Waves

Waves and its synonym “curve” have been used many times as we all have tried to understand this “novel” coronavirus, its impact on the world, and our influence, yet lack of control, over so much now. 

We were introduced to the concept of “flatten the curve” as “social distancing” and “shelter at home” were explained: the curve, or wave, reflecting the numbers of severe illnesses likely to lead to unnecessary deaths from an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Then, we were informed that we could expect future “waves” in which the numbers increase again when “shelter at home” guidelines relax. 

There are many calculations about how high, wide and far apart these waves will occur, reflecting how many will become ill, how long the higher infection rate will occur, and how many months before the next sharp increase of infections, and finally, “How long will this go on?”. 

There are other waves, less discussed and yet so powerful: waves that knock you over, toss you, and threaten to pull you under. I want to share some of these waves that I and other mental health professionals experience, and hope to inspire hope that together we can learn to ride the waves, or at least to float, until they pass over.

In January my husband and I took the trip of a lifetime to celebrate his milestone birthday. As we waited for a connection the news reported a new virus spreading in China; excited for our trip, we barely thought about it. Returning two weeks later, I noticed a sign at customs indicating those traveling from China would be directed elsewhere-again, just a notice, not a worry.  Upon our return, we immediately were immersed in the many details of moving our group practice for a March 1 move, “7 minutes” away, yet, after 28 years, a major move.  We didn’t notice any threat of the approaching storm which would create waves upon waves, upon waves.

We moved, and a week later learned that the number of COVID-19 cases were increasing exponentially in New York. Small waves of concern swept through my patients, but I and most of them were comforted with the “this has the same infection rate as the flu” and “it doesn’t affect children” and “only the very elderly and compromised become seriously ill”.

Then, larger waves of recognition as New York health systems struggled with managing the ill and we first heard of “sheltering at home” as a solution to save lives. In less than two weeks the storm was upon us as in rapid succession schools shut down and a series of executive orders shut down most business and activity in the state. We were “battening the hatches” and very afraid. 

Waves of fear: how will I meet my clients’ needs? Will my clients, my children, my parents be safe? Will I be safe? How will my clients deliver their babies safely, and how can they be assured their families are safe from infection? 

Waves of confusion: How can I practice-what is the safest, most private platforms for Telehealth, and how do I use them? Will Telehealth be adequate when subtle communication is so important in psychotherapy?  Will insurance really pay as promised? 

Waves of grief: For the loss of life, for the loss of a sense of security, for the loss of freedom to go where I need/want, for the loss of connection with friends, for the loss of hugs and kisses, for the loss of community celebrations and for the loss of community memorials.

Waves of sadness: As my loving children tell me one by one they will not be able to visit out of fear that I will lose my life and they will be left without me. As my healthcare clients share their terror that they will bring home the virus to their children or their parents. As I learn of unintentional infections, transmissions, and guilt of survivor transmitters.

Waves of compassion: As I plot out with clients back up plans for the delivery of their babies and for the care of their other children. As I help parents manage the incredible juggle of working remotely from home while caring for their babies, toddlers and home-schooling older children.

Sometimes the waves subside, and I experience a few days, even a week or so, in which the intensity is lower, and I feel strong, competent, and able to navigate these rough waters, even very briefly, to rise above them. And then another wave comes, and I feel like I am drowning, completely overwhelmed.

Sometimes the wave comes from within, sometimes from a particularly traumatic or sad session with a client, and sometimes from my life partner, since we are literally in the same boat, riding this out together. The ever-present undertow of profound knowledge of our utter lack of control threatens to pull us under, into indulging in self-destructive coping strategies for intense feelings of fear, sadness, anger, irritability, and depression. 

In between the intense waves it is much easier to practice what I preach: to practice self-care habits-filling my pitcher so I can pour into others’ cups. I have been best about the habit of meditating, fairly good at nutrition, (with the exception of too much ice cream!) and OK at exercising and getting outside. I know I have to be better than “OK” with the exercise, my ability to be pain-free and healthy depends upon it; so I work to increase my steps. Breath practice helps between clients as well as in the middle of the waves.  I have found great satisfaction and joy with being outside gardening, and connecting with friends via zoom and socially distant walks have been tremendously restorative. I kept a gratitude journal after my twin sons’ births, and I think now is the time to use that tool again to maintain balance in the waves.

This is tremendously hard. Acknowledging and accepting this reality may be the most important tool you and I have. Because when we accept our reality rather than fight it, just as when we surrender and float on waves, we save our energy for where it can be used.

May you be healthy, happy, and at peace.

Sharon Thomason, Ph.d., PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certified) is a Psychologist who delights in helping Moms and Dads grow their families with less stress and great joy!

themomsource.net

Making Motherhood Less Lonely

sarahall
Sara Hall has spent the past ten years teaching Spanish to students in Kindergarten through college. Along the way, she has traveled abroad, filled her spare time with side jobs and summer gigs, and given life to two incredible boys. Due to feeling like she’d hit rock bottom, she has now embarked on a journey to mental, physical, and emotional wellness.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Yet, motherhood tends to feel like one of the absolute loneliest and most isolated places for a woman who is trying to manage keeping another human alive, maintaining a home, and keeping herself healthy all at the same time. Sometimes it is challenging enough to remember to take a shower, let alone worry about adding more to our plates by scheduling visits with other people and playdates with our infants who can barely stay awake. 

We are also under the stress of society telling us that we are meant to have it all figured out. The hardest part is that we are already inside our own heads overthinking everything we are doing wrong and then a commercial comes on showing the mom whose house is immaculate and whose baby is reading novels in Latin. Then on social media we see our high school classmates off on vacations with their children in matching swimsuits and their husbands wearing the newborns. 

We are constantly comparing ourselves with other parents and then being overly critical when we don’t quite meet the unrealistic expectations we have set for ourselves. Since we are so down about not quite measuring up, we then isolate ourselves, feeling unworthy or inadequate. Then those debilitating feelings lead to feeling guilty that we don’t just express gratitude for the wonder we do have in our lives. The danger of feeling so alone only perpetuates this cycle.

So if it takes a village, how do we build that village when we already feel so alone?

