AS: Let’s talk about Postnatal Depression

As you all know, postnatal depression is a subject dear to my heart (and mind) and one of the huge reasons I started The Motherhood Project.

I feel that often us mothers try to do it all…. and we beat ourselves up, riddle ourselves with guilt, try our absolute damnest to be the best…. its really no wonder that we fall over sometimes. And yet, when we do slip up or fall to pieces, we berate ourselves for failing! Gah!

Yep, us mums really can be our own worst enemies!

Add to this situation how society perceives us. Generally, we’re ‘just’ mothers, taking time away from our ‘real jobs’ and not contributing to the economy. If we’re slightly in need or single or unsupported, we become a ‘burden’ on the economy.
(all those ‘-‘ are in reference to what I’ve read, heard and discussed about how others view parenting).

Society – and of course, again I am generalising, and here refer to our NZ culture, western society etc – thinks our babies should not ‘interrupt’ our lives – they need to be sleeping 8 hours from 6 weeks old, are cartable from party to social occasion to BBQ to picnic to wedding etc, and must not be cuddled, rocked or breastfed to sleep, lest we spoil them! So if your baby doesn’t fit this ‘norm’, you doubt your parenting, become frustrated and resentful.

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Depression and other mental illnesses are generally misunderstood in our society. Still commonly dismissed as not a ‘real illness’ and combined with the Kiwi mentality of “harden up”, depression is surrounded in stigma and judgement. Its great when stars stand up and say, I have depression. I really like John Kirwans book for this.

In addition, we’ve cultured ourselves to see asking for help as a weakness. We’re covered in baby sick, the washing hasnt been done in 3 days, and do we pick up the phone to ask a neighbour, friend or relative for help?

It’s no surprise then, that new mums struggle to feel validated when feelings overwhelm them. With pregnancy and birth hormones surging, sleep deprivation and huge feelings of responsibility and hopelessness, post-natal depression can affect 15% of new mums.

Symptoms include feeling exhausted, stressed, tired, anxious and confused. You may feel unable to cope with your new baby, or feel little towards your baby. Managing daily activities can be tough, and it can be hard to make simply decisions, because of difficulty concentrating and thinking. You may be worrying, feeling guilty, useless or irritable or having negative thoughts. It can be a low flat mood or loss of enjoyment in the things that used to make you smile.

NOTE that of course, it’s understandable to have many of these symptoms post-birth! Some of these feelings are normal without throwing a baby into the mix!!!
In the days after you’ve given birth, its normal to be teary, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotions! This is commonly referred to as ‘baby blues’ and tends to pass after the first week – it is a result of your pregnancy hormones crashing and coming back to normal. Likewise, there will be bad days – teething baby, colic, growth spurts, job stress, moving house or relationship issues – and feeling angry, teary and fed up is also normal! It is when the symptoms linger on and start to affect your enjoyment of life, that post-natal depression is a problem to be addressed.

The first place to start is to talk to someone you feel comfortable with. Ideally, approach your midwife or GP and let them know how you feel (take a friend for support if you need to). There are also great resources at www.mothersmatter.co.nz

You may find that talking to people who understand can help you feel better about what you are going through. Avoid people who don’t understand and can only offer judgement or criticism. I’ve met a few of these – people who think mental illness isn’t real, or that I need to get over myself. However, even worse I find, are the people who are down themselves, except they are trapped in negativity and determined to bring you down too! I have had to cut ties with people who are so depressing that they refuse to help themselves and despite my efforts to help, are determined to STAY grey. At some point, I’ve had to focus on MYSELF so I can focus on my family, and end contact with these people.

Taking antidepressants can lift your mood and pull you from the black cloud. I know there is alot of stigma around these drugs too. Indeed, some doctors seem to give them out like lollies, and they are not always the answer. But for those who genuinely need them, and can find one that works for them, antidepressants can help keep you out of the black cloud/keep your hear afloat. And for some, that can be just the lift they need, to get things back in order.
A trained maternal mental health counsellor can offer you strategies for coping, and call in any other support you may need. My experiences here include weekly visits (in my own home, so less stress!) and lots of chatting about whats happened, how I have felt/reacted, and how I could do better. What I got out of using a counsellor is giving me the tools/strategies to cope when the black cloud rolled in… and I could use these strategies over and over. Worth a try!

