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Panic Attacks. Post Partum Mood Disorder

8 Feb

My son was around 6 weeks old when my friend panic returned with a vengeance. I was getting on so nicely and I thought I was in the clear. I really did.

Then Santa brought me the gift of more panic attacks for Christmas 2007.

I could not sit still. I could not relax.

I remember being at the dinner table in my mom’s living room on Christmas day literally willing the minutes away. I just wanted to be somewhere under a blanket without people talking to me and asking questions.

And then it happened again at New Year’s. And again. And again.

And it was spectacularly awful.

All panic attacks are spectacularly awful for people who have them. For me, I felt like I couldn’t breath. I could not physically get in a breath, no matter what I did. I would bend over in the hopes of getting that air in. My heart pounded. I wanted to ask people around me – “can you hear that pounding? Can you SEE my heart beating really fast in my chest?”

I twitched, involuntarily. It is as though my jaw and lips moved of their own accord. My muscles were always tense as though I was on guard for something. I was nauseous and had stomach issues.

One night I tried to “sneak out” of my condo with my son by telling my husband I was going to the walk in clinic due to a sore throat.  I was really going to the hospital. His friend was over and our daughter was sleeping so we left his friend to watch our daughter while we (and our son) drove to the hospital and sat outside. And waited. I was really concerned about what his friend would think of me. I still wonder.

“If anything bad happens, we are right here at the hospital”, my husband told me.

You are a fucking asshole, I thought. “You don’t know how I’m feeling”, I would scream at him.

“I know I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I know what’s happening to you, and I’m here for you”.

I really hated my husband in that moment.

We ended up going for a walk around. And then we got ice cream. And then we went home.

Two days later I went to the hospital for real. I went with my son, sure that something was terribly wrong. They ran all the tests and they were all normal.

I followed through with my doctor and it was clear to him and to his resident that I was not well. He increased my meds (I had checked with mother risk for breastfeeding compatibility) and I had an appointment to return the following week.

I was back at the ER before that next appointment. This time, after all the tests had been run, they asked if I wanted to speak to the people in psychiatric services. I’m not sure if it was the baby, my hysterical crying, or the fact that I was begging for help that tipped them off, but needless to say, I said yes.

I remember saying “please don’t take my baby, I’m really not that bad”. The thought of removing me from my child made me feel so much worse.

The nurses and doctors were AMAZING. They took me to a room in the ER that was quiet and private and let me talk and they adjusted my meds and referred me to a group run in the hospital. It was really a turning point for me. They were totally non judgemental and not frightening in any way. It was validating to me that despite the fact that I was sick, I wasn’t alone.

I realized at that point, that while I did not have post partum depression, I did have a Post Partum Mood Disorder (anxiety and panic).

Part 6 coming soon.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Panic Attacks. And then I got pregnant.

30 Jan

So I was talking about how panic attacks really suck.

I was rolling along having a really shitty time when I started doing some talk therapy along with medication. Initially saw a counsellor that I hooked up with through my EAP (Employee Assistance Program) through work. After that I started seeing a GP psychotherapist.

I really liked both. I gained insight and some useful tools and I was doing better. I never felt 100%, but I was nothing like how I been in the past. I could see friends easily and get through days with limited anxiety. I smiled and was often happy. My hospital bag was still packed by the door, but I rarely thought about it.

And then I decided to get pregnant again.

And I was great during my pregnancy. I swear I had few cares at all despite having a high risk pregnancy. I have a blood clotting disorder – prothrombin gene mutation – that had been discovered when my daughter was born 2 months premature. As a result, I was on fragmin (a blood thinner) and saw, in addition to my OB, a perinatologist and an internist. I was seen in the high risk pregnancy unit and seemed to have appointments all the time. My placenta had clots on it, and the blood flow to it wasn’t great. My blood pressure was high, I had to go off work, but I felt fine. I was at the hospital twice a week for monitoring and spent a week in the hospital prior to the birth of my son at 37 weeks, but mentally, I felt better than ever.

Once my son was over 1 month old it all started again.

If I thought I was bad before, it was nothing compared to how I was at this point.

Part 5 coming soon.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Shower me with advertisements.

22 Jan

I was at my local Walmart Supercentre a few weeks ago and I happened upon this item in the baby section.


This “Mother and Baby Pack” is advertised as “great for shower gifts”.

Oh look pacifiers tucked in.  Sneaky.

When looking at these photos, are you struck by the same things I am? This pack is a blatant advertisement of these products, designed to get people to use the products a few times until they become necessary (as in the case of the bottles and the formula).

Seriously, who GIVES people an advertisement for a shower gift?

I have been to many baby showers and not once have I been inspired to BUY a box of sample items. If I go off registry, I usually get a spa gift certificate for mom or something I really loved, like the Ergo. If anything, make a pack of your own, using products you have tested and believe in, neutral items (ie a water bottle for mom) and some cloths or onesies for baby. If you have no idea what to buy, new moms can always use gift cards and cash!

