved into the concept of parenting perfectionism, which is further split into two types:  societal-oriented parental perfectionism (societal standards affecting how you parent and causing you to worry about whether you meet those standards and what other people think) and self-oriented parental perfectionism (having your own high internal standards and not being concerned about what other people think).
 
Not surprisingly, the research indicated that the former had a negative impact–i.e., high levels of stress, lower confidence–on the parents’ adjustment to parenthood.  The researchers point out such impact isn’t limited to adjustment in the early months.  It impacts the whole parenting journey overall.  And does this have anything at all to do with postpartum mood disorders?  You bet it does!   Trouble in adjusting to parenthood, feelings of guilt, anxiety and uncertainty of a first-time mom–these are all risk factors.  See my PPD risk factors post for more details.
 
Which brings to mind another interesting article from Time that dates back to October 2010. It ‘s an oldie but a goodie.  It’s titled “Mompetition”: Why You Just Can’t Make Mom Friends and I’d like to end this post with the video that’s highlighted in that article.  It cracked me up (it’s a video created by Valerie Stone Hawthorne who is mentioned in the article).  Enjoy! :)
 

 

Remember this…..
Life, and all that it’s comprised of, is not all black and white with nothing in-between.  It’s all different shades.  When it comes to parenting, there is no one right approach.  It’s not all black and white, and as such, the last thing people should do is pass judgment on others.  While you can’t control what other people do, you, my friend, can do yourself a favor if you currently fall under the societal-oriented parenting perfectionist bucket.  Stand firm. Don’t let what other people say or do get to you.  I know it’s hard. It’s been hard for me.  If someone tries to one-up you (the video has some juicy examples), don’t let that bring you down.  Don’t think you are less of a parent than they are.  Walk away from the situation.  Refuse to play the silly one-up game.  Plus, who wants to listen to the continued bragging, anyway? 

Out with the old you who might crumble and get all bent out of shape over a one-upper or judgmental parent. 
In with the new you who would hold your chin up high and–like the 2nd woman in the video–walk away from the situation, maintaining calm and keeping the mantra of “Everyone parents differently. I’m doing a great job. No one’s going to make me feel otherwise.”

Lenox Hill Hospital, Say It Isn’t So…..

Is it true?  What?  All the noise about Beyonce giving birth to her baby girl, Blue Ivy–oh, what a beautiful name (I mean the Ivy part, ahem)–at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, a very BUSY hospital in one of the largest cities in the world….a hospital that supposedly accepted $1.3 million from Beyonce and her hubs Jay-Z to have a whole floor to themselves.  That’s not all, the NICU–or neonatal intensive care unit–is on that floor!  The NICU is where preemies and babies with congenital conditions needing urgent care stay until they are well enough to leave the hospital.

This leads to parents with babies in the NICU not only being inconvenienced, but stressed out more than they already were because they couldn’t visit their babies without having security guards getting in their way.  Parents like Neil Coulon (just one of  the 3 examples I’ve read about) who was supposedly prevented from visiting his preemie twins in the NICU over the past weekend, couldn’t walk the floors without bumping into and being questioned by security guards, and whose visitors got booted out of the waiting room by those security guards. 

I just can’t believe Lenox Hill Hospital would allow something like this to happen.  It’s one thing to have security guards in front of Beyonce’s room.  It’s another thing entirely when they take over an entire floor that includes the NICU!  Money or no money, Lenox Hill Hospital should have taken all the other parents and their babies into consideration.   Seems the hospital forgot its other patients in the face of such celebrity presence…oh, and the $1.3 million.  If this is in fact true, then shame on them!

It is critical that parents be able to visit their babies in the NICU….both for the babies’ sake and for the parents’ sake.  The babies need to feel their parents’ loving touches, albeit through glass and gloves…while the parents need to be by their babies’ sides physically and emotionally.  As I mentioned in previous posts about postpartum depression risk ractors, the new mom with a baby in the NICU is at heightened risk to the high levels of stress that persists for as long as the baby is in critical condition.  Click here and here .

Hell, this couple is so loaded, why couldn’t they just pay Beyonce’s OB/GYN and staff to go to her house and deliver the baby there?  Oh, that’s right….she had a C-section, which probably requires special equipment in the standard OR (and to reduce the risk of something going wrong and the subsequent lawsuit).  If she hadn’t opted for a C-section, a midwife (or Beyonce’s OB/GYN and some nurses) could’ve performed an in-home delivery.

If I were a new mom in the hospital and my baby was in the NICU and I was prohibited from visiting my baby–and God forbid I couldn’t get to the baby and the baby was experiencing a setback–my husband and I would’ve contacted a lawyer by now.

Breast-feeding Is A Mother’s Choice…Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise!

My first day really back on Twitter (I decided to finally try to get back in the swing of things), and I saw all these tweets about an article on Psychology Today about breastfeeding[WARNING:  I realize that there are moms out there suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and/or having a difficult time breast-feeding that should not be reading articles that will only cause them further distress and feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  So, if you are currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, you should probably wait until you are feeling more strong before reading what I call crap that is being shoveled out in a feeble attempt to remind people that breast-feeding is best, no exceptions...which is what this article is trying to lead people to believe, which is dead WRONG.]

As I read the article by Dr. Darcia Narvaez, my mouth dropped farther and farther til it felt like it was going to hit the floor, it was that unbelievable.  It’s unbelievable that Psychology Today would allow such an unbalanced piece to be written, let alone be published for all the world to see.  The irony is that she’s posting this under the heading of “Moral Landscapes.”  I think it’s absolutely immoral what she’s doing in pulling such bullying tactics, trying to guilt mothers into breastfeeding irregardless of circumstances that they may find themselves in.  This Dr. Narvaez needs to walk the shoes of a mother who has suffered from childbirth complications and PPD.  It is obvious she has no experience or knowledge whatsoever of maternal mental health issues, PPD being a serious one, with one out of eight new mothers suffering from it.

