Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wishing Our Ambassadors Peace and Love...

To all of our wonderful Ambassadors:

Thoughts for this Christmas Season...this poem is from the “Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” book.

We hope that you enjoy.

On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of my undivided attention.
On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of enthusiasm.
On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of creative energy.
On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of simple seasonal pleasures.
On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of tenderness.
On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of good cheer.
On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of beauty.
On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of communication.
On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of surprise.
On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of wonder.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of peaceful surroundings.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: the gift of joy.

We wish you the very best that this holiday has to offer – gifts, cheer, memories, laughter, hugs, joy and peace. May you experience these wonderful things throughout 2010!

The Smiling Mask Team

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The First Step Towards Healing

With any depression, fear and negativity can consume you. Personally after my psychosis, I kept my illness a secret until the point where I believed suicide was the only answer. My only saving grace was that my son would be left grieving his mother and I would lose every future experience of his life and growth. This stopped my desperate act and I made the choice to use my voice and ask for help.

The first step towards healing is the most frightening but also the most freeing. When you enter into the abyss of enlightenment and forgiveness –the small problems that hold us hostage are destroyed.

You hold the key to healing, open the door and realize the power that is within you, we all have gifts and each of us needs to shine!

Carla O'Reilly
Author and Inspirational Speaker

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Healing Hands of Time

I cannot help but look back and remember my struggle with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When I reflect back to the secret illness and the nightmare of my thoughts, I confess that all my heartaches have diminished. Time heals all wounds!

Although, I did not think I would survive, I am finally at peace with all that has transcended. Together, with three angels, Elita Paterson, Tania Bird and Peggy Collins, we brought this illness out of the closet and gave a face for mothers to connect to.

Today, I give my friends, family, and our ambassadors, who stood by and cheered, a token of gratitude. Many earthly angels, along the way, supported me and I am a true believer of God's Power. He surrounded me in my darkest hours and carried me even when I had stopped believing. We are all connected, and Heaven is among us!

Carla O'Reilly

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our Greatest Achievements: Healing Ourselves and Others!

We were honoured to attend the Saskatchewan Book Awards on November 28th and be among our Province’s most talented writers and poets!

There were 83 entrants in the category of The Readers' Choice Award, and, although, we did not win, we were delighted to be among the eight books, shortlisted! Thank you to all our Ambassadors who, again, supported The Smiling Mask!

Our achieved goals have far surpassed our grandest dreams to educate and connect with empathy.

We realize that we are "pacifist activists" in the truest sense of the words. Together, along with our Ambassadors, we have destroyed the stigma of PPD. The message of healing has allowed us to heal ourselves.

With that said, here are Tania's reflections, before the evening even began. We hope that you enjoy this entry!

I am so proud of the three of us. I am pleased that Elita agreed to write and did not delay in her response. I am pleased tha,t Carla, after four years of struggle, found it within herself to heal, thrive and be well. I am pleased that we have been able to talk in front of groups rather effortlessly, candidly and easily.

I am pleased that Elita is following a lifestyle that provides her with more energy and vitality - it is inspirational.

I am pleased that Carla can watch Cameron by herself, even overnight, which I know took tremendous courage and conviction. I am pleased as I witness us parenting our children, with grace and ease.

I am pleased to watch Carla come into her own with confidence, self-esteem and worth. I am pleased that all three of us took risks, felt the fear, and did it anyways.

I am pleased at myself for pursuing my dreams and desires and not accepting the norm - the traditional way of life.

It does not matter whether we win this award or not. It does not matter if we speak ever to a crowd of families and women, again, or not. It does not matter if we ever write again or not. It does not matter....what matters most is that we accomplished this with integrity, being true to ourselves and brutally honest. What matters is that have we have healed from the crisis of PPD and now are healing ourselves, fully - mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally. What matters is that our friendship has moved to a place of real and unconditional acceptance, love and empathy. I admire each of us for that.

So, if we win, we win. If we don't win, we win! Let’s take this evening to celebrate on the past year of accomplishments, both as entrepreneurs with a mission to heal others and more importantly, personally.

In love and light,
Tania Bird

Friday, November 20, 2009

Give Every Mother the Gift of the Four Es: Education, Empowerment, Encouragement, and Empathy

On Wednesday, November the 18th, 6 years almost to the day of my own son's birth, I became an Auntie! I am so excited and, more importantly, proud of my sister.

After a long and grueling labour, she has begun her journey as a mother! While I waited with anticipation to congratulate her, I thought about my own experience. Although, I endured severe Postpartum Psychosis, I healed after writing The Smiling Mask and am now able to see my experience as a gift to help other mothers. When I actually spoke to my sister, I told her all the things every mother should hear...

"I am so proud of you!"
"You're an amazing mom!"
"You are so strong!"
"I love you!"

All mothers deserve and need the four Es. Give these gifts first before flowers: Education, Empowerment, Encouragement, and Empathy!

I am tickled pink to have the new role of Auntie, and excited to be there for my sister!

Carla O'Reilly

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude Journal

The choice to be healthy, ultimately, lies within you. Anyone can heal themselves, although, if someone would have shared this revelation with me four years ago, I would have ignored the advice.

One lesson I have learned, is everyone heals, differently, and on their own time. In order to help others, we have to allow the person to grieve, and just be available to provide support, empathetically. And, we can only help others as much as we've healed ourselves.

As the three of us used different tools to heal, one that has helped is the feeling of gratitude for all that we have. A suggestion that is therapeutic, fun, and freeing, is to begin a gratitude journal. Jot down notes at the end of the day of everything that you are grateful for. When you look at everything and everyone with love, you will only receive love, back.

