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Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Markle’s example: New parents, it’s OK to not be OK

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrives for her baby shower at the Mark Hotel on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in New York. (Kevin Hagen / Associated Press)
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrives for her baby shower at the Mark Hotel on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in New York. (Kevin Hagen / Associated Press)

About a dozen babies and toddlers – alongside parents and grandparents – wiggled a pink, orange, indigo and green parachute during “Baby Story Time” at the Spokane Valley Library on Friday in the late morning. The babies waddled underneath, thrilled as the fabric billowed and floated.

The adults had smiles on their faces, as well – the joys of new parenting as undeniable as the difficulties.

In clips from “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey” – an ITV documentary of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle’s trip to Africa, Markle opened up about her difficulties with pregnancy and raising a newborn in the spotlight but broadened her comments to all new mothers. Markle characterized pregnant women and new mothers as “vulnerable.”

Tom Bradby, a journalist with ITV, asked her if it would be correct to characterize her as “not really OK, as in it’s really been a struggle” and Markle replied “Yes.”

Angie Tollefson, a registered nurse with MultiCare, runs the “Mom and Me” postpartum support group at MultiCare Valley Hospital, which focuses on many issues moms face postpartum. Providence has an equivalent program, “Mother-Baby Time. ”

“That’s amazing for someone in her position to be so forward about that,” Tollefson said. “ … One of the overwhelming feelings from someone of the new moms that actually were there was a loss of self. Like, what is my identity now?”

Raven Murray, who attended the “Baby Story Time,” did not lose her identity, but there was a shift when she had now-15-month-old Lanayah.

“My whole life changed,” Murray, Spokane Valley, said. “My personality changed. I became a lot more selfless and just more responsible. My whole life focus is on her. She wasn’t planned, so it was definitely a surprise.”

Tollefson said being a new parent can be isolating. Part of the purpose of “Mom and Me” is simply for her “mamas” to get out of the house, prevent them from feeling isolated.

Amber Gimlen, Spokane Valley, who was also at the library story time with 16-month-old Sawyer, said it’s hard being home all day.

“Dad’s at work all day,” Gimlen said. “She’s a good companion, but you definitely miss the adult interaction throughout the day.”

Dr. Katheryn Hudon, a pediatrician with Providence Grand Pediatrics, spoke in a phone interview while her infant was down for a nap. She said when mothers come in with their babies for wellness visits, she always screens the mothers for postpartum depression. She always talks to the mothers about their sleep, which she said is an important factor.

“You can’t underscore the impact of sleep deprivation enough,” Hudon said. “ … Sleep deprivation does crazy things to the brain, and so it can be a really difficult time.”

She said she also talks to the moms about different resources, such as the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

“I try to let them know that it’s OK to feel like you want to throw your baby out the window, but how do you figure out how to not act on it and how do you go for help,” Hudon said. “I try to encourage them that they don’t have to be valedictorian of everything. It’s OK to struggle with the transition.”

With that said, Hudon said mothers should not try to suffer through postpartum depression.

“There is serious differences in brain chemistry,” Hudon said. “It’s a severe depression that no one should have to just feel like they have to muscle their way through. You can’t muscle your way through high blood pressure and diabetes. You need help with actually treating it.”

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