Practically every single point she makes is filled with inaccuracies and lack of research to back them up due to a pure bias toward breast-feeding.  It’s almost like she deliberately set out to target mothers and try to bully them into following her preachings, but with no research/statistics to back any of her assertions up. Well, this preachy article should be pulled, in my honest opinion.  Thankfully, many comments opposing this article immediately started to appear on the site, and Karen Kleiman wrote a post on Psychology Today, which I applaud wholeheartedly.   Please check it out.  I wasn’t going to post a comment because what I would’ve wanted to say has been said in the numerous comments and this Dr. Narvaez wasn’t going to listen anyway.  Usually, I love to pull out my favorite lines to criticize here in my blog, but with this article, I would’ve had to quote the ENTIRE thing, it was THAT BAD.   I would like to take her first eight points and throw them out with tomorrow’s trash, especially the one where she tries to have you believe that “99% of moms can breastfeed successfully.”  Yeah, right.  Most women rarely succeed on the first try. Many don’t succeed until several days later. Some never succeed at all. Not succeeding at breast-feeding does not automatically make you a failure at being a mom.

But isn’t breast-feeding as easy as putting a baby’s mouth to your breast and having it suck? Aren’t we like other mammals that possess mammalian glands that produce milk for our offspring? We’ve all seen new piglets, puppies, and kittens lined up in a row doing their thing, all naturally knowing how to suckle after birth.  No, for HUMANS breast-feeding is no more instinctive than all other aspects of baby care that are learned from doing or learned by the in-person guidance of experienced individuals.  If breast-feeding were instinctive, why would there even be the need for lactation consultants? Why would one of the minimum qualifications of doulas be experience with breast-feeding? For every woman who feels that breast-feeding is natural, fulfilling, a source of contentment, and a great way to bond with the baby, there is a mother who feels that breast-feeding is difficult, painful and physically and mentally exhausting. Getting the baby to latch isn’t as easy as you’d think, and one would never know that a tiny little mouth can cause so much pain while sucking, especially if your nipples are already sore and cracking. And that’s in addition to the round-the-clock feeding schedule (e.g., one hour at a time, every two hours), sleep deprivation, and possibly even mastitis.

There’s this whole to-do about breast-feeding nowadays and how breast is best. Consequently, all too many moms choose to breast-feed with the best of intentions—knowing the benefits to the baby—but with very little concept of what it really entails, faced with a steep learning curve, and not expecting to have to learn or get help from anyone else for something as seemingly simple as putting the baby to breast to let the baby do its thing. As a result, all too many moms end up setting themselves up for a big letdown when they have difficulty breastfeeding and are unable to breastfeed for as many months as they were hoping to be able to do.

What new moms should keep in mind is that breast-feeding is a matter of personal preference. It is not for everyone. It is not a prerequisite to being a good mother. It’s a personal decision that must be made and should not be influenced by what other people say, think, or do. A mother who breast-feeds doesn’t mean she’s a better mother or loves her baby more than a mother who does not breast-feed. Breast-feeding is one method of feeding your baby. Your baby will grow up just fine with one of the formulas available today. There are plenty of people who were fed formula that are healthy and extremely successful in their careers.

A common misconception out there is that you must nurse your baby if you expect to bond properly. Let’s think about this for a moment. What about everyone who’s been bottle-fed? I doubt everyone who’s ever been bottle-fed failed to bond properly with his or her mother. You don’t have to breast-feed to bond. If you do breast-feed without any problems, that’s great. But you can also bond while formula feeding. Not everyone chooses to and/or is able to breast-feed. Dads and adoptive parents can’t breast-feed and are still able to bond successfully with their babies.

If you want to breast-feed, giving it your best shot is all you can ask of yourself.   Don’t let anyone else influence you into believing you must breast-feed. You and your significant other are the only ones who should have any say in the manner in which you feed your baby. It’s no one else’s business. You will be making the decision based on what you feel comfortable with and what you think is best for your baby. Feeding your baby formula doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.

Don’t feel guilty or deficient about not being able to breast-feed, and don’t feel guilty for having to stop breast-feeding if you need to take medication to recover from your PPD. The priority is for you to be well again so you can care for and establish a warm and loving relationship with your baby.

If you haven’t already done so, go on over to these blog posts that have also been written in response to the Dr. Narvaez’s article:   My Postpartum Voice’s “My Breasts, My Sanity, My Choice” and Fearless Formula Feeder’s “Good versus ‘Evil’: How ignorance can bring out the best in the breastfeeding/formula debate.”

Guide to Masters Degree in Nursing Schools: 50 Blogs to Prepare for Your Baby’s First Year

Just a real quickie from me today….I am honored my blog made it to the Guide to Masters Degree in Nursing Schools 50 Blogs to Prepare for Your Baby’s First Year.  Please check out this great list of resources that can empower expectant parents with information–remember, knowledge is power–and provide helpful resources and support to new parents experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. 

The resources are broken down into the following categories:

  • Pregnancy Blogs
  • Professional Blogs
  • Mom Blogs
  • Postpartum Blogs
  • Medical Blogs
  • Baby Blogs

I’ve Been There, You Haven’t, So….

I’m not sure what possesses people to criticize others, especially if they don’t know the full story.   Speaking of stories, let me share a little story with you about a couple I know that just had a baby a few weeks ago. 

