Recently, a news story about a young mother going missing has had me thinking about her, someone I’ve never met, constantly. In an instant, the most painful and heart wrenching time of my life came rushing back into my mind. A time in my life that was supposed to be the most wonderful, joy-filled, blissed out time. After my first baby was born I was not ok. I pretended to be alright for almost nine long lonely months. Pretending was exhausting, and for a severely sleep deprived new mother it took all my energy to face every single day. When things were at their worst, I woke up day after day not knowing if I could do it all again. I know what it feels like to want to walk away and leave it all behind, it’s terrifying, and in desperate times it can seem like a really good option. At one point I thought they’d be better off without me, that me going away would truly be the best case for everyone.
I want you all to know that it is possible for things to get better. I know how unconvincing that can sound to someone in the thick of it, I can’t tell you how many times I heard people tell me that. It took a very, very long time to believe it could get better. And let me tell you, it really did, it got so much better. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t a fast fix, but I know now that I grew more in those months after getting help then I had in my whole adult life. With the understanding and love of my family, an incredible support group, medication, and cognitive behavioral therapy, I emerged back into the world.
My heart is heavy knowing that there are women, fellow mothers, out there right now suffering in silence. How can we make it easier to get them the help they need? How can we lessen the ridiculously high standards we have for new mothers? How can we keep them and their families safe?
If you are suffering, I urge you to reach out, talk to a friend, talk to someone. We won’t think you are crazy, or that you’re a bad mom. Asking for help makes you HUMAN. We are not meant to do this alone. There are people that will help you through this, we will support you on your good days AND your bad days. There are kind people in this world, we are here for you. Please, reach out and know that it can definitely get better.
Sending out love and unwavering hope.
Pacific Postpartum Support Society
The Squamish chapter of La Leche League Canada meets monthly, Whether you are expecting a baby, breastfeeding a new or older baby, weaning, looking for information, struggling with unexpected challenges or wanting to meet other breastfeeding Mothers, La Leche League may be just what you are looking for.
We meet on the second Thursday of each month at the Squamish Academy of Music, located downtown Squamish at 38121 Second Ave. from 10:30am to 12:00pm. At our meetings we discuss all breastfeeding related topics; from how and why to breastfeed, family life with a new baby, practical breastfeeding tips, nutrition, weaning and much more. Bring your breastfeeding questions and concerns, joys and challenges to share, or just listen if you prefer.
All La Leche League accredited Leaders are volunteers. We are experienced breastfeeding Mothers who are trained to provide up-to-date breastfeeding information, encouragement and support. There may be times when you will want some telephone help from an experienced breastfeeding Mother. Call a La Leche League Leader, she will be happy to answer your questions. I am very proud that I am our local Leader, and I'd be happy to hear from you. Call me, Kimberly, at 604-722-0108 and we'll talk through your challenges. Come to a meeting, feel the support of other Mothers, you will find a community of support and are encouraged to exchange phone numbers with other Mothers to start building your village. It's never too soon to start building a great support network with other Mothers!
When I attended the first births after my initial doula training, I could never have imaged where that would lead. I was pretty green, adorably naive, and ready for anything...so I thought. Now years later, and after the last few weeks of back to back births I wish I could tell that brand new doula...this work will fill your heart, and it will also break it. Being part of one of the most powerful events of a family's life is something I can safely say, I am ready for and well prepared for. It's the rest of the ride and the surprises that birth always seems to have in store that have rocked me to my core and forced me to grow in ways I never knew I could. It's these surprises that allow me to keep learning, to be humble, and to be strong. No one told me how hard it would be. The idea of being a doula was undoubtably romanticized in my head all those years ago. The idea of holding a woman's hand as she labors, wiping her brow, reassuring the partner that "this is normal" and then letting out a group exhale when the baby arrives and starts crying out a birth song, that all seems so lovely. If only it was always that simple.
This work is something that I do because something deep inside draws me to it, even through the most heart wrenching births, I keep doing it. Family holidays are planned only when I'm off-call, dinner parties, birthday parties, coffee dates, meetings, they all come with the caveat of "as long as I'm not at a birth". And when I end up "at a birth", I'm all in. Being fully invested also means being vulnerable. It's hard not to invest a little piece of my heart with the birthing family. Breathing through contractions together, watching her swollen belly tighten and then release, saying something encouraging, or nothing at all, I'm there. Offering sips of water, a smile, a knowing glance before she closes her eyes to rest until the next contractions rises up again, and again, and again...I'm there. Sometimes, when I'm tucking the hair behind her ear and it's been a long journey and I miss my own family I think, I just hope that one day when my own daughter is birthing her babies that someone is there to tenderly tuck her hair behind her ear and just sit next to her and be there for her. There's an instant love for a birthing women that brews every time my phone rings and the voice on the other end says "it's time, can you be with us now?". The Mother in me cares for birthing women with the same heart I care for my own babies with.
As Mothers, we are given many opportunities to dig deep and get through the challenges. I can only think of myself as being lucky to have been there to love some of those Mothers while they were starting their journeys with the births of their babies. It's those moments that are worth a thousand nights on a pull out chair bed.
