Chapter 5 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Ep 27 Bed Rest for an Overachiever

In August I had my first prenatal appointment with my new Arizona obstetrician.

The week leading up to the appointment I had started having contractions. I’d hoped the preterm labor I’d experienced with Danny was a fluke, a one-time thing. No such luck. It seemed my uterus was prone to contract more than a team of commissioned corporate lawyers.

“You’re twenty nine weeks and already dilated,” Dr. Magnuson said with a grim expression. “Was you last baby premature?”

“No. He was born at 37-weeks and was perfectly fine. No complications.” I didn’t like where this conversation was going. Dr. Magnuson sent me to Labor & Delivery for monitoring. After two hours they sent me home with a prescription for Brethine and instructions to limit my physical activity.

The next day I didn’t take Danny for our morning stroller walk. I didn’t push him in the playground swing. I didn’t vacuum or scrub bathrooms. We didn’t go to the library or the grocery store. We didn’t go swimming. At naptime I didn’t carry Danny up to bed, but knelt behind as he practiced crawling up the stairs on his own. 

This new routine of non-doing was okay for a solid three days before we were both stir crazy and ornery.

 

The next morning, as usual, Danny was wide awake at 6:00 a.m. Our ever predictable early bird. For convenience, and to not wake up Aaron, I did carry him downstairs where I changed his diaper, fixed him a bottle of formula, and parked him in front of the television feeling grateful that PBS started their children’s programming at 6:30 a.m. with Caillou (in my opinion the second-worst children’s show in the universe only beat out by Teletubbies) followed by an hour of Sesame Street at 7:00 a.m. I fell back asleep on the floral beast and woke to the strains of the Elmo’s World them song at 7:45 a.m. as Aaron quietly closed our front door behind him.

He left without kissing me goodbye.

Immediately I called Laiah. “I think Aaron’s mad or annoyed with me.” I told her. She hurried over and we had an extensive conversation. I couldn’t do much of anything else.

“You can hardly blame him,” she replied. “He’s outside all day every day burning his butt off making money while you sit here in this cushy apartment doing nothing.”

The broken springs on the couch poked into my back. There really was no comfortable position on that couch;  if the floral beast was anything, it wasn’t cushy. “I didn’t ask to sit in an apartment all day,” I argued my case to Laiah. “I didn’t ask to have preterm labor and to be put on limited activity. I would one hundred times rather wash dishes and run errands than be cooped up all day, doesn’t Aaron realize that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Laiah said. “Aaron’s working hard. You have to suffer equally or your marriage won’t be equal. It’s not fair if Aaron is sweating in the sun while you’re at home relaxing.”

Chapter 4 Lies of the Magpie

Memoir story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic.

Ep. 26 Stay At Home Mother

The word default has two meanings. One, it connotes a failure to meet an obligation or expectation. And this is what happened. By the time I told Aaron the news about our imminent arrival, our internet store had still not made a single sale. We had a hefty monthly business loan payment and zero business income. Default hints at a lapse of judgement, a miss, an overlook, a mistake. But it couldn’t have been Aaron’s fault for enthusiastically jumping onboard when I wanted to buy the same internet retail package that I was selling to business-minded adventurers from Idaho to Iowa. Nor how could Galaxy Mall be blamed for believing that every person with a home computer would be clicking and ordering before the year’s end? Who could have known it would take twenty years to shift the public’s habits away from brick and mortar shopping? Nobody else inside Galaxy Mall was making any sales. My company went under and I found myself pregnant, unemployed, and working assembly-line temp jobs.

But the word default can also mean a predetermined setting that the programmer has chosen the mechanism will automatically revert to when no other alternative is selected by the user. Clocks revert to midnight, calculators revert to zero, computers revert to basic programming. Mothers revert to caring for their offspring. We house, feed, and grow them within our bodies for 9 months, naturally we provide for their sleep, shelter, and food. This is mother’s instinct at its strongest. It’s our default setting.

Click to listen to Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Lies of the Magpie

postpartum depression

Ep. 24 The Story of My Journey Healing Through Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness

Laiah was the first to see the flyer advertising the Miss Aspen Canyon Community College Pageant. “You should enter.” She ripped the flyer from its tack and handed it to me. “The winner gets a cash scholarship and a new computer.”

How would I compare in a line-up of accomplished young women? Growing up in a society where girls were not my comrades, but my competition, what would it mean to me if the judges scored me as the very best one? No friendships were at stake, my circle of girlfriends remained always the distance of my measuring stick. I filled out the pageant application, submitted a photo, and borrowed a dress.

The night of the pageant I was pacing backstage waiting for my turn in the talent competition when I heard a voice call to me. “Hey stranger,” Aaron walked towards me dressed in a sleek, black tuxedo, a ginormous grin covering his face.

