Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prenatal Blues, Depression and Relationships

There seems to be more information available on postpartum depression (after pregnancy) than prenatal blues or depression (during pregnancy). In July 2008, I noticed unusual mood swings during my second pregnancy. The first trimester is often tiring due to the body adjusting to the baby, sleepiness, nausea, sickness, moodiness etc. I had also just completed fulltime grad school and was mentally exhausted. I got concerned because it was hard to tell the difference between academic burnout, pregnancy/prenatal blues and depression. I was also scared it might lead to postpartum depression after birth.

My symptoms of prenatal blues

I knew something was wrong with my mood swings but didn't want to talk about it. I felt run down, physically tired, nauseated, moody, sleepy in the afternoons and sleepless at night, grouchy, felt thrown off balance after grad school etc. I also felt bad I was not excited though we had planned the pregnancy and I craved a second baby. We had just put our then 2 year old son in preschool for two days a week and though feeling the blues, I still enjoyed playing with him and chatting with hubby. 

In searching for answers, I found an article in Today's Parent on prenatal blues in pregnancy. It said " But for a variety of reasons — including symptoms people confuse with other common pregnancy complaints or don’t associate with depression, a lack of education on the subject, and the stigma of mental health issues — prenatal mood disorders often go undiagnosed. Women themselves may not know something is wrong until either the fog lifts or the depression deepens and relationships buckle under the strain." 

According to the Baby Center's medical advisory board: You might be at risk for prenatal depression (stronger version of prenatal blues) if you have experienced the following: "Personal or family history of depression, Relationship difficulties, Fertility treatments, Previous pregnancy loss, Problems with your pregnancy, Stressful life events, Past history of abuse, Other risk factors. (young, single, or have an unplanned pregnancy)."


They also list the following symptoms of prenatal depression:

• A sense that nothing feels enjoyable or fun anymore
• Feeling blue, sad, or "empty" for most of the day, every day
• It's harder to concentrate
• Extreme irritability or agitation or excessive crying
• Trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time
• Extreme or never-ending fatigue
• A desire to eat all the time or not wanting to eat at all
• Inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

If you've experienced three or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should see a therapist:

How did this affect the relationship with my husband?

I had a subtle attitude that let my hubby know I didn't want to talk about it. He also didn't know what to say to alleviate the moodiness because I was so touchy about the subject. I however, did not lose functionality - I still played with our preschooler and enjoyed hanging out with my hubby and close friends.

Here's what my husband did to help:
  • He took up alot more of the housework
  • He helped me avoid extra outside responsibilities - I could use him as an excuse to cancel unnecessary engagements or delegate to others.
  • He made sure I planned lunch dates with close girlfriends for some therapeutic girl talk.
  • He made dinner some nights so I would not have to smell the food - nausea, mood swings and exhaustion don't mix well :)
  • He avoided pressuring me to talk about it until I was ready to explain what I was feeling. However, I didn't just clam up - I tried to keep him updated on some of what I was thinking or feeling.
  • He pushed me to take outdoor walks near the park and a close beach to refresh my mind.
  • He played with our older son or took him to the park so I could have rest periods.
Reaching out for help

My mood lifted during the second trimester - I regained some energy and wasn't feeling as emotionally run down. This is what confirmed my self-diagnosis of prenatal blues. My mistake however was that I did not tell my Obgyn about it. I had just switched and was still feeling her out - didn't want them to send alarm bells all over my medical records.

I considered seeing a counselor but didn't get around to booking the appointment - a mistake that prolonged my anxiety over the moods. I did however talk to girl friends. If you are experiencing prenatal blues or prenatal depression, please talk to your doctor. Treatment according to the experts includes counseling/psychotherapy and/or sometimes antidepressants.

Ways to prevent prenatal/pregnancy depression - according to Baby Center:

I am a huge fan of babycenter and have subscribed to their online newsletters since the birth of my first son in 2005. Here's the list:
  • Take it easy - There's stuff to be done but taking care of you and the baby is more important
  • Bond with your partner - Your loved one cares about you. If you are in a relationship with someone who might endanger your life, please reach out to a trusted friend or call the national domestic violence hotline 1-800-799-SAFE for help.
  • Talk it out - with partner, friends & family
  • Manage your stress - Easier said than done :) Give yourself breaks, exercise even if its taking walks around the block & park, eat well - if you can keep it down :)
  • Join an online pregnant mom's group is my personal advice.
Preventing prenatal blues or depression from turning to post partum depression

This was my greatest fear because I got baby blues the first night I brought my older son home back in 2005. I couldn't stop crying because I thought the house was not clean enough, I was in pain from an episiotomy, couldn't cook and my hormones were raging. I called my angel friend Ruth and couldn't talk through the tears - so my panicked hubby talked to her and she showed up at 10.30pm! She brought dinner and stayed and talked with me until 1am - what a friend! She left her hubby and son home to be there for us. I learned my lesson about arranging for outside support when family lives far away or in another continent in our case.

