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Hey Baby! Helping couples stay connected as they navigate parenthood

*** UPDATED: March 7, 2019

And then there were three.png

Becoming parents is an incredibly wonderful, but also a very challenging time for a couple. Even the strongest relationship can feel strained during the transition to parenthood. You are both tasked with the job of caring for a tiny human who does not come with an instruction manual. Add on lack of sleep and additional household responsibilities; its no wonder that couples report a significant decline in relationship satisfaction.

Sadly, 2 out of 3 couples report a drastic decrease in their relationship happiness after a child is born.

But it doesn't have to be this way! I am excited to introduce Hey Baby!, a workshop for couples navigating new parenthood. Hey Baby! will teach you and your partner how to strengthen your friendship and help you develop ways to stay connected with each other as you figure out the new world of parenting together. Hey Baby! will also help you learn about the emotional needs of your child and develop effective co-parenting strategies with your partner. 

Hey Baby!  is a full day workshop that is based on the research-based Bringing Baby Home program from the Gottman Institute.

Upcoming Workshops in 2019:

April 27th

August 24th

November 16th

All workshops are from 9am to 5pm in Decatur, GA, and are $325 per couple

More about The Bringing Baby Home program:

After decades of research, Dr. Gottman and colleagues found the best predictor of marital adjustment after baby arrives is the quality of friendship in the marriage. Bringing Baby Home combines scientific research, education, interactive exercises and skill building to improve the quality of life for babies and children by strengthening the family.  Parents build relationship satisfaction and create healthy social, emotional and intellectual development for their children.  Research tells us that taking a Bringing Baby Home class makes a difference.

Registration is currently open for Hey Baby! Click here to register. 

Hey Baby! Workshop Leader:

Jaime Filler is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Downtown Decatur and has been working in the field of mental health since 2005. In her practice, Jaime enjoys working with both couples and individuals and specializes in maternal mental health. Jaime is passionate about supporting mothers and their partners through challenges that arise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Jaime is currently an Advisory Council Member of Postpartum Support International, Georgia Chapter, and serves on their Programs and Education committee. Jaime regularly provides consultation to pediatricians offices to provide education and assistance in implementing screening for new parents to identify risks of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Jaime is also a Gottman Bringing Baby Home Educator. On a personal note, Jaime is a mother of two and avid lover of all things outdoors. More....

Having a baby can be hard on a relationship... Let us help you enjoy this time with your partner!

I am excited to announce that Shubha Swamy, LPC, and I will be hosting our Hey Baby! couples workshop for new parents again on September 29th, 2018. Couples will spend the day learning real techniques to help keep their relationship strong as they add a new baby to the family. 

By the end of the day, couples will have learned communication skills that will help them navigate difficult conversations, how to preserve intimacy, ways to strengthen their friendship, techniques to help bond with their baby, and the signs of postpartum depression / anxiety and where to get help.

We hope you will join us for an entertaining day that will benefit your relationship for a long time to come. 

It's not just the "Baby Blues"

When it's more than the  baby blues.png

So, as a therapist who works with postpartum moms, I cringe a little when I hear a comment like "That mom just has a case of the blues." Okay, if I'm being completely honest, I do a whole lot more than cringe....I get pretty mad! And here is why...

The baby blues and postpartum depression are two completely different things!

When you tell a mom who is suffering with postpartum depression that she has "the blues" it minimizes her experience. It can also prevent her from reaching out and getting the help she desperately needs. When you tell a mom "It's only the blues", she hears "suck it up, all moms go through this." And she thinks, "What's wrong with me that I can't handle this?"

Okay, I will get off my soap box now. Promise.

So what, then, are the baby blues?

Good question!

The baby blues are very real and impact 80% of new moms. Typically a new mom will start to experience symptoms a week or so after delivery. Symptoms include: tearfulness, irritability, anxiety,  and feeling overwhelmed. A new mom may feel this way for 2-3 weeks and then the symptoms self-resolve, they go away on their own.

So, how is that different than postpartum depression?

Another good question!

Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 new moms. It is the most common complication of childbirth! Symptoms most often start 2-3 weeks following delivery, and peak around month 2 or 3. However, symptoms of postpartum depression can start anytime within the first year after having a baby. Common symptoms include feeling sad, crying, loss of appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, anger or irritability.

The good news? With help these conditions are very treatable. The quicker the symptoms are addressed, the quicker the new mom will feel better. If someone you know is suffering through postpartum depression, encourage them to talk to their doctor or see a therapist who has specialized training in maternal mental health. There are also local support groups that a mom can attend.  A great resource to find help in your area is Postpartum Support International.

If you know a new mom that is struggling, tell her that she does not need to suffer in silence! She is not alone, and with help she will get better! 

Read other posts about this topic here.

Is postpartum depression preventable?

photo credit: pixaby

Here is the truth... postpartum depression is not always completely preventable. However, there are steps that you can take to help minimize your risk. I was recently interviewed by Romper.com and provided several tips on how to be proactive and implement some self-care strategies that can make those first few weeks of being a new parent a little more manageable. 

Three areas to focus on to help minimize your risk of postpartum depression and anxiety are support, resources, and sleep.

I like to remind moms that it takes a village, and you need to identify who is in your village. 

 Who are the people you can talk to about anything without feeling judged? The ones you can call at any hour of the day if you are struggling. Who are the people that can watch the baby for an hour or two so you can get some rest? Don’t be afraid to call upon your village and ask for help. It can also be helpful to come up with a list of things that people can do to help you, so you are prepared when they offer you assistance.

You don't have to, and you shouldn't, do this alone! What supports can you put into place before your baby is born? For example, you can set up a Meal train calendar to help organize who will bring food when you are taking care of your new baby. 

And don't forget about sleep! Can someone else, a partner or postpartum doula/night nurse, take the first baby feeding of the night so that mom can get a solid block of uninterrupted sleep?

For more tips, and to read the article in its entirety, please visit romper.com.

Hopefully, by being proactive you can reduce your risk of PPD and make life feel a tiny bit more manageable when your baby arrives. But if you do experience depression and/or anxiety, don't be afraid to ask for help. You will be an amazing mom... just remember you do not have to do it on your own!

Horrible intrusive thoughts, and why they are okay

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. For the remainder of the week I will be posting articles and resources to help bring awareness to the struggles with depression and anxiety that affect 1 in 7 new moms. 

Intrusive thoughts are exactly what they sound like- they are unwanted and often distressing thoughts that pop into your head and can be hard to get rid of. For new moms these thoughts are especially anxiety provoking because they often are about harm coming to your baby. Sometimes graphic images come with the thoughts, and they can be hard to shake. These thoughts can bring shame and embarrassment. Often moms do not want to tell anyone that they are having these thoughts, because they think there must be something terribly wrong with them if they are having these awful thoughts about their baby. 

These intrusive thoughts are common, especially in women that are experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression. They do not mean that something is wrong with you, or that you are a bad mom.

These thoughts are not you! They do not make you a bad mom. They do not mean that you will harm your baby. They are a product of your brain, your very busy brain. Please do not feel like you must keep these thoughts to yourself. Talk to your partner, a family member, another mom, or even a counselor or therapist if you are struggling. You are not alone!

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Terra LaRock bravely talks about her experience with intrusive thoughts:

I noticed that every so often I would get these flashes of the worst case scenario happening to my baby. From falling down the stairs, to hitting her head accidentally on the door as I walked down the hallway, to her suffocating in her sleep, it was as if my mind was hijacked by every terrible tragedy I had read about or seen in my lifetime.
The thoughts became so bad that I became scared to hold my daughter. I was afraid that if held her, the thoughts would be prolonged. Therefore, I thought that if I didn’t see her or hold her for awhile, that they would stop and would no longer be triggered. I knew that this seemed irrational and most of all, physically impossible since I was still breastfeeding and I was of course, her mother.

If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone it might help, please take a moment now to share this post. The more we talk about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, the less stigmatized they will be. Thank you! 


The relationship that saved me after having a baby...

