Modern Mother’s Day

As a doula I have the special privilege of seeing the truth in pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.  Families will share things with me that they keep hidden away from the rest of the world because they know that I am coming from a place of support and free from judgement.  That truth is something that most people keep tucked away, they bury it deep down inside them and rarely share it with anyone, even themselves. Parenting is not only hard work, but it can feel overwhelming. The thought that you might be swimming upstream forever as the days and nights blend together in a broken sleep cycle.  Our modern culture tells us that we must not only do it all, but look good and enjoy every moment.  Snap back to yourself and be ready, chipper and active no later than 6 weeks postpartum.  The truth that is hiding in all this, is not that this is incredibly hard, we know that though it’s rarely spoken out loud  The truth is that it’s actually impossible because we were never meant to do this alone.

Did you know that the latest statistics show 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum mood disorder, and 1 in 10 men. The researchers actually believe it’s higher than that but we aren’t catching everybody because many remain silent.   We are expecting so much from new parents and offering very little support.  It seems that our societal demands on families have increased while the support networks have significantly decreased.   When our ancestors raised children they were living in a society that came together to help each other.  Extended family often lived in the same area and “the village” really was a thing.  Help rarely needed to be asked for, it was just expected that everyone would come together to support the new parents. There was a great connection between everyone, a connection that is very different than the one our current technology creates.  This connection was real and raw, you saw all the parts of someone, not just the joyful moments.  There was no Instagram filter to make the dried spit up on your shoulder less noticeable.  Your community knew your struggle, but also they stepped in to support. Rather than a push to “get back to normal” they had a priority and respect for rest and healing.  Sadly, the village is mostly gone and replaced by networks, wires, filters, and glorifying the over scheduled life.  

If you are that parent who is striving to appear as if you have it all together please don’t feel bad about this.  I’m not trying to shame anyone, but the truth I know as a doula is that you aren’t alone and I wanted to you know that.  I have seen the most beautiful Facebook family and I know that they are having their fair share of tears, struggle, guilt, and loneliness.  I want to create the possibility that we let things go and try being real. This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage you to listen to the part of yourself that is screaming “this is so hard” and follow that truth by asking yourself what you really need.  Maybe you don’t know what you need, in that case just listen to yourself, talk to a friend, write in a journal, but give that feeling some space.  Don’t tuck it away and bury it under a filter and a smile.  

There are new parent support groups and warm lines that you can call for peer-to-peer support. You don’t have to be depressed or have a diagnosis or mood disorder  to call these numbers, they are for any new parent who could benefit from talking to someone.  

Asking for help (even if it’s just a listening ear) is so important. When we do this we are modeling to our children that they too can ask for help and communicate their needs and feelings. When you ask for help this also creates an opportunity for someone else to feel needed and useful, as well as the opening for them to be vulnerable with you or someone else.  When we ask for help we are creating real connection. This helps everyone involved become more attached and secure.  As that security deepens within us it allows us to create stronger bonds and support with our children.

Think of it this way, There is a tree that is being watered and nourished just enough to stay alive.  Someone comes along and hangs a swing on one of the branches, someone else starts to build a treehouse on another branch, and another decides to climb it.  That tree is going to have a very hard time continuing to stand upright.  It looks really sturdy to all the people building and swinging and climbing it, but the tree knows that it’s roots aren’t getting what they need. It silently stands knowing all the while that those roots aren’t deep enough to sustain the life that is climbing all around it and that tree is going to fall over.   

The more you ask for help and take care of yourself the more you nourish your roots and feed your soul.  You aren’t alone in the struggle of being a modern mom, and I encourage you to listen to yourself and challenge the expectations of the modern mother.

 

For Support in Lane County Visit www.wellmamaoregon.org

For Support Anywhere visit www.postpartum.net

Who Are You Wearing?

oscarbaby

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to the Oscars to accept an Academy Award.  Maybe you are just going to Target to have social interactions with other adults,  pick up some diapers, and look at all the pretty things.   So, why am I asking who you are wearing?  I’m not talking about what clothing designer you are wearing.  I’m talking about wearing your baby!

woven-wrap-1407192_1280Wearing your baby can make your life a lot easier (not to mention it also can reduce infant crying, create a healthier baby, and reduce postpartum depression.)  Imagine, two hands to push that red cart (or one hand on the cart, the other  holding a Starbucks cup.)  Sure, you could lug that infant carseat out of your vehicle and into the store.  You know the one that weighs 10 times as much as your actual baby?  It’s always great to work those biceps but the truth is that your baby would prefer to be snuggled close to you.  Especially in loud, bright, busy places.  You won’t have to worry as much about enthusiastic strangers leaning over to greet your baby in their car seat.  That can be really nice perk in the flu season.  Some seasoned parents can even pull of feeding their baby while wearing them and shopping or doing other tasks.  Don’t worry if that sounds overwhelming, you can start at the basics and decide if you want to level up your baby wearing skills.   So, what do I mean by baby wearing?  Well, there are many options available to parents today for how to wear their baby.

