PPD into the Toddler Years

 

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.

Ash Degraaf

www.islandparent.ca

 

Poor Me, The Pity Party Playdate

 

I've noticed recently posts or articles where moms open up about being overwhelmed seem to be the ones with the most comments and shares on social media. 

That's likely because they're not only relatable but also reassuring. I enjoy reading them. It's oddly humbling to hear other moms feeling like they might have their own meltdown or hit their breaking point. 

However, on one end I do find some parents can often pity themselves too often. I am guilty as charged. 

I've been thinking about this ever since a friend said when he was over visiting awhile ago:

Everyone is busy. Everyone has it tough. It seems like everyone is competing for the, ‘I’m the busiest and have it the hardest title.’

The same can be said when you look at just parenting on its own. We’re all running off our feet, whether we have one, two or 10 children (OK no one has 10 kids anymore).

Pity parties often happen during playdates, probably because it's the one and only chance you get to vent with other parents who understand, sympathize and might actually be considerate. 

Sorry, but grandparents don't often quite get it as they're well past the tantrum days. Their grandkids can do no wrong. And friends without children, they can be great listeners but they're just not there yet. 

Sometimes I feel like rants can take over and even sometimes ruin what could have been a fun visit.  

I will realize often when I get in the car after to leave, 'Geez, I must have sounded like a Debbie Downer.'

When you're ready to dive into a major vent about how hard your life is, think about this first:

There is a very good chance that person you’re chatting with has had it just as hard or harder than you recently.

They may be going through something you don’t even know about. Your rant may remind them or just simply upset them.

I've been there. I've listened to someone talk about how busy their life was meanwhile I was almost at my breaking point with my own children. I was one more tantrum away from taking a trip to the fourth floor.

But again I won't act for a second like I don’t host my own pity parties. I'm a pretty stellar hostess sometimes. 

My vent sessions are mostly directed to my mom who I must give a big thanks for lending her ear. Even though she's in the grandparent category of 'Your kids are perfect no matter what they do,' she's still a wonderful listener. 

I rant to friends too. I feel sorry for myself. I dwell on difficult times.

Sometimes just talking about our challenges helps us get through the tough times. Sometimes all we need is someone to pat us on our back and say, ‘Yes that must be so hard, I can’t even imagine.’

Sometimes it's great to hear others are in the same boat. 

And that’s OK. I think we need to remind ourselves more often we're not alone. We need to look at the big picture and consider how others might feel.

It’s a great way to help us get through our own tough times and forget about pitying ourselves.

And it’s probably good practice to use the disclaimer before or after: ‘I know everyone goes through this and I’m not the only one but I’m just having a really hard time this week.’

If you just have to, go ahead and rant and don't hold back. 

But remind yourself: you're not the only one. 

Ash Degraaf