A Simple Dream


A mum in the UK recently took her own life. Fellow PPD blogger Ivy Shih Leung wrote a very long and insightful piece about it here.

While I have not read anything beyond Ivy’s piece, I want to address one of the issues Ivy touches on in her post. For me, it is one of the primary reasons women who struggle with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder still fight so desperately with reaching out for help and then with actually receiving the proper help.

Our battle has multiple levels. Were PMAD’s a video game, we would have to survive level after harrowing level before finally reaching a properly educated doctor or therapist. Some of us may be lucky enough to skip all these harrowing levels but for most of us, we are destined to fight with all we have while we don’t have much just to get by in a world expecting us to be super mom while we are at it.

First, we have to fight with ourselves to acknowledge that there is a problem.

Then, we fight with loved ones for help with every day tasks and with reaching out for help.  We fight the argument that we are “faking” or “pretending” just to get out of housework or parenting. We are, some of us, told to suck it up and get over it. Move on. We’ll fall in love with our children eventually. Worse yet, some of us are told depression is some sort of luxury the former generations did not have time with which to deal.

Next, we fight with the front desk folks at the doctor’s office who may tell us such things as “If you’re not suicidal, don’t call us until you are.” (And yes, shamefully, that DOES happen in real life).

We then level up to arguing with a doctor who may brilliantly tell us that our hormones should be back in order by now so of course it can’t be Postpartum Depression despite the fact that we just admitted several high risk symptoms to them. So we are referred to the therapist who calls and reschedules until we are exhausted and cancel altogether.

So we suck it up and try to make do on our own until the next baby when we completely fall apart and start the entire routine all over again. Only this time around, there is a little less resistance from family members and friends because they have seen you go through this before and realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t making it up this time around.

But we have to stay off the Internet because it’s a dangerous place for a woman with a PMAD to be – we will be judged for breastfeeding while taking medication or for giving formula because we have to medicate. We didn’t try hard enough to protect ourselves, there is something wrong with us. Damn straight there is something wrong with us – it’s an illness, it’s real, and it is hell.

Psychiatric stigma is bullshit. The divisiveness motherhood brings to a woman’s life is bullshit. Hell, sometimes just being a woman altogether is bullshit. Why we judge each other so harshly for our choices is so beyond me I don’t even know how to begin to understand why we do this. I’m serious – I truly do not understand the in-fighting or bickering.

It comes down to understanding one simple truth:

Each mother needs to do what is best for HER and for HER family. As long as she is doing just that, we do not need to judge, we do not need to place blame, stigma, guilt, or any other negative blanket upon her or her family.

The Internet can be a fabulous place for support if you end up surrounded by the right people and ignore the wrong people. It’s finding the wonderful people that is the challenge.

I have a simple dream, in closing. It’s a dream that one day, mothers of all sort of different beliefs, will be able to have a discussion about parenting without inadvertently reducing each other to panic attacks and/or tears because they’ve judged someone for doing something outside the realm of *their* comfort zone.

One day, right?

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Breastfeeding & PPD – What Advice Would You Give?


justtalkingtuesdaybuttonBreastfeeding is such a rocky road for those of us who struggle with a Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder, isn’t it?

We worry if it’s not going right. We worry about being put on meds. We worry if our babies are getting enough, we worry what people will think if we stop, we measure, we pump, we wonder about working, supply, the additional frustration of it all can really wear us down. Sure, a lot of our concern is the same as a mom who isn’t struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder but we also have to worry about how it’s affecting our PMAD or how it will affect baby if we decide to take meds.

I’ve been invited to participate in a telesummit with an organization focusing on encouraging breastfeeding mothers to take care of themselves properly. Of course they want to encourage and foster the breastfeeding relationship but you and I both know that sometimes, it doesn’t work out when a PMAD hops aboard the Motherhood train. Before agreeing to participate, I asked if they would be open to discussing the possibility that breastfeeding doesn’t go well if a PMAD shows up. They were very open to it, happily.

This is where you come in – of course I can share my own experiences and talk about how I know it’s gone for others in the past, but I’d really like to have the community chime in with their tales and share what worked for them, what didn’t work for them, and how to deal with the issues that crop up when it doesn’t work (because that guilt is like no other!) well.

Breastfeeding is one of two things when you have a PMAD, the one thing that’s going right, or the one thing that’s really exacerbating the issues at hand. I always advise mothers to do what’s best for THEM and their situation – and above all else, put their mental well-being ahead of themselves.

If you have any practical tips, ideas, stories, etc, to share, please post them in the comments. Tips on how to talk with your partner, doctor, a lactation consultant, etc, would be particularly welcome.

