Paternal Depression – help for dads suffering & for those supporting their partners

I have posted a lot on my blog about my history & what happened when I had PND/PPD & what help I received at the time. I’ve posted the series on Postpartum Progress on those of us that formed a group when we were having another baby after our PPMD as well as Dad’s speaking out how they felt when their partners were in the eye of the storm. What I haven’t posted is about the help that is available for fathers that also suffer from PND/PPD, or what is widely known as Paternal Depression.

Although it’s not as common an occurrence than in mothers this mental illness doesn’t discriminate & can affect dad’s too. Dad’s suffering any form of PPMD are often overlooked as the focus is generally on the mother anywhere up to 12 months following the birth of her baby. Feeling disconnected, anxious over caring for their newborn baby & feeling removed from the events following the birth are often the triggers, however each case is different & cannot be pigeonholed.

I was reminded after a post on the #PPDChat FaceBook Support page that there is a lack of awareness & help for father’s is harder to find than for mother’s. So I’m posting a few places where help is available for dad’s & for them to know it’s ok not to be ok, help is out there & you are not alone.

PANDA have launched a website designed with Dad’s in mind. It’s called “How Is Dad Going?” (http://www.howisdadgoing.org.au/) and the purpose of the site is to provide a much needed resource for Dads as they adjust to the life of parenthood. 1 in 7 fathers will have a partner with post natal depression and 1 in 20 suffering from post natal depression themselves but currently there are very few places men can go to be informed and supported through this experience. This new website by PANDA is one of the first in the world to target men specifically and show them that support is available.

There is also another closed FB group for those supporting their partners suffering from a PPMD. This group provides support & resources for partners. To join this group, click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/156314657856522/

* PANDA: http://www.howisdadgoing.org.au

* PANDA: http://www.panda.org.au/practical-information/information-for-men

http://www.fathersreachingout.com

* Postpartum Men: http://postpartummen.com

* Postpartum Support International: http://www.postpartum.net

*Postpartum Progress: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/depression-in-men-a-dads-story-of-male-postpartum-depression#more-10046

* Spotlight on Dads in Science and Sensibility: http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?p=4355

If anyone has any further information or wishes to add more support pages to visit, please post them below & I’ll update the listing above. Thanks in advance.

 



And then I had no choice, but to surrender

I’ve previously written about my son’s struggles with feeding & eating since his birth. When he turned two back at the beginning of May, he started refusing to be spoon fed the puree he’d been accepting for the previous 18mths. On a human level, I understood it – none of his friends were being spoon fed anymore, so why should he? On an emotional level & in terms of being his mother & needing to feed him, panic set in. My little boy who was still considered ’failure to thrive’ (FTT) & had recently lost weight had decided to refuse all meals. His daily intake consisted of snacks & his two milk bottles & I was beside myself with worry.

I stressed about this day & night. The thoughts & knot in my stomach was all consuming & encompassing. My anxiety (Selma) was through the roof. I could see that there were no physical & developmental deficits from his lack of intake as he continued to be full of beans, energetic, able to understand my commands & had started saying a few words (although we had started speech therapy with him a few months prior). Our weekly feeding clinics continued & he showed the same level of interest he had in previous weeks (apart from his rejection of cold & wet foods) & I continued to be at a loss as to how to get him to eat meals at home. He seemed to eat some of his meals at creche which was beyond relieving for both myself & his carers as they were also worried for him.

I have often thought that having a child with feeding & eating issues was one of the cruelest jokes mother nature can play on a mother. Feeding your baby/toddler is primal & having this taken away from you is one of the most awful things for a parent to experience. A friend of mine called it ‘emotional torture’ & I couldn’t agree more.

