Just Be There For Her

I’m on a roll……4 blog posts in less than 1-1/2 weeks!   Is this a new trend? Not really.  I just have a lot on my mind lately.

I said the last post was probably going to be one of my shortest, but by the time I finished writing it, it wasn’t that short anymore.  Hey, I am the first to admit I’m verbose. I just have a lot to say, s’all.  But then again, being verbose isn’t a great thing when it comes to the working world (people like to see points…they refuse to read anything in paragraph form), for book writing, for blog/article submission requests with a very limited word count restriction, and for the audience that can’t stand blog posts longer than 200 words a pop and whose eyes glaze over if the content isn’t eye-catching, hilarious, dripping with satire or sarcasm, and/or mesmerizingly ingenious.

I’m sure a lot of people look at the length of my book and say “OMG, not for me.”  Hey, perhaps that’s why some people who have indicated they would read and review my book haven’t done so yet…..because when they received my book they realized it was a freaking encyclopedia and haven’t had the heart to tell me they didn’t have the time or interest any longer in writing a review.  :-/  Honestly, you should have seen the manuscript in its earlier stages.  Extremely challenging to manage would be putting it mildly.  What can I tell ya, I had a lot to say about my postpartum depression (PPD) experience, and I wanted to share my experience with as many people as possible.   Every last word I ultimately kept for the book was important, in my opinion.  I simply couldn’t cut any more information out.  I wanted this to be a “one stop shopping” experience of having everything I would’ve wanted to see in a book about a mom’s journey to motherhood that included PPD that I had a very hard time finding anywhere back in 2005, when I first started writing my book.

The Executive Director of Postpartum Support International, Wendy Davis, had written a wonderful review of my book, taking fully into account the length of the tome but in a very positive fashion.  I was going to attempt to sum it up, but in re-reading her words, I couldn’t bear to leave any of it out, it’s that good.  So, thank you again, Wendy, for your glowing words of praise.  I can never thank you enough!

One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood is a wonderfully thorough and accessible treasure trove of research, compelling information, and encouraging advice. It is sure to become a favorite, like a great cookbook that you return to over and over, knowing that you’ll find just what you want and references too! Ivy Shih Leung has written a thoroughly informed book with such a warm approach, it is easy for the reader to take in the solid information and the message of hope and recovery at the same time. Reading that Ivy has overcome her own struggles and written such a wonderful guide is in itself empowering and hopeful.  Every chapter is full of information, written with honesty, clarity, and perceptive suggestions. I am very careful about books to recommend to families and providers who want to learn about pregnancy and postpartum mental health; this is one book that I can recommend without reservation.  Ivy’s background in biology, her careful research, and her strong spirit have worked together to create an insightful author, and we are all the better for it. Thank you Ivy for being such an inspiring advocate and sharing this contribution to the field of perinatal mental health!

I posted this on my Facebook feed earlier today…because I couldn’t keep it bottled up….it was annoying the HECK out of me…and it’s not as if I don’t know that I should try to be more succinct and I haven’t been making any headway in that respect….I’ve been making a HUGE headway in that at work, thank you very much:

Something that just made my day <overflowing with sarcasm>. I was told I am quite verbose and I should learn to be succinct. Please tell me something I didn’t already know!!!

Y’see….I started off wanting this blog post to be short and sweet, and I’ve gone off topic from the intent of this post which is, as the title indicates, to just be there for the new mother.

Be there

I was going through some emails this evening and stumbled across one from Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders, giving me permission to use this image, which I saw pop up on my Facebook feed a day or two before Thanksgiving, for a blog post.  This image sums up the fact that what a new mom needs is non-judgmental company from loved ones…no words necessary.  This especially holds true for those who have never experienced a mood disorder like PPD, and are unsure of how to behave or what to say around a loved one who is suffering from it.  Although my book repeatedly mentions the importance of providing emotional and practical support to the new mother–whether she is suffering from PPD or not–the key to it all, should you be uncertain of what to say or do to help  her, is to JUST BE THERE FOR HER.  It is so important because the feeling of loneliness and isolation with respect to her experience of being home alone with the baby is one that is shared by many a mom with PPD.

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. Certain well-intended comments or advice can end up hurting her feelings. In my book, I offer suggestions for the ways friends and family members can be more supportive without being judgmental.  I wrote these suggestions, remembering how alone I felt in my PPD experience.  

So, there you have it….another post that I had every intention of keeping to a couple sentences but has easily exceeded 1,000 words!  Ironic that for a post that supports the notion that words are unnecessary, I am wordy as can be.

xoxo

Learning from Tragedies: Listen to the New Mom and Respect Her Needs

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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

There was another tragic and preventable loss of a new mother’s life.
AND
Another family is now without their mother.

This mother’s name is Joe Bingley.  Joe’s husband is determined to try to prevent what happened to his wife from happening to other mothers.  He has formed the Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation to raise awareness of this debilitating, highly stigmatized, misunderstood, and potentially life-threatening condition experienced by approximately 1 out of 8 new mothers.  Realizing the family history for postpartum depression (PPD) that ran in Joe’s family, he is determined to prevent what happened to Joe from happening to his daughter.  Joe’s death occurred back in April 2010, and this Daily Mail (UK) article was posted a few days ago to raise awareness of PPD and of the foundation that has been set up in her name.  I am writing about what happened to Joe to raise awareness and point out the importance of LISTENING TO NEW MOMS.  I mean, REALLY listen to them.

The title of the Daily Mail news article isThe ‘breast is best’ obsession and a mother driven to take her own life: This new mum was taken into hospital TWICE because she couldn’t feed her baby, but her pleas for help went unheeded.”  Between its posting date on January 2, 2014 and now, it has been shared 37,144 times and garnered 667 comments (none of which I had any desire to read).  Thanks to the attention-getting headline, it caused a large number of people to “converse” about the issues at hand as soon as that article was posted and started circulating via social media.  Having a dialogue about topics like PPD and breastfeeding (BFing) difficulties is good—especially since we don’t have enough dialogues on these “shush” topics, in general, hence the stigma—as long as it is done WITHOUT attacking one other.

The article quickly made its way around cyberspace, including many in the PPD world, as well as on such Facebook pages as The Fearless Formula Feeder (because many in that community have also survived PPD).  Unfortunately, it also attracted the attention of lactivists (hereafter referred to as breastfeeding zealots or BFZs, for short).  The FFF page’s post also attracted the attention of the BFZs who left trollish, angry comments until the entire post (it was merely a link to the Daily Mail article) was taken down…..but not before I read most of them.

When I saw the article title, my gut instinct was to REALLY wish I could pay a visit to all the healthcare professionals that failed to heed all the signs that something was wrong and failed to prevent such tragic loss of life, and tell them how I really feel and how they failed this poor woman and her family.  In this day and age, it is simply inexcusable for any healthcare professional that comes in contact with new moms—from the obstetrician to the nurses, lactation consultants—to fail to recognize that a new mom is in a distressed state and needs immediate treatment.

The gut instinct of the BFZs, on the other hand, was to be incensed about the title, insisting that it was deliberately worded to make it sound like BFing was a direct cause of Joe’s PPD and subsequent death.  They got their panties all up in a wad over AN ARTICLE TITLE.  I would like to ask the BFZs to take a step back and realize that there will only be progress in maternal mental healthcare as long as mothers feel safe in sharing their PPD experiences and BFing experiences.  What do they hope to accomplish by bashing, hating, forcing people to think their way is the only right way, and looking for conflict where there is none?  Progress can only successfully be made if we work together in finding ways to provide the support new mothers need and helping them to feel less alone and guilty in their struggles as new moms, rather than adding to the anxiety and guilt new mothers feel when they fail to perform up to so-called societal standards.

There were at least half a dozen BFZs who kept on insisting that Joe’s death had NOTHING AT ALL to do with BFing and everything to do with the lack of mental support—all the while insisting that everyone was erroneously confusing the two issues.  They claimed that Joe would’ve gotten PPD regardless of how she fed her baby.  Um, did you become an expert at PPD and a fortune teller all at the same time?  How can you possibly know this?  For Joe, these two issues were ABSOLUTELY interrelated!