MaternalMentalHelathMatters

I usually don't share a lot about myself on my blog. But today I am putting myself out there, on a topic that is near and dear to me. This week, May 1 - May 7, is maternal mental health awareness week. So, I thought if there was ever a time to share some of my story, this is it. So here goes...

Having, and caring for, a new baby is hard! Having a baby without a strong support system to help is even harder! When we had our first son, my husband and I lived far away from any family and friends. To say our “village” was small would be an understatement. Our village was practically nonexistent!  Luckily, we had family members visit for the first month or so. But once the dust settled and everyone went home I found myself feeling alone and very isolated. If I am completely honest, there were many days when I felt like I was being pulled down into that deep, dark hole of postpartum depression.

But looking back on my experience after I had my first son, I realized that I was not alone. Yes, I had a wonderful husband, but this post isn’t about him. This post is about a surprising relationship that helped me more than anything else. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time how this relationship saved me. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly at all, this post is about my dog, Cali.

My secret weapon against postpartum depression

My secret weapon against postpartum depression

Oh boy, our Cali had a lot of energy! She needed time to run around and be active. If she didn’t get a walk every single day, she would be bouncing off the walls come the evening. (sounds like a kid I know).

Some of the time, her daily walks would feel overwhelming. You know, those days when the thought of leaving the house felt like just too much. But she needed it, so I went. The days when walking her sounded like torture, it was hot and sticky, or the baby had barely slept the night before. But she needed it, so I went. The days when you just want to hook yourself up to an IV of coffee or hide in the pantry. But she needed her walk, so I went. That’s what I did. Every day.

Sometimes we walked for 30 minutes. Sometimes our walks lasted for hours. More times than not, they were the best part of my day.

There were days when I was exhausted and had no motivation to do anything, she would come and put her head onto lap, look up at me with those dark eyes, wag her whip-like tail, and I couldn’t resist. I would pack up the stroller, grab her leash, and head for the door. By the end of the walk, she was usually tired and would curl up on her doggy bed. And me, I would almost always feel better. Our walks together gave me the strength, energy, and calm mind that helped me to tackle another exhausting day.

Looking back, I realize that as a new mom I took care of everyone else before myself. I told myself that she needed a walk, so I went. But really, by taking care of my Cali-girl, I got what I needed too. I think those walks saved me in those early months. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her.

I've learned that help can come from surprising places. Also, getting outside at least once a day, even if it is just for 15 minutes can make a world of difference. So if you're a new mom, make a reoccurring walking date with a friend or another mom or even your dog. 

If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone it might help, please take a moment now to share this post. The more we talk about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, the less stigmatized they will be. Thank you! 


Are you at increased risk of postpartum depression?

With 1 in 7 new moms experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, it's important for all of us to start talking more about it.

While PPD/PPA can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity, social class, or economic status, there are several factors that puts a woman at higher risk for developing PPD/PPA.

Jaime Filler Postpartum Therapist

Asking these 8 simple questions can help you figure out if you are at an increased risk:

1) Is it difficult for you to ask for help

2) Were you depressed or anxious after your last baby or during your pregnancy?

3) Have you been depressed or anxious in the past?

4) Was your mother, sister, and/or aunt depressed after their babies were born?

5) Is your family far away and do you have few friends nearby?

6) Is it sometimes hard for you to slow down?

7) Have you had trouble with hormones and moods, especially before your period?

8) Do you not have the money, food, and/or housing you need?

If you answered 'Yes' to 3 or more of these questions, you are at higher risk for developing postpartum depression or anxiety. The good news is there is help if you are struggling. You are not alone, and you do not have to suffer alone!! Talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you find that you are not able to get the support you need from your family and friends, join a support group or contact a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health.

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful. 

Dad can get postpartum depression too!

When we think of postpartum depression and anxiety, we most often think of women. However, men can experience postpartum anxiety or depression as well. In fact, 1 in 10 new fathers get postpartum depression or anxiety. And if the mother is experiencing her own anxiety and depression, this rate goes up to 50%. 

Check out this video from Postpartum International to learn more.

Postpartum Support International presents an interview with Dr. David Levine, survivor of paternal postpartum depression. Video by Plante Grande.

