Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

Postpartum depression has been on my mind lately as we had a recent discussion on it in our MotherTalkers Facebook group. And while I was never diagnosed with PPD, I was diagnosed with PMDD — a pre-menstrual mood disorder that caused me to be angry, weepy for no reason, paranoid that I was “damaging” my babies, and overall hopeless, without fail, a week before my period. I still take Celexa for it. (Thank God!)

That said, PPD, PMDD and similar mood disorders are not uncommon in new moms, and the New York Times published two excellent articles on it here and here. I urge you to take a read and pass along to any struggling new moms!

How are you today? What else is in the news?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The BlogHer Conference, which will take place August 5-6 in San Diego, is on my mind. I am participating in a couple BlogHer-related events, which I would love for you all to join me.

The first one is a pre-event blog chat at Moms Clean Air Force. It will take place on Wednesday, July 27, at 11:30 a.m. PT/ 2:30 p.m. ET. I will join my fellow panelists to talk about online organizing.  

The other event is at BlogHer, and is slated for Saturday, August 6, from 3 to 4:15 p.m.. The discussion, titled “How to sustain an online community and keep your own sanity,” is about nurturing and growing your community. I am going to also talk about monetizing your blog and discussing the pieces of advice I accepted and rejected from my husband Markos of the Daily Kos. This is not to be missed! :)

In other news: here is a story for new moms. Just to show you that parenting does get better, the Latina on a Mission blog published a wonderful essay by a single mother who suffered from postpartum depression, and is now nostalgic watching her 17-year-old about to leave the nest. Warning: bring the hankies!

In somewhat related, but funnier news: Women’s Health magazine interviewed actor Timothy Olyphant (Justified), who had this to say about parenthood:

It f—ing exhausts you! That’s how it changes you! My buddy on the show is expecting a baby. I said, “Imagine I call you at midnight, and I hang up without saying anything. Then I call you two hours later, and I hang up again. This continues. Oh, and by the way, in between my calls, you’re wondering if I’m dead.” That’s what it’s like.

LOL! I remember those nights, and how, once my children did start sleeping through the night, I was still up to watch them breathe.

Slate published a fascinating article on the history of social attitudes towards breastfeeding.

As a blog moderator, I’ve dealt with trolls — who shall not be named. :) But I came across a new type of trolling at the MomsRising blog when we ran our blog carnival protesting proposed cuts to Medicaid. There were one or two people subscribing under multiple names — including my first name! — to blast me and other commenters. This is called “sock puppetry,” and this is what MomsRising’s Rolling had to say about it:

We’ve noticed comments coming from your IP address that use different names and email addresses. This practice is known as sockpuppetry. It is a bannable offense because it undermines the trust required for honest conversation that we work to nurture on our blog. If we notice another instance of sockpuppetry from your IP address, we will ban comments from that IP address. Sockpuppetry violates our website’s Terms of Use. Thank you for understanding.

How pathetic is that? Also, I would love to see a study on this, but in my experience almost all trolls, even on women and mothering websites, are men. And you could totally tell because of the overpowering, misogynist tone. What is up with that?

In related news, Daily Kos’s Teacherken — now that is an evolved male! — covered an important study on how Medicaid is actually a middle class/working class safety net. Now that I think of it, I do remember that many of the families MomsRising interviewed DID have jobs, including multiple jobs in one family. The whole “lazy poor meme” does seem to be a red herring from the fringe right.  

The Latina Lista blog, which is on Facebook, had a couple interesting stories. One was about an online service to help minority women find potential adoptive parents for their babies of the same race or ethnic background. The other was the transcript of a Univision interview between Jorge Ramos and Andrew Breitbart. I heart Jorge Ramos!  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Review: Project Happily Ever After

As co-publisher of MotherTalkers, I receive lots of books for review. Some I never get to, while others are duds that I choose not to review. Then there is the occasional gem I am glad I took the time to read.

That’s how I would classify Alisa Bowman’s Project: Happily Ever After.

A former senior editor at Runner’s World magazine, Bowman recorded the ups and downs of her marriage for two years with the intention of saving it. She was brutally honest, writing about her lack of a sex life, how she wanted her husband dead and her postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Kaarina.