The new mom is on maternity leave for 3 months.  The dad took two weeks off to help the new mom.   This is to be expected, in my opinion, and should hands down be something management in a company should allow.  But then, he announces that, going forward, he would be working from home once a week, even after she goes back to work.   Nice!  Wish I could’ve arranged for either me or my husband to be able to work from home once a week like that after my maternity leave ended!  I’m thinking this is great for them….and at the same time hoping that all three of them are okay–mom, dad and baby.  Cuz you just never know.   Having been in a position where I nearly wasn’t able to return to work, having a tremendously difficult time with my postpartum depression (which no one but a handful of people at work knew about), I have learned that you can’t assume everything is fine and dandy or peachy keen for the brand new parents and the baby.  You don’t know if the mom is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder.  You don’t know if they have adequate help. You don’t know if they are having a difficult time transitioning to parenthood. You don’t know if there were childbirth complications.  You don’t know if there are health issues with the new mom and/or the new baby.  You just don’t know, do you?  Unless, if course, you find out what is truly going on, directly from the new mom and dad. 

Well, as soon as he announced that he would be working from home once a week going forward, the negative comments started.  Granted, I left out a minor detail earlier in that these two individuals happen to work at the same company.  Well, regardless of whether these people work for the same manager, different manager, same company or different company, if they were able to secure an arrangement–whether it be short-term leave, long-term leave, flextime, working from home once a week– with their management and HR, then what’s the deal with all the complaining?  First of all, who would complain and why would they complain?  Let’s see…..the ones who were complaining don’t 1) know the extenuating circumstances of the new parents, and 2) have never been parents themselves.    Two VERY GOOD reasons not to pass any judgement, if you ask me.  In response to the criticisms I overheard, I pointed out that there may be issues that we don’t know about…after all, I had issues no one knew about and I nearly couldn’t return to work due to my postpartum depression.   In the face of such a narrow-minded perspective of these individuals, I felt compelled to say something, and so I did.  It didn’t end there.  The response I got was “It doesn’t matter.  They could’ve worked something out that didn’t involve his having to work from home once a week.”   Well, again, we don’t know what their situation is, do we?   So I responded “Well, they may not have any relatives that can help, and hiring help isn’t cheap.  What else would you propose?”  That was the end of that conversation. 

People with no experience at being parents should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about parents, especially brand new parents.  Just like people who’ve never been depressed before should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about those who’ve experienced it firsthand.

How hard would it be, I wonder, if people were to open up their minds and try to imagine themselves in the other person’s shoes.  It’s called empathy, and I do it regularly.  What about you?   Is it too much to ask for a greater capacity to understand, and to rein back the impulse to shoot someone else down verbally?  Seems to me that all too many people–from my own experiences throughout life–are more willing to do the latter.  Why is that?   Forget about overhauling the healthcare system.  We need to overhaul people’s attitudes.  As I’ve mentioned before, it all starts with parenting and leading and teaching our kids by example.  Teachers also play a role.  Speaking of teachers, all schools should be required to teach empathy in one way or another, through the activities kids are involved in.  I’m proud to say that our school system does, and very happy that our daughter will derive that benefit!

You Are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child

Two songs with meaningful lyrics, by two of my favorite artists, P!nk and Bruno Mars, have been at the top of the Billboard music chart.   

Bruno’s lyrics were a remake of the original (and I love this rendition, just like I love the video…one of my favorites), with this phrase catching my attention:  “You’re amazing just the way you are,” which he tells his girlfriend all the time because she doesn’t see the beauty that he sees in her.  The lyrics go on to say “When I compliment her, she wont believe me, and its so, its so sad to think she don’t see what I see.”   Looks like some low self esteem, though I’m not too sure whether the public has been thinking that deeply about what the lyrics actually mean.  

Speaking of low self esteem, that’s where Bruno’s “Just the Way You Are” lyrics intersect with P!nk’s “F**kin Perfect” lyrics.  P!nk wrote her lyrics and created her video for a specific purpose, and it was a very emotional experience for her.   With the goal of promoting awareness and the desire to effect change, P!nk’s lyrics and video were designed to grab one’s attention, make people think and talk about the topic at hand–a lack of nurturing environment for children/teens that lead to feelings of isolation that lead to desperation and depression.  The words that grab my attention in the song are:  “Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood…. Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated…You’re so mean, when you talk about yourself, you were wrong….Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead.  Pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less than f*ckin’ perfect.  Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you’re nothing, you’re f*cking perfect to me.”  Click here to see the complete lyrics.

I love it when celebrities who have the platform, the spotlight and therefore the ability to attract the attention of so many people use them to try to bring attention to important topics.  Now that P!nk’s song is a #1 hit, she can pass on the message that depression is an extremely serious problem in this society, and we need to stop ignoring it and do something about it.   And it all starts with discussion.  After all, we don’t typically like to talk about things like depression, cutting, suicide and other mental health issues due to the stigma relating to all of that.   With more people speaking up, there will be an increased awareness of the problem at hand and a decrease in the stigma that has prevailed for too damn long.   People will be less bullying, more empathetic.  Less competitive, more caring. 

There are two possible tacks we can all take to address this problem (but obviously it’s the first one that is preferable): 

1.  Proactive and preventive: 

Help people understand how their actions can have serious consequences on others.  Love, nurture, provide emotional support and patience to your children.  Ahem, parents, that would be you I’m addressing this to.  See past post on teen angst and depression.  We can lower the depression rates by creating a nurturing environment for our youth and teaching them how to cope with issues head-on, building self-confidence and self-awareness, and thinking positively.   Yes, we have the power to lower the risk for depression in our youth…and subsequently, there will be fewer adults with depression..and that includes women with postpartum depression!  Granted, depression tends to be hereditary, but that does NOT mean that everyone with depression running in the family will develop depression.  The environment in which our youth grow up is KEY.

