Lunar New Year 2021 – Year of the Ox – February 12, 2021

I don’t normally post anything outside of the topic of postpartum depression–because, after all, this is a PPD blog– but I did say in my last 2 posts that I was fighting the blues (and I’ve since beat it, thankfully!). Being cooped up with nowhere to go and during a season I hate the most (short, cold days) has been contributing to my feeling down. The constant feeling of being a misfit has been haunting me as well. I’ve blogged about this before here and here. The past 4 years of disturbing news on attacks on Asians in the U.S. has been a painful reminder of my experience growing up in a predominantly white area, dealing with racism much of my life and especially during my teenage years. Today, I live in a predominantly white area and participating in my town’s initiative to encourage diversity and inclusion within the community. If citizens of each community were to take part in such initiatives, our communities would be even better places to live! Racism comes from stereotypes that come from ignorance that comes from fear. Communication and information have the power to wipe away all of that! But it takes a unified effort from within each and every community. There should be a ZERO tolerance for hate and racism!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to help a local diversity group to come up with information to share about the Lunar New Year, which this year will land on February 12, 2021 and go for 15 days until February 26, 2021.  I am honored to be part of the Advisory Council for that group, and that they adapted the information below to share with our community.  

Enjoy, and many thanks for taking the time to read and share! And to all those who celebrate, Happy Lunar New Year!

Warmly,
Ivy

 


Interesting Facts about Lunar New Year

I created a 1-pager (link below) that contains 8 (8 is a lucky number for the Chinese) key points on the Lunar New Year on one side and a little tutorial on stroke order for the ox character in Chinese plus a fun Word Search activity on the other side. This piece is great for sharing with kids and raise their interest and appreciation at an early age of the East Asian cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year!

The information contained in my blog post below is lengthier and couldn’t be jammed into a 1-page document about Lunar New Year. Some of the information is even new to me, and all of it is just so fascinating that I had to share! Thank you for reading and sharing!

1.Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Lunar New Year.  Lunar New Year is celebrated by many countries, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Lunar New Year marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar, which is determined by the cycles of the moon and sun. This means that the date is always different each year (sometime between Jan 21-Feb 20).

2.The Chinese New Year is celebrated in 12-year cycles, with each year of the cycle represented by a different animal. Occupying the 2nd position of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, the Ox symbolizes such character traits as diligence, dependability, persistence, loyalty, honesty, and patience.

Oxen are also industrious, independent, faithful, cautious, responsible, and hard working. Cautious and careful, Oxen take a long time to think things through before taking any action. Once they make up their minds, they will stick to it. Apprehensive of change, Oxen are happiest when their life, job, and relationships are stable. They tend to form strong and long-lasting friendships and often have a small but solid circle of friends. They prefer to search long and hard for the perfect partner before settling down. Oxen tend to be natural leaders who are good at managing, but may be a little strict. Their focus and persistence make most of them endure long hours of doing whatever work impassions them. Oxen believe that the road to success involves hard work, and they don’t believe in taking shortcuts. They are more productive when allowed to work alone, in a quiet environment, and at their own pace. They aren’t very sociable, abhor small talk, and tend to avoid participating in group activities. They like routines and doing things their own way. Their focus, hard work, and persistence lead to long hours but in the long run they are able to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

3. “Happy New Year” is pronounced differently in Mandarin and Cantonese. The 2 dialects have the same written language, but differ in pronunciation. The traditional Chinese New Year greeting is “Congratulations and hope you get rich.” In Mandarin it’s “Gong Xi Fa Cai,” while in Cantonese it’s “Gung Hay Fat Choy.” Then, there is the other Happy New Year greeting, which literally means “Happy New Year.” In Mandarin it’s “Xin Nian Kwai Le,” while in Cantonese it’s “San Nin Fai Lok.”

4. The most common Chinese New Year gifts are red envelopes. Red envelopes typically contain money, and are gifted by older members of the family to their younger relatives. Red envelopes usually contain money ranging anywhere from a couple of dollars—after all, it’s supposed to be symbolic of sending good wishes/luck—to any amount of money that the giver can afford or deems appropriate.  Adults who are not yet married would not need to give red envelopes to others.  Parents/grandparents may continue to give red envelopes to their married children/grandchildren as a symbol of their love and blessings for them. But red envelopes are not limited to Chinese New Year. It is common to give a red envelope during some special occasions, such as weddings, graduations, baby showers, and milestone birthdays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. There are specific foods in each country that are believed to bring good fortune. Here are some examples:

  • China: yú (fish sounds like the word for “abundance”), tang yuan (glutinous sweet rice balls represent togetherness), oranges (sound like “wealth”), long noodles (symbolize long life), and dumplings (resemble ancient gold ingots)
  • Taiwan: Luo bo gao (radish cakes made with glutinous rice flour)
  • Korea: Tteokguk (rice cake soup) and manduguk (dumpling soup)
  • Vietnam: Bánh chưng (sticky rice cakes made with mung beans and pork and steamed in banana leaves)

6. The origin of Chinese New Year celebrations is based on the legend of Nian, a beast that appeared at the end of each year and terrified villagers. The villagers discovered that Nian feared the color red. Thus, red has become a lucky color, and during New Year festivities, streets, businesses, and houses are decorated with red lanterns, banners, etc. The villagers also discovered that the explosive sound created by burning dry bamboo scared Nian away. Thus, it became a tradition to set off firecrackers at midnight on New Year’s Eve and again in the morning on New Year’s Day to bring good luck for the new year. For more details, check out this video: The Legend of Chinese New Year.

    • INTERESTING FACT: Firecrackers were invented during the Tang Dynasty 618-907 from the accidental discovery that inserting gunpowder into a hollow bamboo stick and throwing it into fire would cause a loud blast. Paper tubes ultimately replaced bamboo stalks during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). And then of course, firecrackers had to be wrapped in red. If you ever wondered why the red paper from spent firecrackers is left around for at least a day, it’s based on the belief that if the paper away is swept away immediately, good luck would be swept along with it.6.

7. Lion and dragon dances are performed in Lunar New Year parades all over the world! Both dragons and lions are mythical, spectacularly-colored creatures, which bring good luck. Dragon dances are usually performed by 9 people holding up the dragon with poles who make the dragon move in a flowing motion, usually chasing a pearl.  Lion dances are performed by martial artists, with 1 person acting as the head and front legs and a 2nd person acting as the tail and rear legs.  Performed to the beat of a drum, gongs and cymbals, the 2 dancers jump and roll in unison, and perform many difficult acrobatic moves as they search for red envelopes containing money.

8. Chinese New Year festivities last for 15 days! Celebrations begin with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. This year, the Chinese New Year ends on Feb 26, with a Lantern Festival and beautifully-colored lanterns, lion and dragon dances, and fireworks.

More Fascinating Facts

Chinese Calligraphy
The Chinese character is derived from the pictogram of an ox:

Stroke order for the most part always goes from left to right, top to bottom. Also, generally, when a horizontal and vertical line cross, the horizontal lines are written first.  

NOTE: A great resource for stroke order rules: https://www.writtenchinese.com/chinese-character-stroke-order-rules/

The largest human migration in the world

Did you know that 3 billion trips are made each year (including return trips) to visit relatives by plane, train and automobile to celebrate Chinese New Year?  Referred to as chunyun (春运), it is the travel period up to 15 days before the week-long observance of China’s Spring Festival (or chunjie (春) and up to 40 days. It is up to 40 days in part due to the lack of transportation options available for the millions to make each one-way trek during the same timeframe.  Depending on one’s luck in buying airplane/train/bus tickets, travelers end up traveling within the window 15 days prior to the start of and 15 days after chunjie ends. This year, chunjie starts on February 11 (New Year’s Eve) and ends on February 17. In modern China, most elderly parents still live in the rural villages of their ancestors, while the younger generation works in the cities.  Why do they call it Spring Festival when it takes place during the winter?  The Festival marks the end of the coldest days of winter, with people welcoming the coming spring with planting, which represents new beginnings and fresh starts.

