Twins grow and develop first as womb-mates, …… are born on the same day (with rare exception) … are dressed alike … share a bassinet … share a crib … share a bedroom … share, share and share some more. This doubling-up is true for identical or fraternal twins (including boy/girl combos … I know because I did it with mine!) For a while, most parents of twins enjoy pairing up our little duos because, well let’s face it, it’s fun, and they’re so darn cute! We’ve lots of “twin sets” of clothing outfits, bedding, toys, etc., and we naturally enjoy them. Now, I’m not saying everything has to be exactly the same. Some little girl outfits are same style but are different colors, or the same pattern is found on your daughter’s dress which matches her twin brother’s pants or vest. The children themselves grow in an awareness and become used to this type of treatment … for a while. Then comes the day when one little girls falls in love with one dress that she must wear day after day, yet her twin doesn’t really show any interest in that same dress. Or, as his mom, you notice that one of your sons is very interested in a particular toy which his twin totally discards when given it. Twins or not, identical or not … each child is demonstrating his or her own unique individuality. As parents, we’re the first to recognize our child’s differences from the others, her likes and dislikes, his preferences and habits. I’ve witnessed my children as each began to assert his and her own individuality … and also as they’ve each gone after their own interests, different friends, sports, hobbies, etc., after having shared just about everything in the beginning. The experience is bitter/sweet when it happens, because as their mother, I recognize that this is all a part of growing up. As a parent of twins, have you begun to experience their asserting individuality? Independence from the other? A desire to be treated as a separate individual as opposed to a packaged-set? Two young ladies couldn’t be more different than my nearly 17 year old twin daughters. Each has specific talents, interests, friends (although all within the same group), style, mannerisms, desires, wishes, goals, and so on. They are fraternal twins, but I have to say that the same is true for their best friends, who happen to be a set of identical twins! Since as parents, we have no control over our children’s desires and wishes, it’s so important that we support, encourage and celebrate each of our twin’s differences and special characteristics which make each person who that person really is. So, although it’s fun to enjoy our little “twinkie-packs”, our little peas-in-a-pod, our little double bundles, it’s equally fun to experience the transformations as they blossom into the unique and wonderfully special young people they are becoming before our very eyes.
“Wow, are all those twins yours? Were they all natural or were they fertility?”That’s the way it’s always worded, seriously, and I still cannot get over how very intrusive, rude and indignant that second question (that invariably follows the first) is each time it is asked. I also could never imagine myself asking that question of any other mother! And in considering this rude question, it begs another: Are only those sets of twins or multiples that occur without medical assistance considered “natural”? Yes, they would be considered “naturally- or spontaneously-occurring”, but should the many twin pregnancies and twin babies resulting from medical intervention through, for instance, fertility medications or office procedures/surgeries be perceived as artificial in some way? If so, how does this perception affect the parents of babies who resulted from medically-assisted pregnancy attempts? No parents wants to think (or have anyone else think) of their precious children as somehow artificially-created. Obviously, identical twins are not products of infertility treatments since they result from the spontaneous splitting of a single embryo, and are not the result of more than one ovum (egg) released during one given cycle. Fertility treatments, for the most part, intend to increase a woman’s chance of conceiving by increasing the number of egg-containing ovarian follicles in one cycle. Pregnancy odds are increased with this treatment alone, or when combined with a procedure such as assisted insemination (aka artificial insemination), or with one of the procedures under the heading of InVitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF offers the highest percentage of pregnancy success in the infertility industry today. It is a process by which more than one embryo, which were products of in-laboratory fertilization, are transferred to the uterus in the hopes that one or more will implant and result in pregnancy of a single baby or of fraternal twins (or more). Many fraternal twins, however, occur spontaneously. In other words, these twins are products of the woman spontaneously ovulating more than one egg in one cycle, and each becoming fertilized. Personally speaking, I must have ovulated two eggs the month that I became pregnant with my last set of twins! My first two sets, however, were first-attempt G.I.F.T. babies. G.I.F.T (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer) is a procedure where the egg and sperm are retrieved, then individually placed into the open end of a woman’s fallopian tube. When that procedure is complete, all fingers are crossed and prayers are said in the hopes that fertilization would naturally occur now that the gametes were placed in close proximity, and that the resulting embryos would implant and cause a pregnancy. In our case, the lack of sperm motility (swim-ability) was the infertility issue, so once we took that factor out of the equation, I became pregnant and stayed pregnant quite successfully. Not all procedures are appropriate for every couple. Many factors (including situation-appropriateness, philosophical and religious beliefs) must be considered and discussed with each couple’s physician before any infertility treatment should be considered and pursued. More and more couples experiencing infertility problems are becoming parents with medical assistance, and the number of couples seeking fertility assistance rises each year because they are waiting too long before starting a family. Publicity and journalistic reporting on the commonality of fertility treatments and the resulting births has contributed to the public’s perception that most twin or multiple pregnancies are the result of “artificial infertility treatments”, which further feeds public opinion that children are being artificially created. As parents of our multiples (and multiple multiples), we know better. We know that our children are our children. They are the products of our love, whether they were conceived with or without assistance. Lastly, and most importantly, God has the last say in whether or not a child comes into the world, and there’s simply nothing artificial about that!
