ppd

Doulas & Recognizing PMADS

In the past five years there has been a flurry of attention given to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) otherwise referred to as postpartum depression. Famous women like Gweneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, Adele, and Adele's friend who just shared her own postpartum psychosis story, have come forward with their personal PMAD struggles. National medical associations like the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) now recommend screening for PMADs during pregnancy, postpartum and at child well visits. These are critical steps in changing the conversation and stigma that have historically surrounded PMADs. 

 

There is one group of providers that are growing in popularity nationwide that can also play a key role in the identification of PMADs in new and expecting mothers – DOULA’s. A Doula is a person who offers non-clinical, judgement free support to others as they transition through major life experiences. Doulas specialize in different areas of perinatal care including labor and birth, postpartum, antepartum and death. 

 

The doula movement arose in response to the lack of postpartum care available from traditional care providers in the U.S. Whereas the relationship between a woman and her OBGYN or her baby's pediatrician are undeniably critical to the physical health and wellbeing of both, a doula establishes a more intimate relationship with the new or expecting mom - allowing her more exposure to mom's emotional health. Often, doulas will come to the home prior to the delivery of the baby and have multiple meetings to establish a relationship and discuss the birth plan with the expecting mother, allowing a bird’s eye view to the woman's immediate environment. In doing so, Doula's are exposed to potential external stressors that may exist in the home or in the couple's relationship - both putting a woman at greater risk for the onset of a PMAD. They can also observe any obvious psychological changes in the woman over the perinatal period and in the immediate postpartum. 

 

Recently, Doula groups like Carriage House Birth in New York City, are working with PMAD treatment providers like TheMotherhood Center to recognize the importance of integrating PMAD awareness into their doula trainings. Doulas need the basic skills to do the following: Recognize when a woman may be experiencing a PMAD; have the conversation with a new or expecting mother that appears to be suffering; and most importantly - refer a woman for support and treatment. 

 

A doula doesn't need to be a professional mental health provider to recognize a PMAD. The signs can be easily detected for someone trained:

·       This woman is excessively worried about her pregnancy or the new baby - contacting the
doula or pediatrician multiple times a day.

·       She is crying frequently and saying that she is a failure, she can't do anything right, or that
she has made a huge mistake.

·       She obsessively washes bottles, does laundry, ruminates about harm coming to the baby

·       She tells you she feels helpless or hopeless - and she refrains from seeing friends and
family or leaving the house.

·       She can't sleep when the baby sleeps at night, or she sleeps all the time - she has no
appetite and is having a hard time caring for herself and/or the baby.

·       She is irritable and angry, sometimes rageful.  

·       In severe cases, she may share that she has thoughts of ending her life or the baby’s life.

 

With proper awareness and training, a doula can feel comfortable and confident recognizing these symptoms and having a conversation about them. She can say, "Becoming a new mother is one of the hardest things a woman can do, we don't talk enough about the hard part. It's very common for new mothers to feel anxious and overwhelmed by this new responsibility – being a new mom can feel like it's too much. What has it been like for you?" If mom says she is really struggling a doula can say: "I have heard so many women say exactly the same thing. You are not alone, and you can feel much better with the right support. I have some resources to help you get through this challenging time, and enjoy being a mother more. Should we make the call together?" Partners and other family members also play a critical role in the mental health of the pregnant or new mom and can be educated on where to go for help. 

If untreated, PMADs can have a negative impact on the baby's development and the bond between mother and child. It's imperative for all providers that come in contact with new and expecting mothers to look out for the signs and symptoms of PMADs. PMADs are the most common birth complication among women. 1 in 5 new and expecting mothers experience a PMAD, and to her - it feels like she is drowning in an endless, dark sea, just waiting for someone to throw her a life preserver.

As seen in Every Mother Counts September 2018

To learn more about PMADs or for resources for women that are struggling visit Postpartum Support International (hyperlink http://www.postpartum.net/). If you are located in the New York Tri-State area call The Motherhood Center at  call 212-335-0034.

