Don’t Be Decoy Mom


Colourful jars sit atop a shelf in a misty and humid room. Running water slides down her skin as she lathers up with the latest in moisturizing body wash which promises to make her skin glow with youth. She washes her hair with shampoo and conditioner to make it thick, silky, and soft.

As she exits the shower, the drying process begins – softly – so as not to leave any red marks or heaven forbid, pull skin in the wrong direction. Pat the face dry then move down to her toes. She folds the towel in thirds and places it neatly back on the rod before she wraps her hair in a smaller towel.

Grabbing a toothbrush, she measures out the whitening toothpaste and gets to work. Rinses, then gargles with mouthwash to ensure bad breath stays at bay. Then, moisturizer. While that soaks in, she puts on her undergarments. A bra with an underwire and underwear that promises to hold in the stomach which has nurtured the lives of her children close for the past few years. She frowns. Back to the bathroom.

She reaches for the first layer of glow, then dots on concealer. Waits for it to dry before applying an overall foundation and gently blending it together to hide the exhaustion and stress marching across her face. Next up, eye liner and eye shadow. They make the eyes more open and energetic. Mascara goes on next, gently, the kind that lengthens the lashes because again, more awake and conscious. Less tired.

Then she puts on blush to cheer her cheeks up, smiling as she carefully brushes up, not down – happy, not sad, she whispers to herself.

She takes down her hair and gives it a tousle. Plugs in the hair dryer and gives her hair a once over, then pulls it into a messy bun. Walks into the closet and chooses whatever isn’t wrinkled or covered in baby food stains. Grabs a pretty pair of heels then over to the jewelry box to select accessories.

A small hand tugs on her skirt and she looks down.

“Mama? You look beee-yooo-tea-fah. Hug?” her middle daughter asks, covered in chocolate from whatever snack she just finished devouring.

So the mother leans down and gives the child a hug, knowing she will have to change her clothes. She sends her daughter on her way, and walks back into the closet, stripping as she goes. A new outfit selected, she makes it to the car with no child-induced stains on her pretty clothes.

She turns the key, unlocks the door, and slides into the driver’s seat, throwing her miniature purse on the passenger seat beside her. Exhaling, she checks her makeup one last time to be sure she looks human and not like some exhausted creature just waking up from hibernation. She doesn’t. She turns the key, starts the music, and backs out of the driveway.

Transformation into Decoy Mom complete.

Decoy Mom is a mom who goes through great lengths to hide how her life is really going – every stitch must be perfect, every thing in it’s place, nothing negative to be found anywhere. And yet, inside, everything is falling apart. Her heart, her life, her soul – it’s all cracked and crumbling.

I’m not saying that a Mom who has it all pulled together is definitively falling apart. Nor am I saying that a Mom who doesn’t have it all pulled together is well. What I am saying is that we are all “covers” when we are with people and some of us are even “covers” when we are alone. We choose what pieces of ourselves to share and what pieces of ourselves to hide. We are not expected to fully share ourselves with anyone unless WE choose to do so, either. But we should absolutely be at least fully sharing ourselves with ourselves. In order to be authentic with anyone at all, you have to first be authentic with yourself.

Stop hiding behind a mask, telling yourself lies about who or what you are inside and outside. Take a hard look inside. Explore. Make a list of everything that is there whether it is good or bad. Work to improve or reframe the bad (sometimes, negative traits can be utilized for positive things – are you firm & harsh? Figure out how to rein that in by using compassion and understanding). Expand the good.

Figure out what you want out of life this year, make a list, then break it down into smaller goals. Don’t let the big things overwhelm you and don’t let yourself become Decoy Mom. Be the authentic Mom, wife, sister, cousin, aunt, and YOU that you were meant to be. Stop hiding her under layers of crap. You might find that you have more time to BE you if you give up all the hiding.

 

 

#PPDChat Topic: 08.02.10


Just Talkin’ Tuesday 06.08.10: How do you talk with your kids about Postpartum Depression?