Journal, pray, and dream about the world you are grateful for, and your healing will begin.

Carla O’Reilly

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moose Jaw's Mom's Wellness Group

To create further support for mothers in Moose Jaw, we have created a Mom’s Wellness Group. Our mission is to educate, empower, encourage and support mothers who may be struggling with Postpartum Depression.

WHERE:YMCA KidsFirst Family Center at 679 Hall Street in Moose Jaw, Sk
WHEN: The 2nd and 4th Sundays of every month from 1:30-3:00.

One of the misconceptions of PPD is that you have to be diagnosed, and that it must be severe to seek help. The Smiling Mask Team’s mission is to encourage mothers to seek treatment and support from the medical community and join a PPD support group where they will find empathy from other mothers.

The most important step towards becoming healthy is to forgive yourself, and use your voice to ask for help!

As a circle of sisters we need to surround and support each other. Encourage your friends to visit

Carla O'Reilly

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Postpartum Support and Prevention Plan

One of the missions of The Smiling Mask Team is to pay it forward and proactively educate. To this end, we continue to speak to create awareness surrounding Postpartum Depression. We are now educating at the YMCA prenatal classes in Moose Jaw. The most important message that we are advocating for is to seek help as soon as the mother feels she is suffering.

We have also created a Postpartum Depression Prevention Plan on our website, like the popular Birth plan, this tool helps a mother create a contingency plan in case of the onset of PPD symptoms. Having suffered, ourselves, and realizing that often mothers can’t summon the words to explain how they are feeling, we created a color-code system. We also suggest that mothers choose a support person who they can call upon to apply the code. We are also encouraging pregnant mothers to flag themselves using the risk factors listed in the prevention plan and to screen themselves at two weeks with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Ultimately, taking responsibility for our own health is the number one prevention tool to destroy Postpartum Depression!

Carla O'Reilly

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two articles you will want to read...

Make sure you also check out the videos at the end of this article, Getting help for postpartum depression written by Valerie Whiffen of the Globe and Mail. And, bravo to Julie Cugalj for bringing to light her experience When motherhood isn't a joy written by André Picard of the Globe and Mail.

Provincial project improving the health of families!

Dr. Angela Bowen of the University of Saskatchewan, recently, wrote this newsletter that we are more than thrilled to share!

Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity for Saskatchewan

Maternal Depression is an increasingly urgent health problem.1 According to the World Health Organization depression is the number one cause of disability in women worldwide.2 Up to 20% of women may experience depression in pregnancy or postpartum.3 We have reported that 29.5% of Saskatchewan high-risk pregnant women are depressed.4 Women depressed in pregnancy are at risk for further and more severe depressions, such as postpartum depression. Untreated it can lead to psychosis, homicide, and suicide.5-7

Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her 5 children, and incidentally was a Registered Nurse, raised awareness of postpartum depression and psychosis.8 While they may not have made the headlines, sadly, we have had maternal suicides in Saskatchewan and only a few years ago a new mother attempted to kill her 3 young children.

While death is the gravest outcome of untreated maternal depression, there are other potentially deleterious effects, particularly during pregnancy. Women who are depressed are more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco and are less likely to have adequate prenatal care.9-11 Their pregnancies are more likely to end prematurely and have obstetrical complications11 and their babies are at increased risk for lower Apgar scores, lower birthweight, less frequency and shorter duration of breastfeeding.11-13 Children of mothers who are depressed are more likely to experience growth, attachment, psychological, behavioural, and developmental problems than children of mothers not depressed.14-16

Increased awareness and early identification can promote primary prevention and optimal treatment. British Columbia has a framework for prenatal and postpartum depression screening and care17 and BestStart in Ontario held a postpartum depression campaign in 2007-8.18 There has been increased awareness in Saskatchewan through a recent conference “Unmasking Postpartum Depression” in Regina, but we need to make a difference for individual women and their families.

The Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan is a project that is funded through research funds from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Community Development Fund at the University of Saskatchewan in partnership with the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute and the Health Quality Council, and with support from the Saskatchewan Public Health and Psychiatric Associations. Our goal is to increase the capacity to identify and support women at risk for mental health problems in Saskatchewan. The strategy includes an awareness campaign and engaging women and stakeholders to make policy recommendations to the Government of Saskatchewan.

Depression is treatable; however, too many women suffer in silence, unsure of what they are experiencing and too frightened to tell anyone. Increasing our capacity to identify and support these women will help to improve the health of families in Saskatchewan.