The following is what I took away from the article, and  I sincerely hope the healthcare system in the UK would seriously learn from such tragedies…tragedies that could have been prevented by simply listening to the mother and nurturing her rather than letting a failing NHS system in the UK allow guidelines for postpartum assessment fail to be followed repeatedly (as in Joe’s case) and in so doing, destroying lives and families:

  1. Joe’s BFing difficulties were one of the many risk factors she had for PPD.  a) A history of miscarriages, family history of PPD (her mother, grandmother and aunt had all suffered PPD), b) personal history of PPD after 2 miscarriages and not receiving treatment (her home visitor told her to stay occupied to keep her mind busy….wtf?!), c) high anxiety levels from being a first-time mother who had previously had miscarriages so she was worried about her baby thriving, and d) feelings of BFing failure (her daughter was losing weight and she wasn’t producing enough milk)…. these were some of the risk factors that caused her PPD to rear its ugly head. Her prior PPD experiences after her miscarriages increased her risk for PPD after the birth of her daughter in 2010, and yet her home visitor, GP and everyone else who came in contact with her during her bout with PPD failed to make that connection. A mom’s feeling of not being able to provide the most basic and most critical function of being a mother to a baby–especially when the distress is so evident that she was hospitalized twice for BFing difficulties alone– can most certainly be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Plus, Joe was not told that it was okay to supplement breast milk with formula until her PPD was at a severe stage. If BFing challenges and pressure to BF did not exacerbate Joe’s PPD, it’s safe to say that these issues never would’ve been brought up in the article.  Even Joe’s husband clearly stated that the tremendous pressure to BF and her struggles with it were a contributing factor.  Joe’s husband is quoted as saying:

Joe was beside herself and returned to hospital on March 10. Her medical records say she was stressed and tearful. They suspected she was suffering from post-natal depression, but she was never referred for any kind of mental health help, only help with breastfeeding. The hospital seemed only to focus on the breastfeeding issue, not the mental health one. That’s the breastfeeding lobby for you…Joe ended up being connected to a breast pump for most of the day. By the time I got there in the evening, her chest was battered and bruised. She looked as if she’d been in a fight and was in a desperate state…I questioned why no one had suggested that she bottle-feed the baby. The midwife said that unless Joe or I specifically asked for advice on bottle-feeding, then they weren’t allowed to raise the subject.

  1. Joe had tried to seek help for her mental state.  However, despite her signs of distress and red flags for PPD, instead of being treated for PPD, she was re-hospitalized twice to provide her with BFing support!  The fact that they admitted her into the hospital for BFing reasons…and yet they did not give her any mental help?   Does that not tell you that HER wellbeing was not important?  Why on earth was there SO MUCH emphasis on BFing that her mental state was ignored and she was not treated despite her PPD symptoms?  How in the world could the health professionals who saw Joe ignore her cries for help?  Better yet, how in the world could they make a claim that her anxiety levels were considered normal for a first-time mother?  THAT is seriously messed up.    Public health services continue to fail our mothers by failing to prioritize maternal mental health services and policies.  Maternal mental health absolutely should demand the same kind of attention as BFing. Mothers need support REGARDLESS of how they feed their babies.  What I don’t get is this obsession with the baby with the mom falling by the wayside.

A woman who is depressed NEEDS HELP.  If she is suicidal, she needs to be taken SERIOUSLY.  Do not doubt for one second that she would carry it out.  According to the article, this poor woman had mentioned numerous ways she’d thought of killing herself.  At that point, she should have been immediately admitted to the local mother and baby psychiatric unit (that had 3 beds open at the time), but no one suggested such a thing!  Despite personally witnessing her deteriorating condition and hearing her say that she’d be better off dead, the home visitor continued to stand by the recommendation that she be cared for at home.  Frankly, I am shocked.  Here I thought the UK was leaps and bounds ahead of us with respect to postpartum support services, treatment protocols for perinatal mood disorders, the presence of psychiatric mother-baby room-in units, in-home health visitors to check up on the new mother, and even infanticide laws.  But it looks like somewhere along the way, time has stopped dead in its tracks across the pond.

Every single obstetrician, nurse and lactation consultant—whether it be in the US, UK or elsewhere—MUST BE required to receive training on perinatal mood disorder (PMD)—including but not limited to PPD, postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis—symptoms and what to do if a PMD is suspected.  This includes training on when to recognize when an emergency situation (requiring hospitalization) and to react accordingly, taking into account: 1) every mother is unique, 2) every mother’s needs are unique, 3) every mother’s birth experience is unique, and 4) the risk factors for PPD are different for everyone who experiences PPD.  For some, it’s the birth experience itself.  For others, it’s the way they are treated by healthcare professionals (i.e., being disrespected, dismissed).  For others, it’s inadequate social and/or practical support.  For others, it’s sleep deprivation and the hormonal changes from childbirth.  The list of risk factors goes on and on.

How I’d like to address some of the comments I read:

  1. If moms claim that BFing cured them of their PPD, then we need to question whether it was PPD or the blues that they experienced.  Differences between them are still misunderstood by the public.  I know this because of recent conversations I’ve had with various people, including friends and co-workers.
  2. PPD can happen in both BFing and formula feeding moms.  Neither BFing nor bottle feeding should be seen as a sole remedy to PPD.  BFing can reduce the risk or severity of PPD for some mothers, but for a larger number of mothers, BFing can exacerbate the situation for moms already experiencing  sky-high anxiety levels, uncertainty due to lack of self confidence, inadequate support—not to mention difficulties with BFing.  If a mom has PPD, then she needs to seek treatment from a licensed mental health practitioner.  She also needs social support AND practical support.  That social support would include BFing support IF SHE CHOOSES TO BF.  If a lactation consultant provides BFing support to a mom with PPD, then she should be able to at least recognize that there is PPD to be reckoned with and provide her with referrals.  They should NEVER let the mom’s health fall by the wayside.  That’s just common sense to me.
  3. Every mom is not an abundant milk producer.  The mom is not a machine to pump milk from.  She needs to be well to produce milk well.  See my previous post on mothering the mother….a very important concept at which industrialized/capitalistic societies fail miserably.  Being well doesn’t just mean being physically well.  It also means being mentally/emotionally well.  Every woman is not confident—or even prepared—to BF.  There could be a physical issue preventing milk production and mom’s milk alone is insufficient, then formula or donor milk should be made available (they would come into play should she choose to stop BFing altogether).  If a new mom has a preference not to BF (that reason is important to her and we must acknowledge that), then so be it.  As long as the baby is eating and thriving, that’s all that really matters.  The priority should be to ensure the baby is fed.  Period.  If she wishes to BF, then adequate support should be provided (by a lactation consultant).   The mother should be supported regardless of how she feeds her baby.
  4. I wasn’t breastfed, just like many others from my generation.  Does that make me physically/mentally deficient because I didn’t have breastmilk?  I would like to think not, thank you very much.
  5. Just because one mom has a positive BFing experience doesn’t mean that all other moms must have positive BFing experiences.  For all those who think this way:  it truly helps to keep an open mind and trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes.  There’s a word for that:  EMPATHY.  Everyone is NOT the same.
  6. BFZs insist that the tragedy had nothing to do with BFing or the pressure put on women to BF.  But for many women (just read the comments in the FFF and Bottle Babies communities to see that this is the case), the pressure to BF and the ensuing difficulties to succeed with BFing has led many a mom down a PPD spiral.  There should NEVER be any pressure to BF.  But that pressure is there.  It’s all around the pregnant mom. It’s in daily conversations.  It’s in doctor visits.  It’s in advertisements.  It’s there once the baby arrives and never ceases to let up.  All this pressure sets up the first-time mom to experience high anxiety during pregnancy and if things don’t go well during the first postpartum days, the high anxiety in a mom with high risk of mental health issues can most definitely tip the scale toward PPD.  BFZs are concerned about one thing only:  that mothers use their boobs for the reason that they were designed: to feed their babies.  They don’t care one smidgeon about any extenuating circumstances that could preclude BFing.  They are so blinded by their passion that they are willing to make bold claims about BFing struggles/pressure to succeed and guilt for BFing failure as having nothing whatsoever to do with PPD.  They are so obsessed (mostly due to inexperience and some kind of narrow-minded superiority complex) with BFing at all costs that they can’t see the forest through the trees.  They can’t see the big picture.  Posts and comments written by women who don’t exactly think the way they do—like moms who have actually experienced BFing difficulties and/or PPD—cause  their panties to get all up in a bunch.  And that’s when they come a trollin’ in their narrow-minded, petty, and condescending mindset.

I want to see the end to this crazy system that we have going on here that sets women up for PPD. The impossibly high stakes raised by the BFZs whose mantra is:  the one and only and most important thing a mother can do for her baby is to BF her baby—everything else, including the mother’s health, be damned.  The BFZs will make claims that the sleep deprived, anxious mom who lacks support and confidence in BFing and is clearly having difficulties feeding her baby is just lazy and is merely making up every excuse in the book to feed her baby formula–that sub par, evil stuff.

Nah, the new mom doesn’t need sleep.  She can stay on—er, up—all night long because her boobs will automatically pump out endless amounts of milk on demand. She doesn’t need any nurturing or rest to regain strength.  After all, she’s a machine, right?  Not a living, breathing individual who just lost large amounts of blood during many hours of delivery—perhaps even had a complication or two (like I did with the placenta accreta and emergency partial hysterectomy)—and is in the process of hormonal upheavals.