Most & Least Compatible Signs

Most Compatible Signs: Rat, Snake, Rooster
Least Compatible Signs: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep

A few celebrities who were born during the year of the OX

Barack Obama Princess Di Malala Yousafzai Simone Biles
Walt Disney Robert F Kennedy Renoir Johann Sebastian Bach
Napoleon Megan Rapinoe Meryl Streep Louis Armstrong
Colin Powell Jack Nicholson Dustin Hoffman Gerald Ford
George Clooney B.B. King Michael Phelps Morgan Freeman
Malcolm X Jane Fonda Peter Jackson Yogi Berra
Boy George Johnny Carson Billy Joel Eddie Murphy
Bruno Mars Margaret Thatcher Bruce Springsteen George Takei
Anthony Hopkins Charles Schwab Richard Burton Sammy Davis Jr.
Dick Van Dyke Alfonso Cuaron Paul Newman Sigourney Weaver

More on Chinese New Year red envelopes

Etiquette:

1. Do gift crisp, new bills, as gifting dirty or wrinkled bills is in bad taste.

2. Do receive a red envelope with both hands and express thanks with an appropriate phrase. It is considered impolite to receive a red envelope with one hand and not express thanks with an appropriate phrase.

3. Don’t gift coins.

4.  Don’t give amounts starting with the number 4, like $4, $40 or $400.  The number ‘4’ Chinese sounds like ‘death’ and is therefore considered bad luck. Even numbers are better than odd numbers.  The number ‘8’ is considered good luck, so gifts like $8, $80 or $88 would be best.

5. Don’t open your red envelope in front of the person who just gave it to you.

Taboos and Superstitions

As in practically all other cultures around the world, there are a lot of taboos and superstitions adapted over the course of centuries, all of which have the intent of attracting good fortune into the New Year and protecting against bad fortune.

Do’s:

  • Do talk about good, happy things to set the tone for the new year
  • Do pay back your debts before the new year starts
  • Do wear red because red is the luckiest color

Don’ts:           

  • Don’t cut your hair on during the New Year, as that would cause connections to be severed
  • Don’t wear black or white, as both colors are associated with mourning
  • Don’t wash your hair or do laundry on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that would wash good fortune away
  • Don’t sweep on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that will sweep away accrued wealth / luck
  • Don’t cry or argue, as that will bring bad fortune

 

A new year and a new perspective on things

I did something on New Year’s Day that I thought I’d never be able to do. What’s that? I deactivated my Facebook account and I’ve stayed away from Facebook for a week. That may not sound like a long time, but for someone who has pretty much posted daily ever since she started up her account in 2009, that’s saying a lot, relatively speaking.

What prompted me to temporarily quit Facebook? Well, if you read my last post, you’d see that New Year’s Day was a crappy day for several reasons. The couple of days following that were crappy too. I felt blue for all the reasons I stated in my last post, including some health issues preventing me from eating normally to the point I had to see my doctor today. My diet has to change for at least the next 6 weeks.

Today, I told someone at work that I was feeling blue, and she thought it might have something to do with what was going on in DC or at work. Without getting too detailed, I told her it was neither…. that I was just feeling blue in general from being cooped up with nowhere to go. I don’t know about you, but when I feel down, I withdraw. I don’t feel like smiling, laughing, doing things that I find fun, etc. I sure as heck don’t want to see pictures of people smiling and posts where people are kidding around with each other. I’m not in the mood for any of that.

I don’t know when I’m going to feel up to returning to Facebook, but I found out something during my 1-week reprieve. No, actually, I found out a few things.

First of all, I am not as addicted to it as I (and certain individuals may have) thought I was.

Second, I’ve learned that even people who use Facebook regularly don’t necessarily realize that a daily Facebook poster like me who has suddenly deactivated her account for no apparent reason just might be going through a rough patch and a hello would be nice. If I realized a friend deactivated their account suddenly, I would reach out to them via IM, text, email or phone; in fact, I have done this several times in the past 12 years!

Third, sure, Facebook kept me buoyed from crashing mentally during the past 4 years of sheer hell (which is thankfully ending on 1/20) because of all the like-minded groups I’ve found and local friends I’ve made. But…..I’ve survived pretty much all my life without emotional support from anyone, so I can do it again now with practically no one reaching out to see if I’m okay.

Fourth, despite all the negative stuff that’s been happening (i.e., the first-ever non-peaceful transition in presidency and even mayhem in the Capitol), I’m still able to stay optimistic because the Dems won the GA run-offs 2 days ago, flipping the Senate and we are finally ditching Mitch and the so-called leader of this country that has successfully incited hatred and divided citizens like no other President has done.

Fifth and last but not least, yes, I’ve been blue from the cold, short, cooped-up days but I am slowly coming around again, once again telling myself that if I kicked postpartum depression’s butt, I’m sure as heck going to kick whatever funk I’m finding myself stuck in right now.

Speaking of kicking, I’m not going to let folks kick me when I’m already down by de-friending me while my account is deactivated….what’s up with that anyway? That’s some seriously strange behavior, and I just have to say that life is too short, and I am too old and tired to deal with people like that. Seriously. Time to use the blocker. These aren’t really friends if they de-friend you even if you did nothing wrong! They don’t really know or care about you at all. This is why I have been so picky about who to send friend invites to and whom to accept invites from for the past 12 years. Why do I need to become “friends” with someone if all they’re going to do is de-friend you for no reason, anyway? Nah, life is way too short for sh!t like that.

So, thank you, blog, for once again helping me to get this all off my chest. Time to kick the winter blue’s a$$ now!


Winter is no friend of mine

Short days
Days spent stuck indoors
With light fading by 4:30 pm
Cold, nowhere to go, nobody to see
Thanks to the pandemic

I post pics of me smiling on social media
During all of the pandemic I’ve had
Daily walks, activities throughout summer & fall
But winter there is nothing to do, especially with this damn pandemic
But I still post pics of me smiling

Lack of sunlight causing super low vitamin D levels
Too much computer time causing a large bump on the back of my hand
80-90 hours of mouse usage weekly
Other health issues stubbornly refusing to go away
And finally, starting 3 days ago, teariness

I saw friends on Zoom today
New Year’s Day
With 2020 behind us
And initial optimism for 2021
All faded quickly

All it took were some triggers
Words uttered by my husband
Behaviors of my daughter
Made me question my existence

What are my goals?
Aside from certain bucket list places
More kayaking & sailing adventures
Beyond this, not a whole lot still impassions me

I used to collect things
But I don’t anymore
I used to love shopping & going to craft shows
But I don’t anymore
Nowadays, it’s all about getting rid of belongings
Cuz you just never know

I’ve seen all I’ve wanted to see in this country and Canada
I’ve survived postpartum depression
I’ve written a book
I’ve blogged and helped moms but not able to do much of that anymore

I’ve been at my company for 31 years
Lately, it’s all-too-unhealthily consumed me
For 80-90 hours a week, I get up, go to work, and go to bed
Repeat that over and over and over and over again

2020 has left a bad taste in my mouth
On top of the pandemic
It was daily ridiculousness of a disastrous presidency
With a pandora’s box of hatred galore
All over the country are hateful people
Who hate you simply because you’re not white

Tired physically and mentally of this world
Seeing more negative than good
My only goal apparently is to pay for my parents to live
(my daddy’s girl daughter is in good hands with my husband)
With bad decisions made that left them with nothing
Father had a stroke in 2019 and cognitively impaired
Mother has been withering away for the past decade
I see them deteriorate every time I visit

I don’t want to get old and be in their shoes
I used to be afraid of death
Now I don’t think I’m afraid anymore

Do I think I’m depressed?
No, because I’ve been there before
It was called postpartum depression
I have never been depressed before that
And do not have it now
At least not yet

The return of sun and warmth and colors
Time spent outdoors
Time spent with friends
Might help me to remember
There is more to life
Than my winter blues lens is showing me

2nd Edition of Transformed by Postpartum Depression by Walker Ladd, PhD

Over nine years ago, my dear friend Walker Ladd, MFA, MA, Perinatal Mental Health Contributor for Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and Midwife Connection, told me she was conducting a dissertation research study exploring transformational dimensions of postpartum depression (PPD). The study was part of the criteria to assist Walker in meeting the requirements of the Global Doctoral Psychology program at Sofia University.  She asked me if I wanted to participate.  She explained that participation would be a valuable contribution to a deeper understanding of the topic of personal transformation through the experience of PPD. 