This particular “gift” is all sorts of gross. If you see it, please don’t buy it.

Judgment and Parenting

25 Oct

I judge other parents.  Frequently.

Now that I have that confession out of the way, I want to discuss judging and parenting.  There was a recent post on Babble titled “Stop Judging Other Mothers“.

The author states:

I do care that you feel that you can reach out to your fellow mothers without judgment or shame.

I do care that you feel supported.

As a mother TO a mother, I SUPPORT you 100%.

Seriously, because anything less just sucks.

Kick judgment in the ass.

Just support each other.

While the sentiment is lovely, the reality is that, no matter what we say, we ALL judge.  Where I differ in opinion from the author (I think) and from other people who are against judging, is that I think that being judged, or even the perception that you are being judged, actually makes you a better parent.

I am going to break this down.  Often for some people simply saying “I breastfeed” leads someone who does not breastfeed to feed judged.  On the other hand, “my kid sleeps all night in a crib with no night wakings” may lead to a cosleeping mother with a child who wakes several times, to feel judged.  I cannot say for sure what the intention of the speaker is, but sometimes, often innocuous statements, make us think – “hmmm, she seems to really like breastfeeding, maybe I’ll look into it with my second”, or, “why do I feel bad when people talk about breastfeeding and what can I do about it”?, or “I am happy with my decision to formula feed and I’m happy that she has a good breastfeeding relationship”.

My kids often watch too much TV or eat too much junk and when I hear “my kids only play with organic wooden toys and eat raw food grown from our garden”, I have a tendency to cringe, but when I examine my feelings, often, it’s because I don’t want my kids to watch too much TV or eat too much junk.  In fact, due to things I’ve read and people I have spoken to, things that could be perceived as judgments, my kids do not watch TV during the week, and junk food is limited to special treats.

I would hope that if I am doing something not so good, that my friends can point it out to me.  I may accept what they say and look into it, and I may continue what I am doing because I believe in what I am doing.  Conversely, I hope my friends know that any judgment they may perceive from me comes from a place of concern.

Life happens and I get that we all make different decisions and we can’t always go back, but we can go forward, armed with new information and new research and new perspectives.  I used a stroller with my first and not with my second.  I don’t care if people use a stroller, but if asked or if in discussion, I will share my experiences.  Same goes with other things.

I have no doubt that there are people out there who love to say “you are a bad parent because”, but I like to believe that those people are few and far between.  Often we are on the receiving end of some judgement from someone who is likely well meaning but perhaps ignorant to our situation.  If we are strong in our beliefs, then the judgement will roll off of us.  If we are not strong, maybe it will cause us to think.

For me, the simple fact remains that I do not support people 100%, “as a mother to a mother”.  Abuse, etc, aside, I don’t agree with many things like CIO, or spanking, and while I may not overtly tell someone, I will not support, and will attempt to gently suggest that they try something else.

Judging and being judged isn’t always a bad thing.  It keeps us on our toes, makes us think and research and often reminds us of why we made our decisions in the first place.

Disney and Similac Team Up to Undermine Breastfeeding for Moms

4 Oct

I was alerted to a press release on Twitter discussing a partnership between Disney and Similac.  The release states:

We are very excited to introduce a brand new Similac partner opportunity — Pediatric Kits! It’s just announced but we’ve already brought in Blairex and Olan Mills as new partners. Similac will be delivering over 2 million Ped Kits to OB/GYN offices all over the country this year. That’s a great way for the right brands to meet new moms and their little bundles of joy! It’s been an amazing few years working with Abbot Nutrition. We’ve seen the Similac program double in terms of new partners and we’ve been a part of helping monitize the initiative with over a million dollars in new revenue.

Also, this just in: we’re pleased to announce the recent signing of Disney as one of our newest Similac Co-op partners. Look for exclusive Disney offerings in our Similac Discharge kits beginning this Fall.

Reading this, I am absolutely horrified.  First of all, the so called “Pediatric Kits” are nothing more than items designed to undermine breastfeeding.  These kits are given out with coupons and formula and bottles so that mothers have them within ready access.  If something is difficult with breastfeeding and the mom does not have the help they need to breastfeed, these “kits” come in handy.   The middle of the night desperation is exactly what the formula companies are banking on.

The partnership idea is particularly gross to me because these companies add something else to the kit – something that is appealing to an even wider group. Breastfeeding mothers who would otherwise refuse the kit, may take it because of cereal, clothing, or Disney coupons or samples (things that have nothing to do with breastfeeding).  Once that kit is in the house, the undermining of breastfeeding happens.

Finally, it is clear that this is all revenue driven because the release discusses the money that they are making!  These kits are not about helping out new moms, they are about selling a product.  The only way to sell formula is if people are not breastfeeding.  A way to stop people from breastfeeding is to market formula in sneaky and underhanded ways like giving out “pediatric kits” in hospitals full of formula and coupons to Disney.

