Yuz Rozenblum: On PPD & Coping with a Baby With Special Needs – Postpartum Progress 6th Annual Mother’s Day Rally

Dear new mum of a premature baby or baby with special needs,

I know this isn’t what you expected – a baby born too early or with some medical complication/s following his/her birth, but this is now you & your family’s reality.

You’re feeling a myriad of feelings & emotions at the moment, not to mention the normal postpartum/postnatal mood swings. You’re tired, overwhelmed, in shock, sad, relieved (if your pregnancy was medically challenging & you worried about your baby each day), feeling robbed & at the same time dealing with all the unexpected & unplanned for scenarios you’re now living with. Of course you’re relieved your baby is alive & makes it harder to rationalise your negative feelings & disappointment over your situation because so many others are not ‘this lucky’. Welcome to the equation, guilt.

All these thoughts & feelings are shoved (read, suppressed) into an imaginary box of emotions. The ‘box’ is not tied up because new contents will added on a daily, & sometimes hourly, basis. You hold onto these thoughts & feelings tightly because sharing them would deem you self-centred & selfish & none of this is about you. It’s all about your baby – you looking after him/her & taking care of your newborns’ extra needs.

You’re going through the motions of feeding, expressing, vising PICU, NICU or special care & not even stopping to think about how you’re feeling about any this. You just keep busy & keep moving because you are a mother now & this is your job.

What you have time to digest any of what’s going on, or as you’re trying to sleep, thoughts race in & out of your mind. You might be thinking some or all of the following:

  • You feel guilty that your body failed to carry your baby to term. You failed at the one thing your body was meant to do once becoming pregnant & the pregnancy being viable.
  • You feel guilty that your body didn’t create a ‘perfect’ & ‘healthy’ baby & that you’ve caused all the medical complications that may or may not occur following the birth.
  • You feel immensely guilty for causing any developmental deficits or developmental delays to your baby.
  • You feel angry & robbed that you are not having the postpartum/postnatal period you imagined during your pregnancy.
  • You feel sad that you don’t have the balloons, stuffed toys, cards & flowers like the other rooms because you’ve told visitors that they cannot come to visit your baby since he/she’s in care.
  • You feel robbed for not being allowed to hold you baby after the birth, because it needed to go to NICU, PICU or special care. And then guilty for not having all that skin-to-skin contact that all the books & websites say is essential for bonding with your baby.
  • You feel invisible at times as others take over the basic care (not medical) of your baby right in front of you – the midwives that pick up & undress your baby, change it’s nappy all while you’re craving to just be its mother.
  • You’re envious of all your friends that have had ‘normal’ postpartum/postnatal periods & brought home healthy babies home after a few days in hospital, because you’re not going to have this experience.
  • There is an air of sadness about & around your newborn that everyone’s ignoring or avoiding.
  • You feel as though you don’t matter – people have forgotten that you’re also recovering from having a baby & don’t think to ask how you’re doing.
  • You’re sad because you missed your imagined ‘newborn’ photo shoot because by the time you get home from hospital your baby is no longer a newborn.
  • You feel immensely sad seeing your friends’ newborn & toddler photos in your newsfeed because you’re unable to have/do this yet or at all.
  • You get upset when you see other babies feed well & are content following a feed because every feed you do is emotional torture. That’s if of course you are able to feed your baby because the midwives do most of the feeding when your baby’s in their care.
  • If you have a toddler, you’re angry that he/she can’t go visit their new baby sibling because of germs they may have picked up at daycare that might jeapordise the health of your baby (or worse other babies in care). You completely respect & understand this rule in your head, but your heart seems to be taking longer.
  • You feel a pang of sadness seeing mothers walk their babies in prams because your imagined postpartum/postnatal period is nothing like you imagined or hoped for.
  • You get annoyed that people have no understanding or (at least) compassion for just how much harder you have it (& possibly for the foreseeable future).
  • You often feel like your baby’s nurse at times & not his/her mother.
  • You get angry when you hear women complain how uncomfortable the last weeks/months of a pregnancy is, because you would take their place in a heartbeat.
  • You want to ask yourself, ‘why me’, but you don’t feel you’ve got permission to do so.
  • You get annoyed & defensive when questioned about your babies health or developmental delays because of the guilt you feel about it.
  • You life is on hold & you don’t know how long this will be for.
  • When you hear, ‘it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or girl, as long as it’s healthy’ said to someone around you, your stomach turns in knots because people don’t realise just how meaningful that sentiment is & how much you wished for the full term baby or good health.
  • Images with mums & their newborns will forever upset you, as this was not the experience you had.
  • People are quick to ask you about extending the family again, with little or no regard for anything you went through or are still going through on a daily basis with your baby.
  • The mothers in your mothers group seem like distant strangers because the only thing you have in common is that you both own prams/strollers. Nothing about your experience is the same.
  • You get agitated when other mothers discuss seemingly insignificant things around you, because your priorities are miles apart.
  • You feel lonely.

