As was previously published in Island Parent Magazine.
With recent media coverage of the death of New Westminister mom Florence Leung to suicide—as a result of postpartum depression (PPD)—I’ve been thinking about how important awareness is and how many moms might have symptoms when their children are older as well.
“Postpartum Depression and Anxiety generally affects women who have given birth in the past year,” writes Randy Shore in an article in the Vancouver Sun, following Leung’s death. “Between 50 and 80 per cent of new mothers suffer from a mild depression, or ‘baby blues,’ within days or weeks of giving birth, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.”
However, it seems to me that it’s not uncommon to hear of postpartum depression that’s “lasted” or maybe even gotten worse past the child’s one year mark.
Symptoms typically include sadness, guilt, hopelessness and irritability.
I’ve been lucky enough to have great support circles including friends to chat with and parents who step up and help out when the going gets tough. This is extremely important.
Aside from my support circles, I’ve never had to seek outside help, however I have felt the blues following the birth of both my children, which I mostly blamed on the drastic change in my lifestyle as well as hormones. I think a good majority of moms experience this.
However, I’ve also felt sadness (along with a whole range of feelings) more often lately now that my children are older, two and a half and five.
The stress around parenting tripled after I started my own business, plus my children were both at challenging ages behaviour-wise.
At this stage I try to avoid restaurants, grocery stores, and people’s houses who don’t have children—which is sometimes hard to accept. I am usually forced to work during naptimes and after their bedtime.
I’m also a clean freak and extremely organized. And, well—you guessed it—it’s nearly impossible to keep the house in order when you have children. I have a hard time functioning without order, so imagine how I feel on days when I have a big to-do list and my house looks like a tornado blew through?
So how do I get through these moments?
I call my mom. I text a friend. I tell them how I’ve been feeling. I will drop the kids off with their grandparents to go for a hike with friends so I can clear my head. That is a great reminder to myself that I can accomplish something and my life doesn’t completely revolve around my children.
I savour every second of quiet lunches at my favourite café when my kids are in daycare.
An important factor is that I’ve created a good circle of friends and have worked on strong ties with my family.
My advice to women who are well past the typical postpartum stage but who are still feeling the blues, don’t think you shouldn’t be feeling that way. Make connections with other parents, at, say, a playgroup such as Mother Goose at the library, Strong Start at elementary schools or Healthy Beginnings at a health centre.
Also, find activities you know the kids will enjoy, something that’s not stressful for you.
The times when I’m feeling the most stressed—which typically turns into feeling sad—are days when I’ve pushed the boundaries, done too much to try and please people, or met someone at a place where I knew wouldn’t be a great atmosphere for the kids.
Just admitting you’re feeling the blues, however, will be the first step toward feeling better. It’s not always easy, but just know that you are not alone. Chances are, lots of other moms feel the same way at one time or another, but are reluctant to say so, too. Just starting the conversation might help both of you—and, in turn, all of us.