Having Another Baby After Postpartum Depression

16 months after my son Max was born, I felt like I was finally in the clear from my diagnosis of severe postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. It had taken months for me to seek treatment and months to get better, but I was finally enjoying the little guy. I remember the 16 month mark because I attended a Local PPD support group, finally feeling strong enough to be around other women’s pain. The group was a cathartic experience; I was able to tell the new moms that were struggling with PPD and anxiety in real time, that they were going to be ok. That I had felt their pain, went on medication, went into therapy and finally felt like myself again–plus one. I left the group feeling so thankful that my dark journey had finally come to an end. 

A few weeks later, I was at a conference for work and realized I hadn’t had my period in a while. I wasn’t super worried because the last time I had sex with my husband barely counted, but I had a pregnancy test in my bag from an earlier scare (I had convinced myself that sex = baby = PPD), and so I decide to take it just to be sure. 

I remember listening to Vampire Weekend in the background (to this day I can’t listen to them because it brings these moments back), and I laid the stick on the counter and started responding to work emails. I forgot about the test for a good 20 minutes, then returned to the bathroom to see the results.

PANIC. Sheer and utter panic as I picked up the stick. I shook it, I turned it around and around trying to make the positive line disappear. This can’t be happening; it must be an expired test. Surely it's wrong because I had it in my bag for some time. This. Isn’t. Happening. 

You see, after postpartum depression with my son, I had no intention whatsoever of having another child. I did not ever want to go back to that place, ever. I couldn’t do this again–so soon –I had just started feeling like myself again.

That night I spent hours curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor holding the stick. I kept looking at it over and over again to see if the line had gone away. It was still there. In the morning, the line was still there and it was beginning to set in that I may actually be pregnant. I decided to call my husband. My postpartum depression with my son had really done a number on us as a couple. While I silently (and not so silently) struggled with becoming a mother, he made it a point to be out as much as possible. He didn’t know what to do to help me, so he self admittedly ran–literally. He began training for triathlons. I worried this news would destroy us as a couple. What should be one of the most exciting phone calls to make felt like the heaviest and darkest call ever. 

I told him I had taken a pregnancy test and it was positive. I told him it was all going to be ok, and we could talk about it in person when I got back from my trip. He was with a friend when I told him the news so his response was infused with his typical dry sense of humor. He said, “Well this is going to be exciting.” 

For the next two days at the conference, I made the mistake of confiding in a colleague who was immediately overjoyed with my news. When I explained to her that I didn’t think I could do it again after the first time, she told me that having two kids was the best thing she ever did, and I should just be thankful for this gift. I ran into the bathroom and cried.

The darkness was coming back. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that I had fought so hard to get rid of were creeping back in around the corners.

When I got home, I was happy to see my son, but was also hit with a wave of memories of how hard it had been when he was an infant. I told my husband that I didn’t know what I was going to do yet with this news, and I didn’t want to talk about it until I had a chance to process it. I shut him out and collapsed inside of myself to find the answer.

I called in sick to work for a few days and hid under my covers thinking about what to do. I didn't want this baby, and I didn’t want to have to go through what I went through with my son ever again. I called planned parenthood and made an appointment for the following week. I didn’t tell anyone.

But then, one night, my husband asked me to sit down on his lap. He told me that he knew I was struggling with this decision, and he would support me whatever I decided to do. He just didn’t want to lose me. We cried in each other’s arms, and I knew in that moment that we were going to figure it out–together.

Another baby. Wow. I began to slowly wrap my head around this reality. The more I did, the more I felt determined to have a different experience

I took better emotional care of myself during my second pregnancy. I continued individual therapy and began couples therapy with my husband with a focus on becoming a stronger unit. Many times, on that couch he cried and told me how sorry he was that he didn’t know how to take care of me after Max was born and that he would do a better job the second time. 

I went to acupuncture once a week and exercised and rested as much as I could. I thought a lot about what contributed to my PPD the first time: The isolation day after day alone with my son, feeling completely disconnected from achievements in my professional life, not having a community of like-minded new moms who were not afraid to talk about the dark side of having a baby, and most importantly, an overwhelming sense of shame at having to ask for help.