Often getting back to basics can pull you back to feeling happy again. Ensure you are eating well, exercising regularly, and getting sleep when you can. A naturopath or homeopath may be able to help as well. Work through your issues and do everything possible to ensure you have smooth day-to-day running so you can enjoy baby and have time to yourself! Allow yourself time to appreciate the warmth of the sun, the scent of flowers, the sand between your toes and the other goodness of nature!

There is a lot of pressure on mothers!  Mothers need to stop judging each other, forget about pleasing the world, and do what is right for their family. We feel we need to be supermums, but we can’t have clean houses, happy children, healthy food and study or work commitments ALL THE TIME! The balance is ‘some of it, some of the time’! Be kinder to yourself and ease the pressure.

The more we talk about depression, the better it will be for new mums who are seeking validation of their feelings, and support for their new lives. Remember it can take some time to move out of the rut that is PND, but you will get through it!!!

Personally with myself and my friends, we find that we can stand up and shake ourselves off – and we’ve done it!!! But for many of us, we’ve revisted the black hole again – so dont forget to hit those basics again (sleep, exercise, good food, minimal stress), adopt your strategies again, and ride through the next wave of life 🙂

Shattering the SUPERMUM myth

Are you a SUPERMUM?

Know a supermum?

She has perfectly combed hair, and her make-up is impeccable. She has a beautifully dressed baby on her hip, a tidy house, a clean car, and a husband who changes nappies.
This contrasts to your baby sick-stained top, unwashed hair, dark eyes and the three piles of washing on your couch. Oh, to
be like her.

Does Supermum exist? No, she doesn’t.

Trust me, I have tried. I have had three babies under 3 years old, while working part-time, studying full-time, and doing a fair bit of community work. You may have come around and my floor was vacuumed and my kids were munching on organic home baked bread with homemade jam. You might have thought, “how does she do it?”. You wouldn’t have been alone.
Many mums asked me how I ‘did it’.

Did what? ..

Did it all.

Well, I have always been honest. You can’t have it all. Not only would that be greedy and a contradiction to the values I am trying to teach my kids, but it is actually impossible!

The minute you would have left, two of the children would have been embattled in fighting, resulting in me shouting. My partner would have come home, still annoyed with me over a fight we had that morning. There would have been no dinner ready at 5pm, and I would still have been up at 11.30pm, cramming for a management test due the following day. I may have collapsed in the shower that night, crying, for the life that wasn’t going to plan.

Which part of that is ‘super’?

And it would have continued. No clean clothing and a mountain of dirty laundry. Me and him fighting over money, intimacy, housework. Another essay due this week. Orders that need to get out and I haven’t even processed them.

I promise I have been honest. I have always said, ‘I don’t have it all. I am struggling.’
Some people laughed it off. Some offered to help. Some read between the lines, many did not.

Why do we think we can have it all? Why do we WANT to have it all?

We put so much pressure on ourselves. much comes from society. There is a perception/pressure that we should have well-mannered kids all the time, a tidy house, and hold-down work. If your child throws a tantrum in the supermarket, you get ‘looks’ as if you’re the worst mother in the world. If you have piles of clean unfolded washing on the couch, you feel guilty when visitors drop by. If you host coffee group you feel bad when you serve shop-bought biscuits instead of a homemade cake like last week’s host.

I know mums who would love to play with their kids, but spend their days tidying the house instead.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, we have a stigma that exists, that makes it hard to ask for help.
Asking for help makes people feel as though they are failures. Saying, “I am struggling” is a sign of weakness. Admitting depression can be greeted with scoff, judgements or criticisms instead of support.

We need to change this stigma.

The thing is, we’re all in this together. We’re all mums, wanting the best for our babies. Let’s stand tall and proud of that, and help each other through.

Lets be more honest with each other, for a start. Lets not gloss over how well our children are sleeping, if they are not. Lets not rush to hide unfolded washing when visitors arrive.

Talking about the not-so-nicer aspects of parenting and being more open about PND can be the first step towards helping each other and supporting other mums.

We can all be ‘supermums’ in a way! We should pat ourselves on the back when the new baby sleeps. We should give ourselves a high-five when all the kids are belted in the car, faces cleaned, teeth brushed, and you have all their lunches made. You should reward yourself when you have the house mostly clean and the washing on the line.

We can have it all – just not all at once.

What are your thoughts on ‘supermum’? Does she exist? Are you a supermum? Know one? COMMENT BELOW!

The Calm of a Lotus Birth

Lotus birth struck me for two reasons – it is supposed to create a more calming after-birth environment (think less guests, less moving around and alot more resting!) and is supposed to be better for baby (a calmer baby, baby gets all their blood, the stump heals quicker).

