In honour of Bell Let’s Talk I am republishing this honest post on maternal mental health. While it is easy to share the joyful moments of motherhood and a new baby it is equally important to recognise the painful and raw parts too.
Check out Raw Beauty Talks for seven inspiring unfiltered stories about motherhood, sharing stories of post partum anxiety and depression.
The first person to ever ask me if I had ever had any issue with post partum depression or anxiety was my hairdresser. It’s seems kind of unbelievable really, especially considering she asked me this question just this past weekend and my youngest is already two years old. How can it be that no one ever checked in or flat out asked me this before?
All of us know just how taboo mental health topics can be. Especially talking openly about mental health, too often we feel a bit uncomfortable asking people in our lives how they are actually coping. It’s easy to assume our friends and family would feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help. However, in real life, this is far from the truth.
My Experience With Post Partum Anxiety
Right after I had baby number three I sunk into a weird unexpected cycle of feeling anxious. I never had any post partum depression or anxiety with the other two babies. I had a healthy baby in my arms and I was a seasoned mother, so why was I feeling this way?
This third baby was a high risk pregnancy, a wild delivery and our families first NICU experience. In retrospect that all played a role in the post partum anxiety but it was never red flagged by anyone.
As soon as I got home from the hospital a hot prickly feeling of anxiety crept into my daily life. I should have been relieved that the high risk pregnancy was over and I was finally home with my new baby. Instead, the happiness and relief was not enough to carry me through all of the feelings of anxiousness.
Coping With Post Partum Anxiety
One of the ways that I felt more in control and safe was being with the baby in my bedroom. We set up camp in my bed and I could actually feel tiny moments of bliss and happiness, it was definitely how I coped and survived this time in my life. However, if you asked me to do something that required getting out of the apartment I turned into an uncertain sweaty anxious person with a whirlwind of spiralling thoughts.
When the baby was about five weeks old my sister took my older kids over to Victoria to see extended family. It was all great until it was time to arrange how to bring the kids back home. The plan was for me to meet up about 45 minutes from home so I could go get them and drive them back.
At first I faked it and thought if I pushed myself enough I would get over the fear of leaving my bedroom, leaving the city and driving with the tiny baby to go and pick up the other kids. It was about not a long drive but the thought of having to do it made me feel physically sick.
It’s a drive I’ve done many times before and logically it did not make sense why it made me feel as upset as it did. That’s anxiety for you, it is totally an illogical process. I was worried about putting our very tiny baby into a car seat. I was worried about driving while feeling so tired. I was worried she might cry the whole drive.
I convinced myself that she could stop breathing in her car seat and I even let myself ‘go there’ and envisioned getting out of the car and finding that she had stopped breathing while I was on the highway.
Eventually my sister offered to bring the kids back home to me and I went from feeling totally ridiculous with all of my thoughts to feeling a sense of calm. I could stay in my bedroom, on my bed, with my tiny baby and we would be okay.
I could stop having to constantly process the ‘what ifs’ that were totally illogical but still swarmed my mind. Things that I had done with my other kids when they were babies just felt like too much this time around. Everything felt scary.
It was even too much for me to make the six week post partum check up with my obstetrician. Instead, I just kept telling myself that I’d eventually book it. Months went by and I could never bring myself to make that appointment.
The thought of going to the appointment felt like like this huge amount of energy. So I let myself decide that there was no way I could go. As expected, there was no call to check up on me or see if I was okay. Eventually I was totally off the office radar but not going didn’t help my feelings of anxiety. Instead, I’m sure it made it worse.
Support Through Post Partum Anxiety
Anxiety is a complex beast, it is completely controlling of your daily life. It steals your joy and your sense of self. The idea that something bad is about to happen all the time is utterly exhausting. Things that used to make you feel happy and satisfied were now coated with a new layer of uncertainty.
I wish that someone had flat out asked me if I was having any problems coping when I had this third baby. Just having someone to talk about these weird feelings would have been beneficial to my mental health.
Over time I started to feel less and less anxious. As my baby grew and I felt more in control of my daily life I had more anxiety free moments. It was not an over night transformation but a gradual continuous shift into feeling more steady. For me the feelings were the most intense for the first 3 to 4 months post partum and slowly eased off over the rest of the first year.
Recently we hosted a Vancouver Aquarium Birthday party for our middle girl. A few months back she decided she wanted to celebrate her seventh birthday at the Vancouver Aquarium. Which was doable as living in the city makes it easy to plan awesome birthday parties at some of Vancouver’s prime locations.
What Happens At A Vancouver Aquarium Birthday Party
As a parent the best part about having a Vancouver Aquarium birthday party is that you literally just have to show up. The party entrance is not overly obviously but the main aquarium staff are helpful in directing guests to the Aquaquest Reception, which is where party guests can be dropped off and picked up from.
