Parenting is hard

As a follow-up to my July 2018 post about my friend Elly Taylor’s US tour, I would like to help spread the word that PARENTING IS HARD.

 

* * * * * * * *

That’s right, parenting is NOT necessarily instinctive.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Parenting is a journey that is traveled by the new mom who learns as she goes.

And one in which the new father (or partner) learns as he goes.

Or as per Elly’s training mantra and title of her book, it’s a journey to Becoming Us.

And you, parents, need to and should take as much help as you can get along the way.

There should be no shame with that.

No one says that you need to go it all alone.

The more help you get, the better your parenting experience will be.

Trust me.

And trust Elly and everyone else that is trying to spread this truth and resources to get you that help.

The more we realize this going into parenthood, the less we are blindsided.

The more we are prepared for the twists in the parenting journey that life throws our way.

For 1 out of 7 new moms, postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the twists that they will come across on their journey.

Minimizing surprises leads to a better parenting experience and less risk of PPD.

We should want this for everyone, no?

So, please help spread the word.

PARENTING IS HARD.

 

* * * * * * * *

Check out Elly’s brand new video.
It is a very important video for all expectant and new mothers and their partners.
I just adore listening to her lovely Australian accent.

Stay tuned to a follow-up post on Elly’s 2019 tour to the United States.

 

Join Elly Taylor of Becoming Us on her U.S. tour of training sessions for parents and professionals!

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 is here in the states for her “Seed Planting” workshop tour in Chicago, Beverly (MA), Providence (RI), New York City, Houston and Los Angeles.  For the complete schedule and how to register, click here.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney (2014)

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 29 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 3 years on Becoming Us-related reasons; whereas, I’ve been back to Sydney 3x in the past 21 years (I so wish I could return more often!).  I look forward to seeing Elly during her stay in NYC!

Professionals:

Sign up for Elly’s 2-hour interactive workshop that will teach you key tools to prepare/support expectant/new parent couples to anticipate/cope with the changes–and stay connected through the challenges that come with–early parenthood. You’ll come away with ways for parents to nurture themselves and their partners so the whole family can thrive.  This workshop is designed for couple and family therapists, birth professionals, infant or child mental health professionals, and any others who work with expecting, new or not so new parents.

The transition to parenthood is a major one that consists of numerous transitions.  The training will teach you what the transitions are and how they can negatively impact mothers and their families. You’ll learn how to plant Becoming Us “seeds” that reduce risk for the most common parenthood problems including perinatal mental health issues and relationship distress. Finally, you’ll discover the groundbreaking Becoming Us approach to parenthood and how you can apply the model to your work with parents at any stage of their family life cycle.

Parents:

Sign up for Elly’s 1-hour interactive workshop that will teach you about the transitions that parents normally go through in their first years of family, the steps to navigate each of these transitions and staying connected through the challenges that come with early parenthood. You’ll come away knowing how to nurture yourselves while growing a family that thrives.

 

 

What Food Sensitivities Might Mean in the Grand Scheme of Things

This morning, I saw a post in my Facebook feed about yesterday’s article by Rachel Rabkin Peachman in Motherlode (NY Times) titled “Picky Eating in Children Linked to Anxiety, Depression and A.D.H.D.”  This was not the only article that was motivated by yesterday’s Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics article titled “Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers With Selective Eating” in which Nancy Zucker, Ph.D., eating disorders specialist, and associate professor, psychology and neuroscience, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. shares her findings.  There was also a Medline Plus article yesterday titled “Severe ‘Picky Eating’ May Point to Mental health Issues in Kids” and Wall Street Journal article by Sumanthi Reddy titled “What Picky Eating Might Mean for Children Later.” I know this isn’t about postpartum depression (PPD), but as I’ve said before, PPD has its roots earlier in life, which is why I choose to blog about and spread awareness about those roots.  I also want to tackle feelings of guilt and shame felt by mothers over things like picky eaters and food sensitivities. For example, a kid may have food sensitivities that are biological in nature, so there is absolutely zero reason for a mother to feel guilt/shame over the situation.  Sure, you should do what you can to introduce new foods slowly over time (remember, do all things in moderation and you can’t go wrong), but forcing a child to eat something when he is hell bent against it will not help matters one bit.  The approach of “If a child refuses to eat, don’t give him anything to eat and send him to his room; he’ll eat whatever you give him if he is hungry enough” is not the way to go at all, IMO. Dr. Zucker has also indicated that having kids eat processed foods (like chicken nuggets….either the frozen variety or the McDonald’s variety) should not alarm or cause parents to feel guilt/shame, since consistency in texture and taste is important to a child who might be tentative/uncertain overall and especially when it comes to eating.  Some experience sensory overload and become overwhelmed easily when it comes to taking in everything via their senses of smell, vision, hearing….and taste.   These kids have difficulty processing all the stimuli around them and go on sensory overload.  Chicken nuggets aren’t like broccoli.  They’re not bitter little tree lookalikes with little “leaves” and mushy in some cases, hard to chew in other cases, depending on how they are cooked or how fresh they are. In the Medline article, Dr. Zucker states:

They have a stronger sensitivity to the world outside and to how their body feels. That sets them up to have more vivid experiences — more intense food experiences, more intense emotional experiences. None of that is pathological, but it could be a vulnerability for later problems.