Months went by with no breakfast, lunch or dinner being eaten by him. He ate snacks, drank his milk & I was in a panicked frenzy every meal time & leading up to each meal. I decided to take Flynn & consulted with a Paediatric dietician to come up with some ideas of how to increase his calories & intake per day. He was prescribed Pediasure to be added into his milk & this was a successful addition to his daily bottles after a week of slowly adding the scoops (due to the vanilla flavour). I was relieved when he took his milk bottles & sometimes even finished them! It was suggested we try making other puree options for him, by pureeing meals prepared for both Orli & Seon & I due to the amount of protein in some of the on-the-shelf pouches. I bought squeeze ‘ems (reusable ouches where I could put in my own purees for him to suck on), bought & stuck Peppa Pig & Thomas the Tank stickers on them to excite him about the content. I pureed, it was rejected. I froze, ice cubed chicken, beef & veggies & they were all rejected. I wished he had a PEG or g-tube  because it was meal insurance – what he didn’t have orally, he would still get. It was the insurance I had for his first three months of life when he was being fed nasal-gastrically. (Note: Please know I don’t mean to minimise the function or use of feeding tubes & other long-term issues that feeding tubes create – weaning, oral issues etc – I am grateful for my son not having one, but my anxiety at the time just wanted my son to be fed).

I was exhausted, defeated, frustrated & disheartened. And then I surrended.

I HAD to relinquish my control over his food & his intake. I had to let him be the one to decide what & when & how he was going to eat. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my whole life & each day was a mental & emotional rollercoaster.

Three months of Flynn only eating at creche, we went to feeding clinic & something clicked inside Flynn’s brain. He started to eat new things & was happy, excited & engaging – he wanted to share the experience with us. At this session, we started using a new technique/strategy on how we spoke & engaged with him during meals & it was a thoroughly positive experience for all. It worked. And it worked because HE had decided he was ready. It worked because the room was free of anxiety & pressure. It worked because I had surrended myself a few weeks prior. And then I didn’t care why it worked – it was working.

He ate a chicken nugget, so that night at dinner it was nuggets. He ate them, I used the techniques learned that morning & I cried tears of joy that whole time. The next night I added chips (fries), which was something I was petrified of re-introducing after many failed attempts previously which included gagging/chocking & vomiting. He ate them. I cried. The next night was fish fingers as they looked similar to nuggets. He ate them. I cried. After months of offering & preparing toast, he started eating it. Meal times were more relaxed. Everyone got excited when he ate something new or tried something new. There were made up songs, dances of joy & lots of high-fives against those little toddler hands.

The next few weeks was researching recipes & preparing food together. We did healthy savoury muffins & vanilla cupcakes. I added quinoa flakes, chia seeds & at times & used veggies I’d never cooked with before. We used our strategies & techniques when he would try them & I’m proud to say that there have been many, many successes.

Even though Floo has started eating, I’ve had to admit I’ve now started worry about the nutritional value & calories content of his meals (will the worry ever be at bay?????). Some parents complain that all their child eats is nuggets & chips & I’m bloody thrilled. I’ve now started using Superfoods for Kidz powders in most of the foods I prepare for Flynn & Orli too. The best thing about the powder is that I can add it to batter, soups, mixtures – anything. I feel better knowing his food is ‘better’ for him & Orli too.

As much as I can report that Flynn’s eating has improved, so has his aim. Food flies across our kitchen, yoghurt is wiped all over the table & his is proud to tell himself off ‘nauttttyyy’ (naughty) when he throws food all over the place. And this brings a whole new level of frustration – but he’s eating & now we’re experiencing what other families experience with babies/toddlers at mealtimes – which is something I’ve been waiting for & hoping for since his feeding issues started at  eight months of age.

Another milestone we’ve experienced, is that we have officially eaten out as a family. We ate at a food court together which is simple & ordinary & something most families take for granted. At two years & three months, we have finally had a meal out together that didn’t include me spoon feeding my son, being stressed about him eating or worrying about him cracking it & refusing his food. I had to pinch myself as this has been something I have wished for for so very long.

I could not have stayed sane during this time had it not been for the love & support shown in the LTBM Australia (Laryngomalacia, Tracheomalacia &/or Bronchomalacia Australia) closed FB group. I’m certainly not alone there when dealing a FTT child, a child with oral aversions or food sensory issues, with the feelings of anger, frustration &/or sadness. I am certainly not alone of feeling robbed. Thank you, to each & every one of you that virtually held my hand & sent hugs during the ‘great food refusal of 2013′.

