It seems fitting that today, during Canadian Mental Health Week and May 4: World Maternal Mental Health Day I find myself curled up in bed, going on day 9 of depression and anxiety. At the beginning of the week our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a public statement encouraging Canadians to GET LOUD for Mental Health Week. This is my effort to GET LOUD!

I am one of the 20% of Canadians that have/will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. I am one of the 450 million around the world that suffer in silence from an unseen, stigmatized mental illness.

I am also one out of the millions of women who suffered from a postpartum mood disorder.

Since the young age of 8 I have been struggling with mental illness and went 20 more years without a full and proper diagnosis of my multiple disorders. White knuckling through my life on my own helped me learn many coping skills and natural remedies, it also caused me a lot of pain.  Finally, I pushed aside my collection of essential oils (I still love them for minor aliments) and accepted my psychiatrist’s prescription medication therapy. 

Let me tell you, for me, medication was the best choice I made in working towards mental wellness. Even on a dreary day like today, two years ago I would have been crying and guilt ridden, maybe even contemplating self harm.  Today, I am simply devoid of all energy and appetite, but no guilt and no harmful thoughts –  just watching Netflix and playing Angry Birds Star’s Wars Edition (BTW: May the 4th be with you!).

I am thankful (at times) that I have a mental illness because it builds bridges in my business of working with women during a time in their lives when they are at greater risk at experiencing a mental illness due to major changes with their hormones, bodies, relationships, and lifestyle that come with their new baby.  Heck, even if mothers don’t experience a mental illness, parenting a newborn in general causes a certain level of stress, worry, confusion, exhaustion, baby blues and a change in self identity. Babies are awesome but they change our universe! And did you know that 10% of men get postpartum mood disorders too? Their bodies haven’t gone through massive changes but their worlds certainly have.

Our job as doulas is to create a safe, non-judgement space for our clients

As doulas, Carol Anne and I create a safe, non-judgemental space where parents can open up to us about their feelings about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Much of our work involves not just education and birth attendance, but listening, encouraging, empathizing, problem solving, and making referrals to community support networks. We have clients who hire us to work during the postpartum period not just to help tidy the house, prepare meals, and care for the baby, but to care for them as well.  Some days we are there just to sit and listen. We have laughed with families when baby makes their first coos or when they fart like old men (baby farts are SOOO loud!) and we have even cried with families when they have had hard days, or their baby is still in the NICU and they have lost sleep with worry.

Our job as a doula is to be there for our clients

For Mental Health Week, we are called to wear green to raise awareness and show support for our family members, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, youth and children, and new parents that suffer from mental illness. As a famous, wise frog once said, “It’s not easy being green”
but it’s easier together.

Facts About Mental Illness & Birthing Women

Percentage of women who will develop depression during pregnancy: 10%
Percentage of women in the general population who will develop postpartum depression: 15–20% 
Percentage of women with a history of depression that will experience postpartum depression: 30%
Percentage of women who have experienced a postpartum depression who are likely to re-experience it in a subsequent pregnancy: 50%
Percentage of women who develop postpartum psychosis (depression accompanied by delusions and disordered thinking): 0.1 – 0.2%
Percentage of women with bipolar disorder who develop postpartum psychosis: 50%

Great support page for parents suffering from postpartum mood disorders (PPMD):