First, apologies for this being late. Summer break, a new family schedule, a blah day yesterday and then Internet connectivity issues today have all come into play. Starting next month, I’m going to work on planning a whole month’s worth of posts focused on one topic. So if there are any specific questions you’d like to have answered, send them to ppdacceptance(@)gmail.com. Maybe YOUR question will be a Just Talkin’ Tuesday post soon!

Looking back, I have realized our older daughter experienced a lot of things at 23 months old no child should ever experience. My husband and I yelling and screaming at each other because we were not communicating, Mommy collapsing in the floor as she wailed because something minor set me off, snapping at her for nothing at all, trapped in the house because we could never leave it, feeling abandoned as we went to Atlanta to be with Charlotte (don’t worry y’all – we had family members caring for her – not like we tossed her some cookies in her bed and wished her the best of luck!), and just the overall instability a Postpartum Mood Disorder drags with it into the household.

When we discovered our third pregnancy we decided things had to have a different focus. Instead of preparing things for the baby, we would need to prepare ourselves for the baby. By this time I had been doing advocacy work for just a few months and running a support group for nearly 4 months. I read, researched, picked a local OB known for his attention to women after delivery, and poured my heart and soul into the development of a personalized Postpartum Mental Health Plan.

Our girls, then nearly 4 and 2, sat in the middle of this potential storm. How could we best prepare them for the firestorm?

We waited until 8 months or so into the pregnancy. At every meal we would bring up Postpartum Mood Disorders. Yes, they got sick of hearing about it. But what we did worked well for us.

The conversation went something like this:

“Mommy wants to talk to you about something.”

Daughter 1: “Yes, mama?”

Daughter 2: plays with her food

“You know how you’re getting a new baby brother?”

Daughter 1: “Ahuh. And he’s gonna be so much fun and…”

Daughter 2: shoves food to one side of her plate.

“Well, sometimes, after mommies have babies, they get really super duper sad. And it’s not anyone’s fault.”

Daughter 1: “Sad? Why sad?”

Daughter 2: working on moving food back to the OTHER side of her plate.

“Well, no one really knows why yet. They just do. And like I said, it’s not anyone’s fault. Not the Mama’s, not the daddy’s, not the children’s fault, and not the baby’s fault. Got it?”

Daughter 1: “Got it.”

Daughter 2: is now parting her food as if it were the Red Sea.

“So who’s fault is it if a Mommy gets sad after she has a baby?”

Daughter 1: “The Mommy’s.”

*sigh* “No… it’s not anybody’s fault! It just happens.”

Daughter 1: “Oh. Not anybody’s fault?”

Daughter 2: Contemplating a spoonful of food at eye level.

“That’s right! Not anybody’s fault!!!”

“So – if that happens to Mommy and she gets sad, let’s think of some ways you can help mommy cheer up.”

Daughter 1: “Okay. I can tickle you. That will make you smile!”

Daughter 2: Attempting to eat said food. Instead creating a river of oatmeal down her chin.

“I like that! So if you see mommy sad or upset you can come tickle me, okay pumpkin?”

Daughter 1: “Really? I can? Yay!!!” cue really big goofy toddler grin.

Daughter 2: now smearing river of oatmeal on table. I’ve given up.

“So who’s fault is it?”

Daughter 1: “NOBODY’S!”

“And what are you going to do to help mommy if she gets sad?”

Daughter 1: “TICKLE YOU!”

And off we giggled into the sunset as a river of oatmeal flooded the plains.

But seriously – see what we did? We had a completely age appropriate discussion about Postpartum Depression. It really sunk in because if I looked sad after our son was born, my daughter really DID tickle me. So totally adorable.

As for the flip side – telling your children about your own experience with Postpartum Depression you had with them is a completely different ball game. Sure, I have share with them some of it but again, it’s in an age appropriate manner. They know mommy spends so much time on the computer because she helps women who are sad after they have babies. They have seen me cry when I’ve been touched by a story or a tragedy. And my oldest knows enough to know that if she ever has Postpartum Depression, she needs to talk to mommy cuz mommy knows what she’s doing. I hope and pray neither one of them experience this hell but with my experience, their risk goes up. So I feel I owe it to them to educate myself as much as possible, be as open as possible, and let them know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are NOT alone.

