Posts in Return to Work
Answers to Your Questions About Postpartum
 
Woman holding baby in carrier in forest
 
 

Most questions we received this week were related to Postpartum OCD (ppOCD), so our brilliant and kind Dr. Michelle expounds on the topic here.  

Postpartum OCD (ppOCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive, unwanted, and repetitive thoughts, images, or urges (obsessions), which may or may not be accompanied by compulsive behaviors. While the exact cause of ppOCD is unknown, experts believe that it results from a combination of hormonal, psychological, genetic, biological, psychosocial, and environmental factors. Obsessions and compulsions can take many forms for different people and usually focus on the baby.

Obsessional thoughts might include:

  • I’m terrified my baby will get sick and die.

  • What if my baby stops breathing in the middle of the night?

  • I’m scared someone will steal my baby if we go out in public.

  • What if I accidentally or intentionally act on an urge to stab my baby?

  • Why do I keep having an image of my baby falling off the changing table?

Compulsions can include:

  • Repeatedly checking on the baby’s breathing in the middle of the night

  • Excessive bathing and washing rituals

  • Repeatedly asking others for reassurance that baby is okay

  • Taking great measures to avoid the baby

Obsessions are unwanted, difficult to control, and increase anxiety. In order to neutralize the anxiety associated with these obsessions, one might then engage in overt or mental compulsions or avoidance. For example, a mother might have repetitive images of something terrible happening to her baby while driving in the car. As a means to decrease the anxiety associated with this thought, she may avoid driving anywhere with her baby. Another mother might have unwanted thoughts that she will act on an urge to intentionally harm her own baby.  This mother might then begin to avoid her baby altogether. It is important to understand that in the latter example, this mother does not have these thoughts because she actually wants to hurt her child, but rather she is terrified that she might act on these thoughts. The obsessions are unwanted and conflict with a person's self-image and character.

According to the International OCD Foundation, up to 80% of new mothers report having strange, unwanted thoughts. This means that most new parents have similar experiences with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, but would not be diagnosed with Postpartum OCD. A diagnosis of OCD might be made when preoccupation with the intrusive thoughts is clearly disruptive to a mother’s normal functioning and greatly interferes with her ability to care for herself and her baby. It is no surprise that this can have devastating effects on the parent-child relationship and highlights the immense need for treatment. Due to the fear of stigma and feelings of intense shame, however many women are resistant to seeking help. If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms please know that you are not alone and it is okay (and important) to reach out for help from a qualified and licensed mental health professional.

Others of you wanted to learn a little more about psychological and emotional responses to weaning. Dr. Michelle responds here: 

It is not uncommon for women to feel tearful, depressed, irritable, or anxious when weaning. Not much research exists on this topic, but some hypothesize that a shift in hormones when weaning may be a major cause for these feelings. Other factors might involve feelings of sadness around the loss of this special time with your infant. These mood changes usually go away on their own, but some weaning mothers may experience more severe symptoms that require treatment.

 
The Difference Between Happening FOR You & TO You
Sarah Gibbons
 

Meet Conscious Working Mama Founder, Sarah Gibbons. Sarah is a legacy builder. She believes that feeling fulfilled is a result of marrying inner purpose and outer expression. A high-achiever herself, Sarah helps ambitious, driven women experience their truth and express it authentically in order to create unique, dynamic, and fulfilling lives. Conscious Working Mama offers 1-1 coaching and workshops for mothers in business.

Sarah is one of Totum's expert contributors on motherhood. To read more from our experts, click here.


The other day I was caught up with getting ready for a school holiday, prepping for a trip, packing up my family, and all that goes into taking a break from my practice. I was buzzing around, tying up loose ends, when my middle son looked up and said, “Look mom, the trees are dancing. They’re trying to delight me.”

It stopped me in my tracks. I looked up, and sure enough, it was windy, and the trees were dancing.

It was the last part of his observation that really got me though: “They’re trying to delight me.”

What a beautiful, joyous way of seeing the wind in the trees, as though they are there just to delight you. This simple idea that things are happening for you.

Imagine if that was the way you perceived everything around you?

How much more joy would you be able to receive?

What if you were able to perceive even the challenges as “happening for you” rather than “happening to you”?

That is my challenge to you this week, Mamas: Can you awaken your consciousness during one moment of stress and become so present to this new idea that you’re able to shift your perspective away from “This thing [fill in the blank with whatever awful, joyful, or even mundane circumstance is before you] is happening to me” and toward “this thing is happening for me?”

Would you perceive mundane things like wind in the trees as happening just for you, to delight you? Would you perceive challenging things, like an argument with your partner or an email from your boss, as happening just for you, to grow you, to awaken you, or to connect you rather than to you as punishment?

What if you were able to perceive even the challenges as “happening for you” rather than “happening to you”?

How would the landscape of your day change if you were to practice this perspective shift? What if you went from practicing this once a day to five times a day, to eventually seeing everything around you at every moment as happening just for you, as a gift, as the perfect package delivered just to your heart for you to continuously renew your experience of life. What if you believe that everything is happening to you for your own growth and expansion?

Imagine the infinite possibilities.

I’m the first to admit that when something goes wrong, it can feel good to point fingers. But talk about a joy robber. Let’s leave the victim number behind and own this, ladies. If we want to experience a calmer version of ourselves, and one that’s able to make a greater impact and laugh a heck of a lot more, then this spiritual tip is how you’re going to do it.

Remember the distinction: life is happening for you vs. to you.

Onward powerful women,

Sarah

Read more from Sarah on her Conscious Working Mama blog.

Sarah Gibbons