2.  Reactive and remedial: 

Ensure individuals experiencing low self esteem, feelings of isolation, and depression get the help they need right away.   Be educated enough to recognize the signs that something is not right, and ensure they gets the help they need immediately.  DO NOT WAIT and think that things will resolve on their own because they WON’T.  Today, we are in dire need when it comes to improvements in mental healthcare.   Former First Lady Mr. Rosalynn Carter’s book “WITHIN OUR REACH: Ending the Mental Health Crisis” is a must read if you want to get a better understanding of the reality of our mental healthcare system as it stands today.  I’m sure there are many other books that can be read about this, but her book was the only one I’ve read (she signed my copy of it at the Postpartum Support International and Marce Society conference I attended last October).  It’s a quick read and  does a very good job summarizing today’s state of affairs.

I wanted to bring to your attention an excerpt of P!nk’s message regarding the reasons behind her lyrics and video (and I’ve chosen not to embed her video in my post because if you haven’t seen it yet, it can be very triggering):

“Cutting, and suicide, two very different symptoms of the same problem, are gaining on us. (the problem being; alienation and depression. the symptoms; cutting and suicide). ….Its a problem, and its something we should talk about. We can choose to ignore the problem….but that won’t make it go away…..I support the kids out there that feel so desperate/numb/powerless, that feel unseen and unheard, and can’t see another way.. I want them to know I’m aware. I have been there. I see them. Sometimes that’s all it takes.” 

Amen, P!nk, Amen!  I know you were writing these lyrics with your own baby in your belly in mind, and you want to be sure your child grows up in a warm and loving environment….one in which you yourself didn’t have.  I am going to ensure that my daughter has a much different experience than I had when I grew up.

My Baby’s Nasty Cradle Cap and Eczema Fed My Anxiety and Guilt

Another stressor that caused a rise in my anxiety levels in the weeks following childbirth that helped pave the way for postpartum depression to rear its ugly head was my daughter’s eczema and cradle cap.  They got so bad that my mother, mother-in-law and friends couldn’t refrain from voicing their concern, which at the time felt like criticism directed at me for letting her skin get so bad.  I felt like a bad mother.  After all, a good mother never would’ve let the eczema and cradle cap get so out of control.   I didn’t know better at the time.  Well, in retrospect, I think I would not have been so ready to blame myself if I had received advice and support from someone experienced with eczema and cradle cap from the get go.   If the books I read had in-depth information about why they happen and how to treat.  If I was referred to a pediatric dermatologist early on.  More than likely, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself and so anxious through it all.

Here’s a picture of the little girl with her cradle cap at its worst…and before all her hair fell out in clumps along with the patches of disgusting cradle cap until she was– much to our dismay –completely bald.  And did I mention she was born with a complete head of hair?  So, it was doubly hard for me to cope with knowing that I had anything to do with her hair loss.  I felt so, so guilty and such a lousy mom.

And here’s a photo of that same little girl a couple months later, after we bid good babyriddance to the cradle cap.  I am including these pictures to reassure other parents out there who are struggling with cradle cap that, even though it may never seem to want to go away, it will.

Looking back now, I think to myself: “How the heck was I supposed to know what to do?”  I was depending on the pediatrician’s expertise, and if she didn’t have expertise with skin, she should have referred me to a dermatologist that specializes in children.  Instead, for the eczema, she told me and my husband that there was no need to bathe her daily, that every other day was fine.  Even 3 times a week was fine.  She advised us to use Dreft to wash our clothes and avoid using Bounce or any other fragrance or anti-cling sheets.  She advised us to avoid using soap, and if we absolutely felt the need to use soap, it should be Johnson & Johnson’s baby soap.  She also advised us against using baby oil, since what our daughter needed was a moisturizer.  She recommended Neutrogena, a hand lotion of all things.

For the cradle cap, she advised us to use a cradle cap shampoo.  For the time in which her cradle cap was at its worst, she even advised us to apply mineral oil to her head and gently brush her hair.  That ultimately did work, as the gross skin patches would gradually come off as you brushed.  This was after we tried cradle cap treatment, to no avail.

Ultimately, the eczema got so bad the doctor was finally willing to refer us to a dermatologist who was nice but did not specialize in children.  Her examination rooms were equipped for adults going in for cosmetic surgery and Botox injections.  She prescribed a topical ointment called Aclovit, which is one of the few eczema ointments out there that contain the least amount of steroid.  She warned us to use it very sparingly on her skin (but not scalp) and for only a short period of time, since steroids have the tendency to stunt growth.

It was through pure trial and error and a half dozen lotions later before we discovered that Cetaphil worked best on her skin.  Having those large jars made it easier for us to, as our pediatrician put it, butter the little girl up from head to toe (or actually face to toes…we didn’t use it on her head).  When her cradle cap finally disappeared, we started to use a hypoallergenic, completely non-fragrant Huggies shampoo.

Until we found a really good dermatology group in 2007, we didn’t realize how critical it was for a pediatrician to be able to recommend a dermatologist that specializes in children.  It’s too bad we did not know about the dermatologist when my daughter was an infant.  Just as with everything else, you learn as you go. You gain experiences over time, not all at once.

The pediatric dermatologist prescribed a mixture of over the counter Cetaphil with a dermatological compound containing a mild steroid.  Today, at nearly 6 years of age, we still use the Cetaphil on her from face to toes.  The weekly exposure to chlorine from the time she started swim classes when she was 9 months old doesn’t help the eczema that stubbornly refuses to go away even today.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month – Join in blogging efforts to raise awareness on November 17, 2010

Premature birth is the #1 killer of newborns during the first month of life.  Each year 20 million babies–half of a million of them in the US– are born premature.  A baby that is born too early is not fully developed and thus cannot even suck and/or breathe on his/her own.   It’s simply heartbreaking.  