1. WHO. Women’s Mental Health: A Public Health Concern . Accessed 2006. WHO, 2006.
2. Allen LA, Woolfolk RL, Escobar JI, Gara MA, Hamer RM. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for somatization disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166( Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jul 24;166(14):1512-8.):1512-8.
3. Marcus SM, Flynn HA, Blow FC, Barry KL. Depressive symptoms among pregnant women screened in obstetrics settings. Journal of Women's Health. 2003;12(4):373-80.
4. Bowen A, Stewart N, Baetz M, Muhajarine N. Antenatal depression in socially high-risk women in Canada Accessed doi:10.1136/jech.2008.078832, 2009.
5. Blazer DG. Mood disorders: Epidemiology. In: Sadock BJ, Sadock VA (eds). Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry. Volume 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1999:1298-308.
6. Heron J, O'Connor TG, Evans J, Golding J, Glover V, O'Connor TG. The course of anxiety and depression through pregnancy and the postpartum in a community sample. Journal of Affecive Disorders. 2004 May;80(1):65-73.
7. Morris-Rush JK, Freda MC, PS B. Screening for postpartum depression in an inner-city population. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 May;188(5):5217-9.
8. Wikepedia. Andrea Pia Yates . Accessed 2004 February 6. Wikepedia.
9. Kahn RS, Zuckerman B, Bauchner H, Homer CJ, Wise PH. Women's health after pregnancy and child outcomes at age 3 years: a prospective cohort study. Am J Pub Hlth. 2002;92(8):1312-8.
10. Bonari L, Bennett H, Einarson A, Koren G. Risks of untreated depression during pregnancy <>. Accessed 2004 May 1. Motherisk Update, 2004.
11. Chung TKH, Lau K, Yip ASK, Chiu HFK, Lee DTS. Antepartum depressive symptomatology is associated with adverse obstetric and neonatal outcomes. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2001;63(5):830-4.
12. Hellin D, Waller G. Mother's mood and infant feeding: Prediction of problems and practices. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 1992;10:39-51.
13. Zuckerman B, Bauchner H, Parker S, Cabral H. Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and newborn irritability. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1990;11(4):190-4.
14. Murray L, Cooper PJ (eds). Intergenerational transmission of affective and cognitive processes associated with depression: infancy and the pre-school year. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2003. 17-42. p.
15. O'Connor TG, Heron J, Golding J, Beveridge M, Glover V. Maternal antenatal anxiety and children's behavioural/emotional problems at 4 years: Report from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2002;180:502-8.
16. Wilkerson DS, Volpe AG, Dean RS, Titus JB. Perinatal complications as predictors of infantile autism. International Journal of Neuroscience. 2002 Sep;9(112):1085-98.
17. BC Reproductive Mental Health Program. Addressing Perinatal Depression: A framework for BC's Health Authorities <>. Accessed. Ministry of Health, Victoria BC, 2006.
18. Dawson H. Postpartum Mood Disorders Provincial Public Awareness Campaign “Life with a new baby is not always what you expect” Toronto: Best Start Resource Centre 2008

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Readers' Choice Award and the AWHONN Conference!

We asked and you voted! Our book, "The Smiling Mask: Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood," has been shortlisted for the Readers' Choice Award!

The Saskatchewan Book Award's Gala will be held on Saturday, November 28th at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. After nearly a year of launching our book, we have been welcomed with open arms by communities across Canada and the United States. Our connections with mothers, sisters, friends and grandmothers speak volumes about the stigma attached to PPD.

After speaking at the 2009 AWOHNN (Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses) Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba on October 15th 2009, we again received positive feedback and one of the attendees shared, “Hearing your personal testimonies gives a human face to this illness. No textbook can provide that level of awareness.” The beauty of this shared experience is that we also learn from the nurses on the front lines. We admire their knowledge and belief in valuing continuing education surrounding PPD!

Carla O'Reilly

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tracy Houk did it!

Our team had the pleasure of representing postpartum disorders, when educating families who attended the Regina Family Expo this past weekend! This time we had the distinct pleasure of sharing a table with Tracy Houk of Regina, SK who recently published her first beautiful book, "The Day I Gave Birth!" Her book provides genuine stories of personal insight into the labour and delivery experiences of 45 women. It's beautiful, please check out her blog at!

The afternoon was spent with her first introducing her book and then we would take over by saying, "Our book is about what can happen to up to 1 in 4 women after having birth! Allow us to further educate and make you aware and put you at ease. There are supports in place; it's a matter of learning them!" You get the was a fabulous day :)


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Conference & documentary update...

The Unmasking Postpartum Depression conference went beyond our wildest expectations! We were thrilled with the attendance, participation from everyone and passion from which the medical community spoke. It was evident by the enthusiasm in the room that change will occur in our jobs, community and approach to Postpartum Disorders. Education combined with empathy will have a positive impact to mothers, fathers and families suffering. The end result will have a positive and affirming impact on our children, our future!

We also had the opportunity to sneak-a-peak at our 40-minute documentary that serves as a resource for families and medical professionals. It was an absolute delight to be viewing it for the first time, surrounded by family and friends! Here's some of what our audience had to say…

Hearing the voices of those who experienced PPD first hand brings a new dimension to the illness and their stories. Seeing the raw emotion and the hope of healing with both the women who lived it and the husbands who stood by them helps the viewer gain perspective and insight. This is a must see for all couples as a testament to "in sickness and in health", and how love and courage mixed with hope can heal. This documentary creates a window for anyone whose mother, sister, aunt, cousin or friend experienced PPD; to understand the tug-o-war between the head and the heart, between love and fear for her child.
- Jill Poulton, Mother, Motivational Speaker, and Success Coach

Although the stories told in the film were familiar to me, having already read the excellent book, I was struck by the visceral impact of the images and the emotions presented. Even the most innocuous photograph of a mother and her baby is replete with meaning, and the images presented in "The Smiling Mask", accompanied by their stories of overwhelming confusion and despair, become a heart-breaking dichotomy of joy and sorrow. Fortunately, the film's message of hope rises above all of its pain, and assures sufferers of PPD that they are not alone, and never were. I recommend this film to any person with least spark of empathy in their soul.
- Dan Carr, Father and Web Developer

The documentary will be available for December, so purchase your copy, now, for the pre-sale price of $9.95, at and promote Education, Empowerment, Encouragement and Empathy!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carrie's Courage

Thank you for choosing to share you story Carrie, why do you think it is important?
I think speaking out about my experiences with Postpartum Depression (PPD) is important because I believe I can help other women going through a similar situation. I want to give other women and their families hope, and let them know that if I can overcome this illness, twice, then they can, too. I want to help unveil the mask so that other women won't go through what I did.

