Category Archives: Marriage

Supporting Your Postpartum Spouse

Hey Dads,

Let’s talk about something serious: Postpartum. It’s a wonderful time, after 9 months of anticipation, you have this wonderful baby that you get hold, love on, and stare at in amazement. There’s so much good that comes from having a baby! But, we’re lying if we say nothing difficult can also come out of it.

Sometimes your significant other, or even you, may experience feeling bluesy, anxious, or depressed after having a baby. There’s often a stigma associated with these things, but there shouldn’t be. It’s real, it can be serious, and when left untreated, it can lead down a scary and dangerous path. It’s estimated that 1 in 7 new mothers experience postpartum mood disorders. Before we start, realize that often what gets lumped into Postpartum Depression is actually 3 different mood disorders.

Let’s start with Postpartum Depression OR PPD, as it is commonly referred to, is just that: a state of depression after baby is born. Often brought on by a number of things including postpartum hormones, changes in amount and patterns of sleep, or the stress of caring for a helpless new baby. What does it look like?

Someone with PPD will:

• Bs sad/depressed more than they are happy, and feel disconnected from their baby.

• Have overwhelming anxiety over even the smallest of things

• Be tired with little desire to be active, and will often sleep excessively.

Next let’s look at the next thing that often gets lumped in with PPD: Postpartum Anxiety or PPA. Though Postpartum Anxiety is often labeled as depression it has some key differences that can impact how you can best support your partner in dealing with this. Like PPD, Postpartum Anxiety is anxiety brought on from the same things, hormones, lack of sleep, and a worry for your baby. But this is not an anxiety that comes and goes. It lingers.

What does it look like?

• It’s the constant fear that something bad is going to happen to your baby.

• It’s racing thoughts and excessive worrying.

• It’s a continual cycle of what ifs.

• It’s the fear of not being enough for your baby, while not wanting others to care for your baby.

• It often brings trouble with eating & sleeping

• It can also be experienced other physical symptoms associated with anxiety including panic attacks, dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

It is important to understand and recognize that someone can have postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety simultaneously.

The third and final postpartum mood disorder is Postpartum Psychosis. This the most serious and least common of the 3, it occurs in less than 1% of new moms. Although not exclusively connected, it is often more common in moms who have dealt with bipolar disorder or had a family history of it.

How is Postpartum Psychosis different from the other two?

• Symptoms vary and can include:

-Hallucinations

-Reduced need for sleep

-Paranoia (beyond anxiety)

-Rapid mood swings

-Thoughts of suicide or infanticide

-Confusion and racing thoughts

-Delusions and strange beliefs

• It is considered a medical emergency and requires treatment

• While PPD & PPA may require medication for treatment, Postpartum Psychosis is a medical condition that is treatable with medication

So dads, you’re probably wondering “What does this have to do with me?” I’m here to tell you that you can be instrumental in supporting your wife and providing the care and help she needs postpartum.

How can you help if your wife is suffering from PPD, PPA or PPP?

First things first: Talk with her. I know this can be difficult for some men, but communication is key. As can often be the case with mood disorders, she may be in denial or not realize her condition, and may need some encouragement to get the help she needs. With Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, this process may take some time and you may not be able to broach the subject directly, you may need to sidestep a bit. However, if you suspect your wife has Postpartum Psychosis, reach out to medical professional immediately to seek treatment.

Here are some other ways to offer support:

• Let mom get some sleep (this means you may need to get up early with the kids on the weekend so she can catch up!)

• Make sure she’s eating properly

• Suggest taking a walk or other exercise so she can get some endorphins pumping

• Help her find community and support

• Encourage social interaction, whether in person or through social media

• Encourage her to meet other new moms or moms that have dealt with Postpartum mood disorders

• If appropriate, help her seek a therapist

• When needed seek professional help, or medication

• Prevention is the best medicine, if your wife has a history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder discuss with her doctor early on in pregnancy to get a plan in place.

• Find more information from resources like Postpartum Support International

This is not an exhaustive list, and some things may or may not work with your partner’s personality. Study her, talk to her, and most importantly? Listen. Even when she’s not talking, listen to her, encourage her, let her know she’s not alone, and she is not failing.

_______________________________________

Noah or “Milkman” is husband to Rachel at She Rocks the Cradle and father to 4 children. He co-founded a dad’s only support group on Facebook called Dadventure. You can follow his fatherhood journey on instagram at @its.milkman

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As Much— but Different

One fear I had going into Fostering was “what if I don’t love the children as much as my own biological children?” And then the follow-up was thinking, I suppose if I didn’t love them as much and they are only here temporarily, that’s not the end of the world, but what if I adopted and I didn’t love that child as much as my bios?