Sound absurd?  You bet!

Bottom Line:
We all know the benefits of breastmilk and most, if not all, mothers would like to provide what’s best for their babies.  BFing is beneficial to the mental health of some moms, but NOT all moms.  EVERY MOM’S EXPERIENCE IS UNIQUE TO HER.  To ensure the health of the baby, you need to ensure the health of the mother.  Societal attitudes of the baby’s life meaning more than the mother’s (you’ll find evidence of this in daily posts on the ways certain states want to control women’s reproductive lives) NEED TO STOP.  EACH AND EVERY MOTHER’S voice must be heard, not ignored or shrugged off.

REALLY LISTEN TO THE NEW MOM
AND
RESPECT HER NEEDS

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Maternal Matters

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

I felt like blogging tonight.  Partly to keep my mind preoccupied so I won’t be nerve wracked all night, worrying about a presentation I have to give at work tomorrow.  Some of you know that I absolutely HATE public speaking of any sort.  HATE.  :(

As my regular readers may have noticed, I don’t rant much any longer….I’ve mentioned before that my years of book writing and blogging have been EXTREMELY cathartic.  I mentioned in my last post that I will continue to share what I feel to be newsworthy developments in research and media that demonstrate a continued forward momentum in the mission to de-stigmatize postpartum mood disorders and provide mothers with the care that is so desperately needed and is yet so lacking, still.  I will also continue to share interesting tidbits I run across from my daily reading material that comes up in my Facebook news feed or elsewhere.

Tonight’s post shows how –despite valiant efforts in advocacy, public awareness and mother support on the part of many, some of whom I personally know–for every one step forward that’s made, there are forces out  there that are ever so ready to drag us two huge steps back.  I would like to highlight two examples of barriers to progress that were mentioned in news articles in the past couple of weeks.

FIRST ARTICLE
This week’s announcement of the closing of the Shuswap Family Resource Centre’s Mother’s Journey Prenatal and Postnatal Support Group in British Columbia, Canada, is an example of how, despite the known benefits of having a postpartum support group, establishing and maintaining such groups within communities that don’t observe social support customs and rituals when it comes to expectant and postpartum mothers has been an ongoing challenge, mostly due to lack of funding.  The postpartum support group offered mothers education (including self awareness and coping mechanisms) and support on 25-week open-ended cycles, meaning that mothers were able to freely join or leave at any point.  Despite the realization of the importance of such a postpartum support group by healthcare practitioners and the community, and the simple fact that there were so many PPD cases and not enough trained individuals to provide the needed care, this center is closing its doors for good.  Even while it was open, because there was no other support group like this anywhere in the area, PPD moms generally had to wait several weeks just to see someone.  If a couple of days felt like an eternity for me when I was in the depths of my PPD, having a mother wait several weeks is simply unacceptable.  Postpartum support groups should be opening, not closing, their doors to mothers!

We need more postpartum centers that focus on the needs of mothers and ensuring there is adequate support in the first one to three months after childbirth. Early intervention and women-centered health initiatives and programs and support services need to be the standard of care rather than the exception!

SECOND ARTICLE
The title of the article is “10 reasons why breastfeeding is out of fashion,” written by Beverly Turner in the The Telegraph.  I don’t get why women in media–or actually in this case a journalist who reminds me a lot of the other political developments that pop up in my Facebook news feed everyday that make me wonder how we could be in the 21st century and still be faced with so many anti-women initiatives (but I won’t go into there because I KNOW how right wing versus left wing thinking can terminate friendships at the snap of a finger, and this blog is not a political, feminist, or pro-choice versus pro-life blog) –want to be a barrier to progress for women?  What she wrote made me sit there and re-read certain parts of her article, all the while scratching my head and going “Huh?  I don’t get it.  This makes no sense whatsoever.  And she’s supposed to be a journalist?  This article is so poorly written!  How could she criticize other women when she doesn’t have a clue about their experiences?”

Now, as for her so-called ten points:

1.   “Lack of post-natal care to help women establish feeding pattern.”
Sure, we need an overall increase in the availability of postnatal and breastfeeding support for new moms in the first 3 months.

2.   “Lack of high-profile role models breastfeeding.  This is why I implore the Duchess of Cambridge to get out her royal orbs when she has her first next month.”
I actually think there are a good number of celebrities that have announced that they are breastfeeding, or breastfed, their babies.  Granted, there could be more, but we have more now talking about breastfeeding than ever before. Honestly, though, did she have to refer to the Duchess’ boobs as “royal orbs”….?!   Does she sound like a man, or is it just me?  From this point on, the article goes downhill very quickly…..never mind very quickly, try at warp speed.

3.    “Noisy loons creating ‘Brestapo’ caricatures to appease their own consciences.  These women are oddly vocal contingents, who bring their own neuroses to public forums shouting that women ‘shouldn’t be pressured…rather than helped (doh!). They are the same crowd who shout ‘women who have caesareans haven’t failed’! rather than, ‘what the hell is wrong with a system that is failing so many women’? It’s oddly misogynistic.”
WTF?  Hypocritical much? I don’t need to go into this in detail because the fabulous, er, Fearless Formula Feeder has already blogged about this in a brilliant letter addressed to this, er, so-called journalist.

Reasons 4-6 and 8-10 may make sense being included on this list but the points she makes for each are weakly written.  Not even worth mentioning, really.

4.    “Reluctance to give time to our babies.”
WTF WTF WTF?  This screams mommy war completely.  How does she know what each mother’s experience is like?   Get this woman a huge dose of empathy, STAT!  I wish people like her who’ve never known firsthand what it’s like to experience PPD or other postpartum mood disorder and/or serious breastfeeding challenges would just keep their flapping and condescending lips shut.

There is a correlation between success in breastfeeding and PPD occurrence, which is why I think it’s important that as many of us that have been there–suffering from PPD and/or experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, and having very little support for either–speak up and have our voices heard.  Because without our voices, we will forever be taking steps backward.  We want progress!  Mothers should support each other, not bash each other!

LET’S KEEP OUR FOCUS ON THE FOLLOWING:

  • End the mommy wars!
  • More breastfeeding support can increase breastfeeding success.
  • We need more postpartum support groups, not close their doors!
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!
  • Continue steps forward, no backward steps allowed!

Finding My Tribe

I know, I know….it’s been well over a month since my last blog post….the longest pause from blogging since I started this blog over 4 years ago.

I’ve recently mentioned that, as time goes on, I feel like I am losing momentum when it comes to writing blog posts.  After a while, you just feel like you’re posting the same ol’ stuff over and over again.  I can only blog so much about my  postpartum depression (PPD) experience and what I learned from my road to motherhood…. without sounding like a broken record.  I still look for media developments that give me hope that things are starting to change with regard to public awareness, as well as research that sheds new light on postpartum mood disorders.  My recent attendance at the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference has inspired me to write this post.

Let me just begin with the fact that– despite the fact that I look Chinese– I act and speak very American.   I’d readily have a conversation in Mandarin with someone from China or Taiwan, and then just as readily turn around and speak to the caucasian person next to me with zero hint of being of Chinese descent (and not even of NJ residency, either, or so I’ve been told).  Standing next to an Asian woman from China or Taiwan, I am painfully aware of how different I am from them.  I am much darker skinned and a heck of a lot heavier.  Growing up, I was always described by my parents’ friends and relatives as “healthy looking” or “sturdy” via a specific word in Chinese.  That’s not really meant to be a compliment or anything.  Just a nicer way of putting the fact that I was “big.”  Funny thing is, when I was a teen (and compared to how I am now), I appeared frail and was always getting sick.  At one point, I considered becoming bulimic (forcing myself to throw up after eating so I could be slimmer), but luckily only tried it once.  It was gross.

Also, unlike so many Asians I know–those born in the states and those born overseas– I’m not reserved or shy with letting people know how I truly feel about something.  I say what’s on my mind.  There’s no holding my thoughts back and I’m finding that, as I get older, my filtering mechanisms don’t work as effectively as they used to!  I mean, c’mon, I blog and wrote a book about my PPD experience, for crying out loud.  I wasn’t like this all my life. It’s more of a recent development that began with my PPD recovery and peaked this past year.

I’ve gotten tired of doing something just in the past year.  What is it, you ask?  Well, I have stopped feeling bad about not being able to make friends with Chinese women (from overseas) whose daughters are about my daughter’s age who are completely the opposite from my daughter in that they look and behave like they’re from overseas.  They speak Mandarin fluently, not to mention are already competitive and driven to succeed.  I get this vibe from these mothers that make me feel like I am on a completely different wavelength (or planet, even) from them.  I carry myself differently from them, speak differently, look different, and see things through a different lens than they do.  Doesn’t help that I feel like a football player next to them….all big boned and “sturdy” looking.  Ha!

