Maya in the media

Maya talks about postpartum hypomania, the baby pinks, on CTV Canada AM

Monday
Jan212013

Dads get the blues too

by Maya Hammer

 

It is common for women to suffer from depression and anxiety following the birth of a baby. About 10 to 20% of women are diagnosed with postpartum depression. What is less common, however, is our understanding of postpartum depression in men. Recent research has found that 10 to 25 % of new fathers may suffer from depression. Dads or secondary caregivers experience stress related to feeling rejected after the arrival of the child, relationship or marital dysfunction, burden of financial responsibility, grieving pre-baby freedom and lifestyle, or feeling overwhelmed by partner’s postpartum depression.

 

Paternal postnatal depression (PPND) is often overlooked because, generally speaking, men don’t express suffering the same way women do. For example, men may not acknowledge feeling sad, guilty, and hopeless. Here are some symptoms to look for in men:

 

  • Increased anger and conflict, violent behaviour
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Lower threshold for stress
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, pain, digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies

If these symptoms are familiar to you or a loved one you can get help through therapy and naturopathic or psychiatric medication. For more information, check out postpartummen, a website for men suffering from PPND and in the book Postpartum Depression for Dummies, by Dr. Shoshan Bennett that has a section on depression in fathers.

 

If you are a dad and your partner/wife is experiencing postpartum depression, you can find helpful information at postpartumdads and The Postpartum Husband by Karen Kleiman. 

 

Another great resource is Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. This book helps to examine how past issues, including trauma or how you were raised as a child, impact your ability to parent.

 

 

Maya Hammer is a psychotherapist in private practice at Thrive Natural Family Health and the Health Psychology Clinic.

Sunday
Nov042012

Being compassionate with yourself

by Maya Hammer

 

Psychologists have found that self-compassion can impact health and happiness.  According to Kristin Neff, a Psychologist based in Austin, Texas, self-compassion means being kind to ourselves rather than being critical or judgmental.  She suggests that there are three elements to self-compassion: 

 

1)  Self-kindness – bringing warmth and understanding during challenges and difficult situations as opposed to berating or judging yourself.

 

2)  Common humanity – recognizing that suffering is part of life, that everyone experiences adversity, varying in degree and intensity.  Therefore, pain and suffering are universal as opposed to personal. 

 

3)  Mindfulness – being aware of thoughts and sensations without judgment, be it praise or criticism.  In this manner, you can let experiences arise and pass organically, without embellishing or suppressing them.

 

These principles of compassion can be applied during times of suffering.  In a difficult moment, Kristin Neff recommends saying to yourself:

 

“This is really difficult right now.”

“How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

 

You can read more about self-compassion in Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion:  Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind or in Christopher Germer’s book The mindful path to self-compassion:  Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions

 

How compassionate are you with yourself?  Here’s a test of self-compassion.

 

One way to cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion is through meditation and contemplative practices.  Christopher Germer, a Psychologist and meditator has a great selection of free meditation downloads.

 

 

Maya Hammer is a psychotherapist who integrates meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda with western conventional psychology.  

Wednesday
Oct172012

When is the best time to have professional family photos taken?

by Negin Sairafi

This is a question I get asked on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis—when should we schedule our family portraits? Well, I can’t say there is a perfect time or age or season, but there are a few guidelines you could follow to determine what would work best for you family.

 

1)      Age is more than just a number – How old your kids are matters when it comes to portraits. For example, I like to photograph newborns in the first 3 weeks of birth, then again at 3-4 months, 6-9 months and the first birthday. You have to keep in mind the age difference between your children as well; two babies will be more difficult to photograph than a baby and a toddler, and if you’ve got three or more…having the older ones at an age where they can listen and follow direction will help make the session run more smoothly.

2)      Runaway baby – Is your baby crawling? Walking? Running? I always recommend scheduling a session before the baby is mobile—this is when we can capture great interactive shots but won’t have to worry about where the baby is headed next!

3)      In-studio versus on-location – Do you want timeless studio portraits that can hang on your walls and work with any décor, or would you prefer a fun on-location session at the park or beach? Answering this question will determine when and where you should have your family photos done. Beach sessions are great for the summer and park sessions are perfect for fall.

4)      Parents know best – no matter what the professionals say, you know your kids best; that means you know what makes them happy and when they need to nap. Your portrait session has to coincide with your daily/weekly routine—missing a nap, snack time or even ballet may not be a good idea if it means the kids won’t be in the best spirits for their close-up. Discussing these details with your photographer is important and will help you pick the best date and time to schedule your portraits.

5)      The perfect gift - Sometimes photographing your family aligns with the Holidays or a birthday and this is a great time to capture your little ones while giving a memorable, personalized gift that will be cherished for a lifetime.

