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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


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.

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.

Under Cover

18 Sep

I wrote an article in 2008 about nursing in public as a guest post for a website that no longer seems to be updated called Wild Parenting.

Here is my article:

From “Public nursing can be a bit…public. Use one of these stylish cover-ups to help the precious time be a bit more private.”

When my first child was born in 2003, the idea of nursing in front of anyone mortified me. As I navigated through a myriad of breastfeeding issues, including nursing a preemie, I found it stressful and uncomfortable to nurse in public. My daughter was working on her latch, and I was working on making sure that no one caught a glimpse of either my breast or stomach. Not one to stay at home, I spent the early days of breastfeeding with blankets tossed over my baby’s head, nursing in washrooms, and hiding myself away from people every time she was hungry. And she was hungry all the time!

Eventually, my daughter and I got the hang of latching, and I went on to nurse her for three wonderful years. We mastered the art of public breastfeeding; I fed her on demand wherever and whenever. When my son came along in 2007, I nursed him in public from the get go without the use of any sort of cover and without going to any change rooms. Certainly, some hilarity ensued including spraying my friend with breastmilk in the middle of a bookstore, but I was considerably more confident in my ability to breastfeed. I had no qualms about nursing him in public without the use of any sort of cover.

All women, all babies and all breasts are not created equal. What may be simple for one person may be quite difficult for another. When you add cultural factors, personal feelings of the mother, and breastfeeding difficulties such as latching to the mix, it may be quite difficult for a mother to nurse easily in public without a cover, particularly at the beginning of a breastfeeding relationship. If a woman wants to use a nursing cover for her own comfort and without that cover would either stay at home or turn to bottle feeding, then using the cover is an easy choice. It can make a real difference as a woman gains confidence in her body.

Even in the most enlightened of places where no one so much as blinks an eye at public breastfeeding, some women, particularly first-time moms, may feel uncomfortable, simply because they are doing something that they have not done before and exposing more of their body than they may feel comfortable with at the time. We live in a society where breasts are sexualized, and until our society changes, we must accept the fact that some nursing moms feel more comfortable when covered.

But the marketing of nursing covers has gotten out of control.

Cool, chic, hip, modern: all are words that nursing cover companies use to describe moms who use their products. Apparently, if you do not cover your baby in a loud- patterned, $60 cover, you are desperately out of style.

No matter how you fancy it up, a nursing cover is a glorified blanket. It may look like a tent, it may have a funky pattern, it may have a string that wraps around your neck, it may have a pocket or a pouch, but a nursing cover is still just a blanket!

When nursing covers are advertised as must-have items, the implication is that if a woman is to successfully nurse her child, she will need a nursing cover. Furthermore, nursing covers are advertised as essential because breastfeeding is, according to some of these companies, a private activity. What that suggests is that the cover is not actually for the mom, but for all the people out there who do not want to catch a glimpse of the side corner of a woman’s breast while she feeds her child. I get that these companies are trying to sell a product, but how they can claim to support breastfeeding and then call it a private activity? Eating is not a private activity. Babies need to eat. Look at any music video, magazine cover, or billboard, and you will see images of breasts far more revealing than most nursing mothers.

One brand has a most offensive name. Hooter Hiders, by Bebe au Lait, plays on the sexualization of breasts. Tongue-in-cheek or not, the name is horrible. It implies that breasts should be hidden, particularly when feeding a baby. The company says on their website that “Breastfeeding is something to be proud of. Bebe au Lait allows modern moms to do so wherever and whenever, in style.” If breastfeeding is something to be proud of, why should it be hidden under a blanket?

I do not have a problem with nursing covers, but I do have a problem with the way they are marketed. It makes a lot of sense that a new mom might want to cover up as she learns to breastfeed. It makes no sense to tell her that in order to be a modern and hip woman, she must have a nursing cover. It makes no sense to tell that woman that breastfeeding is a private activity requiring a cover so as not to offend anyone. If only they were marketed as a product to aid in the successful initiation of breastfeeding instead of something under which to hide! I wonder what would happen if half the energy and effort spent marketing nursing products went into helping women and babies nurse successfully. Food for thought.

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