The aquarium provides everything you need for the party. Including a personalised birthday cake, drinks, party decor and all of the aquarium fun. There was fresh hot coffee from local roaster Saltspring Coffee for parents. We put together our own party bags to hand out but there’s also the option to buy them through the aquarium gift shop.
The first step to having your own Vancouver Aquarium birthday party is booking on line. Which makes organising things very easy for the parent. A bonus is our annual Vancouver Aquarium membership gave us a discount on the price of the party. Each party can accommodate up to 16 children and 4 adults, which made this an easy drop off party.
Two hosts guided the party from start to finish and both were full of knowledge and peppy energy that helped keep the kids engaged. Each party is two hours long and the time is well spent. There is a range of hands on activities and behind the scenes tours to keep all party guests engaged.
Top Party Moments
The biggest highlight of the Vancouver Aquarium birthday party was feeding the fish. Donned in a life jacket and disposable gloves, the birthday girl carried a container of fresh food to a private area of the aquarium tank. There she was able to feed an array of beautiful coloured fish. All while her guests cheered her on from across the tank. To be honest, as a parent this was also one of my highlights and made the party feel extra special.
With so much to see at the aquarium there was always something for us to do in the span of the two hours. We checked out the sharks and the sea lions and spent hands on time in the wet lab with our aquarium leaders.
The final moments of the birthday party were spent back in the nicely decorated party room. The party leaders served up birthday cake and aquarium punch and before we knew it the party was over.
For more Vancouver birthday party ideas check out some of our other posts.
I received this product for free from Moms Meet. However, as always this post is my honest opinion. Compensation for this post was provided.
One thing we welcome in our home is kids books. Recently I decided to tackle my kids massive library and got rid of all the baby board books that were taking up space on the shelves. We needed to do this to help make room for all of the potential new kids books they are bound to collect this year.
Raising A Bookworm By Choosing Engaging Kids Books
All three of my kids are bookworms and we spend a lot of time reading together or independently. It wasn’t always this way but by bringing books into our every day life, reading has naturally become part of what we do. My oldest is ten and he will take a book with us anywhere we go. In fact, because of this our car also has accumulated a decent library too.
The current hot read in our family is National Geographic Weird But True!. These are the perfect books for young readers, ranging from the reluctant reader to the avid page turner. Each book is filled with captivating kid friendly facts that grabs their attention.
Each volume has 300 hundred facts and topics range from the outrageous to slimy, sticky, smelly facts. The latter is probably the most popular volume in our home. National Geographic Weird But True! just celebrated one decade of publishing and they updated volume 1-10 of Weird But True for your reader to explore. In Canada you can find these fun books at Indigo, Costco and independent book shops. You can also shop on line here.
The kids are quick to pull facts from the books and they love being able to throw out their new knowledge in family conversations. There’s a lot of, ‘Mom did you know …’. Which makes for great dinner conversation and also a screen free alternative to passing time when we are driving in the car as family.
This is what ten year old Ben had to say about the Weird But True! books.
I think every kid my age would love these books. The books have so many fun facts inside and it’s about all different kinds of topics too. I love learning about different things like, Australian wombats poop is cube shaped! I also think the pictures in each book is really well done.
Facts And Fun Just For You
These are a few of my kids favourite Weird but True! facts from National Geographic Kids.
- An average adult pees enough every year to fill a 150 gallon home aquarium.
- There was no ice in Antartica 55 million years ago.
- The hearts of some hummingbirds can beat faster than 1,000 times a minute.
- Apples are one- quarter air.
- In Thailand people have water fights to celebrate New Years.
Weird But True! has a Canadian contest happening now. If you have a reader in your family aged 6–14 they can enter. Kids can submit their own
verifiably weird fact about their hometown, province, or country. Just click over to National Geographic and follow the steps. The contest is open until January 31,2019.
Growing A Young Reader
Not every kid will eagerly sit down and want to read a book . Which is why finding different types of books is key in engaging them. Giving kids the opportunity to flex that reading muscle is so beneficial for their confidence.
For new readers, books that are broken up with a mix of pictures and words can help pique interest. Picture books also gives the learner hints to what the topic is about and can help to cue them for similar words.
Books that can be picked up and put down lets a reluctant reader engage at their own speed without losing track of what is happening inside the book. Ultimately giving them self assurance with reading.I
Three kids and city living means that we do our share of dining out with kids and supporting the restaurant industry. I’ve got zero mom guilt over that one! It’s just so simple for us to head out the door, walk a few blocks to a restaurant and have lunch or an early dinner. This also means that my kids are all pretty familiar with dining out and restaurant manners have been instilled into them from the very start.
I’ve taken my trio out for meals by myself many times. In fact, I can remember this sense of total accomplishment the first time I took the two big kids and my tiny newborn out to a chain restaurant for dinner. We were one mama and three kids and I didn’t sweat it at all. We’ve been dining out as a family since the first was little and I find it really fun to go out to eat with my kids.