For those that survive the first year, all too many end up facing serious health challenges and lifelong disabilities.  What is alarming is the fact that the rate of premature birth is increasing (i.e., it has increased > 30% since 1981).  In half the cases, the cause of premature birth is not known, which is why we need to unite in our effort to raise awareness, raise funding and promote research efforts to prevent premature births! 

Here are a couple of things you can do to help promote awareness of this crisis:

1.      November is Prematurity Awareness Month®.  If you are a blogger, please grab a badge and post it on your blog for the month, as well as join other bloggers on November 17th to raise awareness of this crisis.   You can join in this event at Bloggers Unite and at the March of Dimes site.

2.  Ask your U.S. Senators to support the PREEMIE Act (S. 3906), a bill designed to increase research and education on preterm birth, by sending a letter to your Senators and tell them to act quickly on this March of Dimes priority.  To see details of the bill, click here.

3.  Sign up for advocacy alerts, which is a great way to stay informed on legislative developments.

Some of you who have been following my blog for some time and read my blog post last year on the same topic, the following is a reiteration, which I’m including again because I think it’s highly relevant……

What’s premature birth got to do with perinatal mood disorders, you ask?  Well, for starters, approximately 1 out of 10 women experience antepartum (antenatal, prenatal) depression (or depression during pregnancy), though unfortunately many cases go undiagnosed.  Research has shown that preterm births are twice as likely to occur for women suffering from prenatal depression (or depression during pregnancy). To complicate matters, antidepressants to treat prenatal depression have also been shown to contribute to premature births.  And let’s not forget that there is a high risk for postpartum depression (PPD) in women who give birth to premature babies, not only for those with prenatal depression—since depression during pregnancy in most cases will follow into postpartum—but also because the amount of anxiety, stress and exhaustion caused by having a baby in the NICU for an extended period of time can lead to PPD. 

In Deborah Sichel’s and Jeanne Watson Driscoll’s “Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health” (pg 178),  “Anxiety, whether mild or severe, can…..harm the fetus.”  Per Sichel and Driscoll, high levels of anxiety can cause premature births, stillbirths, low birth weight babies, and other complications due to the reduced blood flow, and therefore flow of oxygen and nutrition, to the fetus that results from the constriction of arteries in the uterus when the mother experiences high levels of anxiety.  You need to be aware, if you don’t already know, that the fetus is connected to you via the placenta.  The fetus is basically a part of you.  Just as all the nutrition you get from your food passes between you and the fetus through the placenta, medicine that you take will pass through to the fetus.  Similarly, stress hormones in a woman’s bloodstream from chronic anxiety will flow through the placenta.  In severe cases, stress hormones can cause blood vessels in the placenta to contract so much that it can pull away from the uterine wall, causing hemorrhaging and premature labor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Depression during pregnancy can lead to premature labor and delivery, not to mention low birth weight babies.  Since antepartum depression and antidepressants can cause premature births, more research is URGENTLY needed for the early detection and treatment of prenatal depression, as well as to find ways to treat prenatal depression without harming the developing baby.

American Academy of Pediatrics on the Importance of Screening New Moms for PPD

According to the latest American Academy of Pediatrics report published on November 1st in the journal, Pediatrics, with the over 400,000 infants born to moms with depression each year, perinatal (both antenatal and postpartum) depression is “the most underdiagnosed obstetric complication in America [which untreated and improperly treated] leads to increased costs of medical care,….child abuse and neglect,….family dysfunction and [adverse] affects [on] early brain development.” [1]

As I have said in prior posts, depression in new moms impacts the entire family.  Not only do fathers have an increased risk for developing depression themselves, but babies are at increased risk for insecure attachment, which can lead to developmental (cognitive) delays and behavioral (social, emotional) problems as they grow older.  Children exposed to maternal and/or paternal depression are at much greater risk of developing mood disorders, such as depression.  Hence, to ensure the health and wellbeing of the baby, it is important to ensure the health and wellbeing of the baby’s mother, which is why pediatricians are in a good position to screen new moms for postpartum depression (PPD), as well as help provide referrals for treatment and community resources/support services.

Between the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommending similar screening earlier this year and now the AAP, I truly hope that this will mean more new moms with perinatal depression being properly diagnosed and treated!  According to this report, although most pediatricians agree that screening for perinatal depression is something that should be included in well-child visits during baby’s first year, they also felt that they didn’t have adequate training to diagnose and treat PPD.  The report also states that the “perceived barriers to implementation [include] lack of time, incomplete training to diagnose/counsel, lack of adequate mental health referral sources, fear that screening means ownership of the problem, and lack of reimbursement.”[2]

There are indications, based on the report, that there have been efforts to move toward inclusion of women’s perinatal health in pediatric practices as demonstrated by programs like the one set up between Dartmouth Medical School and 6 pediatric practices in New Hampshire and Vermont, which show that pediatricians have the ability to effectively screen for PPD.  There is also the ABCD (Assuring Better Child Health and Development) Project, which is comprised of 28 states and their AAP chapters.  It’s wonderful that in Illinois, one of the ABCD states and one of the only states with a postpartum depression law, pediatricians who use the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale to screen new moms for PMDs are actually paid (yes, paid!) by Medicaid for doing so.   Once again, Illinois is setting a positive example for the rest of the country when it comes to looking after new mothers and babies.  For more information on the initiatives going on in the various ABCD states, visit www.abcdresources.org and www.nashp.org.

