Dear Hospital Staff: Your Tone, Words, and Treatment are Key to the New Mom’s Experience

The October 3, 2012 HuffPost Parents article titled “What Not to Say to a New Mother — Hospital Staff” by Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, CCE, caught my attention immediately as it appeared in my Facebook news feed.  Why did I feel I had to blog about it?  With my unforgettable one-week stay in the hospital after my daughter was born, I can tell you that my experiences with the hospital staff covered the spectrum from good to bad and every shade in between.  The details of my gnarly experience, including the lack of bedside manner I encountered, in the hospital (and with the healthcare professionals to whom I had entrusted my care before, during and after childbirth) are detailed fully in my book.

This article emphasizes the importance of careful choice of words and just plain being sensitive–or specifically, empathetic (i.e., try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes)–to each mother’s situation and feelings.  The first-time mother needs support and reassurance, and an experienced infant caregiver to address questions and concerns as they arise…NOT made to feel more anxious and/or guilty than she already might be feeling due to her lack of experience and fear of failing at her maternal duties.  There’s a way to provide guidance and not bump a brand new parent’s already high anxiety levels to an even steeper altitude.  You know what the combination of extreme fatigue and high levels of anxiety of a first-time parent amount to?  A greater tendency to feel overwhelmed at the newness of parenthood and all the decisions and responsibilities, uncertainty as to what to do to ensure their baby is okay, and fearful that something will go wrong.  A new mother doesn’t need for her first days of motherhood to begin on such a rocky footing.  And in fact, these negative feelings/experiences will only add to a new mother’s exhaustion and already vulnerable emotions and weakened physical state due to just having had a baby….and hormones tanking doesn’t help.  These factors are among the risk factors that can trigger PPD in some mothers.

Meredith ends this article with 7 tips for expectant parents.  She is all about empowering the expectant and new parents.  That’s what I like about her and so many others (childbirth educators, social workers, and therapists) I have met in the 6 years of my membership with Postpartum Support International.  The mission of these individuals is to support new mothers and their families.  With more and more support services being established and made accessible to mothers out there, my hope is that there will be fewer moms suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).  Click here on a past post on the importance of social support.

Meredith has a blog titled “A Mother is Born” and subsequent to her HuffPost article, she wrote a blog post titled “What Not to Say to a New Mother – Eleven Ways to Get it Right.”    I was excited upon discovering her blog because I see that she is a childbirth educator in addition to being an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and non-fiction writer (with Huffington Post, as you already know).  Why am I excited to see she is a certified childbirth educator?  Well, this is what we need more of, ladies (and gents)…..certified childbirth educators!!!  Click here to see more about her background and accomplishments, which are quite impressive to me.  Located in New York City, she provides classes for pregnant couplesservices for new moms, and training for childbirth and healthcare professionals

Meredith’s 11 tips have to do with the way to speak to the new mom that can mean a world of a difference to her.  For example, small gestures of the doctor (i.e., bedside manner), like a reassuring smile and taking the time to ask her how she is feeling and whether she has any concerns to show that he cares about her as a person rather than a mere number to be checked off a patient list as a matter of routine.

PPD in the Media this Week: A Postpartum Anxiety Survivor Story in the NY Times; JLo Rumors

Twitter helps make staying current on specific topics of interest a much easier thing to do.  Only problem is, there is SO much information to get through on a daily basis, and not enough time (and energy) for me to do it.  Tweets about postpartum depression (PPD) can tell you a lot in terms of people’s attitudes, swayed by knowledge or ignorance.

There are the tweets that tell you the latest in research findings.

There are the tweets that tell you when a major news outlet like the NY Times publishes an article written about a PPD survivor. An example would be the wonderfully honest piece titled “Meltdown in Motherland” in the Opinion section of the NY Times on May 14th, in which the author Elizabeth Isadora Gold shares her experience with postpartum anxiety.  The couple hundred comments (and you bet I scanned through all of them) that appeared over the course of the next 2 days were actually relatively reasonable and showed more knowledge, compassion, and appreciation for an author’s experience with a maternal mental health issue than some of the comments I’ve had the displeasure of seeing in the past.   Some commenters said they were upset by the harsh comments, but truthfully, I didn’t see any that angered me to the point that I’ve been angered in the past (thankfully).  Not sure if it has anything to do with the comment flagging mechanism or not (i.e., too many flags will cause a comment to get pulled).  But anyway, there was an individual who commented that he and his wife had suffered through a stillbirth and survived the grief  after nearly a year, without the use of any antidepressants…and how he is absolutely certain he (no mention of his wife, though) would not have needed to take any medications.  I replied to that comment as follows:

I wouldn’t be so quick to judge other people’s situations when you don’t even know what they are. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PPD. What works for one person may not work for the next person. Every individual is different, and every individual’s situation is different. Some women with PPD may only need medication, some may only need psychotherapy, while others may need a combination of both. The objective is to do whatever it takes in order to feel yourself again using whichever approach you feel most comfortable using. My insomnia, panic attacks and weight loss were so debilitating–and I couldn’t take care of myself or my baby–that I had to take medications to return my brain chemistry back to its normal levels.