 

Now that we’ve got the guidelines, remember that photographing your kids is important, whether professionally or via iPhone—capturing the spirit of your family is something you will never regret investing in, regardless of when, where and how you do it!

 

Negin Sairafi |  Negin Sairafi Photography

Wednesday
Jul112012

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship/Marriage Postpartum

By Maya Hammer

 

Having a baby is hard on relationships!  Even happy and functional relationships become strained after the baby arrives, or after the arrival of a second or third child.  There is less time for each of you as individuals and for you as a couple.  Your relationship becomes transactional as you negotiate responsibilities with very little sleep. Here are some quick tips for maintaining a healthy relationship: 

 

Communicate Openly:  Be honest with your partner/spouse about how you are feeling so that you avoid build up of anger and resentment.  Some moms report the need for empathy and emotional support, while others require more practical support such as breaks from the kids and help with laundry, cooking, or cleaning.  Be specific about the type of help that you need.  Seasoned moms Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, and Julia Stone shed light on some of the communication challenges new and experienced parents may face in their insightful and humourous book Babyproofing Your Marriage

 

Take care of yourselves:  Each of you requires time for self-care so that you can be loving, patient, and present when you spend time together.  Encourage your partner to engage in fun, healthy, and meaningful activities and ask him or her to support you in your endeavours.  Renee Peterson Trudeau’s book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal suggests ways to reconnect with yourself, create balance, and attain optimal well-being in your new role and identity as a parent. 

 

Divide Labour:  Make a list of chores and responsibilities and assign yourselves to those that you enjoy most.  Let go of the chores you are not in charge of.  Outsource when you can:  hire a cleaner, a personal chef, postpartum doula, or child care provider.  Prioritize important tasks and leave other items on your To Do list for a later date.

 

Plan dates:  Plan weekly or biweekly dates.  Hire a babysitter or ask a friend or family member to babysit so that you can get out of the house.  Enjoy home dates too when you leave laundry or dishes for later so you can watch a movie, play scrabble, or enjoy a glass of wine.

 

Nurture intimacy:  Physical intimacy facilitates emotional connection.  Plan a date for sex, preferably daytime if possible as you may be less tired.  If you are not interested in intercourse, be creative!  There are many ways to be intimate. Great Sex for Moms by Valerie Davis Raskin provides sound advice for reclaiming your sex life.

 

Couples counselling is a safe place to voice concerns, explore issues, mediate discussions, learn effective communication strategies, and deepen your connection to each other.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun132012

Would you pay a child tax?

By Tera Goldblatt

I’ve been thinking a lot about what moms go through, feeling like their children are an imposition on the people around them. I myself spend a great deal of time apologizing to strangers for myself, my bag, my stroller and my child; I am mortified when my three year old son behaves like a three year old in public. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that I am just as entitled to be on the bus, in the restaurant or walking along the sidewalk as anyone else. It’s just that I’m not sure my fellow TTC companions, café patrons or pedestrians feel the same way and there is plenty of evidence to back up that fear.

Recently, several news media outlets picked up on a story out of London England which described a scenario in which a mother was charged a ‘child tax’ on her bill. Two mothers in two separate instances were charged an extra 3 pounds, or 5 dollars, because they had children in tow who were not ordering from the menu. One child was 6 weeks old and the other was 6 months old. Both were exclusively breast fed. Turns out the employees at the restaurant who added the tax did so in error. The restaurant does reserve the right to enforce their ‘Minimum Charge Policy’ which “is intended for toddlers who eat but not as much as a child. It was and never will be intended as a charge for Prams or for babies”. The restaurant issued a formal apology on its website and that was that. Case closed, ya? Far from it.

News outlets ranging from CBC to Breakfast Television are debating this issue. The big question? Should parents be allowed to take up space with their “spittle-strewn bundles of joy”? Should parents have to pay for the space the stroller is occupying? I’ve never heard anyone ask that about an elderly person’s walker. What about a Seeing Eye dog? For that matter, what about a wheelchair?

There are plenty of places which cater to the stroller and its occupant; toy stores, drop in parent centres, and of course, McDonalds, to name a few. The thing is those places are all for the child; places mom can take baby where everything will be for the baby. But what about the mom? The good news is the tides are changing. Mom and Tot activities are beginning to be available because of the recognition that mom still wants to maintain some semblance of a life.  Raising a child with all of the modern accoutrements is an expensive enough endeavor without having to pay a ‘tax’ just to bring your child/stroller into an establishment. To me that’s just prejudice plain and simple.

Tera Goldblatt | Playful Grounds | Kids Coffee Exhale