All my life I have been looking for a group with which I could readily identify.  Sure, I get along with people easily, in general, but that’s not something I found easy to do until very recently.  When I was a teenager, I didn’t fit in with the rest of my caucasian class of approximately 350 students.  Nor did I fit in with the kids in my Chinese church.  I fit in more with my Chinese teen club because these were kids who were about the same age as me and who, like me, grew up in very caucasian environments as a Chinese American.  But I still didn’t closely identify with any of them. Nothing really changed in college.  Although there were Asian clubs at my alma mater and throughout the Five College area that my alma mater happened to be a part of, as well as at Columbia University and NYU (since I had friends at both those schools), I still didn’t really feel like I truly fit in with anyone in those clubs.  I learned that–we could be Asian-looking on the outside–but that doesn’t matter.  As far as women are concerned, the claws will come out and their lips will flap to turn others against you, and gullible guys (and women) who don’t know any better will listen to them.

And the working world in the Tri-state area hasn’t been that much better.  At work, it’s non-stop work, work, work.  In this day and age, the environment is one of high stress and very little time to have the opportunity to develop friendships with any co-workers.  Sure, I was part of a determined group that started up the very first Asian employee network in the NY metro area for our company, and I’ve made a good number of friends from my involvement with this network for many years.  But again, there was no meaningful bond.

And I won’t even go into detail about my ‘hood because I’ve blogged about this before, and let’s just say that I’ve found it hard to fit in here as well.  I always feel like I’m on a different wavelength with the majority of people living in my immediate area….perhaps it has to do with the fact that I am one of the few mothers that went right back to work promptly after my 3-month maternity leave was up.  Doesn’t help that–like I’ve said previously–I was raised by parents who never really mingled with neighbors or relied on them for anything.  I know I have the ability to change that tradition, but honestly, it’s hard when you work all day long and by the time you get home, it’s only a few hours before you gear up to start the cycle all over again the next morning.  It’s also hard to get beyond the feeling that you are just not as great as parenting as they all are…these mothers who seemed to lead perfect maternal lives, keeping perfect homes, cooking and baking for their families, carpooling with other neighbors’ kids to/from school each day, attending their kids’ soccer matches, etc.  O-M-G.  I’ve been having a hard enough time just scraping by–having emerged from my PPD experience back in 2006–in taking turns with the hubs in rushing off in a panic to drop the kid off  at before care each morning, coming home from work late everyday and trying to scrape a meal together for all of us before it’s time to put the kid to bed.

fence_ISLI refer to my predicament I’ve found myself in all my life as being on a fence.   A fence between people of different wavelengths…not really  fitting in with one particular group or another. Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve had good friends for many years, but there was always some invisible barrier preventing me from truly feeling like I was part of a cohesive group, which because of a common bond, that people automatically identify themselves a part of.  In other words, a tribe.  What is a tribe?  Dictionary.com defines it as “any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.”

I’ve been a member of PSI since 2006 and have attended a number of PSI annual conferences to network with and pick up the latest information from subject matter experts. Here’s an excerpt out of my book:

It was at my first Postpartum Support International conference that I felt a sense of belonging, understanding of the pain I’d experienced, and validation that I wasn’t the only one who had suffered such an experience. I finally found a group with whom I shared the common bond of wanting to become more knowledgeable about PPD and wanting to help other women. I felt comfortable and comforted being in their midst. The attendees were, for the most part, PPD survivors who became impassioned enough about the subject to become MDs, PhDs, and social workers who treat women with PPD.

It wasn’t until this past conference that I just attended in Minneapolis that it dawned on me that….hey, wait a second, I think I’ve found my tribe!  I’ve always felt like I shared a common bond with the amazing ladies that are members of PSI, but I have to say I’ve never felt such a natural bond with people from different parts of the country and with all different personalities and backgrounds–than I felt at the PSI conference last week.  I felt incredibly comfortable and at home, despite the fact that I was in a city I’ve never been to (and had never previously thought of visiting).  Being with this group of women helped me to feel like I was at home.

Most of us are survivors of a postpartum mood disorder.  Most have dedicated their lives to supporting women from a research and/or support basis as social workers, lactation consultants, midwives, doulas, therapists, and founders of PPD support organizations in their local communities.  I am a PPD survivor, blogger and book author who shares their desire to spread awareness about postpartum mood disorders and providing mothers with the support they need during the postpartum period.  I’d like to do more, but I just haven’t figured out what exactly yet.

These ladies are caring, dedicated, down to earth, and amazing.   They are far from catty, competitive and superficial–attributes I remember all too well among fellow students and even among colleagues at work.  It felt good and natural to be with them, and I must say that I look up to each and every one of them.  I have so much respect and admiration for all of them.  They make me realize I have certain shortcomings that prevent me from doing what they do each and every day, working directly with women who need help.  They inspire me to want to do more for mothers out there!

I had such a great time in those 2 short days I spent at the conference, and so looking forward to seeing them all again at next year’s conference at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill!

PMS + Recent News = One Unhappy Mama

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

 A few days ago, I felt the way I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.  Thanks to PMS (I still do get it even though I’m missing my uterus), I felt so down in the dumps emotionally that I almost feared I was going to relapse into depression, which I haven’t experienced since my dark days of PPD.  I’ve posted about PMS before (and how it should not be confused with PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

I was already “blue” from my ol’ buddy PMS, so the news from last week….the deplorable words uttered by Todd Akin (holy smokes, how anyone today can utter Middle Ages crap the way he did and supposedly be an educated person acting in Congressional capacity is beyond me)–so ignorant that ACOG had to issue a statement to point out how misinformed he was and dangerously so; the Latch on NYC campaign and other similar campaigns that will only succeed in making mothers feel more guilt-ridden than ever if they can’t for whatever reason breastfeed successfully; the GOP no-exceptions stance on abortion (i.e., even in cases of rape and incest); the increasing gender gap in the political race; bullying incidents; shootings; and so on.  No wonder the depression rates are so high.  We are living in a society of people who lack empathy.  Society is heading down a slippery slope because we are focusing less and less about each other and more and more about who is superior, wealthier, more powerful.  What about education of our future generations?  What about mental healthcare of our mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders and returning troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in need of help in transitioning back to their lives back home?  The list goes on….boy, are our priorities all screwed up!

I seriously need to unplug.  And yet I can’t.  So I can only blame myself if I continue to let news and subsequent emotions drag me down.  But at least I will know immediately if I get to the point of being depressed.  I’ve been there before.  It’s not a “mind over matter thing” as is the narrow-minded and ignorant conviction of depression naysayers–most if not all of whom have never been depressed before…..which brings to mind the narrow-minded, completely lacking in empathy, callous and narcissistic view of breastfeeding nazi’s who have the gall to come out and say things like “there’s absolutely no reason why a new mother can’t breastfeed; nope, none at all.”  Depression is a serious health issue that needs professional attention.

The common denominator of these examples is a holier-than-thou, completely narcissistic/egomanical attitude of the ones holding the power (or believing they hold the power because they are just that high on themselves).   The feeling that there is utter lack of control over all the events occurring around me made me look at my own personal situation and feel the same way–about work, my house, and the people in my life–and prompted me to say the following last Wednesday on Facebook:

Feeling pretty disillusioned by a lot of things lately. Work, neighbors, people you think that are your friends, what comes out of the mouths of people (govt level and general population) that are narrow-minded and sometimes even hateful. I’m tired, folks, really tired of it all……
[These] are all separate issues (one has nothing to do w/the other) that have been bugging me and making me question my relationships w/people…..
Sometimes I just want to up and move but I know we should stay put for [my daughter's] sake. She needs the kind of stability I never had while growing up…..
It sucks to feel so “stuck” in a situation you want to desperately have more control over…..  
I’ve had moments of doubt but never this bad. I really feel like I’ve had it with everything.  I need a change. A new house and ‘hood ( same town) would be a great start. I also need to unplug for a while. We’ll see….
I’ve been letting the news get me down. Seems like there is more bad news than ever before. I need to unplug for just a couple of days….but find it nearly impossible. That’s affecting my attitude in general, so as a result, my feelings about work and everything else is getting dragged down.