Can’t wait to hear from y’all!

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression – Again


A recent research article, posted by The Postpartum Stress Center on Facebook, looks into the relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding.

The findings? Women who breastfeed are less likely to experience postpartum depression.

Here’s what The Postpartum Stress Center had to say about the study on Facebook:

“Uh-oh. Here we go… research shows reciprocal relationship between PPD and breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed were more likely to have PPD and women with PPD were less likely to breastfeed. Now, that being said – this is NOT what I see in my clinical practice. In fact, we see more evidence of women feeling BETTER when they stop breastfeeding. For a number of reasons that vary from woman to woman. This is why it continues to be important that we read the studies, but not jump to conclusions that may not relate to each individual woman.”

Here’s my reaction:

Caveats:

  • Small study – only 137 women
  • Mentions employed mothers who were formula feeding but the abstract makes no mention of employed breastfeeding/pumping mothers.

As a blogger focused primarily on Postpartum Mood Disorders and emotional health for moms, this study raises my hackles.

I’ve blogged about the whole breastfeeding v. not-breastfeeding thing during a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder thing before – several times- and each time, I conclude the same thing.

YOU have to do what is BEST FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it doesn’t matter what the research says, it doesn’t matter what is best for baby food-wise. What matters here, the most, is that you are addressing your needs, healing, and doing so in a manner which alleviates the most stress and anxiety for you.

Your motherhood journey is just that – yours.

The only thing which matters is that you, your baby, and your family, are thriving. If your path includes breastfeeding, great. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. When you struggle with a mental illness, your emotional health absolutely comes before everything else –at least in my book it does.

If you wanted to breastfeed but find it’s too stressful because of your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, talk it over with your care-provider. Let them help you make your decision but don’t let them pressure you into continuing simply because the research claims breastfeeding is “protective” against PPD. Guess what? You’re already struggling. So unless breastfeeding is the ONE thing to which you’re clinging and the ONE thing which helps you heal, helps you feel like you matter, it’s OKAY to stop.

It’s okay to use formula.

Frankly, it’s sad we have to give ourselves permission not to breastfeed in this day and age. Moms use formula for a variety of reasons –as long as baby is growing, healthy, happy, and loved, it shouldn’t matter what form of nutrition is used.

So go. Do what feels best for you, for your family, and for your sanity –and don’t let anyone judge you for it.

Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication


Starting a family is no small decision. Expected or unexpected pregnancy involve major decisions and choices. How will you parent? How will you care for the child? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will you share responsibility equally? Attachment parenting? Extended breastfeeding? No breastfeeding? There are so many decisions to be made once a child enters your relationship. These decisions affect family dynamics and should not be made independently of your partner. They should be thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon. One of you may end up having to compromise but ultimately, you must do what is best for your child within your personal parenting philosophy, hopefully with a partner who sees along the same lines.

Parents these days have a bevy of knowledgeable resources available to help with their decisions regarding parenting. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, other parents, and just about everyone on the planet.

We all love to chime in on how others parent, don’t we? Especially with the explosion of social media. Judgment runs amok when a parent asks even the most innocent of questions.

Today, the NY Times posted a piece by James Daly which explores the effect of extended breastfeeding on a couple’s sex life. Daly states:

“Other men — me, for example — might be driven to engage in something even worse: sexless fidelity. Mine crystallized in Central Park one evening, while watching my wife sit under a tree with my older son, a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores, stretched out to roughly the size of a foal, suckling. By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon. There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.”

Breastfeeding is recommended for at least two years or beyond by WHO, exclusive nursing for the first 6 months with complementary foods added until two years. Now, the WHO code implies “beyond” is solely between the mother and child. While I don’t think Daly’s threat of infidelity based upon his wife’s choice of extended breastfeeding is kosher, I understand where he’s coming from.

A family, when a father is present, is not just a mother and child. All too often, the father’s needs and desires are often thrown out the window. He doesn’t matter and should shut up if he so much as voices any disagreement to how his wife chooses to raise their children, run the household, or anything else.

It’s not about who wears the pants in the relationship. Feminism doesn’t mean we get to make decisions without our partner. it means we are equal to them, not above them. Isn’t that what we fought for? Not to be beneath men? So why should they be beneath us and suddenly not matter? Where’s the victory in that?

Granted, women HAVE run things in the home and the childcare realm for quite some time. But more and more, men are involving themselves in these situations. Stay at home dads are increasing in number.

Sex is also an important aspect of a relationship. It’s how we’re intimate with our partners. It’s nurturing, releases hormones, stress, and brings us closer. Yes, intimacy IS possible without sex. However; intimacy is NOT possible without communication.