So I took control. I was going to be in charge of this experience–it wasn’t just going to happen to me. I created a postpartum plan, including all the things I needed the first time, but didn’t know. I had my mother-in-law agree to stay for the first month after the baby came (a mixed bag but she didn’t speak any English so I saw that as a plus) and my mom agreed to stay the month after that. I negotiated a part-time work schedule with my job, allowing me to work as many or as few hours a week as I could to stay connected. I lined up a group of second time expecting moms all due around the same time. I welcomed an epidural as my delivery with my son was physically and emotionally traumatic, all-natural 20 hours of labor that left me a shell of myself. 

Most importantly, I made sure that everyone around me knew how to recognize the warning signs of PMADs with a treatment team at the ready. Karen Kleiman writes in her book, “What Am I Thinking? Having A Baby After Postpartum Depression”: 

“The good news is that with proper preparation and planning and a healthcare team that is mobilized on your behalf, we can intervene in ways that will minimize the likelihood that you will experience a depression to the same degree that you did previously”. 

And you know what? I had a totally different experience the second time around. All of the safety measures I put in place for myself paid off. All the support I lined up, the community I built, and the perspective I had the second time around made it completely different. And most importantly, I asked for help–every day, all the time. 

I can’t imagine what life would be like without Ella. She is a strong-willed, confident, outspoken little terror and I love her madly

I am in no way urging moms who have experienced a PMAD with their first baby to try it again. I just want to plant the seed that for those of us who had a PMAD the first time around, there is hope.  

As seen in the 9/4/2018 Article on ScaryMommy.com

Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW is the Program Director at The Motherhood Center of New York, which provides clinical treatment and support to new and expecting mothers experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. If you live in the New York City Tri-State area, call The Motherhood Center at 212-335-0034. For resources in other states visit Postpartum Support International.

Common Thoughts Dads Could Have

New parenthood can be emotionally overwhelming for everyone — and that goes for dads, too. This month, we asked TMC partner group facilitator Dr. Chuck Schaeffer for a candid take on the issues and fears new dads face — and often are too intimidated to admit — as they make the transition. Here are the top five common fears he’s encountered, plus help for how to decode them and deal with them in healthful, supportive ways.

Every day over 350,000 men become fathers to a newborn in the world — that means there’s a good chance you’ll know someone celebrating their first Father’s Day this year. In fact it’s a good bet your social media feed will be flooded with memes, posts, and advertisements all highlighting moments of bonding, love, and general “warm and fuzzies” between fathers and newborns. What you won’t see are the scary, intense, intrusive thoughts that also come up between fathers and newborns. Scary, intrusive thoughts are common in new parenthood but are often hidden due to stigma, especially among new fathers. The good news is that scary thoughts are common and actually signal positive parts of a new father’s development.

Here are the top five scary thoughts I’ve encountered in my work with many new fathers over the years and what they really mean.


1. Thoughts about your baby dying of SIDS

One of the most common scary thoughts I encounter with new fathers is a fear that their baby will die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in their sleep. This thought consistently appears in research about parents following the birth of their child. In a recent study of obsessional thoughts among postpartum parents, 45% of fathers reported intrusive fantasies about suffocation/SIDs.

Why is this thought so common? One explanation is that the public health community has done a great job in raising awareness of SIDS. In fact, the rate of SIDS has dropped exponentially since major public health agencies started including sleep and SIDS awareness into almost all preparatory parenting classes.

Another explanation is that when a new father begins to attach and feel connected to his child, his brain begins to imagine all the things he will need to do in order to keep his child safe. In other words, if you are having scary thoughts about your baby dying of SIDS, there’s a good chance your brain is preparing you to be a responsive, caring, and engaged father.


2. Thoughts about harming or abusing your baby

The same research on obsessional thoughts in postpartum parents found that 1 in 4 fathers report intrusive scary thoughts about accidentally or purposefully harming their child.

