How Post-Partum Depression and Bliss Can Coexist

mom dad baby

I had a beautiful baby girl, a husband who was ecstatic to be a dad, and all of my physical needs met. I should have been so happy.

But I just wanted to run.

I couldn’t be comfortable in the same room with my baby. Nursing was extremely difficult. She cried incessantly. I struggled to bond with my baby. I thought it was just the “baby blues” that most women experience within the first two weeks after delivery. But as time went on, I continued to feel despair and inadequacy.

What is PPD?

As I quickly learned, Post-partum Depression (PPD) is no joke. New motherhood is itself an emotional roller coaster, but one out of seven new mothers also experience PPD. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth and is significantly underdiagnosed. And PPD can affect any postpartum mom, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

You may feel like the early, blissful moments you anticipated with your sweet new baby have been stolen away. That was my experience, and this is my story. 

Self-Prescribed Treatment

I thought maybe I could fix it myself, but the heavy cloud of hopelessness lingered well after the “baby blues” period. I tried exercising daily to lighten my moods. I took violin lessons thinking it might bring me happiness. I tried positive thinking and expressing gratitude, but none of these tactics were very effective. I thought maybe it was something marriage and family counselling could resolve. That was unsuccessful too. I couldn’t think of anything else. I was stuck.

A Relieving Solution 

Approximately three months postpartum, I realized that this “haze” might be PPD. I remembered what I learned in my birthing class about PPD – that there were resources at my obstetrician’s office to get help. I set an appointment and met with the clinic’s PPD specialist for a screening. She was so understanding and nonjudgmental as I voiced my struggle. She reassured me, prescribed me medication, and kick-started my healing.

After a few weeks of treatment, I was able to build a stronger bond with my baby. I felt more energized and motivated to take care of myself, my baby, and everything else. I was finally able to feel the joy of motherhood! I loved her all along, yes, but I now had a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Self-Love: An Added Bonus

In the months that followed, I focused on loving myself, particularly my changed body. It’s all too easy to get caught up in society’s expectations and influences to “get your body back,” and I found myself buying into it.

I had to change my perspective, or else I would never love and accept my newly abundant stretch marks and six-inch C-section scar. It was a challenge, but ultimately, I realized that I sacrificed my body to create a human life. My imperfections are proof of it, a beautiful reminder of that miracle.

My husband often reassures me how much he loves this new version of me, which definitely helps. However, I still have to actively put forth the effort to love myself, regardless of what other people think. I need my own love more than anyone else’s (sorry to break it to you, hubby 😉). I’ve come to understand that, yes, it is essential to be comfortable in my own skin, but my worth does not derive from my appearance or the amount of space I fill.

My journey of self-love has only just begun, but it has been an important component of getting to where I am today – 13 months postpartum. I now feel capable of becoming the best version of myself because I got the treatment I needed and have been cultivating self-love.    

Normalizing Postpartum Depression 

Having PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s simply a chemical imbalance that is treatable, thanks to modern medicine. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s something that many moms experience. So know that you are not alone! This is not your fault, nor are you to blame. 

If you are struggling in the same way that I was, there is no shame in taking care of yourself. Get help! If your symptoms linger past two weeks postpartum or returns anytime within one year after delivery, consider seeking medical attention.

Treating PPD may look a little different for each person. My choice of treatment doesn’t have to be yours. So explore your options!

Why PPD Matters to Everyone

If PPD has never been your issue but you have a loved one in the postpartum period, genuinely ask them how they are doing. Be a safe person for them to talk to. Help them seek treatment if necessary.

If nothing else, I hope sharing my story will foster increased compassion and understanding for the many women who experience PPD. 

You deserve happiness as much as anyone else. I’m no expert, but I truly believe that PPD and bliss can coexist, because I’m experiencing it.  

Let’s normalize PPD, seek and embrace healing, and end the stigma.

Resources

The following helpline and number to text are available from Postpartum Support International to help you (or a loved one) get started in the healing journey: 

Helpline: 1.800.944.4773

Textline: 503.894.9453 

 

Elise Blaser has a Bachelor of Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has a wonderful husband, Zach, and a beautiful one-year-old daughter, Violet. Before becoming a mom, she was a Program Developer for FIELDS, a nonprofit organization for Native American education and economic development, where she created and implemented a values-based, life-skills curriculum for underserved youth. She is passionate about health and wellness and sharing her life experiences to help uplift others.