When I started reading, I felt bad for her husband and her daughter in that she shared so much personal information about them. But this is what Bowman had to say about the sharing of TMI:

My general rule about the transparency is that it has to have a point. I don’t write about my sex life just to be graphic. I always make sure I have a point or that I’m trying to be helpful. It’s my hope that someone can benefit from every word I write. I write to help others — to help them feel normal, to give them courage, to inspire them, to offer solutions to their problems, and yes, to make them laugh.

I did find myself relating a lot to what Bowman wrote especially her frustration and depression after the birth of her child. In my own personal relationships and conversations, I have often told people flat out that nothing changes a relationship more than a child. The couple is cranky because of sleep deprivation and this is further compounded by the added responsibilities of feeding, diapering, bathing and entertaining a baby or a small child — on top of any other jobs as well as the human instinct to want “me” time. It’s no surprise that the relationship of the parents suffer.

The sleep deprivation, the high-pitched cries, the absolute fatigue, the pressure, the lack of support, the lack of quiet time, and the lack of appreciation had been overwhelming. The part of my brain that had stored common sense and the part of my heart that had stored compassion had been replaced with rage. The anger had lingered for years.

I will say though that, like Bowman, I do find it easier as the children get older. I think it’s no coincidence that her marriage improved once her daughter started school. At least it did for me and my husband.

We bickered a lot during the sleep-deprived baby moments, at a time when my husband was buried in work and I was weepy and suspected I had some kind of depression. (I take Celexa for it.) But now that our kids are in school, my husband and I are finding ourselves having more sex, going on dates and leaving the kids with friends. It’s great.

Besides her own experiences, Bowman also includes advice by friends who have been married for decades. Probably the most sage one was the importance of sharing the responsibility of children and nurturing the marriage. And it doesn’t take a lot of time. I was struck by the little selfless acts throughout the day, thanking a spouse for folding laundry, letting a spouse sleep in or bringing a cup of coffee to bed for him or her. Also, never forget the good attributes of your spouse, including him or her being a good parent and spouse.  

Without further ado, here were some of my favorite pieces of marital advice and factoids about marriage in Bowman’s book:

“It’s always better to talk about your wants, needs and feelings — even if they make you seem like a despicable human being — than to keep them to yourself. Marriage is about growing closer. It’s about understanding each other — even the ugly parts. Have the courage to be ugly.” p. 62

“From the Kinsey Institute I learned that roughly 3 percent of married couples were just like us — smack dab in the middle of a great big long dry spell. Another 13 percent of couples had sex only a few times a year and nearly half of married couples said they did it less than once a week.” p. 135

“According to Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain, men had between 10 and 100 times more testosterone than women and consequently, their genitals actually became quite uncomfortable if they didn’t get a regular release. Women, on the other hand, tended to have high levels only during the second week of our menstrual cycles, just before ovulation. Had the writers of Genesis missed an important detail when they listed God’s punishments for eating the apple? In addition to painful childbirth, he also inflicted us with mismatched sex drives.” p. 136

“Stop feeling guilty. It’s impossible to be a good spouse and a good parent if you are not a good you. You come first. Marriage comes second. Kids come third. If you mix up that balance, no one is happy.” p. 237

I will stop right there. At my wedding, I had couples give me that last piece of advice, saying that the kids would grow up and move out and all that I would have left is my husband. Bowman and her friends said the same thing.

This may be true when the kids are older, but when they are, let’s say zero to three, I find it really challenging to put my spouse ahead of my children. It’s tough to drop everything to “do it” when there’s a crying baby in the next room, ya know? It’s hard to snuggle with your spouse when baby needs a diaper change, or the toddler needs to be consoled.

Have you read Bowman’s book or her blog? What do you think of her advice? What other pieces of marital wisdom do you have to share?


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Academy of Pediatrics just recommended that doctors screen adolescents for alcohol use, according to the Decatur Tribune. The recommendation followed a study showing that alcohol has an especially adverse effect on children, whose brains do not stop developing until well into their 20s. “The parts of the maturing brain most impacted by drinking are essential for developing organizational skills, emotional regulation, abstract thinking, and impulse control,” the study’s author said.