What were your symptoms like? How long did you suffer before seeking help?
With my first baby I was very anxious. I vomited a lot, had loss of appetite and lost a lot of weight. I was so worried that something was going to happen to my daughter. I feared that she would die. My daughter was colicky and cried a lot, so I was so worried about her and wondered what was wrong. I didn't get many breaks and I cried a lot, too; felt very depressed, and had trouble going to sleep at night. I used to dread the nights because I knew that I wouldn't get much sleep. My sleep deprivation caused more anxiety and depression. I also didn't want to be alone with my baby because I felt I couldn't look after her properly. I felt like an unfit mother, with the lack of sleep and with the level of anxiety I was experiencing.
With my second baby I knew that the chances of having PPD, again, were up to 80%. I felt fine for the first two weeks. I had my mom stay for two weeks to help, but after she went home my daughter became colicky and didn't sleep much. I was more depressed the second time, but the anxiety wasn't as bad.

What did you do in order to get help and why do you think it was so important for your family?
The first time I had PPD it took me three months to finally get medical help. I had heard about Postpartum Depression, but I didn't think it would happen to me. I also thought my sickness was because my daughter was colicky and I wasn't getting much sleep. That was part of it, but once my daughter was out of the colicky phase, I was still feeling the same symptoms. I went to see my doctor and she put me on an anti-depressant called “Paxil.” Unfortunately, it took awhile for the medication to work. I also joined a Postpartum Support Group at the YMCA and met three wonderful women who were going through postpartum difficulties, as well. We met once a week at the YMCA for the group and also started going out for coffee, afterwards. We also met for walks in the morning. I believe that talking to other women who were going through the same postpartum difficulties was the number one healing factor for me. The scheduled walks helped, as well because they gave me an outing to look forward to every week. Scheduling these walks helped me get out of the house and not make excuses why I couldn't go, and the endorphins released from the exercise made me feel good. After a month, of being on the anti-depressants, they finally started working and helped me feel more, emotionally, stable. I also joined a Women's Bible discussion group and found faith, again, in the Lord. I started praying often and read a lot of daily devotionals with other women.
The second time I experienced PPD, I went on the anti-depressant right away, but it still took a while to start working. I asked for help more, this time around, but it was still hard to do. Help was definitely a must because I had two small kids to take care of. It was much harder to get out of the house and go for walks this time with my girls so I talked to my friends, Carla, Tania, Cheryl and Elita, a lot on the phone. I also read Carla, Tania and Elita's book, The Smiling Mask: Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood, which helped me stay positive and focused. Their stories of heartache and healing reminded me, again, that "this too shall pass" and I will be so much stronger for going through PPD. The "Strategies for Mothers with Postpartum Depression" section of their book really helped, as well. This information gave me strategies to practice and it really kept me moving forward with my healing journey. I read the book The Secret, as well, and it helped me learn how to think positive and gave me knowledge on how positive thinking is really powerful.

What steps did you take with your second pregnancy that was different from your first?
My husband and I hired a doula to assist us with the labour and delivery. That was the best thing I could have done for my family. During my second pregnancy we took hypno-birthing classes and our doula came out and taught us how to relax and do breathing exercises. These breathing exercises helped me relax during my pregnancy and were very beneficial during the labour and delivery. I had a much more positive and natural birthing experience with my second birth because of the preparation work and learning to breathe, properly. I never had an epidural this time around and had every intention not to get one. My delivery was much shorter and less work. I also had my doula and husband, right by my side, supporting me every step of the way. It was a very euphoric feeling after giving birth to her and I felt so much better the second time around.

What lessons have your learned from your healing that are positive for your family?
I have learned that going through Postpartum Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. I am using my voice that God gave me to help other women to speak out, as well. I have learned that being healthy in body, mind and spirit is very important for a mother to have, especially when looking after a newborn baby and other children. If the mother isn't happy and healthy, then the children and husband won't be either. I need to look after my body and mind by getting rest when I can, and ask for help. It “takes a village to raise a child,” and in other cultures and countries they have a whole village or community to help them. I have grown a lot in spirit by having complete faith in God and I know that He will take care of me if I let Him. I have learned to think positive and to count my blessings and be grateful for everything in my life. It takes practice, but it really is the key to happiness. I surround myself and family with other people that are spiritual and positive, as well, so I have help staying positive and keeping my faith.
If your daughters ever suffer from a mental illness how will you help them? What do you think is important for them to know, right now?
If my daughters ever suffer from any kind of mental illness, I would want them to be educated on the signs and symptoms of depression, and let them know that I will always be there for them to help them in any way I can. I would let them know that it is important to get some kind of medical help, or to talk to someone as soon as possible, so it can be dealt with right away and not escalate. I also want them to know other strategies that can help to overcome PPD. They should know that they should never be ashamed of a mental illness or for asking for help. They would be very courageous and smart for doing so. What I think is important for them to know, now, is to pray to God and give thanks for all they are blessed with. They need to be grateful for everything, and to not take anything for granted. I believe educating them on body, mind and spirit, now, will be key in helping them and, hopefully, preventing them from developing a mental illness. I want them to surround themselves with friends that are positive influences in their lives.
My experience with PPD has really helped me grow in body, mind and spirit and I've met a lot of wonderful and amazing women along my journey. I will continue to grow and pass all the knowledge onto my girls!