Christmas is here again, so it’s time to start our shopping …When it comes to buying gifts for our twins, we’ve all had the experience (with toddlers and older) that when we give one item and encourage them to share, we hit the inevitable conflict. So, do we try to avoid the fighting and buy two items? Are the items different enough that they can be distinguished yet alike enough so each child knows that he or she is getting the same, equal treatment? For instance, we buy two Barbie dolls but two different styles of Barbie doll. Chances are, as it occurred with my twin girls, that one will still want the others doll, and trading doesn’t always solve the problem! So, do we resort to buying two of the exact same items in order to demonstrate equal treatment, and also to avoid conflict? Disappointingly, this isn’t always the perfect remedy either because one twin will just grab both dolls and run off with them, leaving the other screaming in protest and chasing her greedy twin! When it comes down to it, we all want to assure our children that they are equally loved and equally treated. However, fairness and equality are not always attainable, and with further consideration, these treatments aren’t things we’ll always be able to count on in life, right? So, it’s fair to say that we should probably teach our children, twins and singletons alike, that sometimes every effort will be made so he or she will feel fairly treated, BUT, also be aware that this is not always possible and not always appropriate. Still, don’t we hate the fighting?! Don’t we greatly dislike the reactions our children give us after we’ve gone to such great lengths to please them all? My husband and I try to instill in each of our children that they are blessed to receive ANYTHING! They are NOT entitled to anything beyond our parental responsibilities to provide for their needs, so anything they receive for birthdays or Christmas or any such occasion is a gift that should be deserved … and ultimately appreciated. If gifts are fought over, fought for, not appreciated or shown any such reaction … goodbye gift! Now that’s when the tears start … and earning the right to deserve said gift has to begin all over again! Gift receiving is only half of the lesson. Each of my children, when they reached the age of five or so, were encouraged to participate in gift-giving as well. They could create a little crayon drawing for the birthday person or for their siblings and grandparents for Christmas, for example. In doing this little task, they would then experience the pride of seeing the happiness on the faces of their gift’s recipient and share in a little taste in the pure joy of giving. They would then begin to remark about how it was (almost) better than the gifts they received … (almost).
So, let’s discuss the topic of gift giving …What are your best and most creative solutions for giving gifts to your twins and your other children who may be singletons? How are you teaching them what gift-giving and gift-receiving is really all about?
Each day, I visit several facebook group pages and blogs because not only do I sincerely enjoy connecting to, relating to, and sharing with virtually thousands of wonderful women with whom I have the common experience of motherhood, but also because it strengthens my convictions to pay forward the wisdom and knowledge I have been given through my own personal experiences. As women first and mothers second, we relate to each others pain, frustration, fear, hope, fatigue, and excitement, and we share our many occasions for celebration.
Although tangibly connected by the internet, there are emotional bonding moments that occur when the act of understanding form deep connections. We reach out to one another to help calm fears, to encourage, and to assure while sharing and celebrating in the joys, and while mourning in the times of loss and sorrow. We share the common bond and experiences together as mothers of multiples. Some of us are moms of multiple multiples!