The Huffington Post ran a column by a child psychologist who wrote about how children favor one parent over another at various points in their lives or even their whole lives. Ouch. Are you the favorite parent?

Daycare center operators lambasted proposed staffing rules that would lower the toddler-adult ratio from 11:1 to 9:1, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Daycare center owners said they are already being squeezed and would be unable to take low-income students receiving a federal stipend that is already not enough to cover current costs of care. I read this article and it just made sad. The kids, in this case 2-year-olds, are already receiving questionable care if they must compete with 10 other toddlers for an adult’s attention. Again, if the state wants this to pass, it should put up the money for additional staff.

The FDA is working with food manufacturers to lower the amount of salt in foods, according to the Washington Post. The idea is to lower salt over a period of time to change the American palate. Too much salt has been linked to an uptick in sodium, which in turn leads to hypertension and heart disease.

In CNN: three-quarters of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Daily text messaging among teens has skyrocketed in recent years to as many as 100 messages a day.  

The California Assembly unanimously passed bill ACR 105 that makes every May Perinatal Depression Awareness Month in the state. Congrats to the women’s group, the Junior League of California, for sponsoring the bill and overseeing its passage.

In international news: Poland is slated to vote for a new president on June 20, according to Reuters.

Actor Michael Douglas’s son, Cameron, 31, was just sentenced to five years in prison for possession of heroin and attempting to sell crystal meth, according to the National Ledger.

Thursday, April 22, was Earth Day, and Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids listed five books and five activities to share with children.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Every night this week at 8 ET, Discovery Health is airing a program related to parenthood. Tonight’s episode is about postpartum depression.

Excuse me for being kind of star-struck. But Dave Cullen of Columbine-writing fame contacted me to thank me for the mention of his book in a recent open thread. (I know, I am a nerd.) Anyways, the expanded paperback version of Columbine is being launched this week. I will definitely read!

Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog had a tongue in cheek column on the “10 surprises when recovering from labor and delivery.”

The Federal Trade Commission is circulating a video to show consumers how to file a complaint if they suspect they have been scammed.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Sleep Edition

As I have mentioned a gazillion times here before, I have had sleep issues since my first child was born 6 years ago. The slightest change in schedule, the littlest noise, any light — and don’t get me started on that time of month — is enough to awake me in the middle of the night and leave me cranky in the morning.

It is torture. I am convinced that sleep deprivation causes or heavily exacerbates postpartum depression.

I found myself agreeing with Huffington Post founder and publisher Arianna Huffington that a major barrier to success for women is the lack of sleep. I wouldn’t dramatically call it “the next feminist issue” as Huffington did in her column, but I definitely think it stems from the disproportionate amount of domestic duties placed on women.

Stay with us here for a minute. Americans are increasingly sleep-deprived, and the sleepiest people are, you guessed it, women. Single working women and working moms with young kids are especially drowsy: They tend to clock in an hour and a half shy of the roughly 7.5-hour minimum the human body needs to function happily and healthfully. Cindi admits that between her work, her two young children and her wicked TV addiction, she averages only five and a bit; as for Arianna, she had a rude (and painful) awakening two years ago when she passed out from exhaustion, broke her cheekbone and got five stitches over her eye. Ever since then, she’s been working on bringing more balance, and more sleep, into her life  with varying degrees of success.

Women are significantly more sleep-deprived than men,” confirms Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep. “They have so many commitments, and sleep starts to get low on the totem pole. They may know that sleep should be a priority, but then, you know, they’ve just got to get that last thing done. And that’s when it starts to get bad.”

Huffington’s challenge to women was to get more zzz’s in the new year. Which reminds me, yawn, I am quite sleepy. Nighty-night!


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

How are you this morning? I am fried. I managed to fill out and send out approximately 80 holiday cards, buy, wrap and mail out gifts this week. On the flipside, we did not put up lights or a Christmas tree this year as we will be out of the country, visiting my mother-in-law and husband’s family.

Where are you in the Christmas and new year countdown? Not surprisingly, we had a lot of holiday stories this week on MotherTalkers.

Sue in Queens wrote a fun diary asking us what our favorite Christmas decorations were. Also, we exchanged butternut squash recipes for the holiday. Plus, Katy over at Non-Toxic Kids listed five ways to teach children how to give.