“Well, you clean up pretty well,” I said taking in his aura. His hair was slicked with gel. He straightened his bow tie and winked at me, looking like a GQ model. I was already nervous, wringing my hands and pulling at my numb fingers. His presence filled me with electricity and I wobbled unevenly in my high-heeled shoes, fighting to stay balanced. The air in the dark back stage was frigid, but suddenly I felt an odd mix of hot and cold, as if my entire body had been placed in a furnace, except my arms, which were in a freezer.  I rubbed my shoulders, my wrists, my palms together and blew into them as if I were standing outside in a snowstorm. “What are you doing here?” I asked Aaron, trying to sound completely calm and in control.

“Madame Pageant Director asked the senators to be your escorts this evening,” he spoke with an exaggerated, sophisticated accent. “I just wanted to tell you good luck. You’ll do great out there.” He rocked back and forth in his black dress shoes and I wondered if he was thinking about giving me a hug or a high five. Instead he performed a classic Aaron pivot, and chugged his arms getting his train ready to depart. Before leaving he flashed me his huge smile. Our eyes locked, briefly and in those seconds, all the electric waves surging through me collected as if pulled by a magnet and traveled on one current that connected Aaron’s gaze to me. “Break a leg,” he joked and walked back behind the curtain. A jolt knocked me backwards as the electric connection broke. I stood trying to catch my breath and find my composure before my name was announced for my performance in the talent competition.

After my piano solo, I bowed graciously to the judges, smiled at the crowd, walked off stage and went directly into the dressing room to change into an evening gown and pin up my hair. The temperature felt like a hundred degrees backstage.

Chapter 2 Lies of the Magpie

Postpartum Depression Memoir

Ch. 2 Lies of the Magpie

The story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic illness. 

The thing Aaron remembers most about me from college is my fast-paced walk around campus. His tennis class met at three o’clock at the courts across from my off-campus housing. For weeks he watched me leave my apartment, hurry across the road, rush past the tennis courts, short cut across the grass and disappear into the Humanities Building. His tennis partner noticed him staring and said, “Don’t waste your time. That is Maleah Day. She is the Academic Vice President. Ten bucks says you can’t get her to stop to talk to you. She walks that fast everywhere she goes.”

It was my sophomore year. I was ten years older than the straggly nine-year-old girl from Ms. Wickersham’s fourth grade class. My bean-pole figure had filled out in a few key places. Two years of orthodontic work and contact lenses had tamed my profile, but my ambition—if possible—was still as potent. I’d traded my dream of becoming a firefighter and astronaut to becoming an Airforce pilot and a foreign ambassador. I declared a Political Science major and carried an application for the Peace Corps in my backpack.

Still, I’d never forgotten my dream to become Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and have my own kitchen/chemistry lab. My scholarship covered full tuition and fees, regardless of number of credit hours, so in addition to my social science courses, I registered for a Biochemistry Series, Anatomy, Microbiology, and Physiology. These would cover all lab science prerequisites, just in case I changed my mind about Foreign Diplomacy and decided to apply to Medical School. It was a good plan, I thought, to keep both options open.

Play button above to hear the full chapter.

Listen to Chapter 1: https://maleahwarner.com/?p=1258&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=1269

Listen to the Introduction of Lies of the Magpie https://maleahwarner.com/new-summer-series/

 

Book Cover Art by:

Bethany Baker  of Midsummer Studios https://midsummerstudios.weebly.com/

Chapter 1 Lies of the Magpie

Memoir story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic.

Ep.22 The Story of My Healing Journey

The road I’m traveling stretches endlessly ahead across the Sonoran desert winding through a vast panorama of monotony. Each new mile looks exactly like the last.  Faster, I urge the engine forward pressing my foot deeper into the gas pedal of my husband’s car. I’m supposed to be traveling to the Arizona Music Teachers Annual Convention in Tucson, but I haven’t seen another vehicle in at least thirty minutes. This can’t be I-10, there should be more traffic on a major interstate.

The red speedometer needle trembles over ninety miles per hour. Still, the barren scenery passes too slowly. I might as well be a pioneer driving an old wagon pulled by a pair of sauntering mules. The summer heat turns the car into a furnace. I reach over to crank up the air conditioner, but it is already blasting at full power in a futile effort to keep me, and my enlarged belly, from over-heating. So why is it getting hotter in this car?

A tightening pinch begins in my back and wraps around to my front. The contraction pulls and twists causing me to grab my stomach. I grit my teeth and grip the steering wheel to keep from swerving. Breathe, I remind myself, noticing that I’ve only covered  seven miles since the last contraction. I squeeze my eyes shut tight against the pain, then re-open a narrow slit of vision—just enough to make sure my car tires stay on the road. I wince and wait. Two full minutes pass on the digital clock before the pressure releases. Tears burn in the corners of my eyes.

Please, baby, hold on a little longer. 

Postpartum Depression with Amy-Rose White Part 2

mom postpartum depression holds baby

Ep. 17 Conversations on Maternal Mental Health (continued)

Episode 17 presents Part 2 of my conversation with Maternal Mental Health Specialist Amy-Rose White, LCSW. We discuss the importance of modeling emotional healthcare for our children as well as what dads, partners, and families can do to watch out for signs of postpartum health illnesses and steps for preventative care. Exciting changes are happening for Maternal Mental Healthcare in Utah, plus Amy-Rose tells us what changes she still wants to see. 

