Depression Prevention for Moms: My MOPS Talk Part III

Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Make sure that you are eating, drinking water and getting some rest. I realize all these things sometimes seem impossible but find ways to make it easier. If your budget allows, keep bottled water and a few healthy convenience foods on hand such as fruit and protein bars. I sometimes make a large batch of something like baked oatmeal at the beginning of the week and then heat up a piece each day. This only takes a couple of seconds and makes sure I eat breakfast when I otherwise might not eat until 11 or 12. I also fill a reusable water bottle first thing in the morning and try to keep it near me all day.

While I’ve only rarely been able to manage this, when possible get up before your children. If not, then stage things the night before, lay out clothes, have breakfast ingredients ready or even precooked. Starting the day feeling in control rather than frazzled or constantly in crisis mode can go a long way towards preventing that horrible sinking feeling of being overwhelmed.

Make Self-Care a Priority: This falls into securing your own oxygen mask, but I wanted to highlight this specifically anyway. This is one that I have really struggled with. But I have found that one too many days spent in my pajamas does nothing for my mood. Find clothes that are comfortable, sturdy and if possible flattering. Maintaining a positive self-image is a major contributor towards warding off depression. Whenever possible, get dressed as soon as you get up. Sometimes, I don’t even go to the bathroom first because invariably before I’ve gotten down the hall I’m dealing with a crisis or three and the next thing I know my husband’s coming home from work and I’m still in my pajamas. If putting on makeup makes you feel more confident, then create an easy, expedited routine that practically guarantees you get fit it in first thing in the morning.

Exercise, we all need it, and it’s hard to fit into being a mom. Pop the baby in the stroller, walk while the older kids ride their bikes. Put on music and dance around the house. Exercise if good for your body and your mind. No one says you have to join a gym, unless of course you want to. Get outside, even if just for a few minutes. The fresh air and sunlight have both physical and psychological positive effects.

Know Your Triggers

Know your triggers for stress, anxiety and negative feelings. If you know that not getting enough sleep makes you more anxious, then make sleep a priority. If not showering makes you feel subhuman, then make sure that you get a shower first thing in the morning (even if it means the kids have to fuss, or in my case scream, while you do it.) Watch your influences. I gave up certain TV shows and movies years ago because I found that I began getting anxious nightmares, and during the day I was agitated and negative about my life.

Avoid social media if it makes you feel too down about yourself. For some women Pinterest is huge trigger that leaves them feeling depressed and hopeless about their less than perfect lives. My husband hates when I watch HGTV because he says I always come away from it feeling dissatisfied with our life. There may be relationships in your life that are making you feel depressed or negative. Minimize time spent with these people or at least create healthy boundaries. If that person is your husband, seek couples counseling immediately. Things like this don’t get better on their own. If you don’t want to see a counselor find a mentor couple you can meet with, perhaps a pastoral couple or long time married couple from your church.

Develop a Defensive Strategy

The flip side of knowing your triggers is having coping mechanisms ready when facing those stressful situations you have no control over. Those coping mechanisms are unique to each person. This is where employing positive self-talk and memorized scripture can be very helpful. Also useful are deep breathing and reciting a comforting scripture or singing a soothing song. Invest in yourself through personal devotional life, and hobbies or interests. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this publically but I have always struggled maintaining a consistent devotional life. But I try to cram it in wherever I can. I’ve read my bible nursing the baby first thing in the morning, while pumping in the middle of the night and I even keep a short devotional in the bathroom. Use whatever time you have, wherever you are. Some women manage to have a quiet time with God at the same time and place each day. I have rarely been one of those women. But whatever you do, get it done. Connection to God is crucial. Jesus is your lifeline, your anchor.

Find time to do things you enjoy. Follow favorite TV show, read a book you enjoy, make a snack just for you. I find yoga, and Pilates are helpful both as exercise and to de-stress (this is more effective when I can do it while kids are sleeping or elsewhere). Knowing what to do when the stress comes is important because then you don’t slide into panic.