Carriers: The options come in a variety of price ranges from around $30 – over $200.  If you are crafty you can find DIY instructions online to make most types of carriers and then the key is just finding the right fabric.  If you are buying a used carrier be sure that the carrier meets the USA safety standards and hasn’t been recalled.

You have five types of carriers to choose from

  1. Wraps – Various lengths and fabrics, good for carrying infants – toddlers. You can carry your child on your hip, front, or back so it is very versatile but it does have a learning curve as the long length of fabric can be a bit overwhelming at first.  (This was my favorite option for my kids once I got the hang of it.)
  2. Ring Slings– Made of nylon or metal rings with a long fabric looping through. These are adjustable so as baby grows you won’t need a different size.   One end of the fabric is longer and called the tail and can be used to cover your baby, or an older child can hold the tail as you walk along.
  3. Pouch Slings- These are the easiest to DIY.  A simple loop of smooth fabric that you can pop on and off for quick use.  It isn’t as supportive to your body as other carriers and so your shoulder may get tired if you are wearing it for long periods of time. These are sized specific to your child and so they will be outgrown.
  4. Mei Tai- This consist of a panel of fabric with two shorter strips of fabric that tie around the waist and two longer straps that go over the shoulders.  Ideal for babies and toddlers, front or back carrying is most common with these.
  5. Buckle Carriers– These are a great option for family members who want to wear your baby but don’t want a lesson.  They snap on easily and provider support by going around the waist and shoulders much like the Mei Tai.  You can carry infants to toddlers depending on the brand.

Each has their own advantages and I highly recommend finding a local baby wearing group where you can test them out for yourself and get a lesson.  These meetings are usually free and a great way to meet other parents.

Most doulas are also a great help on figuring out how to use your carrier so be sure to ask them.  Practicing prenatally with a doll may be a lot less intimidating when you are first starting out.


Resources:  Babywearing International Eugene/Springfield Babywearing Network

References:

Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648
“Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.

Shadows Covering Joy

anxietyAs an expecting parent you may have heard about the baby blues, the emotional roller coaster that comes in the immediate postpartum days.  There has also been more talk lately about postpartum depression.  Today, I want to shed light on something else.  What if you aren’t feeling sad,  but instead you are constantly on high alert, constantly worried that something bad will happen?  Maybe your heart races, you feel dizzy or nauseous. Sleep disruption and loss of appetite.  You can’t sit still as your mind races.  You could be part of the 6% of pregnant parents  or 10% of postpartum parents who suffer from anxiety.  Some have anxiety alone and others have it paired with depression.   This can occur during pregnancy, or even months after the birth of your child.

If you are expecting a child and wondering if you are at risk, risk factors include a family history of anxiety, previous depression or anxiety, or a thyroid imbalance.   If you know you are at risk you can be proactive and join support groups early or have family or friends help out and keep watch for symptoms as they may notice before you do.

For some parents, in addition to generalized anxiety, they may have more specific forms such as Postpartum Panic Disorder.  This is a form of anxiety where you may feel very nervous and have reoccurring panic attacks.  When a panic attack is happening people may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, claustrophobia, numbness and tingling of extremities.   The attacks can come and go in waves and feel very scary but they can not hurt you.  This is of course something to talk to your doctor about, and  I highly recommend seeking out therapy for coping techniques and reduction of panic attacks.

Another form of postpartum anxiety is Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It is estimated that 3%-5% of new parents will experience this.  It includes repetitive and intrusive thoughts or visions that are very frightening and disturbing and come to mind randomly. Often parents don’t mention the thoughts that go along with this disorder because they fear judgement from others.   Research has shown that these thoughts are anxious, not delusional and have a very low chance of being acted out.

The good news is that things do not have to stay this way.  Your entire parenting experience doesn’t have to continue down a worried and anxious path.  It is time to take it seriously and reach out for help.  Locally, in Oregon we have WellMama. They offer support groups and a warm line where a trained professional will call you back.  Therapy can also be extreamly helpful but be sure to go to someone who works with postpartum anxiety. Ann Tepperman, is someone in Lane County who has experience.  To find groups in other areas of the US and Canada you can visit Postpartum Progress.  If you are feeling overwhelmed you can send me an email with your location and I will help you find resources.

Just remember that these fearful thoughts, and even scary visions do not make you a bad parent and you won’t feel this way forever.