Jane Honikman gave her first baby up for adoption because she felt pressure to "do things in order". She later finished college, married the father and had additional babies with the same man who is now her husband. Jane described her experience of giving up her first baby as a trauma. Compounding that trauma was the feeling that her second baby, another girl, was severely jaundiced as a kind of karmic punishment for what she'd done with her first baby. The experience triggered tremendous grief and guilt. Jane was not able to recover from her traumas until decades later through therapy. She waited until she was in her fifties to get the help she needed, having felt waves of anxiety and depression throughout her life. Jane encourages women to seek out the help they need as soon as they are able, and not to postpone healing.
Here's what Jane wants you to know about postpartum depression:
- Ignorance - people often don't know they are feeling depressed; they either aren't aware of how they are feeling or just think they are 'down'
- Denial - even people who know about depression and the signs often feel that what they've learned isn't applicable to them; they are in denial
- Power of not talking - when someone has depression, the gene shuts down the instinct to talk about how one is feeling, leading to that person not getting the help they need
(As a reminder, the word “postpartum” means “post-natal” or the time period after someone has had a baby. It does not mean “depression”. The term “postpartum depression” means being depressed during the time after having had a baby. This is a common misunderstanding about the word “postpartum”.)
The best time to identify the resources available to you as a new mother is while you're pregnant. Don't worry though, seeking out help and resources at anytime is a good thing! Some resources are simply internal, such as knowing you are not alone, you are not to blame, and your feelings are temporary and with help you will get well and be fine. (This is known as the universal message).
It is normal to have needs during pregnancy and postnatally that need to be met with non-judging emotional support. We can be kind, caring and compassionate with others and be a resource for others ("I understand this is tough. Tell me how you're feeling.") The greatest need for parents is to talk. If you feel like you still need to talk about your labor, your experience with a new baby, anything, then you need to talk, and be heard without judgement.
The greatest need for parents is to talk.
There is just as much depression for women during pregnancy as there is after pregnancy. Anger is depression. Divorce increases just after the birth of a new baby. Perhaps this is not a coincidence. Parents are advised to actively talk with each other about the kind of parents they want to be in terms of repeating what they themselves experienced and how they would want to change or keep that experience. Also check out the Four Relationship-Saving Questions To Ask Before Baby Arrives.
Here's an excerpt from Jane Honikman's site where she outlines the Steps to Wellness:
The following outline is a systematic approach to help women who have given birth, miscarried, or adopted and who are encountering problems to these major life-changes. They can work for every member of the family because they are based on common sense.
Please note the natural progression of these words. They are in an order that builds one upon the other. Make notes as you read and “listen” to your responses. After you review these steps it’s time to write your Plan of Action.
Excerpt from: http://janehonikman.com/steps-to-wellness/
Here's a pdf version you can print and put on your fridge as a friendly reminder of items to check when you're not quite feeling yourself. You can ask yourself if you know how you're feeling, whether you need some sleep, if you're eating enough, if you've had a walk around the block or been outside lately ... all great questions to cover on a daily basis! Download Steps_To_Wellness_Jane_Honikman
Photo: Jane Honikman with her family http://janehonikman.com/
Here are some of Jane's books. We highly recommend having these books on hand for both the parent and anyone helping a new parent.