I read blogs, Facebook posts, and books where people always just said they loved their foster and adopted children as much as their bios. But, it still scared me. Okay, so those people love their kids as much, but what if I don’t? And frankly, no one can answer that question before they begin fostering or before they’ve adopted, and it may be on a case by case basis. You may have that “as much” love for one child and not another.

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with a former foster youth who aged out of the system, a reunified parent, and I was representing foster parents during a training for new foster parents. As I was answering a question about the dynamic in our home between bios and fosters, I came to this realization, and voiced it: I love my foster child with the same intensity that I love my biological children. I often think that no one has ever loved their foster child as much as I love mine. But I would be lying if I said it was the same type of love. Before you judge me too harshly, let me give you an example.

I love my husband intensely. If the dial goes to a 10, I love him at an 11 (name that movie reference!). I also love my bio children, and I love them at an 11. But it’s a different type of love. Same goes for my parents. 11… but on a different dial. I love them all to the same intensity, but my love for each of them is a love that plays out differently. So, when I say I love my foster son just as much as I love my biological children, I don’t want to give you a false idea about how it may be for you, by leaving it as simple as that.

You will (hopefully!!!) love your foster child just as much as you love your bios, but don’t be surprised or feel guilty if that love is different. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because I co-slept and nursed my bios, so there was that really early physical bonding. Maybe because they are a permanent fixture in my life and in our home. Maybe because I’m parenting with just their father, and not co-parenting with a stranger. I’m sure there are lots of components to the puzzle.

My encouragement to you today is this:

If you are considering foster care or adoption (yes, those are two very different categories!) and the fear of loving a stranger is holding you back, I’m here to encourage you, that it is very possible to love a child who is not from your body, just as much as you love your bio kids.

If you are currently loving on a foster or adoptive child, and you love them just as much, but it feels a different? That’s okay. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. It doesn’t mean you love them less— it’s just a little different.

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Man Colds and Macho Society

Several years ago, a video came out portraying a “Man Flu”. It was emailed around (this may have been before YouTube was super popular, I have no brains for remembering dates), and it made its way to my dad’s email. I remember we gathered around the family PC where my dad showed us the video and we laughed and laughed! The video was hilarious, and as my dad will willingly admit, when he gets sick, he hibernates and displays some of the typical “man cold” symptoms, so it made the video extra funny for our family.

Throughout the years, I’ve made jokes about man colds, and heard many more women complain about this phenomenon on Facebook. When Milkman caught the first illness he had since we were in a relationship, we were counting down to our wedding day. I wanted to baby him and love on him and tend to his every whim, because my mom always babied us when we were sick, so it was second nature. However, Milkman didn’t require babying or piles of sympathy and tucking in. I think he humored me as I drove to his parent’s house after work and made him a favorite meal and stroked his feverish forehead, but he didn’t seem to be dying. I thought, “well! Maybe he’s just not that sick.” The next day he fainted from a fever, and broke open the skin on the bridge of his nose as he collapsed to the ground. I was so upset (both for him having been hurt and also because I was afraid that gash would ruin my very expensive wedding photos! I know, I know, shallow…) and also a little in awe. Here was a man. A man who was sick. A man who was pretty darned sick. And he didn’t have a man cold?! What gives? Isn’t this a biological thing? Don’t all men look death in the face as soon as they get the sniffles? This is what society was teaching me, so it must be true!

Now, throughout the last 6 years of marriage, Milkman has humored me and does let me care for him a little extra when he is sick. Everyone likes having special attention and care when they are unwell, right? The joke at our house is that I am the one who gets man colds. If I have a cold, you might as well put me out to pasture. Someone spoon feed me some soup and get me a cool compress! I’m not likely to survive the end of the week with the colds I get. Lucky for me, I have a husband who is expert at all things comforting and spoiling.

But it has made me ponder… how was the man cold invented? If not all men get it, it must not be a genetic predisposition. And the more I’ve thought about it, I think it has been a phenomenon created by macho-ism. How can that be? Macho men need nothing! They are manly and self sufficient. They don’t show weakness! Keep tracking with me here.

We live in a society that praises men who never break down, never need help, and never ask for directions. Men have to be strong (or at least appear that way) constantly. Men who admit depression are seen as weak, men who show affection towards their children are labeled effeminate, and men who cry? Well they must be sissies! 

This constant pressure to hold up a macho facade becomes increasingly difficult. But there is one time it’s okay for anyone to show weakness: when you are sick or hurting! Do women show weakness when sick? Sure we do. But it isn’t the last 11 months of emotions coming out at one time. Society has deemed its okay for women to show vulnerability. We can vent, ask a friend for help, go take a spa day– all with minimal judgment. But for some men, it seems the only time they can ask for some babying, some help, and get some pampering is when they are ill.

What if men get “man colds” because it’s the only chance they get to show they need help? What if we stopped expecting unwavering strength the other 51 healthy weeks of the year? What if we stopped making a huge deal out of our fathers, sons, and husbands needing a little pampering when they are sick, and just showed compassion without eyerolling? I can’t help but wonder if that would change the way we see the man cold, and dare I say it? Remove the stigma entirely!