And then there are the tweets that tell you how far from educated the public is with respect to postpartum mood disorders, or even just the difference between the postpartum blues and PPD.  An example would be recent rumors that Jennifer Lopez suffered from PPD after she had her twin boys simply because the public caught her being emotional and crying a few days after childbirth.  In her recent interview with E! Online, she quashed those rumors by explaining that her being very emotional 7-10 days after childbirth is the expected behavior of new moms due to hormones crashing after childbirth.  She said she learned that from reading the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” which has now been turned into a big screen flick soon to be released…and one in which she is co-starring.

Don’t mean to digress, but that is not a movie I’ll be rushing to pay $12 to see in the theaters.  Why?  Well, for one, the trailer looked too silly and sloppily produced for my taste.  Also, if you visit Lisa Belkins’ article from May 16th on the Huffington Post titled “The Pregnancy Book That Made Me a Nervous Wreck is Now a Movie,” you’ll see my sentiments exactly…no actually, Ms. Belkin verbalizes it a whole lot better than I could ever do.  Do I hear any others out there who agree that the book only increased anxiety levels with the information overload to the point that you stopped reading it, thinking (like I did), “Oh what the heck, I’ll just go with the flow…whatever happens, I’ll just deal with it then.”

I actually would’ve appreciated reading a book like mine during my pregnancy.  Ha, sorry, couldn’t miss the opportunity to mention my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood,” which incidentally is not just a memoir, it’s a self help guide as well.  The health of the family unit is dependent on the health of the mother, so it is SO important that she goes into motherhood knowing what to expect in terms of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. This includes how to deal with certain challenges in infant care, keeping stressors to a minimum, and getting plenty of support.  My book contains advice in the form of Do’s and Don’ts for the new mother, the new father, family members and friends. I even share my experience with child-care complications like colic, eczema, and cradle cap—things that can only add to the anxiety levels of the first-time parent, yet pregnancy books and magazines don’t talk enough about.

Well, running across the two tweets that told me about the false JLo PPD rumor and the wonderful story in the NY Times are but random examples of the many, many other tweets that are tweeted on a daily basis.  Those 2 tweets gave me enough to get the juices flowing in my mind of what I wanted to blog about next.  I would love to be able to stay on top of all the tweets that come up in my feed each day, but with all that’s going on in my life right now, it’s just not possible.

Hudson Perinatal Consortium Conference: Effective Treatment of Conditions Associated with Perinatal Mood Disorders– May 8, 2012

May 8, 2012 – It was a lovely Tuesday at the Chart House Restaurant at Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ.  Aside from the fact that this is a truly exceptional setting, I had many reasons to be excited about attending my second event with the Hudson Perinatal Consortium.

Jeanne Watson Driscoll and me

First and foremost, I was going to get to see my friend Mariann Moore, Executive Director of the Hudson Perinatal Consortium, whom I hadn’t seen since exactly a year ago, at the last event here at the Charter House.  She is such a warm, caring, and truly lovely individual.  I am so glad I met her at the 2010 Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference in Pittsburgh.

Second,  Jeanne Watson Driscoll PhD, PMHCNS-BC and  Shari I. Lusskin, MD, two very big names in the field of perinatal mood disorders, were speaking in depth about postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum PTSD, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.  Unlike past sessions of theirs I attended at past PSI conferences, they had a couple hours or so a piece to go over their topics in depth.  Both of them have traveled extensively to share their knowledge of perinatal mood disorders with people all over the world.  I especially LOVE to listen to Dr. Driscoll, because she has a tendency to get all fired up throughout her presentation, and I appreciate her sarcastic humor and directness.  She has her audience cracking up, and I love that about her presentations.

Third, it was a great opportunity to meet conference attendees whose professions entail working with mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Among those I had the pleasure of meeting was Lisa Madden of MMC Moms.