I always choose wisely when we go out for a meal. If someone is overly grumpy or tired, we won’t be going to a sit down restaurant. However, sometimes you make lunch plans to meet up with someone and you have to take your crew no matter what. I can be go with the flow on this one, however, we never waiver from our restaurant manners.
The Game Plan
Before we even get to the restaurant we talk about what the kids are going to order, all the way to what drinks they’ll have. I find this makes things simpler and avoids potential meltdowns once we are at the table. As soon as the kids could speak in sentences I’ve gotten them to order their own meal, the younger they are the more help they get from me. Before we give our order we talk about how it will sound and I gently remind them about using their manners and the importance of saying thank you and making eye contact with the server.
We always pack a long a bunch of table friendly activities to keep my people occupied while we wait at the table. I have a strict zero tolerance for making loud sounds, walking around the restaurant or general kid flopping that can happen to the best of us. My very favourite time passer is books for big kids and the reusable Water Wow colouring books by Melissa & Doug for the littles. Seriously, the latter is so great and portable and genuinely loved by our family.
We also play a variety of games to pass the time with hangman being a popular table top game with my kids. If my crew starts getting antsy for their food we play a game of eye spy and the golden prize is the one who spies the food coming. These things are so simple but seriously keeps the kids focused while we wait.
Over the years the kids have grown to know what it means when we gently remind them about using their, ‘restaurant manners‘. They know that we expect them to sit at the table, use please and thank you and not use playground behaviour (loud and big).
If there are two adults at the table we will most definitely take the antsy one for a walk around but I don’t let my kids walk off on their own by other tables or stand up on the seats. Same goes with the tiny peepers who peer over the back of the booth to the next table. That’s a big no. I might be the ‘strict one’ when it comes to kids and restaurant manners but we’ve so many successful meals out together that I’m going to keep rolling with it.
Dining Out Success!
It’s a successful meal out at a restaurant when we only have one spill. I feel like every meal out there is usually the inevitable spill, especially with the under three crowd but sometimes even with the older kids. Either random sauce or ketchup splats across the table or the contents of their water glass accidentally splashes out.
The last meal out my two year old was served a glass of water and she spilt half of it all over herself and the table during the two seconds I looked away. Live and learn. Water cleans up easier than chocolate milk or other beverages and half filled glasses make less mess.
If someone has a ridiculous meltdown we will leave. This is not used as an empty threat at all, we will pack up our food and leave. I am pretty relaxed in my daily life but I will not tolerate poor behaviour in a restaurant. I’m not the only person that came to enjoy a meal out and I’m very aware of that. I’d rather eat my food cold back at home then tolerate crazy behaviour. Luckily, I’ve only had to pack up our entire meal once.
The Fine Print
I totally get it if your kid has sensory issues or autism or there’s something else happening that this style of parenting just might not fit with your family. I feel like as long as you’re actively parenting your child, you are doing an amazing job! You are your kids best expert and if you think your kids won’t be able to handle eating out in a restaurant then you make that choice.
Quick Tips To Dining Out With Kids
- Dining out with kids is best done early! Don’t go at peak meal times if you don’t need to. Have lunch at 11:30 AM and dinner just before 5 PM. There will be less people around and the place will be quieter. Meaning your table service will be speedier too and you won’t have starving kids melting down.
- Always have an exit plan. If you are dining with your partner take turns being the one that hauls the noisy one out for a quiet little reminder about restaurant manners.
- Mama says relax. Truly take this one into consideration. If you’re feeling anxious about your kids being all kinds of crazy they will 100% pick up on it and be even crazier than you imagined. Soften your shoulders, make yourself smile and enjoy being out with your family (and not having to cook!).
If you are currently working on your kids restaurant manners always regroup with them once you leave the restaurant. Let them know what was awesome, they sat at the table and used please and thank you, and what did not work.
Remember, dining out with kids is meant to be enjoyable for everyone, even for the mamas! If your kids aren’t quite ready to do a sit down dining out experience start small and get take away to enjoy at a park.
Years ago on a cold crisp Christmas morning my sisters and I had big plans. We had all bought the same Christmas pajamas to wear to our parents home for the gift opening and brunch. The matching jams were meant to be a low key funny surprise for our mum and it was well received by her. It was never intended to become an annual sisters tradition, however, over the last twelve or so years it surely has.
Now with a mix of eight kids, shift work schedules and our husbands families we are never all together on Christmas day. This is just how the cookie crumbles but we’ve made it work. That being said one tradition that we still continue to make happen is our annual sisters Christmas weekend.
Christmas Past and Present
Advanced planning goes into this weekend. Securing a date months ahead of December. Then going back and forth till we finally find a date that works for three working mamas. We use this weekend to make sure that our annual tradition of wearing matching pajamas continues on. These moments feel so good, especially as we won’t be together on Christmas morning.
