By Laura Maxson LM
Many parents are facing more stress than ever with all that is going on in our world. Those who need help with postpartum depression or mood disorders are encouraged to speak up and get help.
Want a peek into the complexities of life with a new baby? Just take a look at the greeting card aisle. You’ll see new baby cards that describe the birth of a child as a gift, a promise for the future, and nothing but snuggles, giggles, smiles and of course, love, love, and more love.
Intermixed with the sweet new baby cards, however, are plenty with another message. These cards highlight the never ending stinky diapers, no sleep, no sex, no money, and life changed forever. The “now you’re in for it” messages are generally couched in humor, but are they really a joke?
Early parenthood is a lot like the cards in the rack – a mix. An endless barrage of spit up, diapers, and night waking can feel like a drain, but the amazingly sweet moments with baby tend to refill a parent’s leaky emotional tank. Mother Nature helps so much by making baby’s survival dependent on the very things that help fill that tank. Frequent feeding results in bringing baby to the breast for skin-to-skin contact with the sweet smell of baby wafting up. Nursing provides the perfect angle to gaze into each other’s eyes while the relaxing hormones of lactation are released quickly refilling that emotional tank.
It is perfection – a baby’s need to be fed, triggers actions that automatically meet the parent’s need to refill their emotional tank. However, in today’s world, we’re not just sitting around feeding the baby. It doesn’t take much to rock the boat and suddenly feel out of balance. Just as in pregnancy, the person giving birth is often the one faced with the most intense physical and emotional responsibility. But partners can definitely feel the stress as well. Worry about money, the future, and their family’s well being, coupled with lack of sleep hits everyone hard. If both parents are feeling overwhelmed, they can become a drain on each other, instead of each other’s main cheerleader. And single parents feel this all more acutely.
Nature plans that the never ending, tank-draining chores that come with a new baby will be balanced by all those baby kisses and snuggles. The tank runs low, then refills–often on an hourly basis–or maybe it takes a few days and an overdue chat with a friend or catching an extra nap before recharging. But if those out-of-balance days turn into weeks and the tank never seems to fill up, it is time for parents to get extra help.
Santa Cruz County’s Perinatal Mental Health Task Force understands these needs and sponsors, Speak Up When You’re Down, an online resource at www.speakupsantacruz.org. Speak Up When You’re Down is a Santa Cruz collaborative of local health professionals, administrators, and other community members dedicated to supporting the well being of mothers, babies, and families in Santa Cruz County.
Many parents are facing more stress than ever with all that is going on in our world. Those who need help with postpartum depression or mood disorders are encouraged to speak up and get help. The same goes for those who may see signs of a friend or family member struggling. The Speak Up website offers a listing of local support groups (many currently offering virtual meetings), online resources for mothers, their partners, other family members and friends, as well as professional resources for healthcare providers. Whether someone is looking for help for themselves, a friend, or a patient, there are resources for all. (Did you know that there is a specialized treatment center, the Maternal Mood Outreach Center, just up the road in Mountain View?)
The mission of Speak Up When You’re Down:
- Improve awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) in our community
- Expand resources and support systems for women at risk for PMAD in our community
- Provide professional development resources to increase provider screening and referral
- Provide education and support to the facilitators of the perinatal wellness groups in Santa Cruz County.
Of course, it does take a village and it is up to everyone in our community to keep watch over our most vulnerable members. Anyone who’s given birth can benefit from support groups, postpartum yoga, and other (virtual) activities to help recharge and make connections with other families. Check out Birth Network’s website for classes, support groups, and counselors. Those at-risk or currently suffering with a difficult postpartum (or their supporters who have questions) can benefit from the more focused resources on the Speak Up website.