By December 2014, Walker turned her dissertation into a published book titled “Transformed by Postpartum Depression.”  Just as the title suggests, this book focuses on the transformative power that women suffering from a postpartum mood disorder like PPD possess. It is a critical book that women suffering from PPD must have a chance to read. This book is exactly what I wish I could’ve found when I was sick with PPD and was desperately seeking other people’s stories but only found those written by celebrities, not of regular folks like myself.

It’s been nearly 16 years since I came out of that dark tunnel, but despite the number of years, the number of people treating women in a medical capacity that are uneducated about PPD still greatly outnumber those who are educated about PPD. This book should be mandatory reading for all individuals in the medical and mental health occupations who need to treat expectant and new mothers at any given point of their careers.  It should absolutely be on the required reading list for medical/nursing schools!!!

I remember when I received a copy of “Transformed by Postpartum Depression” back on December 13, 2014 (12/13/14!).  I was beyond thrilled for Walker.  And I was deeply honored Walker had chosen to include me in her book. 

Now, six years later, her second edition of the book is out! 

I will never be able to fully convey how honored I truly feel for her choosing me (of all people!) to write a foreword for this new edition. I will also never be able to fully express just how much respect I have for Walker and gratitude for the amazing gift of a book–so intelligently-written, informative, inspirational, and fact- and research-filled– to help new mothers and their families.  She worked so hard on the interviews and research to write this book, so let’s make sure people read it!  

This book isn’t just one survivor’s story. It’s the stories of 25 survivors (5 new ones added to this edition). Twenty-six, actually, if you count Walker’s! Go get your copy today!  At the very least, please be sure to share information about this book with others!  Thank you!

 

A Short Film that Shows the Importance of Having a Maternal Mentor

Last weekend was Postpartum Support International-New Jersey‘s Lunafest fundraiser. The seven short films were diverse and interesting, but the one that happened to have some relevance to maternal mental health was “How to Swim” by Noa Gusakov. It spoke to me the most, which is why I decided to write about it. It made me think about the importance of social support. Having adequate social support from other maternal figures (and doulas when there are no family members or friends as options) is very beneficial, to say the least. Having inadequate social support can increase the risk of postpartum mood disorders, especially if there are other biopsychosocial factors in the mix.

If you haven’t yet watched the short, please do so before reading on, as my review below has tons of spoilers.

“How to Swim” is a 14-1/2 minute short film about Avigail, a young woman pregnant with her first child who is so anxious about being a new mom that she “kidnaps” a maternal stranger one afternoon. There are moments throughout the film that touched me and made me laugh. This is a short that is definitely worth watching. I can see how it has won awards and recognition at numerous movie festivals.

The film starts in the waiting area of the hospital where Avigail and her husband are waiting for their visit with the doctor. She observes the interactions of another pregnant woman and her mother (Tammy) with envy, wishing her own mother could be with her. When the other pregnant woman leaves the waiting room, Avigail goes over to talk to Tammy who, as it turns out, was leaving the hospital. Wanting to spend more time interacting with Tammy, Avigail pretends to be a childhood friend of Tammy’s daughter. Avigail tells Tammy she happens to be going in the same direction and offers her a ride. Tammy needs to go to the mall, and Avigail says she also needs to get something from there…..and they end up shopping & chatting away the afternoon. They seem to bond, but all due to the pretense that their lives intersected with Tammy’s daughter.

Of course, the truth does come out and Tammy reacts with shock/fear that Avigail “kidnapped” her, but she becomes somewhat understanding once Avigail explained why she did what she did. One gathers from watching the way Avigail talks about her mother that she isn’t simply too far away to be with her. My reaction was immediate sympathy for Avigail. I don’t believe Avigail planned to “kidnap” Tammy, but just wanted to have a conversation with her that led to their spending the afternoon together. It really is sort of a creepy thing to do, but at the same time, I could imagine myself in Avigail’s shoes. I could imagine feeling scared of going into motherhood for the first time without my own mother by my side to guide me. I could imagine wanting a maternal mentor so badly that I would try to become friends with one that I have a good feeling about. I don’t know if Avigail has any other maternal figures in her life, like other relatives or friends that are mothers. Assuming she doesn’t, then it makes first-time motherhood all the more frightening. This is why I had all the feels and was drawn into this film.

The film ends with Tammy walking away from Avigail. It made me sad to think that the bond they formed–even though it was under false pretenses–vanished and they may not see each other again….and it was back to Avigail having no one to help her after the baby arrives. Although the film ends on somewhat of a positive note–with Avigail learning that the bra that Tammy had suggested she leave on and not pay for was actually paid for by Tammy when Avigail went back to pay for it– I still couldn’t help thinking it would’ve been nice if they exchanged contact info so Tammy could stay in Avigail’s life.

LUNAFEST® Virtual Screening on November 13-14, 2020 presented by Postpartum Support International-NJ

Last year, I had to start my post, “If you live in New Jersey.”  Well, this year, you can participate from the comfort of your home, wherever you live!  Please consider buying a ticket to attend LUNAFEST®, which is proudly presented by the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI).

When: Log in anytime between Friday, Nov 13 @ 7 PM EST – Saturday, Nov 14 @ 7 PM EST.  The festival of 7 short films has a total running time of 97 minutes.

Where: Virtual  via streaming link that will be sent along with passcode to all attendees the morning of Friday, Nov 13.

Tickets:  Just $25!  What a deal!  To buy, click here.  I bought my ticket, and can’t wait!  Last year’s event was a huge success, and I was so glad to be a part of it!

About:  Since 2000, LUNAFEST® has showcased a collection of short films by, for, and about women. LUNAFEST® is dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues and highlighting female directors. Discover the ground-breaking work of female filmmakers who are changing the industry with this year’s lineup of seven short films.

Proceeds of this particular screening event will benefit the NJ Chapter of PSI.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing.  The long-term goals of the PSI-NJ chapter is to create, throughout the state of New Jersey, a unified voice for the support, education and care of moms and families with perinatal mood disorders, as well as law enforcement and health care professionals.  support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.

If you support women’s causes and want to support mothers (and their families) who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (e.g, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis) to get the help they need, please consider coming to LUNAFEST® and sharing with friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues and even share widely on social media.

In Memory of Amber

On October 26th, I found out that a friend and wonderfully passionate and caring postpartum depression (PPD) advocate and blogger passed away over the weekend.

Her name was Amber Koter Puline.

I was shocked. Heartbroken. I haven’t really been able to process this over the past 5 days. I’ve only blogged 4 times since last August, but I felt the need to blog about this, to pay tribute to her.

I’m having a hard time conveying my feelings right now. I don’t think anything I write will adequately convey what this loss really means to me and so many people who were fortunate to have known her, loved her, befriended her, and been helped by her. Although my words don’t flow as beautifully as they do for those who are naturally gifted in writing, my intentions and feelings are genuine.

I met Amber almost exactly 10 years ago today at the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference, which took place from October 27-30, 2010 in Pittsburgh. I remember feeling so excited to meet her and 2 other fellow PPD bloggers–Lauren Hale and Katherine Stone–at that conference. I greatly admired them all. Amber for her Beyond Postpartum blog and her work facilitating postpartum support groups and helping connect mothers with resources in the Atlanta area. Lauren for her My Postpartum Voice blog and her work with PPDChat on Twitter. And Katherine Stone for her very well-known blog Postpartum Progress. Between the time I first started blogging in February 2009 and for a year or two after that, we were the only individual bloggers whose blogs were focused specifically on PPD and other postpartum mood disorders (e.g., postpartum psychosis, postpartum OCD, postpartum anxiety). We used to run ideas by each other. The three of them inspired me.