That’s where I believe this issue with Daly and his wife has broken down – at the communication level.

Clearly he’s not happy about his wife’s extended breastfeeding to the point of losing his appetite. Whether he’s actually considering infidelity or not is up in the air – he may just be using that as an example. I know that when I was breastfeeding, I was not terribly keen on my husband playing with my breasts. When I’m breastfeeding, my breasts are functional, not sexual.

What many men miss is that breasts are primarily designed to be functional, not sexual. Yes, breasts are visually appealing and nipple stimulation does provide sexual pleasure for many women, but ultimately, the breast is phenomenally designed to create and make milk to feed infants, a process which starts during pregnancy.

At the end of his piece, Daly states:

“I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”

Daly is right but he’s also wrong. The parent-parent bond IS important to the development of a child. But many successful children are raised by single parents. We’re specifically discussing a partnership here though so we’ll address this aspect. This goes back to what I stated earlier – when you decide to have a child, how that child is fed should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Granted, that doesn’t always happen as life does not occur in a vacuum. But Daly himself states that he SUPPORTS his wife’s choice to breastfeed their sons, thereby accepting the flashing of “mommaries” instead of the “mammaries” which allegedly attracted him to his wife in the first place.

Attraction should be comprised of several things –not just appearance and physical attributes– it should include intellectual capability, sense of humor, communication skills, compassion, etc. There’s a reason eHarmony is so successful –they don’t just toss the physical at you. (not a sponsored mention.)

Physical fades. It changes. Your spouse/partner may have medical conditions (mental or physical) which impede sexual interaction. What then? If you don’t have any other basis for attraction to your spouse/partner, you’re screwed, and not in the way you desire. But is that justification for infidelity?

No.

Daly and his wife need to have a discussion about the state of their relationship because for now, I have a feeling he’s going to see a lot more of the “mommaries” than the “mammaries” if he fails to vocalize his feelings about his wife’s extended breastfeeding of their sons.

You could argue that extended breastfeeding has amazing benefits – nurturing, intellectual, etc. But you could also argue, as Daly does, extended breastfeeding impinges on the sexual relationship and therefore the intimacy of the parent-parent bond.

Here’s the thing – if your parent-parent bond relies solely on sexual interaction and seeing her “mammaries” instead of her “mommaries”? Your relationship may not have the best foundation.

Communication. THAT’S where intimacy starts. Daly should give it a shot.

TIME Magazine fails to support mothers


When Jamie Grumet was tapped for an interview and photo-shoot for the most recent issue of TIME magazine, her goal was not to raise our hackles. Her goal, according to a Q&A at Time was: “There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.” Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/10/q-a-with-jamie-lynne-grumet/#ixzz1uUnnAmrE

I have to say —I kind of agree with Jamie— but I disagree with about where the judgment is originating. For instance, this weekend is Mother’s Day weekend. Instead of celebrating motherhood for the amazing and difficult job it is –regardless of your approach– TIME magazine instead chooses to share an incredibly divisive article with an even more divisive headline, “Are you MOM Enough.” The real title, as accessed at their website is: “The Man Who Remade Motherhood.”

As for the photographer, Martin Schoeller, who took the photo, in an article focusing on “Behind the Cover,” he stated: “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.” He also further stated, “It was important to show that there’s no stereotypical look for a mom who practices this kind of parenting.” Oh Martin. There’s no stereotypical Mom either – aside from, you know, a woman who has a child. Beyond that though, everything is up for grabs.

It’s time to stop judging each other for our choices. To stop allowing the media to get us all riled up. To stop thinking “Am I Mom Enough?” You are. No “as long as…” attached. There are, of course, mothers who don’t even try, mothers who have truly given up and are absent. But we’re not discussing mothers who are absent. We’re talking about mothers who give enough of a damn to raise their hackles in response to an article like this.

I don’t want to play the game anymore. But, as a mom who blogs and actively supports mothers who struggle with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders, I feel I would be remiss in not addressing this topic.

Mothers, all of us, are different. We are unique in our approach to how we mother our children. These philosophies are rooted in how we are raised, how we relate to our partner, how our children relate to us, and the needs of our children. We adjust our lives in order to provide the best for our children with the resources we have and the beliefs which live deep within our hearts. If your children are secure, happy, and loved, there really isn’t any issue as to what your parenting philosophy is or if it’s any better than the mom next door.

All that matters is that what you’re doing WORKS FOR YOU.

This weekend, don’t wonder if you’re Mom enough.

KNOW you are. And know I love you for it.