You may want to ask yourself whether you are a picky eater (and if so, whether you are also hypersensitive to smell, noise, visual cues and oral textures).  Here are the results of my self examination:

  • Picky eater?  check (for my daughter, not sure if I was once a picky eater, but I don’t believe I am that picky.  I won’t eat everything, and I think that’s absolutely normal)
  • Hypersensitive to smell? check for me (I can smell things that have caused people to liken me to a canine)
  • Hypersensitive to noise? check (I can hear things that have caused people to liken me to a canine; high-pitched grinding of subways to a halt, subtle background noises at work that all my co-workers don’t hear/tune out yet are highly distracting and irritating to me)
  • Hypersensitive to visual cues? check (for my daughter; whereas, I have extremely myopic vision, so I can’t say this applies to me; my sense of smell and hearing more than make up my lack of vision)
  • Hypersensitive to oral textures? check (for my daughter; I’m not sure if I was like this as a kid)

While a distaste for broccoli is not indicative of an issue since it’s fairly common for kids to refuse to eat it (it’s like beer and some other drinks and foods that take a few tries before you acquire a taste for it), when food aversions and smells becomes too overwhelming for a child as to prevent him from being able to tolerate eating out altogether, that’s when you know you have a case of extreme sensitivity for which parents should seek professional help (as the study has found a greater likelihood of depression or social anxiety later in life).  When a child has a limited number of foods he/she likes and can tolerate being exposed to other foods without any issues, that’s when there is a moderate sensitivity to food.  Moderately picky eaters usually broaden their palate over time, much like my daughter is doing slowly but surely, much to my relief!  Some children have a limited diet due to physical reasons such as acid reflux, which is not easy to figure out when a baby experiences this (from drinking milk and then after an intro to solid foods).  It’s not like the baby can tell you that she has acid reflux or feels sick drinking or eating certain things.  Hence, the trial and error and much anxiety and concern that ensue….not fun in the least! From the Motherlode article:

[Picky] eaters are not simply stubborn or tyrannical children whose parents have given in to their culinary whims. Rather, the research reveals that picky eaters have a heightened sensitivity to the world that is innate. “Their sensory experience is more intense in the areas of taste, texture and visual cues. And their internal experience may be more intense, so they have stronger feelings,” said Dr. Zucker, who is also director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders. “They’re sensitive kids who may be anxious or a little depressed; so cutting up fruits into funny shapes is not going to do the trick for these kids.”

Also:

“It is a reminder that food is not a stand-alone issue and that it plays a role in the big picture of development,” said Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and co-author of “Food Fights: Winning the nutritional challenges of parenthood armed with insight, humor, and a bottle of ketchup.” “How kids behave around food relates to how they interact with the world in general. It doesn’t surprise me that some kids who are really tentative around food might be really tentative in life.”

I am so glad the research was performed and results shared across major news outlets like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. and subsequently shared all over social media.  The information is very critical and can make a hugely beneficial impact to parents struggling with their kids’ tastes for food know when to get help versus when to chalk up as something kids will grow out of as their palates broaden and become “more sophisticated.”  Per the Motherlode article, approximately 20% of children are picky eaters, so you can see it’s a fairly common challenge faced by parents.  And per Dr. Zucker, there is a correlation between picky eating and mental health challenges down the road, like depression and/or anxiety.

Common Bond of Parenthood

There is nothing subtle about the common bond of parenthood, as shown at the end of this video sponsored by Similac, a formula company.  I’m practically certain that an anti-formula group of breastfeeding (BF) zealots would never have sponsored such a video.  The last thing the BF zealots want to show is that there is even a hint of commonality between moms who BF and moms who formula feed.

What is the common bond?  Well, as you’ll see by watching this video, it’s that parents are–regardless of our parenting style or choices–parents.  Period.  The video even has a group of men (whether they are single parents or stay-at-home-dads is not clear), which is Similac’s intent to bring fathers into the picture, because after all, fathers are parents too.  Parents have a desire and obligation to do the best they can to care for their children with the means best suited for them.  Our children are our responsibility.  We brought them into the world.

At the end of the video, when a baby and parent need help, everyone–regardless of their parenting style or choices–drops their differences and runs to the aid of that baby and parent.  Now, that’s what it SHOULD be all about.  Forget about stupid and meaningless mommy wars.  Putting aside our differences and recognizing and respecting each others’ differences– instead of putting up walls to separate ourselves from those that are different from us– is what it should all be about.  Non first-time parents know what it’s like to be a parent for the first time and know how challenging taking care of a newborn baby and being a first-time parent really is.   Wouldn’t it be nice if experienced parents shared their experience with other new parents instead of thinking “Well, I learned the hard way, so can he/she.” Wouldn’t it also be nice if there were parent support groups in EVERY community, not just here or there and not known to/hard to find by the vast majority of those seeking support?  Parenting is about community, not about individual parents in isolation, left to their own devices because of how they choose to parent.

It takes a community to parent, period.  You can’t go it alone.  And you should not have to.

For added perspective from a writer and advocate for mothers whom I admire very much, please visit Suzie Barston’s Fearless Formula Feeder’s blog post about this video.  It’s titled “You’re Proving the Point.”

And another piece written by Amy Newman titled “Let’s Lower Stakes in Breastfeeding Debate.”

The Irony Behind Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Mama

Though it’s less common among kind mamas, some women experience the blues after giving birth. – Alicia Silverstone

You heard that right.  Now, this, I rank right up there with Tom Cruise’s ignorant ranting “There’s no such thing as a chemical balance!”  I found out yesterday that Alicia Silverstone has written a book titled “The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning.”  From the articles I’ve read since yesterday, apparently she thinks her celebrity status has rendered her viewpoint more worthy of the public’s attention than that of medical and parenting experts.