Does this mean that up to 25% of fathers are secretly violent predators? Absolutely not. I’ve worked with countless fathers who are so ashamed of these thoughts that they avoid their children leading to worse outcomes for their families. Scary thoughts are common especially around situations that we want to protect our children from, including sexual and physical abuse. What makes a new father’s brain come up with thoughts in which he is abusing or harming his child? Again, our brains are designed to protect us and others we care about by trying to anticipate and control threats that could occur in reality. It is too overwhelming to imagine all the unknown perpetrators in the world that could harm our children — it’s much easier to feel in control of your own actions and behaviors.

Many new father’s find that their brains are sending them these thoughts because even though they are scary, at least the person doing the harm can be controlled. What does this really mean? If you are having thoughts about harming your child which scare you, that’s a healthy sign that you want to protect and keep your child safe — not that you are some kind of secret monster.   


3. Thoughts about going broke or not making enough money for your family

When I ask new fathers in my groups what message they associate the most with being a father, it’s almost always the same: making money, and being a breadwinner/provider. This response makes sense when you realize the only messages we send most new fathers about their role in early fatherhood is to provide income to their families, despite the litany of research showing all the other developmental, social emotional, and literacy outcomes engaged, responsive father’s provide to their babies and young children.

The pressure to adhere to the early fatherhood myth — that in the first five years a father’s job is to provide primary income to his family—is often the culprit behind this scary thought. When new fathers learn about all the other ways they contribute to their children and family’s development, this thought usually fades. At the end of the day if you are having this thought, it likely means you care a lot about keeping your family healthy, and that you should check out more of the research out there showing how providing financially is just one of the things fathers provide to their families to keep them healthy.     


4. Thoughts about running away from your family or your family abandoning you

New parenthood is a beast for most new fathers. While it’s already hard to find any protected family leave for new mothers, it’s nearly impossible to find it for new fathers in the United States — meaning most new dads get a few days before they are thrust back into the world of work and the new world of fatherhood with a massive amount of sleep deprivation. (Keep in mind: sleep deprivation is a preferred interrogation tactic used to break criminals by major law enforcement agencies.)

Given this atmosphere, many parents have fantasies about running away from this new role. Among fathers with a history of loss or abandonment, it is not uncommon to also to have scary thoughts about being abandoned or rejected by their families. In my work with fathers groups, a common scary thought shared among participants is that they won’t be a “good enough” partner to their spouse, which will lead to a catastrophic loss — for example, that their spouse will “run away” with their baby. What is the point of these fantasies? For many men, there is nothing scarier than losing their families which shows that they are dedicated, loyal, and committed to their partners and babies. Think of these thoughts as signs of how: a) overwhelmed you are, and, b) how much you care about your family.    


5.  Thoughts about being stuck in a sexless marriage and/or having no more fun ever again.

Aside from being a provider, a common message many men hear about fatherhood is that they will lose/sacrifice anything “fun” including sex, intimacy, and personal time. I have lost count of the number of men I’ve worked with who upon asking their friends or family for advice around fatherhood were told “get used to not having a life.” How crappy is that message for a confused, eager, expecting father? How appealing does that make parenthood sound to anyone? Yes, new fatherhood can be frustrating — fights about parenting and childcare take over prior time spent planning couple time or having sex. However, this doesn’t mean that it is forever. For many men this scary thought is a call to action about taking the lead in creating couple time with their partner alongside co-parenting responsibilities. In my experience men who view this thought as a signal that they need to take a more active role in planning couples activities and date nights fare much better than those who believe it to be a universal, unavoidable truth.

Although many men are able to understand these scary thoughts as a part of their development in fatherhood, some seek consultation and treatment to help negotiate and better understand their scary thoughts. Many more never seek out treatment, instead suffering in silence and isolation. Why? Because as a society we have difficulties letting go of our stereotyped assumptions  that “tough, resilient, independent masculinity” somehow protects men from the developmental crisis that is entering fatherhood.

So what does this mean?