Here's what I learned and did to avoid post baby depression:
  • Arrange for support before you go to the hospital - someone to help clean the house, dishes, laundry if possible. That way you'll avoid the super mom syndrome that hits right after birth!
  • Have another female available to talk to - priceless! our female friends who are mothers will gently remind us to take it easy, we have 18 years to try get it right :)
  • Allow your spouse or partner to help you - stop micromanaging what they do. They might not wipe the counter in the same direction as you do but it gets cleaned. Major in the majors and ignore the minors.
  • You are not superwoman or supermom - Its okay not to have the house spotlessly clean - the baby is not crawling yet:) Ask your spouse, friend or family to help, if not look for volunteer doulas who help new mothers.
  • Arrange for help with older siblings - To avoid feeling overwhelmed and super guilty!
  • Call that number the pediatrician gave you - if it will ease your mind, call the number or the nurses hotline and ask questions about your newborn baby. You are not the first mom to do that.
  • Take time out for yourself - have your spouse, friend or relative watch the baby while you take a long luxurious shower, watch a show you like without interruption, talk on the phone with friends or family, read a magazine, take a short walk if you can etc.
  • Join a local moms support group - its not a sign of weakness, you will get the most incredible ideas! My favorite group is MOPs International I once ran and belonged to one. There are other moms groups - checkout http://www.charmpost.com/ or South Florida Parenting if you live here in South Florida.  
 If you are currently pregnant - I hope this article helps you navigate this wonderful, exhausting, happy, moody, maddening, craving,  feeling fat (I did), glowing beautiful time in your life. Please share the tips with your hubby or partner, family, friend so they can support you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So You Want To Be a Work-At-Home Mom

I discovered Jill Hart's website for Christian Work At Home Moms right after I decided to stay home while going to grad school in 2006. I had just given birth to our first son (2005) and I was overwhelmed trying to juggle 4 fulltime roles. I had a talk with my hubby and he supported my decision to attend grad school fulltime in the evenings while caring for our son in the daytime. I surfed the web, found Jill's site and subscribed to her newsletter. It was such a blessing to learn from moms who had transitioned to a home office. I eventually became a part-time behavior therapist contractor and a church counselor while staying home. I finally emailed Jill in March when our second son was 3 weeks old to let her know how much I appreciated her newsletter & website. Her new book with Diana Ennen, "So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom" is out. I'm excited about the book since I still have all these roles to play in life :)

Here's some info from her site:

Home-based businesses are estimated to be a $427 billion-a-year industry. In recent studies it was found that as many as 105 million people in North America alone were working at home. Considering this information, it is obvious that home-based businesses can be successful and authors Jill Hart and Diana Ennen will help you succeed with your own.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom details all the basics of starting a business in a spiritual, motivational, and comprehensive manner. From deciding what type of business to start to keeping your family and faith first, this helpful tool details every aspect of establishing a business. With proven success tips utilized by the authors and others who own work-at-home businesses, this inspiration approach will provide you with the resources you need to start your own home-based business.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom includes:
* Detailed information on types of businesses to start
* Ideas and assistance for setting up, operating, and marketing your business
* Definitions and descriptions of work-at-home terminology and processes
* Help for developing your Website
* Explanations of the business nuts and bolts, including bookkeeping, taxes, and more

About the Authors
JILL HART is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom. Jill has published many articles and is a contributing author in Laundry Tales, The Business Mom Guide Book, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Faith Deployed. She holds a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies. Learn more about working from home at http://www.cwahm.com/work-at-home/ .

DIANA ENNEN has been a leader and mentor in the work-at-home industry since starting her business, Virtual Word Publishing, in 1985. She is the author of many books, including Virtual Assistant the Series; Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA and Words from Home: Start, Run, and Profit from a Home-Based Word Processing Business. She resides in Margate, Florida, with her husband and their three children.

Below is an interview with the authors of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom – Jill & Diana.

If have questions they are happy to answer your questions anytime. Leave a comment below or email Jill@cwahm.com or Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

How long have you been working at home?

Jill Hart - I've been working at home since 2000. I had to go back to work full-time for a brief period in 2003 when my husband got out of the Air Force. At that point I got even more serious about making my business work and I've been home full-time since then.

