PMDA Mentors at Large

PMDA Mentors at Large, is a Network of individuals who have experienced some form of perinatal mood disorder first hand and feel so passionate about helping others affected by the illness, that they have chosen to provide virtual mentorship. These advocates are another resource for anyone requiring support for postpartum depression & perinatal mood disorders. Please feel free to contact any of the individuals below if you need to talk to someone further about what you are experiencing. Each advocate has briefly described their experience with PMD's below, so that you may better relate with an individual who you think can be of help to you. Please keep in mind that these individuals are providing Mentorship only and are not healthcare or mental health professionals. They cannot provide you with a diagnosis, simply one to one support.
For questions, comments, or enrollment in the program, please contact the Program Manager:
Cherie Boison at saskatoon@pmda.ca.



PMDA Mentors at Large:

Edmonton, AB & Area

Robyne Walters
robynew@gmail.com

I suffered ppd after the birth of my 5th child in 1997.  Following the birth of my first 4 children I had mild to moderate ppd, but with the 5th it was incredibly severe. I was barely functional, constantly contemplating suicide, feeling hopeless, depressed like there was a 1000 pound weight on me, anxious, had severe insomnia and was physical weak. I did not leave the house for weeks, except to go for walks around the neighborhood. I gradually got better following a regimen of a thyroid medication, various supplements and a healthy diet; I had several nutritional deficiencies that were also addressed, such as low iron.

Shirley E. Zago
shirleyzago@gandgdesigns.com

If I was to say what kind of PPD I had, I would say it was severe. My doctor always labeled it as clinical depression but it was full blown 6 months after I had my baby. I hid it quite well until it got to where I could not sleep and my mind kept racing. It was scary because when I finally admitted to myself, it was at the point where I was afraid of hurting my son and myself because of the thoughts that I kept having. I remember going to a few hospitals and was turned away because of the shortage of beds. If it was not for a close family friend of my then husband's family who was a nurse at the Alberta Hospital and knew my doctor, I don't know what would have happened, I was hospitalized for two months and had shock treatments. I remember being on a few different anti-depressants but they didn't seem to work. I remember being off on a pass for the weekend and was feeling better to the point where I stopped taking my meds and landed back in the hospital and in bad shape again.My doctor tried Lithium and this helped with the moods.  I remember my doctor telling me that it was like breaking a leg and you can't just fix it yourself. He scared me to the point where I did exactly what he told me and went to all of the outreach classes and kept seeing him until he retired and continued to see the next doctor. I think I really just needed to talk and I realized many years later that I think my depression stemmed from childhood trauma that was never dealt with. I knew I wanted to have another child but waited seven years until having my daughter and I quickly went back on the lithium for fear of having the depression return.

I believe in a system that looks at the big picture. In this case, if I was to have done anything to harm my child, would I have been responsible? I thank God every day for my two young adult children and they see me differently because of the many changes that I have done for myself. I was lucky to have had my mother at the time, to be there and help me. I realize now that she had not dealt with her childhood trauma and I emulated her life. Going back to responsibility, I do believe that we are accountable for what we do or don't do when we know there is help and we don't follow through to be there for our children who look up to us to be loved. 



Kathryn Bell
katbell@shaw.ca

I have two children, a daughter aged 5 and a son aged 2. After trying for 2 years to conceive, we were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant and spent the 8 1/2 months of pregnancy happily preparing to be a family. My daughter was born a little bit early, via emergency c-section after a long and mostly hospital induced labour (I would say a fairly traumatic and medicalized birth, from which I had to heal emotionally later) but we bonded wonderfully and I fell into Motherhood with abandon and love. It came as a shock to me when I felt feelings of resentment during my second pregnancy, as I was working hard to finish my Master's degree and felt the timing of the pregnancy was off. After a month of daily pre-labour, even up to 4 or 5 hours at a time, my son was born via a very fast (1 hour total!), but very overdue, VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). I had almost no feelings of connection to the child they handed me, and I didn’t know what to do with the absence of emotion, or how to make myself feel something I did not feel already. I also ended up having severe complications, including POP (pelvic organ prolapse), from the pregnancy (maybe both pregnancies?) and the fast delivery, and I was in a LOT of pain physically. It took me a long time to bond with and feel love towards my son, despite support from others, my professional experience helping pregnant and parenting teens, and my personal experience with motherhood. It was a confusing, self-blaming, guilt-ridden time for me that I didn't talk to many people about at the time. I am here to share that I did bond with my son, love him fiercely, and I did climb out of and forgive myself for the guilt and blame! I am here to share my story and listen to yours.