Where can we look for people who don’t make us feel inadequate and are not judging us for not having it altogether? First of all, no one has it altogether. The people who seemingly do are certainly facing battles that we cannot see. So let’s drop that nonsense! Take these steps to build your village and surround yourself with the love and joy you need-only escaping to the isolation of your own little island when you truly want time to yourself.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet a mom who has mastered the art of bringing new moms into her circle and be able to form mutual friendships. If you have not yet met that mom, guess what? You can be that mom! Here’s how…

  1. Family–If you have healthy relationships with your family, they can support you in many ways. If they are not able to babysit while you get some quality time in with your new mom friends, maybe they can help you take care of some light housework or cook a meal or two for you and your family. These tasks help lessen your load so that you can focus on building meaningful relationships with your new crew. 
  2. Children’s activities–If you have an older child in school or daycare, organize a playdate outside of school. Better yet–organize a coffee date just for you and the other parents! You could also chat with parents before, during, or after gymnastics, music classes, Mommy and me yoga, etc. If you do not go to any activities yet, check out your local library or bookstore for story times that even infants can attend. Wherever children are, there are parents who want to socialize with you!
  3. Gym–After Zumba®, on the treadmill, walking laps around the park, whatever it is you do to get your heart rate up–first of all, GOOD FOR YOU! Now go ahead and use those opportunities to connect. Some people want to be alone while they work out, and that’s ok too. Just don’t waste any opportunity to expand your village!
  4. Local Events–the MeetUp app has lots of groups, based on your interests-go to the Meetup app, join, and put in your keywords such as “New Mom” or “Baby Groups”, and you can find local groups to meet other Moms!  You can also find events at your local library, in your local parenting magazines, at coffee shops, pretty much anywhere you go. It’s important that when you find an event, (for “just you” or for your whole family) that you dig deep for courage and introduce yourself to people. Ask questions! Get to know them and decide together when you will hang out next!
  5. Social (media) networking–Sometimes it is hard to get out in person when you have one or more little ones at home! Facebook has mom groups by state or sometimes by town. There are also some that are simply based on interests or gender of their children. If there is not one in your area, consider starting one. Invite the mom or two you know, who will invite the mom or two they know, and so on. Having a place to go for advice, venting, or just to have a crew you can talk to when you need it can go a long way.
  6. Virtual support group–Sometimes you just don’t feel yourself, and can’t get out of the house. There are lots of online support groups or people available to help you through tough seasons in your life. This can be especially helpful for parents with infants or who are finding it difficult to leave the house. Postpartum Support International hosts a weekly free online support groups for many parents struggling, with specific groups for military families, NICU parents. 
  7. Local Support Groups— When you don’t feel like yourself, and/or are dealing with fears, anxiety, and the challenges of being a mom, there are local support groups where you can go and talk about some of the real struggles of parenthood. Go to PSI-CT’s Support Group page for information about a free support group near you! 

No matter which route you take to expand your crew, remember that even when you are comparing yourself to the mom group working out at the park together with their strollers, or the ones who sip their lattes during story time (while you wipe spit up off of the hoodie you’ve had on for three days), every single one of them needs to lean on someone else at some point. None of us get a trophy for handling this parenthood journey alone. So find your village and lean on them!



 

 

The View from My Hospital Window

Michelle Anastasio-Festi is a wife and doting mom to her son Ethan. She is also an entrepreneur that founded CT Virtual Assistance and PUSH Publicity. She is also an activist for Postpartum Depression, serving on two committees for Postpartum Support International’s CT Chapter helping moms navigate the challenges of perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.

by Michelle Anastasio-Festi

Despite the heartbreak my husband and I experienced trying to conceive, when the egg donor was successful it was a surprisingly stress-free pregnancy. The ultrasound revealed a healthy little boy and we fell in love immediately. I prepared for the birth; bought supplies, aromatherapy, even a delivery gown for those first precious photos. I wanted to do it naturally. I knew it would be painful, but I didn’t want to miss such a powerful and positive experience.

That’s not how it went though.

When my labor started, we rushed excitedly to the hospital. I refused the epidural initially but after ten hours when the pain worsened, I finally relented. But it didn’t work.

They tried twice but I was still in agony. And when the anesthesiologist ignored me to inform my husband that I just couldn’t tolerate pain well, everything changed.

This wasn’t a joyful or positive moment anymore. Nobody was listening or speaking to me. I was ignored, deemed an inconvenience.

It was 22 hours before anyone noticed my labor wasn’t progressing. Then I was induced. The pain ripped me apart and still there was no progression. It took another 30 hours until eventually I was noticed (after begging for a c-section) and when they finally took me to surgery. I was cut open, tugged and pulled from every direction and when they discovered my beautiful tiny son, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and arm.

Feelings of helplessness turned to fury and then numbness. I started to disassociate from myself, from this body that was left to suffer for 52 hours. I felt more like I was watching than living.

And I felt cheated.

Not cheated of a natural birth, I know issues happen, but robbed of being treated like a person when I needed help the most.

My anxiety became unbearable and my blood pressure soared. After the birth, I had to return back to the same hospital on multiple occasions for other health reasons due to complications from my labor.

In this desperate state of psychological and physical trauma, my body stopped producing milk and my sons hungry screams were increasing my already unbearable anxiety. I spent the next weeks afraid, angry, overwhelmed, depressed, judged; terrified of being alone, especially with my son. The pressure was overwhelming. After endless arguments with my husband, I realized I needed actual outside help.

My OB gyn referred me to a psychiatrist, who gave me two prescriptions and promised results after a month. And it worked.

I found peace and energy. I became supermom; productive and positive, fulfilling my roles as mother and wife and I was killing it. Then the darkness would roll back in with all the impact of a tornado.

It got worse and worse.

I began to feel my depression affecting those around me and started wondering if they’d be happier without me.

This is what led to my stay in a psychiatric hospital.

I’ll never forget the distress echoing through those empty hallways. A woman talking to herself. A man screaming ‘Get me out of here!’ over and over. This was a million miles away from the nursery I’d so lovingly decorated. Instead I was surrounded by fear and desperation.

They gave me a third prescription and every day I paced the corridor crying. The only window at the end of the corridor overlooked a cemetery, a bleak view for the patients who wanted to end their lives before they arrived. I was finally diagnosed with PPD and PTSD.

With PPD, some days you feel fine and then the wave hits and you’re drowning again. The hospital caught me on my good days and then discharged me stating I wasn’t that bad. I begged them not to. Once again, I was ignored and pleading for help.

I was in and out of four hospitals over 6 months. Begging for the help didn’t work and after each superficial evaluation, the PPD and PTSD came back worse.

This was my darkest hour. I wanted to end it. I felt like a burden. I slept all day. I cried all day. I had no self-care. I didn’t eat. I lost 30lbs and feared being around my son, feeling unable to fully care for him.

