The Secret Isolation of Motherhood: Is Social Media Harmful or Helpful?

VintageHousewifeCookingThe first year of my sons life way perhaps the hardest year of my adult life. I felt so trapped.

Isolated.

Lonely in the world of being a mom.

I expected that the infant care, feeding, sleep and time challenges would be something to prepare for, but I NEVER expected the dramatic separation between myself and the real world. At work as a nanny I frequented the school I once worked at; I was able to socialize with the community that I had known and loved before my baby, I felt human 4 days a week. Then coming home I was alone again; eating dinner alone with my son before my husband arrived after his bedtime. The weekends were the worst because my husband worked and I knew that the world was out having fun and I was stuck in my house alone.

Sounds awful right? Well, that has changed thanks to our move to Portland. We took a HUGE leap of faith in moving here with just 2 months to find new jobs and a new house. We were blessed and made the transition with more ease than we imagined. Now we have community in our church, community with my meetup group and a best friend neighbor that I often refer to as my sister when not thinking. With my friend and her family as well as my church, I have this comforting feeling that I always have a soft place to land if I fall and people I trust to help when we are in need. I also have purpose now, I have people that I can offer help too and as someone who lives to serve, this is a huge blessing.

In a community we not only find peace and joy in others support but in our ability to help others.

So what changed? Why couldn’t I do this is Seattle? Well, Seattle never felt like home, we never set roots. Here, we will stay and having roots gives us wings to fly! It’s not easy though. It takes a great deal of effort to get out of my comfort zone and be social and interactive in the world. I just need people around while I do the repetitive, mundane day to day tasks and this is the challenge these days. I have this vision of making my life like what I perceive a 50’s housewife’s life would be; chatting to one another while they hang laundry in their backyards, and walking across the street to Verna’s or Lois’s just to gossip about the hot news on the street or sipping lemonade together while all the kids play in the sprinkler. I’m nostalgic for a dream that I have never experienced in this lifetime and likely never will. But I am always trying to build towards bringing this back.

People have lost the sense of community and comfort of friends and family in our homes and social media has moved in in their place. Now that daily community has become rare and we aren’t quite realizing the devastating loss this is and social media has become the band-aid. While social media does provide a little bit of social time it doesn’t actually give us the real quality time we need with other human beings. It also creates addictions to the devices that can put a wedge between us and our children. It’s like the cough syrup we take to survive the day when all we really need is rest…we can tap a little into this medicine but the cure will never be found there. There is still the actual problem that must be solved, but in the meantime, sometimes a little Facebook is sadly just what an isolated and lonely mom needs and I think there’s no harm in this as long as we are VERY mindful of the balance between real life with our families and children we spend our days with, and the artificial world that can wait. We’ve all gone inside and turned to the world of social media. I love this crutch, but am always waiting and hoping for the change. Waiting for old-fashioned dream to come true.

So how DO you beat the isolation and head out to the real world?

Meetup.com – I run my own free meet-up group right here in Portland. There are SO many groups everywhere that you can connect with and head out to meet other moms.

Local Moms Groups – Going to parent support groups, play groups, music performances, art classes, etc. etc. can be a great way to meet other new moms. A Google search in your area can help you find these. You can even search for philosophy specific groups from attachment parenting to baby-wise; it’s all out there for you.

Baby Feeding Groups – Fearless Formula Feeders has many resources to search for groups in your area that offer support for bottle feeding. Le Leche League is a place to hang out and socialize while addressing breastfeeding issues and you can search on their site for groups near you.

Church – This can be a great place to build a community and even help others. If you are wary of the religion side of it, search around for a group that might suit you best. Unitarian Churches are non-denomination and I’ve always found to be very welcoming. Or if you live in Portland, you can always come to my church: The Oregon Community. ;)

If YOU have ideas for more groups for parents, please leave a comment with ink.

The main thing to remember when feeling isolated as a mom is that you are NOT alone. There are many, many moms that feel the same way. So on the random Tuesday on the rainy June day when you feel you are by yourself on the island of motherhood, remember that we are all there with you, waiting to reach out to the world and reclaim a sense of community.

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The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression and How I Prevailed

I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning while my husband gets ready for work. I can hear my son fussing and crying while my husband changes him and gets his breakfast ready. I know that in a few minutes I will be on duty as a mom and I cannot bear this thought. At this moment, I hate being a mom. The sound of my child’s fussing is like nails on a chalkboard and I want nothing but to be left alone. This is something I cannot have now, I must find a way to be a mother today, find a way to cope. I come out of the bedroom and my husband wraps me up in his arms while I sob and beg him to stay home from work. He cannot because he has already called in the last two days because of my sleep deprivation and sadness. He kisses me good-bye and shuts the door behind him and I crawl up in a ball and continue sobbing. My son watches me anxiously and then finally, tired of being ignored, cries out for me. I get him from his high chair and then we sit on the couch together while I cry…about nothing. “There is nothing wrong with me” I tell myself over an over; “there is nothing wrong with my life and no reason to be like this, I just want to be happy and enjoy my life and my child.”