Past weekend get together’s have included going to the local theatre, indulging in a festive afternoon tea and taking in Christmas light shows in the city. There are usually dinners out, sipping of wine, Christmas shopping and lots of hanging out together.
Over the years one of the three sisters have always had a baby come along for the weekend. This was the first year that we were footloose and baby free! It felt very liberating not having a baby to jiggle, a stroller to push or having to quiet down the sisters party for nap time.
This year we shopped our favourite South Granville neighbourhood and filled up our bags with treasures for family and friends. It turns out that the second week of December brings a lot of good sales and discounts. Pro tip, holiday shopping is best done before 1 PM. The after lunch crowd booms and sidewalks and shops get busy.
One year I’d love to do our annual Christmas meet up a little bit differently and actually leave town or at least do a staycation in a local hotel. With all of our children getting older and the energy and focus shifting, this dream is doable.
I love visiting hotels over the holiday season. With the gorgeous lights and decor in the lobby plus the wonderful warm scents that fill the air. It’s no wonder I got married a week after Christmas. I truly love the holiday season.
Would you ever do a girls Christmas weekend?
Back when we first became parents to our first, circa 2008, we decided we weren’t going to do the whole Santa Claus thing. We wanted all of the gifts to be from us and decided we wanted to skip the whole concept of Santa as an actual person. A person who sneaks into our home while we are sleeping.
When You Don’t Do Santa
It turned out that not including Santa Claus in our Christmas was actually a very unpopular opinion amongst some friends and family. In fact, one friend didn’t want to hang out with us during the month of December in case we slip out that Santa wasn’t real.
Obviously, we wouldn’t go around crushing childhood dreams but these friends were still worried! I mean our first kid was only three years old but I guess you never know when truth bombs might be dropped.
Changing Ideas Around Santa
Fast forward to child number two and we started to relax our ideas around the whole Santa thing. The kids really loved the idea of Santa and the magic that went with it. So, we allowed our views to change and did our first Santa visit when our oldest was four years old.
While we don’t pump up Santa to be a magical man who flies around the world in one night visiting all the worlds children, we still love the idea of Santa as a character. That’s the beauty of parenting, we get to choose the parts that works the best for us and our family.
For the past seven years we have loved talking about Santa and embracing the idea that he is part of the magic of the holiday season. We have done a few Santa visits and we have occasionally left out a plate of cookies and glass of milk.
Curious Children Ask Big Questions
My kids are currently 10, almost 7 and 3 years old. The ten year old knows that Santa is a make believe character. A few years ago he asked us if Santa was real and we asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Mum, I’m pretty sure that he isn’t real…but do I still get presents if I think he isn’t real?’. In that moment we told him he had now graduated the ranks and he would now become our special elf that night.
He loves helping fill his two sisters stockings with treats and toys while they are off sleeping. The last year he was absolutely thrilled seeing the magic the next morning and being part of it too. Even when all three of my children are grown I hope we still do the magical stockings. The ones that are empty at night and filled up with treats in the morning.
Santa does stop at our home and the kids do get small gifts and treats from him. He doesn’t give the big gifts, those always come from us. We felt comfortable changing how we did things as parents and we love talking about Santa Claus coming to visit.
In our home Santa is still a character. We don’t pretend that he is a real person that visits our home while we sleep. Back when we were an apartment dwelling family it was always tricky to explain how Santa got up to our tenth floor condo. Especially as there was a secured elevator access and no chimney or front door!
The six year old is starting to get curious about Santa and I suspect she actually knows he is not real but is going along with the whole thing because of the magic feeling. When she is ready to ask we will ask her what she thinks and let her lead the conversation.
Letting The Magic Of Santa Exist
If my kids want to believe in Santa, we go with it. One thing I know for sure is that these young years of childhood are quite short in the scheme of things. There is so much magic everyday in childhood and sadly it does eventually disappear. If the idea of Santa Claus makes them feel happy, I am all for it.
Believing in Santa will look differently for each family and I love that. There will be families on either side of the Santa Claus debate and lots in the middle. I am glad that we changed our parenting views around Santa and I get some of my own joy out of doing the behind the scenes Santa stuff.
The Big Santa Visit
We don’t do Santa photos every year. I think we’ve maybe done about three different sessions over the years. However, the other week I took my two girls to go and have a private visit with Santa. It would be our three year old’s first time doing a visit one on one.
We sang Christmas songs together and read a few holiday themed books with him. Of course there was milk and cookies and the girls gave him their Christmas wish lists. It was a special visit for sure and one I’m glad I got to share in this magical part of their childhood.
Tell me, what do you do about Santa in your home?
Want to read some more holiday inspiration? Check out our other posts!