I was fighting though. I kept reaching out, calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for reassurance that my family wouldn’t be better off without me. I kept a mood journal, documenting my medication and moods every day hoping for improvement. I became obsessed with it and it was my last tiny effort of control in a world that was spinning out of control. I left no detail undocumented and discovered that my mood fluctuated with my monthly hormonal cycle. This led me to an OB near Greenwich Connecticut, who worked with hormonal treatments.

To this day I’ve no idea how I got there; driving in a torrid sea of disassociation, barely functioning but refusing to sink. He tested my hormone levels and prescribed supplements to readdress my imbalance. It was expensive but worth it.

My psychiatrist wasn’t interested though. He disbelieved hormones could affect a woman’s emotions in such a way; treating it like a joke. He told me I had treatment resistant depress (TRD) and referred me to expensive Ketamine treatments or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Scared to death of both, I declined.

Meanwhile, hormone supplements were making headlines in terms of treatments for PMADs. The supplements took time to work and during my final hospital stay, my husband and I realized it months for me to break down, it could realistically take months (or more) to get better. I needed a longer treatment program.

This is when things started to improve.

I checked into a treatment program for people struggling with mental health issues. I lived in residence off campus from the clinic with other women struggling with similar issues. The clinic was nearby and my husband and son visited on weekends. The clinic became my second home. I felt in control there too; cooking, dressing and caring for myself. Something I hadn’t done in the past six months. I was expected to attend clinic every day and I was treated like a human being. And despite my initial reluctance, there I could focus 100% on myself.

Every day was group therapy, CBT, DBT, life skills and trauma groups. Doctors monitored me and a life coach supported me through meltdowns. The staff collaborated with their treatment. I felt positive and supported. Finally, I was listened to. Nobody talked over my head or ignored my pleas for help. I was healing, and I took notice of it.

I continued writing in my journal, adding what I learned in clinic and what I could practice alone. I found yoga, meditated nightly and developed what I call my “Toolkit for Life”. A bag of tricks that would later get me through difficult moments that came my way. I basically learned how to switch the channel.

When the healing began, I’d spend weekends at home, knowing I could return to the clinic anytime if it got too much. I began to live in the moment, forcing myself to stay in the here and now. And I began to feel like myself again.

I discovered that PPD is complex. Medication helps, but it’s only part of the picture. I now understand mental health better. I made friendships in the clinic, shared the healing journey with other patients and aided other women fighting through depression. These women need to be heard and supported and it felt good to help. This is what led me to joining Postpartum Support International’s local chapter and I joined the local committee.

It’s coming on twelve months and I’m a different person. Life is simpler, I’ve changed habits that have not served me well, and the word “No” is a full sentence in my vocabulary. I’ve let go of guilt, shame and judgement. I’m stronger now and more successful in both my personal and professional life. It’s been a blessing in disguise.

If anything, my message is this: Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t feel shame or guilt. I still attend therapy at the clinic and still feel it’s like a second home. Sometimes it may not feel like you’re strong enough, but you are. You’re not alone. Hold onto hope and keep fighting for the help you need. You do have a future and it’s going to be beautiful.

PSI-CT Wants you to Know: Thank You Michelle, for sharing your journey! Friends, Perinatal Depression, Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) occur in 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men. Birth Trauma is a risk factor for both PMADs and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). You aren’t alone, not to blame, and with support you will feel yourself again.

A Walk Thru My Postpartum Depression (PPD) & Postpartum Anxiety

by Michele Lovetri

My name is Michele Lovetri and I am a mother to fraternal twin boys conceived thru our second round of IVF and have been married to my husband and best friend, since 2011. My blog “Michele Lovetri – In My Own Words,” was born from the depths of my postpartum journey. I bring to life the rawness of the motherhood and mental health journey while still finding laughter in the chaos. Instagram and Facebook: @michelelovetri Website: http://www.michelelovetri.com


It was in my third trimester when my OBGYN asked me, “So how are you doing emotionally?,” and I remember my answer being, “I’m doing great!” Why wouldn’t I be? I had been rocking a twin pregnancy, these kiddos were growing beautifully, my hormones were high and my emotions even higher. I was excited for this new chapter and felt ready for this transition. My doctor advised me that I was twice as susceptible to Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) due to having a multiples pregnancy and wanted to ensure I had support once I was home. I thought “Of course I had support. My husband and I are a good team, and we have family who will come if we need it, but we will be fine”. I carried these little guys to my 37 week scheduled C-section. Despite my history of  anxiety I was always an independent, strong woman, so I would be “ok”. I had this!

Day two in the hospital came around and I noticed I had a hard time sleeping and my heart felt as if it was racing. I was anxious, but I chalked it up to the whirlwind of giving birth and the ignorance of new motherhood. We slept the boys in the nursery each night and each morning I would be excited to see them. Yet I felt nothing when they were wheeled into my room.  I felt void of emotion. When I showered and looked down, I didn’t recognize my own body. This huge amount of skin just there with no life in it, like I felt about myself. 

I found myself sitting on the side of the bed just staring out into the parking lot. I didn’t know why and lost track of time. All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was, what to do, where to go and what to say. I just wanted to cry and felt so lost. I wanted someone so desperately to find me. I remember thinking to myself, “What am I doing?! What are we doing?!” 

That night I looked at my husband and said, “I feel like I want to come out of my skin and that I’m going to have a panic attack.” I was drowning, completely suffocated in feelings of terror, sadness, loneliness, and despair. My husband called the nurse’s station but did not get an answer so he physically went for help. Soon nurses and doctors were rushing in. I told them my pain, the lump in my throat growing by the second. I remember telling the psychiatrist, “Please know I do not want to hurt myself and I do not want to hurt my children.”  I remember I was gripping the blankets so tightly, terrified of every single minute. 

We made it home two days later.  I was numb.  All I could do was cry hysterically. It just came and took hold with an unbelievable grasp. “How could I bring these babies into the world and not feel anything for them? How could I do this?” Their crying made me cry even more and sent my anxiety spinning. I remember one of my sons was in his Rock-n-Play and had a bowel movement and all I wanted to do was leave him there. I didn’t care if I changed him or if he got changed at all. I wanted nothing to do with this new life, nothing to do with my sons.  “How could this be my life?” I didn’t want this. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

A few days later we had their first pediatric appointment. My sister had visited the night before and thankfully helped pack their diaper bag because I could not figure out how to pack it, nor did I want to. I didn’t care to learn; I didn’t care if the boys had what they needed. I didn’t care about anything. At the appointment I ran into an empty exam room to cry. I needed an escape, but I couldn’t escape myself no matter where I ran. But I wanted children didn’t I? This was what we worked so hard to achieve wasn’t it? For me, this was postpartum depression and this was postpartum anxiety. 