I wish companies like Disney would support breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding lounges in hospitals sponsored by Disney or other companies could be an interesting thing.  The company could promote their brand, while giving much needed funds to help breastfeeding mothers.

Food for thought.


How to support breastfeeding mothers

1 Oct

From my “retired” blog!

Plenty of people want to support their breastfeeding friends and family, they simply aren’t sure how. It is surprisingly easy to support and help out a nursing mother, even if you have limited, or no, experience nursing.

First things first.

Stop offering to take the baby, babysit the baby, give the mom time to herself. I know that it comes from a good place, and all moms do need to shower and use the bathroom, but particularly in those first few months, they need, and likely want, time with their baby. I am hugely guilty of this, despite hating when people do this to me. Babies are cute! We all want to hang out and cuddle with a cute baby while mom naps, but more than likely, mom isn’t napping, she’s fretting, or cleaning, or doing something else entirely.

If you can’t babysit the baby, what can you do? All moms have things that need to get done that they will never ask other people to do – loads of laundry, vacuuming, washing floors, changing beds, wiping down bathrooms, cooking, etc. Absolutely nothing is more helpful to a new mother than actual help with what needs to get done around the house.

With my second child, my friends were amazing. They swept, vacuumed, and cooked. The best part? They didn’t even ask. They just brought food, picked up a broom or took out garbage. My mother and mother in law did laundry, picked up my daughter from school, and made meals. I was so appreciative of the help I received, because I could spend MORE time with my baby, bonding, nursing, resting, playing, and LESS time, worrying about housework, cooking, and laundry.

I returned to work at 12 months on a part time basis and then full time at 15 months. At around 11 months, I was needed in court to give testimony, something that I could not delegate to a colleague. Rather than leave my baby with her, my mother in law came with me. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be, so I nursed my son before going in, on a break, and then after. My mother in law watched my son in the car, took him to a nearby park and played with him. THAT help was invaluable, because I was able to do the work I needed to, but I had right kind of help so that I could nurse my child without having to give formula or a bottle.

Obviously, as babies age, moms will need time to themselves more and be able to take time for themselves. While they are nursing, it is so important to support moms in whatever way you can.

How do YOU support breastfeeding mothers?

Staying Attached in a Detached World

30 Sep

As I move toward more frequent blogging, I am bringing some of my posts over from my “retired” blog – The Canadian Lactivist.  Here is one of my recent posts about Attachment Parenting.

It was so easy for me to be an attached mama when my babies were… babies. They were with me almost every second until the age of one and beyond. I fed them from my breast, wore them and slept with them. I listened to their cues, followed their lead, and loved every moment. I was THAT mom, you know, the one who didn’t use an exersauser, playpen, swing, crib, etc.

I rarely had doubts about what I was doing, but there were so many nay sayers out there, wanting to let me know, in that subtle yet not so subtle way, that I was ruining my kid (s).

Everything that I have ever read about attachment theory and attachment parenting says that a strong attachment in infancy leads to a more secure person later on. My daughter performed the role of Gretl in the Mirvish production of the Sound of Music in Toronto for a year (I’ll save my stage mom stories for another time). She started when she was five. I remember the children’s director talking to me one day during rehearsals about my daughter. She mentioned how my daughter was a pro – listening to the directors and chaperones, picking up the songs quickly, working hard with no complaints, and offering the most insightful little comments. “What did you do?”, she asked. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you”. I wanted to stick out my tongue and say “HA”! to every single person who said “you are holding her too much”, “you shouldn’t sleep with her, she’ll never sleep alone”, “leave that kid for a few hours for some ‘me time’ or she will never be able to get away from you. Ever”. As she marched down that staircase at the Princess of Wales Theatre to Captain Von Trapp’s whistle and stamped her foot telling Maria that she was five years old, I was crying hysterically, proud beyond words that my attached little baby was proving attachement theory right. You make them feel secure at their most pivitol time and they will soar!

I get that my tale is anecdotal and that most kids won’t have that sort of once in a lifetime opportunity, but I wanted to illustrate just how important a strong attachment in infancy is and how it grows and evolves as the child grows and evolves. Attachement parenting does not equal helicopter parenting, it does not equal your kid being your best friend, and it does not equal permissive parenting.

Simply put, attachment parenting is about listening with all of your senses to your babies cues and responding to them respectfully. It doesn’t change as the kids grow older. Sure, you stop nursing at some point, you stop co-sleeping at some point, you stop carrying them around at some point – usually because your child no longer needs these things and communicates that to you. When that happens, your relationships evolves and changes. Your child is secure in the knowledge that you are there, they know this instinctively, and they can spread those wings and run and explore and try and play and know that you will be there for them, the same way you were there when you nursed them, slept with them and carried them.

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