Your nervousness can be debilitating, you’re always on edge & absolutely everything overwhelms you. You don’t feel as though you’re allowed to feel anything other than being grateful & blessed with this little life. You’re unable to sleep when you can – that is, after all the expressing, steralising, cleaning, administering & monitoring – & the sleep deprivation is all too much to cope with. You don’t know how to just be a mum to your baby because of all his/her other needs & all the things you have to do & deal with. The adrenaline of your situation keeps you going & going until you finally crash. And when you do, you STILL don’t think you have permission to do so.

To my dear (new) mum, please know & understand that you have a lot to deal with now (& possibly in the future*) & your feelings about your situation are understandable, permissible & valid.

When you’re later diagnosed with postpartum/postnatal depression & /or anxiety, (because you were finally honest with yourself on how you were really feeling), you will feel immense relief because you’ll be able to get the help you need in order look after yourself. You will be able to discuss the racing & irrational thoughts you’re having & the trauma with someone that will listen& cares & they’ll be able to provide you with strategies to turn the voices down, & in time, turn off for good. You might need the aid of medication, or as I call it Ventolin, because it too will help you breath. There is absolutely no shame in getting help or admitting you’re not ok because what you’ve been through & what you’re going through is hard & at times, frankly, just suck.

Your reasons or circumstance for suffering any postpartum/postnatal mood disorder doesn’t matter, but what I’m about to tell you does. I will keep reminding you in each & every post I ever write about postpartum/postnatal mood disorders because it’s true & you need to hear it.

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.

Be gentle with yourself, as you will be delicate for some time. You must give yourself this time. Allow yourself to grieve over the loss of your imagined post-birth experience & if you have this experience more than once, allow yourself to grieve the fact that you will never have the post-birth experience that others do & that you always wished for.

I hope that the passage of time treats you well & your recovery is triumphant. Be patient with this process – your recovery will be full of highs & lows, achievements & regressions. The ride will be bumpy my friend, but we’ll be here for you cheering you on & supporting you on your good days & holding your hand & throwing you a lifeboat on the hard ones. No matter what the future holds, you’re strong, you’re fierce & an admirable woman & mother.

Sending you love & hope always & forever,

Yuz (Warrior mum & survivor)

 

* Research has shown that mothers with premature babies or babies with special needs often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which often goes undiagnosed until many years after the initial trauma or experience.

I’ll be Climbing out of the Darkness (COTD) in Melbourne Australia on June 21. To join her team or to make a donation, click here: http://www.crowdrise.com/yuzrozenblum-COTD2014

 

Sunday May 11th, is the 6th annual Mother’s Day Rally for Mums’ Mental Health. This Rally will feature 24 letters from survivors of postpartum/postnatal depression, postpartum/postnatal anxiety, postpartum/postnatal OCD, post-adoption depression, depression after weaning &/or postpartum/postnatal 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.

Mothers Day Rally

 

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.