When a woman posts a question or concern, say for instance, about her high-risk pregnancy or upcoming delivery, I witness tremendous, generous support and assurance in the warm and sometimes humorous comments that are posted beneath the question. Some of the conversations go on for days, and include 40-50 comments. When the inquiring mom or mom-to-be thanks all of her advice-givers and cheerleaders, I know she means it. I know she’s just received some solid advice and information that she can trust because her supporters have BEEN THERE. They have walked 100 miles in her shoes, and she knows it. The inquiring woman is affirmed and empowered knowing that she can trust and act upon (most of) the advice of these trusted sources.
As for the many commentators — those women who encourage and support with their tips, ideas and suggestions —they are also on a receiving end. Knowing that she’s been able to contribute some nugget of wisdom that she’s acquired from their own experiences, and has personally contributed to the peace of mind and support of another, she feels affirmed and blessed.
We all know the saying: ’Tis better to give than to receive. It’s so true.
In giving, we receive a boost of self-worth because the advice or suggestion we have to contribute is received as valuable and will be put to use by the woman who needed to hear (or read) those particular words of wisdom we shared. As women, we have a strong desire and capability to nurture not only our families, but others who we may sense need nurturing. When we receive the nurturing and support, we are strengthened and comforted by knowing we are understood and we are going to be okay.
Assisting, calming or encouraging just one woman as she goes through the overwhelming experience of having and mothering her twins, blesses me tremendously, and is a very empowering experience.
Women helping women … it’s been going on for centuries.
Long before babies were born in hospitals, women were the only attendees and assistants present during childbirth. For centuries, women worked to prepare meals while passing on their skills to their younger female generations. Women naturally love to talk, to share, to commiserate, to vent, to laugh, and to confide.
Does sharing your wisdom and experiences give you a sense of self-worth, of confidence, of empowerment?
What experiences, knowledge or aspects of your life that have given you peace of mind or resolution could you share with another woman or mother who may be experiencing difficulty? Has a female friend or relative in your life reached out to you in a subliminal way, conveying a need, a desire, or the hope that difficulties won’t last forever … that a solution will present itself some how?
We’re here to support and help one another. It’s just what women do.
I think of the devotion between Ruth and Naomi in the Bible. For those who are not familiar, Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law who had lost her husband (Naomi’s son). Through all the trials and travels the two women experienced, Ruth remained loyal and devoted to the service of Naomi, stating in Ruth 1:16: “… Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Thanksgiving is this Thursday, so it’s official: The holiday season, with all of its hustle, bustle, shopping, cooking, baking and preparing to travel or receive house guests, has arrived once again!
We all know it’s a time to stop, count and celebrate our blessings, BUT so many of us get caught up for weeks trying buy the right gifts, decorate our houses inside and out, and attend or host parties, only to collapse each night exhausted from the often self-imposed extra work and stress.
Instead of getting so wrapped up on our tasks that we forget to focus enough on the important things, why don’t we make a committed effort to slow down our pace and instead of giving physical gifts, let’s focus on really giving of ourselves, you know, the kind of giving that enters another person’s heart and soul, the kind of giving that can change and improve a person’s day or even their life!
• Spontaneously offer to pick up some groceries for a busy neighbor while you’re the grocery store.
• Instead of putting gift cards or money in your Christmas cards, take 5 minutes to thoughtfully note the character traits you most admire and value about that friend or family member, then tell him/her how important he or she is in your life. If the card is addressed to a couple or an entire family, write down a favorite memory you all shared and tell them how much it meant to you and your family.
• Spend one whole day or an entire afternoon with each of your children. Individually (separate those twins), go to lunch and have a conversation centered around that child’s world … his interests; a boy she likes; his hopes to make the soccer team; her dreams to become a veterinarian! Make the day about your child. In a few years, he will remember that day and your focus on him more than the new video game he got from you this Christmas.
• Ask your close friends if there is ANYTHING that you could possibly do for them during this busy time. Could you take their kids for the day so they could do some Christmas shopping or go to the post office without their kids in tow? Could you drop off a fresh-from-the-market rotisserie chicken and some deli potato salad at a busy friend’s home while they are cleaning and preparing for a house-full of guests arriving the next day?