Why I Chose to Be a Stay-at-home Mom: What I Should Have Told the Dentist

stay at home mom

At the Dentist’s Office

 

I don’t know about you, but I always feel awkward when the lady cleaning my teeth asks me questions. It normally goes a little something like this:

Dental hygienist: So, where are you from?

Me: *trying not to get that yucky toothpaste on my tongue* Uh, Rexburg.

Dental hygienist: Oh. Do you like it here?

Me: *trying not to drool on myself* Uh-huh.

Anyway, I think you know what I’m talking about. It’s not the easiest thing to carry on a conversation while someone’s hands are inside your mouth.

But this last dentist visit, conversation was even trickier than usual.

When the dental hygienist found out I’d just had a baby, she offered the token congratulations.  When she found out I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree, she once again congratulated me.

Then she asked me a question, one that shouldn’t have taken me by surprise:

So now what?

She asked if I was planning on graduate school, or what career I hoped to have. I struggled to explain to her that while I want to go on to grad school one day, I wouldn’t be doing it right now. And my husband has a solid job secured that will provide well for our family.

So, I said, I would be focusing on taking care of our baby. I want to be a mom.

She just kind of looked at me, as if being “just a mom” was a totally foreign concept.

This conversation was getting more uncomfortable by the second.

It was as if she couldn’t comprehend why someone would go to college and graduate, only to stay home changing diapers and doing laundry. (And some days I feel like that too, especially when I’m scrubbing poop out of yet another onesie.)

Although I’ve long advocated for motherhood, I’ll admit that I didn’t adequately explain my future plans to this puzzled dental hygienist. So today, dear readers, I hope to at least partially make up for that by letting you all know why I chose to be a mom.

 

Moms Make a Difference

 

Growing up, I was never sure what I wanted to be. Because I enjoyed most subjects in school, one day I’d want to be a band director and the next day I’d hope to become a biologist. It seemed to change from week to week, but one thing always stayed the same: I wanted to make a difference.

There were a few years as a teenager when I didn’t want to be a mom. I thought because I’m not naturally your have-some-milk-and-cookies-sweetie kind of gal that I just wasn’t cut out for mom-hood. I thought I could make a bigger difference as a counselor or a nurse, a teacher or a medical researcher.

But then I realized something important: you don’t have to be a cookie cutter mom to make a difference. You don’t have to be good at crafts and canning and cute-outfit-planning. You just have to love.

My little girl doesn’t always have an adorable outfit on with matching hair bow. And sometimes I less than cheerfully get up in the middle of the night to feed her. But my baby still grins at me all the same. Her eyes tell me, “It’s okay, mom. I know you love me.”

And I do. Whether she looks cutesy or not, boy do I love her. And it’s that love that makes all the difference.

 

Loving Mom, Healthy Kids

 

There are a lot of ways moms can have significant impacts on their children. It turns out that loving moms can make a big impact on their children’s physical health. For instance, research shows that a mom’s love can offset some of the health challenges normally associated with poverty. Kids who would usually be at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are instead likely to be physically healthy as adults.

Not only this, but mothers can also help their children have healthier relationships. One longitudinal study found that when kids have a healthy attachment with their mothers, they tend to have better social skills, better emotional regulation, and better conflict recovery — all things that help them form more secure relationships in the future.

Being an involved and concerned mother can also help my children educationally. While some may think that staying at home with my kids is a waste of an education, my decision to be with my children is doing a world of good for their educational future. According to research from the National Education Association, when parents are involved in their children’s education, kids are more likely to perform well in school and go on to graduate. And this is “regardless of family income or background”!

 

That’s Why I’m a Mom

 

Don’t get me wrong: anyone from a counselor to a nurse, a teacher to a medical researcher can certainly make a difference. I’m so grateful for all the people who choose professions to help other people. And for those moms who either have to or choose to work outside the home, I applaud you for being able to juggle it all!

But I guess what I wish I had explained to the dental hygienist is that I chose to be a stay-at-home mom because I want to make a difference too. And just because I’m not getting paid to do it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

 

 

Elizabeth Warner is the content manager for Family Good Things, recently gave birth to her first child, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies. For more articles by Elizabeth, Dr. Rob, or Dr. Tim, check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.

3 Ways to Help Your Kids Give This Christmas

give Christmas

 

I still remember the first time I gave a Christmas present as a child. I had carefully chosen a few things from the school book fair that I knew my siblings were just going to love: a pink fluffy pen for my sister and a small teddy bear figurine for my little brother. While the gifts were simple, I was excited to share some things I liked with people I loved.