Anger from my PPD experience helped my words flow freely, which is why I used to write frequent blog posts. Words used to flow from my head, out through my fingertips, onto the keyboard, and onto the computer screen whenever something fired me up that was PPD-related. That process helped promote healing. Ever since my anger dissipated in 2018, I’ve been at a loss for words and the desire to blog. This sudden loss of Amber, after not really being in touch with her much for the past few years, fills me with much regret. I’ve decided to channel this regret into positive action. So, just as Amber inspired me to blog 11 years ago, she is now inspiring me to take up blogging again.

Starting now and ending next October, I will write a blog post at least once a month in dedication to you, Amber, my friend and fellow PPD survivor mama. You helped so many mamas over the years that there is so much good karma because of you! Even though you are not physically with us, we know your spirit will continue to be with us as we find ways to keep that positive momentum going in your memory, like helping a new mother who is struggling, spreading awareness about PPD and/or donating to one of the following 2 organizations in your name:

Mental Health America of Georgia https://www.mhageorgia.org/donate/
Postpartum Support Internationalhttps://www.postpartum.net/donate/

Yes, I will do this in your memory, Amber.

Know Yourself

I meant to post this on my blog 3 years ago, and only remembered that I didn’t when I saw it pop up on my Facebook feed on 7/16. I probably thought back then that it didn’t really have anything directly to do with postpartum depression (PPD).

Even though my blog posts have slowed down, I’m finding people are still mentioning my blog these days: Kopa Birth’s “Ultimate Pregnancy & Birth Resource Guide for Moms” and Eastern Idaho Region Medical Center (EIRMC) “Pregnancy and Coronavirus: Postpartum depression symptoms and tips.” It really is an honor given there are newer and no doubt fresher and more current perspectives of new moms in the blogosphere!   EIRMC even described my blog as having a focus on personal growth & community.  And yes, anyone can see from my first posts until now the gradual transition from fired up with anger/passion in writing about my experience and how I was fiercely dedicated to advocating for new mothers with PPD (and addressing the ghosts that haunted me) to my relatively mellow self today.  It’s all thanks to years of writing my book and blog, plus plenty of self reflection, that contributed toward my personal growth and boost in self confidence in general.

Back in 2017, I was still blogging  regularly and was selected as one of Healthline’s top PPD blogs.  That year, I was still doing quite a bit of self reflecting, and one of the outcomes was the following little poem.

KNOW YOURSELF

Know yourself
Know your interests
Know your capabilities
Know who your friends are
Know what matters in life
Know what you’ve survived and gotten you this far
And you won’t be questioning
Who you aren’t
What you don’t like
What you’re good at
Who your friends aren’t
What doesn’t matter
–Ivy Shih Leung 7/16/17

Ruminations during COVID19 quarantine: Am I an introvert?

In the age of COVID19 quarantine,
While working from home,
Which I’m thankful for being able to do,
I have time to think.

Freed from the daily commute to/from work,
I wonder to myself.
This transition to quarantine,
Including cessation of my daily routine
Of commuting roughly 3 hours a day by bus and subway,
Hasn’t been too big a deal for me.

Sure, I miss interacting with my co-workers in person.
Sure, I miss the structure of my daily routine.
Sure, I miss being able to go anywhere I want whenever I want.
Sure, I miss hanging out with my friends in person.

At the same time
I’m fine being at home with my husband and daughter.
I’m fine having Zoom sessions and texting with friends.
I’m fine only being able to talk with colleagues by phone, text and email.

When I’m not stuck on my computer working late into the night on all too many occasions,
I wonder more than ever before.

Am I an extrovert by nature?
Am I an introvert by nature?

Am I an introvert because I’m fine staying home (though frustrated at times with the lack of freedom)?
Am I an introvert because I can think deeply?
Am I an introvert because having chats on the phone is not a priority for me?
Am I an introvert because I’m sensitive and empathetic?
Am I an introvert because I love nature and can appreciate it alone?
Am I an introvert because I fear public speaking?
Am I an introvert because I am picky with whom I want to be friends (because I’ve been burned repeatedly in the past by “friends”)?
Am I an introvert because I find it difficult to approach a group because every time I used to do that, people would not welcome me?

Or……

Am I an extrovert because I’d rather be outside running errands, exploring, and traveling than being stuck at home?
Am I an extrovert because I prefer to go places with someone else, but it’s not always feasible?
Am I an extrovert because I always need to get things off my chest and not afraid to express my opinion?
Am I an extrovert because I can chat with a person I meet for the first time as if I’ve known them all along?
Am I an extrovert because I can make friends easily with anyone I sense a commonality with?
Am I an extrovert because I don’t need down time and solitude to recharge?
Am I an extrovert because I have no problems attending large, noisy gatherings and staying there for a long period of time and being unphased by the noise/crowd?
Am I an extrovert because I love to plan events, coordinate gatherings and I feel energized from the experience?

From the above, it may seem like I’m somewhere in between an introvert and extrovert.
At the end of the day,
I don’t believe in labels.
I don’t believe there is a clear rule that makes a person an introvert.
I don’t believe there is a clear rule that makes a person an extrovert.

We are all products of our genetics and life experiences.
I think I might be an introvert by choice due to my experiences growing up,
Being made fun of and excluded for my ethnicity,
Living in a place that was all white (poor choice made by my father)
Being sensitive and empathetic, as after all, that’s my personality,
Lacking a role model in the household that could teach me about friendship,
And lacking friends, even being excluded by other Asian Americans!

At the end of the day, I like hanging out in groups and enjoying others’ company.
I do not need to retreat to recharge.
I do not feel charged by being with others.
I make friends with people who share similar viewpoints.
My friends are usually those with whom I share something in common, which makes sense because
After all, birds of a feather usually fly together?
And not everyone can get along?

I am who I am and I am comfortable with that.
It’s not black and white.
There are all different hues in between.
People are all unique and have their preferences and experiences that make them who they are.

NO LABELS NEEDED

A PPD/PPA Survivor’s Experience During the Coronavirus Outbreak

A brief note from Ivy:

Ever since the whole coronavirus thing started impacting us here in the U.S., I’ve been starting my emails and calls to friends, colleagues and clients with “I hope you are doing well.”

For those who read this post, I hope you ARE doing well.  The past couple of weeks have been a period of great uncertainty and adjustment for all of us.  I’ve been trying very hard to go with the flow and not to be overly anxious about what’s going on and the fear that I and members of my family would fall ill with the coronavirus.

It is normal to be anxious.  During this period of uncertainty and anxiety, remember to use your coping skills.  Breathe, listen to music, read a book, connect with people via Facetime, Zoom, Facebook, or any of the other numerous apps out there.  Even churches have been holding online services.

If you are struggling, visit this site to learn some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty.  You may also call the national Disaster Distress Helpline ( 24/7) at 800-985-5990 for emotional support and crisis counseling if you are experiencing distress or other mental health concerns.  Calls are answered by trained counselors who will listen to your concerns, explore coping and other available supports, and offer referrals to community resources for follow-up care and support.

If you are a new or expectant mom or even a mom who has had a postpartum mood disorder in the past, you know you can rely on the support of Postpartum Support International volunteers and staff to support you if you are feeling anxious. PSI provides support to mothers and their families every day via 800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453 (Eng) or 971-420-0294 (Español). Additionally, PSI’s free online support groups meet every Tuesday (and now every Thursday as well).  Meet other moms virtually, share your story, build a community and hang out with other moms! Find info on timings and register here.  Please also like the PSI Facebook page for daily updates, including changes to frequency of online support groups.

Stay healthy and safe.

Warmly,
Ivy

*******************

And here is my friend Stacy M’s experience during the coronavirus situation:

Tonight G said something that stopped me in my tracks. I’ve worried so much about regression with him.