[This book can] help prevent or even cure your PMS, insomnia, allergies, breakouts, weight struggles, thyroid condition, lupus, multiple sclerosis—while significantly lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Apparently, she now thinks she knows more than medical experts, whom you no longer would need to see if you were to simply follow the suggestions in her book of parenting and cure-all-ills wisdom.  What is making  me want to rank Alicia’s book up with TC’s ignorant 2005 rant (during my postpartum depression (PPD) recovery) is the fact that an individual is using their celebrity status thinking she is doing something that would benefit the public but is achieving the opposite.  From the sound of the outrageously unconventional and advice lacking in common sense throughout Alicia’s book, you’d tend to think that her book was somehow Scientology-motivated–just as TC’s rant was–as it is pretty far out of the ballpark.

Her sanctimonious, empathy-lacking and insensitive claims–summarized over at In Case You Didn’t Know, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and Love and Knuckles, so I am not going to go into detail about her anti-diaper, anti-vaccination, anti-crib, anti-tampon, anti-meat, and anti-dairy claims (it’s almost like she wants us to go back to our caveman days and at the same time be vegan) in any detail here–are pissing people off .

Much like the twerking antics of Miley Cyrus at last year’s MTV VMA succeeded to shock the world into paying attention to her–almost like a rite of passage and proof positive that she is forever closing the door on her good girl, Disney Channel, days as Hannah Montana and never looking back–I would think Alicia’s publication of this book was merely an attention-seeking mechanism.   With Alicia’s big screen activities being pretty non-existent and her 2012 video of chewing her son’s food and passing it along to her son didn’t create enough stir to draw the attention she was hoping for, she probably thought, “Hmmmm, what better way to attract attention than to write a book with content that would certainly attract the public’s attention.”

I personally would never waste money on a book that is so outrageously negative toward others (couples trying desperately to conceive, moms suffering from PPD, parents who use diapers and put their babies in cribs, meat/dairy consumers), egotistical, paranoia-inducing, misleading, and stigma-spreading.  If I had written this very same book, do you think it would’ve been published with such bizarre content?  Nope.  Publishing companies would no doubt scoff at it, thinking I was crazy.

I’d NEVER ONCE heard about her 2012 video of her bird-like feeding behavior…until yesterday (and I haven’t watched it…have no interest whatsoever).  Maybe she was a mother bird in a previous life…but she came back as a human that is CLUELESS about being supportive, empathizing and understanding human maternal matters. 

In a couple of the articles I read, it seems that Alicia is perceived to be innocently sharing what worked for her as a parent and is merely trying to help other parents out.  But……I certainly do not appreciate the implication that anyone who  uses diapers, gets vaccinated, uses tampons (which I’ve never done before), and eats meat/meat bi-products (like dairy) is unkind.  And I resent the implication that experiencing PPD makes me any less of a person than those who don’t experience PPD.  Hence the reason I rank her out-of-the-ballpark statements up with the likes of TC’s infamously nonsensical rant.

Alicia, simply reading your book is not going to cure us of all our ills and ensure our children will grow up healthy and happy.  Hate to burst your bubble there, but a pregnant woman who reads your book will not be protected from PPD.  Just like a couple experiencing fertility issues will not miraculously become pregnant just by reading your book and following your advice of just “doing it” spontaneously.  Telling a couple experiencing infertility issues that having a baby is easy is so amazingly insensitive.  If you thought you were publishing a book to help others, you are very, very wrong.  Great job in earning the scorn and dislike among a good number of the public who are parents who have directly or indirectly experienced a maternal mental health disorder and/or infertility!

I’m not going to bother to defend myself or my PPD experience with someone like Alicia (and all other judgmental supermoms out there), just like I’m not going to try to convince anyone not to bother buying a copy of Alicia’s book.  Just like there are people who continue to troll, bully, judge, criticize, and act mean to others for no reason–and nothing will change their ways–there are people who are going to continue to look up to Alicia simply for her celebrity status (even though she’s had a lackluster movie career ever since “Clueless”) and lap up everything she says.  Well, to each her/his own.  If you want to bother reading the book, please just take what you read with a grain of salt, remembering that the source of information is coming from someone who is not a medical or parenting expert, and who is primarily known for her role in the movie “Clueless.”   Ironic, eh?

The mission of my blog is to spread awareness about maternal mental health matters.  That includes pointing out barriers, including false information and ignorant remarks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fact of the matter is our children are feeling hopeless and helpless enough to end their own precious lives.  There have been arguments that bullying is not necessarily the sole and direct cause of all youth suicides.  That it might just be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Well, there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between victims of bullying and suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to a study published in the March 2014 edition of JAMA Pediatrics.  You can also review the booklet posted over on the CDC website titled The Relationship Between Bullying & Suicide.  Both parents and educators should familiarize themselves with this information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attention New Jerseyans: Let’s Get Gov Christie to Pass S2995

This will probably be my shortest post, ever, because if you click here, you will get all the information you need to know what the S2995 pregnancy accommodation rights bill is about, why it’s important for pregnant moms and their families.

PLEASE call Gov Chris Christie’s office 609-292-6000 between now and 1/14 to ask that he pass S2995.  And share this information with others in New Jersey.  Your voice CAN help make a difference.  If you sit back– thinking that you can’t make a difference, so why bother, and everyone has that attitude–how can there be any progress?

I saw the below image on my Facebook feed this morning.  It totally represents the way I think and why I blog (and for that matter, why I wrote my book)!  So……PLEASE CALL AND SHARE!  Thank you!

Interview with Dr. Christina Hibbert, Author of This is How We Grow

I am very excited to post my first ever Author Interview on my blog.  I am also very honored to have the opportunity to help spread the word about my friend, Dr. Christina Hibbert, and her newly published book “This Is How We Grow: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Loss, Motherhood & Discovering Self-Worth & Joy, One Season at a Time.”   I can remember the excitement I felt when my book was first published almost exactly 2 years ago, and so I share in Dr. Hibbert’s excitement that her labor of love–her baby–is now complete!