If you feel compelled to become an ambassador by showcasing your courage on our website, please feel free to contact us, we would be most honoured to showcase your story. If you have more ideas on how the message of hope and healing can get around our world…contact us at! Make a difference, today, by speaking out loud the valuable lessons you just learned. Even print and share this interview for others to read! ~ Carla O’Reilly, Elita Paterson & Tania Bird

Friday, September 4, 2009

How Nicole Marr is removing the mask of PPD!

Not only will we be featuring Nicole's story on our blog, it will also be honoured on our website! She's done such an exceptional job of describing what PPD felt like to her. I feel the more we share our experiences, we will realize that they all may be different, but the feelings are certainly the same. Through all this sharing and realizing, I'm hoping that a person will find the will to heal. Please allow me to begin sharing Nicole's story that can also be found on her blog at ...

Removing the Mask
September 2, 2009

For lack of a better title, I will borrow that from "The Smiling Mask."

What is The Smiling Mask? It’s a book about postpartum depression and parenting. I can’t say too much more than that as I’m just waiting for my copy to get here for me to read it. More importantly, the smiling mask is what you do when you are faced with postpartum depression, or any depression for that matter. You put on a smile and keep pushing through your day, no matter what is thrown at you. Even if people around you know you are affected by depression, you put on your mask just to be able to function. If you don’t put your smiling mask on in the morning, getting out of bed would be just about the hardest thing you’ve ever done. And if you have a family, a spouse and children, who are depending on you, that mask takes on Atlas-heavy proportions.

Notice I said ’spouse?’ Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect women. Moms may have hormones trying to do them in, but dads have many of the same issues as moms do after a baby is born. The huge change in lifestyle, the sleeplessness, the dependency of the baby and even the dependency of mom contribute to dad’s irritability, lack of sense of humor, anxiety, or insomnia – just to name a few effects. The Journal of Advanced Nursing published a study in 2004 that found that

During the first postpartum year, the incidence of paternal depression ranged from 1.2% to 25.5% in community samples, and from 24% to 50% among men whose partners were experiencing postpartum depression. Maternal depression was identified as the strongest predictor of paternal depression during the postpartum period.1

So now that we’ve established that both men and women can have postpartum depression, what does it mean, and what do we do about it? PPD is scary. I don’t mean the “call protective services” kind of scary – although that is a possibility and does happen in some cases. And it’s not “call suicide intervention” kind of scary – again a possibility and a reality. But your personal mental state is altered. Thoughts and feelings are in your mind that you don’t recognize. You don’t understand where they’re coming from or why you feel the way you do. It’s like you don’t know yourself anymore. If you don’t know yourself, how is your spouse expected to follow this “change” in you and to keep up, and cover for you or take care of you. And what kind of parent thinks these kinds of thoughts? And why can’t I just make them STOP! See? It’s scary.

Instead of facing scary, we put on our smiling mask and go about our day. Inside, we’re sitting in a corner crying. But on the outside we’re greeting friends, and tying kids’ shoelaces, and packing spouses’ lunches and kissing them goodbye. And no one ever understands what we’re going through behind that mask.

Why don’t we take off the mask and show them? Why don’t we just tell everyone what’s going on inside us? Wouldn’t that be the obvious solution? But we don’t want to be ridiculed or scorned. We don’t want it to be blown off and belittled. And if I hear “Suck it up, princess” one more time…

PPD and all other types of depression are so much more prevalent than any study could find. There are people like me who think they can just deal with it themselves. There are people who try to get help and just can’t find access to it. Sometimes the help doesn’t come fast enough. Mostly though, people who are depressed just get blown off. They are told it’s not bad enough, they’re “mildly” depressed, it’s just the baby blues, or countless other variations of these.

Personally, I think those scorecards need to change. The surveys that you get asked at every well-baby visit, on every anti-depressant’s website, in your Cosmo magazine. They’ve set the depression bar too high, and it needs to be brought back down. It doesn’t matter if you’re slightly depressed or in a major depressive episode. Your ability to cope with it should be all that matters. If you are overwhelmed by depression, it means you can’t handle it yourself anymore. The kind of help you get can vary from person to person. But being overwhelmed means you need help.

Maybe if medical professionals started treating all forms of depression as a debilitating illness, there would be less stigma attached to it. Maybe if they said they could help with the baby blues instead of just telling you to get more support from family and friends. Maybe if dads weren’t laughed at for having postpartum depression. Maybe if moms with a little bit of depression weren’t shooed out the door to make way for someone else with something else “more important.” So many maybe’s.

Next time someone tells you they’re a little down, a little sad, a little depressed – ask them if you can hold their mask for a little while. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them. And ask them what you can do.

Thank you for telling your truth; for being real; for being brave. Here’s to a woman of change!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nutritional & Emotional Health linked to Depression

In all my poking around regarding nutrition linked with depression, diabetes, cancer and other diseases, I've come across this incredibly supportive and knowledgeable doctor ~ Dr. Mark Hyman ~ I'll be nurturing and supporting my body on September 15th, 2009 for seven days and ask, "After you've read for yourself how we have the power to heal ourselves, would you like to join me and hundreds of others?"

I continue to be excited for the healing possibilities!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canadian Angels by your side

When I arrived home from work, I was joyful to see an ethereal package ~ an angel reminder. Author, Karen Forrest had connected with Elita Paterson and myself to tell our stories in her upcoming book Canadian Angels: By your side. As I flipped through the book and recalled my interview, I was refreshed by all that we had overcome in the year, past. Through our beliefs to destroy the mask of Postpartum Depression, we had encouraged many mothers to heal. Through the gift of serving we had also forgiven ourselves. By surrounding ourselves with angelic influence: cards, music, therapy, and our friends, we were able to release our demons. We were no longer prisoners to the negative thoughts or energies. You have the power to choose fear or love. We chose love and our worlds have exploded with Angels everywhere! Visit Karen Forrest’s website for more information on this book ~!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Forgive Yourself ~ Release Your Fears

Living with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for four years was in retrospect an incessant nightmare. My motherhood was robbed and replaced by torment, shame and sadness.