Fourth, it was a rare opportunity to be away from the office and do something I really enjoy, which is being in the company of such inspiring individuals–all with the scenic backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

Last, but certainly not least, I was paid the ultimate compliment with Jeanne Watson Driscoll buying a copy of MY book and asking me to sign it, when it was HER book that taught me so much about the biology behind women’s moods. It was her book “Women’s Moods” that helped me understand how and why reproductive hormones  set women apart from men and represent all of the key vulnerable times in a woman’s life.  It helped me understand that women are at the greatest risk of depression and anxiety when they are undergoing dramatic hormonal changes, and it’s during these times in which major biochemical changes occur. Throughout her talk, Dr. Driscoll emphasized the importance of healthcare practitioners to listen carefully to the different puzzle pieces of their patients and to put them together to come up with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan that is right for each individual, since each person’s experience is unique.  There can only be an effective diagnosis if a new mom knows to see a doctor early and the doctor suggests a comprehensive examination that takes everything—physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms and external stressors and circumstances—into consideration.

Throughout my book, I reiterate the importance of bedside manner, evaluating the patient as a whole, and educating the patient about the biology behind their illness.  If I had someone like Dr. Driscoll to help me when I was suffering from PPD, I would not have suffered as much as I did.  But then again, if I hadn’t suffered as much as I did, I may not have been as motivated to share my own PPD experience with others through my book and blog!  So, I guess you can say, things happened for a reason!

As I state in my book, for some strange reason, the impact of hormones on women’s mental health is, even now in the twenty-first century, largely ignored. There is simply no excuse for this.  I told Dr. Driscoll that we seriously need to find a way to clone her so patients everywhere can get easy access to therapists like her and we need many more like her that are as passionate about and dedicated to educating people on perinatal mood disorders and realizing the necessity of treating/evaluating patients as a whole , just like we seriously need to clone Liz Friedman and Annette Cycon of MotherWoman for their training and support for mothers and their families!

Successful First Book Event – April 26, 2012

I made the following comment yesterday on Facebook in response to a friend who’s been supportive with respect to the endoscopy I was scheduled to have today, which incidentally went well and I’m now just waiting for the biopsy results (I hate that word…can’t they come up with another word other than “biopsy”):

The first time for anything is always a bit anxiety-provoking.

Makes sense, right?  At least for me it does.  There are a number of people that are exceptions to this…or at least they maintain the appearance of not being easily phased by things…. like first time book events, for instance.  Ahem, and I think I can name a few people I know who fall in that category….I won’t mention them here, but you know who you are!  And you are constant sources of inspiration to the fraidy-cat that I am.

Well, never having done a book event before, I was nervous as heck in the days leading up to it.  It would have been in the weeks leading up to it as well if I hadn’t been as busy with work and other matters (including concern for my mother who had had spinal surgery a few weeks ago and just went home today from the extended-care facility she’s been staying at for the past 4 weeks).  I only started preparing for the book event last Sunday.  I thought it was just a matter of picking an excerpt and reading it out loud until I felt comfortable.  But it went a little beyond that.  Thankfully, I received some helpful direction from a friend of a friend who is a fellow author.  He very quickly responded to my Facebook message last Sunday morning, giving me a quick run-down on what he did for his first book event.  He indicated, to my dismay, that he had started preparing for his first reading THREE weeks in advance of the event date…and here I was preparing 4 days in advance.   Trying to keep me from panicking, he indicated that it could be done in less than 3 weeks. But there is quite a bit of difference between 3 weeks and 4 days…GULP!

Anyway, I’d hate to think what would have happened had I NOT received his helpful tips.  From the time I received his tips last Sunday morning, I immediately went to work taking the excerpts I had picked and whittling it down to 3000 or so words.  Enough for a 15-minute read, which is just the right amount of time before people’s eyes started to glaze over. As soon as I got my excerpts ironed out, I put together a brief Intro to the reading.  On each of the four days preceding my book event, which was this past Thursday, I practiced reading the Intro and excerpts out loud ten and three times a day, respectively.  I even staked out a room at work to practice my Intro five times for 30 minutes during lunch!   By Thursday, I could speak to my Intro just referencing it occasionally, and I grew comfortable with the reading of my excerpts.  My worst fear was blanking out like a deer in headlights from the nervousness which I knew without a doubt would confront me as I got up in front of the individuals who came to the book event.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  My last speech class (thank you Nicole of NWK Consultants!), had paid off immensely.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try to combat my fear of public speaking.  I will be attending more public speaking classes, and I’m even contemplating joining the local Toastmasters by me.

I would like to acknowledge that my very first book event, which took place at the Odyssey Bookshop in S. Hadley, Massachusetts on Thursday, April 26, 2012, would not have been as successful as it was had it not been for my friends Liz Friedman and Annette Cycon of MotherWoman.  They rounded up a great group of ladies who took the opportunity to also share their stories as well.  Nearly everyone shared, including Andrea, author of the blog Postpartum and Pigtails, who wrote this very nice post about the event!  And in this group, I found out there are at least 3 ladies also interested in writing/publishing their memoirs.  That truly thrilled me to hear!  And you can be sure I will help them any way I can!