SO let’s get to Just Talkin’ here. Did you have older kids when you experienced your Postpartum Mood Disorder? Were you able to prepare them? If not, how did they react to your Postpartum experience? How did you talk with them about what was going on with Mommy? And here’s a doozy – will you ever tell your child the full unfiltered and uncensored story about what happened? Or will you continue to tell them in general terms about Postpartum Mood Disorders? (I’m still on the fence about whether or not I’ll share full details with them – if I ever write a book I suppose there’s no turning back then, right?)

I can’t wait to discuss this with y’all!

Sharing the Journey with My Husband


As I sit here having just read this interview, I am blown away by how far we have truly come since the birth of our first child. We have overcome so much and I know it is because neither one of us is afraid of staring adversity in the eye. Chris and I met November 2000 while we worked at the same company. We’ve been inseparable ever since, no matter what the storm brought to our world. Relying on each other’s strengths and shoring up each other’s weaknesses, we’ve managed to build an extremely strong marriage that has been tested time and again in the short six years of wedded partnership. And you know what? We’ve come out of each storm stronger and closer than before. There’s a quote by Louisa Alcott:  “I am not afraid of the storm for I am learning to sail my ship.” Together we are not afraid of the storm and have slowly begun to master sailing our ship through whatever mighty waves come our way. I hope you enjoy this honest and compassionate look into my PPD experience from my husband’s perspective.

Would you share your experience of watching the woman you love suffer from Postpartum Depression? What were some of the emotions you went through as you watched me spiral downward and what was the hardest part for you?

Wow, thats tough. I guess it is hard because I have blocked that out of my mind. I think the best way to answer that question is to just explain what PPD looks like from the outside from the perspective of someone who is uneducated in the signs, because that is where I was when it all began. Honestly I really didn’t know what to think. All I knew is that the woman that I married and loved was gone. You were reclusive and moody most of the time. All I really wanted to do is just tell you to snap out of it, and I think that I did a couple of times. I thought you had become lazy and selfish. I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was more of a problem with lack of motivation and lack of discipline. It made me angry. After our second daughter was born, I had educated myself. I found that even though I got frustrated with you, I understood. I probably didn’t show it all the time, because I had my own stresses going on with sixty hour work weeks and the hospitalization of our daughter. The hardest part of it all though was watching you hurt. I just wanted so bad for you to be happy and it just didn’t seem to happen.

Looking back, would you agree that the lack of diagnosis/treatment of my first episode compounded my second episode?

Definitely. I actually believe that it just carried over into the second pregnancy. You never really recovered from the first episode. It wasn’t until nearly a year after the birth of Charlotte that I even began to recognize you as the same woman that I married.

You recognized my PP OCD the second time around well before I was able to admit there was a problem. In fact, you even made the call to my OB’s office for initial treatment. What were some of the warning signs that alerted you to the beginnings of this episode?

You had become anti-social. You were sad most of the time. You did a lot of cleaning, and please don’t take this the wrong way because you really are a great housewife, but neither one of us is Mary Poppins when it comes to keeping the house clean. What really tipped me off though was that you just didn’t seem well. You wanted to sleep a lot and you also seemed to snap very easily at the smallest things.

My hospitalization absolutely frightened me but ultimately became the turning point in my recovery. Would you share your memories and feelings surrounding my hospitalization?

Honestly, I was scared to death as well. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was working sixty hour work weeks with a two year old and newborn at home and I didn’t know how I was going to take care of them. And how would I juggle having to make the hour drive back and forth to the hospital that you were in to bring you the things that you would need and to get milk for Charlotte? I didn’t know how long you would be there. I was really scared. I was also concerned for you. I love you and didn’t want to see you hurting. I was also thankful for the fact that you were getting the help you needed. When you called me at work and told me that you were having intrusive thoughts, I couldn’t get home fast enough. Who knows what the outcome would have been had you not gone to the hospital that day? That thought still crosses my mind today. I am so grateful that you understood the severity of your problem and took the help that was given to you. I think it all goes back to education.