Fortunately, after a night’s rest with SIX hours of sleep (I had gotten between 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep the 3 nights prior to that), I felt a tad better….and I have no doubt that the improvement was mostly due to my PMS packing up and leaving me alone for the next month.  I was able to go to work and feel like my ol’ self….thankfully.  But during those 2-1/2 days, I was scared I might be depressed again.  This time, I was prepared to seek cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which I admit wouldn’t hurt because I have a feeling that my proclivity to think negatively could use a serious makeover.  I need to know how to redirect my negative thinking, which just might improve all aspects of my life.  No more being overly defensive even with my own husband, which causes arguments.  No more thinking that my family and I are not welcome in our ‘hood; hence, my desire to move but realizing we need to stick it out until my daughter goes off to college.  No more feeling like I’m going to beat my head against the wall due to the thankless environment in which I’m stuck at work.  No more feeling like I’m growing farther and farther apart from the friends I’ve had for years.

All these thoughts were weighing down on me, and it didn’t help that I had an awful headache for the whole 2-1/2 days that I felt blue.  The sweet responses from my friends helped a lot.

Now, if only I can stay away from those dreadful articles…….there is yet another one waiting for me to read before I shut down my PC for the night.   I have a feeling it’s going to be a doozy, thanks to the title of the link that showed up in my Facebook news feed a little while ago.  Even if a new President were to be elected, the bad news is going to continue unabated.   I may sound like a pessimist, but I’m not.  I’m a realist merely pointing out how things are.  It’s not pretty out there.

Bottom line…..I think we all need to learn how to care about/empathize with each other more.  Empathy needs to be engrained in our youth starting from a young age.   Parents and other adults in a child’s life need to model empathy.   After all, children mimic their parents’ behavior.  Schools need to establish empathy programs to help reduce bullying incidents.  Empathy is the key to improving the state of the world we live in.  Otherwise, we are going to continue to raise children to be just like all the narcissistic/egomaniacal, narrow-minded, greedy, uncaring and callous individuals I keep reading about in the news lately.  Not saying all of you that are reading this blog post are going to raise children that way….just saying that unless we open our eyes and realize the difference empathy can make for us all, things are going to get uglier and uglier out there.  Here’s a site worth checking out: Start Empathy.

Latch on NYC – An Initiative that Fails to Consider the Well-Being of New Moms

A couple weeks ago, the announcement in the New York Post that Mayor Bloomberg was kicking off his Latch on NYC program intended to promote breastfeeding created such a stir in the blogosphere…and with very good reason.  My instinct was to blog about it.  But everyone was blogging about it.  They are still blogging about it.  And after letting the initial waves settle, I’ve finally decided to jump in.

I’m sure everyone is aware by now what this program is all about.  It’s NOT just about restricting the distribution of formula freebies in the “swag” bags that hospitals give to new parents as they leave the hospital, in an effort to increase breastfeeding rates, which is consistent with the ongoing effort over the past decade or so for maternity wards to reduce the amount of formula marketing.  It’s about REQUIRING hospitals to keep formula locked up and only available to a mother asking for it after hospital staff documents EACH AND EVERY occasion and reminds her that breast is best.  You no longer need your mom or mother-in-law to remind you that breast is best.  You’ve got hospital staff preaching it to you EACH AND EVERY time you ask for a bottle.  Having to be preached to by hospital staff for a decision that only the new mother and her partner should be making–and dependent, certainly, on circumstances like the health of the newborn and the condition of the new mom—is completely out of line in my honest opinion.  Frankly, I am disappointed in Mayor Bloomberg.  When people around me criticize him, I’ve been standing up for him.  Not any more, I’m not.

Granted, it’s been 7 years since I had my daughter and from what I recall, my “swag” bag contained more breastfeeding paraphernalia than samples of Similac and Enfamil and bottles from the likes of Playtex, Avent, and Dr. Brown.  But even back then, I felt pressure to breastfeed, given the countless images of breastfeeding paraphernalia that I kept seeing in magazines and on the Internet, and from all the people who kept asking me “So, are you going to breastfeed?”  I had planned to try to breastfeed for at least the first three months of my daughter’s life.  Though, I must admit I headed into it with much trepidation, not knowing what to expect or how successful I would be. I knew it was part of my maternal duty to provide the best nutrition for my daughter, so when I had to stop pumping due to the medication I had to go on for my postpartum depression (PPD), I felt so sad, so guilty.  But I knew I had to get better for her sake so I could be there for her and take care of her.  That was my #1 concern.  After all, what good would I be to her if I was completely ill and debilitated to the point of not being able to take care of her?  I was completely useless once I was caught blindsided and struck down by my PPD.  Now, looking back, I can honestly say I am content knowing that I did the best I could, given the circumstances with which I was faced.  I am content knowing I was able to provide some manner of breast milk to my daughter for the first one and one-half months of her life.

While I do feel that breast is best for the health of the baby (builds up immune system) and even for the mom (reduces risk of cancer), I am completely opposed to this dictatorial method of getting moms to breastfeed by putting formula under lock and key and only under medical circumstances can a mom ask for it.   Hospital staff preaching and unlocking formula for medical reasons only will only cause new moms to feel like they are in a prison. Formula is another feeding option.  Preventing moms from getting access to formula in the hospital, unless there is a medical rationale behind it, is so NOT RIGHT.

While I am all for the notion that breast is best, I am not in agreement that it is ALWAYS the best.  A woman has the RIGHT to choose how to feed her baby.  Whether she uses her breasts to do so or not should be up to her.  After all, her breasts are part of her body.   She should NEVER feel coerced into choosing one feeding option over another.  Some moms prefer to formula feed right from the get-go.  Some moms–and even babies–physically cannot do it.  They just can’t….and all you naysayers among the breastfeeding Nazi’s/extremists, yes, there are moms and babies who physically CANNOT breastfeed.   And then there are the moms, like me, who give it all they’ve got and under their particular circumstances (for me, it was childbirth complications, a partial hysterectomy three days after childbirth, anemia, extreme fatigue, being starved for about 6 out of the 7 days I was in the hospital, not enough lactation assistance, and overall trepidation and uncertainty with breastfeeding in general) had to stop after several weeks due to the extremely small quantity of milk produced, pumping such small amounts that there was no choice but to supplement with formula.

As a PPD advocate, I have to say that I absolutely DO NOT SUPPORT this Latch on NYC initiative.  We really need to avoid adding to the anxiety levels of new moms who face first-time motherhood with uncertainty and inadequate support (in general, and I’m not even talking about inadequate breastfeeding support).   A new mom, especially one who has already suffered from childbirth complications and/or neonatal issues with her baby(ies), needs support, not made to feel forced into breastfeeding if for whatever reason that does not end up to be the way she ends up feeding her baby.  The Latch on NYC program will undoubtedly make new moms who can’t/decide not to breastfeed feel guiltier than necessary, and that’s not an ideal way to begin her postpartum experience, her first few days of motherhood.  No, not at all.

If the intent is to boost breastfeeding rates, then there should be a direct correlation with the availability of breastfeeding support and education.  New moms need to be adequately prepared with such details as the process of milk production and who can address questions and concerns as they come up (e.g., what colostrum is and what it looks like, how long before real milk comes in, how long each feeding can take, how many feedings may be needed per day, why mastitis occurs and how to alleviate it if it does, and how to cope with leaky breasts).  For Latch on NYC to work and not have a detrimental effect on new moms, there should be an increase in the number of lactation consultants on staff at each and every hospital in NYC.  Is NYC prepared to do such a thing?  Hardly likely, since the objective is ALWAYS about cutting costs.  Hey, even the breastfeeding organizations out there will be the first to admit that the goal is to reduce healthcare costs, and hence, the number of trips made to a pediatrician.

Surely, Mr. Bloomberg, you can’t expect to increase breastfeeding rates without also ensuring an increase in education and support for breastfeeding?  Difficulties getting the baby to latch properly and breastfeeding complications like mastitis—these are but some of the factors that can contribute to an increased risk for PPD, which is why an increase in education and support are crucial.  There needs to be an uptick in breastfeeding (and also postpartum) support services that are easily accessible—not to mention, affordable—to new moms throughout NYC.  All too many moms are not educated on what it takes to successfully breastfeed on demand, around the clock during the first weeks.  You don’t know that all too many moms are left struggling to breastfeed without any help.  If all mothers had access to adequate support, I’m sure more moms would stick to breastfeeding longer. Fewer moms would give up out of frustration, complications, and sheer exhaustion.

Mr. Bloomberg, do you want to see an increase in the number of new moms embarking on their first-time motherhood experiences stressed out from your well-intended but poorly planned initiative (from a consequential standpoint of what this could mean to maternal mental health)?  Your intent may be noble from the standpoint of providing the best start to life for newborns, but it does not necessarily take into consideration the mental well-being of new mothers, now, does it?  Do you know what it’s like to struggle with breastfeeding challenges, inadequate support, extreme fatigue, childbirth complications, and neonatal complications?  Do you not realize that the health of the family unit is dependent on the health of the new mom?