What we need to do is mandate pediatrician (and OB/GYN) training to recognize PPD symptoms and provide proper referrals to medical/mental health practitioners trained in treating PPD.  The ideal goal would be the establishment of a multi-disciplinary approach (like I mentioned in my last post) wherein doctors–be it OB/GYNs whose patients are the new mom or pediatricians whose patients are the babies of the new mom suffering with PPD—would collaborate with each other and mental health providers in their communities to ensure new moms suffering from a PMD does not fall through the cracks.

I’d like to end this post by pointing out the difference between the AAP’s view of PPD timeframes of occurrence and peak prevalence versus the proposed guidelines I wrote about in my last post with respect to the DSM-5.   The AAP indicates that the peak for a PMD is 6 weeks postpartum, with another peak occurring 6 months postpartum.  It goes on to state in the report:  “Given the peak times for postpartum depression specifically, the Edinburgh scale would be appropriately integrated at the 1-, 2-, 4-, and 6-month visits.” [3]  Hey, American Psychiatric Association, the AAP gets it more than you do!  Please get with the program!

In Conclusion:

From the mere fact that it’s the primary care pediatrician that sees the new mother and her interactions with her baby within the first six weeks (before the postnatal follow-up visit with her OB/GYN at 6 weeks), the pediatrician is in the best position to detect maternal depression early and help prevent adverse outcomes for the baby and the family. “In addition, it is the [pediatrician] who has continuity with the infant and family, and by the nature of this relationship, the [pediatrician] practices with a family perspective [since a healthy functioning family means the healthy development of the child].”[4]  Screening can [and should be] be integrated into the well-child care schedule, as it “has proven successful in practice in several initiatives and locations and is a best practice for [pediatricians] caring for infants and their families.”[5]  The report further clarifies that, since the infant is the pediatrician’s patient, just because the pediatrician screens for PPD does not mean that the pediatrician must treat the mother. It just means that if a PMD is detected during the screening process, the pediatrician would provide information for family support and referrals for therapy and/or medical treatment, as needed.


[1] Earls, Marian F. and The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family. Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum. Pediatrics 2010;126;1032-1039; p. 1032.

[2] Ibid., p. 1034.

[3] Ibid., p. 1035.

[4] Ibid., p. 1035.

[5] Ibid., p. 1037.

The Mental Cost Behind A Nomadic Childhood Experience

Thought you’d never see me post again, eh?   I think this is the longest (2-1/2 wks) I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog up in February ’09.  I just got really, really busy.  One would think that the summer would be all fun and stuff, but nah, not for me.  Work has been crazy busy, and I had to get my house ready for about 30 guests this past Saturday, which meant a week’s worth of cleaning.

I rely in many cases on what my blogging friends post to give me inspiration on what to blog about.  I also rely on tweets.  But since I’ve been out of the loop– as far as the Internet is concerned–for the past 2-1/2 weeks, I don’t have the latest scoop on anything.  So, I am going to blog about something that caught my attention 2 months ago.  It was a NY Times article titled “Does Moving a Child Create Adult Baggage?” by Pamela Paul.  

Without a doubt, the answer to the question is “YES!”  This is from personal experience.  Now, before you think I’m digressing from the topic of postpartum depression, read on…and read on all the way to the end of my post, and you’ll see why I am writing about my nomadic childhood experience.

When people ask me what my home town is, I can’t say North Caldwell, NJ, even though that is where I spent the majority of my life.   Plus the fact that I didn’t care to live there at all…I don’t have any pleasant memories of my 20+ years as a resident there.   Before North Caldwell, I had lived in 7 other places.  That’s 8 homes by the time I was in 7th grade.   For a while, I was moving on average once a year. 

My brothers were basically born and raised there, so all the friends they made in preschool followed them through to elementary school and then onto junior high and senior high.   I, on the other hand, had to make friends from scratch when I started 7th grade for the first time in this school district.   I had to do that at the toughest stage of any person’s life, which is puberty–a roller coaster ride (and boy, do I HATE roller coaster rides) I wanted to get off of so many times but couldn’t.  I really hated life then.  It didn’t help that I was shy and sensitive.  Not sure if I was born that way or that was the consequence of moving so many times.  Plus the fact that I was the only Chinese girl in a class of about 350 students who were primarily of Italian or Jewish descent.   Why else do you think the producers of “The Sopranos” chose to base their show out of N. Caldwell, NJ?  Teenagers can be mean to begin with.  When you put a stranger in their midst, and one who is quiet, probably not the most attractive and definitely not the best dressed, and Chinese to boot, you get P-R-E-J-U-D-I-S-M. 

Now, back to the article.  Up at the top, the author writes “THE GIST: Moves in childhood may do long-term harm.”   I agree wholeheartedly.  The long-term harm it has done to me is a lifelong insecurity in terms of my relationships with others, which is key to my generally low self esteem that I have been fighting to overcome all my life and hasn’t helped my job situation all that much, believe me. 

“PITY the military or academic brat.”  

Everytime I tell people that I used to move a lot, I get the same ol’ question “Oh, is your father in the military?”  It’s gotten to the point that I beat people to the question with the explanation “We weren’t military or anything.  It was due to my father’s job situation.”   He kept moving because he couldn’t find a job that he wanted to stick with.  It wasn’t until he established his own company, which is when we moved to N. Caldwell, that he was content to settle down.  Timing was great for my brothers.  Lousy for me.

“Psychologists, sociologists and epidemiologists have long recognized that children who move often tend to perform worse in school and have more behavioral problems than those with a firmly rooted picket fence.”

I could’ve told people the same thing even without reading this article.  This is the reason why my husband and I intend to stay planted where we are now until our daughter graduates from college. 

