An effort to conserve energy during World War I is what led the US to adopt Daylight Savings. Now, 100 years later, we continue to (unnecessarily, in my opinion!) wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms twice a year. Although there have been movements and occasional uproars asking to eliminate this ritual, Daylight Savings remains a biannual obstacle for everyone - at least for now.
As adults, it creates a feeling of jet-lag. The loss of sleep resulting from the time change has been proven to be bad for our health (both physically and mentally) and has been linked to more frequent car accidents in the week following. But typically, we’re all exhausted and thrown off for a few days and adapt shortly after.
For a baby, the loss of that one hour can have a much more dramatic – and long lasting effect. If they’re already struggling with sleeping well, it can make the nights that much worse. If they wake early, it can make them wake even earlier (though, thankfully “springing forward” can actually help alleviate this one, if done correctly). When babies become overtired, they are much more prone to waking frequently at night, having trouble settling to sleep, napping well and waking earlier in the morning. In essence, what creates temporary grogginess in adults can completely throw a baby’s sleep into a downward spiral. Clearly, whoever was in charge of the creation of this ritual was not a parent!
So, what do you do?
Parenting is tough. Parenting with a chronic illness can feel downright impossible. As a mom with a chronic illness, I know the struggles you face. I know the feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach when you have to say, “I’m sorry honey. Mommy isn’t feeling well today.” For the 6th day in a row. I know the guilt you feel when you try to weigh what you can and cannot handle each day or when you have to cancel plans last minute. I know the fear you feel at night when you lie awake worried that your illness is negatively affecting your children. And when it’s all just too much. I know.
But - as challenging as it can be - we know it isn’t all bad. While there is likely more complexity in your motherhood journey, it can also be full of hope, happiness - and lots and lots of love. There is certainly something to be said for having the ability to really take advantage and enjoy the good days....to no longer take it all for granted like you may have done before. I didn't start motherhood with a chronic illness, but I've managed the last several years with one. It's been through this journey - and that of working with other mothers like myself – that I’ve been able to develop several key strategies for maximizing your parenting journey. I know it can be really tough to make it through the day sometimes, but I also know it can be done with as much grace for yourself as possible. Read below for the lessons I've learned.
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate motherhood with a chronic illness:
The first year of your baby's life can be full of joy and love. But when you have a newborn and are struggling with Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, things can feel like they are out of control. Many mamas often hear (or say to themselves), "It's just a phase... things are hard right now, but it will pass." But what about when it doesn't pass? Or when those word just aren't soothing.
Before we get into discussing the symptoms, I want to highlight something important. The thoughts and feelings associated with these mental disorders are normal feelings. Its normal to feel concerned about your baby getting enough sleep, enough to eat, feeling exhausted and even angry. Being a mother is hard, thankless work and we all reach our limits sometimes.
What's challenging is when they stick around to the point of becoming unmanageable (longer than 2 weeks is the DSM 5 criteria for a Postpartum Mood Disorder). None of this makes you a bad mom. I'm going to say that again; having any of the symptoms below does NOT mean you are a bad mom or that your child will be forever damaged by your actions or emotions. All mamas are doing their best. It's not hopeless or untreatable; and it is important to know when to ask for more support.
Below are common experiences and symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Hopefully they can help you gauge where you fall on the spectrum and help you know what the next step is for you. And if you're the partner of a new mom, these are very useful things to know too. It is often the partner who is first able to ask others for help.
Being a new parent is definitely rewarding – but it is also can be really hard. It’s a big transition and one that many new parents struggle with. Even if they’re very excited. Even if they’re in love with their new baby.
Even if it’s what they always wanted.
We now know that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, or other perinatal mood disorder. But studies show that, following the birth of their child, 1 in 10 men also experience postpartum depression. Researchers and doctors are unclear about whether this is truly postpartum depression, or whether it is a depression that happens to occur in the postpartum period for men. However, the result - a depressed Dad - is the same - and can have lasting effects on his partner and children.
In order to separate the two disorders, some researchers (and myself) call it Paternal Postpartum Depression, or PPPD. But just like with Moms, Dads can show symptoms as early as the first trimester of pregnancy and through one full year postpartum. Unfortunately, our society follows the belief systems (myths!) that men aren’t entitled to these feelings and that they should be stoic and in control of their emotions. In essence, that they don't get depressed. But PPPD is very real. And it can have lasting effects on a family, so it deserves attention too.
Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to a new Dad’s mental health:
Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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