I remember this night vividly. My sister thought that maybe doing skin to skin, which I didn’t get to do in the hospital due to complications from the anesthesia, would help me connect to my boys. Again I felt nothing and I hated myself for it. I didn’t even want to hold my own kids.  I screamed for my husband and sister to “get them off of me!”. I was in hell mentally and physically.

http://michelelovetri.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/IMG_0466-300x200.jpg

My mother-in-law came over one day shortly after this photo and we all went on a walk around the neighborhood. The anxiety that set in was consuming. Getting them ready? Leaving the house? It was too much. I forced myself out the door and spent the entire walk cringing inside, counting the seconds until we returned home, which suddenly seemed like a safe place.

I knew I could not go on like this, it was life or death. I was desperate; screaming for help. I would have done anything to be able to crawl out of the hell hole of my mind and body. I needed someone to say to me, “I have been there. You are not alone.”  I reached out to a counselor and sought out therapy. I reached out to every mom I knew, and to my surprise, my friends’ network supported me. Moms who I had never met reached out to send me support! 

One of the most profound statements that was said to me was, “Love grows.” I quickly realized that I didn’t know these tiny people in my life yet they depended on me for their survival. “Love grows” helped me come to terms with the fact that they were getting to know me and I was getting to know them.

With help I worked through the depression but the anxiety remained and surfaced quickly. It’s true, “Love grows”,  and as the weeks went on I found myself more happily immersed in motherhood. Then the thoughts began to rob me again, slowly yet fiercely. I manifested dangerous scenarios that held me back from breathing. Thoughts that something horrible was going to happen to me, and thoughts of harm coming to my boys. This is postpartum anxiety and depression. It has a name and it is so very real. 

It has been a very long 3 years but I am learning to find gratitude in the journey. Oddly I feel lucky that I was able to identify with what was happening to me. While at first I didn’t know it was postpartum anxiety, I knew that what I was feeling could not have been normal. Yet something that could set in just two days after giving birth is still discussed so little. 

I continue to struggle with anxiety every day, but I feel prepared with tools to help “the new me.” That is not the case for so many women. Women are suffering, women are silently crying out.  You may ask why I’m sharing this. I need other women to know they truly are not alone. That their thoughts and feelings have run thru the minds and bodies of many. That we get it. We are with you. We are you. We hear you and we see you. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we need to work together, we must unite to make that tunnel passable. We need to keep this conversation going because PPD and PPA care must become a larger part of our prenatal care and by sharing our hard journeys, I truly believe we save lives.

PSI-CT Wants you to Know:

Thank You Michele, for sharing your motherhood journey! Friends, Perinatal Depression, Perinatal Anxiety and other Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) occur in 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men. Michele had risk factors which alerted her doctor: a twin pregnancy and fertility challenges. You aren’t alone, not to blame, and with support you will feel yourself again.

PSI-CT Advocacy Helps Win Perinatal Support for CT Families!

Paid Family & Medical Leave has finally come to Connecticut, only awaiting Governor Lamont’s signature (he has promised to sign)! PSI-CT has been advocating for this important safety net before we were even a chapter, (just in-utero if you will) as the Connecticut Alliance for Perinatal Mental Health, when we sent a photo similar to the one above to the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF)‘s Campaign for Paid Medical Leave!

PSI-CT members have advocated for this legislation by providing testimony, sending letters to the Hartford Courant, providing photos such as the above, and showing up for “lobby days” at the state capitol to personally talk with representatives. Our founding values are to provide support for Connecticut families by increasing awareness, education, and advocacy for the prevention and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Here are two accounts of PSI-CT advocates experiences at the state capitol:

“When I first arrived at the capitol the day the Senate debated and voted on this legislation, I was struck by my reactions as I entered the building. I wasn’t surprised that there was security as my bag was checked and I “patted down” myself in front of a security guard. I was surprised by my feeling of intimidation as I walked in freely, wondering why no one was asking what I was doing there. I quickly thought “that is silly-this is your house”, and was embarrassed that I had not been there since my kids toured in elementary school. Democracy depends on active informed citizens speaking up, yet I have only a handful of times lifted the phone, much less showed up at the capitol. I realized that while I had unconsciously believed “I don’t know enough”, democracy can’t survive if we don’t put effort into being informed and realize that we don’t have to know every detail in order to speak up to those who represent us. It was my first time to do so in person, but won’t be my last.” Sharon Thomason, Ph.D pictured above with Carol Williams.

Last year I went with my son (who was 5 at the time) to lobby for paid family leave. The staff ft CWEALF was amazing and provided us with talking points and encouragement. I lobbied my State Representative, Michelle Cook, who is a supporter of paid family leave. She was happy to hear from a constituent and my son was happy to meet “the person who makes the laws.” It was an educational experience for him to see the State Capitol and the LOB and to learn about how we can influence public policy. As a social worker who does mainly clinical work, it was a reminder that it’s necessary for social workers to also be involved in the macro side of social work, as we have a keen understanding of how public policy impacts citizens. Amy Rodriguez, LCSW, son Gaitan pictured above

We need a dedicated leader of the advocacy work group on the communications committee! If you have interest in making a real difference for Connecticut’s perinatal families, please contact us at psictcommunications@gmail.com! WE WANT YOU!

Considering a Family while taking Medication

Sharon Voyer Lavigne MS, LGC is the Coordinator of MotherToBaby CT, an instructor at UCONN Health School of Medicine, is a founder of PSI-CT, and has served as both Treasurer and Vice President.  She has numerous publications in the field of teratology and performed countless numbers of outreach educational services to the general public and health care providers.

Congratulations!

You have gotten your mental health in check. You have been going to therapy regularly and have finally found a medication regimen that works well for you. You are feeling better than you have in years both physically and mentally. Now you are ready to consider starting a family. Will you need to stop your current medications or switch to alternatives you have had no personal experience with beforehand? Will your providers be supportive?

Will you be well during pregnancy and the dreaded post-partum period?

So many questions. So much concern. What should you do first?

Well take a deep breath and let’s walk through the process.


1- Make a preconception physical appointment with your OB/GYN provider to discuss medial health and preparation for pregnancy and also to review your medications in person. Discuss with them any concerns you may have about getting pregnant and being in treatment during and after pregnancy. You will get a sense for how comfortable or uncomfortable they are with caring for you on or off medications. If you do not feel supported, you may wish to search out a new provider that is a better fit in your case.