And to all of you that ‘liked’ or commented on my FB posts, photos & videos of Flynn eating – thank you. You’ve all made this hard (& often lonely) journey easier & it’s our pleasure & honour to share our good news & wins with you all.

IMG_6715

Maternal Depression – my lifelong battle with Selma & Patty

I’ve suffered from Depression & Anxiety disorders for as long as I can remember, except they were not given a name to me until I was in my twenties & went to my GP & saw a checklist of things that if you experience for more than two weeks is considered depression. I cried. They were tears of relief. They were tears for all those times I pulled out of social appearances, put up appearances or just wanted to disappear.

The biggest depressive episode occurred after the birth of my first baby 4.5 years ago & was actually termed Postnatal/Postpartum Depression. I was admitted to a Psych clinic with my daughter, was medicated, received intensive therapy & slowly recovered. To say that I have not suffered from Depressive episodes or anxiety since then would be a complete lie, but I have learnt how to cope, to deal & to move forward even though I want to stay in bed & sleep the days away. At these times, I am less visible on social media & it takes more energy than normal to look ok & to get on with the daily chores tasks of motherhood & parenthood. And two years ago, I went on to have another baby after my PPMD & although I wasn’t sucked back into the eye of the storm, I was certainly tested.

So, nearly five years on from my PPMD, I’m still battling the Demons that are Depression & Anxiety disorders. I’ve actually named my depression Patty & my anxiety Selma – giving them names helps identify who’s with me on any given day or impacting my decisions. And then I read a book as part of the Warrior Mom Book Club called, ‘ The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope‘ (by Tracy Thompson) & the same sense of relief I had in the doctors surgery many years ago was felt again. You see, I now consider my Depression as Maternal Depression. I have a new profound understanding on what I am battling against – it’s depression that affects mothers of older kids & no longer infants/toddlers (although I still have two preschool children). My Depression does not only impact me, but impacts my children too. And more so, I can’t sleep the days away as I have a family to look after & take care of.

Searching for information & resources for ‘maternal depression’ & the results that come up focus on Postpartum Depression/Postnatal Depression which ‘medically & scientifically’ speaking occur/commence within the first 12 months following the birth of a baby. However, what happens after that? Is it still considered PPD/PND years later when you’re still suffering the cyclic pattern of low moods, apathy, irritation etc? When researching Maternal Depression, you find articles discussing the long-term effects on children whose mother doesn’t read to them, sing to them, interact with them etc. They’re also referring to those mothers who are unable to work & contribute financially to the family also adding financial stress to the equation. I’m neither of the above. My postpartum period is well & truly reached its expiry date & I interact all the time with my kids BECAUSE I don’t want them to experience any lasting effects of MY ongoing mental illness. In fact, most of my exhaustion stems from showering my kids with my emotional availability that by the end of the day sometimes I am too exhausted to show my husband the same amount of consideration.

There are not many resources for us mums suffering maternal depression, other than being pigeon-hold with other women suffering depression or those suffering with PPD/PND which I think is wrong. I think we need special consideration as our depression doesn’t affect just us, but can also affect our kids – the very people that learn off us & who actually ‘see’ with us & see us without our masks on. They aren’t old enough to rationalise it like our partners/friends can – they feel responsible, learn how to not cope & handle situations etc. I’m not just a female that suffers depression, I’m a mother looking after preschool aged children. My depression is not as severe as above & I’m able to interact with my children, I just have those episodes that can last a few days or a few weeks. I am still capable of caring for them.

In my teens & twenties, I would retreat during my depressive episodes. I would throw myself into my work, being extra ambitious & working long hours. With maternal depression it’s impossible for me to retreat & hide away until I feel up going out. I can’t throw myself into work either because being a mum & taking care of my preschool aged children is my work. There is nowhere to hide except into my own head & with my ongoing internal dialogue.

I have often forced myself to playgroups, to walk to the shops for adult & social interaction & to ensure my kids exposed to other faces, places, sites & experiences. I make the effort to not let my moods impact them. I work really hard on this. We know that kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They’re able to spot a fraud a mile off & this sometimes scares the hell out of me on the days I’m wearing my mask or forcing a smile on my face.