• Place a Christmas card or a thank you note in your mailbox to let your mail carrier know that you appreciate their hard work during this extra busy workload time for them.
Can we really make a difference?
Are there any people in your life that you know are struggling? Are they facing personal relationship or financial challenges? Are they strained and worried with the additional stress that the holidays can place on them?
Take a moment to list a few people who really could use some encouraging words, some uplifting, some understanding and the assurance that you are there for them no matter what. We all have been, or will be at some point in our lives, in need of some help that we didn’t want to ask for. For now, be that person who acts without having to be asked.
If you’re in a position to help someone … the act of giving of your time, resources, advice or just a listening ear could be what it takes to provide the spring board needed to launch this person’s world out of struggle and into hope.
… and in doing so, your giving-of-yourself will be the best gift you can give yourself, and be very aware that your children are watching.
As moms of twins …
… especially those whose twins resemble each other, we have become quite accustomed to being approached by curious strangers and having this oh-so familiar question asked: Are your twins identical?
Twinning occurs in approximately 32.6 in every 1,000 births (2008 statistics) and with the increasing use of fertility medications and treatments, these statistics rise slightly each year. In 1980, only 18.9 in every 1,000 births were twins (1/3 of those twins being identical, and the other 2/3 being fraternal).
For those readers who may be expecting a set of twins, and for those who are just fascinated by twin facts (like me), you’ll enjoy the following info!
When referring to the types of twins (identical or fraternal), what’s really being referred to is zygosity, defined as the characteristics of the cell union at or shortly after conception. Identical (monozygotic = one zygote) twins occur when one fertilized egg (zygote) divides into two identical parts. Identical twins possess the same genes (DNA), and may share many similar characteristics. However, since environment plays a large role in one’s physical appearance (in addition to genes), identical twins can actually look different, especially as they age and are exposed to various external factors such as nutrition and physical activity. Identical twins are always the same gender.
Fraternal (dizygotic = two zygotes) twins occur when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm. They are basically the same as any sibling would be to another, but are conceived within a day or two of the other, share their mother’s uterus at the same time, and are usually born within minutes of each other.
Science has theorized a third type called Polar Body twinning, which occurs when an unfertilized egg divides into two parts and each part is fertilized by a different sperm. The twins would then share one-half of their identical gene set (from their mother). Because it is the father’s DNA that determines gender in all pregnancies, the twins can be either same-gender or male/female.
An ultrasound may be able to determine if a mother is carrying identical or fraternal twins. Some identical twins share the same sac and/or placenta. Some identical twins, however, can have separate sacs, and the placentas of fraternal twins can fuse together to appear as one placenta. Fraternal twins do not share the same sac.
Once the babies are born, genetics testing (through a painless swabbing of the inside of the cheek) is the only real way to determine if twins are identical or not (that is, if they don’t already look completely different from each other, and also, of course, if their genders differ!)
Additional twin facts:
The only type of twins that “run in the family” are dizygotic, because a mother’s genetic tendency to hyperovulate (ovulate more than one egg in one given cycle) can be passed down to her daughter. Although there is really no proven reason know for why monozygotic twins occur, it has been speculated that a rare enzyme found in sperm may cause the fertilized zygote to spontaneously split in two separate zygotes at some point during the blastocyst stage (during which tremendous, rapid cell division occurs) as it moves from the fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus prior to implantation. Conjoined (also referred to as Siamese) twins occur when the final division never fully completes. Conjoined twins can never occur in fraternal twinning, and can only be same gender.
As for my three pairs of twins, I have all fraternal sets. I have two girls (with whom while I was pregnant were suspected to be identical); a boy/girl set; and finally two boys! Having been pregnant three times each with twins so I really don’t know what it’s like to be expecting a single baby. From having none to two, then to four, and then to six has been an amazing experience filled with many blessings as well as challenges! Looking back to when we were planning just one baby seems like a lifetime ago, but it all has been a journey I thank God my husband and I were chosen to travel.