I met Dr. Hibbert a few years ago at a Postpartum Support International conference.  Over the years, I have come to admire her for her easygoing and friendly demeanor, raising SIX children, the work that she does as a psychologist specializing in postpartum / women’s mental health / grief / loss/ parenting / motherhood, and her work as a facilitator offering free pregnancy and postpartum adjustment group sessions over The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and now for having written an awesome memoir I am so looking forward to reading!

Now, without further ado….

IVY:        When did the idea of writing this book first come up? Was there a light bulb moment for you?  For me, there was a specific what I refer to as “light bulb moment” –or trigger.  In general, I write when I’m triggered by something I hear, see or read.  The words “There’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance” was my light bulb moment, and the book became a mission to add to the numbers of memoirs and self care books on postpartum depression.  I wanted to help other mothers realize they were not alone in what they were experiencing, and not the only ones seeking practical tips from what I learned from my journey, even including childcare complications (e.g., colic, eczema, cradle cap) that I had no idea how to address as a first-time parent, so new moms wouldn’t be as anxious and in the dark as I was on how to cope with these types of issues.

DR. HIBBERT:       I was setting my New Year “Theme” for 2008, just two months after my brother-in-law and sister died and I had our 4th baby and we inherited our nephews and became parents of six. I was writing in my journal, and suddenly I just knew: I am going to write about this someday. I had always wanted to be an author. I had plans for writing a book on motherhood, and I’d actually already started to write the story of when my youngest sister, Miki, had died of cancer and how that had affected our family. But when my sister Shannon then died, I knew I couldn’t write that story anymore. I had a new story to write. I just felt it in my bones, and the desire only grew as time passed.

IVY:      The subtitle of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!” is a reflection of the route my motherhood journey took.  Does your subtitle suggest a lifelong journey of self discovery?  Does it mean that you touch on your childhood in your book, or does your memoir focus mostly on your motherhood experiences?  What is the meaning of “one season at a time?”

DR. HIBBERT:      My subtitle, “A Psychologist’s Memoir of Loss, Motherhood, and Discovering Self-worth and Joy, One Season at a Time,” refers to my specific struggles during the time period of the book as well as my lifelong commitment to personal growth. This Is How We Grow is written in four parts and follows four years of my life after these events occurred in our family. I compare each of these years to the four seasons. I also use my yearly “theme” as a title for each part. Fall, my year of Patience, was 2007, when all the tragedy happened. Boy did we need patience, and we all need patience when “falls” come in our lives. Winter, my year of Gratitude, was the next year. As we struggled under the weight of grief, depression, and in my case, postpartum depression, to pick up the pieces and heal our family, gratitude is what got us through. Gratitude is what gets us through all the winters of life. Spring, my year of Cheerfulness, was 2009, when I was trying to feel joy again but wasn’t quite ready. I could at least put on a smile and try to feel cheerful, and it helped. As we adopted our nephews, we could finally feel a little relief from the pain and melting of the coldness. And Summer, my year of Joy, I learned to love myself again. I healed, emotionally and spiritually, and my family finally felt whole.

As I say in my free, online This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group, our lives are like the seasons. We are all in one season or another at any given time. The important thing is to let ourselves be where we are and choose to grow. Seasons always change, but will we?

IVY:      Can you give an overview of what your book is about in a couple of paragraphs?

DR. HIBBERT:       Now that you know the set up for the book, let me tell you a little more about the story. As I mentioned, in 2007, my sister and brother-in-law both died, my husband and I inherited their two sons, our nephews, and I gave birth to our 4th baby. Within about three weeks, we went from three to six kids. The years that followed were rough for our family as we faced court battles, troubled extended family relationships, and just tried to help our six children and ourselves heal. But through it all I chose to grow. As a psychologist specializing in postpartum, women’s mental health, grief/loss, parenting, and motherhood, I had learned so many tools and theories over the years. Now it was time to put all my theories to the test. This is How We Grow is a memoir with a self-help feel, a doctor becomes the patient story of hope, faith, love, and ultimately, joy.

IVY:        Did you find the process of writing your book cathartic?  The process of writing my book was so therapeutic that at the end of the 6+ year process, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of me.  Writing my book, getting it published and doing book readings were not only an outlet for tons of pent-up anger, emotions, thoughts and feelings.  The whole process—including my PPD survival—was life changing.

DR. HIBBERT:       Absolutely. I knew I was really writing this book to help me heal. That was my first and primary goal. “Even if no one but my family and me reads this, it will be worth it,” I told myself, and that has become true. For over four years, every time I rewrote chapters, I felt everything again, and that made me have to face every little part of my experiences. I had to talk with family and my husband, and my kids about everything that happened to us. It’s not only healed me. It is healing us all.

IVY:      Do you feel your experience as a psychologist factors into your tone and approach to writing this memoir?  In other words, do you think it would be written much differently if you weren’t a professional in the mental health field?

DR. HIBBERT:        Yes, because being a psychologist is such a fundamental part of who I am. I love to read and learn and teach, and as a psychologist I get to do all of those things every day. In This Is How We Grow, I share many professional insights, tools, and words from other people who inspire me. In fact, I start each chapter with my psychologist voice, sharing not only my story, but also the deeper truths behind my story. I hope others can relate to me and to my experiences, and I hope they can learn from this book and feel inspired to “choose to grow,” too.

IVY:      What audience do you think this book targets?

DR. HIBBERT:      Mostly women, ages 20-65, and especially mothers. But because the book touches on so many topics—family, death, suicide, postpartum depression, motherhood, parenting, marriage, grief, parenting, self-worth, adoption, spirituality—I have found readers in men, teenagers, and older men and women, too. My kids (from my 10 year-old on up) have started reading it, even though I never thought they would care to until they were older. And my teenagers’ friends are reading it. And my husband and his brothers are reading it and talking to each other about it, too. I am grateful it is touching so many people in so many different ways.