At dinner, he announced:”You know I used to do this funny thing where I lined up all my animals on the steps all the time and it was so weird. I don’t know why I would do such a thing.”

I have tons of pictures on our iCloud when he would stim and line his dolls up in his own special way.  We never interfered with what he was doing and just let him run with it. We were always so careful to avoid knocking anything out of place.  We would leave his masterpieces around for days and days.

He has slowly outgrown this behavior. It’s been a while since he has lined things up. I didn’t even realize it….until now.

Now, with the whole coronavirus situation and with schools being closed, life has changed so much these past two weeks.  I have been worrying about what I would do if I had to step in for his teachers and do everything they’ve been doing that have helped him so much.

I was a broken soul his first two little years of life when I suffered terribly with severe postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).  I was crippled by PPD/PPA for some time.  It’s been 6 years since I felt the kind of despair that I felt when I suffered from PPD/PPA.  PPD/PPA paralyzed me so much that I was even afraid to hold my children (G has a twin sister) for the first year.

Then, when I noticed that G was showing signs of autism around 9 months old, the only way I knew I could help him was to secure as much help as I could with his autism. Even though I felt broken, as long as I had the right help for G, things would be fine.  I have always hated asking for help, but for my sake and for G’s sake, I had to let help in and let help heal us. Once I finally got my feet on the ground, I did better and so did G. We have been making progress and thriving ever since.

However, now with this new way of life of social distancing due to the coronavirus, I have been hit with a wave of feelings that brought me back to the days when I had PPD/PPA. Being a mother during these times is really tough. It’s not the kind of world I ever imagined my family and I would ever have to experience. I have done everything in my strength to be able to function well again.  But now, I’ve been experiencing waves of uncertainty from fear of the unknown, as I (along with everyone else around me) have never experienced what we are now experiencing.  The sudden turn of events requiring everyone to stop going to work, stop going to school, stop getting together with friends and relatives, and even stop going out unless we really had to caught everyone off-guard.  No one could prepare for any of this.

I’ve been having some tears build up for days now.  But I take deep breaths daily.  I’m taking one day at a time.  I have learned that I CAN teach my children from home. I have learned that I CAN manage this.  I HAVE been managing.

The fact that G could reflect on such behavior tonight made me feel so proud of myself and of him that we’ve come so far despite all the obstacles.

What I want to tell other new mothers and mothers to be is to not be afraid to ask for help and to rely on a support system.

It is important to communicate and put one foot in front of the other, one step and one day at a time.

It will all make sense again. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to cry right now, and it’s okay to talk about your fears and get them off your chest.

We may be quarantined but there are many online support groups that can help while we still need to maintain social distancing.

You are never alone.

– Stacy M

Diana, A True Musical Story

Happy Daylight Savings Day! Happy International Women’s Day! And happy longer & warmer days!  Looks like the groundhog was right…at least here in the NY metro area, spring is starting early this year!  I’m not going to speak of snow, specifically, for fear of jinxing myself.

I haven’t blogged in ages!  I’ve said that I have slowed down on blogging but will probably never fully stop, as I always have thoughts about postpartum depression (PPD).  I’ve blogged previously about television shows, movies and Broadway shows that delve into the topic of mental health and PPD, in particular. This time, it is the Broadway musical “Diana, A True Musical Story” that is motivating me to write today.  I saw the musical 2 nights ago in its first week of previews, and loved it.  Though, I do think the end needs some fine-tuning; I guess being in previews for the next few weeks leaves them some room to make adjustments, hopefully?  The music was written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan who’d won a Tony award for “Memphis” and who I’m fairly sure will get a Tony nomination for Diana.  Another certain Tony nom is the one for best leading actress in a musical for Jeanna de Waal who is amazing as Princess Di….she captures all of Princess Di’s mannerisms, the way she carried herself, walked, etc.   There will no doubt be other Tony noms, including one for Judy Kaye for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and of course Best Musical.

I am blogging about this show and about Diana because she posed as a beacon of light for those suffering from mental health issues.  During one of the scenes in which Diana had just given birth to Prince William, postpartum depression was mentioned.  Hey, a shout out about the condition that affects 1 out of 7 new moms!  I couldn’t contain myself and said out loud “Wow, they actually mentioned postpartum depression.” Good for you, Christopher Ashley and Joe DiPietro, for including this important experience of Princess Diana in this musical production!   I am grateful that this show was created to share with young and old: those who were around and when she was alive and loved her (like me) and those who weren’t born until after her death.   She wasn’t referred to the People’s Princess for nothing.  In her short life, she touched so many lives, most of whom had never even met her.

She was a woman ahead of her time, inspiring not only fashion trends, but through her courage of not holding back, not letting her situation crush her, and moving on with her life the way she wanted to live it….

Free of the yoke of being told what she could/couldn’t do because it was considered unbecoming of a princess and a woman.  While reciting her wedding vow to Prince Charles chose to omit the word “obey”….she was the first royal bride to do this, with Kate Middleton and Megan Markle following in her footsteps.  Additionally, she wore her infamous off-the-shoulder and body hugging black “Revenge Dress” (I won’t spoil what the show referred to this dress as, it will crack you up, I assure you) to a Vanity Fair dinner on June 29, 1994 because she knew Prince Charles was going to officially confess his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles there.

Free of the yoke of being tied to a man who didn’t love her.  She confronted Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman Prince Charles was having an affair with, at Camilla’s sister’s 40th birthday party.  During her famous 1995 BBC interview with Martin Bashirshe let the public know “There were three in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”  And soon after the interview in 1996, she again broke from religious/royal convention by getting divorced.

Free of the yoke of being Princess of Wales, speaking her mind, leading from her heart, and making the world fall in love with her.

  • She broke from the mold of royalty by being true to herself and honest and open about her feelings with the public.  Her interviews, biographies, recordings and book “Diana-Her True Story by Andrew Morton” (published in 1992) reveal her sense of humor, candor, and heart of gold. Diana was not afraid to tell the world that her life with Prince Charles was far from the fairytale-like marriage people believe it to be.  People in England and all over the world fell in love with her.
  • She was determined to fight the stigma of HIV and AIDS even though the Queen often voiced her displeasure about such efforts.  There are numerous pictures of her shaking hands and conversing with HIV/AIDS patients without any protective gear on.  She became involved with numerous charities in Africa that made a huge impact internationally with respect to the treatment of AIDS.
  • She was determined to fight the stigma of mental health issues like self harm, bulimia, and PPD.  Back in 1982 when Diana gave birth to Prince William, PPD was something that was never discussed with anyone. Her pregnancy was a difficult one.  She didn’t feel well throughout it, and things got worse after she had the baby. All the pressures of being a wife, a mother and the people’s princess were too overwhelming for her.  She worried constantly and struggled in silence.  She would cry and feel panicked whenever Prince Charles didn’t come home when he said he was coming home.  She kept her panic to herself.  The public noticed her getting thinner during her public appearances, which she explained was due to the fatigue from first-time motherhood. In her book “Diana-Her True Story” and her 1995 BBC interview, she finally opened up about her struggles with self harm, eating disorders, and PPD (the root of it all had to do with how unhappy she was with her marriage and how alone she felt).  Diana revealed that she had received very little support from the royal family when she was sick with PPD because they didn’t know what to do, because people back then (and even in many places and cases today) didn’t really know what PPD was.

When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time that you’ve got ’enough attention.’ But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. – from her BBC interview

The royal family went around saying that “Diana is unstable, Diana is mentally unbalanced” (these words were used in the musical).  Having such negative labels associated with her was unfortunate.  She wasn’t just a first-time mother trying to be the best mother for her child; she was also a young woman trying to adapt to her life as a princess. Between these pressures and the lack of emotional support / personal time and space, her toxic marriage, history of her own mother walking out of her life when she was a small child, shame from not being able to cope with everything, and lack of self esteem, it’s no wonder she suffered from PPD!  So many risk factors!