And so, after a little research and talking to my midwife, I chose to lotus birth for my fourth baby!

And what, pray tell, is a lotus birth, I hear you ask?

Lotus birth is where the placenta is birthed in the third stage of labour, and left attached to the baby – i.e the umbilical cord is not cut. It eventually dries and falls of on its own.

The benefits are huge. In short, lotus birth slows the whole birth and recovery process down, which has to be calming for mum and child. Baby will recieve all the blood that is in the placenta/cord. In a spiritual sense, there is an obvious link between the world of pregnancy and that of our physical world. This transition ensures quiet, and peace, and rest.

There is less stress on the baby (i.e being passed from great-aunt to grandparent and back again!) and they were in a calm environment  because you take time to be at home (you’re hardly going to lug the babe and placenta to the supermarket, are you?!?).

I enjoyed reading on www.lotusfertility.com this: “Lotus Birth slows things down.  This is most desirable.  The time after a birth is to 
be savoured.  It is like the time after making love, after the climax, a time of 
intimacy and integration.  A mother who has just birthed her baby, after nine 
months of pregnancy, benefits greatly from quiet and rest.  The birth experience 
requires integration.” (http://www.lotusfertility.com/Lotus_Birth.html).

Isnt that so true, how birth is likened to sex. Indeed, many a person has linked between the cramps of mensturation, the cramps of orgasm, the cramps of labour, and those aftercramps post-birth. That sex is a very private and intimate act between two people and birth should also be very private and intimate (read no bright lights and no strangers LOL).

As Sarah Buckley writes, “Lotus birth, the subject of this book, gives us a further chance to ‘slow the fire drill’ after birth, as Canadian birth attendant Gloria Lemay puts it, and allows our babies the full metaphysical, as well as physical, benefit of prolonged contact with the placenta. Lotus birth, like a good midwife, also secludes mother and baby in the early hours and days, ensuring rest and keeping visitors to a minimum.” (http://www.sarahbuckley.com/leaving-well-alone-a-natural-approach-to-the-third-stage-of-labour).

And so….. based on this, I set out to prepare for a lotus birth!

Trusting your body and Mother Nature to have a baby just has to be better for both mum and child, doesnt it?

(And note, I am all for hospitals and obstetricians and everything. Without modern medicine, we would lose alot of mums and babies, without a doubt. But I feel strongly that the majority of births can be done naturally and should not be medically intervened.)

After a beautiful waterbirth at home with baby 3, I was keen to repeat this. Unfortunately I was suffering with horrific antenatal depression and this was preventing me from enjoying my pregnancy. I was terrified that I would not bond with the baby. When I stumbled across Lotus Birth, it seemed to fit ‘right’ and I truly believed it might help. This is all seemed to fit with what I wanted. I was keen to keep the baby to myself, I naturally dislike passing my new baby to anyone else and I also didn’t want an endless stream of visitors. I knew the ‘ick’ factor of the placenta would keep people away! I really felt like the Lotus Birth would help me get over the antenatal depression.

So I talked to my midwife, who hadn’t done it but knew about it. She was happy to support it. I gathered a natural wood basket with a calico liner, a muslin wrap, some long thick ribbon, and chucked the vege strainer into my birthing kit!

After our baby was born, the placenta was scooped up with the strainer and left to drain while we got out of the pool. It was then placed onto a cloth square and liberally salted. Literally, because the midwife in attendance had also never done it and none of us knew how much salt to use. So she put on at least a cup!! She also sprinkled over lots of dried rosemary, which is supposed to help with the drying process and keep the placenta cool. It was the middle of summer so we didn’t want it cooking or decomposing!

Lotus Birth, wrapping ribbon around the cord

The placenta was then wrapped in the cloth and placed into the basket.

After the birth, as my midwife was preparing to leave, she placed the umbilical cord clamp on the kitchen table. I heard her say, ‘in case she changes her mind’ to my support crew, who all adamantly agree I would have changed my mind by that night!

Ha! I am horrifically stubborn, even more so when you tell me what I will/will not do!!!
Later that day I used the ribbon to cover the  long umblicial cord by wrapping it around it. The cord was cold and it felt horrid when I brushed against it, so I was pleased to have it covered. I had chosen a black ribbon because I thought it would hide the blood, but there was no blood and I would use white next time.

