(Diary) Postpartum Therapy Session
Welcome to my diary. These are entires I wrote during my own pregnancy. What you’re about to read is unfiltered, unedited, and perhaps a bit uncanny. But these are my raw feelings written in real-time. Everyone’s perspective and journey is different. This is mine
Whenever I see someone else walking around town with a newborn, I stop to say hello.
But after asking the person how old their baby is, I ask them a question I wish more people asked me.
What’s something you’ve lived through during the past few weeks that shocked you silly?
I don’t ask it as blunt as that. But I want to know what the most surprising part of their postpartum journey has been so far.
I met someone the other day with a 3-month old baby. He said his wife prepared for EVERYTHING. She read books, took classes, joined every mom group on the internet. But yet - she was haunted by some of the things that happened after she gave birth.
He shared the intimate details with me. I gave him a hug.
It might seem like my question is a tough one to answer but people in their postpartum era are usually so desperate to talk - once you give them a safe space.
I wish more people asked me about how i’m doing and how I’ve been able to find my way out of deep and personal struggles during this time.
Yes, they ask me about the baby and how much I love her and if i’m shocked by how much I love her.
And I want to tell them about how she smiles at me and my heart turns into pudding.
But I also want to tell them about the night she cried for 12-hours straight and so did I.
To those pregnant: Tell your close friends now that you might need them during those early weeks to listen - not to ask you about all the good stuff - but to hear you out about all the unexpected stuff.
My postpartum heroes: Talk to anyone. Even if it’s hard. Find someone who will listen - even a stranger - and pour out the truth. It will free up space in your chest.
Supportive friends/fam: Don’t assume based on a Facebook photo that your postpartum friend is having a breezy time as a new mom. Don’t ask them only about how in love they are with their babe. Ask them about the surprises and the shocks. Give them your ears. It’s the gift they might need right now.
Some quick things I loved this week:
❤️ A friend just shared that she’s pregnant and so I decided to make a Google doc of my top suggestions for her. Sharing it here with you too!
❤️I’ve been spending time spilling my thoughts on TikTok. Watch some of that fun stuff right here!
Postpartum Therapy Session
A few weeks after I gave birth, I sank into a fog of depression. I was overwhelmed and sleep-deprived, and I couldn't stop feeling like a failure as a new mom. It was hard to realize and accept that so much was happening inside me. My body was in recovery mode from labor, my hormones were imbalanced, and my brain was trying to process everything.
Even though I had the support of my partner and loved ones, I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. That's what made me decide to get in touch with a therapist specializing in helping postpartum women. That would allow me a safe space to open up and receive actionable advice.
After chatting with Laurel Steinberg, a psychotherapist specializing in relationships, dating, and treatment for postpartum anxiety and sadness, I walked away with five takeaways and tools that helped me navigate the changes in my body and mind during this postpartum period. Here's the advice that helped me out the most.
Be extra kind to yourself
One of the first things I shared with Steinberg was that I was being hard on myself as a first-time mom. Without any maternity leave, I was also trying to work full time while caring for the baby.
She stressed the importance of acknowledging that postpartum time is one of healing and adjusting.
Even though I'm trying to do a lot, she recommended living in small amounts of time and approaching each task and hour of the day as it came. To do that, Steinberg advised adjusting expectations for what I could do in a period of time in the past vs. now.
"Understand there are special circumstances going on and things will take more time," she said. "There's nothing wrong with that."
If there are things that I feel I overcommitted to, it's OK to communicate to that person or client how I'm feeling, Steinberg said.
"You can express the intentions you had and that now you have limitations that were hard to come to terms with until right now," she said.
Understand the unique relationship of having a newborn
When I was feeling down about being a new mom, one of the big reasons was that I didn't feel like my baby loved me. As much as I express that I love her, through words and actions, it doesn't feel like she's doing the same.
This is why it was helpful when Steinberg shared the uniqueness of building a relationship with a newborn.
"As adults, we're used to building relationships built on conversations," she said. "This relationship is different. It's built on kisses, looks, and cuddles."
It was a helpful perspective because it reminded me of how important it was to spend time bonding with the baby and getting to know her.
Set clear boundaries
Our feelings around having visitors divided my partner and me during the first few weeks with our newborn. I wasn't feeling up to having family or friends swinging by, and he was. Steinberg suggested setting clear boundaries around having visitors and getting on the same page with my husband about this.
"Explain to your partner that you want the baby to have relationships with people and build community; however, timing is everything," she said.
Since I was feeling too overwhelmed to have people come over, she said a good middle ground was to start slow and have my partner introduce the baby to friends or family over video chats first.
It was also empowering to hear her remind me that postpartum life was a big psychological and physical recovery. So if there's something I'm not ready for, I should speak up about it.
"Remember, 'no' is a full sentence," she said. "You don't have to explain yourself."
As a full-time entrepreneur and content creator, I expressed to Steinberg that it's hard not to find myself comparing myself with other people on social media who are also first-time moms. While I know doing this isn't helpful, it felt hard to avoid and added to my negative feelings about myself.
Steinberg's solution was to temporarily stop following the people who were making me jealous or whom I was comparing myself with.
"You, your healing, your baby's development, and even the cleanliness of your home are not in competition with anyone else," she said. "Go at your own pace."
She suggested pushing away the feeling of being in competition with others and surrounding myself with positive influences.
Surround yourself with support
In addition to finding a therapist who specializes in helping women with their postpartum needs, you should find support in any way that's accessible to you, Steinberg said.
She said that one good resource for me could be a group of other women who also just had a baby. That way, I would have a group of people to bond with and feel less alone.
Steinberg also suggested doing bibliotherapy, which is the process of using reading materials as therapy, and reading books about the postpartum journey. That way, I can understand more about the adjustments and changes I'm going through internally and externally as a new mom.