IVY:        Did any other books or experiences inspire you to write this memoir?

DR. HIBBERT:        I have always been inspired by memoirs. I love reading true stories and learning from other people’s lives. So, I would say all the memoirs I have read inspired me. Reading others’ stories helped me think, “Why couldn’t I write mine?” They showed me different ways to craft a great true story, too. As for experiences, my work as a speaker definitely inspired me. As I would go around and speak to audiences about women’s mental health and postpartum depression and grief/loss and parenting, I would share a little of my personal story. I would always hear the same thing: You have so much to share, you need to write a book! So I did.

IVY:        What was the most challenging part in the process of writing/publishing your book?

DR. HIBBERT:       I have six kids! That has definitely been the most challenging. My family life is incredibly busy. With kids ages 17, 16, 14, 12, 10, and 6, I am literally running from before sunrise until late at night. And when I started writing they were all little, so I had even less time for much of anything but them. I also have a private practice where I see clients one day a week, and I was running a postpartum group, too. And I still manage my non-profit, The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, among other things. At first I squeezed writing into the tiny moments when I had any time alone (usually right before bed), then I started setting weekly writing goals (5 hours, 10 hours, 20 hours per week, as I was able). This year, all my kids are in school! So, I’ve had school hours to work on writing and publishing. It’s been exhausting and crazy. I always say everything takes four times longer than I wish because I have so many kids! But, I have kept my family as my priority. I have really felt like a stay-at-home-mom for the most part, and still do. I am here with them, and they support and help me so I can write. My husband is amazing with helping me, too.

IVY:        Do you have a section or quote that is your favorite and is most meaningful to you?

DR. HIBBERT:       There are many I love. But the first that comes to mind is the very, very end of the epilogue where I say, “Whatever kind of mud life has thrown you into—whether the loss of a relationship, loved one, or career, life-altering medical, mental health, or financial struggles, or even daily hardships that never seem to quit, choose to plant yourself and grow. Choosing to grow is choosing love. No matter what season of growth you are in, choose love, my friends. Every time.” We are all faced with hard times, but we can all choose to grow and choose love. To me, that sums it all up.

IVY:       Do you plan to do readings, and if so, where?

DR. HIBBERT:        I sure hope to! I am headed to the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim, CA in December, where they will be selling my books, and starting in January, I hope to travel as much as possible for speaking engagements, book club appearances, and yes, book signings, too. I will be signing at the Postpartum Support International conference in North Carolina this June, for sure!

IVY:       Do you have any plans to write any other books?

DR. HIBBERT:       Through my website and blog (www.DrChristinaHibbert.com), I actually already got my next book deal, with New Harbinger Publications! It will be on the topic of Self-Esteem after a Breakup and is coming out Spring 2015. After that, I hope to write a more general book on self-esteem and self-worth as well as a book on motherhood. Who knows what the future holds?

CONNECT WITH DR. HIBBERT:

Website/Blog: www.DrChristinaHibbert.com
Facebook Pages:  Dr. Christina Hibbert (www.facebook.com/drchibbert) and This Is How We Grow (www.facebook.com/thisishowwegrow)
Twitter: @DrCHibbert
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/drchibbert
This Is How We Grow Personal Growth Group! FREE. Online. Growth. What more could you ask for? http://bit.ly/1iYm6K3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on the Royal Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Would Tell My 7th Grade Self

Inspired by the post titled “To My 7th Grade Self” at the blog ronkempmusic.

Just last week (and believe me, it had nothing to do with the post that inspired me because I only read it yesterday– but it further ignited my desire to blog about what I would say to my 7th grade self, if only I could)– I caught myself telling a colleague: “If only I could go back to when I was in junior high and react/behave like my 40-something self.  Things would’ve been so different.  I would’ve given the kids in my school a piece of my mind.  I would’ve reacted/behaved in a ‘I won’t take this crap from no one’ attitude.”

Yes, if only there WERE only such a thing as time travel!

180px-StrangeAtmosphereIf there WERE such a thing, then I would go straight back to 7th grade, when the worst period of my life began and went on for a good six years until I graduated high school.  I hated that school.  My classmates treated me like I was beneath them.  I was, after all, completely lacking in self esteem, shy as all hell, unattractive, poorly dressed, unpopular, friendless and last but not least….the only Chinese girl in a class of approximately 350 students.  And boy, it was the slowest, most painful six years of my life!  If it weren’t for my Biology teacher that I befriended in 10th grade, I would’ve literally been friendless in that entire high school system.  Note: I’m talking about friendships with classmates, not friendships outside of school, which I did have.  I had friends from my Chinese school, Chinese teen club, and Chinese church.  I found making friends in my extremely caucasian–and very racist– high school quite an exercise in futility.

Back then, I HATED my life.  HATED it with every ounce of my being.  I just wanted to drop off the face of the earth.  I was lonely.  I felt like life had no purpose if I was going to be such an outcast and people who weren’t of the same ethnicity were going to be so racist toward me.  That was not a battle that, back then, I had any energy or interest in fighting.  It didn’t help that my parents and I fought all the time, and my brother and I fought all the time.

My friends and blog followers know me to have taken up the cause of not only postpartum depression advocacy, but anti-bullying advocacy as well.  As you can see, the roots of my anti-bullying advocacy date back to my 7th grade to 12th grade years.  Back then–in the late 70s, early 80s– there was no Internet, and hence, there was no such thing as cyberbullying when I was in school….and thank goodness for that!   I wasn’t bullied to the extent that kids today are bullied.  Kids said mean things to me due to my race and appearance, and no one made any attempts to be friends with me.  Didn’t help that I had no friends going into the school because I was new to the area, having just moved there in time for the start of junior high school.  Talk about LOUSY timing!