We don’t all abandon our babies

I’m a sucker for reality TV. I’ve been known to obsess over cooking competitions, losing weight competitions, renovating competitions & those medical documentaries featuring women having babies i.e. One Born Every Minute & more recently, The Midwives which are both documentaries from the UK.

Last Thursday night I was watching the latest episode of The Midwives (see episode synopsis below). This episode focused on the Midwives visiting the homes of mums & newborns after being discharged from hospital soon after the birth of their babies. The show has showed a range of births (water, natural births with & without pain relief, c-secs etc) & invites you into the lives of women who you would never otherwise know anything about… especially since I live on the other side of the globe.

So, episode 5, a midwife is looking for a mum that was discharged from the hospital. There was a mix up with the addresses & she was driving around an, shall I just say, average suburb looking for this family. The voiceover explained what was going on & somehow the copywriter had decided that this was the spot in the documentary that they would mention Postnatal/partum Depression & provide the statistics of how many mums in the UK suffer from this postnatal mood disorder (that they know about – I know for a fact that some women are still too scared to come forward).

Voiceover: ‘One in ten of the women Di looks after suffers Postnatal Depression. Every year in Britain between five & ten babies are abandoned, so it’s vital that Di tracks down the baby & it’s mother’.

So, to recap, one in ten of the women this one Midwife looks after has PND. This seems plausible & I don’t have any issues that that sentence. It’s the next sentence I have an issue with – Linking mothers with PND as the cause for the rate of abandoned babies in the UK. Sure it may be the case at times, but I dare go out on a limb here & say that the rate of abandoned babies might also be due to economical reasons & perhaps social reasons, like the climbing rate of teenage pregnancies.

This quote shocked me. It’s not often that I hear something like mere stats & figures about any PPMD that angers me. I actually welcome the discussion because, the more we talk about it, the less shame & the less stigma associated with this & all other Postnatal mood disorders. And the more dialogue, the more women will feel safe & empowered to speak up & get help. But, to link the number of abandoned babies to mothers with PND is, in my opinion only, both misleading & incorrect. I’m all for using facts & statistics – but they need to be accurate.

Excluding the social & economic reasons for why someone would abandon their baby, I want to focus on the PPMD as being the cause & impetus for this abandonment. In my experience & from the research I’ve done & from all the discussions I’ve had with other mothers that suffer or are survivors of a PPMD, it’s not the merely the depression or anxiety that makes them act recklessly & spontaneously, rather the hallucinations etc that is linked to PP/PN psychosis. The depression & the anxiety create the basis of the thoughts that plague their minds for days & sometimes weeks on end, but it’s the psychosis that makes some mothers act & follow through on these thoughts – this is what fundamentally separates the depressed & the psychotic when it comes to PPMD’s.

Most of the mums I know that suffer/have suffered with their PPMD talk about the repetitive nature of negative self-talk, harming their baby & even the thought of leaving the baby & their family as they would be better off without them (note: leaving their baby in safe hands as they feel they’re the unsafe ones). It’s not often that I have heard of thoughts them wanting to abandon their baby on a doorstep with just anyone. Certainly in cases of Postnatal/partum Psychosis, but not depression/anxiety & I think making a broad statement like that is both unfair & misleading. It’s painting a very broad stroke & I actually feel (surprisingly) offended by this assumption.

I get how scary mental illness is to people that are lucky to have never suffered from any, I get how scary PPD/PND is to women & mothers that have not experienced it (luckily & thankfully) & I get how sad & awful it looks to people that don’t get it, but what I find hurtful, is people with ‘authority’ claiming & embellishing that PND makes you do things that are evil & incomprehensible according to social mores & values which is not (usually & actually) factual. PPMD education & dialogue can be an uphill battle at the best of times due to fear & prejudice, but if met with people that presume we’re all evil is another unnecessary hurdle we have to climb.

My initial thought after hearing the voiceover on the program was, ‘hang on, we don’t all want to or actually abandon our babies’. And I guess that’s the point of this post.