Now, all I need is to continue with book events locally, following the same format as this past book event.  If I can continue to encourage women to speak up about their experiences in a group and inspire people to publish their stories, I would’ve succeeded in my mission, which if you’ve read my book, you’ll know with my call both at the beginning and at the very end of my book:

I am a PPD survivor. Hear me roar. Will you join me?

How Has Postpartum Depression Impacted You?

I have a whole bunch of posts pending…more than I have the time to devote to writing.  Lots of ideas….so little time!

Anyway, I picked this article I read in Parenting.com, parts of which really resonated with me.  The article, “When Postpartum Depression Lasts” by Susanna Sonnenberg, reflects the author’s own PPD experience, which seems to have had a long lasting impact on her, so much so that she has residual feelings of loss, sadness and painful reflections on her first months at being a mother.

How well one mom is able to come to terms will differ from the next mom and will depend on a number of factors such as how severe her symptoms were, whether she was quickly and effectively treated, and whether she received some sort of therapy to cope with her feelings of loss (e.g., lost opportunities in bonding), guilt (e.g., for experiencing PPD to begin with), sadness, etc.   Therapy sessions, journaling/blogging, and providing other mothers with support are some of the ways PPD survivors come to terms with their experiences.

There are women who– like Marg Stark, fellow Mount Holyoke College alumna and author of What No One Tells the Mom– are unable to return to their pre-baby emotional selves. For these women, it seems that the biology behind their moods is permanently altered during the childbirth process.

As for me–and I can only speak for myself here–I pretty much returned to my pre-baby emotional self–except, that is, where it concerns my pre-baby body. As I indicated in my previous blog post titled “Just Because I’m Blogging about PPD Doesn’t Mean…”, I’ve managed to come to terms with my experience, finding it very therapeutic to journal my thoughts and feelings into my book and my blog, meet other PPD survivors and subject matter experts, and help some moms along the way. I did return to my pre-pregnancy weight shockingly fast thanks to the rapid, unintentional weight loss caused by my PPD.  But my completely sedentary lifestyle and confinement within my house for over 3 months did a number on my body. It took a while for my legs to not get tired so easily from simply walking at the nearby mall.  My triglycerides level was at an all-time high (nearly 400), probably thanks to the chemical upheaval from my childbirth experience.  With the help of daily jump roping (400 jumps in about 5 min) for a few months, I was thankfully able to drop the levels by 50%. I had back pain and left hand numbness issues (which turned out to be a pinched nerve from misaligned vertebrae), both of which were resolved by a few visits to my chiropractor.  It also took a while for my hair to re-gain its former thickness.

Do I wish I could provide advice and comfort to others I know, and would being able to do so give me a sense of satisfaction?  Yes!

Would I feel less alone in my own PPD and motherhood experience, knowing that others have had similar experiences–thereby, normalizing my own experience?  A resounding Yes!

Do I envy those who have snappy childbirth experiences?  Hell, yeah!

Do I envy the Gillian’s of the world?  I’d be lying if I said No.

But remember, the key difference between the author’s experience and Gillian’s lies in the amount of support they received.  According to Gillian, she had tons, while the author had very little, if any.  The following sounds so much like my own circumstances:

“In my experience, having a new baby was a lonely trial, friendless, sunless, sleepless…..By choice, I lived thousands of miles from a difficult family, and few of my friends had children. I was without a guide, and every demand of the baby’s felt overwhelming…..I didn’t want to leave [the hospital], didn’t know how we’d do the blanket [in reference to swaddling] at home.”

She assumed that Gillian would need her advice because she would need it, just like she would’ve liked to get it but didn’t, as a first-time mother.

“[She] opened the door, beaming wide, the baby propped over her shoulder; [and] I noticed the wood floor, sun shining onto it through the French doors, dust-free, crumb-free. Her hair was clean. Her laptop stood open on the empty dining table……’I don’t want to tell my friends,’ she said, ‘but [the baby’s] sleeping six hours at a stretch.’…..She praised her in-laws, so helpful and available, told me how excited she was for her mother’s next visit, listed the nonstop help of friends and acquaintances. Her story of becoming a mother was about family and support and glorious spring and strength and new pain and two pushes. Two pushes.”