While this this thought might relieve us from worry, we must also see it as not grounded in reality: in reality about 1 in 10 men will develop a depressive, mood, or anxiety disorder following the birth of their child. In reality, men, just like women, face numerous emotional challenges and vulnerabilities as they enter parenthood. Feeling constantly numb, irritated, angry, anxious, fatigued, drinking excessively, or having thoughts that your family would be better off if you were dead or out of the picture are serious warning signs that you should seek out treatment from a trained professional.

About 1 in 10 men will develop a depressive, mood, or anxiety disorder following the birth of their child.

If you care about the fathers in your life, help them to speak more about their scary thoughts and guide them towards treatment if they exhibit any of the warning signs above. The more we can pay attention to the realities of fatherhood, scary thoughts and all, the better we can support our fathers on Father’s day and every day.   


About the author

Dr. Chuck Schaeffer is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and an internationally recognized scholar, educator, and speaker who has spent nearly a decade working with parents, professionals, and couples to overcome reproductive challenges including insomnia, miscarriage & loss, postpartum anxiety and depression. He runs The Motherhood Center’s Partners Group every Friday from 9:45 AM to 10:30 AM. For more info and to register for classes please visit our classes and support group page here.

Mother’s Day with PPD

Mother’s Day can be a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the mothers in your life. And if you are a mother? To appreciate yourself. But for new mothers experiencing Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety (PPD/A), this can feel like a tall order.

A new mom in the throes of PPD/A often feels like the worst mom on the planet. She may feel like everything she does in her new role is wrong, or not good enough. That her baby doesn’t love her (or that she doesn’t love her baby), and that her family might be better off without her. We hear many struggling new moms say that they want to buy a one-way ticket to another country or start their lives over, alone, on a deserted island.

A new mom with PPD/A may feel hopeless, helpless, worthless, trapped, frozen with anxiety, and — most of all — lonely. She may cut off friends and family because she doesn’t want to be seen feeling the way that she does, and expending energy that she just doesn’t have. And when she is around other new moms? She perceives them as having figured everything out: yet another mental note-to-self that she’s failing by comparison. 

A new mom with PPD/A can feel like she is drowning in a deep sea just waiting for someone to throw her a life preserver. She may be mourning the loss of her former identity and freedom, and feel like this new role is not what she signed up for. She may not trust herself or her ability to make crucial decisions for herself, her new child, and her growing family.
 

For these new moms, it may feel impossible to celebrate or be celebrated on Mother’s Day. Here’s what you can do to show up for a mom you love who’s suffering:

  • Tell her what a good job she is doing feeding the baby, holding the baby, and caring for the baby.

  • Let her know how the baby gazes at her adoringly, and clearly feels soothed by her voice and touch.

  • Hold her while she cries and tell her you love her.

  • Listen to her fears when she is anxious. If she is angry, know that it is the PPD/A doing the yelling (and that it mostly has to do with how bad she feels about herself.)

  • Tell her how proud you are of her mothering — and how lucky the baby is to have her as a mommy.

  • Tell her that there is no such thing as a perfect mom. Remind her that all the moms she sees in commercials are paid actors, and the woman at the grocery store who had her hair done, makeup on, and silent sleeping baby in the stroller might very well be losing it on the inside, too.

  • Ask her how you can help her — and figure out how you can make this happen. Can you do the laundry? Make dinner? Watch the baby while she goes for a walk or takes a nap?

  • Tell her that you can see she is struggling, and that you want to help her feel better. Encourage her to get the help she needs. Remind her that PPD/A is very common and very treatable.

  • Make an appointment for her at The Motherhood Center if you are in New York City, or, if you are out of state — contact Postpartum Support International for specialists near you.

And then? Offer to take her to the appointment.

A new mom struggling with PPD/A needs to hear these things on Mother’s Day — and every day. The good news is that with treatment — everyone feels better, and there will be many, many more Mother’s Days in the future that she will cherish and enjoy.

Read on for more ways to support moms in your life who may be suffering from PPD/A, from common warning signs to self-care habits you can encourage her to put into practice.


If you think you have PPD, Call The Motherhood Center - 347-343-4257. We are here to tell you for sure if you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. And more importantly, if you do, we will provide the treatment you need to feel better. With the right treatment, EVERYONE feels better.