Originally posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
This was a pretty huge question in our house as we anticipated the arrival of our second baby. We had plenty of conversations about it and were open with our birth team about our concerns. One of the things we saw as a positive was that we now know the signs, the way that I deal with anxiety and depression. We’ve also built up our ‘village’ and I’ve gotten over feeling awkward asking for help (for the most part). We also did our best to prepare Bean for what was to come but how could we truly prepare a two year old for her whole world getting rocked once her sibling arrived? Having made it through postpartum depression we were ready for anything, we kept ourselves open to whatever was to come our way and surrendered with intention to a new family dynamic...
Sampson arrived three weeks ago today and yes, our whole world has changed. The first few days were really tough on Bean, and my patience with her was pretty thin. I remember one particular morning very clearly - after a bit of whining and then more whining followed by a full blown tantrum I scooped her up in my arms and took her to her room. She held her little arms around me so tightly and I hugged her back with all my heart. We sat on her bed hugging and crying for quite a while, even thinking about the desperation I felt from her in that hug now makes me cry. That’s when I started to question my abilities to mother these two little miracles. Then the overwhelming weight of guilt set in for the evening. As I tried to relax in the tub my sister came up to check on me and we talked... She has three babies of her own and so I consider her a vet with this stuff. She assured me that this phase would pass and that it had nothing to do with my abilities as a mother. I tried to believe her. Now, weeks later I’m not trying anymore, I do believe her. As much as I was terrified that I would end up spiraling downward I actually feel more confident and calm than I have in a long long time. I’m learning as I go but with a new found sense of openness.
There have been so many magical moments since Sampson arrived, seeing my two children interact and watching Bean’s curiosity with Sampson is so precious. It is different this time, it’s better, much better - I can feel it in my gut. This time things will be alright.
Originally posted on Friday, August 3, 2012
Changing from a family of two to a family of three was the biggest adjustment of ours lives to date. And now we are about to add another baby to the mix . . . near the end of the month we will be a family of four. As excited as we are we are very aware that our needs will change, each one of us as an individual will be going through an adjustment of our own and will need each other to help make it through. I have been basking in the quiet time Bean and I share, usually after her nap when she wants to snuggle in with me and have “more bitty in the big bed mama”. I know this little routine will change and hopefully it will become a time when Bean and baby can both snuggle in with me.
Thinking of the changes ahead I am reminded of when Bean came into our lives and the huge adjustment our relationship went through. After our families had gone home and we were on our own it took a long time for us to adjust. Not realizing/admitting that I was feeling completely overwhelmed (I’d been around babies my whole life, why was this so much harder?!) I started to envy my husband when he left for work. It didn’t seem fair that I had to wait until he got home to eat with two hands or take a shower, and how was I supposed to go to the bathroom without him there to take Bean?! Wow, thinking back on these things now I am shaking my head - “put Bean down in a safe place and take a ten minute shower” is just one of the things I would say to that scared new mom.
Our marriage has been tested, in my darkest moments with postpartum depression I was so incredibly mean to the man I adore and love, I am grateful that he has such broad shoulders and such a huge heart. It wasn’t until I finally got over the shame of admitting that I had ppd that we were able to make sense of my wild moods and deal with things together. We still need a reminder now and then but having been through ppd we feel so much more prepared and aware this time around, not to mention so much stronger as a unit. Yes, our family dynamic will change again but this time we are ready for the change, really ready. Thanks to our 6 second kiss a day (something I saw online that we are implementing into our day) our connection is becoming sturdier everyday.
My hope is that other new moms are able to share with their partners that it can be a real struggle some days. I know that there are days when you need a little extra TLC, even if it’s just a hug when you feel like crumbling. One of the many goals of our group is to support new moms who feel that they can’t share their feelings with their partners. The right support can make a world of difference and we are offering a non-judgmental safe place for new moms to share these feelings. I can’t say this enough . . . IT WILL GET BETTER
Originally posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2012
At the risk of sounding naive...
After reading an article on how breastfeeding advocacy can make moms who must or choose to use formula feel looked down upon I am once again reminded of when Bean was new and the tremendous pressure I felt to do everything ‘right’.
From pregnancy to birth and then to taking care of a newborn we avoided most common interventions. We were the cloth diapering, baby wearing, breastfeeding, bed-sharing family who researched what we were curious about and made informed decisions. So how did I end up with postpartum depression?! Well, in my never ending quest to be the perfect mama I felt like I had to choose one parenting method over another. I felt like it was all or nothing. Crunchy organic mamas vs. conventional ‘trust the medical system’ mamas.
By openly breastfeeding I am doing what works for us, not trying to make other moms feel inadequate. By sharing that we still bed-share I’m not saying that you’re being a neglectful parent if your little one sleeps in their own room. There is so much pressure on new mamas as it is I wish the judging amongst us would stop. We are all trying to do what is best for our families, we all need support, we all need to show our children that understanding one another is important. So let’s sing a round of ‘kumbaya’ and just get along already.
Originally posted on Sunday, July 8, 2012
No matter how many times I think I have a good handle on all things Mama I am reminded that I could only be where I am with the “village” of support that surrounds me.
