If mom is not healthy, then family isn’t healthy.
Growing a human being takes a lot of energy – as a matter of fact, it can totally “zap” a pregnant mom’s strength when she least expects it. If you’re pregnant, you already know that simply walking from the kitchen to the bathroom can take the wind right out of you. First and foremost, slice your “to-do” list in half. The cookies don’t all have to be made from scratch. Then, as you’re hopping from store to store, and popping from friend to friend, make sure you catch your breath (literally) in between all those holiday errands. Give yourself some “down time”, even if it’s just resting in the car for a few minutes.
When you go to holiday parties, nibble on crackers to ward off morning sickness, which many pregnant moms unfortunately realize, doesn’t just happen in the morning. Eat smaller meals throughout the day, rather than a big holiday dinner in order to keep heartburn at bay.
This is a great time to practice taking care of yourself and setting healthy boundaries. If mom is not healthy, then family isn’t healthy. Additionally, you want to demonstrate to your child how to take care of himself. Only accept the invitations that are most important to you so you won’t burn out. For those you do accept, limit your activity.
For instance, instead of worrying about whether you’ll hurt the hostess’s feelings by leaving a couple of hours before the party ends, remember that your first priority is taking care of you. Give yourself full permission to leave the gathering early, since lots of sleep will help you stay healthy, both emotionally and physically. Even if the celebration is at your home, put your feet up and let others wait on you, instead of you serving them. Start practicing accepting help. One of the most damaging myths of motherhood is that you should be able to do it all yourself, and it’s a weakness to ask for help. This myth can add to postpartum depression. Start practicing by accepting help – it’s definitely not a weakness, it’s healthy.
During a lesson I was teaching on manners years ago, one of my students proudly exclaimed, “Never go to a party empty-headed.” Well, I would certainly hope that rule is followed religiously! In addition, one often feels odd as a guest walking in empty-handed. If you’re one of those, bring along some sparkling apple juice to the function instead of a beverage you can’t drink, like alcohol. (Having taught Early Childhood Development for many years, believe me – there is absolutely no amount of alcohol consumption that’s considered safe during pregnancy – even if your OB says it’s OK.)
Holidays can be tough, even for those who are usually the most even-keeled and grounded. Add the pregnancy hormones to the mix and it can be even more of a challenge. Hormones and holidays can put your moods on a rollercoaster – get the support you need – both personal and professional. A few visits with a qualified therapist to help you through the rough spots can be priceless. If you’re experiencing mood ups and downs that get in the way of your daily life, the best step you can take for everyone’s sake, including your baby, is to talk to a healthcare practitioner you trust. You may have prenatal depression or anxiety and that needs treatment – not necessarily medication, just a solid plan of action so you can feel more like yourself.
One day you’ll be able to wear your favorite sleek, form-fitting glittery dress for New Year’s again. For now, celebrate your growth (it’s a healthy sign) and dress up in garb that is roomy and comfy for your blossoming tummy. Your maternity clothes can also be glittery and sexy, so show off your new look while you can.Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D. (“Dr. Shosh”) is the author of Postpartum Depression For Dummies and co-author of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression. Her latest book Pregnant on Prozac will be available in January of ’09. She’s also created guided imagery audios that are specifically focused on helping moms take care of themselves. National TV shows including “20/20” and “The Doctors” feature Dr. Shosh as the postpartum expert and news stations consult her. Several publications including the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News have written articles on Dr. Shosh’s work. She’s interviewed regularly on national radio and television and has been quoted in dozens of newspapers and magazines such as the Boston Globe, Glamour, Psychology Today, New York Post, Self, Cosmopolitan, USA Weekend and the Chicago Tribune.
Dr. Shosh is a pioneer in the field and considered the “go-to” expert for postpartum depression. She is a survivor of two life-threatening, undiagnosed postpartum depressions. She founded Postpartum Assistance for Mothers in 1987, and is a former president of Postpartum Support International. She has helped over 18,000 women worldwide through individual consultations, support groups and wellness seminars. As a noted guest lecturer and keynote speaker, she travels throughout the US and abroad, training medical and mental health professionals to assess and treat postpartum depression and related mood disorders. She earned three teaching credentials, two masters degrees, a Ph.D. and is licensed as a clinical psychologist. She is working to pass legislation that helps reduce the incidence and impact of postpartum mood disorders.