Three myths about postpartum depression and anxiety

Since the birth of my two children, I have become passionate about working with women who are struggling with prenatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and their partners. Depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 women. However, many women suffer in silence and do not talk about what they are experiencing. I think this silence is due to several myths about what postpartum depression truly is and is not.

Myth #1: When you have postpartum depression you don't feel connected to your baby.

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pixabay.com

I believed this to be true.  And sometimes it is. A parent who is suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression can experience a lack of connection to their baby. But often this is not the case. Parents can feel connected to their baby and still suffer. In fact, some parents feel so connected with their child that they feel that they are the only ones able to care for them. They have a hard time accepting help from family, or their partner, and can feel overwhelmed. 

Myth #2: People with postpartum depression are the ones you hear about in the news that hurt themselves or/and their babies.

Stories in the media about women hurting their children, or themselves, are sometimes what come to mind when people think of postpartum depression. However, these stories are usually related to postpartum psychosis, not postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis is rare and usually occurs within the first two weeks postpartum. Postpartum psychosis is described as a break with reality. Postpartum depression, on the other hand,  can look like irritability, appetite or sleep disturbance, crying or sadness, or feelings of guilt and hopelessness. 

Myth #3: If I tell anyone about the disturbing thoughts I have about my baby, they will judge me and surely take my baby away.

Some women can have intrusive and disturbing thoughts about their child. Common themes are the baby getting hurt.  Images and thoughts might include the parent hurting or even sexually abusing the baby. These thoughts are usually highly distressing to a parent! Research has shown that these thoughts and images are products of anxiety, they are not delusional and have a very low probability of being acted on. But these thoughts are so disturbing that parents will keep them to themselves and not tell a soul. They suffer in silence for fear of being judged or being labeled an unfit parent. There is help. You do not need to suffer in silence!

 

There is help out there

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pixabay.com

Postpartum depression and anxiety can start any time within the first year of parenthood.  If you have been struggling, and think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, there is help out there!  Postpartum depression and anxiety are treatable.

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a 10-question self-administered assessment tool that helps to identify women that are suffering from postpartum depression. You can download and print the questionnaire here, or you can complete it online at the Beyond the Blues website.

To find a trained professional who can help, call Postpartum Support International and a volunteer will connect you with someone in your area. You can also click here for additional resources. 

You are not alone, and with help you will feel better.

 

How to teach our kids mindfulness

The mindful child. It's not an oxymoron. In fact, many schools are teaching mindfulness as part of their curriculum and discipline strategy. Last week I attended a coffee chat for parents with the principal and staff at my son's preschool and the staff talked about how mindfulness is taught in the classroom. That evening I sat down with my son and he taught me all the different types of breaths he had learned at school to help him calm down. Our favorite is the balloon. He starts with his hands clasped together on top of his head. As he takes in sips of air, his clasped hands rise up and the balloon fills. One long exhale sends his hands back down to his head and he starts again. He was really excited to share this with me. He told me that he can even use his breaths to calm down when he is too excited, not just when he's angry or sad. So true!

I often teach mindfulness to my adult clients in my private practice, but I have to admit I was struggling to teach it to my son at home. But then I ran across the article 7 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Mindfulness, by Kaia Roman on the Mind Body Green website (which I love!). Kaia describes 7 child friendly and fun ways to teach mindfulness.

Here are two of my favorite exercises from the article:

Breathing Buddies: Your child lays down and places a stuffed animal on their belly. Have them breathe in silence for a minute and notice how the animal moves up and down. Afterwards, ask if they noticed any other sensations. For older children, you can also tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. 

The Squish & Relax Meditation (I do the adult version of this with clients in therapy all the time): Have your child lie down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their body as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax. This is a great, fun activity for "loosening up" the body and mind, and is a totally accessible way to get the kids to understand the art of "being present."

Check out the article to see all seven techniques. And if you want some ideas of different types of breaths your child can practice, take a look at 5 Easy Breathing Techniques To Calm Your Kid (And Relax The Whole Family), by Kaia Roman