This past weekend I was able to be a part of something magical, I call it magical because of the happy ending and the feeling of pure goodness I was left with. Having a sisterhood of Mamas (the “village”) was the foundation. From one phone call to an email, a few texts and more phone calls I was able to facilitate an exchange of pure giving, one Mama offering her breast milk to another Mama. With my own pregnancy hormones flowing I was overwhelmed by this beautiful exchange. These women have never met, they may never, but they have made such an impact on each other. They have added another person to their “villages” and when it comes to raising our babies a strong village can mean the world to each Mama at different times.
Originally posted on Monday, July 2, 2012
Birth, one of life’s most epic moments, and so unpredictable. For some Moms having a hard time adjusting after baby arrives can be in part due to the way baby actually arrived. As a Doula I am well aware of the unforeseen path of birth and have been with many families who experienced something completely opposite of what they had in mind. In my own experience our first baby had a birth plan of her own and we were blessed with a wonderfully supportive birth team who encouraged us through every step. I pray that every woman is made to feel as I did - I floated on a cloud of love and strength. This is one of the reasons I continue to support families during their births, I feel that every woman should have the chance to have a positive birth experience. We had a considerable sized team...My husband was the ultimate protector, my sister the endless fountain of love, Jenn had constant faith in my ability to birth this baby, Andrea had the touch of an angel and the most beautifully calm energy and our midwife gave us all the confidence to persevere.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be without all that love during a birth but some births take a path of their own and don’t allow for much tenderness. Both Mom and babe need to heal afterwards, bonding is important and helping Mom understand and accept her birth is a huge step in her gaining strength in her ability and confidence in herself as a strong mother. I would love to see a sisterhood of Moms sharing and healing their birth stories to then move forward and shine as the wondrous women they have become in their new role as ‘mother’. We need to support each other and our births, the more respect we give each other the more our babies will grow up to be admirable human beings who can be excited about birth, not afraid and fearful of it.
Originally posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Saying “no” can be just as hard as asking for help. Knowing that as a new mom we’ll need to set some boundaries might cross our minds but until it comes down to it, we can be really good at being nice at our own expense. Family and friends that just can’t wait to see new baby come with enthusiasm and usually focus on babe. When this happened with our first a few things crossed my mind.... 1. I should really be a good hostess and have tea and snacks ready when they arrive 2. I sure hope my house looks clean enough for company 3. Have I brushed my teeth yet? ... then I thought about how silly it was to think that my guests would be expecting a picture perfect 1950’s housewife to open the door with the smell of fresh baking wafting through the air, baby contently cooing in the bassinet, to a spotless house. This is also when I thought that saying ‘no’ to well meaning guests was best. Baby was brand new, we were still getting to know each other, no one in our house was getting a humane amount of sleep and now was not the time to be entertaining guests. We needed to enjoy our ‘babymoon’ and to protect our precious first few weeks together.
As a birth doula I often ask parents to consider who they would like to visit after their birth and when they want visitors to come - if any. If you are tired and worn out (you’ve just birthed a baby - that’s equivalent to running a marathon) you’ll want to rest and take some time to yourself. Having your partner protect your precious space can be helpful so you’re not doing more than you have to. This extends for many months postpartum, if you need rest and just can’t have play-date at your house this week it’s ok to say no. Most of your new parent friends will get it, most of them have been there themselves. Don’t worry about being selfish, think of it as being self-loving. You’re doing a huge amount of work as a new mom and deserve a little rest and relaxation!
Originally posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Why is it so hard to ask for help? As a new Mama I did my research, made informed decisions and tried my hardest to follow my instincts, I wanted to be perfect. I’ve made mistakes and will make more but now I am ok with asking for help when I need it, one of many lessons I am learning on this journey.
Sometimes I get jealous thinking about how much support my own mother (the beautiful woman in the picture above) had. Her mom lived down the street (it was awesome growing up with Grandma that close!) she had Aunts, sisters - she had a “village”. When we moved to Squamish I knew a couple of my husband’s friends, some of which were not yet parents and all of whom were more of his friends than mine. Needless to say I was pretty isolated with our little six month old baby in a new town. I have never missed my mom so much in all my life. I would have given a limb to have her close, there were many days when I cried because I just wanted her to reassure me it was going to be ok, I just needed a mom hug. It was the same story with my sister, if I could have flown her out here for a couple months or better yet, convince her to move her family out here (still working on that) I would be alright, right?
Building your own “village” takes time, takes courage to reach out and takes guts to ask for help. IT’S OK TO NEED HELP! I know that new moms asking for help only ever want the best for their babies, I think it makes you a better mom to be able to ask for help. We have a ton of pressure on us to be strong independent women. Once we become mothers that pressure increases. Becoming a mother doesn’t automatically make us all knowing creatures who can nurture our babies, it’s a learning experience, just like anything new we take on in our lives. So if there is one piece of advice I would give to new mamas it would be that it’s ok to ask for help. No one has to do it alone, we need each other - we’re all human. Sometimes we lean, sometimes we are the support for someone else to lean on, building a strong sisterhood of mamas starts with asking for help.
It will get easier.