The picture she paints of Gillian–a woman who appeared to take to motherhood like ducks take to water right from the get-go, like they were born to do so without training of any sort–is one of a woman who appears as if she were born to be a mother, all radiant and confident.  She looked perfect, the house looked perfect, her baby was able to sleep early on in enviously long stretches, and she claimed she received tons of help from friends and family.  And all this after a mere two pushes. The perfect pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood experience all rolled up into one.  I devote a chapter of my book to saying that such perfect experiences are not representative of what all women go through, contrary to what societal beliefs and motherhood myths would have you believe.  Though it’s definitely nice to wish for smooth experiences, it really is best to keep your expectations in check.  Trust me.  Hope for the best…you know how the saying goes.

Like the author, I would like to have the opportunity to offer my help and advice to other new moms, thinking they would need and appreciate it, just as I would’ve appreciated it during my first stab at being a mother. Just like the author, I’ve found that not everyone is going to need or even ask for any help and advice.  My friends and relatives all seemed to have no need for my advice/help, even while knowing what I had gone through, with the PPD and all.  Which makes me feel like I’m the only one in my immediate circle of friends and family who has ever experienced PPD.  The lack of PPD may be due to the abundant support they receive from family during the first critical weeks of motherhood and smooth childbirth experiences (after all, lack of adequate emotional/practical support and a traumatic childbirth experience are risk factors for PPD).  In fact, many of my Chinese friends had their mothers stay with them for the first 2-3 months.  Either the mothers flew in from overseas and stayed for that time period, or they happened to live nearby and came over everyday to help out.  I look at and think about those situations with envy, thinking that that is the way it is supposed to be….and yet why didn’t I have such fortune?  Somewhat selfishly, I’ve yearned to find a friend or relative with a similar experience with respect to childbirth complications, uncertainty at being a new mother and taking care of an infant for the first time and/or having to deal with PPD.  After all, it’s natural to feel the need to find someone with similar experiences to try to normalize your own experience…it would help you feel less alone.

“I’d expected her to feel alone and desperate, and she didn’t. I’d expected that she’d need my support, that no matter how many good minutes she had, the bad hours would overwhelm her. I needed her to be like me, so that I could be the wise one now, the healed and the mighty; then my loneliness and depression wouldn’t have been for naught. I wanted to be the one to teach her that it would get better.  Instead, she reminded me …..that motherhood’s first months gouged a terrible pit in my heart. Becoming a mother was nothing like I’d anticipated.”

Now, I would like you to think about how PPD has impacted you. Has it been many years since you’ve had PPD and you find that you are still struggling with certain feelings of loss from having experienced PPD while trying to deal with the fact that there may be others around you who are like Gillian, seemingly filling the shoes of the so-called perfect mother?  Or have you completely come to terms with your experience, feel no regrets, only a sense that your experience with PPD has made you a stronger person, empowered with knowledge that you can use to help others (that’d be me)?  Or somewhere in between?

I think one of the keys lies in how your motherhood experience turned out relative to your expectations.  The larger the gap, the greater the sense of loss.  If you find that you are struggling with feelings of loss, please don’t take it the wrong way if I suggest you talk to a therapist experienced in treating moms with PPD.  It can do you a world of good to have someone help you process and cope with your feelings and experiences.

Let me end this post by saying that, for a good number of moms, their PPD experiences have motivated them to dedicate their lives to helping other mothers get through their PPD experiences, either by 1) becoming psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, social workers, 2) forming PPD support groups or other not-for-profit organizations like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents, Postpartum Resource Center of NY, and MotherWoman, 3) blogging, like Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress, or 4) using other social media means to support mothers, like Yael Saar’s PPD to Joy and Lauren Hale’s #PPDChat on Twitter.

After all, we PPD survivors do share a common bond.  We know what it’s like to have PPD.   We understand.  We care. We are what is referred to on Twitter as the #PPDArmy!

Treating Moms Well Facebook Page – Contest

CONTEST (now until March 23, 2012, 12:00 AM CST): ***Win a $50.00 Target Gift Card!***

Are you a Mom? A Dad? A survivor of a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder? A friend or supporter of anyone who fits any of these descriptions? If so, please join us in spreading awareness of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and help us have a successful 5th annual Treating Moms Well Fundraiser!

Treating Moms Well was established in 2008 to create awareness about Pospartum Depression (PPD) and to raise funds to help women who would otherwise lack access to lifesaving PPD services.

To participate, follow these steps:

1. Think of a short sentence that describes how you felt in the early weeks and months of parenthood: e.g. “I felt overwhelmed and exhausted,” “I felt like my greatest dream had come true!”, or even “It felt like my whole life had been turned upside down and I didn’t recognize myself.” If you are not a parent and would like to share an observation in honor of someone you know (or you would like to share but remain anonymous), you can say tell us how you felt to see your friend/family member going through early parenthood. For example, you might say, “I felt so proud of the way she managed her stress.” “It felt like there was nothing I could do to stop her suffering.” “It felt like she could do things so effortlessly.” Please keep your statement in the “I felt/It felt” format.