For more comparable facts about twins types, please refer to this Zygosity Chart comparing Identical, Fraternal and Polar Body twins at multiples.about.com.
WE ALL DO IT …
As soon as our heads hit the pillow after we turn off the lights, we take a deep cleansing breath and close our eyes. While we recount the day’s events with snapshot images pulsing in and out of our mind’s eye, we inwardly laugh about a clever comment one of children made, or we wonder how a friend that’s struggling with personal problem is doing, and we wish we hadn’t eaten those four Oreo cookies after the dinner dishes were done.
We also begin to think about the bigger things that revisit our minds each night, such as: “I’ve got to succeed at finally potty-training my youngest son”, or “it’s time to bring the car back in for maintenance work and it needs new tires before winter arrives”, and “we’ve got to start saving more for college tuition because high school is right around the corner!”
As our minds attempt to visualize the end result of our goals, we consciously and subconsciously formulate plans, create strategies, and make commitments to achieve those important objectives for ourselves and our families. Sometimes expressing these wishes to someone else, or physically write them down on paper, make them all the more real and official.
As a woman, wife, and mother, what are some of the goals you’d like to achieve now or in the near future?
What elements in your life are keeping you from achieving your goals?
What specific obstacles are preventing you from living the life or lifestyle you want today, or are limiting your dreams for the future?
• Are you frustrated while trying to lose substantial weight?
Has the extra weight you’ve been carrying around been plaguing you with thoughts like, “I just gotta figure out how to lose it”, or “I’ll start that diet plan tomorrow”, or “Did my last attempt not work because of my lack of full commitment?”
• Are you worried about one or more of your children?
Do you worry about a slow weight-gaining baby?
Are you having difficulties with breastfeeding (low milk production, plugged milk ducts, or latching problems)?
Do you have a child who is doing poorly in school or is demonstrating a behavioral problem? Are you trying to find the source of his or her challenges?
Does your heart break as you watch your child struggle wishing you could snap your fingers and solve whatever the problem is?
• Are you experiencing financial worry?
Are you struggling to pay your mortgage or rent each month?
Are you putting off home repairs or renovations because there are more urgent issues eating up your household funds?
Are you considering placing your children in day care or after school care so you can go back to working full-time outside of the house to help pay bills?
Are your credit card balances and other debts getting out of control?
• Are you experiencing difficulties in your marriage?
Are the stresses of parenthood with its physical, mental, emotional and financial demands putting stress and strains on the relationship with your spouse?
Are you both so depleted and exhausted by the end of the day that there is no longer time, energy or desire to personally connect?
Are moments of intimacy very few and far between?
• Are you experiencing difficulties in your marriage?
You alone know your deepest worries and hopes for finding solutions.
Everyone at one point will experience one or more of the above scenarios as parents in today’s fast-paced, demanding world. As women, and specifically as mothers, we begin solving problems simply by virtue of our nurturing nature. We instinctively comfort, protect and sincerely desire the happiness of those that we love. As mothers first calm and soothe a fussy newborn, it is ingrained in us to find the cause of sadness, discomfort or pain, and make it “all better”.
So, if we instinctively know if and when our child needs our help with a problem, we also instinctively know when it’s time to help ourselves. We know that the time has arrived for action on our part to better a situation that is becoming increasingly worse.
How do we do it? Our natural abilities to SOLVE, to FIND an ANSWER, to BETTER our situation kick in when we come to the point where we cannot endure the present challenging situation, as it stands, any longer.
It is amazing how true the saying is: WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY.
If you are struggling with a problem, or more than one problem, get up and find a solution. Dig down into your very heart and soul, commit to finding a solution …
AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Believe it or not, the answer is within your reach.
Success in any endeavor is yours for the taking.
You have the power to tap into the powers of your own mind, will power, sense of commitment and resolve.
As Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” writes: Whatever the Mind can CONCEIVE, and BELIEVE, it can ACHIEVE.