TMC Support Group Success Story: Ashley Abeles

The perinatal journey looks different and feels different for everyone. When Postpartum Depression and Anxiety enters the equation, the impact can be debilitating for the whole family. Due to the ongoing stigma that surrounds maternal mental illness, many women don’t realize that the right support and treatment can make a world of difference.

We were so inspired when TMC client, parenthood blogger, and early childhood educator Ashley Abeles recently shared her experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. Through her journey she learned how to relate to herself, her partner, and her new son. In an effort to provide honesty, hope and permission to other struggling new and expecting mothers, she began a blog, Muffin Man’s Mama. Her blog went viral almost over night receiving nothing less than praise and appreciation, and endless “me too” comments. Due to her strong voice and bravery,  Good Morning America shared her story with the world last week.

We sat down with Ashley to get her take on how The Motherhood Center’s New and Expecting Moms PMAD Support Group — led by Program Director Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW — helped her from her darkest hours of self-judgement and doubt to a take on new motherhood that made room for self-compassion and imperfection, too.

 

I realized that I was not alone in my feelings and was finally in an environment where it felt safe to be honest.
— Ashley Abeles

 

What "moment" or occurrence ultimately convinced you to sign up for time with The Motherhood Center?

I had been struggling on and off for many months [following the birth of my son] and was unsure of where to turn. A friend happened to send me information on The Motherhood Center because she was interested in an upcoming class. When I visited the website, I realized that the center specializes in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. There was an upcoming support group and I registered to attend.

At the time, I was unsure if this group would be the right fit for me – I still did not know with certainty that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety and depression. I just knew that I needed to do something and this seemed like a step forward.

That first group was difficult for me and I spent much of it crying, but I also felt an immense sense of relief. I had found my people – and they were kind, courageous, intelligent, successful women from all different backgrounds. This was clear evidence for me that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders do not discriminate and are not a reflection of a woman’s strength or character. I needed to learn this in order to have compassion for myself.

Those weekly groups became a key part of my recovery. They helped to pull me out of isolation and normalize what I was going through. Because of [TMC Program Director] Paige and the other mothers in the group, I felt like I had a safety net. That support held me up and gave me strength.

I religiously attended the weekly support groups because every ounce of my being knew that The Motherhood Center was where I needed to be – even on the days that were hard. I still doubted my ability to get better but I knew that if anyone could help me get there, it was the team at TMC. I had previously told my husband that I wanted to get well but was lost – that I needed someone to take my hand and show me the way out.  When Paige offered me additional services at the center, she extended me the helping hand I so desperately needed.

 

When did things start to shift in a positive direction for you?

I think if I had to choose a moment that changed things for me, it would be the first time I met Paige, which was during my second support group meeting. She had a way of making me feel understood and cared for, which is what ultimately kept me returning to TMC.
 

ashleyandhusbamd.jpg


What was it like to talk to your partner about your PPD?

I am married to a wonderfully caring and supportive man, so talking to him about my struggles felt natural. We have always kept open lines of communication and we maintained that during my struggle with postpartum anxiety and depression. In fact, I think our communication improved during that time. We both recognized that I needed his support and that this was a time when we needed to come together, rather than pull away. Although this was the most challenging experience we have had together, it brought us closer than ever.

One of the most helpful things my husband did was to be a non-judgmental ear when I needed to talk through my feelings. There is a saying that you are only as sick as your darkest secrets. He made it safe for me to not keep secrets. This was so important in my journey to wellness.

 

What tools did you find most useful for helping yourself while also keeping your partner in the loop (or not)?

The Motherhood Center has provided me with a variety of tools and I have found it helpful to discuss those with my husband. This allowed him to effectively support me when I had a hard time utilizing those tools on my own. It has also been helpful for me to become more informed about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. For a long time, my experience felt very confusing to me. Gaining more information gave me a better understanding of what was happening with me and why. That understanding was immensely comforting and allowed me to reclaim more control of my life. Sharing this information with my husband made it easier for him to process my experience and to support me through it.

