While it’s wonderful that there is much more talk about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and other perineal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) than ever before, the flip side of that coin is that sometimes when new parents experience a PMAD after the birth of their child they feel ashamed for not seeing it coming.
The reality is there is nothing you did or didn’t do that causes you to have a PMAD. However, there are ways to prepare, and strategies to use during the postpartum period to help you prioritize your mental health.
Joining me this week is Dr. Kira Bartlett, a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience and the founder and director of A Bridge Home.
Whether or not you have a PMAD, bringing home a new baby is a challenge. You’re exhausted, emotional, and often overwhelmed. This episode will teach you mindfulness strategies you can use to help you stay grounded and present during the postpartum period and throughout your child’s entire lifespan.
Dr. Kira (00:00):
I say this a lot when I work with clients: this is what’s happening right now. Because I think the right now piece especially is super important because we get very consumed with what’s gonna happen in the future. How is this gonna work tomorrow, the next day a year from now? We don’t know any of that.
Dr. Sarah (00:23):
The pressure we put on ourselves in parenthood is very real. And when faced with unexpected hurdles such as postpartum depression or anxiety after the birth of a child, we can sometimes feel ashamed of our struggles. But there is absolutely nothing that you either did or didn’t do that caused something like postpartum depression to occur. However, there are some ways that you can prepare yourself for the postpartum period. Joining me to offer support to new and expecting parents, and also to help transition the lessons that we’re gonna be talking about today, all the way into toddlerhood is Dr. Kira Bartlett. Dr. Bartlett is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience, and she is the founder and director of A Bridge Home, which offers virtual and in-office services for women and families during the perinatal period. Today we’re gonna talk about our own struggles after the birth of our children. We’re gonna talk about how mindfulness practices can help serve as a life raft during the overwhelming and exhausting transition into parenthood. And we’re gonna cover strategies for staying present even through those tough 2:00 AM feedings, when it seems like your baby will never stop crying. Learning to notice our thoughts, to accept them without judgment and then begin to make small changes is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn for ourselves and for our children.
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Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Hi everybody. Welcome to the podcast. Today we have a really lovely guest on Dr. Kira Bartlett. I’m so honored that you came on the podcast today. I, I’m just really excited for this conversation. Thank you.
Dr. Kira (04:02):
I’m so glad to be here. I love talking about these two things: parenting and mindfulness, and especially my area of specialty, which is new families. So it’s great to be here and thanks for having me.
Dr. Sarah (04:18):
Yeah. So maybe you could start by just sharing a little bit about how you got into this line of work. Like what about it spoke to you, and then how do, maybe we’ll talk about blending these two concepts of like New Parenthood and mindfulness and Sure. How challenging that is.
Dr. Kira (04:36):
Sure. So the reason that I now do mainly work with the perinatal time is that I had my own really challenging experience after the birth of my son. I have three boys and the oldest one is 20. And after he was born, I had a very significant experience of postpartum depression. And that was a really sort of shocking moment for me. I was what I thought was well prepared had a lot of support, sort of, didn’t really have that many risk factors with the exception of being someone who’s a little bit more type A. But I was really surprised because it was an experience that prompted a lot of shame for me, even though I knew all of the stats and I knew all the information. Though 20 years ago it was talked a lot, talked about a lot less than it is now.
Yeah. So thankfully that’s really improved. But the feelings that I had were really challenging and emotionally difficult. The depression was really, really striking. But also what was sort of snowballing that and made that so much worse was the shame and the feeling that, you know, I had wanted this so badly and what was I doing wrong and I, maybe I shouldn’t be a parent. And it just was so so, so painful and with, you know, a lot of really good therapy and a lot of support, I was able to feel a lot better. And it just completely pivoted my work toward moving into this area because at that time especially, there was very little in the way of conversation about this. I think my OB said something to me at my six week checkup, like, You’re fine, right? I was like, no, I’m really not.
But I don’t feel like I can say anything. So I think that that was something that prompted me to go back and just sort of, you know, get a little bit more training in the area because I had done, most of my training was with adults, so I really started to think a lot about, you know, what can I do that’s gonna be useful for women and men who are in this position and really feeling alone. So it’s, it’s been, I guess 20 some odd years now of feeling really connected to that work. And really, really powerful. I think, you know, being witness to so many experiences for, you know, moms particularly, but dads as well, which is again, something that we’re talking a bit more about, thankfully.
Dr. Sarah (06:54):
Yeah. And it, I mean, that’s kind of, this is how you and I connected because this like we know each other through the Hudson Valley Birth Network, which is an amazing organization, you know, connecting providers of all types to, to the support mothers and parents. And I remember when we met, just like talking with you about, you know, we’re like, I’m a clinician, you’re a clinician. We treat parents who go through this. But we have, we’ve been there too. Like, I had postpartum depression when my second was born, which really threw me because I didn’t have it with my first. I’ve had some mild postpartum anxiety with my son that was also very new to me. Cuz I’m not, I don’t run anxious on that. I’m, I’m like on the other end of the spectrum. But I was surprised by the anxiety I had when my son was born.