I was determined to spend a few days in bed resting. Each side I swapped for feeding, I would carefully place the basket containing the placenta to the other side of me. It wasn’t a problem. I dressed and wrapped my baby with no problems. When I finally did get up, I placed the basket on Babe’s tummy while I carried him to the lounge.

A very peaceful baby, 'between worlds' and still attached to the cord.

Each day (or two, if I was tired!) I unwrapped the placenta, placed it on a clean cloth, resalted it, and then wrapped it again. Each soiled cloth I just chucked in the wash with everything else. The smell of birth hung around for a few days but by no means was it smelly or anything offensive. And this was the middle of summer! The rosemary was quite pleasant too.

My midwife was fascinated to see the placenta and cord change, and so was I! The cord eventually dried up to be clear, showing two little blood vessels inside. It was sooo interesting! It also got quite hard and stiff, which made it a little harder for me to get the baby in and out of his bed – I was using a hammcok which was quite high. But it was no big issues, I just had to take a couple of extra moments of care 🙂

Was he calmer? He was a very placid baby, and still is.

On the 6th day after his birth, the cord detached from his naval, exactly the same time he was born!
It did it the same way as if the cord has been clamped.
This is called, ‘lotus born’ – and I think that sounds very sweet!

I think it would have been sooner if I had let it air more, I was just so worried about him getting cold that I was scared to leave his tummy uncovered!! 

The dried placenta, which was quite firm, did not smell. The dried umbilical cord, which was clear and you could see two blood veins in it!

And so, the placenta was placed into the freezer to be buried at a later date, the baby was bundled up and later had his first immersion bath, the mama celebrated surviving the first week and you know what, I loved this baby wholly. Whether it was the lotus birth, or something else, I held that child close to me and you cant imagine the relief I felt that the depression and its associated feelings had gone.

Woop to a new package!

I got this package in the mail…. I was very excited!!

Inside was…. one of my (empty) tupperware containers, and a dozen ice-packs (those blue things you keep in the freezer!).

But I was absolutely bursting with anticipation when I opened a smaller box and found this:

*Squeeee!!!!!!!*

That parcel is the result of placenta encapsulation!

Yup – I had one of my kids placenta’s encapsulated! Baby Tree Placenta Services did the honours and I have had joy in getting to know Kirsty who owns the business.

Why on earth would one want to encapsulate a placenta?
In short, eating your placenta (that is, the mother!) can help with post-partum bleeding, post-natal depression, bring in or increase milk supply, and increase energy levels – all things we worry about after having a baby!

Its not a new thing, in some cultures it has been done for years and certainly it is seen in the mammal/animal world.

The following is retrieved from an article by Jody Selander from http://placentabenefits.info

“Many people of the world have known the secret power of the placenta as a medicinal supplement. Among the Chinese and Vietnamese, it is a customary practice to prepare the placenta for consumption by the mother. The placenta is thought to be rich in nutrients that the mother needs to recover more readily from childbirth. In Italy, women have been known to eat parts of the placenta to help with lactation. Hungarian women bite the placenta to expedite the completion of labor. And knowledgeable midwives in this country have their birth mothers take bites of raw placenta to help stop hemorrhaging, due to its beneficial oxytocin content.? *And in western civilizations some women have found that you can dehydrate, grind, and put it into capsules to also reap the benefits.

There are a variety of potential benefits to placentophagy. For one, the placenta contains vitamins and minerals that may help fight depression symptoms, such as vitamin B6. For another, the placenta is considered rich in iron and protein, which would be useful to women recovering from childbirth, and a particular benefit to vegetarian women.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using placenta medicinally for thousands of years. One of the well-known TCM uses for placenta, or Zî hé ch?, is to help with insufficient lactation.2 Interestingly enough, in 1954, researchers conducted a study on 210 women who were expected to have insufficient milk supply. They gave dried placenta to the women, and discovered that 86% of them had a positive increase in their milk production within a matter of days.3 It is exciting to see that some scientific research has validated TCM theories of the benefits of placenta. More recent research has discovered that placentophagia could enhance pain tolerance by increasing the opium-like substances activated during childbirth. This would obviously be beneficial during the postpartum healing process.

In my personal experience, women who have taken placenta capsules report positive results in an overwhelming number of cases. Some women have even reported feeling positive effects as quickly as the same afternoon of the day they began their first dose. Women who were already feeling “weepy”, or experiencing other early signs of the baby blues, have felt better within days. Although the current scientific research is exciting, we have barely begun to scratch the surface of the potential benefits of placentophagy. Considering that placenta is a completely natural substance, created by a woman’s own body, encapsulation of the placenta is definitely worth considering as part of a holistic postpartum recovery for every expectant woman.