Mr. Bloomberg, if you want to improve the well-being of babies, you cannot forget about their mothers. Hand in hand with this Latch on NYC initiative of yours should be an initiative to educate new moms and their families about PPD, as well as developing postpartum support programs, which are desperately needed but pitifully lacking.  You really need to be educated on maternal mental health issues at hand to know the impact your Latch on NYC program will have on new moms.

I’d like to end this post with some reminders to new moms faced with the decision of whether to breastfeed or not, or faced with breastfeeding challenges (including having to take medication for PPD):

  • Don’t let anyone else influence you into believing you must breastfeed. You and your husband 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 breastfeed.
  • Don’t feel guilty for having to stop breastfeeding 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.

For more thoughts on Latch on NYC around the blogosphere, check out these blog posts:

The Importance of Mothering the New Mother

Chinese call it Zou Yue.
Mexicans call it la cuarentena.
Greeks call it sarántisma.
Indians (Hindi) call it Jaappa.

Regardless of what it’s called or how long it is observed–be it 30 or 40 days–the goal is the same.  Taking care of the mother, so she can take care of her baby and get adequate sleep to recover from childbirth.

Many other countries in Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa observe a traditional mothering the new mother period.  40 seems to be a magical number, a number that has survived through the centuries and therefore has special significance….no doubt it has something to do with the fact that 40 days is the average length of time for a new mother’s body to recover from childbirth and return to a pre-pregnant state.  That is also why your OB/GYN will say to you once you’ve given birth that he will see you in 6 weeks.

The May 11th NY Times Well section included an article How to Mother a Mother by Tara Parker-Pope.  In it she talks about Claudia Kolker’s new book, The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn From Newcomers to America About Health, Happiness and Hope and how practices such as la cuarantena can help Americans (if they are willing to learn from immigrants) to achieve–just as the title says–health, happiness and hope.

Cuarentena sounds like how the word sounds in English for quarantine, or a period of isolation for illness.  The term refers to the first 40 days after childbirth in which the female family members and friends of the new mother surround her and provide her and her baby with care, so that the new mother’s only focus is on getting rest and bonding with/feeding her baby. They also help around the house and prepare meals.  Certain rituals are observed that are similar to those observed by the Chinese Zou Yue, such as the preparation of certain foods, like chicken soup, to help keep her body/system warm, as chicken is viewed as a warm food.  Foods that are considered cold, like cucumbers, are avoided.  She is to be protected from feeling overwhelmed; hence, visitors are kept away (or kept at a very minimum) during this time (this is probably how the term la cuarantena was derived).  She is told to avoid bathing for fear of catching cold.  All these rituals have the mother’s well-being in mind.  I am rather surprised to see such similarities between the Mexican and Chinese customs….after all, the countries are nowhere near each other!  In terms of breastfeeding, female family members are on hand to teach her how to do it. In these other cultures, there is no expectation that the new mother know how to breastfeed instinctively and easily.  There is a reason behind the phrase It takes a village.

Since I blogged previously about the importance of social support and how through the years we seem to have lost perspective on things when it comes to the community coming together to help a new mother who has just had a baby, I won’t repeat myself here.  What I will say is–because we can’t emphasize it enough nowadays–that getting adequate social support–comprised of both emotional support (e.g., shoulder to cry on, listening non-judgmentally) and practical support (e.g., help with breastfeeding, cleaning, errands, laundry, taking care of the baby for a few hours so mom can take a nap or shower) IS CRITICAL FOR NEW MOMS.  Having enough support during the first 4-6 weeks–until your body recovers from childbirth and your hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy state–can help keep anxiety levels down, help you get the rest you need from all the changes your body has gone through with childbirth, and minimize risk for postpartum depression.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help from your significant other, family members and/or friends.  Before baby’s arrival, you should try to line up 4-6 weeks’ worth of live-in help from a family member (mother, mother-in-law, sister) or at minimum help with night-time feedings those first few weeks is critical in allowing you to get adequate rest.  If you don’t have any family members nearby and/or willing or able to help, you may want to consider hiring a postpartum doula, if finances allow.  The presence of a doula that is experienced in infant care can help keep anxiety levels and concerns about infant care to a minimum, and provide comfort in knowing that both you and your baby are in good hands.  Click here to learn more about postpartum doulas and how to find one near you.

I devote a chapter in my book to the importance of social support, what social support entails, how to go about ensuring you get adequate support in your first postpartum weeks, postpartum rituals in various countries, and postpartum support services in this country (including support groups like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents, as well as doulas)–and unfortunate lack thereof and the trend of having postpartum doulas fill the void in support for new mothers.  I have Sally Placksin’s book Mothering the New Mother to thank for educating and inspiring me to write about social support in my own book and every chance I can get.

I started writing this blog post on Monday (late at night after my daughter went to bed), lost gas quickly and stopped.  I started it up again on Tuesday (late at night, again after my daughter went to bed) and lost gas quickly (the result of a combination of a long, stressful day and aging).  On Wednesday, I had a lovely time catching up with a good friend over dinner so I didn’t get a chance to write at all.  Just today, I happened to stumble across a website/blog named Mother Love Postpartum Doula Services that just recently linked up to me by way of its blogroll.  Thank you, Liz, for linking to my blog!    She happens to touch on the postpartum rituals I touch on in this post.  What fortuitous timing, as I just needed to finalize the post…and voila, I’m hitting the Publish button….now!

Please Support MotherWoman’s Moms are Worth a Million Mission

Here we are, in the month of May already.  Spring….and Mother’s Day both come to mind.  I know, some of you out there think Hallmark when you hear “Mother’s Day.”  But I have to say it should be way more than that…

Tonight’s post is about….you guessed it…MOTHERS.  Not hard to guess, considering my blog is devoted to maternal mental health.  :)  Mothers have the toughest, yet most rewarding job…. a job that in this society often gets taken for granted…and is an unpaid one at that.  After all, isn’t being a mother an instinctive, no-brainer kind of thing? <shaking head vigorously>

My post from last night mentioned motherhood myths and societal attitudes that don’t help, but rather make motherhood all the more challenging.  The end result is that the new mother often finds herself isolated both in terms of perception and in reality when it comes to having adequate social support.  The motherhood myths, societal attitudes, and social support are things I actually tackle in depth in my book….and I might add, with great relish.  Because I really LOVE to combat false notions that are detrimental to mothers!

Today’s post is about MotherWoman’s latest mission….and what better time to announce as Mother’s Day approaches!  I can’t agree more with the following, which lies at the very heart of that mission:

When you support a mother, you uplift her family.
When you uplift a family, you strengthen their community.
When you strengthen a community, you change the world.

The theme is the same as what I’ve said before and I’ll be happy to say again:

A healthy and happy mother means a healthy and happy family.

Isn’t that the truth?  Yeah, you know it!!!

MotherWoman’s latest mission, which I think is absolutely critical, is to raise $10,000 for scholarships by July 2nd to enable 25 community leaders and professionals working for nonprofits to take a 3-day MotherWoman Support Group Facilitator Training to learn how to provide peer-led support to moms.  This year, the training is taking place in Massachusetts, New Jersey (in June…I plan to be there), Washington, and Guatemala.  There have been requests for training in other locations, which is a wonderfully encouraging thing to hear, because we so desperately need more support groups for mothers out there!!!!  Coincidentally, I was just saying this in my post last night!

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and hear about the impact this project has had on four mothers and how they are now giving back to other mothers by leading MotherWoman Support Groups in their communities.

 

Please consider helping to support the project by donating and/or spreading the word about this mission to others on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, via email, or even in person!

Click here to donate and see some of the neat perks to donating.  Any amount would be appreciated! 

Also, if you are interested in applying for a scholarship yourself, contact Liz@motherwoman.org.

Media’s Over-Emphasis on Celebrity Post-Baby Bods After Childbirth

I’m annoyed.  I wasn’t going to blog tonight, but just had to, after seeing a Yahoo headline titled “Beyonce Shares Stunning, Make-Up Less Bikini Pic” and then of course you see a picture of her just as the title indicates.  Stunning.  Make-up less (i.e., naturally beautiful). Bikini. Okay, we all know that Beyonce is beautiful.  But must we focus so darn much on the fact that she’s able to look as stunning as ever in a B-I-K-I-N-I weeks after having a baby?!  Pleeeeease.  C’mon media.  Stop it.  Stop rubbing into the faces of all mothers out there that this is the way it should be–i.e., gorgeous and in shape a few weeks after having a baby….and if you aren’t then there must be something wrong with you!  <insert disdainful suck-teeth noise>

Media, you do such a great job of perpetuating this fallacy.  Too good of a job, actually.  Do you realize just how badly you make 99% of the moms out there feel?  Oh yeah, that’s right.  You don’t care.  After all, it’s glamor and stardom that make money for your women’s magazines, right?  But do you understand how the celebrity hot mama out there actually gets into shape with personal trainers on a daily basis?  That they have the time to do this because they have nannies to take care of their babies night and day?  That they can afford this star treatment, and 99% of moms out there can only dream of such a lifestyle and in fact struggle with the realities of coping with motherhood all too often with very little help?!