She never got professional help because she didn’t really ask for it due to the shame she felt.  And yet she soldiered on….the People’s Princess to the very end of her life that was tragically cut short right after her 36th birthday on August 31, 1997.  I will never forget where I was (I was walking in an open market in Sydney, Australia) when I heard the tragic news.

Please go check it out if you were one of the many who fell in love with Princess Di that you were heartbroken for weeks after she died.  Please go check it out if your life hasn’t previously been touched by Princess Di and want to be inspired by the story of a woman way ahead of her time.  From the beginning of her marriage to Prince Charles to the end of it, she managed to become a powerful, independent woman despite all the royal restrictions that were in place.  In the end, she packed her bags and left, refusing to be stuck in a loveless marriage.

Lunafest in West Orange, NJ on September 13, 2019 Benefit for Postpartum Support International

If you live in New Jersey, please consider attending LUNAFEST proudly presented by the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI).

When: Friday, September 13, 2019 at 7:00-10:00 pm

Where: Luna Stage at 555 Valley Rd, West Orange, NJ

Tickets:  $25 includes a complimentary cocktail.  To buy, click here.

About:  Since 2000, LUNAFEST has showcased a collection of short films by, for, and about women. Discover the ground-breaking work of female filmmakers who are changing the industry with this year’s lineup of eight short films.  Your support of Lunafest will not only help flip the script of the 2.13 : 1 ratio of male to female short-film directors in this country, but help raise money for local women’s causes.

Proceeds of this particular screening event will benefit the NJ Chapter of PSI.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing.  The long-term goals of the PSI-NJ chapter is to create, throughout the state of New Jersey, a unified voice for the support, education and care of moms and families with perinatal mood disorders, as well as law enforcement and health care professionals.  support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.

If you support women’s causes and want to support mothers (and their families) who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (e.g, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis) to get the help they need, please consider coming to Lunafest and sharing with friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues and even share widely on social media.

There will be information about PSI, PSI-NJ and other maternal mental health services in NJ at this event.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Say and What Not to Say to a Mom With PPD

When I saw the Washington Post article “Know what to say when postpartum depression hits a loved one” by Leanne Italie on my Facebook feed today, I was reminded how much my anger about people’s ignorant comments used to inspire me to write posts.   Ignorant comments still tick me off…just not as much.  I think it took about 8 years to get all my anger out of my system, and this blog was instrumental as my outlet.  Yes, indeed….journaling thoughts is a way to let all the negative “chi” or energy out and thus help you keep your emotional/mental self balanced, which in turn keeps your physical self balanced and hence less prone to illness, in general.

This article mentions the kinds of things to say versus not to say to a mom struggling with postpartum depression (PPD).  A lot of the things are said by friends/family who think they know what they’re talking about but really don’t.  I mean, how can one person really know what another person is experiencing?  They can’t, can they?   A lot of the things said by friends/family diminish what a PPD mom is actually experiencing and only serve to make her feel worse and more isolated.  Words that come tumbling out of people’s mouths most often come from ignorance due to lack of personal experience.  It would really help if people read and become familiar with the difference between PPD and postpartum blues!

These are some of the kinds of phrases to avoid that are touched on in the article:

  • “All new parents have a hard time adjusting to having a baby…you’ll get used to it.”  (implying the PMD is not a real illness but a phase that all new parents go through….wrong!)
  • “I didn’t feel depressed when I had a baby.” (PPD is not imaginary; just because one person has never suffered from PPD doesn’t mean the experience of a mom with PPD should be invalidated or considered imaginary)
  •  “Just sleep when the baby sleeps.” (many new moms with PPD suffer from insomnia, like I did…here’s the link to one of my 2 most-visited and commented blog posts)
  • “Oh, I got the postpartum blues and it passed in a couple weeks on its own.  It will pass for you too. You shouldn’t have to take meds to get through this.  If I didn’t need any meds, you shouldn’t have to either.” (many new moms with PPD need meds to recover….here’s the link to the difference between having PPD vs. having postpartum blues)

As they say, if you can’t say anything to help, don’t say anything at all. In fact, words aren’t even necessary. Just being physically there to support her shows you care.

Bottom line, just be there for the new mother. 

The following image from Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders (who’d given me permission to use 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 or without PPD.

Be there

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.

These were some of my past posts about how to speak to new moms (with PPD or even struggling with infertility):

  1. Women with PPD Need Support, Not Hurtful Comments (addressing online comments stemming from public ignorance about PPD)
  2. Dear Hospital Staff: Your Tone, Words, and Treatment are Key to the New Mom’s Experience (addressing hospital staff and the way they talk to new moms)
  3. Words Are Not Always Necessary……Comforting Those Struggling With Infertility (addressing the importance of just being there)

In my book, I offer the following 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.

  • Do provide emotional support. Between practical and emotional support, it’s the latter that many men tend to have more difficulty providing. Practical help is only half the equation. This is a time when emotional support is as important as, if not more important than, practical support. Be affectionate and reassuring. Sit with her, hold her, hug her, hold her hands. Be there for her, to comfort her “in sickness and in health,” as the saying goes. She will need constant reassurance that things will be okay and you’ll be there with her every step of the way. It is very common for women with PPD to feel hopeless and convinced that things will never get better, and they will never recover and be happy again. It touched me when I read about a husband who wrote notes of encouragement onto yellow stickies and left them all over the house for his wife.
    1. Do reassure her that her illness is temporary, she will recover, and you will get through this together. Do offer words of encouragement as much as possible, like the following: “You will get through this … … you will get well …  … this is temporary … I will be there for you … I love you … we will get through this together.”
    2. Do try to be as sensitive as possible, as she may mistake your advice for criticism in her first attempts at taking care of the baby. First-time moms tend to be more sensitive to remarks people make about their mothering capabilities. That sensitivity tends to increase when PPD enters the picture. The first-time mom who also has PPD in most cases tends to lack self-confidence when it comes to taking care of the baby and may need a lot of reassurance from her husband and others around her that she’s doing a great job as a mom. Words have the power to heal or hurt; the power of words will never be more evident than during the postpartum period.
    3. Do encourage her to share her thoughts and feelings with you. It is common for a woman with PPD to tend to hide her thoughts and feelings for fear of negative reactions.
    4. Do listen to her feelings and concerns without criticizing or judging, and be patient with her, as she will no doubt repeat her concerns often.
    5. Do tell her it’s okay to make mistakes and there’s no need to try to do everything perfectly (especially if this is her first crack at motherhood and she has perfectionist tendencies).
    6. Do keep your communication lines wide open at all times.
  • Don’t minimize the thoughts and feelings she shares with you. Doing so will only make her want to hide her thoughts and feelings, which will only make her feel more isolated, hopeless, and desperate. Avoid using any of the following expressions that imply that all she has to do is try harder to get well.
    • Snap out of it (Just as you can’t will away diabetes, you can’t will PPD away).
    • Pull yourself together.
    • It’s all in your head. Or it’s mind over matter.
    • Don’t be so lazy.
    • Just relax and think positive. (Remember that the very nature of depression prevents you from thinking positively, appreciating humor, enjoying things you usually enjoy. If you’re upset, stressed out, or not feeling well, how would you feel if someone suggested you relax? No doubt you’d feel annoyed.)
    • After our years of trying to have a baby, I thought you’d be thrilled.
    • Enough is enough. I’m tired of your being like this. What is wrong with you anyway? Get over this already.
    • What happened to the woman I married? I liked you the way you were before.
    • You’re a strong woman. You don’t need any help. You can get through this on your own. I know you can.
    • Just go out and do some shopping … you’ll be yourself in no time after you buy yourself some new clothing.

The 32nd Annual Postpartum Support International Conference

I think everyone has friends that you can go a while without seeing and when you do see each other again, it’s like you’d never really been apart.  I have a few friends like this in the perinatal mood disorder (PMAD) world.   And that circle keeps growing each time I attend the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference.