More specifically, placenta pills may help to:

• Increase general energy
• Allow a quicker return to health after birth
• Increase production of breast milk
• Decrease likelihood of baby blues and postnatal depression
• Decrease likelihood of iron deficiency
• Decrease likelihood of insomnia or sleep disorders

The body is so individual and because of the powerful nature of this medicine other benefits are also likely but too numerous to mention. I believe that this practice is particularly beneficial to vegetarian mothers and those prone to post natal depression” (Jody Selander, 2006).

Sooo….. that leads me to mine. This placenta was in the freezer, it hadnt yet been buried because I was very very keen to make a print of it. I have seen prints such as this beautiful one from Birth Balance and I wanted one! I think it truely does look like a tree, representing the Tree of Life – this placenta is amazing!

Anyway, before this baby was born I had stocked up on a canvas, some beautiful paper, and of course paint! But after having the baby, I hardly had energy to be creating art and thus the placenta was frozen for me to do at a later date!

Time went on and then I heard about Baby Tree – and I was hooked! I sent the FROZEN placenta triple-wrapped (I didnt want any suprises for the Postie lady/man!) and encased in all those ice packs! It was a harrowing period waiting for Kirsty to email me to say it had arrived safely – we had a sudden heat wave and I was stressing about it melting!!!

The thing is that I heard about the placenta being either eaten raw (ewwww!) or cooked and used as normal meat (as in, yes, making a bolognaise or lasagne with it). Fascinating, I’ll admit, but still gross. And then I heard about encapsulating it – thus, all the ick factor for me was taken out!!!!!!! Swallowing a capsule is not gross! And swallowing THIS capsule is all NATURAL and not derived in a lab like many other supplements I take!!!

So Baby Tree Placenta Services posted me back the box I showed you above, along with this GORGEOUS print (and several others!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked Kirsty about the ‘ick’ factor and she said it really didnt bother her! She finds the placenta’s all different, and fascinating, and loves helping mothers.
While all this was going on, Baby Tree was featured on Close Uphttp://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/2012-03-05-video-4759287 – and New Zealand became divided on whether eating placenta’s (and indeed, encapsulating them for others) was insane and assylum-worthy. I was disgusted by the narrow-minded-ness of some people in our country. But never mind, thats a whole other topic!

There are a growing number of ‘Placenta Specialists’ around the country, you can easily courier your frozen (or fresh!) placenta to one of these ladies for safe encapsulation!

I’m of the mind that…… its been around for centuries – longer? – and if the animals think its good………….! Also, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!!!!

So…. I now have my beautiful prints…. I have framed one and put it on the new sleep room wall!

And I have a glass jar with 133 little tablets……… I plan on taking them when baby starts to wean 🙂 I am certainly looking forward to the energy boost!!!!

Being a mum is hard enough without doing it in a grey fog

Being a mum is hard enough without doing it in a grey fog….. and PND is a nasty robber of your ability to enjoy your precious family moments.

This week is PND Awareness Week.

One of the biggest aims of The Motherhood Project is to raise the topic of PND for discussion.

I believe if we can remove the stigma from this subject, then mums would be able to talk about it more freely, enabling them to access the support and information they need without feeling judged.

 

You can help
*Ask a new mum if she is ok. No, REALLY ok.
*Do something nice for a new family.
*Buy Motherhood Supermum Book and support the Perinatal Mental Health Trust NZ
*Talk about PND and remove the stigma

 

 

 
We’re all this together…. lets support each other xxx

 

Seeking help and support is important to get back onto the road to recovery, and to enjoy the parenting journey you are on!
PND is not an admission of failure. It is an illness that affects day to day activities and can interfere with relationships between mother and baby, mother and other children, mother and father.

From My Kitchen to the Perinatal Mental Health NZ Trust

Motherhood: From My Kitchen is selling really well, so thank you for your support!

But even better, is the support we will be able to give others! $2 from each book sold now is being donated to the Perinatal Mental Health New Zealand Trust.

Check out their website here http://www.pmhnz.org.nz/ and consider becoming a member to support their work. I look forward to seeing them grow and develop resources for our families experiencing PND, and I am so pleased to be supporting them.

If you havent yet secured your copy of Motherhood: In My Kitchen, you can do so at felt.co.nz/shop/motherhood

xxxx

A