2- Plan on your next visit with your prescribing psychiatric provider to discuss pregnancy and review mediation and potential suggested alternative or additional medications. Just like with the OB provider, you will want to get a feel for how supportive they can and will be during this process. If they seem uncomfortable, you can reach out to the PSI Warm line for a referral for a therapist or prescribing provider that has been trained in treating women during pregnancy and the post-partum phase of life. (800)- 944-4773.


3- Reach out by phone (866- 626-6847), email (mothertobaby@uchc.edu) or go to http://www.mothertobaby.org for the most up to date reproductive data on our current regimen of medication and any possible alternatives. You can gather information on use while trying to become pregnant, use during pregnancy and any data on use while breastfeeding your baby. Each woman is given and individual risk assessment which includes risk versus benefits of medication treatment and the service is FREE.


4- Review results from MotherToBaby with your OB/GYN and psychiatric provider.

Now that you have consulted with your providers and come to an agreed upon medication regimen that will provide you with the best symptom relief and the least risk to a baby, you can get started on prenatal vitamins and any other recommendations made by your OB/GYN. Plan to stay in therapy and have regular visits with all your providers to give you the best chance at staying well throughout the process.

Please check these out!
https://mothertobaby.org/mentalhealth/

PSICT Invites You to be a Provider for our Perinatal Resource Directory

We are excited to share with you that our hope and vision of having an online provider directory of perinatal mental health specialized clinicians is becoming a reality…our parent organization, Postpartum Support International (PSI) has developed the online infrastructure for this directory- ​National Perinatal Mental Health Provider Directory.​

There are categories for healthcare providers, mental health professionals, support groups and affiliated professions. Applicants are reviewed before approval, and need to meet the following criteria: A professional perinatal mental health provider in good standing with state licensing standards, who has completed specialized training in perinatal mental health, such as PSI’s 2-day Certificate training, the 2020 Mom/PSI Webinar Certificate Course, or other specialized perinatal mental health trainings.

Listing your practice in this directory is free. While it is worthwhile and important to be a member of PSI or a state chapter of PSI, this is not a requirement for your listing. The only requirement is specialized training in perinatal mental health.

Please be reminded that if you are a facilitator of a free perinatal support group, please contact Annie Keating Scherer, PSI CT Support Groups Committee Chair to get your group listing on our website. Connecticut perinatal support groups are listed at www.psictchapter.com

We will officially launch the online provider directory once we have an adequate number of providers so that mothers, fathers, loved ones, providers and PSI Coordinators conducting a search feels hopeful in finding at least once resource in their community. If you have received training in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, we would like to invite you to list your practice in the PSI Provider Directory.

BECOME A PSI COORDINATOR!

20170715_105832.jpgPSI Coordinators are volunteers in each state and countries around the world who help bridge the gap between families struggling with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and the care and resources they need to recover.  As a volunteer PSI Coordinator, you provide this connection by finding the treatment and support resources needed for families and providers who contact you. Families identify PSI Coordinators in their state through the PSI or PSI CT websites or by a PSI Helpline volunteer. 

We currently have five volunteers in this role here in Connecticut and we need help to manage the increased volume of texts/calls/emails we are receiving as awareness grows bringing moms out of the shadows and into the arms of treatment and care providers.

Our goal is to have two PSI Coordinators in each county.  At present, we do not have any coordinators in New Haven, Fairfield, Litchfield, Tolland or New London Counties. 

If you are interested in learning about the PSI Coordinator role, you can contact PSI CT Coordinator Jen Vendetti  who can provide information and direct you on next steps. 

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This volunteer position is managed by PSI Volunteer Services Manager Carrie Banks, PSI and PSI North Carolina Chapter. 

Here are the steps in becoming a PSI Coordinator:

  1. Review the PSI Coordinator Roles & Responsibilities document, which outlines the role and responsibilities of the Coordinator position.
  2. Fill out an application form to be reviewed by Carrie Banks. 
  3. Complete a brief phone interview conducted by a PSI Coordinator.
  4. Complete an orientation with Carrie via webinar held once per month.  
  5. Review and sign contract.   

Then you will be listed on the PSI website as a PSI Coordinator in your community!

Interested? Begin the process Now!

 

Light for Kara 5K Shines through a Gray Rainy Sky!

 

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By Cory Bernard, LCSW, PSI-CT President

It was still dark, and in the cold rain I joined a dozen or more volunteers to set up tables, put up signs, put out food and set up tents.  We worked quickly to beat the daylight when hundreds people would arrive for Connecticut’s first walk/run for Maternal Mental Health-The Light for Kara 5K.   When PSI-CT and Light for Kara partnered to bring this event to Fairfield County, our goals were to bring awareness, spread information about resources available to moms and families, raise money, and to honor Kara Kovlakas, whose bright life was cut short by Postpartum Depression.

Despite the bitter weather, soon over half of the 450+ registrants gathered to walk, run, talk, and support one another.  Some came to bring awareness of the devastating statistic that mothers and families face during pregnancy and postpartum: that 15-20% of them will experience a mental health complication.  Some are on their own journey through struggles of postpartum and of parenthood, and some were there to support family or friends. Others came to raise funds for Postpartum Support International CT Chapter or Malta House of Norwalk.  We all came to remember and celebrate the race’s namesake, Kara.

As day broke and the rain poured on, the children of the event participated in a fun run; the DJ played music to keep everyone’s spirits up, and pre-race speeches began.  I spoke about PSI-CT’s purpose and mission and invited everyone to learn more about us. Lauren Shrage spoke warmly and lovingly about the sister she lost, her and her family’s journey through grief, and their hopes of bringing awareness and purpose to the loss of Kara.  Mrs. Rhode Island, Amanda Adams, shared her journey through severe postpartum depression and anxiety to her brighter present. Lauren finished the speeches by asking the crowd to participate in a practice that has helped her . . . “place your hand over your heart, can you feel it? That is called purpose.  You are alive for a reason so don’t ever give up.” After these inspiring words we all took off to walk or run along the beautiful beach at Calf Pasture Beach Park in Norwalk. While running, I found myself really focusing in on the mile marker signs, noticing the businesses who chose to support us, including our own Pam Allon, LMFT and also noticing all the moms and couples running with children in strollers, making the race a family affair.

As the last few crossed the finish line we warmed ourselves under the tent, eating pizza and  visiting with each other. Over a dozen local businesses helped make this event possible through sponsorships or donations.  Over 450 people registered, during which they became aware of the existence of PSI-CT, Light for Kara, and Malta House. Over $20,000 was raised for PSI-CT and Malta House.  People with shared experiences from all over CT and the country came together to reflect and remember. The day far surpassed our goals.