But then when my daughter was born, I was very depressed and I did not see that coming. And I think that’s a really common story for a lot of parents where they, you know, sometimes you have people who are like, this was a risk factor and I should have seen it coming. And then there are a lot of people that are like, I didn’t think I would fall in this camp and I wasn’t prepared because I really didn’t think it could happen. And that feeling of shame is so, there’s the shame of having the depression and the feelings that come with that de that type of a depression, which are very upsetting and painful. But then there’s the shame of not having saw it coming and not having done, like we do live in a world now where fortunately people are talking more about postpartum depression and some of these other p mats and so then there’s this other piece of like, oh, I was supposed to know better and it got me and I messed up in some way and not evading it.
Dr. Kira (08:46):
Oh, I mean, don’t even get me started about the perfectionism that I think mothers in particular, but dad certainly can feel as well. Like, you should not only have figured this out, but you should also, you know, look fabulous and be making organic baby food and, you know, educating your child with in Chinese before each two. So there’s such a, a pressure I think now on parents to do things so perfectly. And of course I use air quotes cuz there’s no such thing. And frankly, if we were perfect, that would be horrible for our children because what a setup, life does not work that way. But I think just being able to acknowledge that yes, there are supports and yes, there’s ways that we can prepare, but like you said, sometimes you, you just don’t know and you just don’t see it coming. Because I think, and I can reflect on my own experience and I do often with clients is really acknowledging that there are ways in which not are not talking about this creates some of that void, but also the expectation that we’re going to be able to handle it and use all the coping skills that we had prior to having a child.
But unfortunately, what we neglect to understand, because we can’t until we’re in it, is that there are a lot of different stressors that are coming our way and the coping skills we might have used before, keeping busy, going to work, socializing with friends, exercising, eating a certain way, meditating, all those things become much harder to implement when we have young children. So I think that a lot of times people find themselves a little bit at a loss and that in some ways kind of confronts the, the challenge of not only do we feel this way, but we also can’t really access as easily some of the things that might have helped us prior.
Dr. Sarah (10:30):
Yes, that’s such a good point. It’s like we need a different toolbox. We might have a really awesome toolbox for life pre-parenthood, and it gets us by really well. And we’ve become very dependent on that identity as like, I’ve got a great toolbox, I know how to deal with this stuff. And then it’s like you become a completely different person in a completely different setting where the demands are completely different and those tool just aren’t transferable sometimes.
Dr. Kira (10:57):
Absolutely. And I think that there is something very powerful about being able to acknowledge that there’s preparation you can do, and I talk to clients when they come to me while they’re pregnant about getting ready for acknowledging that they’re going to be new coping skills that one could learn, but also that part of one of those biggest coping skills would be loosening our expectations and lowering the, the demands that we’re placing on ourselves. Because almost always it’s coming internally. We hear that messaging in society and that’s real and I wanna minimize that, but I think the expectation that our house has to be a certain way and our kids have to look a certain way and they, they don’t, they shouldn’t cry and they should sleep through the night and we should be doing all the things that we’re think we’re supposed to doing be doing.
But really those are expectations that are setting us up for a lot of disappointment and anxiety sometimes because I think that not only do the ways in which we’re putting some kinds of pressures on ourself do that, but also I wonder too, how much the sort of newer, and this makes me probably sound kind of old, but the newer technologies about, you know, all the ways that we can monitor and the video monitoring and the, the, you know, the oxygen level of the baby and I almost feel like it, we, we might need to pull back. And sometimes the first thing I talk about with clients when they’re dealing with anxiety is, okay, so, you know, what kind of simulation are you putting yourself in front of? Like, how much information are you getting about your baby? And what can you do to just sort of slow that process down?
And that in some ways is, you know, to your question about where do mindfulness and new parenting collide, that’s an area first we need to start thinking about how much is coming at you and then how can you turn the volume down a little bit and figure out how to do the things that you’re already doing, but in a more mindful, conscious, intentional way so that you can get a little bit more presence and frankly find the, the joy and the fun that really was probably what prompted you to decide to have a child in the first place. But I think we lose sight of that often.
Dr. Sarah (13:09):
Yeah. I think that’s such a valuable point that there may be things you’re already doing and if you could just do them with some presence and intentionality that you might find a lot of sort of agency and, and competency already. Like there’s a lot you’re probably doing, but maybe you’re not logging it as a sign that you are are doing pretty okay by your child.