With a large family, there are many aspects of “keeping it together” that need to be maintained on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. While I no longer insist that the entire house is in complete order as I once did before I had children, it is important to me to keep on top of the daily tasks and finances in order to keep our home and lives running as smoothly and as organized as possible! I’ve been asked on occasion if it’s possible to maintain an organized home with lots of kids. Honestly, some days don’t run as smoothly as I’d like, but for the most part, we all pitch in so that we all benefit from our team efforts.
7 Suggestions for Maintaining Controlled Chaos (well, most of the time):
1– Stay on top of daily chores: Keeping on top of the never-ending laundry, the ongoing kitchen tasks with meal prep and clean up, keeping the pantry and refrigerator stocked with the meals for the week ingredients as well as basic staples, paying the bills and keeping control of the household budget simply are musts! But do I do it all on my own? Of course not!
2– Delegate: In our home, our four older kids each have a list of jobs to do around the house that are clearly posted in the kitchen for all to read and refer to (which, of course, they so appreciate being reminded about). Because two kids are 16 and two kids are now 12, each are required to take turns with dinner dishes and folding two large loads of laundry on alternating days in addition to their homework. Our 16-year-old daughters are to keep their shared bathroom clean (not that they always do the perfect job at it) and to help take care of their little brothers for me while I run errands. All are expected to keep their rooms in order as well as the upstairs loft which they all share to play games, computer work, homework and TV-watching.
3– Divide up tasks over several days: I try not to feel like it all has to be done everyday. I’ll spread my tasks out over a few days. For example, I’m content that the bathrooms get thorough cleanings on Mondays, vacuuming gets done on most Wednesdays, and dusting is saved for Thursdays, so that cleaning gets done once a week. The kitchen floor may not get completely mopped each day, but it requires sweeping and spot-washing several times a day.
4– Communicate/Post schedules: As for the children’s after-school activities, as schedules seem to constantly change, we communicate daily as to who needs to be where and when. A large, erasable calendar is posted for all to see showing Brandon’s baseball schedule, Erin’s soccer schedule, and Kathryn’s dance classes, Lauren’s Thespian (drama) club, social activities and presently, Driver’s-ed classes. My 8-seater van shuttles everyone all over the place, but I also have a carpool arrangement with another family. Right now, I have four kids in two different schools, and it’s a real challenge making sure that everyone gets to and from their activities daily.
5– Be money-conscious: Many families with several children are tightly budgeted, which is no easy thing to do. While it can become a habit to place this or that on credit cards when there’s more month than money, it’s frighteningly simple for spending to get out of hand. Before you know it, you’re in deep debt! Our motto is: if we don’t have the cash for it, we don’t buy it. I plan out the dinners for a week and stick to those ingredients so that I’m not tempted to buy lots of extras. I take advantage of sales, coupons and on occasion shop at second-hand stores for kids play clothing, etc. I believe that living this way is teaching our children to appreciate what we have and to respect the costs of daily life.
6– Take care of yourself: When the busy day full of home care and shuttling is over, find an outlet to relax. It’s important not to be hard on yourself when things don’t run as smoothly as you wish, so cut yourself some slack. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s what’s important! Exercise! I actually exercise in the evenings, followed by a hot shower or relaxing bath. The stress relief from endorphin release during physical activity, followed by the hormone oxytocin that the body releases while being soothed in warm water is the perfect prescription for relaxation! Additional Stress Reducers: Some evenings I go out to meet a friend for coffee and dessert or a movie. I also love to go to movies all by myself, allowing myself to get immersed in a good love story or comedy. After having the chance to take a break, I’m a much happier wife and mom! 🙂
7– Go on a date with your husband! Get out once a week or so, just the two of you. Reconnecting often as a couple is VITAL to the longevity, renewal and healthiness of your marriage!
You know, people say to me all the time, “Fran, I don’t know how you do it!” And often I’ll answer, “Some days I do, and some days I don’t!” And that’s the truth … some days go as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, and other days seem to be fraught with a hundred little fires that need to be put out one by one, just like most families experience daily! So delegate the house work tasks, and accept help, take care of yourself, and above all, don’t try to do it all on your own …
And here’s a good question: What is our ultimate goal as moms?
Is it to raise our children to become self-sufficient, independent, life-skilled, confident, responsible adults?