This was me in January, February, March, April, May and June of 2012. I was battling postpartum depression, and loosing the battle. Everyday I would wake in fear for the day and every night I would battle sleep as my mind filled with every possible anxiety and worry. Everyone said I was fine, that life was hard with a baby, but was it supposed to be this hard? I never really told anyone how bad it was for fear of appearing vulnerable or weak. I used to be so strong and positive all of the time and now I felt like I was drowning in my own life with absolutely nobody to rescue me. I never thought of killing myself or hurting my child, but just mothered with a sort of apathy and intolerance for my son and his needs. I tried to trick myself to be happy; tried to train myself to think positively and tried to exercise to raise my serotonin. People said to balance my adrenals with nutrition and to cut out foods from my diet. For 6 months I battled alone and then finally, one sleep deprived day,  I had had enough.

I sought help! I went on medication! Within 2 weeks, I started feeling better!

Slowly I noticed that situations that used to make me fall completely apart, were completely manageable! I noticed that I was happy and I enjoyed being a mother again! I felt like myself! I still got grumpy and sad, but it was a surface feeling and deep down, I was content and my old positive self. I cannot tell you exactly why I waited so long to seek professional help. I think perhaps I didn’t believe in medication. Or maybe I didn’t want to admit that I was actually depressed because of the social stigma. A big part of it was that people would tell me that what I was feeling was normal “because I had a lot on my plate and my stressed reaction was appropriate.” I can assure you now that THOSE FEELINGS ARE NOT NORMAL!

I am sharing this story with you because I feel it is important to know what postpartum mood disorders look like. It is important to know that this happens to 20% of women after giving birth. It’s important to know that you are most at risk 3-6 months after giving birth and after weaning. Mostly, It’s important to know that you can get help and that IT DOES GET BETTER.

The good news is that if you have Postpartum Depression, there is treatment available. In addition, here are some things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Get good, old-fashioned rest. Always try to nap when the baby naps.
  • Try and take breaks for some “me” time.
  • Stop putting pressure on yourself to do everything. Do as much as you can and leave the rest! Ask for help with household chores and nighttime feedings.
  • Talk to your husband, partner, family, and friends about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to speak up as it will help immensely.
  • Do not spend a lot of time alone. Get dressed and leave the house – runan errand or take a short walk.
  • Spend time alone with your husband or partner.
  • Remember that babies are fussy and cry and that if you need a break from that, it’s okay. When they cry they are communicating and you are not failing.
  • Talk to your health care provider about medical treatment. Do not be shyabout telling them your concerns. Not all health care providers know how to tell if you have Postpartum Depression. Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression.
  • Talk with other mothers, so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Join a support group for women with Postpartum Depression. Call a local hotline or look inyour telephone book for information and services.

Here is a list of resources that will come in handy if you have PPD or another postpartum mood disorder.

If you live in Washington, this is an amazing list of support groups that will help.

Postpartum Mood Disorder Support provides warm, understanding, effective and private support and professional referrals for new mothers and their family members. 1-888-404-7763 (PPMD)

Best on the Web Blogs, a list of PPD blogs that could be helpful.

Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth.  1-800-944-4PPD

Pacific Postpartum Support Society provides telephone support, weekly women’s support groups, partner education sessions, community trainings and resource materials. 1-855-255-7999

Mama Eve writes that “bouts of depression are often associated with the post-partum period and the intensity of caring for a newborn, but I think the roots of it can definitely be found during pregnancy as well.” Here on her blog she shares her challenges with depression or “blues” during her pregnancy.

I had this worry that if I went on medication it would affect my son, but according to Thomas Hale, PhD LLL: “The effects of an untreated depressed mom on the infant are significant and hazardous; but the marginal effects of any medication usually are less hazardous than those effects. Treating a mom with postpartum depression (PPD) is much preferable to not treating, since a baby has a better outcome generally (as measured by Bayley scores, measuring interaction skills and speech and language development) when being cared for by a non-depressed parent.” According to this study, “Infants exposed to Paxil and Zoloft had undetectable levels of the antidepressant in their blood.” This needless worry of mine caused me 6 months of suffering that could have been avoided had I acted sooner with medication.

One thing to know is that 1 in 10 dad’s can experience postpartum mood disorders as well. The difference between depression in women and men is that men may be more in denial than women and refuse to seek help. In this article it states that “while Dad’s depression may take a different tone, with more irritable and angry behaviors, than Mom’s, it is likely to be just as detrimental to the child.” Here is a great resource for how to help your husband if you sense that he may be suffering from any postpartum mood disorders.

Now that I have sought help, I don’t feel that I “lost the battle” or “gave up” by going on medication. I feel empowered that I finally made the choice to care for myself, and in turn, care for my family.

I feel that this experience happened to me so that I can openly share my story and hopefully help other women suffering from postpartum mood disorders. This is a common challenge for new parents and we can help remove the stigma by talking about it openly as well as offering support to parents that struggle.

Please share your comments of your own experiences with postpartum mood disorder as well as other resouces you may have surrounding this topic.