Did you miss Part 1 of this interview? Click Here for Part 1 

Q: Why Is It Important to Model Emotional Health for Our Children?

A: One way to help end the stigma surrounding mental health is to model healthy emotional needs for our children. We can say to daughters and sons, “I’m not well and I’m going to go get help and I’m going to figure this out.” Often it’s not easy to find the right help, the right team. Show your family that you are willing to keep trying, to keep opening doors and walking through until you feel well again.

Allow your children to see that you need rest and to see that self-care is natural and part of wellness. Know your self-care routine and what recharges your battery.  I expect my sons to contribute as community members now so that when they grow up and have partners, and possibly decide to have children, they will take the responsibility on as well. They will help carry the burden of raising children. Especially this generation of women, the “Millennials,” fight the “Have everything and have it all now”  pressure. Up and coming mothers are such high achievers and have a burden of options. The pressure is high, it really is. So it is essential to model caring for self and caring for emotional and physical health. 

Q: What Is Your Advice for Partners?

In the film about Postpartum Depression, entitled Dark Side of the Full Moon, one husband says, “Watch your wife. Keep your eyes on your partner.” I agree. 

  1. Focus on the basics. First, help mom get that 4-6 consecutive hours of sleep as soon as possible. This might mean paying for night nursing or doula care. Good nutrition and drinking two big pitchers of water a day are musts
  2.  Grounding is an anti-inflammatory measure which entail putting your bare feet in contact with the ground. Even in cold months, getting outside in nature, maybe a brief walk around the neighborhood, is healing. 
  3.  Getting a break from children every day.  My OB gave me a prescription for a daily break and it changed my life. I’d never had a medical provider say, “You matter and you have to nourish yourself and take a break. You’re not just a feeding machine. This is essential for you as a human being.” Mom needs an hour break to herself every day.
  4. Watch the signs. If your partner has history of depression or a history of sensitivity to hormone changes, they are at higher risk for postpartum emotional health complications. Other high risk factors include women who have tried three to five birth control pills before giving up because they all made her feel “crazy.” Or if your partner get PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome, watch them carefully during and after childbirth.

If partners can be educated about the warning and also help mom sleep, eat, drink water, and take breaks, these are preventative measures that can go a long way to prevent emotional health changes. Notice what your partner is going through and make the call with her or for her. Going with her to appointments says, “I love you enough that I want to help you get help and we’re going to figure this out together. There is nothing wrong with you.”

Q: How Can Fathers Keep Themselves Healthy?

Ten percent of  dads will develop postnatal depression, so a man also needs to watch out for himself, especially if mom can’t. Warning signs of postnatal illness in men are typically anger or withdrawal. The best remedy is to reach out to a counselor, which is not a guy thing to do. The language centers for men are different than for women. Men tend to need time alone to decompress. Another warning for dads is to be aware that if his partner has an illness, then his risk increases. Often I see that once a women is in remission and recovered, then her male partner gets the symptoms.

It’s a very sad thing I see in my practice, but sometimes relationships do end because of untreated Postpartum Depression. Divorce can occur during the postpartum period because the husband thinks, “This isn’t the person I fell in love with and I don’t see this ever getting better.” Or sometimes the woman might not be ready to get help, or the husband isn’t ready to get help. Postnatal health complications are challenging on a relationship.

Q: Speak to the Positive Side of Postpartum Struggles. What Growth Do You See?

The hundreds of women I’ve worked in say that even though their postpartum struggle was one of the hardest things they’ve ever endured, they wouldn’t trade the experience because of what they learned and who they became in the process of finding healing. Overall, couples who successfully work through postnatal emotional health complication come out with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for human beings in general, as well as less judgment for women and for other moms.

The struggle creates a deeper connection for this universal experience on this planet of moms. Every mother in every country worries about essentially the same things: if her baby is eating enough and gaining enough weight and will get the education they need. We have a common thread as human beings that suffering brings to the forefront. 

Another positive outcome I often see, and this was certainly true for myself, is a sense of purpose and a calling to connect with other moms and to help women and families to know they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help they will be well. Which is the message of Postpartum Support International.

Becoming a parent forces you to become less selfish. With a child, you are instantly integrated into the world of babies, preschool, and school, so you have a vested interest in community, school, safety and what our world is becoming. The process is beneficial for our communities, so it’s not a thing to fear. There is a lot of growth that can come through the journey. Like we’ve mentioned, a deeper sense of strength, connection to the human spirit and to moms and motherhood and that we have more in common than we have different. And a desire to contribute and give back

Another positive outcome of postpartum health struggle is the “unlearning” of false beliefs and patterns. A lot of our role models as women were stoic and muscled through pain and illness, often because they had no other choice.  Our mothers and grandmothers did the best they could, but now we are entering a different era where we can model being self-full. A postpartum health journey can help us to unlearn the conditioning of our ancestors to muscle through. Instead we can learn that when I am healthy, strong and centered, then I can be there in service for my children, my family, and for the planet. 