After about a year of planning, it was really fulfilling to see how many people showed up in the pouring rain. Thank you to everyone who made this day possible. And to better weather next year!

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Presidential Introduction and Thank You!

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Cory Bernard, LCSW, President, PSI-CT with Jennifer, Vendetti, MSW, VicePresident, PSI-CT

 

Hello Everyone!

As I return from the PSI Conference in Houston in July and we enter into the last month of summer, I wanted to take a chance to introduce myself as your new board President and highlight some exciting things going on in PSI-CT right now.
Since becoming President this past May (2018), it’s been a wonderful experience working with our amazing board and members from every committee.  First, a little about myself since I may not be familiar to everyone.  I am a married mom of 2 boys (2 yo and 7 yo) and a clinician in part time private practice in Bloomfield, CT.  Like many of you, my own experience postpartum after my first son was born brought me to this work and ignited my passion.
I’ve been involved with PSI-CT since we were the CT Alliance for Perinatal MH, a grassroots alliance of people trying to increase support and services for moms and families in CT.  I am a founding member of PSI-CT (the first state chapter of PSI!), and was formerly the Treasurer and Chair of the Membership Committee.  I remain Chair of the Fundraising & Events Committee though this is an interim position (if anyone is interested in this board position, please contact me!)

It has been one of my great joys to see this organization grow, develop, and have wonderful successes.  For instance, for this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness, we increased the number of chapter affiliated climbs from one last year to 4 this year!  And our teams raised over $5000 for PSI-CT! (A great big thank you to everyone who climbed or donated).  

Our committees are hard at work building membership, planning trainings, compiling resources, outreaching to community providers, and increasing the number of support groups around the state.  This fall, we will be collaborating with Light for Kara to bring Connecticut’s first 5K for Maternal Mental Health to Norwalk, CT.  Please register to run or walk with us! (https://runsignup.com/Race/CT/Norwalk/lightforkara)  
There is so much to be excited about but we can’t do it without each of you- our members and collaborators.  If you are not yet a member, please consider becoming one TODAY!  And if you are a member, consider getting more involved by becoming part of one of our committees.
Please feel free to reach out to me at psictpres@gmail.com or to any of our other board members as needed.   You can find all of our current board members at www.psictchapter.com/aboutus
Looking forward to the second half of 2018 being as eventful as the first!
Thank you all for your support and involvement,
Cory Bernard

Climbing Mountains to Support Families of Connecticut

By Amanda Salvo

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Amanda Salvo is a homemaker, mother of two beautiful children. She serves as a Volunteer Facilitator for the Adjustment to Baby Challenges Support Circle of Southington, is a member of PSI-CT and a member of the PSI-CT Support Group Committee.

On June 23rd I participated in my first fundraising climb-the “Climb Out of the Darkness” climb benefitting the Connecticut Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI-CT).  There were three climbs throughout the state that day, and one climb in Fairfield County was postponed until July 14th due to thunderstorms. From our climb at Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, we raised over $3,000 to raise awareness and support for families struggling to overcome perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). While this may seem like a small amount, when it comes to battling a PMAD, any little amount helps.

I know, because I have needed help. As a new mom, five years ago I was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of my first child. At the time it was not something that I wanted to admit. Trying to tackle it independent of help only made things harder. Admitting I was suffering at the time to me was like admitting defeat; and being sucked into a category of being “crazy”. When I finally came to terms with myself and sought help through therapy and a support group like those which PSI-CT works hard to develop, I was finally able to beat it. With help I was well.  I realized that my own fears too in tackling this obstacle were tackling social stigmas. The enormous mountain of expectations and social criticisms that accompany motherhood and parenting soon became surmountable.

For more than two years now I have been running free support groups as a volunteer facilitator to help moms through the challenges, the good and the hard. I want moms and families everywhere to know that postpartum depression is temporary, and it doesn’t happen with every pregnancy, and things do get better!

This climb was for me symbolic of the struggles we face as parents and those who suffer terribly from a PMAD.  The Simsbury hike was categorized by avid hikers as an “easy climb”. But when you start the trek on the yellow path to the tower at the top it starts as a relatively steep incline. Hiking with my husband, five- year old daughter and six-month old in carrier, we very soon stopped to catch our breaths.  My daughter claimed that she was tired when we only just began. The two of us commenting on the steepness, best footing to reduce slippage on rocks, and how we wished we were a little more fit or a little more prepared for the exertion (for again an “easy climb”), only paralleled the conversations of so many people we heard along the way, including our fellow hikers. The more we cheered each other on and encouraged each other to get to the top “just a little more to go, you can do it”, “when you get to the top you will see the tower,” “we’re almost there,” the easier it became.  It really became easier, and as the rain lightly cooled us we were able to stop along the way to take in the view.

The payoff at the top was a tour of a beautiful historic home, an open sky (albeit a little wet at the time); and knowing that as a family we had made it. Surrounded by others who shared in the journey feels like a success. Moms and dads, kids, families, friends and strangers all hiked together for one cause. It is much like a parent’s life. You’re never fully prepared for the obstacles that pregnancy, delivery and parenthood bring. You have days when you are at the bottom of a mountain and getting to the top seems impossible, or days when you scale it with ease. For those who suffer from a PMAD, know that there is a light at the top of your great big mountain, and we are with you every step of the way.

You can still donate! Click the links below to donate and support PSI-CT supporting Connecticut perinatal families!

DONATE This Year to the Simsbury Team 

DONATE to the Mystic Team

DONATE to the Fairfield Team

DONATE to the Mansfield Team

Making a Difference: Maternal Mental Health Month and Climbing out of the Darkness

May is designated as “Maternal Mental Health Month”

and PSI-CT is busily working to increase awareness that as many as 1 in 5 mothers suffer from a mental health challenge. We have partnered with The BlueDot Project to increase awareness this month; please join us by sharing our posts and those from The BlueDot Project’s posts on your social media sites.  As part of that project, we participated last week in the #RealMotherhoodChallenge, which asked Moms to post images and posts which reflected the real challenges of motherhood, rather than “rainbows and unicorns”. As a result of this national effort, the campaign reported that “the conversation around maternal mental health and the need to support every mother was immense. Because of you, we were able to have 8.5 Million timeline deliveries on social media and tripled our partner numbers from last year”. YAY!!! Let’s keep the momentum going!

June 23rd of 2018 will be the date of this year’s “Climb Out of Darkness”.