2.Share this message with every one of your Facebook friends by clicking “Share” at the bottom of this post, and include your statement at the top. You can also cut and paste this as a message and send to all of your friends. The more you share this with your friends, the stronger your chance of winning!

3. Post your statement in the comment section directly below the Contest #1 Post on the Treating Moms Well Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/TreatingMomsWell.  The commenter who receives the most “likes” wins the prize!

***Note: You do not have to live in the Chicago area to participate. Contest will expire on Wednesday, March 23rd at 12:00pm CST.

Circle of Moms Top 25 Postpartum Depression Blogs – Please Vote

It’s late, I’m tired, but I just want to squeeze in this quick post to let you know that voting has begun for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Postpartum Depression Blogs.  You have from now until 5:00 PM PST (or 8:00 PM EST), February 21st to vote (daily, if you’d like) for your favorite PPD blogs….and there are many awesome ones!  I hope those of you who’ve found my blog helpful will vote for moi!

Thank you!

Just Because I’m Blogging About PPD Doesn’t Mean…..

….that I’m still struggling to get out of its grasp, that I’m still battling demons and/or that I’m still dealing with unresolved issues– like guilt, regret, or anger– from my experience nearly 7 years ago. 

I have friends and colleagues–and acquaintances to whom I tell about my postpartum depression (PPD) experience–who ask me, even today, whether I’m okay.  I look at them quizzically and try to deciper what they mean by that question.  I ask them, “Oh, you mean, am I fully recovered from PPD?”  And they nod their heads.  I tell them “Well, heck, yeah….I’ve completely recovered and been off my meds for nearly 6 years. I have no residual issues I’m still battling from my difficult childbirth and postpartum experience.”  I couldn’t be more honest to them and to myself for saying that. Period.

I think some of them have their doubts.  Why?  Because I seem to be focusing a lot of my time on things that have to do with PPD.  My book.  My blog.  Postpartum Support International conferences, fundraisers, friends.  My “liking” PPD-related pages on Facebook.  My taking on an interest to articles, blogs, news, conversations that mention perinatal mood disorders.  I seem to be a different person to them than before I had PPD.  Well, after writing a book for 6-1/2 years and blogging for 2-1/2 years, and a lot of other things going on–like my world revolving around my daughter’s daily schedule of school, activities, etc.–being a “different” person isn’t quite how I’d put it.  People evolve over time.  That’s just a natural occurrence.  Priorities change.  Life circumstances change.  Friendships change.  Experiences change people.  As I mentioned before, I believe my PPD experience has made a significant impact on my life.  It has changed me for the better by opening my eyes  to how closed the eyes of people around me really are with respect to perinatal mood disorders.  Actually, to depression, in general.  Lack of knowledge leads to stigma, which we really can do without. But how are we going to fight the stigma?  By speaking up. 

So, to all those who know me and wonder if I have truly and completely recovered from PPD….rest assured, I have. But does being fully recovered and being at peace with what happened to me nearly 7 years ago mean I’m now going to close a door on that chapter? No, I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing to try to help other mothers realize the truths versus myths of motherhood, as well as the importance of adequate social and practical support, sleep, and self care during the first several weeks postpartum!

For those of you mommies who are fighting the PPD battle right now, even though it may seem that you will never see the end of the dark tunnel, you will survive.  With the right help and support, you’ll be alright!

Please Consider Helping Postpartum Progress’ Strong Start Day Fundraising Campaign

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

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

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

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

POSTPARTUM SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL (PSI)

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

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

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

SPARKS CENTER

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

Here are the Call-In Details:

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

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

Please spread the word!

Circle of Moms Top 25 Mental Wellness Blogs by Moms

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

Thank you to those who voted for me!  🙂

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

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

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

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

We desperately need more of these!

My Blog is Devoted to Maternal Mental Wellness and Yet….

Here’s my predicament.  My blog is devoted entirely to maternal mental wellness, specifically, perinatal mood disorders and yet the number of votes I’ve garnered in the past several days will make me wind up out of contention for this category of a voting contest created by Circle of Moms.  Irony of it all is, if by June 15th, I’m not in the Top 25 of this contest, I will not be included in their Round Up, and I won’t gain exposure to more moms out there who may find the info on my site helpful.  Man, oh, man! 

