Happy belated new year! I have been having trouble with my blog so I was not able to post since last year. I had written this post back in December and tried many times to post it; however, it did not work. I am posting it now as I think the issue is still important and relevant. So here it is..
I absolutely cannot believe that Squeakers is 7 months old (she is actually almost 9 months now!). Over half of my maternity leave has gone by in a flash. She is a joy to have and is one of the happiest babies that I know. I look forward to seeing her huge smile each morning when she wakes up and hearing her squeals of delight. Squeakers has been an amazing traveler; in her 7 months she has already been to England, Portugal and Cuba. She was great on all of the flights and spent her time smiling and laughing at the other passengers. She is rolling, cooing, screaming, holding onto objects with both hands, and looking at everything around her with her huge eyes. She has good fine motor skills and is constantly touching her fingers together or rolling her wrists and watching how her hands move. (*Update: she is sitting unsupported and playing, rolling around, feeding herself, babbling, pulling hair and screaming!). Her biggest fan is her older sister, Cubby.
While Cubby has had a difficult adjustment due to the shift in attention, she is now doing much better. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for her or me, but we have made it through the hardest part. For a few months, Cubby could not eat or toilet by herself, she did not want to sleep in her bed, she was having tantrums and outbursts and hiding under the table, and she was hitting me. I knew that this was all to be expected; however, it was difficult with my lack of sleep, low mood, stomach issues, and low frustration tolerance to give her the attention that she needed and to meet the needs of the baby. At the same time, my husband’s work also got very busy, which was great for him and our family, but that meant that I was constantly alone for prolonged periods of time. I was thankful when September came and school started again. Cubby transitioned well to a new school and kindergarten class and now thoroughly enjoys going to school. She comes home with stories of her day and new songs and games to play.
With all of these changes going on and my hormones being all over the map, I had extremes in my moods and did not feel like myself. I was upset one minute, angry the next, sad and low one minute and laughing another. I was very short tempered, especially when dealing with Cubby. I began to feel very incompetent at home and as a mother and wondered what was wrong with me. I didn’t like being alone and I hated being in my house. I felt better when I left my house and was visiting someone or on the road. I also felt better travelling and not being home as then I had people around me.
One night I was on the computer and happened to come across a local health organization’s website discussing post-partum mood disorders. For fun I read the site and the descriptions and took an online quiz and was shocked to discover that I was suffering from post-partum depression (PPD) and anxiety. I took the quiz again just to make sure. How could I have PPD? I am a high functioning organized individual, how could I be suffering from this? I let it sink in for one night and then decided to take action the next day. I called Peel Public Health and spoke to a nurse who did another assessment on the phone. She confirmed my suspicions and discussed the treatment options with me. I opted to have a visit from a community nurse and a referral to a hospital based treatment program.
While I was embarrassed at the time, I knew that I wanted to feel better and get out of the slump so I took all of the help that I was offered. I was nervous about telling my family and extended family as I was ashamed and didn’t want those around me to feel as if I couldn’t handle having two children. To top it all off, people around me noticed that I was struggling and short tempered and moody. However, I often heard comments such as: “There’s something wrong with you”, “I was able to do all of this when I had 2 kids”, “Get organized”, “Stop leaving your house and running errands, just stay home”, and “Cook all of the meals when the baby is napping”. These comments made me feel worse and even more incompetent. I felt like crying out for help. How had everyone else managed this? Why was I the only one having problems?
Another factor making everything else feel so much worse was the fact that I was breastfeeding and starving. I was eating healthy meals and nothing was agreeing with me. My stomach was hurting; I was bloated, gassy and uncomfortable. I would eat an apple, and my stomach would get bloated and painful. I would eat a spinach salad and the same thing would happen. I saw my family doctor and told him that I was not feeling well and that I was having an increase in stomach issues. He told me that it was likely related to my depression and anxiety and declined to run tests or look into it further. I took matters into my own hands and started seeing a functional medicine doctor. After completing various tests, I learned that my hormone levels were quite low (hence contributing to my low mood and low frustration tolerance) and that I had higher levels of bad bacteria in my intestines. The diagnosis was small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and a parasite. Wow! Now it all started to make sense. It wasn’t all in my head.
Since last October, there has been an overhaul of my daily routines and practices. I have had to follow a special low FODMAP diet specific to SIBO, keep my stress levels low, eat slowly and intentionally, and green my home and personal products. I ordered an organic fruit and vegetable delivery service, Fresh City Farms (www.freshcityfarms.com), and found an organic meat delivery service. I have begun a gratitude journal and am reading positive affirmations daily. I sought help from a local hospital that specialized in post partum mood disorders and have been seeing a counsellor and a psychologist regularly. Furthermore, to safeguard my sanity, I have had to set boundaries with certain people in my life. Overall I would say that I am a work in progress. Although my mood is much better, there are certain days that I feel low. Those are days that I do more positive affirmations and journaling and also reach out to others for help.
I have found that the practice of gratitude has a profound impact on mood and your outlook. For the first week, I found it difficult to express what I was grateful for; however by the end of the month, I felt more happy and positive. If you are a new mom in your home and are feeling the same way, I encourage you to talk to someone and/or get help. Start a gratitude practice. At the end of each day, write down one thing that you are grateful for, even if you think that it is something small. I found the following two journals amazing for my practice: Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel (www.amazon.ca/Start-Where-You-Are-Self-Exploration/dp/0399174826) and The Five Minute Journal (www.amazon.ca/Five-Minute-Journal-Happier-Minutes/dp/0991846206).
If you know a new mom in your life, reach out to them and support them. Ask prompting questions and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Instead of negative comments, say things like: “You are doing a great job”, “You are awesome”, or “You were meant to do this”. If you notice drastic changes in a new mom’s behaviour or mood, have a private discussion with them and see how you can help or support them. Like me, perhaps they don’t even know that they may be suffering from post-partum depression.
Remember that although birth is a beautiful experience, it is also a marathon for the physical body. Imagine how silly it would be for someone to run a long marathon and then not sleep consistently for days or months, have a person constantly crying in their ear so that they cannot rest, and expect them to be functioning as they previously were. We wouldn’t expect that and we should not expect that of a new mother. New mothers need love, support, and kindness without criticism or judgment. What I would have given for a genuine hug and a shoulder to lean on!
So take the time and hug and praise the new moms in your life for doing such a great job. After all, they are raising the next generation of thinkers and dreamers. And any new moms out there who are experiencing the same, hang in there and know that you are not alone. Ask for help or support from friends, family or community resources. And single moms out there, kudos to you! I don’t know how you do it. Being a mom is one of the best jobs in the world, but it can also be one of the hardest jobs.
Stay strong new mamas and know that it gets better!