Am I wrong? Am I right? Am I being too sensitive? Am I reading too far into this?

 

To watch the episode, click here: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/31614

The Midwives, Episode Synopsis: Episode 05 – Bringing Home Baby

The community midwives of Manchester’s Saint Mary’s Hospital are responsible for almost 5,000 newborn babies every year. Every day they are trying to spot the mums who might need more than just a cursory examination – determining which mums will cope easily with a new baby and which ones might have a struggle.

For 10 days after each baby is born, they go into the homes of new parents to offer help and make sure that mums are well and that the babies are being properly looked after. Midwife Joyce is concerned about single mum-to-be Fizah because of her complicated family background. Joyce has referred Fizah to the Vulnerable Babies Service, so they can keep an eye on how she is coping as a new mum. Midwife Farhana is looking after Monique, who is also single and was homeless until recently. But she has to drop everything to go and help a woman who has chosen to give birth in her own front room. Meanwhile, the mother that midwife Di is supposed to be looking after has gone missing the day after being discharged from hospital. With Britain in the middle of the biggest baby boom in 40 years, this film looks at how midwives look after new mums and new babies who might be at their most vulnerable.

How I live is how they’ll learn

There are times I’m asked a question that literally stops me in my tracks. And this happened to me last week. Sitting at my fortnightly shrink appointment, my therapist asked me how, as a result of my experiences are now shaping the type of mother I am for my kids & what traits & values I’m stilling in them, also as a result of my life experiences. Answering this for me was simple & the qualities rolled off my tongue.

I responded: I would hope my kids are going to be humble, considerate & compassionate. I would hope that my kids are  going to think really hard before making a judgement or sizing someone up & I would hope that they are going to be kind hearted. Simple really.

Most of the qualities I wish upon my kids, I learned throughout my life, (mostly) the older I got, the more experiences I had & by the  friends I’ve had along the way. Funnily enough, it’s been my kids that have taught me the true meaning of some of these traits, specifically, humility & to refrain from judgment.

I think the most amount of learning I did was when I was admitted to the nuthouse (psych facility, parent-infant unit). I learnt that certain things in life doesn’t discriminate, most obviously at the time, mental illness. I learned it didn’t matter about my education, my background, my University degree, my relationship status, my income, my level of class in society, what car I drove, how big my diamond was – nothing mattered. I was no better than anyone else I sat with & spend my time with. In fact, I was no better than anyone in admitted to the facility then & forever. I needed help just like everyone else. It was the most humbling experience of my life (so far) & one that keep me grounded daily. I also hope my kids see mental illness as an unfortunate condition & not a character flaw, an excuse for odd/bad behaviour or social awkwardness or a result of being weak or impressionable.

It’s easy to learn not to be judgmental when you become a parent.Well it’s easy, but not necessarily upheld & practiced. You learn very quickly that what works for you & your child might not be acceptable & approved by someone else, but it becomes their issue & not yours. You learn that no child is the same (especially if you have more than one child), you learn they all develop at their own pace, you learn that they overcome challenges when they are ready, you learn that you will move mountains for your kids in order for them to be happy, healthy & safe & you learn that we all do it that way that we know how & what works for us. You learn that there will still be those that will judge you for choices you make for your kids, but that their opinions are just opinions. You learn to accept others for the choices they make, whether you agree with them or not. You may not know the other person’s background or journey or what led them to make certain decisions, but to try & just be supportive of them. I’m not naive, I know we are all judgmental, it’s human nature, but it’s those of us that have learnt to accept choices of others that tend to carry less anger, resentment & jealousy.

This wasn’t a revelation for me, however I was still surprised at how the words flowed at the time, how instant the words came & how passionate I was when answering. I don’t know if my answer would have been as passionate had I not spent time in the nuthouse, had I had an easy time becoming a mother, had I had a child without special needs or had I had a different upbringing. What I do know is that this has all shaped the person, wife & mother I am & the person, wife & mother I want to be.