I was plagued by "visions" of harming my child on a hourly basis and I sought to escape them. Unfortunately, this meant searching for time from my son. When I came to the realization that I had the power to control my demons and replace them with angels, my heart floated towards healing. I released the guilt and began to believe in my power. I knew in my heart of hearts that I loved my son and that my fears where just thoughts. I replaced the nightmares with dreams; dreams to encourage others who were suffering to destroy their own masks.

In my journey, what I encountered with my son was his absence of fear. He was not afraid of anything. He was confident, bright, outspoken, and already knew his own power. I smile everyday as I watch him continue to enlighten me. I know in my heart that my choice to speak and share created healing within him. The most beautiful thing is when he says "Mommy you're beautiful and sparkly!" My spirit is finally shining, and the most important person is recognizing it.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Love how the Universe works!

Earlier this month Isla Harvey from Barcroft Media in the UK had asked if we would like to be interviewed so that she could promote our book and spread the awareness even more on her side of the Atlantic! Of course we didn't hesitate ;) But then her supervisor said she would have to interview a Mom in the UK who has or is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis - makes good sense. Well, my very next email was from Elaine Hanzak from THE UK!!! A Mother who went through Puerperal Psychosis, the most severe form of “postnatal depression,” and chose to educate, empower and encourage other Moms to step forward to heal, too. She approached us to ask if we could exchange links on our websites so, together, we could spread the awareness even further!! Please...check out her website where you'll learn how she's positively affecting health professionals, mothers and family support groups plus corporations! Then there's her blog that is constantly being updated with pertinent information!! We feel honoured to have connected with Elaine who is now thriving and changing the world for the better! Thank you for choosing to live your life purpose, Elaine - BIG hugs!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two marvelous women we would like to draw your attention to...

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is a poet, writer, educator, New Yorker and world-wanderer ~ And...Dana Leggett, a radical feminist mama of three from Winnipeg, Manitoba whose hope is to show vulnerabilty through art ~ Carla, Tania and I met these women, among 83 others in NYC, who truly touched our hearts. You must check out their sites as they will also affect you in ways where you're so thankful to have met them, too! Thank you Mariahadessa and Dana for following your truths and igniting such beauty and generosity. Gratefully...!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Our "Unmasking Postpartum Depression" Conference!

Claire Belanger-Parker of CNT Group Management Inc. asked us at our book launch in November if we were ready for our first PPD conference, and...we haven't look back since!! We are very proud to present our conference website for all the information you will need to register and participate in our "Call For Action!!" Here's to moving forward!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Much more awareness for Postpartum Mood Disorders and Mental Health all around!!

As Pamela Cowan, a writer for the LeaderPost in Regina, SK, put it to me, The more people we can get going to our website and picking up the paper, the stronger a message we are sending to the powers that be that mental health is an important issue worth following. Thanks for your help. We would like to draw your attention to a 7-part series on Mental Health awareness, our stories being one of those articles...The Nightmare of Postpartum Psychosis, and New Dads not exempt from Depression.

Our world is most definitely moving forward!! Now...keep it going by sharing these links on your facebook page, on your twitter account, on, on your blog and the other social networks I haven't mentioned!! This is how positive change happens!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Silent Heroes: Our Husbands

"The best way out is always through" ~ Robert Frost

In our darkness, when there seemed no hope in sight, our husbands stood by our sides. With sadness, anger and hopelessness surrounding our spirits, they remained resilient and never gave up hope.

During incredible periods of stress, they continued to work, look after their children, and manage the household. After reflecting back on our struggles, it is undeniable how much love they demonstrated for their families!

In celebration of Father's Day, we would like to thank our husbands for their support; not only during the darkness but for encouraging us to enter the light and bring forward healing for many families, including our own.

We would like to encourage all father's to seek assistance during Postpartum difficulties and know that they are not alone. Supports are available in the community, and education should be a priority when becoming a parent.

When you almost lose the things that matter most, you realize how little the problems really are - family, love and health are the most important ~ Excerpt from The Husbands' Perspectives: Darren's Truth

With much love and gratitude!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Memory of My Friend and her Daughter...I will continue to honour their light!

This is The Smiling Mask's first interview, and it definitely demonstrates the need for empathy and education surrounding Postpartum Mood Disorders. As co-authors of “The Smiling Mask,” our mission is to encourage women to forgive themselves and reach out for assistance. We want to express our deepest gratitude for Terra Brockett for sharing her story and in turn honouring her dear friend, Jen and Jen's daughter.


In memory of your friend, what can you tell us about her before the illness? What sparked your friendship, what are some beautiful things you remember about her?

It’s funny because Jen really amazed me in so many ways. She was a positive, open minded, energetic woman. She had a strong ethics and refused to do anything that went against her sense of right. As an academic, she graduated at the top of her class with a psychology degree from Ehwa Women’s University, one of the top universities in South Korea. As an ESL teacher, she loved being around children and her students loved her because of the relationships she developed with them. She could dance and sing like Jennifer Lopez and was naturally athletic which meant she’d play any sport someone would invite her to play. She was not afraid to try anything. She had her own sense of fashion and somehow really pulled off outfits that I am not sure you could find on any runway. I remember last summer when she spent a few weeks with us, how she was with my baby girl. There was a moment when I thought to myself that she was just a whole different level of parent as my daughter, who was always hard to settle, just cooed and laid there relaxed in her arms. She also had this effect on me. She was comforting.