Therefore, focussing on the personal strength you are developing through your postpartum health journey can be empowering. Though it’s a struggle, it can result in positive life changes including developing personal characteristics of empathy and connection as well as breaking down age-old habits and false beliefs.

Q: What Changes in Maternal Mental Health Are You Excited About?

This February PSI-Utah was successful in getting an appropriations measure passed in the state legislature to receive funding for three years to: 1) fund telehealth services for rural moms, 2) increase public health authority’s ability to screen and refer women, and 3) support the development of a new website through the Department of Health which will be a massive resource referral database where users can click on a geomap in your county and find counselors and support groups in your area that take your insurance.

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference is coming up May 31 and June 1, 2019 in Salt Lake City. This is cosponsored by Intermountain Healthcare with keynote speakers and breakout sessions by postpartum health experts. The conference is open to medical professionals as well as the general public. Information and registration found at psiutah.org or click here. 

A State Subcommittee for Maternal Mental Health came out of PSI-Utah. Through the Utah Women & Newborn Quality Improvement Collaborative and the Department of Health, we are educating clinics  and providers how to screen.Primary Care is where that subcommittee is focussing on improving quality measures and outcomes. Neither medical schools nor social work schools teach Perinatal Mental Health.  

A lot of watch guards are hard at work continuing the dialogue about programs that need funding and increasing capacity for care. 

Q: What Are Changes You Want to See for Maternal Mental Health?

  1. For every woman to be educated about the different possible health complications, what the symptoms look like, and how to decrease her own risks. I want every mother to know that it’s in the best  interest for  her baby to take care of symptoms as soon as possible. To know what to look for and where to go. Part of that prevention is to do things while she feels well. Some postpartum symptoms begin during pregnancy, especially the 3rd trimester. 
  2. Have every person who serves and comes into contact with a pregnant woman to be educating and screening her. The conversation conveys the message that mother matter and we want to be involved in helping you feel well.  Even more, for women not just to be given information, but to know what to do and that there is hope. We need to be proactive and not just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
  3. For every woman to know about the resources available through Postpartum Support International (PSI) which is Postpartum.net.  You can click on any state and get free social help. There is also international, Spanish speaking, and  LGBTQ support. You can call a local number and speak to one of 8 or 9 volunteer moms who have been where you are.
  4. My biggest want is that women wouldn’t feel ashamed. It is changeable. Education is key. Understanding that it isn’t a character weakness, that there are physiological changes in the body causing the symptoms. This will take everyone telling stories and going to the State Capitol. Speaking up makes a difference.

Resources:

Amy-Rose White, LCSW:  http://www.arwslctherapist.com/

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference May 31 – June 1, 2019 Salt Lake City Utah:  https://www.psiutah.org/2019-perinatal-mood-anxiety-disorders-conference/

Documentary “Dark Side of the Full Moon” Maternal Mental Health: http://www.darksideofthefullmoon.com/

Postpartum Support International UTAH: www.psiutah.org

Postpartum Support International:    www.postpartum.net

The Emily Effect: https://theemilyeffect.org/

Ep. 16 Postpartum Depression with Amy-Rose White, LCSW

Maternal Mental Health Awarenes

Conversations on Maternal Mental Health

Postpartum Health is a major concern for mothers, fathers, families, and has heavy societal impact. Worldwide, maternal depression is the most common serious health complication of maternity. I speak often about my own experiences with Postpartum Depression and the goal of this podcast is to share the healing principles I learned during my journey to recovery. 

So it’s fitting that on May 1st, 2019, World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day, I got to sit down with Amy-Rose White, one of the leading voices on maternal mental health policies and treatments.  

Introducing Amy-Rose White, LCSW

Amy-Rose White, LCSW  is a Maternal Mental Health & Couples Counseling Specialist based in Salt lake City. Through her counseling practice she has helped hundreds of couples navigate the enormous stresses related to pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage, loss, birth trauma, the postpartum period, and parenting through early childhood. She has a special interest in the impact of trauma, nutrition, and hormones on physical and emotional health.

In September 2014, she founded Utah’s Maternal Mental Health Collaborative which has joined forces with other maternal health advocacy groups and has become the official state chapter of Postpartum Support International.

Under her leadership, PSIUT has succeeded in passing state legislation to increase awareness, treatment, and funding for postpartum health. They have several project in the works including postpartum educational training materials, postpartum screening, telehealth services for rural areas, and the creation of a massive database of postpartum resources for individuals and providers. 

It was a great privilege to have her as a guest on Power Principles the Podcast to share her knowledge and experiences working with Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, and illnesses currently lumped under the term Perinatal Mood Disorders.

Q: What influenced you to become an advocate for maternal mental health?

A: My own experience. I was in my second year of graduate school working as a medical social worker on a labor and delivery floor having no knowledge at all about the realities of postpartum depression and anxiety. A traumatic birth left me with symptoms that I didn’t recognize, neither did the doctors or colleagues I worked with. 

“It has been a journey of mine to find the support that I couldn’t and to help providers educate and prepare and help prevent, when they can,  maternal emotional health complications. That led me down this path and is why I sit here today.” 