As a quick sidebar: Men suffer from depression too, even forms of post partum depression. But men are much more likely to suffer in silence. Depression more often manifests itself in excessive focus on work, anger, extreme isolation. Women turn inward with our depression. Men are more likely to turn outward. If your husband is showing symptoms of depression, look for help both for yourself and for him.

I know this hasn’t been the happiest of topics but it’s an important one that we don’t probably talk about enough. We need to depend on each other and hold each other up in times of difficulty, both external and internal difficulties. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t ever suffer from depression any more than being a Christian means you won’t get diabetes. It is an illness that can be treated in both medical and non-medical ways. But depression does have a unique spiritual component. It can be used as a tool of the devil to isolate us from each other and from God. But as sisters in Christ, we don’t have to let that happen. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus in each other’s lives.


Depression Prevention for Moms: My MOPS Talk Part II

Cultivate Gratitude and Positive Self-Talk

Create a positive internal dialogue to combat the negative thoughts and influences in your life. I find that speaking truth, even when it doesn’t feel true is still beneficial. Joyce Meyers speaks to this a bit in her book Me and My Big Mouth. This is something I have just begun to work on the past few years. Begin memorizing truths from the bible that apply directly to your situation. In the beginning just pick a couple, and recite them to yourself whenever you find your mind wandering into negative territory (or stinking thinking as my dad calls it). If needed, write them on cards, or posters and place them in locations throughout your home.

A favorite of mine is Jeremiah 29:11
“I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Other examples include:
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not afraid for I am your God, I will strengthen you and give you help and uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Psalm 46:5 “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

I love that last one in particular because it uses a feminine pronoun. I know that it is referring to the city of Jerusalem, but I have found it of particular comfort personally. Have many times have we moms been up until the wee hours of the morning feelings tired, and desperate just waiting the sun to rise? Next time that happens to you, think of this verse.

Gratitude is a wonderful defense against depression and anxiety. It took me way too many years to realize this.

Philippians 4:6

“Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The peace comes, not just because we present our requests to God, but because we do it with Thanksgiving. Count you blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. That song isn’t just for kids, it’s good for us too.

I love the song we sometimes sing here at NC4 by Graham Kendrick, we actually chose it to use during my son’s dedication, Lord You’ve been God to Me.

Lord you’ve been good to me, all my life, all my life.

Your loving kindness never fails.

I will remember all you have done.

Bring from my heart, Thanksgiving songs.

New every morning is your love.

Filled with compassion from above.

Grace and forgiveness full and free.

Lord you’ve been good too me.

What I love about that song is how it starts by declaring God’s goodness in the past as well as the present. All our pasts, be they filled with good or bad and most of us a little of both, have examples of the blessings of God. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now. Grab onto those things from the past and use them as anchors of gratitude. Then look forward to the future and remember that the same God who brought you blessing in the past will bring you through your present difficulties, “new everything morning is your love, filled with compassion from above,” He has been and will continue to be good to us, if only through the power of his grace and forgiveness. If you feel like you have nothing else to hold onto, remember that you are a loved and forgiven daughter of the most high God. Even in the lowest of pits, in the deepest of depressions, nothing can separate you for the love of God.

I’ve read about women who construct a large tree out of construction paper and tape it the to the wall. Nearby is a large stack of paper leaves (these can often be bought pre-made during the fall season). Write things you are grateful for on those leaves, as often as you think of them, and add them to the tree. This can be a great activity to do with your kids or even just for yourself, giving you visual reminders of all that you have to be grateful for.

I also recommend a practice called high lights and low lights. Verbally acknowledge one of two major difficulties or low points in your day but make sure to counter them with the best of your day. This helps prevent a downward spiral of negativity and gives us a more balanced perspective on our lives. This can be a good family dinner table activity, or just something you do quietly alone with God.

Please read on in Part III

Depression Prevention for Moms: My MOPS Talk Part I

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a local chapter of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) where I am the discussion team leader. This was a new experience for me, but my words seemed to resonate with most of the women in the room. So below is a slightly reformatted version of what I shared that morning.

I suffered with my first bout with clinical depression when I was a senior in high school. Since then, I have had several other long periods of depression and severe anxiety.