Having no Internet had its pluses and its minuses.  What minuses?  Well, for one thing, where did a teen turn for help in getting through the angst and feeling like no one understands them and what they are going through?  Going to parents wasn’t really an option, in general, for most teens….and it still isn’t really an option, in general, today.  Why?  In my case, and in the case of many first-generation-born-in-the U.S. kids, the previous generation was born and raised in a different country with different cultural standards, perspectives and practices.  As in the case of my parents, they had it much tougher than we did.  Hence, there is a gap between their experiences and yours….and never the twain shall meet.  Even if the prior generation were born here, there is STILL a generation gap.  And all too often, there are plenty of challenges due to that gap….and never the twain shall meet.

Friends with whom you trust your feelings can serve as an outlet, but I didn’t have any close enough for me to confide in.  I pretty much kept it all to myself, feeling hopeless, lost and desperate to the point that I felt like ending it all quite a number of times–but thankfully was too afraid to carry it out–with frequent lashing out at my parents for not understanding and only making things worse for me.  The huge fights we used to get into tore a huge hole in our relationship that took until after I had my own child to mend.

A non-judgmental ear and someone with experience in providing guidance/mentoring is what is needed, and usually you would find that in the form of a guidance counselor or a mental healthcare professional.  The guidance counselor in my school was absolutely of NO help, and I went to a psychiatrist once, but I had zero patience with talking to someone who looked like they didn’t really care and couldn’t make a difference.  So I never went back.

Now, getting to what I would tell my 7th grade self.  Here is what I would say:

I know you are hating life right now, but please hang on.  I know you will find it hard to believe  that you will learn to really enjoy life.  It WILL have meaning.  You will adopt a work hard, play hard, live for the day attitude.  You will grab life by the horns, determined to explore different activities, fall in love with traveling and sailing, have a family, and experience life to the fullest.

Right now, you may feel like life has no purpose, that you’d be better off not existing because then you would no longer have to endure the loneliness and each day of the tortuously slow and miserable school year for the next 6  years.  You may feel like you’re the only one who is having family challenges, but believe me, you are far from alone in that area!  So many kids have dysfunctional families.  Some are able to mend their relationships with their parents and/or siblings down the road.  Others aren’t so fortunate.  You will be able to have a much healthier relationship with your parents once you get married and have a child of your own.

I promise you that, even though you don’t feel as if you have any talents, you do!  You will find that your strength is writing, even though you will hate writing papers in high school.  You will find, with time, that you will sing in choirs for the next dozen years….all through high school, college and even in New York City choirs after you start working in New York City.  You will spend six weeks on a trip of your life in Taiwan, after which you will come back a changed person.  On that trip, you will find that you have the ability to make friends easily with anyone.  You will have a family, and in the process, have a life-changing experience that will result in your becoming a published author and blogger.  You will figure out that your purpose is to take your own personal experiences of bullying, lack of guidance/mentoring in school, and motherhood to help others.  To help others NOT to have to suffer the way you did.

You are NOT ALONE in your teen experiences.  Most teens go through what is referred to as teen angst that is the result of the hormonal changes that come with puberty.  These changes, in turn, cause emotional changes that impact behavior and even ways of thinking.  Yes, you will experiences feelings of pain and hopelessness like none other you’ve experienced to date.  You have NOT had enough life experience to develop coping skills and perspective on things that you will have after you have first gone through a number of challenges that will cross your path.  These challenges may seem unnecessary to you and only serve to make life harder for you right now, but in actuality, they will serve to make you a stronger individual.

You, my dear, are a SURVIVOR.  Believe me, things DO get better.

If only there WERE such a thing as time travel.   I wish it were possible to tell my 7th grade self ALL that, to spare the young version of me the pain that I had to suffer.  But….as Ronkempmusic blog post points out:

There are young people, right now!, right under our noses who need to hear what we would tell our like-aged self if we could…..And, more than anything else, they need to be taught that there’s nothing in the world more powerful than love, but it must start with self love……Since we can’t go back in time and teach our own younger selves, the next best thing is to pass it on to today’s youth.

This is EXACTLY what I’ve been doing lately.  Instead of merely wishing I could travel back in time to try to change the path my 7th grade self ultimately takes, I am paying it forward with kids who need the help I never got when I was growing up.  One teen resource that is part of a growing anti-bullying movement is the Stand for the Silent closed group on Facebook (more on this in an upcoming post), which has over 33,000 members from around the globe.  I joined this group a few months ago to help provide an encouraging word or two and lend a non-judgmental ear to the teens that reach out for support and encouragement.  I am now regularly commenting (for as much as time will allow) on posts others in the group–mostly teens–leave.  My goal, like many of the other members in the group, is to be there for someone, much in the way I wish someone had been there for me…in my most angst-ridden moments that started when I was in 7th grade and didn’t ease up until I went off to college.

MotherWoman and The Raise for Women Challenge at Huffington Post

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

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

THANK YOU!!!
xoxo

A Must Read: Emily Bazelon’s “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy”

Well, I am at a point in which I’ve got so many ideas, but not enough time to post anything.  Until, that is, I spotted in my Facebook news feed this morning the New York Times article by John Schwartz titled “Words That Hurt and Kill: Lessons for Society From Bullying and Its Psychic Toll” about Emily Bazelon’s book titled “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.”