“[Findings suggest that] serial movers tended to report fewer ‘quality’ social relationships. The more times people moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower ‘well-being’ and ‘life satisfaction’ as adults (two standard measures used to quantify that ineffable thing called ‘happiness’).”

That first sentence describes me.  I would say that staying rooted in one place is important to enable quality social relationships to develop, which is a key part of most people’s lives.  After all, humans are social beings. 

“[Frequent moves during childhood negatively impact] “certain personality types. Introverts and those [who are deemed] moody, nervous or high strung…..were adversely affected, while extroverts remained blissfully unmoved.  Though this is just one study, Professor Oishi said, ‘Parents who are considering moving need to think about their children’s personalities and the potential risk.’” 

Though this research is too late for me, I now know better as far as my own daughter is concerned.  She is, like me, on the more nervous and high strung side of things.  I know what I need to do is to give her a stable, firmly rooted, non-transient, non-nomadic lifestyle.  The kind of lifestyle I wish I had had while growing up.

“Relocating is much harder on middle schoolers, already wrestling with puberty, than on younger and older children.”

Well, there you have it.  Now that I know what I know now, I am going to make sure my daughter has an easier life than I did when it comes to things that are within my control.  Like moving, for instance.  My husband and I will do our darndest (knock on wood) to have our jobs revolve around where we live.   From experience and knowledge of the impact of decisions we make, we can try our best to pave the way for our children to have less stress during their formidable years, which are basically their school years, and minimize the risk for teenage angst the best we can.    I want to minimize my daughter’s risk for depression…and postpartum depression when she hopefully has her own child(ren), God willing (so I can be a grandma).

Finally, as I’d mentioned in a previous post, the predisposition for depression in many cases is genetic, but whether those genes are expressed, or turned on, depends on the following:

  • your experiences during childhood and adolescence
  • the overall environment in which you live during those years
  • the severity of stressors with which you are confronted early in your life
  • how much nurturing (support, positive role modeling and positive reinforcement) you get from your parents

If we want to keep our children free of depression, along with nurturing, loving, encouraging and spending quality time with them, we need to minimize the stressors that they face within reason, especially as they go through adolescence.  Be aware and supportive of your children’s school experiences and activities, and help them with any challenges they face.   We can help minimize and even help prevent the onset of depression when our children are at their most vulnerable emotionally, which is during their adolescent years.

Celebrity Moms Speaking Up About Postpartum Depression

She’s one of my favorite actresses.  She’s known for her frequent roles with a British accent.  And she lives in England with her husband, Chris Martin (lead sinder of Coldplay), her daughter Apple, and her son Moses.   She was the leading lady in three of my favorite movies:  Sliding Doors, Emma, and Shakespeare in Love.   

Yes, I’m talking about Gwyneth Paltrow.

I’m now more in admiration of her than ever before.  And why is that?  Today, I stumbled across her blog “Goop” where she offers lifestyle advice in the form of weekly newsletters in the following categories: 

  • MAKE:    cooking
  • GO:    travel
  • GET:    gifts – fashion – wine – etc
  • DO:    health – diet – self care – spirituality
  • SEE:    films – events – books
  • BE:     parenting – family – friendships

This week’s newsletter happens to be about her PPD experience after the birth of her son, Moses.  The newsletter also features Dr. Laura Schiller – a NYC-based OB/GYN – who provides a brief overview of PPD;  actress Bryce Dallas Howard; Heather Armstrong, author of dooce.com and author of “It Sucked and Then I Cried;” and psychologist and frequent GOOP contributor Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes.  

Thank you, Gwyneth and Bryce, for your courage in speaking up about your PPD experiences!  Thank you for joining the ranks of celebrities such as Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond who have spoken up about their PPD experiences and have a desire to educate others about PPD.  It’s thanks to these celebrities being open and public about their PPD experiences that PPD is now being discussed more openly among mothers, on blogs, and in the media. 

Celebrities are generally viewed as financially capable of hiring all the household staff that is needed to help around the house and with any babies that come along.  From chauffeurs to maids and nannies, they lead the life the average mom like me can only dream of having.   Celebrity moms are the last ones the public would ever think would experience PPD.   After all, they have all the help they can get around the house, with cooking, laundry, childcare — you name it.    FYI, Gwyneth refused to hire a nanny for her 2 children, even taking time out from acting to focus on motherhood for a number of years, and it was only in the past year that she disclosed that she finally hired one.  

But just as PPD is blind to race and culture, it is blind to socioeconomic status as well.   With an occurrence rate as high as one out of every eight moms, PPD is a serious condition that requires more public awareness and destigmatization…which is why Brooke, Marie, and now Gwyneth and Bryce are speaking up.  PPD surprised them and debilitated them.  Much the same way as PPD surprised me and debilitated me.  PPD can happen to anyone, really.  But there are certain risk factors to be cognizant of.  We need more moms to speak up.  Those who are already in the spotlight have more ready access to the public’s attention, which is why it’s wonderful that these celebrity moms are speaking up!

Gwyneth and Bryce….I just hope you’re not going to stop with this one newsletter.  I hope you can take advantage of that media spotlight of yours and continue to speak and write in different venues about PPD.   Yes, take advantage of your celebrity status and help educate the public about resources that can help mothers get through their PPD experiences.

Anyhoo….one last thing I wanted to point out is that Gwyneth’s PPD experience shows us that just because you didn’t have PPD after your first child doesn’t mean you will be completely immune from having PPD in subsequent births.   And on the flip side, while Brooke suffered from PPD after her first child, she was able to avoid PPD after her second child….and that was due to awareness of her risk factors and minimizing them.  One woman’s pregnancy experience will vary from one pregnancy to the next, just like her childbirth experience will vary from one childbirth to the next.  We can only improve our chances for a good motherhood experience if we are empowered with knowledge about PPD, not caught up in any motherhood myths or thoughts of “PPD?  That can’t happen to me.”