Calgary, AB & Area

Beverley Moorehouse
moms4momsppd@gmail.com

I experienced PPD in 2009, 5 days after my daughter was born.  It was so stark that I can remember at 5.02am, on the 5th day after the birth I collapsed in a hospital hallway crying and saying I could not cope with my baby.  I had had quite a traumatic birth experience which resulted in surgery after the birth, plus my daughter was ill and was losing weight after the birth, so both of us remained in hospital.  Nurses were being kind to me saying I could cope with this baby and I was just suffering from the ‘baby blues’, but deep down somewhere I knew it was more than that.  I could feel this deep dark depressive place through to my core being.  Eventually we went home, where I was hopeful I would feel better in a familiar place, surrounded by things I loved and cherished.  But things didn’t get better, they got worse.  My daughter wasn’t sleeping well and would cry for hours straight and no one or anything could console her.  My husband returned to work and I dreaded the days alone with my baby; the time to him coming home was an eternity and time dragged.  Breastfeeding wasn’t working out for us, but I was determined to carry on because after all it was supposed to be the best thing and I felt if I didn’t continue I would be a bad mother.  Each day I was slipping further into the blackness.  I had no one to talk to, my family lived three hours drive away and friends were busy working and thought everything was ok, because I told them it was.  Strange thoughts invaded my mind, thoughts of not liking my baby, that she would be better if she were with a mother who loved her properly, not a useless mother like me.  I would cry endlessly.  I wondered why I had been put into this horrible place and I wanted out any way I could.  Moreover, I wanted to go back to the time before my daughter arrived and I didn’t feel like this.  I wanted the old me back again – someone who could cope and do things and enjoy life.  I hated the mess I had become.  Because at the time I was living in the UK, I had a Health Visitor (a nurse who works with families with children 0-5; they make regular visits to new mothers).  For a while I had been lying to her about how I felt, but my Health Visitor has since she told me that she suspected PPD was happening.  One day my Health Visitor asked me what I thought about seeing me family doctor that I might not be feeling good and he could help me.  I was so ashamed that she had seen the real me and I denied everything she was saying.  Still things were getting worse, I wasn’t sleeping at all now and my eating was chaotic.  I had severe anxiety and I would pace about and not be able to sit down at all.  All the while I was covering up to my husband and anyone who asked.  I was living a lie and pretending – it was exhausting on top of the PPD and anxiety.  The intrusive thoughts were getting worse and strange.  I was now scared that my daughter was going to kill me somehow – silly I know because how can a baby who is unable to do anything for itself kill an adult.  I would hide from her by going into another room or hiding behind furniture.  I would just see to her needs, but other interactions were non-existent, as my fear of her was so strong.  I wanted ‘out’ of the situation, but by what method on the table of choices?  I had plans in motion about getting my daughter adopted and I began looking into it.  In the UK, we have Mother & Baby units for those suffering severe PPD and I began to look up where my nearest one was, as I knew if I went to my doctor he would admit me to one, but did I really want that?  Chaos reined every day of not knowing what I wanted or where I was going, other than I needed to get out of the situation as fast as possible.  One day, my Health Visitor arrived and found me in a heap on the floor, crying and generally in a terrible state of anxiety and not being able to function.  She called my doctor and asked him to see me as soon as possible that day.

I did see my doctor that day, who diagnosed PPD with anxiety.  He wanted me to take anti-depressants and an anti anxiety medication.  To be honest, I was relieved to have a diagnosis.  Relieved to stop breastfeeding, because in reality it wasn’t working and I couldn’t give it up because no one had said I could and given me permission until now.  My doctor assured me I was normal to have PPD that it was common, very treatable and I would get better.  He gave me hope.  I saw my doctor regularly and my Health Visitor came twice a week to chat and support me.  I began to bottle feed my daughter, and she settled down immediately with little crying and she slept at long last.  It meant I could sleep too and in that first week, I lost count of the hours my daughter and myself slept.  The anxiety subsided on the medication.  The blackness of PPD was manageable for the first time.  Eventually, the blackness lifted and so did the intrusive thoughts.  I began to go out and I joined a mother and baby group – a lovely bunch of ladies whom were really supportive and didn’t think me weird because of what I went through.  With time, I got better and better.  My friendship with my daughter began to grow and we began that mother and daughter relationship which PPD had tried to throw off course.  Now that relationship is as strong as anyone’s with their child.

My goal today is that no woman should suffer this illness in silence.  For every professional to understand PPD and be supportive in any capacity they can be.  You can get better because PPD is treatable.

Kelowna, Vernon & Penticton, BC

Coming soon...