 

On your blog, you described not identifying with PPD because of the misleading belief that one has to have violent thoughts to truly have it. When did you realize and accept that you were also suffering?

I always knew that I was suffering, but I did not initially recognize that suffering as postpartum depression and anxiety. I initially attributed my struggles to having a flawed character. I blamed myself for my experience and thought there was something inherently wrong with me. I finally realized that I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression when I saw the commonalities between my experience and the experiences of the other mothers in the support group.  

Paige also provided me with accurate information on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and helped to dispel many common myths. Once I was properly educated, it became easier to recognize and accept what was happening. Putting a name to my experience was a relief.
 

ashleysmiling.jpg
 
You are not prioritizing yourself above your child. You are prioritizing yourself for your child.
— Ashley Abeles


What would you tell a new mom who says “I don’t deserve to prioritize myself at this moment — especially above my kid?”

While I understand how difficult it can feel, caring for yourself is crucial in being able to care for your child. You are not prioritizing yourself above your child.  You are prioritizing yourself for your child. This journey has taught me that one of the best things I can do for my son is to take care of myself. I am able to be a better mother and to better meet his needs when my needs are met as well. As women and mothers, we often feel guilty for taking care of ourselves. We may feel that prioritizing ourselves takes something away from our families. In reality, it is just the opposite. Caring for ourselves allows us to care for others. The voices telling you that you are undeserving are just the voices of anxiety and depression – they will tell you lies that feel like truths. Don’t listen. You deserve to be happy and well. Your child deserves a mother who is happy and well.  With appropriate treatment, you can get there – I promise – and the first step is making yourself a priority.

 

What other tools has TMC brought into your daily routine / thought practices?

One of the most important things I have learned from TMC is that I am not alone. As a new mother at home with a baby, it is easy to feel isolated.  That feeling of loneliness can be magnified by postpartum anxiety and depression. I compared myself to other parents on social media and felt like I was the only one struggling. That feeling – and the shame that accompanied it — led me to isolate myself more and more. I eventually felt paralyzed. I was depressed, in part, because I felt isolated but my anxiety prevented me from taking steps to change that. Joining the PMAD support group was a life-changing decision. Meeting Paige and the other moms in the group helped to normalize my experience. I realized that I was not alone in my feelings and was finally in an environment where it felt safe to be honest. Those groups provided me with the connection I so desperately needed and helped to build my confidence.

TMC has also reminded me of the concept of the “good enough mother”. I remember learning about this theory in my psychology and child development courses, but had failed to apply it to myself.  Discussing this concept helped me see that the pressure I placed on myself to be a perfect mother was not only unhealthy for me, but also for my son. Now, when I feel that mom-guilt sneaking up on me, I remind myself that imperfection is actually ideal. My perfectionism was undoubtedly a major contributor to my postpartum anxiety and depression; TMC has helped me to release some of the pressure I place on myself. I now have more realistic expectations.

Self-care has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I have historically had difficulty making time for myself. TMC has helped me to recognize the importance of prioritizing my well-being.  I have begun to focus more on healthy eating, exercise, rest, and meditation. I previously felt guilty focusing on self-care. Now I realize that I am a better wife and mother when I care for myself as well. This has also expanded into feeling more confident expressing my needs and setting boundaries as necessary.  

There’s more to Ashley’s story on her blog Muffin Man’s Mama., on Facebook, and Instagram. Read on for: Drowning In Plain Sight: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and The Perfectly Imperfect Parent.  


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Meanwhile, her husband Brian Abeles joined Paige and TMC clinical psychologist Dr. Chuck Schaefer on The Positive Mind podcast last week to share a partner’s take on dealing with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
 

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Postpartum Conversation Drivers

Postpartum Conversation Drivers

Postpartum depression has come a long way
 
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) otherwise known as Postpartum Depression, have existed since the dawn of time. It’s taken society a long (long) time to catch up, and start a public discourse about their very existence -- only complicated by the needless guilt and shame that pregnant and new mothers feel when the symptoms of PMADs strike, and the general stigma around mental health in our country.