I’ve been telling myself these past few days that I don’t care about this contest because it’s just a (ahem, popularity) contest.  And I’ve never been one for participating in such contests.  All my life I’ve just wanted to survive my angst.  Being popular couldn’t be further from my thoughts–or aspirations, even. 

Like Katherine Stone said the other day over on her Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog in this (ahem) category, I’m NOT going to beg for votes.   But then again, her blog is THE MOST widely-read blog in this category.  She doesn’t need votes, she’s already got tons of people all over the world following her.  Me, on the other hand….not so much.  I’m trying to use social media, but I can only do so much without jeopardizing my job.  I can’t tweet during work hours, even though I have the technology to do so.  I’m not so good at developing and sustaining an ongoing rapport, though I’m honestly trying, with other women I know online from blogging and tweeting.  I can hardly keep up with my friends after work hours and during weekends, when I’ve already got so much else to do and not neglect my husband and daughter. 

For me, it’s all or none.  When I’m on Twitter, I like to see everyone’s tweets, but even with a limited number I follow (< 200), I can’t keep up with the tweets any longer.  Just like on Facebook, I keep my number of friends down so I can manage to keep up with everyone’s daily posts.  Yep, I read ’em all. 

So, as you can see, my impact is limited because my resources/time is limited.  I’ve got to find a way to ramp things up….and it’s not going to help with my not being included in this Top 25.  All I can say is this.  I’ve been blogging for the past couple of years to help others survive their angst.  Whether it’s a girl who’s struggling with puberty and high school–one of the most angst-ridden times of any girl’s life–or a new mom who’s struggling with a perinatal mood disorder….there is, after all, a correlation between the two (per my past posts).  I know that I have helped a number of women.  That in itself is enough for me because that is, after all, the objective of this blog and why I do what I do.

It wouldn’t hurt, though, to widen my audience by way of inclusion of such categories created by such forums as Circle of Moms.  Therein lies my predicament.

Ughhhh.

At Long Last, An Accurate Piece on PPD in a Major Newspaper!

Yes, you heard right!  No exaggerated or misleading article on postpartum depression (PPD) this time, but an accurate piece titled “When Mama Ain’t Happy” written by Michelle Gerdes, a PPD survivor, and published in the Wall Street Journal.   An aptly-titled article, as we need to all remember that a healthy mom ensures a healthy family unit.   A happy mom means a happy baby.  

The statistics from studies shows that there is a direct correlation between the mom’s mental health on the overall well-being of the baby.  I’ve said it countless times before.  Children of depressed moms are at increased risk of developing depression themselves.  Maternal depression can also impact the cognitive and behavioral development of the child.  

The article even references Postpartum Support International (PSI) as a resource for information and support.   It also talks about the importance of screening new moms for PPD so fewer moms slip through the cracks, suffering unnecessarily, undiagnosed and untreated. 

Also mentioned is fellow PSI member Kimberly Wong and how her serious brush with PPD has motivated her to form the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force, comprised of agencies and volunteers committed to spread awareness of perinatal mood disorders. 

Thank you, Michelle Gerdes for the article, and thank you Wall Street Journal for publishing it.  Now, THIS is exactly what needs to occur more regularly and in more newspapers and other media outlets that have the ability to reach a large audience!

Happy Mother’s Day 2011

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  I just wanted to bring to your attention a couple of mother’s day tributes. 

One is MotherWoman’s moving video dedicated to all the moms out there.

The other is Katherine Stone’s 3rd annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health.  If you haven’t been over there yet, then please go on over there now and throughout the rest of the day until midnight. I had the honor of participating in her very first rally in 2009, a few months after I first took to blogging.  Each hour on the hour, Katherine is posting a letter written by a mommy blogger or author to new moms out there.  All these wonderful ladies are sharing their insight on motherhood and/or perinatal mental health. What a great way to not only observe Mother’s Day but spread awareness of perinatal mood disorders that occurs in one of out eight new mothers!

Please remember that Mother’s Day is NOT just a Hallmark occasion.  I agree with MSN.com that it should be a month long and mothers should be celebrated in one way or another all month long.  Do something nice for a new mom you know.  Reach out to her. Give her a call and ask her how she is doing and offer her some help.

House Bill 2235 (Maternal Mental Health Patient/Provider Education Bill) Passes and Moves to Senate

Another state is moving toward progress when it comes to an increase in public awareness of perinatal mood disorders.  House Bill 2235 was approved by the House on April 28th and now passes to the Senate!

The Maternal Mental Health Patient and Provider Education Program is intended to identify and address maternal mental health disorders and to prevent the associated long-term negative impact on women and their families.  How would this program accomplish this? 