I say this not to highlight my own struggles but to let you know that if you are struggling right now or you have struggled with depression in the past, you are not alone, Women are far more likely then men to suffer from depression (though men who do struggle tend respond differently but I’ll touch more on that later).

Early symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, especially unexplained ones. (Feeling sad after a loss or disappointment is normal, the concern is when it lingers to the point where it is no longer connected to its origin or when it seems to have no origin).



Sleeping too much

Change in eating habits (eating more ore less).

Low sex drive

Losing interest in things you used to enjoy doing.

Unexplained or non-proportional anger (the little things bother you much more than usual).

When I first saw this list, my response was, “Seriously? You’ve just described motherhood?” But all joking aside, these are still symptoms to be concerned about. More serious indicators such as hopelessness, despair, and the desire to end your life need to be addressed immediately.

If you know, or suspect you may be suffering from depression, don’t wait. Get help. Ask friends for prayer and support. If possible, let your husband know how you have been feeling. Meet with a pastor or counselor. Here at NC4 we have a great pastoral counselor named Judy Frei, but we also have staff pastors who meet with people. I suggest finding out what resources are available through your home church. If you don’t have a home church, start looking. Be connected to a church, not just attending but integrated.
Forming relationships, especially within a church, is so important and can be an important safe guard against depression. Don’t isolate yourself.

Depression causes us to believe lies, about ourselves and the world around us. (These are really lies from the devil, from the pit of hell, but they show up a lot in depression.)

Lie #1 No one likes you, needs you are cares about you.
Believing this lie leads to isolation.

Lie #2 You are worthless and you have nothing to live for.
Believing this lie leads to hopelessness.

Lie #3 God doesn’t care about you and doesn’t love you.
This leads to faithlessness

We need to combat these lies with truth. I want to spend the rest of our time talking about preventative measures we can take to help ward off depression.

Five Minute Friday: Again

We pumped, we supplemented, I gave formula (soy formula no less, my own personal dread). I increased solid food, decreased it, then increased it again. But my son is losing weight. It doesn’t help that we had a nursing strike followed by a family wide stomach virus, from which I have just barely recovered. I try to make him eat, but as I’ve discovered there are two things you can’t make a baby or a child do, eat and poop. (Or in his case, stop pooping so much). The laundry has piled up and my indie author husband is behind on his writing and marketing. My own dreams of a novel are further behind than I’d like to admit along with every other project I had on the docket; all pushed to the back burner ( or in some cases, packed in tupperware and put in the freezer). I had the constant feeling of being behind, again. But more than all of that I worry about the baby. I hate that every time we go to the doctor they lecture me about his weight again, as though I didn’t want him to eat. Now they have me worrying about brain development. He doesn’t always look when you call his name. He doesn’t say Mama, at least not in reference to me. Sometimes he says Dada. He may be allergic to milk but it will take another month before we can get in to see an allergist. My daughter is a skinny stick too, but has suddenly decided that she prefers things with little nutritional value. So do I let her eat garbage just to let her eat? My mom-instinct says no, but I worry that she doesn’t gain much either and like the rest of us, lost weight during the stomach bug fiasco. She grows taller, just no wider and in fact gets skinnier by the day it seems. She wears gloves in the house today because she complains that it is too cold, which of course it probably is.
So here we are again. For all my reading of articles on efficiency and promoting peace in your home, my son cries because he wants to be let out of his high chair and my daughter shushes him and yells at him to be quiet as I write this. Apparently even five minutes is too much to ask. I pray for grace and mercy.


Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here.

I Love My Flips

Flip cover in Butternut
Flip cover in Butternut

My son has super sensitive skin, even more than my daughter did at his age (which I didn’t think was possible). By the time he was six months old almost all his diapers and covers produced red marks and abrasions on his legs. I tried everything. Wool was a bit better but not reliable enough to go out of the house with. Then out of desperation I tried a Flip cover. The Flip system, from the designers of bumGenius products, was new when my daughter was just transitioning out of diapers, so we had never tried it. But my sister spoke highly of the covers and I figured it was worth a shot. I had been hesitant to try them when my son was fully breastfed because I didn’t trust any cover that didn’t have gussets like my Thirsties. BumGenius 3.0 and 4.0 pocket diapers were a staple of our stash. He was fine for a diaper or two but a whole day out of the house in pocket diapers meant serious red marks.