Q: Do the terms "Mood Disorder" and "Depression" prevent people from getting real help?

A: The term “postpartum depression” is a complete misnomer. In fact, I had a history of adolescent depression, so I was bracing myself for an experience like that, but when none of my symptoms were similar, I assumed I didn’t have Postpartum Depression. It wasn’t until years later I realized I had Postpartum PTSD, which I didn’t know was a thing. After my second child I thought I was a terrible mom, but I actually did have depression, but it didn’t look like depression I’d had in the past, or anything anyone had informed me about. 

The reality is that more and more women experience agitation, irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. The term in the field of clinicians was Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Now technically our diagnostic bible calls them Mood, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive and Trauma Related Disorders, which of course, nobody says.

The verbiage I think is more accurate is Emotional Health Complications. There are seven common diagnoses that happen to women in percentages much higher than gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and preeclampsia which women are educated about. Yet women are not informed about the variety of different emotional health complications.

These various health complication don’t generally present as a women under the covers crying all day, not functioning, feeling really sad and down. Typically women with these illnesses are taking really good care of their children, they are finding a way to get out of bed. They might have passive thoughts about it might be nice to not wake up so this nightmare could be over, but they don’t feel depressed

Q: Does calling a disease after an emotional symptom propagate the stigma? What is the physical cause of these emotional symptoms.

A:  Historically we have in our medical model an unfortunate separation between emotional and mental wellness and physical health. What we now know from the field of neuro psycho immunology is that every thought and feeling has a physical reaction in the body. One answer is an inflammatory response in the body as well as a dysregulation of the stress response processes in the brain in the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenalacdes) access. So most women presenting with the emotional symptoms we’re talking about today have very clear changes in their stress response physical system that results in the emotional or mental health symptoms.

And the average person doesn’t know that, although it’s becoming more and more understood, and I think it’s largely because we have these very siloed fields of mental health, emotional wellness, and physical health. And then within those parameters we have traditional or allopathic western medicine and “alternative medicine” and the language in the way we talk about these symptoms in all those silos is very different.  

Q: How can we change the label so we can change the stigma?

A: Consumers, those of us who care about emotional wellness and are treating it or we are survivors ourselves, we are in charge of that. We as consumers and advocates actually get to determine the labels which hold or don’t hold. I think we are going to see a real shift in that paradigm as a result of women demanding to be screened and treated accurately and given good information. And also that the stigma around emotional health change, because when anyone hears the term mental illness or disorder, I mean, who wants to be disordered? The word “disordered” suggests a permanence. It has the connotation of a character flaw. And that’s what people think of when they hear mental illness is that it’s a weakness, it’s a flaw, you’re not strong or you’re not capable of putting that smile on your face. That’s why the  handouts I make always say Emotional Wellness or Emotional Health Complications.

Q: What impact do thoughts, feelings, and the environment have on emotional health?

A: The field of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy argues that thoughts create feelings and feelings create physiological  responses in the body. It’s difficult to know which came first with someone. 

In this world we have an enormous toxic burden around pollutants, pesticides, plastics, electromagnetic frequencies. Our endocrine systems, I don’t think evolutionarily have caught up. And pregnancy is an inflammatory state, it’s an immunosuppressive state. So during postpartum, if you have a high toxic load  or you have a bunch of viruses in your body, such as Herpes 1 or Epstein Barr Virus,  or viruses and different genes allow our bodies to metabolize toxins at different rates. I think we are going to see that a lot of the physiology around mental health has to do with our bodies grappling with our environment. And if you have a woman who has a hormone sensitive brain, which many of us do, the enormous changes of pregnancy and postpartum tip that over.

Q: What's your advice for expecting mothers?

1. Keep Moms Number One Priority

The top level answer is to continue the same level of care after delivery that a mother experiences during pregnancy. During pregnancy women are considered special, people open doors for us, give us their seats, want us to eat the best food, ask how we are doing.  Then after delivery it becomes all about the baby and the mother is sort of neglected. Keep the mother numero uno. You can’t pour from an empty vessel. The example I use with clients is that cars have to be fueled up and get regular maintenance and oil changes. We don’t neglect changing a car’s oil for ten years, then get angry at the vehicle for breaking down going up a hill. 

In American culture, the mother has tremendous pressure to be perfect, look perfect, to love every minute, do it well, figure out the educational needs and dietary needs and allergies of each child. And if she gets it wrong, she’s a failure, which leads to women neglecting their nutrition, their sleep.

2. Prioritize Sleep 

You have to fight for sleep. During pregnancy, plan for how you can get a 4 to 6 hour stretch of sleep as soon as possible after the baby is born. Most people look like I’m nuts when I say that, but for preventative purposes, sleep is the most important thing you can do. It’s difficult for women to take naps or ask someone else to feed the baby because we feel like people are watching and judging us and expecting us to do it all.

3. Food and Water

Drink a ton of water.  We have an acronym snowball and the s stands for sleep and the n stands for nutrition. Keep your nutrition just as it was during your pregnancy. 