How did the illness change her, and what did her symptoms look like?

I only know bits and pieces but my impression is that anxiety and fear literally ran her life. She was anxious about a lot of things, but mostly about her daughter’s health. She really thought there was something wrong with her daughter. This anxiety dictated everything she did from multiple visits to the doctor to isolating herself by not leaving the “safety” of the house or letting people in to visit. Her fears made her feel like she could not trust anyone else to take care of her daughter. Her husband was not able to step in for any of the everyday parenting things like feedings or diaper changes. This of course meant greater struggle for Jen because she was doing even more work on less sleep. It was also a struggle for her husband who did his best to be involved and really wanted to take care of the baby and help her through this.

Was she aware of the illness, and was she able to share this with you?

Her husband had done a lot of research when she started to show signs of serious depression and they talked a lot about it, but she was not able to share the illness with most people including the medical community. She didn’t want her husband to tell anyone so he became her main support. He took her to the doctor three times and she would minimize her struggle. She was afraid of what might happen. She was afraid of being away from her daughter and about being hospitalized long term in a scary place (the mental health hospital). In terms of the illness, I think she was afraid it would never end, especially when the anti-depressants she was prescribed did not work.

Were the symptoms recognizable to you as an outsider, what were some warning signs that you witnessed, or were they masked?

The warning signs, in retrospect, were the absence of phone calls, pictures and sharing stories about her baby. I assumed that this lack of contact was because she was really busy being the “perfect” mother that I always imagined her to be. She was so involved and connected with the children in her life that I always imagined motherhood as something that came “naturally” or easily for her. I never imagined that her silence was really masking the excruciating reality of living with PPD. It’s painful to think about how becoming a mother, something she had been looking forward to for so long, turned out to be such a struggle – how she struggled in silence, not allowing herself support – how those of us who knew her didn’t offer support because we assumed that this woman who always amazed us could never be vulnerable to something like PPD.

If you could have a dialogue with her during the struggle and now knowing more about PPD, what would you have said to help her?

I would have been honest about my own struggle with PPD before she even gave birth. I would have tried to open a safe space for any future discussions on PPD by being understanding and sympathetic not only to my own struggle, but to the struggles of so many others. This is so important-the need to make it OK for her to share her pain. Honestly, I would have handed The Smiling Mask over to her and even gone over the book together, sharing thoughts and listening to what was going on for her. In this particular case, Carla’s experience may have offered her hope or a different way to look at things when her meds didn’t work. I would have legitimated her struggle while talking about possible options and resources that might help. The big thing is I guess is that I would have initiated a conversation that did not take place while she was alive.

Having suffered the loss of your friend what would tell others who may encounter PPD with their own friends or family?

Share your stories, experience, and knowledge about PPD. Others may feel differently about this, but I truly feel like being educated and prepared is important so that she can identify when something is not “normal.” Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that a completely resilient capable woman can’t suffer PPD. Don’t assume that silence is only a sign of being a busy mom. Don’t assume that someone who appears happy is OK. Don’t assume that she will let you know when she needs help-even if that was the case before having the baby…just don’t assume.

Having the courage to share your story is very brave, what are your hopes for this interview?

I hope that this will speak to the serious potential of this illness and how it affects many different kinds of women. It is everyday women, our sisters, our daughters, and our friends who suffer from this illness. It is not something to be taken lightly or passed over as something that “women just need to get over” or “suck it up” (both comments of which I have heard in the past). Women themselves need to know that this is not a matter of being strong enough to handle it yourself, but being able to ask for help because this illness in its most severe form, has taken other women’s lives. It is a serious, real illness that can hit anyone – including my friend, one of the most brilliant, selfless, loving women I knew.


If you feel compelled to become an Ambassador by telling your story on our website, PLEASE feel free to contact us, we would be most honoured to showcase your truth. If you have more ideas on how the message of hope and healing can get around our world…contact us at! Make a difference, today, by speaking out loud the valuable lessons you just learned. Even print and share this interview for others to read!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The Smiling Mask Team travelled to New York for its first academic conference. The bright lights, billboards and big city adventure was surreal.

The conference, “Mothers Gone Mad,” opened our eyes to the shared experiences of many women surrounding Postpartum Depression and Mothering.

Personally listening to the ideas presented by the various speakers was interesting on many levels, these women touched on so many aspects of mothering and their own experiences. The knowledge we received spoke about the respect for our own mothers and generations past.

There was no judgment of mental illness but rather a deep admiration for the strength and suffering of past and present mothers. The experience of congregating with such spirited, passionate and intelligent women was poetic. Our differences in age, education, social class and ethnicity were lost as we entered and spoke about women as a whole; mind, body and spirit. We encouraged, educated and empowered each other!

Our hope is that with more education and awareness future mothers will be free of the mask and move towards the original beauty of creation. Finally beginning with the universal thread: If we nurture the mother we nurture humanity.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Connections, connections, connections!

Tania and I were able to showcase our project at the Canadian Counsellor's Conference held in Saskatoon, SK yesterday...and what a day of connecting with like-minded people...WOWSA! I would like to mention the people that truly will make a difference to us and the people we connect with...

two fabulous women Darlene Ouimet and Tammy Morales of Face to Face who want to help us to create a platform on our website in which we can connect with all of you...face to face, online!!