Our new PSI-President, Cory Bernard, LCSW, will be leading this year’s Chapter Climb in Simsbury, and we are excited to report that we have two other climbs in the state as well-one in Mystic/Groton and one in Fairfield County, (all three climbs will benefit PSI-CT and therefore Connecticut Families)! The “Climb Out of Darkness” is the largest, worldwide campaign to increase awareness of perinatal anxiety and mood disorders (PMADs). Cory notes that “The Climb brings together survivors, providers, advocates and families all over the globe on or around the summer solstice (longest day of the year).  We share stories of hope and celebrate recovery as we gather together to raise money, raise awareness, support one another and give a voice to those who no longer have one. We climb for those who have fought their way out of their darkness, those who are still fighting and those who have lost their fight.”  

Please join one of the climb teams already created or create your own team!  If you start a new climb, please make your climb a chapter climb and request that the funds raised come back to PSI-CT. Just click on “Join the Campaign” to create your own fundraising page at https://climb-out-2018.causevox.com. Don’t forget to let us know where you’ll be climbing: psictfundraising@gmail.com Thank you for support the families of Connecticut by supporting PSI-CT!

Sharon Thomason, Ph.D.

Come As You Are: What Happens In a Perinatal Support Group?

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Annie Keating-Scherer, LCSW is the Support Group Committee Chairwoman of PSI-CT and is the co-founder of the Adjustment to Baby Challenges Support Circle, formerly the Blue Mamas group, in West Hartford, CT. Annie maintains a private therapy practice in West Hartford and is the mother of two wonderful little girls.


“This is a judgement-free zone,” we tell the women as they settle into their chairs. “It’s ALL in here.”  The pregnant and postpartum mamas, understandably, often seem a bit nervous at the start of their first support group, unaware of what to make of this hour together. My co-facilitator and I try to put them at ease as quickly as possible, to know that this is a safe place, one with very few expectations or rules, and one where we hope moms can truly be themselves. We encourage every mama to simply “come as you are.”

Coming together  

Twice a month, our perinatal support group serves as a gathering place where moms come together to share. We invite moms to recount, “the good, the bad and the UGLY,” as they discuss their personal experiences around motherhood, and to receive respect and acknowledgment for their individual journeys. Moms joining this group may be going through depression and anxiety in pregnancy or the postpartum period.  They may be sleep-deprived, worn out, feeling stressed or unsupported.  They may have been referred by their therapists or seen a flyer at the OB or the local library. There is no one unique challenge shared by the women in this group. Nor is there a specific path that leads them to the group. Yet, through our diversity in thought and experience, we create a mutually supportive community that is open to all.  

My co-facilitator and I hope moms can put their inner-critics on hold for this hour, or at least a few minutes of the hour. There is no expectation that anyone arrives on time, or changes out of pajamas. We invite breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. We invite diaper changing, and we certainly invite crying babies (and mamas). The group is a place for moms who need to talk and for moms who would rather sit back and listen, and though we would love it if women showed up to every group, it’s also totally okay to drop-in once in a while.

Confidentiality

Truly, one of our only rules is that what happens in this room stays in this room. We take confidentiality seriously, knowing the vulnerability and bravery it takes to show up. Moms sign a simple contract at the start of their first group acknowledging that they will keep to themselves the names, identities and stories in the room.  We think of this hour together as sacred space.
Feeling Understood: Someone else has been there!

It can feel so good to not feel alone. Motherhood can be a very isolating experience, whether being home alone with a baby, or around others but not feeling comfortable sharing true thoughts and feelings. One of the magical moments in a support group happens when a mom is talking and we see nodding around the room, or the verbal acknowledgment of, “Yes! I have been there.” Whether a mom is struggling with depression, feeding issues, pregnancy after loss, or any other issue she is often met with someone in group who gets it. As a facilitator, I see a weight lifting in these moments of solidarity.

Helping Others Helps Us

While group members are encouraged not to tell other moms what to do, or give outright advice (as we get enough “advice” outside of group), we do share what works for us individually. As a group member, it can feel downright awesome to tell another struggling mom that some form of self-care helped you feel better, or that you struggled and got through a similar challenge. I love watching a mom come back week-after-week and growing in her own self-confidence in motherhood. Perhaps in her first group she felt she was only able to receive support, but as time goes on, she is recognizing that she’s helping others through her own growth and healing.

Finding the Light

It may seem counterintuitive, but we laugh a lot.  Motherhood is hard but also hilarious. Hardly a group goes by that there isn’t an eruption of laughter over some shared baby or pregnancy moment.

It’s more-than-okay if a mom can’t get to laughter, though. It’s okay if she hasn’t smiled in a while. We welcome her no matter what. We want the group to be a safe place to land during the upheaval and identity changes that equal motherhood. Our group offers a time to slowly start to feel oneself again. It’s an honor to be part of that journey.

 

 

 

The Rearview Mirror & Excitement Ahead

Thank you to all of our Volunteers!

From Sharon Thomason, PSI-CT President

As we say goodbye to 2017, I want to thank each of you for all of your hard work to help support Connecticut perinatal families. We increased awareness, strengthened the net of support through the state, and raised funds for the chapter to better serve-to promote awareness, prevention and treatment for perinatal well-being throughout Connecticut. Sometimes, because we are so passionate about this work and have such high expectations, it feels like we are pouring into pitchers with a lot of leaks. With that in mind, I want to remind you of your accomplishments this year (in PSI-CT, you have also made so many other accomplishments and demands in your lives!)

Not only were we able to raise awareness through events such as the Planned Parenthood staff training fair, CT Women’s Expo, and a La Leche League Meeting, we increased awareness and raised funds with the Climb out of Darkness and the Pastrami on Rye events. We wove the web of support wider and stronger by hosting and providing several trainings: a spring training on perinatal loss, a very successful support group facilitator training, and a traumatic birth training were examples of larger trainings. Individuals, dyads and small groups spread through the state providing talks for pediatric offices, gynecology and obstetric offices, and state agencies. We provided a teleconference training for Planned Parenthood staff and are working on creating an expanded template for future trainings. Our website has been updated and we are working with PSI to make it even better. We recruited more volunteers and committee members, and are increasing our social media presence. Many of us attended the PSI conference in DC and returned inspired to keep MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

In spite of many challenges in our larger world, we can still make a difference in our small slice here at PSI-CT. We have awesome plans for 2018- bringing Components of Care to Connecticut, another support group facilitator training tentatively scheduled for April,  our first annual members appreciation event April 12th, May maternal mental health month events, and another Climb out of Darkness in June,  are just some of the cords we weave this year in our net of support. Thank you for all you do to make it stronger, every little thing you can do helps! If you can’t participate as much this year, no worries. Every effort and every dime counts as we work together to support families.