I also feel guilty at times that my mood disorders are preventing my kids from having a fulfilling childhood – the times where I don’t have the energy to take them to the park or the times when planning a trip to the zoo becomes too overwhelming because of sleep schedules & my anxiety linked with this. I know that day naps will not be forever & the future will be filled with concerts, movies, zoos & aquariums etc, but not now & not yet. I want them to look back on their childhood & remember feeling loved, safe & secure more than I want them remembering giraffes & fish anyway!

So where does this all leave me? I am a work in progress. I’m not sure I’ll ever be cured or free of Patty or Selma accompanying me throughout my, or my children’s lives, but I am learning strategies on how to better manage these episodes & instances. I want my kids to know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I want them to be accepting of me & the experiences I bring to our mother & child relationship & to motherhood. I want them to one day know that I did my best to shield them from anything too scary or long term by having ongoing therapy & by being medicated. I want my children to be proud of me – by not letting my mental illness or mood disorders affect my decision to start a family & bring these two amazing little people into our life.

 

Source: The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope by Tracy Thompson

My message to you all on hope

Dear new mum,

I’m watching you as you push your pram down the street & noticing others look at you with a glint in their eye reminiscing about the time when they walked their baby along the same path. I see people taking sneak peaks at your baby & smiling at the newness of life & the innocence of the little face in the bassinet. Then I look at your face & there is a strong sense of familiarity. I’ve seen that face before. I don’t know you nor do I know your story, but I know that face.

I have the strongest urge to stop you in the street, look into your sunken & sad eyes & hug & tell you that things will get easier & you will get through this.

I want to tell that you didn’t ask to feel this way, that you didn’t choose to become unwell, nor did you do anything for this to happen to you. It’s either/or a combination of a chemical imbalance in your postpartum brain, torturous sleep deprivation, dealing with a traumatic birth or having a baby prematurely or with medical issues. It might be because you’re struggling with the transition to motherhood & all the expectations (yours & others) placed on your already overwhelmed & fragile shoulders. Whatever your reason, there is NO shame.

Please promise me that you’ll be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling & be honest with those around you that you trust, as well as with your healthcare provider. You don’t need to feel this way, nor do you deserve it. As tiring as motherhood is (especially with a newborn) pretending you’re ok is utterly exhausting & takes up too much room.

You’re not going to believe me now, given you’re in the eye of the storm, but having a PPMD will be one of the best things that will ever happen to you – as a person & as a mother. Your recovery will be hard, frustrating & challenging & there will be days you feel as though for every step forward is like two steps backwards, but as long you keep moving, you WILL get there.

I want you to know that you’re not alone.

I want you to know that help is out there.

I want you to stop believing everything you think.

I want to tell you that you will get through this.

I want to tell you that this is not forever.

As I sit here & watch you continue to push your pram down the street, I see that you’re putting one foot in front of the other & I know in my heart of hearts that you’ll be ok. I know this because I walked the exact same path. I just hope you see all the directions I continue to leave along the path making your journey easier & less lonely to navigate.

Love always & forever,

Yuz – Warrior mum & survivor

To read other submissions of this Rally, click here.

 

Sunday May 12th, is the 5th annual Mother’s Day Rally for Mums’ Mental Health. This Rally will feature 24 letters from survivors of PPD/PND, postnatal/partum anxiety, posnatal/tpartum OCD, depression after weaning &/or postnatal/partum psychosis. The purpose of these posts is to inform & encourage pregnant & new moms who may be struggling with their emotional health. The Rally is hosted by Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog in the world on postpartum depression & other mental illnesses related to pregnancy & childbirth. To read the other posts on this Mother’s Day Rally, click here.

 

You’re not alone

After the birth of my daughter 4.5 years ago, I experienced the complete opposite of what the books, movies, other mums had told me about birth & the overwhelming love you feel when you see your newborn baby & when you bring your baby home. I felt like a fraud for acting as though I was in love & bonded with my baby, I felt ashamed, numb, confused, angry, robbed & mostly alone.