Though I really loved giving gifts, at first my Christmases were all about getting. And with all the wish lists for Santa and Christmas ads on TV, it’s easy for children to focus on themselves. But how can we help our children get excited not just about getting, but also about giving? Here are a few ideas.

1. Give to the community.

There are so many needs all over the world that it can be hard to know where to start. But a great way to give is to serve close to home! Check out www.justserve.org for ideas on how to help out in your communities. Whether it’s volunteering at your local soup kitchen or helping out at the animal shelter, serving as a family in the community can really help your kids learn to give this Christmas.

2. Give to individuals in need.

Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by big service projects. But giving in small ways can be just as meaningful! Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd teaches that parents can help their kids expand their circle of concern by teaching them to find people who might need help, such as a lonely classmate or a kid who is bullied. As you help your kids find people in need and then serve them, your children will think a little more about giving and less about getting.  

3. Give to each other.

Sometimes we forget that one of the best places to practice giving is in our homes! Kids can practice giving every day as they interact with parents and siblings. And as Dr. Weissbourd explains, that daily practice is vital: “Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition . . . makes caring second nature.” Whether it’s giving a small gift to a sibling for Christmas or having a *family service advent calendar, serving each other will help your kids focus more on what Christmas is really about.

‘Tis the Season to Give!

This Christmas time, take the time to teach your kids to give! As you help out in the community, reach out to individuals in need, and serve each other with love, your kids will learn that Christmas is about more than just getting.

 

*Every December, we created a special advent calendar. We would each draw 4 names randomly (there were 6 of us total, which worked out well) and write down a special act of service for that person. Maybe they would get breakfast in bed, maybe we’d do their chore for the day, or maybe we’d play their favorite game with them. Then all the papers were mixed up and pinned to the advent calendar. Each day, it would be someone’s turn to open a paper and see the special service promised. We were always so excited for our simple but special advent calendar!

 

Elizabeth Warner is the content manager for Family Good Things, just gave birth to her first child, and will graduate in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies. For more articles by Elizabeth, Dr. Rob, or Dr. Tim, check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.

Me Too: Why Sexual Freedom Isn’t Free

sexual freedom

I check my watch again: 3:45 am, and I’m wide awake. Exhausted, but awake.

Part of it is because I’m 8 months pregnant and my body hurts all over. (I think my body is practicing the no sleep thing for when the baby comes. 😛 )

But part of it is because I can’t stop thinking about my Facebook feed yesterday.

At first, I was confused by the two word status updates popping up everywhere: “Me too.” But then one friend wrote a little explanation along with it. She said, “If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy and paste if you feel so inclined.”

As more and more of my friends joined in with their “Me too,” my heart ached. I didn’t know whether to click like, love, or sad. I was so proud of these brave women for speaking out, but so sad that we live in a world full of so much sexual harassment.

Sexual Assault

While sexual violence has fallen significantly since 1993, it’s still a huge problem today. In fact, statistics show that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And if you’re a woman, you have about a 1 in 5 chance of being raped at some point in your life.

Everyone is affected by sexual harassment or assault a little bit differently. But often there are both physical and mental consequences. In addition to the risk of STIs and pregnancy, victims of sexual assault often struggle with PTSD, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It can also cause more general emotional challenges, like difficulty trusting others or feelings of fear and helplessness.

One month from today, our baby girl is due to come into this world. I can’t help but worrying, will she have to post “me too” one day? Will she end up being part of the almost 20% of women who get raped in their lifetime? Will she have to struggle with the fear and pain that comes from being a victim of sexual harassment or assault?

I sincerely hope not.

While I’m grateful for the many women and men who are fighting against this plague of sexual violence, there are some aspects of our society today that seem to contribute in a negative way.

Sexual Freedom

Many people are pushing back against sexual violence, but some of these same people are also advocating strongly for sexual exploration and freedom. This March while visiting the UN Commission on the Status of women, I heard many voices advocating for sexual rights of all kinds.

And to some extent, I’m grateful for the work that’s been done so far. I’m grateful that I can decide when I want to marry and have children, that I have control over my sex life.