We worked very hard together to prevent PPD after Cameron’s birth. What were some of the differences in how we approached the postpartum period this time around?

Well, I know that you took antidepressants during your pregnancy, but we also had a set of written guidelines as to what to look for and for how we would respond if certain events took place. We tried to educate (there’s that word again) our families about the signs to look for and also what were the right and wrong things to say and do in the event that PPD reared it’s head again. During your second bout with PPD I really think that we were better educated, but our families were not. This caused a lot of tension and strife. With the whole family knowing what to look for, it helped make everyone sympathetic to the situation. Boy do I wish we had that in place when in the throes of your second episode.

What is the biggest lesson you feel you’ve learned from my PP OCD episodes?

I always viewed mental illness as something that happened to other people. I viewed people with mental illness as weird or abnormal. The biggest thing I learned is that mental illness can strike anyone, at any time. I suffer from ADHD, depression and anxiety and would have never sought help with my issues had I not educated myself about yours.

What has it been like to watch me grow from mother suffering from PPD to the PPD Advocate I am today?

First I would like to say how proud I am of you. You have turned adversity into triumph. I have been amazed at the transformation. Most people just take their hard knocks and then move on, but you have taken up a cause and have made a difference in other peoples lives. I am inspired and in awe. I love you and encourage to keep up the great work that you are doing.

Share with us what you find to be most challenging about fatherhood. The Least challenging.

I have always been a rather impatient person. Fatherhood is teaching me patience. That is a challenge since I tend to want instant results. Maybe that is just the ADHD in me. Kids sort of move at their own pace, and I have learned that they are learning all along the way. To rush them along is not only detrimental to their growth and development, but it is also unfair to steal those learning experiences away from them. The least challenging is loving those precious kids. I just can’t seem to get enough of them and can’t give enough hugs and kisses. That is not a challenge at all.

How important do you feel it is to hold onto a sense of self once you become a parent? What are some ways a father can provide some much needed alone time?

You must know who you are before you can help someone else, namely your children, discover who they are. The best way to do that is to have some “me time”. It is very difficult to get when you are a parent between diaper changes and cleaning mud (or other mud like substances) off the walls, but is essential. Sometimes I will stay up late to get some alone time or will go to the store. Don’t forget though that you and your spouse need some time together too. Also, it is ok to ask your wife to take the kids for a few hours while you go get some coffee. Just remember though that you need to provide her with that same luxury as well. Ask the Grandparents to take the kids too. Even if it is just for an hour or two, you and your spouse can have a nice dinner or just go home and work on some of those household projects that you have on your “honey do” list.

And last but not least, if you had one piece of advice to give an expectant father (new or experienced), what would it be?

Educate, educate and when it’s all through educate some more. You can never fully prepare yourself for everything that fatherhood throws at you, but knowing some of what to expect takes a lot of the anxiety away and relieves a lot of the stress on you and your spouses relationship

Shirley & Marcy


A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school.

He didn’t want his mother to walk with him.

She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe.

So she had an idea of how to handle it.

She asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn’t notice her.

She said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.

The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor girl he knew.

She did this for the whole week. As the two walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy’s little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week.

Finally she said to Timmy, ‘Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week?  Do you know her?’

Timmy nonchalantly replied, ‘Yeah, I know who she is.’

 The little girl said, ‘Well, who is she?’

‘That’s just Shirley Goodnest,’ Timmy replied, ‘and her daughter Marcy.’

‘Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us? ‘

‘Well,’ Timmy explained, ‘every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, ‘cuz she worries about me so much.

And in the Psalm, it says, ‘Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow  me all the days of my life’, so I guess I’ll just have to get used to  it!’
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

May Shirley Goodnest and Marcy be with you today and always.