As the title of this book suggests, the author touches on bullying–a far-from-new-phenomenon–and the importance of empathy,  defeating the culture of bullying by acknowledging its complexity, and encouraging bystanders to be upstanders (those who stand up for victims).  Laws alone will NOT prevent bullying from occurring.  I hear all the time the lament that “Well, I don’t understand why everyone is making a big deal out of bullying.  Bullying has been around forever.  I grew up with bullying.  My parents grew up with bullying.  Back then, we just dealt with it.  Nowadays, kids don’t seem to want or know how to deal with it.  Instead, they’re copping out by killing themselves.”

Well, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, don’t forget that we are now in the age of social media.  Back when I was a kid, there was NO social media.   Heck, there weren’t even cell phones.  With text messaging, Youtube videos, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of sites you don’t even want to know about but are popular among teens, the impact of bullying can be extremely devastating to a young person who hasn’t mastered coping, self care and real-world survival skills, may be lacking in self esteem,  and may not get much in the way of support and encouragement from family members and friends.  The bar has been raised in terms of the extent of cruelty that individuals are capable of carrying out because these are no longer face to face confrontations.  Take, for example, trolls.  We have all witnessed at least one troll in action in our interactions online.  Usually, it’s in the form of a nonsensical and completely outrageous and completely off-tangent remark that is filled with hate.  You wouldn’t normally see these comments spoken to someone in person, right?    Yes, it’s so much easier to be cruel online than it is in person.

In terms of the in-person bullying, the isolation tactics and backstabbing of cliquey girls, the racist remarks, the physical intimidation tactics, the verbal intimidation tactics….these still occur in school.  If schools and home life are anything like what I experienced back when I was a teenager–i.e., lack of school counselor support and awareness on the part of school staff, lack of support at home, lack of upstanders, lack of empathy–these behaviors (with or without the social media) can result in a very detrimental experience for the bullied child.  I believe depression rates are higher now than they’ve ever been before.  Maybe because more people are speaking up about their experiences and with the aid of social media, news and information on bullying incidents are much more accessible to everyone than ever before, there is the perception that depression rates are higher.  At the same time, access to mental healthcare services in this country is still so sadly lacking.  And then you have the extreme situations, like Columbine and Virginia Tech, in which the bullied exact their revenge.  I don’t remember incidents like those growing up.  Nope, I don’t.

Ms. Bazelon touches on some points that I have previously touched upon:

  • Some individuals are more resilient (via a combination of genetics and environmental factors) and will tend to come out of bullying and cyberbullying incidents much less scathed than those who are more susceptible to depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.  It would be nice if we can figure out just which students fall into each bucket to increase the likelihood of preventing situations from developing and/or getting out of hand.
  • It was only in the past decade that states put the first anti-bullying laws in place, in the aftermath of Columbine, Phoebe Prince’s bullycide (MA), Tyler Clementi’s bullycide (NJ).
  • There seems to be a tendency to label non-bullying behaviors as bullying.  In other words, people are using the word “bullying” so much that this overuse is diluting true acts of bullying.  We need to stop overusing the word because it is not helping matters.

Ms. Bazelon is clearly objective in her presentation of situations she writes about in her book, even as far as showing what I refer to as a neutral take for the sake of presenting the science behind teenage behavior (i.e., the part of the brain that manages impulsiveness and judgment, referred to as the frontal lobe, is not fully developed as of yet) and why the punishment of teenagers is meted out in juvenile rather than adult terms.  Though that is far from an excuse for certain atrocious behaviors that bullying can all too often entail (and believe me, when I read about some of these bullying cases, I wish for every last person that has anything to do with a child’s bullycide to be punished to the FULLEST extent of the law), as they become adults and as long as they are provided counseling (instead of jail time), bullies can see the error of their ways and shed their bullying selves completely.  Some bullies have even gone as far as becoming anti-bullying activists with a mission to speak to schools around the country.

This book needs to be read by not just middle and high school staff, but by all parents.  I fervently believe as many people as possible should read it so there is a widespread understand of the culture of bullying, how to prevent it, how to support the victims, and how to inspire bystanders to become upstanders.

The article leave us with this nugget to chew on as we look at the road before us.  A road in which we need minds to come together to figure out how we need to handle bullying, given all the complexities Ms. Bazelon mentions in her book:

“Ultimately, Ms. Bazelon wisely warns us, we still have to try to let kids be kids.  [Otherwise] ‘We risk raising kids who don’t know how to solve problems on their own, withstand adversity or bounce back from the harsh trials life inevitably brings.’ And so, she says with a sigh: ‘It’s a tricky balance to strike, the line between protecting kids and policing them. But we have to keep trying to find it.’”

Please click here and here to previous blog posts for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this postpartum depression blog.

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

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

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

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

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

Onward to Change:

Support for Teens:

Educational Info:

Links to Resources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast with Santa in West Islip, NY on December 8, 2012

In the West Islip, NY area on Saturday, December 8, 2012? Join the Breakfast with Santa charity event to benefit the programs and services of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York! There will be two seatings, one at 9am and one at 11am. The event will be held at Westminster United Presbyterian Church, 109 Udall Road, West Islip, NY. Tickets for ages 2 and above are $10 each, and covers the cost of a buffet breakfast served by Santa’s Elves, meeting with Santa, reindeer food, and a Christmas craft.  For tickets contact Santa’s Helper at 631/422-2255 or info@postpartumny.org. You can also click here for more details and to purchase tickets.  Tickets are limited and available on a first come, first served basis.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month

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

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

Here goes…

1.  The frequency of bullying is increasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rant over….

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

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

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

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

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

When are people going to stop asking me THE QUESTION?!

Tonight, I’m going to drop a quick blog post just to get my thoughts out….thoughts that have been floating around my head like stars that appear in a ring above a cartoon character’s head once they’ve been bopped in the head.

Yesterday, I got asked THE QUESTION again.  A third, or even fourth, time in the past month.  EGADS!