And there’s no better training for our kids than to entrust them with chores, responsibilities, and expect no less than their best efforts in return for our trust, and in the process, we provide them with our unconditional love, support and encouragement (with doses of correction and redirection when needed!).
SO, in choosing to raise our kids this way …
We ARE SUPER MOMS after all!
Everyone experiences the natural spectrum of emotions throughout their life, it’s just human nature. However, when overwhelming life events directly impact the body’s normal state of well-being, we sometimes lose our abilities to cope as we think we should. Such circumstances may include a death in the family, a long-distance move, or a divorce. But few events directly impacts a woman’s physical, mental and emotional state of being as much as the birth of a child. The sudden changes in hormonal levels as the result of giving birth can result in a feeling of sadness or “baby blues”. When these feelings don’t lessen after a few weeks, or become worse, a woman may be suffering from postpartum depression.
National Vital Statistics report that approximately 10 to 15% of women suffer from postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs), including postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety/OCD and postpartum psychosis. In 2007, the statistics report indicates that the total number of clinically recognized pregnancies is around 6.4 million. 15% of that would mean that each year approximately 950,000 women are suffering postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can occur anytime between one to two days following delivery, up to and beyond a year.
From a personal perspective, I did not suffer from PPD following either of my first two pregnancies. But, I fell into a deep dark place two weeks following the births of my third set of twins. Knowing that this was not normal for me, and also knowing that I wasn’t able to “talk myself out of it”, I asked my OB/GYN for a consultation, and after talking for some time, she prescribed a medication for me that was safe to take while breastfeeding. After a couple of weeks, I began to feel better, more like myself again. It felt as though sunshine was finally breaking through dark heavy clouds that had been looming overhead, raining heavily down on me for weeks, totally exhausting me. Finally, I could pick up the babies without feeling as though they were a threat to me, no longer foreign little bodies posing as the sources of my confusion and grief. If you’ve ever experienced postpartum depression, you can understand what I mean. I could cope with the struggles, challenges and fatigue without crying all the time, and felt the deep, protective love for my babies that was supposed to fill my entire being instead of chronic sadness. I wasn’t completely symptom-free for a few months, but I knew this wouldn’t last forever. I was blessed to have my husband’s understanding, patience and support during my darkest times … and I prayed … a LOT.
Many postpartum depression sufferers just want to know WHEN it will end. Blogger and former PPD sufferer Katherine Stone educates on all areas of postpartum depression on her site: Postpartum Progress. One of her articles lists the six factors that can affect how quickly a woman can recover from PPD. She lists:
1. How long did you suffer from PPD before you reached out for treatment? If you’ve not sought treatment or help for a substantial amount of time, you may be looking at a longer recovery time. Nipping a problem in the bud, as they say, before it grows out of control can be key in reducing the time it takes to come out of the PPD fog.
2. How severe is your illness?
3. How effective is the treatment you have been using?
4. How effective is the doctor or therapist you’re working with? If your symptoms are quite severe, it may take more time, treatment and therapy (and their effectiveness) before symptoms begin to subside.
5. What is your current life situation and how may it be affecting your recovery? It will be much harder to go through this condition without some support. If you’re a single parent, for instance, you’ll have a harder time than if you have the support of your husband or other close family member(s). Whether you are returning to work or are a stay-at-home mother will also play a huge factor in your recovery time.
6. What have you been doing to follow your treatment plan and take care of yourself? The more sleep and the better nutrition you receive, the better, as both allow the body to recuperate and better cope with difficulties and challenges.
There are several physical support groups available, as well as online support blogs to turn to for assurance and understanding. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. PPD is a very commonly occurring condition that is well-recognized and well-supported. Don’t suffer alone, and know that you will get through this … the sun WILL come out again.
Fulfilling your nutritional needs will also help balance your hormones and provide you with an overall feeling of wellness. Please remember to eat a balanced diet full of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and take a daily supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps that may exist.
For more information, please visit Katherine Stone’s blog at: Postpartum Progress … together, stronger, where you will find a wealth of information and resources.
Also, please visit Mayo Clinic for medical information and treatment options for Postpartum Depression.