4. Ask For & Accept Help

Get rid of the thought, “If I don’t do this, no one will.” A lot of women over-function. We think, I’m tough. I’m strong. I’m going to bounce back quickly. I’m going to get this done and it will make me feel accomplished. There are a lot of losses of control when we have children. Sometimes overdoing it is one way we compensate and feel like I got something done. We long for that sense of accomplishment, but over-doing doesn’t fill up the tank. This running on empty will burn-out your physiological components and your brain will complain. You will start to see break-through, bleed-through symptoms. Which is why sleep is the most important thing. We don’t know if a woman truly needs medication, if she needs a certain nutrient if she’s not sleeping. Sleep is always the first place to start because sleep can resolve a vast majority of symptoms or at least make them manageable.  

Q: What is the solution for better and more frequent health checkups for new moms?

The policy team at PSI-Utah includes representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics. One thing we’re working hard on, and this comes from the AAP, are recommendations that at well-baby checks moms also are routinely screened for depression & anxiety and then referred to a qualified therapist or support group, and also given information about nutrition and sleep. I think the pediatrician’s office is the place because most moms do take their children to well-baby checks for at least the first year and often beyond. Whereas a woman might get a six-week obstetrician checkup, then no one sees her again, so the pediatricians are really the only medical eyes on mom.

The benefits of moms being screened by pediatricians beyond that traditional six-week OB postpartum visit are numerous. For one, the well-baby checkups are already on mom’s calendar; it’s not an extra appointment she has to schedule. Also, often symptoms haven’t presented or regulated by six weeks. The first six weeks are pretty rocky anyway, so it’s hard for mom or doctor to know by six weeks what is “normal” postpartum recovery and what are “abnormal” symptoms signaling a more serious postpartum illness. Pregnancy and becoming a mother is such a personal transition anyway, that oftentimes women don’t recognize for three, six, ten, eighteen months that they aren’t themselves. I advise women to pay attention to not feeling “right.” Listen to the intuition that says, “I don’t feel like myself. This is not me.” Instead of defaulting to believing it’s a character weakness, know that there is likely more going on physiologically that can be treated and can get better.

In nearly all cases, although women are at highest risk for emotional health concerns during their reproductive, child-bearing years, women also tend to respond to appropriate treatment far faster than at any other time of their lifespan. When you get the right combination of treatment—talk therapy, sleep, nutrition, social support, medication—women are much better within weeks, not even months. I expect women to have a turn around within a session or two of coming to me. In the vast majority of cases it is totally treatable, completely recoverable. Sometimes I see women who have experienced mild life-long depression or anxiety who, with treatment, feel better than before they had children.

People in general, we settle for not feeling well, and we don’t have to. And we aren’t making the world better for our daughters by not speaking up and expecting better treatment.

Resources:

Postpartum Support International:    www.postpartum.net

Postpartum Support International UTAH: www.psiutah.org

Amy-Rose White, LCSW:  http://www.arwslctherapist.com/

The Emily Effect: https://theemilyeffect.org/

 

 

Ep. 10 Empower Kids Through PLAY

Empower Kids Through Play

Empower Kids Through PLAY

“The opportunity for kids to freely engage in play with one another has diminished considerably over the last 50 years.” Michael Yogman, AAP

Research shows one of the best ways to empower kids is through play. Play helps kids develop problem-solving, decision-making, and risk-taking skills that prepare them to be successful adults. However, play has decreased steadily. The ramifications are becoming so serious that doctors are prescribing play as a remedy for many ills. The American Academy of Pediatricians is encouraging doctors to implement a Reach Out and Play campaign to correspond with the Reach out and Read initiative. Doctors are asking parents to protect and even to enforce playtime.  Episode 7 discussed four specific ways to give yourself permission to add more play to your life. 

What is PLAY?

According to research by Dr. Rachel White: 

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE: Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED: Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED: When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN: It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED: Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL: It involves make-believe.

Play empowers kids because it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The benefits of play are internal (for the individual) rather than external (associated with outside approval or award). Play is self-chosen and the players are free-agents, meaning they can stop at any time. Because play contains non-literal elements, it buffers the individual from real-life consequences and provides opportunities to practice and grow skills essential to living in our complex world.

There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and developing skills. Emphasizing math, reading, and writing at younger ages has forced teachers to remove playful elements from early childhood education. But learning new skills is best facilitated by social, playful interactions where risks can be taken with little consequence. The emphasis on performance measured by test scores is diminishing opportunities to learn from mistakes, even when failure is often the best teacher.  

Benefits of PLAY

According to a report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions. Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”

Benefits of play are numerous and well documented. Play with parents and peers is fundamental for the development of safe, trusting relationships. Play regulates stress levels. Studies have shown that the lack of play increases ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Play develops the learning process, incites creativity, problem solving, and risk-taking. Specifically, play develops language and math skills and improves concentration. 