What question?

This question: “Are you going to have another?”

Uh, yup.  I tried to appear unphased by THE QUESTION.  To spare me from the quizzical look, scratching of the head, head tilting, and the whole 20 questions exchange that was bound to happen if I didn’t cut straight to the chase, I did just that.  I cut straight to the “I had problems during childbirth and had to have my uterus removed 3 days after having my daughter.”   You bet that stopped the questioning dead in its tracks.

Granted, I am so glad I still seem to appear young enough to be able to have children.  Don’t let my perpetually childish/mischievous glint in my eyes and behavior fool you (for those of you who happen to know me personally)…..though I have to admit that my energy is fading little by little each year.  My appearance takes a serious hit with each winter that passes.  I noticed that I came out of this past winter looking older than ever.  😦  Believe me when I say I’m not as young as I look.  Aside from the fact that I’m past my prime in having children, my ability to have more children was stopped dead in its tracks three days after I had my daughter over seven years ago.  Very sobering information to share with you, but them’s the cards with which I was dealt, and I have learned to deal with this loss over the years.  And I really would very much like to avoid constantly being asked THE QUESTION.  It’s like having a wound heal almost fully, only to have it fester again with a new infection in the form of someone’s innocent but thoughtless questioning.

Sometimes I wish I could just wear a neon sign that says “Don’t ask if I’m going to have another baby.”  In fact, I wish I had a sign for each one of my commuting (keep your knees, bags, and/or elbows to yourself) and driving (what are your car signals for if you don’t use them; get off my bumper; get off the damn cell phone before you kill someone) pet peeves!

Anyway, I just whipped up my own e-card via Some ECards of the sign I would want to flash every. single. time I get asked THE QUESTION.

ISL_someecard_infertility

Certain things, like whether a couple is planning to start a family, or a woman is planning to have a(nother) baby…..are best kept to oneself.  Chances are, you will be sprinkling salt onto a wound that is raw and having difficulty healing.  As the saying goes, when in doubt, keep your mouth zipped.

There is a reason why they say that SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

I Am My Own Kinda Parent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Anyway, here goes….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

Make sure she is healthy and happy.

Nurture her.

Be there for her.

Love her.

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

Shame on You, The Guardian, for Perpetuating Negative Notions on Mental Health Issues AND Denigrating Men at the Same Time

In response to an article in the UK’s The Guardian written by Barbara Ellen and titled “‘Postnatally depressed’ dads? Give me a break.” and subtitled “Can’t females have anything just for themselves, without men barging in, not even a foul debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” please see Lauren Hale’s wonderful rebuttal.  And another rebuttal I discovered, thanks to Lauren, on the Mind Hacks blog.

I especially love this part from Lauren’s post:

This is not solely a male v. female issue. This is not men attempting to lay claim to “…a foul, debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” This is a family issue, just as it is with a mom. This is a mental health issue. Men, yes, are capable of experiencing depression. It doesn’t make them any less of a man, it doesn’t mean we suddenly have to contend with “male PND.” It means we should be understanding, accepting, and supportive of fathers, a group who is largely forgotten after the birth of a child and is simply assumed to carry on as if his life has not changed.

Bravo, Lauren!

For The Guardian to allow such an article to be posted is shameful, just as the article writer herself should be ashamed.  She is preventing progress in the public awareness and de-stigmatizing of mental health issues.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a man-hater.  Her words describing her feelings are so vicious, so blatantly against men, you’d think she hated men.  Her dragging men through the mud for something that she is clearly biased about and attempting to influence the public to believe in–even though she so clearly and curiously indicates in the research statistics she quotes as evidence that there are indeed a significant percentage of men who get depressed in the first year after their babies are born–isn’t right.  Not right at all.  The Guardian was foolish to have allowed this to get published at all.

Ms. Ellen just put herself in the shoes of the misinformed, judgmental, and downright mean and self-righteous commenters that I felt compelled to address nearly 2 years ago with this post titled “Fathers and Postpartum Depression.”  I’ve said it all before, and really don’t feel like saying it all again.  There’s not much more to add to what I said in that post.  Fathers can absolutely get postpartum depression too.  Semantics, schmemantics.

What do I mean in terms of semantics?  Let me explain with this excerpt from my book.  I don’t have a lot more to say at this point than this.

People are taking the term postpartum way too literally. Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after a baby is born. It can happen to adoptive parents. It can happen to fathers. Period. Perhaps if we just changed the name of the depression experienced by fathers, so we call it something else, there will be less misunderstanding by the society at large. It seems that, while people may generally agree that men can be depressed by certain biological, sociological, and environmental factors (e.g., sleep deprivation, anxiety, a spouse who has PPD, lack of support) after the birth of a baby, it seems the general population believes the term PPD is reserved for new moms only. After all, men don’t give birth and don’t even have the same hormones that fluctuate so wildly from start to finish.

An Update to My February 29, 2012 Post

Just a brief check-in today. This was another very stressful week at work, though I did have a chance to take today off for my quarterly haircut and highlights.  I finally felt brave enough to ask my hairdresser to cut my hair to chin length…something I haven’t done since nearly 2 decades ago!  I feel like a new person!  It feels great! 🙂

However, I still have a couple personal matters that are causing me quite a bit of anxiety.  I am doing the best I can to keep the anxiety under control.  I am going to see my GI doctor on Monday to see what is causing all my esophageal discomfort.  Praying it’s nothing serious.  Still have very painful tendinitis in my right elbow, which my chiro refers quite logically to an occupational injury (i.e., computer overuse).

I have a few more posts lined up for the coming week.  The purpose of my brief check-in today is to point out that I added 2 photos to my post “Disturbing Teenage Trend….Hey, Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?”