Suzane Proulx of SUMAE who has expertise in non-verbal communication (body language) and symobolism. An incredible process that optimizes individual thinking processes and decision making through the use of focusing and the recognition of symbolism! Suzane is such a spark!

Liz Coben of Turner Coben Event Marketing Inc. who gave us the opportunity to attend this conference in their Trade Show at such a pivotal location because the call for papers were already chosen last year, yet!

Joelle Emond of Ecole St-Germain and a member and website manager of the Manitoba School Counsellor's Association who will post our site as a resource for families - thank you!!

We sat beside Ivy Armstrong of the University of Saskatchewan who works in Recruitment & Admissions, who is a bright and bold 24-year old woman who has a lot of life figured out, impressive! She touches families lives so beautifully by teaching music and mentoring teenagers in Air Cadets, as well.

Leah Deans of the Adoption Support Centre of Saskatchewan Inc. who says we may be asked to speak so that these parents will know that it is actually quite common that parents of adoptive children ALSO experience Postpartum Depression!

We also connected with the organizer of this incredible event, Barbara MacCallum, and were asked to submit a proposal to speak in next year's conference in Charlottetown, PEI!

Finally, a large thank you to Christine M. Gatzke, a Clinical Psychotherapist and friend, who introduced us to this conference in the first place!!

What a day filled with synchronicities! We are so grateful for each and every one of you for your support for us and the families we have and will be connecting with! We are immensely grateful we had the opportunity to show you our thanks for all the awareness you helped bring to our own families :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A woman and her mission that I would like to bring your attention to...

Natalie Dombrowski, the author of "Back to You," founder of S.P.E.A.K. (Spread Postpartum Education & Awareness Kinship) and writer of She will be having her first radio interview that is going to be aired on May 8, 2009 at 9:00 am central time in honour of Mother's Day and Mothers everywhere. Tune in on Thursday it will be broadcast from Chicago, May 7th at 9:00 am on 91.5FM; Anyone, anywhere can listen on-line at So spread the word!! We are such kindred spirits ;)

Happy Early Mother's Day!!

Here's a link on our website of Mothers' Stories ~ Mothers who have chosen to share their stories of hope and healing! Our one and only, Tania Bird, has also included her story that was written by her friend Colleen Opseth for one of her university courses! Sharing the awareness happens in a myriad ways and we thank each and every one of you who have chosen to embrace their experiences and share with the rest of the world! Enjoy...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Canadian Press is also spreading the awareness around Postpartum Mood Disorders!!

Check out the latest article that our Carla O'Reilly had a HUGE hand in!! Here's to health, wealth and awareness! Thank you Dominique Jarry-Shore of "The Canadian Press!"

The Smiling Mask has exploded!

We have connected with women across Canada and all over the world! The mask has been destroyed and mothers are speaking their minds and unveiling their own truths! Check out our website to read “Women using their voices,” the more we connect, we realize the world is a small place and we can heal each other by education and validation!

When I was suffering alone and looking for more information I came across a website with information about Postpartum Psychosis. The heartbreaking realization was it was brought forth with a tragic ending. Carol Blocker of Chicago lost her Daughter Melanie Stokes to Postpartum Psychosis and she is also on a mission to create awareness in the United States. I was shocked when a number was listed on the site and I called Carol thinking a voicemail would pick up my message. Instead a real voice answered and it was Carol! As I cried on the phone, I thanked her for the information that helped me so long ago and shared my story.

As we move forward in our journey I would like to remember the women that have suffered needlessly and encourage our followers to look to the future. Excerpt from “The Smiling Mask-Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood”...

I believe that the initial first step of admitting that I had a problem and asking for medical help was what saved me. Going to the hospital on that grim day when I could not bear it any longer saved my life. I believe that finding a Postpartum Depression support group gave me the best coping skills and helped me to heal at a deeper level. Feeling validation from others and that I wasn't the only one dealing with this illness was also very important. The friends I made at the support group guided me to new ways of thinking about life and eventually encouraged me to be a survivor and not a victim. We were united together and we realized our full potential. We survived by using many tools and skills, and it is now our mission to spread the word and give hope to other women and families that are suffering. I have now accepted my illness as a gift that will create awareness and give hope to other people living in this inner “Hell.” Women need to ask for help, to find a support group or start a support group, to stop blaming themselves, and stop being a victim to this illness. Being a mother and creating life is the most important thing in the world. We are creating the children of the future. We need to take hold of our power, and remember our strengths.

I made a choice to survive and not be a victim to this illness ~ Carla

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our first online interview with our hubbies!

Check out for our first online magazine interview with Darren and Ward! Thanks so much for Janine Slayton and Katharine DeBoard for asking us to be their feature article for May and June 2009...what an honour. And, Janine and Katharine...thank you for being your fabulous-selves with each and every one of us!

p.s. Hey you fabulous friends of may want to consider joining this site, too, as we know you have much to contribute to this network!'s been a while and are we ever on the move!!

Sooo...our book came out on November 20th and we've been quite busy since!! You'll have to check out our Upcoming Events link on our site at to understand just how we have become so well embraced by the medical, academic and Mom's Group communities!

One of the more exciting things that's happening is how we'll be speaking on our first international stage in New York City on May 29th for the Association for Research on Mothering's conference Mother's Gone Mad! Their conference runs parallel to Mamapalooza's event! Imagine all the connections and networking that will happen? You know...there are a few friends joining us...would you be interested? If so, send us a message at!

Well, now that I finally got back on the blog-wagon...look forward to our updates and findings as the year progresses! Until then..."take care of you" as our friend Dr. Rose likes to end her messages, too!

Elita on behalf of The Smiling Mask Team