How to Empower Kids through PLAY

1. Lower the Stakes 

As parents, we can empower kids through play by making sure that for every performance-based activity kids are signed-up to do, they have equal opportunity for unstructured, experimental play. An AAP report states:  “Parental guilt has led to competition over who can schedule more enrichment opportunities.” As parents, organized activities like lessons and competitive sports feels good because they have measurable results which validate our investment of time and money. As adults, we like the structure of consistent time, date, location for activities. The unmeasurability of unstructured play can be a barrier. Which lead us to principle #2: 
 

2. Build Trust Through Play

Dr. Hank Smith, Ph.D conducted his doctoral research in developing trust in educational systems. He discovered that play is a powerful way to build trusting relationships. He found that one of the best ways to repair a struggling relationship (particularly a parent/child relationship) is through play. Get on the same level as your child and do something they love. Don’t talk about grades or problems or instrument practice. Playing together helps kids to know that they matter. You love spending time with them for who they are. They are valuable to you outside of their performance on a report card or in a soccer game. 

Play becomes even more essential in times of family crisis. In the midst of divorce, death, serious accident or illness, job loss, or jail sentence, it seems counterintuitive to play. However, play is exactly what will ease stress and remind family members that it’s possible to experience pockets of happiness in the middle of tragedy. Play helps all family members to grow through the struggle and to develop resilience and personal strength. 

3. Embrace the Mess

Play is messy. The toys buckets will be emptied. The legos and blocks and train set will be strewn across the floor. When our children were young, my girlfriend said the best thing to me. She said, “I love when my house is messy because it means my kids are playing.” Those blankets and beach towels that were folded so neatly in the closet are going to be stretched across the furniture to make forts, which means that every heavy book from the shelf is stacked to hold down the blankets.

Play doesn’t necessarily help with housework. On days that I’ve just mopped and vacuumed, I almost prefer my kids to watch TV instead of play in the sand box. In order to promote unstructured play, as parents we need to lower our standards of tidiness and embrace the mess. 

4. Trick Your Kids Into PLAYING

You know as well as I do that if command our kids to play, they protest. This is because play must be self-chosen. As parents, we can apply a bit of reverse psychology. When my kids have been staring at screens too long or are complaining about boredom, I give them a chore to do. This is a “nonessential” chore. Something like cleaning out the junk drawer in their bedroom, weeding the garden, washing the car, or organizing the game closet.

These are chores that I know will quickly devolve into play, and that’s okay because that’s what I wanted all along. Five minutes into sorting his junk drawer, little Johnnie will be exploring his imagination. One or two weeds might get pulled, but more likely the garden hose will get turned on and there will be a dirt castle surrounded by a muddy moat will appear next to the squash plant. Inevitably the bedroom, closet, and yard will end up more disorganized that they were to start. And that’s okay. That’s when I will smile and say, “I’m happy because my kids are playing.” We have plenty of opportunities to teach chore completion and organization at other times. For today, play is the priority.

Channel Your Inner-Child

Children learn best from example. As parents, we can model playful behavior by engaging in hobbies, being spontaneous, and taking time for activities we enjoy that don’t have any external benefits such as earning money or receiving an award. If you have children in your life, you are lucky. Being around children helps to re-prioritize our lives and help us tune in to our inner-child. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer for kids through Big Brother Big Sister programs, the YMCA, school PTA programs, or foster parenting.

The bottom line is to change our mindset that play is a waste of time. In truth, play can often be more productive than work. So give yourself permission to bring back the Power of PLAY.

Ep. 6 Permission to be Happy

Happiness is not a Destination

Permission to BE HAPPY

I learned this past week of two more young adult suicides. This is an epidemic. We are losing too many beautiful people to unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. I remember being stuck in darkness that felt so real, heavy and impossible to fix. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to continue existing that way. There were many factors that helped me to heal from depression and chronic illness, but the number one thing was learning how to recognize and change toxic thoughts.

Thoughts are real. Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts are electricity and ask anyone who has been struck by lightning or a loose wire how strong electricity is.

Thoughts can convince you that life is so bad that you can’t be happy. Thoughts are so strong they can create emotions of fear, worthlessness, and feelings of impending doom, panic attacks, and the desperate need to to escape. 

In my healing process, I discovered six LIES that my brain told me about why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be happy. I learned to counter those LIES with the powerful ANTIDOTE of TRUTH. 

False Belief #1: I Can't Be Happy Because Life is Supposed to Be Hard

On the drive to music lessons this morning, my husband and son saw a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree off the side of the road. Seeing an eagle in town is a rare and magnificent siting. They stopped the car to watch its grandeur and expected other drivers would do the same. Instead they were chastised by shouts and blaring horn. And this was on a leisurely country road on a Saturday morning. Other drivers pulled around them in frustration, so busy glaring and making angry gestures that they failed to notice the beautiful eagle. 

Why do we believe that life is so serious? so busy? so burdensome? It is a false belief that life has to be hard. Episode 2: The Power of Want explains that if all we think about are problems, the Universe will give us more problems.

The antidote to this false belief is explained in Episode 4: Permission to Make Life Easier. Give yourself permission to enjoy life, to be happy now, stop and see the eagles! 