In the past 13 years, I have attended 7 of what my dear friend, Pec Indman (co-author with Shoshana Bennett, PhD, of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety), refers to as “family reunions” and with good reason!  We are like family.  For me, it’s my tribe.  My very first conference was in New Jersey back in 2006, followed by Kansas City (KS) in 2007, Pittsburgh in 2010, Seattle in 2011, Minneapolis in 2013, Philadelphia in 2017, and Portland (OR) four weeks ago.  I generally feel a natural affinity to other PSI members because we are all for the most part postpartum mood disorder (PMD) survivors and/or are PMD advocates.  Nearly all work with PMD moms/families as a medical or mental healthcare practitioners, and that’s where I’m different from them.  But my mind keeps going back to it as a possibility of switching gears one day down the road.

The 32nd annual PSI conference took place June 26-30 this year in Portland, Oregon.  At this conference, I heard some of what I already learned about previously and some new things I hadn’t heard much about previously–e.g., EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and brainspotting.  One of the keynote speakers was Lee Cohen, MD, director of the Ammon-Pinozzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen is a national and international leader in the field of women’s mental health, and is widely published with over 200 original research articles and book chapters in the area of perinatal and reproductive psychiatry.

The fact that there were over 700 attendees over the course of the 4-day conference was awesome!  It gave me the goosebumps!  We were excited to see an unprecedented increase in the number of attendees, which can only mean one thing:   more people than ever before know about PSI and its mission and share the mission to effect change when it comes to postpartum outcomes.  This is awesome!  Now, if only we can get more OB/GYNs and nurses to attend!  Find a way to give them some sort of continuing ed credits….an additional bit of motivation to come to these conferences!  Being able to properly recognize, diagnose, and treat PMDs is still an unnecessarily huge hurdle for all too many doctors around the country.

At this conference, I sat side by side at the bookstore at 7:30 am on each of the first 2 days of the conference with a young man from Zimbabwe.  We were both volunteers for that early morning shift.  Linos was one of only a handful of men who attended the conference, the first representative from that country to ever attend a PSI conference, and one of the ones who traveled farthest to get to Portland.  You can tell he was on a mission to effect change in his country.  One of his top missions this year is to help raise funds for Zimbabwe’s first PSI Climb Out of the Darkness event.  Climb Out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event for raising awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, while raising money and building community.

I just donated to Team Zimbabwe.
Go Team Zimbabwe!

Funds from this Climb Out will go towards the 2nd international Society for Pre and Post Natal Services (SPANS) conference on Maternal Mental Health in Africa in September 2019.  The conference theme this year is “Incorporating Mental Health into Maternal, Paternal and Child Health to improve outcomes.”  Linos and Team Zimbabwe hope to bring participants from many parts of the continent to further African awareness and to improve the accessibility, affordability, timely and essential maternal and paternal services, as well as assist in the raising of awareness of Infant, perinatal and paternal to improve the health of mothers, children and the families at large.  Every penny of your generosity will ultimately make a huge impact on the welfare of families impacted by maternal mental health issues.  Thank you very much.

You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.
If you or someone you know is suffering, PSI can help.
Call 1.800.994.4773 or
Text 503.894.9453

Inspiring Others by How You Deal With Your Imperfections

I had just posted my letter to my mother on Mother’s Day, which included a reference to my shortcomings as a daughter that rendered me a far-from-perfect daughter.

The following meme that popped up on my Facebook feed on Friday prompted me to put together this brief post.  I love visuals, as visuals are effective tools for enhancing words’ meanings.

Here are some of the ways I make the most of my imperfections:

  • One of my key traits is stubbornness.  I turn that into persistence in getting things done, whether it be tasks at work or an event or trip I’m planning.
  • As I mentioned in my Mother’s Day letter, I sort of suck at cooking.  I’ve been slowly chipping away at my dislike for cooking by collecting recipes from friends and trying them as often as I can.  As they say, familiarity with the process leads to more confidence.
  • I have a major fear of public speaking, and chip away as I might with speech classes and book events, the fear is still there.  But not all advocates need to speak in public to get their message out. I’ve been using my written skills via blogging (and my book) as my way of speaking up and sharing my postpartum depression experience to help others avoid going down the same difficult path I went down in 2005.

 

You may have expectations to be perfect, or you believe others expect you to be perfect.

But you must know that, in reality, no one is perfect.  Not a single one.

Yet people are inspiring one another each and every day.

I hope I’m inspiring at least one person out there (especially perfectionists) to:

Reflect on their imperfections
And think of ways
To leverage both strengths and weaknesses,
To never give up,
To never be afraid to ask for help,
To use their voices to speak up,
To share their experiences to help others avoid going down the same difficult path,
To inspire others, and
To deal with their own imperfections.

A Letter to My Mother on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

You brought me into this world.
You raised me.
You taught me to be a caring, polite, honest and hard-working individual.
I have much to thank you for.

You were always a very caring mother.
Even though you always worried so much…..
Too much, in fact.
You worried so much that you drove me and my brothers bonkers.
Your incessant worrying made for a very tough time growing up as your daughter.

You always did tell me, wait until you have your own child(ren), and
Then you will know what it’s like to be a mother.
Looking back, I do realize you were just trying to be the best mother you can be,
Just as I now want to be the best mother I can be too.

I remember how we used to fight a lot.
Much of it was due to no one being able to see things from the perspective of the other.
And dad was a catalyst to our fights.
My unhappy teenage years didn’t help matters.
Things were tough for me growing up.
I hated school and where we lived so much.

But I know things were tough for you too.
You lived far away from your own parents….
So far away that you only saw them a couple times since you came here in the 1950s,
Seeking a better life for yourself and future family.
You always just grinned and trod on,
Focused on ensuring your children did well in life.

Life has not been that fair for you, I know
And I wish I could have changed your experiences and circumstances
So you could’ve had a better life
That you didn’t have to spend so many lonely days at home alone
After my brothers and I moved out and
While dad worked all day, 7 days a week.

I wish I knew then what I know now.
That your heightened anxiety and obsessive behaviors,
Your worst enemies,
Should have been treated so that
After you had your surgery in 2012,
Your anxiety and obsessive behaviors wouldn’t compromise your health.
Your soon-to-be-84-year-old self
Still doesn’t look your age
Despite all the medical issues you’ve faced.
Had it not been for your anxiety and obsessive behaviors,
I could see you living up to 100 years old,
Full of the energy and youthfulness I remember seeing
As a child while you sang and danced in the kitchen.

I will never forget your sadness that you couldn’t spend more time with your family.
It pains me to remember.
I wish I could’ve done more for you earlier….
Like send you back to see your family more,
But money was always an issue.

This regret will hang over my head for the rest of my life.
This regret has taught me that
It’s not about material wealth, size of home, or appearance of wealth that matters
So much as the fact that time goes by and people age too quickly
Moments are all too fleeting,
And before you know it, there are so many lost opportunities
To do things you wanted/meant to do
That are now too late to carry out.
I may now have the means to send you home to visit your family.
But you are now too old and frail to travel.

I don’t want any more regrets.
I don’t want to later look back with regret that I didn’t see you as much as I could.
I don’t want to later look back with regret that I didn’t cook for you.
I don’t want any more regrets.

I want to be there for you as much as I can,
Within my abilities and despite my shortcomings,
As I am far from a perfect daughter.

Today, on Mother’s Day, a dreary, rainy, chilly day,
I reflect on my shortcomings as a daughter.
I could’ve spent more time with you.
I could’ve cooked more for you.

But things are not too late.
I can still see you every week.
I can still cook a little for you,
Even though I suck at cooking.

You inspire me to be a better mother.
And a better daughter too.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Love always,
Ivy

Elly Taylor of Becoming Us and her 2019 Seed Planting Workshop U.S. Tour

My friend, Elly Taylor, is an Australian relationship counselor, author of the book Becoming Us, and founder of an organization of the same name, which she created to teach professionals and support mothers and their partners.  Both the book and organization’s mission is to help the mother and partner navigate the peaks and valleys of the parenting journey via 8 essential steps that Becoming Us as “map, compass and travel guide all in one.”