New moms generally find themselves 1) struggling with a topsy-turvy emotional state due to the tremendous hormonal crash that occurs with childbirth, 2) being a first-time mom and struggling to learn how to understand their babies cries, 3) breastfeeding with oftentimes tremendous difficulty, 4) dealing with uncertainty and a great deal of anxiety that they’re doing the best they can in caring for their babies, and 5) struggling with extreme sleep deprivation. Yes, it’s great to be able to successfully squeeze in some exercise a few times a week.  But it’s not unusual for a new, sleep-deprived (and maybe even depressed) mom to feel exhausted and put exercise and self care, in general, at the bottom of her list of things to do.

It’s not just Beyonce I’m trying to poke at….yes, I realize one of my recent posts was about that whole deal with her in Lenox Hospital hogging up the floor and preventing parents from seeing their babies in the NICU.  I don’t have it out for her.  I happen to like her.  But when I see a situation in which society, or in this case media, is perpetuating a situation that lowers the self esteem of moms who have better things to do than worry about whether their bodies can return to their pre-baby state right away, I’m gonna damn well blog about it!

It happens all the time. This emphasis on beauty and body.  Covers of magazines that you can’t avoid, even as you are waiting on line to pay at a supermarket.  They are everywhere.  Ugh!  I got my thoughts out on my blog.  But that’s about it.  There won’t be any changes in my lifetime when it comes to how media chooses to focus on the things that mean the least in the grand scheme of things.

But I want the mom who sees images of beautiful post-baby bods to try not to pay any heed to them.  That’s not the norm.  Not at all.

There is No Sure-Fire Way to Prevent PPD (and PPD is NOT Mind Over Matter)

I’ve blogged previously about people who–despite seemingly good intentions–blog about a topic they claim having subject matter expertise but don’t really.  Refer to my blog post from a couple months back about breastfeeding…a post that was better left in the author’s Drafts until she got her facts straight.  The outcome was an uproar about how breastfeeding should be a mother’s choice rather than being forced upon everyone without considering their situation. 

Well, this time, there was uproar once again, but I was a few hours too late to see what it was really about….which is fine by me because I was having a very stressful day Thursday, and the last thing I needed was an article that provides misleading information to the public about postpartum depression (PPD) to put me over the edge.  I never had a chance to read the full article, but if you click here, you’ll see most of the original text. Evidently, it was modified from the time it was first posted, started to receive unfavorable comments, and was then subsequently pulled.  I’m grateful for the many responses to the article on the Postpartum Progress Facebook page.  I did go to the author’s own website and saw how her techniques could “prevent PPD”…….all at a cost. It reminded me of my previous post of a sure-fire cure for PPD…all at a cost.  Nothing ticks me off more than, whether intentionally ignorant or not, misinformation about PPD. We’re trying to raise public awareness of the truth, not increase the stigma at the expense of maternal (and consequently, family) health.

If you didn’t suffer from PPD and/or you aren’t a professional psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other health care professional dedicated to treating mothers with PPD, you probably wouldn’t see anything wrong with the article.  But please note that, with no mention of the biological aspects of PPD–which are of utmost importance if you want to truly understand what PPD is, why it occurs, understand the risk factors and how you can minimize your risk for it, and how to treat it– the article is leading the public to believe that the cause is purely psychological.  The gist of the article implies that PPD is no big deal and you hold the key to preventing PPD from occurring by doing X, Y, and Z.  Basically, it’s another attempt to try to tell you that PPD is purely mind over matter.  You can empower yourself to prevent it from happening, and if it does, you can sure as heck snap right out of it all on your own accord.  A PPD mom’s #1 pet peeve expression:  “Snap out of it.”   Makes me grit my teeth everytime I hear it.

Though it’s true that knowledge is empowering and if you were to understand PPD and why it occurs, you can minimize risk for it, you CANNOT completely guarantee that a new mom won’t succumb to it if there are certain biopsychosical factors that are making her particularly vulnerable to it at that point in time.   A mom with PPD experiences physical symptoms (e.g., insomnia, weight loss) due to altered neurotransmitter levels resulting from a combination of biopsychosocial factors.  Some of those factors are out of your control, like your hormones crashing, events that occur during labor & delivery that prove to be traumatic, baby in the NICU for a period of time, and so on.

For accurate information on PPD, visit Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress.

Please Consider Helping Postpartum Progress’ Strong Start Day Fundraising Campaign

Like many other supporters of Postpartum Progress, the leading blog on perinatal mood disorders and now a not-for profit, I’m blogging today to ask that you please consider donating to its fundraising campaign that will enable Postpartum Progress to carry out the exciting new projects it’s got lined up, including:

  • developing a compelling national awareness campaign for postpartum depression
  • creating & distributing new and improved patient education materials for distribution by hospitals (the kind new moms won’t throw away!!)
  • translating its “plain mama English” information and support into Spanish and other languages 
Sounds awesome, don’t it?  And so DESPERATELY needed.  Each one of these would edge us closer to where we need to be today with public awareness and destigmatization of perinatal mood disorders that affect 1 out of 8 new mothers.  These initiatives won’t be possible without YOUR help.
 
Click here for more on the Strong Start Day fundraising campaign, click here to see which bloggers have signed up to help with the campaign, and click here to see how you can join in the efforts to raise funds for such an important cause.
 
 
Postpartum Progress has done a world of good for so many mothers around the world.  Let’s help keep up the good work that’s being done over there for the benefit of new moms and their families, okay?  
 
Thank you!
 

You are Invited: Free Teleconferences for the Postpartum Mom on October 5, 2011

Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 2-8, 2011.  It is fitting, then, that two organizations I blog frequently about because I so respect their efforts to raise awareness of perinatal mood disorders–namely, Postpartum Support International and SPARKS Center–are hosting free teleconferences on Wednesday, October 5th.

POSTPARTUM SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL (PSI)

The first call I’d like to tell you about is Postpartum Support International’s Chat with an Expert, a free forum led by professionals providing information, which can help new moms suffering from a perinatal mood disorder feel less alone in their experience.  New moms (or their loved ones) are invited to call in to connect with others parents, ask questions that will be answered by caring and informed experts, or just to listen to the facilitator–a professional member of PSI–discuss resources, symptoms, options, and general information.  Click here for call-in instructions. You can talk from the privacy of your own home and there is no need to pre-register or give your name.

This Wednesday’s Chat for Women will be held at 12:00 pm EST and facilitated by my fellow PSI member and friend, Linda Klempner, PhD. Dr. Klempner is a licensed clinical psychologist and director of Women’s Health Counseling & Psychotherapy in Teaneck, N.J., and PSI Board Member.  

Please spread the word about this wonderful AND FREE resource that can help combat stigma and ignorance on perinatal mood disorders!

SPARKS CENTER

The second opportunity I wanted to share with you is the 3rd of a series of teleconferences offered by SPARKS.  The topic will be Attention New Moms! RELAX (yes, you can!). It will be led by Rus Devorah Darcy Wallen, ACSW, SPARKS Clinical Supervisor & Psychotherapist/Motivational Entertainer.

Here are the Call-In Details:

  • 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST  
  • Dial-in Number and Password: 718-873-0922, Dial 9, PIN #2757

For more information on SPARKS and their mission to help mothers and their families, please visit their website or call 718-2-SPARKS (277-2757) for the hotline or other questions.   This teleconference is completely confidential. 

Please spread the word!

September 14, 2011 Nurturing Yourself from Within Teleconference Hosted by SPARKS

On September 14th, SPARKS will be hosting a teleconference, led by SPARK’s Confidential Crisis Hotline Coordinator, Rivky Glicksman, on the topic of “Nurturing Yourself from Within.”

Here are the Call-In Details:

  • 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST (a time slot conveniently arranged to allow the expectant/new mom who might still be working to participate at home and after their babies/children have gone to sleep and/or can be taken care of by the husband after his return from work). 
  • Dial-in Number and Password: 718-873-0922, Dial 9, PIN #2757. 

For more information on SPARKS and their mission to help mothers and their families, please visit their website or call 718-2-SPARKS (277-2757) for the hotline or other questions.

 This teleconference is for women of all ages and stages. It is completely confidential.  Please spread the word!