So, the next time the man in your life is “dying” from the common cold, let it remind you to do a little something for him to decompress from time to time when he’s healthy again. Maybe we can change the narrative by just treating others with love, compassion, and being a safe place for people to turn to when they need to show a moment or two of weakness.

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5 Things I Learned While Living Without Netflix

So, we moved!

 We were living in a 1,000sqft duplex in a nice 1970’s neighborhood. We loved where we lived, it was just the right size for our family, and had a nice big backyard. We had hoped to continue renting there until we could afford to buy, but when we got notice of a sizable rent increase, we had to start looking elsewhere. We looked at scores upon scores of homes. Everything was so expensive or in a bad area, and nothing seemed to be falling into place. 

Just as I was despairing and hope seemed lost, we saw an ad for an old Farmhouse that was renting for less money than our current duplex. It was 2,500sqft, and sat amidst acres upon acres (upon ACRES) of farmland. We went to look at it and found out there were 75 people who wanted it. Somehow (oh you know, probably God! Haha) we got the place. 

While nearly the perfect home, there is one huge drawback to living in the middle of nowhere: Crappy internet options. We went 3 entire weeks without internet. And you know what that means? No Netflix. For 3 weeks. Can you say #firstworldproblems? Well, anyways, it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Here’s what I learned living without Netflix for 3 weeks:

1.  I always thought it was the fault of Netflix that Milkman and I were up so late. Totally not. When you watch sitcoms before bed (we love Frasier! On our 4th time through, because I’m a creature of habit!) your evening post kids bedtime is broken up into 23 minute increments. If we turn on Frazier at 8:45pm, I know we can watch about 3 episodes and then we need to go to bed. 

Without Netflix to tell time by, Milkman and I either would watch a movie on DVD that was too long and stay up late, or we would just stare at the ceiling til 11:45, look at the time and say “Woah. We should go to bed. How is it almost midnight??” 

 Clearly my late bedtimes have very little to do with Netflix and everything to do with poor self-control!

2.  My kids actually CAN entertain themselves for longer periods of time without TV. Without a steady stream of Beat Bugs, Sarah & Duck, or Zootopia, my kids had to find other ways to stay busy. They spent more time outside, looking at books, and playing pretend. I feel like my children were more content since they knew they couldn’t just ask for a show and one would appear. 

3.  You don’t always need background noise. I’ll admit part of the reason Netflix is often playing in our home has 75% to do with needing to fill the house with some sort of non-kid voice noise. Being a stay at home mom can be lonely with no other adult interaction. Having Andy Griffith or the Great British Baking show on loop during the day with us seldom watching is how I can hear adult voices, and indeed, break up the time my husband is at work into episode sized chunks. 

With no background noise, I got to appreciate the sound of the neighbors’ chickens clucking, the sound of wind brushing through the leaves in the trees, and birds singing on my porch. I got to live in the moment a bit more, rather than just waiting or the next best thing to happen (that means Milkman pulling up the the house and me getting a break!) 

4.  I have a lot of CDs I don’t listen to anymore, with some really good music on them! This is kind of a result of no Pandora or Spotify rather than just no Netflix, but since the Netflix is usually running on the TV, and when we do listen to music, it’s streaming, I forgot about how much music I have! Captain learned how to work the CD player and would just throw random CDs on to listen to from my old collection. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Jars of Clay, Ace of Base, Nightwish, Funker Vogt… so many good tunes. We enjoyed a lot of dance parties!

5.  While we reluctantly enjoyed the lack of Netflix, because of the extra family time it brought us, the thing I learned the most, is I really freakin’ love Netflix. You could go broke renting from Redbox constantly, and even more broke buying DVDs of your favorite shows or movies, but Netflix is one heck of a sweet deal. For $8 a month with Netflix, you get more than what you pay for. Unlimited access to documentaries, kids shows, and Frasier? You don’t realize just how great it is, til it’s gone!

Our internet is still super lousy, and sometimes it’s so slow that Netflix can’t stream, but I gotta say, after 3 weeks with no internet and no Netflix, I wouldn’t willingly cancel my subscription any time soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Lockup: Women Behind Bars to go binge on. 

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In Between 

I’ve been quiet around here. It’s strange, and perhaps makes no sense, but the busier and more stressed I am, the more I tend to write. I suppose it’s a little escape, or, much like the pressure valve on my new instant pot (who else got one for Christmas??) a release from all the craziness that gets trapped inside when life is jam packed.

I’m in between. Our home for the last 2+ years is going to have the rent raised high enough that we can’t possibly afford to sign on another year. I’m packing up the house with out much of a clear picture of where we are headed next. We have reached one month without a Foster placement. Every day I wake up and wonder if today is the day we will get a call, and each day it doesn’t ring. 