We discussed a Washington Post story on the death of the office holiday party. Did your company have one this year? Was it any different from previous years? The Washington Post also ran a financial story on when it is time to cut the pursestrings of dependent adult children.

We had a fascinating discussion on how much academic freedom a middle school should have. A Virginia principal canceled a mock UN debate after some parents complained that it was “inappropriate” for their children to represent the views of the Taliban.

We had a discussion on merit pay for teachers. There is a bill moving through Congress that would award the highest performing teachers in the country, according to the Washington Post. (As you can tell, I read the Post a lot!)

In medical news, here is a story in the New York Times about postpartum depression in fathers. Do you know of men who suffered from the baby blues?

The life of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s 19th baby hangs in the balance, according to CNN. Baby Josie Brooklyn was born three months early on December 10, weighing only 1 lb., 6 oz.. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.

A group of us got together for an informal MotherTalkers meet-up in San Francisco. Here is a pic!

My husband will be on Meet the Press tomorrow morning to discuss healthcare reform. I believe it airs 9 a.m. ET.  

Sorry for the monstrous column today, but it will be on short hiatus. I will be out of the country for almost two weeks and will resume Weekly Parenting News Roundup on Saturday, January 9, 2010. Happy new year everybody and I wish you safe travels!


Fathers and Postpartum Depression

New York Times columnist Richard Friedman wrote about postpartum depression — in men.

Up to 80 percent of women experience minor sadness — the so-called baby blues — after giving birth, and about 10 percent plummet into severe postpartum depression. But it turns out that men can also have postpartum depression, and its effects can be every bit as disruptive — not just on the father but on mother and child.

We don’t know the exact prevalence of male postpartum depression; studies have used different methods and diagnostic criteria. Dr. Paul G. Ramchandani, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford in England who did a study based on 26,000 parents, reported in The Lancet in 2005 that 4 percent of fathers had clinically significant depressive symptoms within eight weeks of the birth of their children. But one thing is clear: It isn’t something most people, including physicians, have ever heard of.

Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog chimed in on why she isn’t surprised by Friedman’s findings. Men’s worlds are every bit as turned upside down as women’s when baby comes. Yet, they are not allowed to grieve over this drastic change.

Did the father of your children experience the baby blues?


New Model to Predict Postpartum Depression

Spanish researchers just found and developed a model to predict which mothers are most at risk for postpartum depression.

From Science Daily:

The experts studied data on 1,397 Spanish women who gave birth between December 2003 and October 2004 in seven hospitals in Spain, and devised various models that can predict — with an 80% success rate — which mothers run the risk of developing depression during the first weeks after giving birth….

The researchers used artificial neuronal networks and extracted a series of risk factors highlighted in previous studies — the extent of social support for the mother, prior psychiatric problems in the family, emotional changes during the birth, neuroticism and polymorphisms in the serotonin transport gene (genes with high levels of expression lead to an increased risk of developing the illness).

They also discovered two protection factors that reduce the risk of depression — age (the older the woman the lower her chance of depression), and whether or not a woman has worked during pregnancy (which reduces the risk). The researcher points out that: “it can be seen that these factors are relevant in the neuronal networks, but not by using other statistical methods.” The path is now clear for future studies to corroborate these findings.

I spotted this piece of news in the Expecting Words blog.


Studies on Postpartum Depression

Parents magazine — not be confused with Parenting magazine — published a couple studies on potential risk factors for postpartum depression.

They were:

The Diabetes Link A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that gestational diabetes is a significant risk factor. Researchers found that women who had the condition have nearly double the risk of PPD compared with nondiabetics, so it’s critical that they receive depression screenings post-pregnancy, advise the study authors.

The Talking Cure Having heart-to-hearts could be enough to keep new moms from developing PPD. A study in the British Medical Journal found that receiving a few calls from a volunteer who’d dealt with PPD herself cut women’s risk in half. “Talking to a mom who had a similar experience can be beneficial,” says study author Cindy-Lee Dennis, Ph.D.

The Bottom Line Don’t wait to get help if you’re struggling with persistent feelings of hopelessness. Speak to your doctor or call the Postpartum Support International Help Line at 800-944-4PPD.