Being Prepared for Postpartum Emotions (of Mom AND Dad)

The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes, in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression at one time or another. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.

With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind.  In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?

There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:

* Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.

* Fatigue: In case you didn’t know yet, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up between that time for a multitude of other needs.

* New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings up floods of joy, as well as an “Oh my goodness, this is a big responsibility” kind of feeling.

* Financial Strains: Babies are expensive… and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.

* Social Changes: The days of care-free living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.

* New Identity: Having a baby also means being called “mom” or “dad” and owning this new identity, and all that comes with it, can take some time to adjust.

* Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.

With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.

So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?

* First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives- sadness, tear fullness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.

* Attempt to identify some of the greatest area of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?

* Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.

* Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.

Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor anytime you have concern.

Related links:

Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Postpartum Men

Men’s Health article

Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born

Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues

Books:

The Postpartum Survival Guide

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

Postpartum Depression and Child Development

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Goodtherapy.org: Number 1 Complication at Birth

You may also like:

Living In The Moment
Jamin Like Mommy!
Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici
Everybody Needs Somebody
No Longer a Supermom Wannabe!

Self Care Quick Tip (with a little comic relief!)

I know this feeling well! If you have read my posts, you know how I feel about taking care of yourself. I encourage you to find time for that “Me Time” you so deserve. Not only is it good for you, but because you are a model for your family.

Ask yourself if you want your daughter to grow up and sacrifice her health for the laundry, or your son to work weekends instead of spending it with his family. Remember, they learn by what we do, not necessarily by what we say!

 

You may also like: Living In The Moment, Deep Breathing, and No Longer a Supermom Wannabe!

A Therapist’s Tote of Techniques

NEW BLOG SERIES!

I will be starting a new series “A Therapist’s Tote of Techniques” to share what I feel to be some of my most important and/or most used therapeutic techniques. I am looking forward to this series because most of these are simple, easy to learn techniques that anyone can apply. Another term for this concept is “tools in a toolbox.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I just don’t carry around a tool box as much as I do my favorite tote bags. Men can substitute “tote” for the old fashioned “tool box” if needed! 🙂

Some Techniques and Categories to look forward to:

  • Managing emotions
  • Managing behaviors
  • Reflecting of feelings
  • Relaxation
  • Reframing
  • Cognitive Behavioral strategies
  • Boundary setting
  • Play Therapy Techniques

CREATING YOUR OWN TOTE BAG OF TECHNIQUES:

My goal is to share with you some basic techniques so you can fill your own “tote  of techniques” to use in your daily life. It’s important for me to communicate to my clients that one size does not fit all. This means that what technique worked for your neighbor’s kid will not necessarily work with yours! And what techniques one person uses may not be one you are comfortable using. Take behavior charts for example. I have heard some disagreements with the use of this tool as a means of behavior management, some from those

who do not think they work, and others who don’t find them to fit within their frame work of parenting style. My response: then don’t add that tool to your tote bag! There are many options available and you have to find what is right for you and your family.

Upcoming Post: Deep Breathing

The first technique to be featured is Deep Breathing! It seems simple, but it’s a very important one. I will talk about why it is so important, how it works, how to do it, and when and how to apply this technique. If you are not already following this blog and want to read future posts, please follow this blog via email, twitter, or facebook at www.facebook.com/KimsCounseling!

You may also like to read my post about behavior modification tools.

Using Signs to Teach Your Toddler About Feelings

As a counselor, I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to identify and communicate their feelings. So when my son Max (14 months) was having a meltdown this weekend, I realized that now is the time to start giving him words (akasigns) to express those emotions. Now is the time to start teaching him there is a word for these feelings he is having and that it’s normal to feel angry, frustrated, etc. So, I opened up my baby sign book and dug out the feelings cards. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not under any fantasies that Max will no longer tantrum or tantrum  any less fiercely, but this is an important first step in teaching my son about his feelings.

I use a book titled Baby Sign Language by Karine Shemel Rosenberg. It comes with colorful flashcards and information on the benefits of signing and how and when to start signing with your baby. Here are the feelings flashcards in this book. You can also see where to purchase this book and see my comments and others at my  Goodreads review.

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Applying similar techniques I use when teaching more verbal children about feelings, I can start teaching my young toddler. Here are a few simple things I’ll be focused on:

– Choose which signs you want to focus on, learn them yourself, and get other caregivers (nanny, grandparent, etc) involved. The more exposure to the signs the better.

At the moment he shows the feeling (angry, sad, happy) say and sign the feeling using an empathetic tone.

– At the moment we see others expressing that feeling, especially another child, say and sign the feeling.
– When he is angry, help him learn to calm himself down by modeling a calm state and offering something that may help calm him such as a quiet room, favorite toy, or affection.
– When he calms, tell him “good job calming yourself down.” This sends the message he has control of his emotions.