But though I’m in between, I’m also soaking up the cuddles with my 3 bio kiddos. Captain is enjoying being read aloud to. We are currently working through Mr. Popper’s Penguins and just finished Little House in the Big Woods. I love how he tells Milkman about what we read later on. Mamitas is as sharp as ever. She’s a never ending source of Disney movie facts, and has a myriad of imaginary friends (one named Bubblegummy and another named after herself– who has an astonishingly similar life to her own.) Peachy is a wild child. Wordless jokes, funny faces, and the ability to play her parents like a deck of cards. She’s brilliant and every time she does something new (be it naughty or clever!) I am in awe of her.

And then there’s been time with Milkman. We’ve had 2 dates in the last month, as dates are hard to come by once we have another foster placement in our home. We’ve spent a lot of time talking, cuddling, and indeed– staring at our phones waiting for a call. 

We feel the same way. Thankful that we haven’t gotten a call while our own kiddos have been sick almost constantly this cold and flu season. Thankful for the time spent focusing on our children, and on our marriage. But also mourning the empty room in our home, just waiting for someone else to take it over.

We know God’s timing isn’t our own. We know patience is the key to surviving fostering, whether you have a full or empty home! We know that the right child will be here when the right time comes. 

But in the moment, we feel very much in limbo. Very much in between. 

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Foster Parenting: It’s Good… for Your Marriage??

It’s been just under 5 weeks since Milkman and I became foster parents. When I got the call from the social worker that there was a need to place a sibling set, and would we take them, if our home study could be expedited, I said I would need to talk to my husband. I called Milkman, my heart racing, and we agreed we would pray about it for 30 minutes, and then I would call him back and we would make our decision. 

Thirty minutes later I called and said, “So, what do you think?” And before the words were all out of my mouth, he said, “we should do this.”

The rest of that day is a blur. Cleaning, arranging furniture, going grocery shopping, and putting our own 3 children to bed. But what will forever ring clearest in my mind is what happened after everything was done. Milkman and I put flowered sheets on the twin bed and placed a stuffed bunny I had purchased just a couple of hours earlier on the pillow, and we sat down, side by side. We prayed for the little ones who would be coming to live with us the next day, and when we finished I said, “Babe? I’m already on an emotional roller coaster. We are going to need to be so transparent with each other. Can we commit to being as open as we can about what we are feeling during this process?”

Now, if you know me, you know I’m a bit of an open book. I don’t mince my words often. And if you know anything about my marriage to Milkman, you know we are very open with one another and seek to have quality communication with each other. However, there is a little box in the back of every parent’s brain that has a lock on it. In that box are the feelings of inadequacy you have as a parent. In that box is where you hide your list of parental failures. And the most secret thing in that box, are the things you think about parenthood and your children from time to time that you are too afraid to type or utter for fear of judgement. You may even just fear that saying them makes those feelings more tangible and real, and therefore more scary. 

I knew that I was going to need a whole steamer trunk for that box once I became a Foster parent, because I assumed (and rightly so) that I would go through so many more feelings of inadequacy, so many more feelings of failure, and so many more feelings about how I would view myself as a foster parent and my foster children. I knew that I was going to have to open up to Milkman about those deep, hidden thoughts if we were going to make this work. And he was going to have to with me.
In the first 24 hours we had our placements, I had to unload on Milkman several times. I would say, “I know this sounds [selfish, naïve, strange, etc.] but, right now I am feeling really [scared, confused, frustrated, etc.]. What about you?” And then he would reply with what he was unpacking from his box.

Every time there has been a change, a bit of news, a call from a social worker, or a meltdown from a child, we have this exchange. It is happening less and less as time goes on. I am able to cope more, he is too. We are learning that if biological parenthood seemed overwhelming or emotionally draining, Foster parenting is incomparably much more so. But still, we have our talks in the evenings when staring at chubby cheeks, freckles, and curls while all 5 children sleep. We can’t believe we are doing this. We can’t imagine not doing this. We can’t believe we love these children so much. We can’t believe we care for their mother (whom we have never met) so much.

Like I said, we’ve always talked, Milkman and I. But I’ve never opened up that little box quite so wide. And same goes for him. We have become vulnerable to one another in new ways. We have an entirely new level of transparency. We hold each other up, because most days, no one is going to understand how hard Foster parenting is except for another foster parent. He’s the closest friend I have, and it just so happens that he is a foster parent, too.

Don’t get me wrong, Fostering can be hard on your marriage. There’s a lot of stress adding a change to your family dynamic, and it can be scary. The lack of sleep, schedule changes, visits, appointments, and nearly non-existent down time when you have 5 children under 5 is draining. But some how, right now, it’s pulling us closer together, and I’m thankful for it.

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