Saskatoon, SK & Area

Sarah Witzel
sarah.witzel@usask.ca

Getting pregnant with my daughter was not planned, but my husband and I wanted children and were very excited. I had struggled with mental health issues in the past but decided with my psychiatrist to discontinue my medication for the pregnancy. After the birth of my daughter I experienced symptoms typical of the ‘baby blues’ during the first couple weeks postpartum such as weepiness and mood swings, but also symptoms that worried me more, such as significant weight loss (I was less than my pre-pregnancy weight by 10 days postpartum) and anxiety and flashbacks to labor that prevented me from following the popular advice to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’ Over the next few months, I felt simultaneously exhausted and agitated. I felt constantly guilty, like a failure of mother who didn’t deserve such a beautiful baby. I didn’t realize I had PPD, however, because I assumed that it was normal to feel this way after having a baby. Nurses, friends, family, and even my obstetrician told me I was fine, and I believed them because I really didn’t want to have PPD or to deal with it! Finally at my daughter’s 2 month check up I was given a screening questionnaire for PPD, failed it, and received some help. With the help of medication, a support group, psychiatric care, joining La Leche League (a breastfeeding group), and making some ‘mom’ friends, I began to improve over the next few months, and am now thoroughly enjoying my one-year-old. The first years can seem insurmountable, especially when dealing with a mood disorder, but remember that things will get better, easier, and more rewarding as time passes. I look forward to helping you in your journey!


Chelsea Oosterlaken
chelseaoosterlaken@hotmail.ca

When I became pregnant, I never would have dreamed I would end up suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. I flew through my pregnancy, working twelve hour shifts until the week before my son was born. The birth went great, and the first four weeks were awesome. My son slept well, nursed well, and I felt well. Because of this, I think I began to do too much, trying to keep my house clean, make meals, baking, and did not ask for much help.

At about six weeks, we began to have trouble with nursing. My son kept refusing to feed, choking, sputtering, and trouble with sucking and was really fussy. He began to start sleeping poorly, and it took hours to feed him. I started to get worn out and began to feel I was failing as a mom because I couldn’t feed my child. My doctor would not take me seriously because he was gaining well. I had to find my own referrals and resources to pediatritains, lactation consultants, and speech language pathology because I felt like something was wrong.

At about four months, I decided to give up nursing because it was taking such an emotional toll, and I couldn’t keep a good supply because his suck was inefficient. This was a really hard decision and again I blamed myself for not being able to feed my child. We had just as much trouble with bottle feeding, and he always seemed to feed better for everyone else than me, so I felt it was something wrong with me. I started to question my ability to be a mother, and question the bond I had with him.

With these negative thoughts, I started to feel really anxious all the time. Mornings were the worst, I began to dread the day, and the struggle of feeding my son, and hoping he would nap. My whole body would feel numb and paralyzed when I heard him waking up in the morning, it is such a weird feeling to have such a hard time getting out of bed. I felt that the anxiety and depression made everything so difficult, I couldn’t concentrate, I was terrible at listening to people, and I had an awful time making decisions. It was at this point I realized I wasn’t coping. I phoned the postpartum help line, and started to attend a post partum support group. It was a great group in that I felt like I wasn’t alone – but it still didn’t make me feel much better because the other girls in the group did not have feeding problems – and I kept comparing my son’s development with their babies, and started to get concerned about his development. It was at this point that I decided I needed something more. I went to see a general physician about starting medication since I could not get into my family doctor. I started on Celexa, and began an online cognitive behavioural therapy course through the University of Regina. Within two weeks I noticed a huge change in my symptoms. The anxiety in the mornings became minimal, I started to feel clear in the head again, and felt more confident in my ability to be a mother. I started taking William to mom and baby groups, swimming lessons, the park, and felt our bond grow stronger. Months later he would take the bottle the best from me.

At seven months we saw a specialist that ordered and MRI for my son because of differences in the sides of his body. The MRI showed he had a stroke. Although this was a terrible thing to hear about your child, this was another huge turning point for our family because we had an answer. All our feelings and concerns were valid – I wasn’t being just a paranoid first time mom, there WAS something wrong. From this point our whole family grew strong together. My son started on some medications for reflux, and his suck improved dramatically. His whole attitude changed, he slept well, ate well, and his learning to use both sides of his body. Postpartum depression and anxiety is such a dark time. But I am not upset that it happened to me. It has made me a stronger person, mother, nurse. The small things in life do not stress me out now, after experiencing such a large degree of stress – everything else seems small. I am feeling passionate about helping other mom’s going through this – you are not alone!

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Medical Disclaimer:
The information on this website is for educational and advocacy purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychological conditions. Please consult with your own health care provider for individual advice. In the event of an emergency please contact 911 or your local emergency services.