Moms Being Supportive Rather Than Judgmental With Each Other

When I saw Liz Szabo’s tweet about her recent article on USA Today titled “Why do mothers judge one another and their parenting,” I knew I had to write a blog post about my thoughts on just how easy it is for others around the first-time mom to hurt her feelings, especially if she has postpartum depression (PPD).  This applies to the comments they make and the advice they give—some of which can appear to be critical, condescending, competitive and/or judgmental to the new mom.  Subsequent to this post, I stumbled across this article over at Dailymail over in the UK titled: “School gate battle of the competitive mums as two third admit to out do each other.”  Here are excerpts from the article:

Two-thirds admit to boasting about some aspect of their child’s precocious development, from classroom achievements to the more basic skills of walking and talking…..The study of 3,000 mothers revealed the main area of contention is child development, with nearly half admitting they are obsessed with having the first baby to crawl, walk and talk.  Thirty-nine per cent say they can’t help recounting their children’s individual achievements, and a third make a special effort to clean their house if other mothers are expected to visit.  Losing weight after giving birth is another area of rivalry, with 27 per cent of mothers admitting to post-natal crash diets and exercise regimes, while a fifth try to be better dressed than their daily ‘competitors’.  Four in ten admit they are jealous when others appear to be coping with motherhood better than them, with the same number avoiding particularly successful mothersto prevent feelings of inadequacy.

A spokesman for market research site http://www.MumPoll.com, which carried out the study, said: ‘Mums put an awful lot of pressure on themselves to be the best at everything.  ‘But it is impossible to have a perfect house, an attentive husband and make the greatest sponge cakes the town has ever seen all the time. And yet, ridiculously, mums everywhere are trying to do just that.  Mums need to remember that as long as the child feels loved and well cared for, they’ve done a fantastic job.’

TOP 20 AREAS OF COMPETITION

1. Being the first to crawl, walk, talk

2. Child’s achievements

3. A clean and tidy house

4. Losing weight after giving birth

5. Being organised

6. Potty training

7. Helpful husband

8. Being the best dressed

9. Having the best baby clothes

10. Throwing fantastic birthday parties

11. Romantic trips away

12. Lack of sleep

13. Earnings

14. Ability to breastfeed

15. Being unflappable when other mothers come to visit

16. Deciding to be a ‘hands on’ stay at home mum

17. Still having a great social life

18. Buying great presents for other people’s kids

19. Owning the best baby toys

20. Still enjoying great sex 

What may or may not explain the behavior of some—but definitely not all—mothers is this quote from Susan Maushart (pg 25) in her book The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk About It :  “[A] woman’s sense of personal worth as a successful mother is often enhanced by the perceived failures of others.”  Compounding the problem is that, for some reason that has a lot to do with human nature, women seem to feel compelled to brag about their children (and indirectly their mothering capabilities) and play what I call the “one-up game.”  The “one-up game” is where one mother—it may be a friend or merely an acquaintance from, say, a mommy and me class—will try to one-up you with respect to some kind of milestone from smiling to sleeping through the night, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, first words, standing up, walking, or potty training.  If you say your daughter just took her first steps on her own, the other woman will say, “My son did that when he was only 6 months old.”  In my opinion, these mothers do that because deep down they are insecure and by hearing these words spoken out loud and knowing they’ve successfully one-upped someone else they’re able to temporarily boost their self-esteem.  These women seem to believe that there is a correlation between these milestones and their child’s intelligence.  Why can’t mothers be supportive of each other rather than treat each other as rivals?

Moms with PPD tend to be more sensitive, their feelings will hurt more readily, and they will be more prone to feeling unimportant. She will tend to lack self confidence especially with respect to her new mothering responsibilities.  

Here are some ways moms can be more supportive, rather than judgmental, with each other:

  • Try to be as sensitive as possible, as she may mistake your advice for criticism in her first attempts at taking care of the baby.  The first-time mom has the tendency to be sensitive to remarks people make about her mothering capabilities.  The mom with PPD will tend to be even more sensitive than the mom who isn’t depressed.  The first-time mom who also has PPD in most cases lacks self confidence when it comes to taking care of the baby and needs guidance and reassurance that she’s doing a good job.  This reassurance will be especially important if she decides to take medication and feels bad that she will need to stop breastfeeding (remind her that her health is very important to you).  It’s important to keep in mind that words have the power to heal or hurt; the power of words will never be more evident than during the postpartum period. 
  • Only offer advice when it’s asked for.  Unsolicited advice can aggravate the situation for a mother who is already feeling insecure about her mothering capabilities. 
  • Don’t try to force any advice on her in terms of how to care for the baby you may think you’re trying to help her because you happen to have experience while this is her very first crack at being a mom.  However, a PPD mom—especially a first-time mom—will tend to be highly sensitive and low in self confidence with respect to her mothering abilities.  Correcting her or telling her she should do it this way, not that way, will make her feel more unsure of herself. 
  • Last but not least, don’t pass judgment on anyone, and that includes a mother you may or may not know well who seems not to be doing so well in the weeks following childbirth.  Unless you’re that other mother, you do not know what she’s going through.  Unless you’ve had a baby with reflux, colic, eczema, cradle cap and/or food allergies, you should refrain from any criticisms about how the mother of a child with one or more of those health challenges are coping.  I dare not dream for everyone to adapt the attitude of being helpful rather than judgmental.  It’s like longing for world peace.  We dream of that but know in reality it is unlikely to happen.  Whether a mom decides to bottle feed versus breastfeed, co-sleep or not co-sleep, stay home versus return to work and put their child in daycare is her business.