As my journey of recovery continued, I met many other mums that had suffered the same experiences in early motherhood than me & I no longer felt so alone. It didn’t matter whether or not their stories were ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than mine – it was just that they had been ravaged by the same Demon & were desperately trying to return to the same person they were before it attacked.

DH & I kept it a secret that I was unwell & admitted to a Psych facility (aka nuthouse) with our baby & told our family & friends that we were at sleep school. It’s not that I was ashamed, I just wanted to focus on my recovery & not what people thought of me. It was Valentine’s Day 2012 where I first shared my story. It was my hope that through my words I would be able to reach out & talk to mothers out there suffering in silence.

By opening up & sharing my story, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, whilst at the same time acknowledging that shame & judgment are likely to be their companion. I had to make a conscious decision to not care about that. I can’t control people’s opinions or thoughts, so I decided that the fear of judgment was not going to get in my way of spreading awareness & finally taking my mask off & telling my story.

The things I’d like to share in this blog hop are the things that I’ve learned as a result of my journey. Mental illness, specifically a Postpartum/Postnatal mood disorder (depression, anxiety, OCD) or Postpartum/Postnatal Psychosis – it’s just not something you choose to have or want following the birth of your child or following an adoption. It’s a hard time for our families, friends & social circle to understand what we’re going through & it’s challenging as they don’t know how to help us which makes as frustrated in kind. Our symptoms are invisible & unobvious so it’s easy for people to distance themselves from us if our illness goes beyond ‘the expected time for recovery’. I’ve learnt that PPMD’s don’t discriminate – it doesn’t matter what socio-economic status you are, what faith you are, what nationally, race or creed. It doesn’t matter what support you have, what means you have or what your social standing you are. It is one of the most levelling of life’s experiences one can have.

But here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you however is that recovery is possible & that help is out there. I can tell you that you’re most definitely alone & never will be in your journey to recovery. I can tell you that the way you feel today will not last forever & you will get through it. I can tell you that there is NO shame. I can tell you that there are some absolutely wonderful peer supports available online (#PPDChat on Twitter, #PPDChat closed FB support group, Postpartum Progress to name a few & also my group on having a baby after a PPMD) if you’re not comfortable attending an IRL group or if there’s not one close to where you live/work. And I can tell you that there are the most AMAZING & brave women that I’ve had the honour & privilege of meeting & calling my friends through opening up & sharing my story.

I want you to all know that you are worthy. I want you to all know you are important. I want you to all know that you matter. I want you to know that being ‘good enough’ is ok. I want you to all know that you now have an Army behind you, supporting you, loving you & are your biggest advocate & voice when you’ve lost yours.

 

To read other blog hop posts, please click here:

 

In May 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI) declared May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Since 2011, more States in the US & many counties across the globe have now designated May as a time to bring awareness to maternal mental health. This year, PSI is launching their first maternal mental health awareness month blog hop &  the topic being explored is mental health recovery & coping skills. If you are a blogger who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or any other PPMD, please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness. Visit the two blog hop host blogs, Kathy Morelli’s Birthtouch Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, to review further information & guidelines & also see all the other bloggers that are participating this year.

I’m ‘that mum’ & proud of it

In a recent post in the Mama’s Comfort Camp FB group, there was a thread where one mum commented that she didn’t want to be labelled ‘that mum’. We all know ‘that mum’ & whatever it is that’s had her labelled as such. The mum that has certain idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, oddness, bluntness, pushiness or completely neurotic - whatever it is that makes her ‘that mum’. This particular post on MCC was about a mum who’s sending her child to kindergarten & her child has a nut allergy. Despite the school having rules & regulations when it came to students with any allergies or intolerance’s or medical conditions, her concern was more about the other kids & the parents respecting the rules especially as she can no longer be there all the time to ensure her child safety. And she didn’t want to be ‘that mum’ that most of us don’t want to be.

So I’m putting this out there. I WANT to be ‘that mum’. I want to be ‘that mum’ that’s not afraid what others will think about me – for standing up for my kids, for disciplining them whenever & wherever it’s required no matter who’s around, for ensuring their safety & security, for insisting that other parents respect the way in which we’ve decided to bring up out kids – everything from faith to what clothes brands fill up their wardrobes. Note, I didn’t say that other people should accept our decisions & choices that we’re making for our kids, but I’m asking for them to respect them.