  • Ensuring health care providers (physicians, nurse midwives and other licensed health care professionals):
    • are  trained to screen, identify, assess and treat perinatal mood disorders, as well as make appropriate referrals, and
    • provide patients and their family members such information materials about maternal mental health disorders.
  • Educating the public about maternal mental health disorders.
  • Ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities serving pregnant and postpartum patients (including  postnatal and post-pregnancy loss patients) provide patients and their family members information materials about maternal mental health disorders.

It is truly encouraging to see the positive developments occurring at the state level across the country, and I hope that this trend will steadily continue until all states have legislation in place that will ensure the public awareness that is needed to do away with the stigma and ensure all mothers experiencing perinatal mood disorders get the help they need!  

The well-being of the mother helps to ensure the well-being of her child(ren) and the overall well-being of the family!

Words Are Not Always Necessary…..Comforting Those Struggling With Infertility

Today is Day 2 of National Infertility Awareness Week, and I wanted to share a great article I came across today on Resolve’s Facebook page.  The title of the LA Times article is “My Turn: What to Expect When We’re Not Yet Expecting” by Carrie Friedman, author of “Pregnant Pause: My Journey Through Obnoxious Questions, Baby Lust, Meddling Relatives, and Pre-Partum Depression.”  

The article is short and sweet…providing helpful tips to well-meaning friends and family members of those who are struggling with infertility.  Ms. Friedman recommends 5 things NOT to say.  It boils down to words not necessarily being necessary because–unless you’ve been through infertility yourself–you will more than likely say something that will only sadden/upset/strike a nerve (you get the picture, right?) the couple that is undergoing fertility treatments.   

Just listening and being there (present, but not necessarily trying to figure out what to say that will comfort) are enough to show that you care.  As I mentioned in prior posts, staying away because you are uncomfortable with the circumstances due to your uncertainty of what to say or do will only serve to make the couple feel further removed from ones they love and/or isolated from others in their experience.   Feelings of isolation is one of many risk factors that can lead to perinatal depression if your fertility treatment succeeds and you find yourself an expectant parent (which I hope will be the case for you, I truly do).  Refer to my previous post on infertility and correlation with PPD.

National Infertility Awareness Week – April 24-30, 2011

The 22nd National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) will be taking place from April 24th to 30th this year.  NIAW is a movement to raise awareness about the disease of infertility that affects 1 out of 8 couples.  Click here for the calendar of events taking place all over the country.

RESOLVE is a community for women and men with infertility and provides information, support and opportunities to take action.  Check out the RESOLVE website for more information on infertility and how you can make a difference for you and others experiencing infertility.    There is a wealth of information on this website–a lot more than even a year ago! 

You can find the following:

Infertility is a major cause of anxiety and depression.  With the number of individuals faced with infertility today, it is no wonder that antenatal and postpartum depression rates are as high as they are today.  As such, it is very important that you seek support in getting through this difficult and highly stressful time of your life.   Support can be in the form of family and/or friends that you feel are empathetic (i.e., have gone through this themselves) and/or non-judgmental.   

If you’re not sure whom to talk to among your circle of family/friends, visit the RESOLVE website and look up mental health professionals in your area that have experience with helping couples get through infertility and infertility treatments.  Getting this kind of support can help prevent your anxiety levels from reaching a point that– should you (and I really hope you do) get pregnant– you could be heading into pregnancy with a great risk of developing perinatal depression

The absolute worst thing you can do is keep your feelings of grief and anxiety to yourself, and in fact, doing so can put you at greater risk for developing a perinatal mood disorder!

SPARKS Appreciation and Tribute Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol – March 31, 2011

As we approach another weekend, I wanted to very briefly bring up an upcoming event at the US Capitol next Thursday honoring Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and others, like Susan Dowd Stone, MSW, LCSW, who have been supportive on the legislative front with respect to postpartum depression (PPD).  For more details, visit Ms. Stone’s Empowher write-up, as well as Katherine Stone’s blog post about the event, but if not, go on over there and read up on what this event is all about!  

The event will be hosted by the S.P.A.R.K.S. Center in Brooklyn, NY.    Its mission is just what the acronym stands for–Serving Pre and Post-Natal Women and Families with Awareness, Relief, Knowledge and Support. 

Ms Stone will be among several in attendance who will be speaking to Members of Congress about the importance of the SPARKS mission and the funding of PPD initiatives, in general.  Members of Congress expected to be at this event include:

  • Congresswoman Shelly Berkley
  • Congressman Bobby L. Rush
  • Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins
  • Congressman Jerrold Nadler
  • Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney
  • Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy
  • Congressman James E. Clyburn
  • Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz

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

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

Date:  Saturday, May 21, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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