Diana Ennen – I’ve been working at home since 1985, when my son was born. He’s now graduated college and already working towards his own career. I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What types of businesses do you operate?

Jill Hart – I run Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com, a website full of free resources, job listings and information about home businesses. I also write articles and books (yes, more books to come!) and am a blogger for sites like Time/Warner's Christian Momlogic.com and a member of the Guideposts blogger team

Diana Ennen– I’m the President of Virtual Word Publishing. I’m a virtual assistant and specialize in marketing & publicity. I’ve also written numerous books on how to start a VA business and offer PR and VA Coaching.

Tell us about your book? How do you think it can benefit those who want to start a business?

Jill Hart - The book has been such a "God thing." He orchestrated the entire sequence of events - from putting Diana and I together as co-authors to bringing us to the right publisher. The book is a hands-on practical guide for anyone who wants to build a business from home. We cover topics ranging from how to select the right type of business for you, to how to get started, to how to market and grow your business.

Diana Ennen - I think one of the best features of our book is that it’s not only informative, but motivational as well. You’ll feel like friends are helping you on your journey to success. Also, we discuss numerous types of businesses to start and provide proven methods to achieve success. We also often hear how starting a business can be so overwhelming. That’s why we pay special attention to all the how tos. We feel very confident our book will help, not only those starting a business, but those already in business wanting to expand it.

What types of businesses are featured in your book?

Jill Hart - We have such a great range of contributors - everything from direct sales companies like Southern Living at Home and Avon to unique product-driven businesses like BSM Media and GrillCharms. These woman are amazing and give readers a great insight into how they've grown their businesses in very different ways.

Diana Ennen - We cover everything from direct sales companies to specialized areas such as medical transcription and virtual assisting. Also, Jill shares detailed information on starting a community based membership site. We think you’ll get a lot of helpful tips too from such work-at-home powerhouses as Maria Bailey and Lesley Spencer Pyle.

Do you have any tips for success for Christian entrepreneurs that you’d like to share?

Jill Hart - I think my favorite tip - shared with me by one of our contributors, Tammy Degenhart, almost ten years ago is that working together benefits everyone. She told me, "Jill, what you give to others God brings back tenfold" and I've seen that hold true time and time again. It may not be in financial gains and it may not look like what we expected but God is so faithful in that when we work together there is no competition - it's a win-win situation.

Diana Ennen - Do what you believe in and use your own skills and prior experience to find the business that’s just right for you. Research/Research/Research. The more you research, the better your business. Continue to market and be out there. So many once they find a few clients stop marketing. You need to get out there continually. You then become the go to person when someone needs services or products that you offer.

What are some of the challenges that you see with those starting or operating a business?

Jill Hart – In my experience, I've talked with many women who get frustrated because success doesn't come easily or quickly. Working from home may sound easy, but in reality it can actually be just as hard as working outside the home. There are many unique challenges, especially when working at home while raising children. If women don't prepare themselves, they can become discouraged and disheartened.

Diana Ennen– One of the major challenges I see is losing belief in yourself that you can do it. That’s why I think a faith-based book will be so beneficial. Even when times get tough, you can rely on your faith to forge ahead.

With the economy, do you believe it’s still a good time to start a business? Why?

Jill Hart – I think it's a better time than ever. The internet is so much more widely used than it was even nine years ago when I began my website. If people do their research and find a company that fits them as well as their budget this can be a great time to break into the work-at-home field.

Diana Ennen – Absolutely. In fact, I think there’s never been a better time. You might have to work a little harder, but it absolutely can be done. Plus, there are so many businesses who need us more than ever because of the economy. For example, with virtual assistants because businesses are downsizing they are seeking the help of a VA to help on an as needed basis.

Your book is written from a Christian perspective? Tell us a little about that and how you feel that makes it so unique?

Jill Hart – My faith is central to who I am and therefore central to my business. I began Christian Work at Home Moms because I wanted women to have a safe place where they could discuss not only business things, but also talk about an area that doesn't get talked about a lot in business circles - how our faith affects our businesses. The book is written in a way that doesn't hit anyone over the head with our faith, but it's true to who we are and talks about things from the vantage point that we see life - through the lens of our faith.

Diana Ennen – There are so many books out there today on starting a business. However, few have the Christian mom in mind. We provide a lot of scriptures and examples of how you can use your faith to help you. Our hope is that not only will your business thrive, but it might just give a little boost to your faith as well.

Learn more about the book at Beacon Hill Press or SoYouWantToBeAWAHM.com.

My disclosure - I will benefit for letting you know about the book. I still would have let you know about it anyway because it was so instrumental in helping me transition to a home-based office.