After thinking about this for a few days, these are the ways I’m already & will forever be ’that mum’:

* I’m ‘that mum’ in that insist that my kids use their manners. I will stand there until they utter those damn annoying words ‘thank you for having me’ when leaving a friends house, I’ll tell them to thank the waiter/waitress that delivers their drink/meal to our table, to thank the checkout person at the supermarket, to thank their bus driver, doctors, dentists – ANYONE they come into contact with. Manners are just decent & a display of kindness & I want my kids to not take anything or anyone for granted.

* I am ‘that mum’ that won’t accept a dinner invitation when I know the kids will have a late night. I know the ramifications for the late night & I’m the one that has to deal with it that night, the next day (& sometimes a few days after) & often a few nights also. My sanity relies on sleep, so I’m looking out for myself too. So thank you for your kind invitation, I’ll accept it in a few years or next week without the kids.

* I am ‘that mum’ that watches my son around food in case he puts something in his mouth that he might choke on. Luckily for me (??) he has a food aversion (for which we’ve just started a feeding clinic) so I’m pretty sure he’ll not put anything he deems unsafe into his mouth, but it doesn’t stop me watching him because I don’t enjoy seeing him gag & vomit.

* I am ‘that mum’ that is strict about time for dinner, bath & bed time. My kids do better with routine & structure & frankly, so do I.

* I am ‘that mum’ that gets my sons ears checked after he’s had a snotty nose for a few days, because it’s been our experience that he gets an ear infection which is not only painful but also affects his hearing & speech. And given his history with reflux (until he was 18mths) & the correlation between ear infections & reflux I’m always extra vigilant. I didn’t want to be ‘that mum’ with my second child, but the universe told me I didn’t have a choice.

* I’m ‘that mum’ that will be the first to tell you that’s it’s ok to not be instantly in love with your newborn baby. Just because you have carried this baby, it doesn’t mean you know them & are besotted by them. It can take time, especially after a premature birth or difficult delivery. It’s just like any relationship – you didn’t instantly fall in love with your partner, it took time. So please be kind to yourself if that instant Mack truck of love doesn’t hit you. And in addition to this, I’m also ‘that mum’ that will tell you that there will be times that having a baby, sometimes, is nothing like a Huggies ad. Seriously, those mums wear crisp white shirts & have pristine houses!

* I’m ‘that mum’ that gets really really annoyed when you tell me how to parent & or when you minimise any of my hardships because you’re a one-upper or just one of those insensitive types. Why can’t you just say, ‘I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here whenever you need to talk about it’. Surely kindness beats competition.

* I’m ‘that mum’ that will not judge how you give birth or judge whether you breastfeed or bottle feed your baby. The type of birth you have is about the health & safety of you & your baby & how you nourish your baby are merely methods of feeding your baby & is in no way, a gauge  or reflection for how much you love & have bonded with your baby. I’m ‘that mum’ will defend your decision, because YOU are the mother & need to do what’s best for you, your baby & your nuclear family.

* I’m ‘that mum’ that will escort my kids away from yours or increase the gap between us in the queue if I see that your kids are snotty & coughing. I don’t want Orli getting sick, well because I don’t want her to be sick, but more so because I don’t want her getting Flynn sick. Even though I feel as though we are out of the woods when it comes to his Laryngomalacia & his breathing has been good for over a year now, nothing scares me more than him getting croup, whopping cough or any type of respiratory infection. Yes, I know it’s me & still suffering with an element of PTSD with him hospitalised as a baby for nine weeks & having numerous tests & procedures done. But more than that, I don’t want to see him suffering again or struggling to breathe. And you want to see me turn into ‘that mum’ quicker than anything – drop your off at kindy or creche with snot running down their face or a barky cough. Seriously!?

Thank you to all the mums on MCC that contributed to the thread & put another mothers mind at ease. And thank you to that mum who got me thinking about being ‘that mum’.

I’m proud to be ‘that mum’. You know why? Because my kids deserve me to be!