False Belief #2: I Can't Be Happy While Others Suffer

My son is living in South Africa. He emailed pictures of a house he was helping to build build. This woman had acquired some land and some supplies and was building her own home. They dug a trench and stood some rough pieces of lumber in the trench to create a one-room, wooden shack. When I see pictures like this, my brain fires a string of thoughts about how unfair it is that I have an airconditioned/ heated home with  a microwave and automatic dishwasher and that I shouldn’t be so comfortable and happy when so many people around the world are suffering. 

This is a version of Survivor’s Guilt, the false belief that I shouldn’t be happy, healthy, and have a good life when others around me didn’t get that chance. Survivor’s Guilt causes people to self-sabotage through addiction or failure or just finding misery.

Truth: There will always be tragedy and suffering happening somewhere in the world, so if we all wait for no suffering, then no one would ever be happy. What’s more, we are powerless to help ease suffering if we are also miserable and depressed.

Truth: People don’t have to have identical lives and circumstances in order to be happy. This South African woman was ecstatic with her house because it was her own, she had worked for it, planned it, and built it. Likewise, I don’t need to have what other peopl have in order to be happy in my own life.

Truth: The Ego feeds on comparison, on being “more than” or “less than” others. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy in your life the way it is and be happy for others the way they are.

False Belief #3: I Don't Deserve to Be Happy because I'm Too Imperfect.

I wonder about these young college students whose lives ended far too early. Did they believe they weren’t good enough? Did they believe they were too flawed, too imperfect to be worthy of life and happiness. Instead of happiness did they feel guilt, worthlessness, and despair?

I caught my brain telling me lies like: “You can’t enjoy this because you don’t deserve it.” “You shouldn’t be happy because you didn’t do enough to earn happiness.” or “You have messed up you own life too much to deserve happiness.”

These are ALL lies!

Truth: Happiness is not based on a merit system. Happiness is an emotion that can only come from inside ourselves and never from any of our actions or accomplishments.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be Imperfect and Happy. They can coexist. 

False Belief #4: I Can't Be Happy if Other People Don't Approve of Me

While working to heal through depression, my counselor explained that I was Codependent. What? That was a surprise because I thought I was one of the most independent women I knew. But I relied on the approval of others in order to approve of myself. If someone else wasn’t happy with my work, then I couldn’t be happy either.

I had a False Belief that  unless someone else noticed and validate me and my work, then I couldn’t be happy with me.

As a result, I learned to search for happiness inside of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if others don’t notice, validate or approve of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if someone isn’t happy with me.

Antidote: Give myself permission to choose my own happiness.

We need to change how we talk about happiness. “He makes me so happy.” or “I want to find a partner who makes me happy.” Because the truth is that you have chosen to be happy with that person.

False Belief #5: I Can't Be Happy Until . . .

The above image of a highway sign reading “Happiness Next Exit” represents a False Belief that Happiness is a destination and we spend a lot of time wondering how to get there. 

This is the False Belief that we can’t be happy until we arrive at the completion of a certain event or circumstance.

I’ll be happy when:

  • I finish my degree,
  • the baby sleeps through the night,
  • when the toddler is potty trained,
  • the house is clean,
  • the debt is paid off,
  • my spouse changes,
  • my boss recognizes my work, 
  • when my book is published,
  • etc.  

Truth: Happiness does not exist outside. Happiness happens inside. Happiness is here, now.

Truth:  If I’m not happy now, then I won’t be happy when my book is published either. Why? Because happiness is a feeling and feelings are a result of my thoughts, not a result of my circumstances. I can choose to feel happy right now, sitting in the middle of a messy kitchen. The best evidence for this comes from WWII and the stories of Holocaust survivors like Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning who learned to find meaning, beauty, and even bits of happiness in the most extreme circumstance of human brutality. And if Victor Frankl can do it, then I know I can be happy now.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy NOW. 

Antidote: Understand that events don’t make you happy. YOU CHOOSE to feel happy and you can choose happy RIGHT NOW. 

False Belief #6: I Have to Be Happy 100% of the Time

Do you ever feel like you have to fake happy? Maybe people expect you to be happy. Maybe they think you should be happy and can’t understand if you aren’t happy. Maybe you think people rely on you to be happy so they can be happy to. It’s a False Belief that we have to be happy 100% of the time.

Truth: I am not responsible for other people’s emotions.

Truth: I don’t have to be happy and chipper all the time. That is a big burden.

Truth: I am meant to experience the range of human emotions. And it is important (and healthy) for me to acknowledge and feel all of my feelings from sadness to disappointment to grief.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be real, to feel all your feelings and to not fake happy. 

Antidote: Give other people permission to be sad. Allow people to feel what they need to feel and avoid the instinct to want to cheer them up or fix their emotions.

Conclusion

Learning that my thoughts and emotions were making me physically sick was the key turning point in my healing process. Thoughts and Beliefs are powerful and they can be changed. Giving myself permission to let go of false beliefs and choose happiness has helped me find a more rich, more authentic, and more meaningful life. I’m not happy 100% of the time (and that’s a good thing). I am happy more often than I am  depressed, discouraged, or despairing. I have learned how to choose happiness and I give myself Permission to Be Happy.