Sleep? With a new baby?! Protected Sleep as an aspect of self-care

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Cory Bernard, LCSW, is a mom of two boys, aged 2 and 7.
She has worked in psychiatric social work for 12 years.  
And currently has a private practice in Bloomfield, CT with a specialty working with women during pregnancy, postpartum, and when experiencing the loss of a baby or during other life transitions. Cory is a founding member of PSI-CT Chapter and currently serves as the Treasurer as well as the chair of Fundraising & Events and Membership Committee, and as a member of the Resources and Professional Development Committee.

By Cory Bernard

Prioritizing good sleep is good self love.

What is protected sleep?

Sleep is important to all humans; it’s one of our primary sources of energy. Sleep deprivation will affect all other areas of functioning . . . physical, mental and emotional.  Uninterrupted sleep is essential to the recovery of a new mom or dad, particularly if they are suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety or other mood disorder. This is not to say that sleep alone will “cure” their emotional distress, but it can be key in helping them on the road to recovery. Being well rested will improve their ability to think clearly, analyze rationally and make decisions. When these abilities are negatively affected by lack of sleep, feelings of confusion, frustration, sadness, anxiousness and guilt can follow, further complicating the situation.

 

Protected sleep is a term that refers to the idea that the person (often but not always the mom) suffering from emotional dysregulation gets uninterrupted sleep. Her sleep time is “protected” in any number of ways by both herself and those around her. The following information, guidelines and suggestions refer to ideal situations. Even if ideal cannot be reached, any improvement in a mother’s sleep will be helpful in regulating her emotions, functioning and care for herself and her child(ren).

I sleep when the baby sleeps, isn’t that good enough?

While sleeping when the baby sleeps is what we are taught to do, and sometimes babies are good sleepers so this might be enough for a mom, often it is just not enough. Many babies sleep in 1-4 hour windows which means mom is getting less time than that per opportunity to sleep. This is barely enough for a nap, never mind full, rejuvenating sleep cycles. Also, frequently mothers have other obligations (self-imposed or otherwise) which they attend to when the baby does sleep for longer. These can include caring for older children, cooking, cleaning or working. The goal is for mothers to get at least 5 hours (more if/when possible) of uninterrupted sleep. This does not include time needed to get ready to go to bed or fall asleep, it only applies to time asleep.

How am I supposed to do THAT?

A common question when the discussion of protected sleep comes up. The answer takes a team effort, consistency and practice. A mom may not sleep as long as hoped the first several times. Perhaps she is having anxiety about the changes being made or her body is adjusting to being “allowed” to sleep. Even in these early attempts, having quiet rest time is beneficial to mom. Here are the basics on protected sleep, some tips and other ideas…

First, protected sleep means the mom is “off duty”…completely. This means she does not have other expectations or obligations, and there is another trusted adult who is responsible for the baby and other children during the protected sleep time. Preferably protected sleep will happen at night to maintain regular sleep cycles but, particularly when baby is young, this may be difficult. If daytime is the only time someone can be available, take it! Even getting a full night “off” once a week can really help.

The baby’s other parent is often the “go to” when looking for someone to care for baby/children during mom’s protected sleep time. But what if that person is not available? Sometimes there is no partner or the partner works nights.

  • If partner works nights, have a conversation about how mom can get protected sleep time during the day when they are there and awake.
  • Try another family member such as a sibling of mom or partner, parent, cousin, or a friend you trust. Anyone can have their sleep interrupted for a night. It’s not as much of an imposition as you would be inclined to think. Remember, they don’t sleep in your house with a new born every night so being there once a week or a couple nights in a row will not cause them the distress that your lack of sleep is causing you. If they can not spend the night, enlist their help during the day to get some sleep.
  • Not everyone has friends or family in the area. In these cases, partner may be the only option and there may need to be a conversation about both of you losing “some” sleep.
  • Hire a postpartum doula, night nurse or babysitter. If you have the means, this can be a wonderful resource when it comes to sleep.

***Be sure whoever is caring for baby has questions answered and a resource other than mom to contact if something comes up. This prevents mom being woken with questions during her sleep time.

Second, when protected sleep time comes, prepare for sleep. Some people are very deep sleepers and once they fall asleep, noise won’t bother them, but this is not the norm for new moms. Put your phone away in another room, take a shower or relaxing bath, drink some calming tea, listen to calm music or a guided sleep meditation (consult with doctor before doing meditation), journal or use other methods to calm and empty your mind to prepare it for sleep. None of this may be necessary if you are exhausted but it’s good to establish a sleep routine if needed.

In order to “protect” sleep time, put as much space and buffer between you and baby as possible.

  • Close doors (as many as are between you and baby)
  • Sleep on a different floor if possible (basement rooms are particularly good for insulating noise)
  • Put on an air conditioner, fan or other “white noise” machine
  • Put on soft music, spoken word (mundane book or podcast) either out loud in the room or through headphones if you can sleep with them.
  • Use earplugs

Since space is a luxury not everyone has, you can also remove baby from the home in order to create the buffer.

  • Have a trusted adult take baby out of the house completely (even if it is just in the yard). They can go to the library, a playground or a long walk. Once you have had time to fall asleep they may be able to come home put baby down for a nap, read books or play quietly if you are a deep sleeper or have some buffer abilities. Try to protect sleep for as long as possible.

But I’m breastfeeding….

One of the most common concerns or roadblocks to consecutive sleep is a breastfeeding mom. While it may be particularly difficult to fit in protected sleep in early weeks, it will become easier as baby feeds less often. There are also ways to work around breastfeeding to limit the amount of time mom is awake.

  • You may not be able to get “uninterrupted sleep” but you can still protect your sleep by asking your partner to change the baby before bringing her in for feeding and then to take baby back out of the room to rock and put back to sleep right after feeding. As baby gets bigger and feeds less, you will get more protected sleep.
  • You can also prepare a bottle for one feeding a night and just wake up, pump and go back to sleep. Keep a cooler in the bedroom to store the milk or ask you partner to come in when up with the baby to get the milk and put it in the fridge/freezer.

While all of this may seem like more work, in the end, it pays off and you will get into a routine. Remember: The ultimate goal is to stay in bed, asleep as many hours as possible (within reason) to give your brain and body time to rejuvenate, refresh and recover. 😊