Elly and I have a bunch of things in common.  We are both postpartum depression (PPD) survivors and book authors (though hers is award winning).  We were both blindsided by PPD and the challenges of parenting.  We are both members of Postpartum Support International.  Elly loves NYC (where I’ve spent the last 30 years working) as much as if not more than I love Sydney (where she lives).  She is fortunate enough to be out here in NYC each year for the past 4 years on Becoming Us-related reasons; whereas, I’ve been back to Sydney 3x in the past 22 years (I so wish I could return more often!).

Elly will be here in the states for her “Seed Planting” workshop tour in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and New York City.  For the complete schedule and how to register, click here.  If you live near those areas and are a couple or family therapist, birth professional, infant or child mental health professional, and anyone else who works with expecting, new or not so new parent, sign up for Elly’s 2-hour interactive seed-planting workshop.

The training will teach you:

  1. how the groundbreaking research- and evidence-based Becoming Us approach can support you to work with mothers/fathers/partners to navigate the different transitions to parenthood, reduce risks for postpartum mood disorders, and support families to thrive
  2. what the transitions are (there are more than 8!), how they can negatively impact mothers and their families
  3. how to plant Becoming Us “seeds” that reduce risk for the most common parenthood problems including perinatal mental health issues and relationship distress
  4. how you can apply the model to your work with parents at any stage of their family life cycle

Then, in Atlanta, Elly will also hold a breakout session/seminar at the CAPPA Conference taking place from June 21-23.  See the CAPPA website for more info and to register.

Additionally, she will hold a breakout session/seminar at this year’s Postpartum Support International conference in Portland, Oregon.  It will take place on June 30th from 9am-noon.  See the PSI Conference website for more details about the conference and how to register.

Maria’s Letter to Her Younger Self

Maria’s younger self in 2009

A note of thanks to my friend and fellow PPD survivor/advocate, Maria, who was gracious in letting me share this letter she wrote last week during Maternal Mental Health Week, and I happened to see it on my feed and totally loved it.  This letter has inspired me to write my own letter to my younger self, which I hope to share soon.

If you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder right now, please be comforted in knowing there are so many more moms like Maria and me that have suffered and overcome PPD only to become much stronger and empowered women.  You will down the road be able to write–and perhaps even share–your own letters to your younger selves as well.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Younger Maria (2009):

You are going to be okay.

You’re in hell now,
but you’re going to plug along
and find your way out.

It isn’t going to be easy
and it isn’t going to be pretty,
but soon after this photo was taken
you will summon the courage to reach out for help.

You will call the nurse manager in your obstetrician’s office
and in between sobs and heaving breaths,
you will slowly and fully tell her how you think something is wrong.

How you feel nothing when you hold your daughter
and you cry all the time.
How you only want to hide in a locked closet or a locked bathroom,
and in fact that is often what you do
once the kids are asleep or with a babysitter.

You are barely functioning but you are doing it.
You are doing it mama.

And those babies love you.
And you are an amazing mother.
And you are going to shine so brightly.

I promise.

Just hold on,
trust in yourself,
lean on your trusted friends,
and always remember that
you are worthy of more than this feeling.

More than this heart-wrenching,
gut-punching pain
and stifling loneliness.

This emptiness that consumes you will subside,
and soon you will find
a version of yourself that will set you free.

Be brave sweet mama.
I am so proud you.

Love,
Older Maria (2019)

Free Screening of Not Carol and Panel Discussion – Scotch Plains, NJ on May 29, 2019

If you live in New Jersey, please consider attending this screening of Not Carol, a feature-length documentary about the Carol Coronado case from 2014.  I’d blogged about it here and here.  And in searching for her current status just now (I was hoping there’d be news that would be more positive than that she was spending the rest of her life in prison without parole), I found this article featuring Joy Burkhard of 2020Mom  and her advocacy for Carol and other moms.  Carol’s case is another example of a tragic loss resulting from a postpartum mood disorder, in this case postpartum psychosis.

What:  Free Screening of Not Carol

Why:  Learn about postpartum depression (PPD), its symptoms and how to support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.  Public awareness initiatives like this one can help reduce stigma and ensure mothers suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, like PPD or postpartum psychosis, get the help they need.  We must ensure future cases like Carol’s will never happen again.  Note: this screening is not just intended for doctors/psychiatrists/social workers that work with new moms.  You can be a survivor, advocate, or simply a concerned citizen who may or may not know someone in your life that has suffered/is currently suffering from a postpartum mood disorder.

When: Wednesday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Scotch Plains JCC, 1391 Martine Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

RSVP: Courtney Teicher via cteicher@jccng.org or 908-889-8800 x227

After the film there will be a panel discussion comprised of the following individuals (note that Dr Birndorf and Dr. Levine were on The Today Show on August 3, 2018, which focused on Dr. Levine’s experience as a new father with PPD.  Click here for my blog post about that):

  • Film Executive Producers: Eamon Harrington and Veronica Brady
  • David Levine, MD:  Summit Medical Group physician
  • Catherine Birndorf, MD – Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics/Gynecology and founding director of the Payne Whitney Women’s Program at The New York Presbyterian Hospital – Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.  She is also a co-founder of The Motherhood Center).  I’d met her previously at a Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference.

Speaking of PSI, there will be information and individuals on-hand to provide information about the non-profit international organization.

 

 

Sounds of Silence 11th Annual Run/Walk – May 11, 2019

Join the Sounds of Silence, Friends of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York’s 11th annual run/walk in memory and celebration of Lisa Mary Reilly and 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.

Here’s a video of last year’s run/walk:

I have posted about this annual run/walk every year since 2009.  That year, I was one of the two top fundraisers, bringing in over $1,000 (as an individual).  This annual fundraiser was started back in 2008 by sisters Erin Mascaro and Lisa Reilly. It was Lisa’s experience with PPD after the birth of her daughter–an experience so deeply painful and full of suffering (a suffering that many others like her feel forced to endure in silence) that was witnessed by Erin and other loved ones–that motivated Erin and Lisa to break the silence of PPD with the Sounds of Silence annual run/walk .

All proceeds will go towards supporting the important services the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (tax ID #11-3449880), provides to new mothers and their families.  To learn more about its services, go to:  http://postpartumny.org.

Please help spread the word about this fundraiser by blogging or sharing the flyer on Facebook/Twitter.

Sponsors Needed:  They are looking for sponsors, so companies looking for opportunities to support a wonderful cause that benefits mothers and their families should seriously consider this opportunity!  Click here for more info.

All New York State schools and colleges are invited to participate!  Click here to find out more.

Date:  Saturday, May 11, 2019

Time:  Registration from 8:00-9:00; race/walk begins at 9:15 AM.  There will be a Kids Fun Run, Raffles, Pre- and post-prace refreshments.

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

Run/Walk Registration:  $30 (adults); $20 (ages 11-18); $5 (ages 10 and under); register here.  Registration price increases after May 4th.

Virtual Participation:  For those of you who can’t make it in person, you can participate virtually by registering via this link.  $30 to participate; you get a t-shirt for participation.

What first 250 entrants and first 500 registrants will receive:  First 250 entrants will receive commemorative t-shirts, and first 500 registrants (on day of) will receive race swag bags.  There will be a post-race raffle for prizes that include gift baskets, gift certificates, etc (you need to be present to win).  All who raise $200+ will receive a Sounds of Silence beach towel.

50/50 Fundraiser:  There will be a 50/50 Fundraiser to benefit the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.  Only 300 raffle tickets will be sold.   Grand prize: $10,000; 2nd prize: $3,500; 3rd prize: $1000; 4th prize: $500.  All proceeds from this raffle will be shared equally between the winner of each prize and the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, Inc.  Click here for more info.  Click here to purchase your ticket(s) while they last. Click here to order.  NOTE: Your ticket(s) will be mailed to you. You do not need to be present to win. All prize awards noted here are based on a sale of all 300 available tickets. Actual prize award(s) is based on total number of tickets sold.