Circle of Moms Top 25 Mental Wellness Blogs by Moms

Record short post today…taking a break from galley proofing for my book to share the news that I had made it into the Circle of Moms Top 25 Mental Wellness Blogs by Moms.   I’m thrilled because I’m hoping my blog will reach more moms.  I’m honored to be among the other wonderful blogs voted into this Top 25!  I’m sure you recognize many of the other blogs, many of which like Postpartum Progress and Band Back Together, have a large following for good reason.  They do amazing work in terms of educating and supporting moms!

Thank you to those who voted for me!  :)

We Need More Perinatal Mood Disorders Inpatient Units in this Country!

The first inpatient facility providing specialty care for women suffering from perinatal mood disorders in the United States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Perinatal Mood Disorders Inpatient Unit has been newly renovated.  It opens on Monday, August 15th, and celebrates its Grand Opening on September 15th. 

It is completely free-standing and includes 5 patient beds (private and semi-private). Infants are encouraged to visit for as long as possible, but may not stay overnight, since sleep times for the mothers are extremely important for recovery.  The treatment team is comprised of highly trained doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives, social workers, and other therapists who work together to create individualized treatment plans.

Please click here to visit the program’s website for more details, click here for today’s NPR article on it, click here for Susan Dowd Stone’s blog post on this one-of-a-kind program, and click here for my November 2009 blog post about this facility.  It is the only inpatient unit that specializes in perinatal mood disorders in this country. 

We desperately need more of these!

Sounds of Silence Foundation’s 4th Annual Run/Walk – May 21, 2011

Join the Sounds of Silence Foundation’s 4th annual run/walk to help raise funds in the effort to increase awareness of perinatal mood disorders, such as postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.   Not only is this for an excellent cause, it will be a nice opportunity to race (or walk) a beautiful 5K boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean.

Date:  Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time:  Registration from 8:30-9:15; race/walk begins at 9:30 AM

Place:   Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, Long Island (Field 5)

Registration:  $25 (adults); $15 (18 and under); $3 additional on day of event

Other Race Details:  The top female and male runners, plus top fundraiser, will receive awards.  Two years ago, I was one of the two top fundraisers, bringing in over $1,000 (as an individual).

Donation:  If you can’t participate in person but would like to make a tax-deductible donation (and encourage others to do so as well), please click here.  Proceeds from donations will benefit the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.

Click here for more information on the Sounds of Silence, Friends of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.

Keys to Minimizing Risk for and Effects of PPD

Long time no blog!  Sorry it’s been a while.  Been busy, busy, busy with my manuscript, which is moving slowly but steadily toward its ultimate publication!  I’m on a brief hiatus from working on the manuscript, so now have the time to dedicate more toward blogging.  I also have to get back into the swing of things as far as Twitter is concerned, so I can get back up to speed on what’s been going on out there, other than what I see on my Facebook newsfeed each day and on the blogs I follow.

Thanks, Karen Kleiman of the Postpartum Stress Center, for the link to this very informative article written by Laura Miller, MD, a leading expert on PPD, titled “Preventing Postpartum Depression.”  I’m not going to go into detail here….you just have to take 15 minutes to read through the information Dr. Miller has outlined on the keys to minimizing risk for, and effect of, PPD.    Though the title of the article may lead people to mistakenly thinking there is a sure-fire way to prevent PPD– as I’ve mentioned before, you can follow tips, including being knowledgeable about PPD, your risk factors, and lining up adequate social support before baby’s arrival–there is no 100% guarantee when it comes to actual PPD prevention.   There are many variables, most of which are unpredictable elements that also need to be factored in with respect to how childbirth and the first weeks postpartum go. 

The primary focus of the article is on minimizing the risk for PPD, and if you should end up with PPD, minimizing the effect of PPD by early detection via screening methods in place by many (but far from all) OB/GYNs and treatment (medication and/or therapy).  The important thing is to be as knowledgeable and prepared as possible, and following the strategies outlined in this article will go a long way in that respect!

Happy Second Birthday!

Wow, it’s been two years since I started up my blog (which was technically on February 6, 2009)….and a second post in the same day!   I think that’s a record! 

I sincerely hope that I have helped at least some of the visitors–whether it be for a perinatal mood disorder and/or infertility reasons– to this blog during the past year.  And I sincerely hope to continue helping more this next year!   And many thanks to all who have visited my blog and taken the time to comment!

To those with whom I used to correspond more regularly, I’m sorry I’ve been keeping to myself the past 6 months or so.  I used to visit your blogs and even chat with you on Twitter, but I’ve been soooo busy with things at home, at work, my manuscript and even just keeping up with my weekly blogging.  Once my manuscript is in the publication stage, which I anticipate to be within the next 1-2 months, I will be back in touch. 

Just a side note….something that I’ve noticed and can’t quite help.  All my life I have not been a fan of cliques.  Sometimes, and it may very well be simply the unintended result of the situation at hand–i.e., I’ve been out of touch and it takes two to tango–I feel like I’m an outsider looking (and trying to get) in, especially seeing people in the midst of “chatting” on Twitter.   I don’t get comments or even visits from the folks I know anymore.  Again, that’s partly my fault, but right now, I can’t help but flash back to my high school days where lil miss unpopular is trying to fit in but can’t.    :(

We’ll see if that continues to be the case once I get back in the swing of Twitter and the good ol blogosphere!   But then again, my original intent was to be a PPD advocate to help spread awareness and combat stigma, not to see if I could be part of any cliques or to be miss popular or anything…..

And with that, I would like to wish my blog a happy second birthday!

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.

Group Approach to Prenatal Care…Start of A New Trend, Hopefully

I realize its been 2-1/2 weeks since my last post. …yikes!  Time flies…as we know all too well!  I’ve been caught up with a lot of things going on at work, home, editing my manuscript, celebrating Chinese New Year, etc.  Yes, Chinese New Year….the Year of the Rabbit.  For all those who observe, may it be a year of good fortune, happiness, and above all, good health!    The Chinese New Year festivities period began on February 3rd and lasts 15 days, until February 17th.  新年快樂! 恭禧發財!

I have been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks and only stumbled across a tweet from Amber Koter-Puline regarding a Delawareonline.com article titled “Building A Sisterhood Among Moms-To-Be” that caught my attention.  Why did it catch my attention?  Well, specifically, the word “Sisterhood” caught my attention.   This is, I feel, so lacking in this society.  A society that used to be more about social support of new moms and their families during pregnancy and postpartum and is now based on a model of competitiveness, do-it-yourself, and the ever prevalent supermom myth.  And let’s not forget the 2-minute visits with the OB/GYN too.   The model upon which society and women’s healthcare are now based is, quite frankly, pitiful.

So, take a few minutes to read through that article and see if you agree with me that we need to have more of this type of approach in not just prenatal care, but postnatal care as well!   The article tells us about the Christiana Care’s Smyrna Health & Wellness Center and its group approach to prenatal care and how its patients feel.   It’s important for a woman who’s pregnant, especially for the first time, to feel empowered, confident and prepared, rather than apprehensive and feeling like she’s all alone in that apprehension.  To be able to participate in a group setting where advice and thoughts/feelings/concerns of other pregnant women are shared is extremely valuable and reflects the way it used to be when society was more social support-oriented.

They refer to their approach as Centering Pregnancy, which focuses on not just medical care but education and support…again, what you would’ve found back in the days of social support in days gone by (and in other cultures today).   This program, which is optional to patients of the Center, is limited to about a dozen women at a time and is comprised of 10 visits altogether.  These women would begin at around 4 months into their pregnancies.    Each appointment in the program takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.  In addition to the one-on-one time with the healthcare provider going over test results and other concerns, patients spend the majority of their time in the program with other pregnant mothers, listening to and sharing experiences with each other.  Healthcare providers also provide presentations to the group of women on topics related to pregnancy and wellness, including breastfeeding, nutrition, and postpartum depression (PPD).  Yes, even PPD!   

The benefits to such a program are many, including the fact that healthcare providers don’t need to repeatedly go over pregnancy and wellness topics individually with each patient because the information is provided all at once to the group of women in the program.  It’s important to note that there has been a reduction in the number of pre-term births for mothers enrolled in the program….I’m sure due to the lower anxiety levels in these mothers, as there is a correlation between high anxiety levels and pre-term births.   Additionally, many of the women become friends with each other during the program and stay in touch–even arranging playdates for their babies– after the program ends for them.   What I’d be interested in finding out is if there has been a reduction in the number of mothers with PPD as well…..though,  I have to say that I wouldn’t be a least bit surprised, since there is a correlation between high anxiety levels and PPD.

We DEFINITELY need more of these prenatal programs across the country IN ADDITION TO postnatal programs like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education and Support (SBPEP).