The Flips were perfect. He rarely got red marks and if he had any already from wearing a pocket diaper, then they quickly faded after a few hours in the Flip cover. The Flip stay dry inserts with a hemp insert or Flip organic insert worked great for at night too. These are the best all around option for my son right now. With prefolds, these are our go-to daytime preference (sometimes adding a hemp insert for naps) and since the covers are one size we will hopefully be using them for a long time. I’ve previously never liked any snap style diaper that I’ve tried. But I actually like these diapers in hook & loop and snap. They are officially my recommended option to moms on tight budget. A few of these with prefolds for day and stay-dry inserts for night will diaper your baby practically until potty training.

On Strike: Coping with an underweight baby and a nursing strike

My son woke up two weeks ago and did his usual morning nurse in bed with me. He then refused to nurse for the rest of the day. For the next week he only nursed first thing in the morning for five minutes, sometimes ten. Having already been underweight this was one of the worst possible times for a nursing strike.

My first instinct was to completely freak out. Even with his earlier weight issues we had never had to resort to giving him formula. (Just to clarify, I support women who choose formula, it just wasn’t what I wanted for my baby). He got two bottles of breastmilk a day, and two bottles of formula a day. I pumped with my commercial pump four or five times a day plus a middle of the night session. Eventually I rented a hospital grade pump. Then after a little more than a week he decided to start nursing again. I still think that teething played a huge role, but it feels good that the worst is finally over. But there were moments when I thought I would never nurse again and it really depressed me. But I tried to focus on his health first and deal with my emotions later.

Things I learned from my son’s nursing strike:

Pump, pump, and pump some more

The best chance you have to get back to nursing is to maintain your supply.  If you can get access to a hospital grade pump for a reasonable price, it may well be worth it. I was able to pump more in a shorter period of time with the hospital grade pump which gave me more time to have a life while still pumping as much as possible.

Formula supplementation isn’t the end
I had to put my son on soy formula, which I had really battled against doing in the past, due to a possible dairy allergy. (We meet with the allergist for the first time this week). I didn’t like the idea of soy formula. I was worried about possible negative side effects. But when it came down to it, formula was preferable to starvation. In my case, my son already occasionally had bottles so letting him have bottles meanwhile worked. Some breastfeeding experts would say that a hungry baby will eventually nurse, just give it time. In most cases I agree with this. But my son was already underweight and losing weight. I couldn’t afford to wait for him to get over it.

Keep offering
I had almost stopped offering him the opportunity to nurse altogether during the day because I had gotten so tired of him fighting me and the defeated feeling every time he refused to nurse. I ached (sometimes literally) to nurse him but settled for giving him a bottle. Then I was out at a mom’s group when he seemed hungry. I had a bottle with powdered formula in my bag but I didn’t feel like running to get it right then. So I nursed him and he actually latched and nursed, even with all of the distractions of the room. I was ecstatic. An hour or two later he nursed again and so on until finally at bedtime he nursed to sleep for the first time in over a week.

Nursing strikes can be scary and stressful, but it doesn’t have the equal the end of your nursing relationship.

Five Minute Friday: I Choose to Cherish


Those few hours when both children are sleeping and I’m still awake. An uninterrupted conversation with my husband. I want to learn to cherish the noise as well as the quiet. The times when the house seems so small, its rooms full to bursting and the din so loud that I can’t find words. Those are the times I know I will miss someday. Right now I feel as though these days of crumbs and clutter will never end, but I know they will. I see how fast the last three years have gone. How our cozy little house with its love bird occupants has become a bustling family home filled with chaos and mayhem.
I resist the urge to tell my daughter to stop singing loudly. Why shouldn’t she? I let the baby throw lego blocks on the floor. I add some music or Adventures in Odyssey to the background when the cacophony threatens to drown out my best intentions. I choose to cherish rather than wish away these sacred days of spit up and tantrums. Now if I could just find a way to get through this laundry.