On the other hand, it seems that the push for sexual freedom has had some unforeseen consequences. Dr. Leslie C. Bell explains it well:

“Today’s 20-something women have more freedom than their grandmothers could have imagined – educational, professional, and personal. But while this freedom has engendered a great deal of opportunity, it hasn’t necessarily resulted in women having good sex and satisfying relationships in their twenties.”

Much of the push for sexual freedom has placed an emphasis on our own personal fulfillment. Do whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good physically. Sex is about you, not about anyone else, today’s media seems to say.

Unfortunately, that emphasis on personal fulfillment may have had the opposite effect.

Sexual Fulfillment

With all this sexual freedom, pursuing whatever you want physically, you may think it would lead to better sex. But according to research from Dr. John Gottman, perhaps the biggest key to sexual fulfillment is your friendship. While casual sex can be fun and exciting, one survey found that the happiest couples are those who communicate and build up the intimacy that is foundational for fulfilling sex. When sex is about your relationship, not just about you, it becomes a whole lot better.

So in actuality, it turns out that sexual fulfillment isn’t just about the physical. And it certainly isn’t just about you.

Sexual Selfishness

If we aren’t careful, the way we promote sexual freedom can also promote sexual selfishness. This selfishness will not only lead to less fulfilling sex, but it also can be dangerous. This line of thinking that says “Sex is all about me” is one that ignores the other person involved.

I’m sure those who rape or sexually assault others are, in a twisted way, seeking their own sexual pleasure. They have decided to use their sexual freedom selfishly. And unfortunately, they do this at a great cost to those around them.

Sexual Freedom Isn’t Free

In teaching our kids about their sexuality, we must help them realize that sexuality isn’t just about them. Other people are involved, people who deserve to be loved and respected.

As we push not just for sexual freedom but for mutual love and respect, we can achieve sexual freedom without promoting sexual selfishness. We can help our kids see that sexual freedom isn’t really free, because with these rights come great responsibilities.

Getting ready to welcome our baby girl into the world has put this all in a new light for me. I hope the numbers of sexual harassment and assault can continue to decline. I hope sincerely that she doesn’t become a part of the statistics. And I hope that one day, nobody has to say “Me too.”

 

 

Elizabeth Warner is the content manager for Family Good Things and will graduate in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies. For more articles by Elizabeth, Dr. Rob, or Dr. Tim, check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.

A Message to Imperfect Parents

imperfect parent

You’ve probably already figured this out, but parenting is hard work!

Before I go any further, I want to get one thing straight. I love being a parent. My wonderful wife and I have been blessed with 6 talented, beautiful, and sweet children. No, they are not perfect. But, I genuinely believe that they are much better children than I was at their age. It’s really a privilege to be their dad. And more than that, it’s a lot of fun!

That said, not every day is just fun and games. While being a parent brings many joys, it also brings its fair share of challenges.

No Excuse

While I do love being a dad, sometimes I get down on myself because I long to be a better parent. And the harsh reality is that I really have no excuses! I have two degrees in Family Studies (including my PhD), and I have taught family classes at the university level for the past decade (including parenting classes).

I really do know what I’m supposed to be doing. So why do I mess up so much?!

Some of My Frequent Mess Ups

  • I am often too impatient with my children. (Honestly, I didn’t even realize that I struggled with patience until I became a parent!)
  • I’m too quick to correct a child in front of other family members. I know this is wrong, I really do – but in the emotion of the moment, it’s easy to make the wrong choice.
  • I sometimes mishandle children’s emotions. As my oldest child entered adolescence, words like “this really isn’t something to cry about” would sometimes escape my lips – which isn’t exactly following the counsel that Dr. Tim provided here.

Hang in There!

Unfortunately, wallowing in my weaknesses will never help me be a better parent. Sometimes we simply need to get up one more time when we’re knocked down and recognize that our children will generally forgive us of our “humanness” – especially when they know we’re trying our hardest.

As you honestly assess your own parenting deficiencies, please also remember the many, many good things you are already doing for your children. The fact that you would read a blog article like this speaks volumes to you as a mother (or father). Yet for many of you, especially women, it can be hard to notice the good things that you’re doing; it’s so easy to be blinded by our feelings of inadequacy!

As a scholar, a teacher, and a father, I assure you that there is no greater cause than helping our families successfully navigate life. And in my opinion, there is no other job, duty, or task as important as being a parent.

So the next time you’re having one of those not-so-fun parenting days, hang in there. You’re doing better than you think!

 

 

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! For more of Dr. Rob’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Tim), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.