It is never too early (or too late) to start using these techniques with your child. Their little brains are constantly taking in information and forming connections about their environment and learning behaviors from those around them. Applying these techniques can also take time to get used to, but will be second nature before you know it.

Max is learning his signs quite well these days, communicating his wants and needs to those around him. I am so happy to see when he is able use these signs rather than become upset. If you have been a parent of young children, you understand how frustrating it can be (for baby and you) when they have to fuss because they don’t know any other way to communicate their needs. There is a lot of literature that stands behind the wonderful emotional and psychological benefits of babies learning sign language. I’ll add some resources below to learn more about infant signing.

I have already started teaching these feeling signs and when Max gets the hang of them, I will post a follow up and let you know how it has worked out. If you have already been down this road, I would love to hear about your experience too!

http://www.babysignlanguage.com/ is a fantastic  website to check out. They offer a lot of information on signing, free flash cards, and even have video to show you how to do some of the more complicated signs.

http://signingbaby.com/main/index.php is also a good resource. There are videos of babies signing as well as an index of words.

For a good book, check out Baby Sign Language by clicking on my Goodreads review on the right hand side of this blog. Just above the Goodreads link, click on my Vodpod link to find videos I like. There is a really good video showing a baby signing for her mom. So cute!

No Longer A Supermom Wannabe!

A couple months ago I found myself stressed out and feeling like I was constantly going. I imagined myself as a mouse on a wheel, spinning away and not getting anywhere. I had to take a step back and look at what was going on in my life that led me to feel this way. It’s not good for me, my family, or my clients when I am tired and over-stressed. I had to identify those things in my life that were pulling me down and below is the worksheet I used to help me with this. I identified several areas in which I could make changes. I was expecting myself to be Supermom and Superwife! One example: I was making breakfast for Max every morning, which included scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. If I couldn’t meet my own expectation, I would be frustrated and disappointed. I finally had to make a choice that breakfast would sometimes be as simple as a banana and cereal bar. I know what some of you are thinking, but hey, everyone’s got something right?! 🙂

Energy_Drainers[1]

Whether you have no kids, one kid, multiple kids, plus or minus a spouse and pets, life can get busy! It’s so easy for us to forget about ourselves and get into the routine of tackling the day-to-day tasks on our list. What’s not even mentioned in the above scenario is all the emotional drama you may be carrying around with you all day, such as financial stress or dealing with a difficult co-worker. Emotional energy is just as draining as anything else.

When I say “energy drainers”, I am referring to people, situations, activities, obligations and responsibilities that take physical and emotional energy from our day, such as baseball practice, long hours at work, etc. “Energy givers” are just the opposite of an energy drainer. Energy givers may be as simple as eating breakfast in the morning, daily devotions, and exercise.

I encourage anyone to make a list of their energy drainers and energy givers. Eliminate those areas of your life that drain you and add in those things that give you energy. You don’t have to be a Superhero!

Everybody Needs Somebody!

Today I had a personal issue come up and it was time to dial some friends for support asap. I needed someone who knew the history behind my circumstances, and someone who would listen and empathize, rather and help me to solve a problem. It got me to thinking about all the people in my support system I could choose to call and how important they are to us.

As parents, there are plenty of days when we feel overwhelmed, too busy, stressed, and in some kind of crunch. During these times, it sometimes feels like we are alone to face our stress. But the truth is, most of us have at least a short list of people we count on for different things in our lives and each one may offer something different to us than the others. For example, one friend may be a good listener when it comes to your marriage difficulties, while another friend may be better at helping with childcare crunches.

Identifying these people in our lives can be comforting in times of stress. Your list may be long or short, but having a list is the key. An easy exercise to do is list the names of people in your life that you consider supportive in some way. Then, describe how they are helpful and when you can call on them. Be sure to write these down because the act of writing and visually seeing your support network is important. I attached one below as an example.

Example of a Completed Support Network

If you find you don’t have much of a support network, then it is imperative you get one. Think about what relationships you can foster more, reseach local support groups and play groups, or make efforts to meet some other parents at your child’s daycare or school. A support system is important for your health and therefore, your child’s health!!

I would love to hear how this worked for you or if you have any other suggestions on this topic!

Counselor turned MOM

Wow, life as a mom is everything and nothing like I expected! People were right… I could never imagine loving someone as much as I love my little boy. As I’m writing this blog, I have a precious little girl on the way. Thinking of names is so much fun!

Being a mom has given me a new perspective on counseling and play therapy and on the children and their families that I work with every day. I want to share my experiences, lessons, and advice with the world, as well as gain new insights from fellow parents and professionals. So, I have decided this blog is just the avenue I needed. Comments and questions on this blog are welcomed and encouraged!

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