Dr. Kira (13:41):
Yeah, I mean, I think just even, you know, you use the word presence and I think that’s a a great word to think about. Sometimes I think when I talk to clients about meditation or mindfulness, they’re a little like, Whoa, I, I don’t do that. Or, you know, I can’t be on a mountaintop. I’m like, No, no, no, that’s not necessary. Yeah. but just sort of recognizing that what mindfulness really is, is just being able to be kind of in the present moment and noticing and accepting and acknowledging what’s happening, what’s happening in your thoughts and feelings, what’s happening in your body, which is a whole nother area that I think sometimes can be really useful in mindfulness because I think we’re very, we’re tend to be a little bit more cut off between our mind and our body as if they’re these two separate things.
But really being able to have an acknowledgement of these feelings without the judgment, because I think it’s where we fall into that tricky spot is when we start to develop a, a sense of, I shouldn’t feel this way, or no one else feels this way. Or usually what I hear so often from clients is, but what if I feel this way forever? And what if my child is like this forever? And it’s that kind of layering on of shame, of projecting into the future of putting some kind of judgment on what is happening in the moment that usually creates so much more distress than is actually necessary.
Dr. Sarah (15:04):
Yeah. So how do parents, what are some things that parents can do to increase that sense of presence but not judge it. To be sort of this observer.
Dr. Kira (15:16):
Right. Yeah, that’s a great word. An observer. I think the first thing to recognize is that we can do anything mindfully. We don’t have to add it to our chore lists. We don’t have to get special equipment or, you know, get a membership or anything. You don’t need any of those things. It’s really just about, for example, if you go to wash some dishes, you could stand there and get very caught up in your anxious swirling mind and you get pulled into all of that stuff. Or you could walk up to the dishes and turn the water on and remember to use all of your senses. Right? One of the things about using our senses is that it kind of grounds us into our body and into the space of, of what’s happening. So as the water turns on, we, you know, turn it onto a little warm and we notice how it feels on our hands, and then we might even listen, you know, we hear the sound of the water because that sound actually is something that can help us just sort of slow down for a second.
And even as simple as stopping and taking a deep breath and really filling up our lungs and just letting the air out very slowly through our mouth is another way to bring us into the present moment. All of this again, can be done while you’re washing dishes, so you didn’t have to add time to that, you would be doing it anyway. But being able to, you know, think about your senses, remember to be grounded in that moment. Maybe you also really like the smell of lavender and you have really great lavender dish soap or you know, something. So you’re constantly trying to pull yourself into a more present state. So taking what you do in that moment with washing dishes, how does that translate over into when you’re walking around your house bouncing your newborn baby, because they won’t stop crying. It is a lot harder to do that.
I will clearly acknowledge it is a lot harder to stay present in those moments when you know you are feeling dysregulated because your baby is crying and they’re dysregulated and you just wanna start crying too. But in those moments, there’s ways to also slow yourself down because part of what’s happening is in our, our swirling brain, Oh my God, they’re never gonna stop crying. They’re gonna cry forever. We’re never gonna sleep. All of the, the layering on. So just noticing that swirling first and again, acknowledging that without really getting any kind of pull toward judgment or, you know, projecting into the future. Like, this is what’s happening right now and I have to accept that. And it’s not an easy thing. This is a practice, right. It’s not gonna Right. You know, change overnight. So part of it is in that moment, for example, you’re walking around, you’ve got the baby, well, what else can you add to that?
Do you need to walk around in silence listening to them scream? Not really. That doesn’t help as much. Right. Can you walk around while you’re also listening to some nice calming classical music or something that’s really upbeat that makes you smile and laugh? Right. One of the things that we don’t do enough, I think with and I know I didn’t do it, I took it very seriously. Like I was gonna be like the mom. And then I remember at one point my husband turned on some really beautiful music and he was sort of walking the baby around the living room and I just looked at him so baffled, like, What are you doing? And he was like, I’m just trying to enjoy this. And I was like, You can do that. I didn’t understand.
Dr. Sarah (18:31):
Dr. Kira (18:32):
Yes. You know, it was sort of mind blowing how seriously I was taking it and how because he wasn’t depressed, he was able to just sort of lean into it and accept, you know, this is what’s happening. It’s no fun to be dealing with a crying baby at two in the morning, but I might as well make it a little better by listening to some good music or anything that, you know, gives us a sense of presence. I think being able to decide also being very intentional that when you start to hear your baby crying, that you understand and acknowledge that you’re supposed to get upset. You’re supposed to. Right. Evolutionarily, biologically we are supposed to get a little riled up because it’s what we learned, you know, years, thousands of years ago to keep them safe. So knowing that we have those feelings and that those feelings are okay, I think sometimes can be a little bit of a reprieve or a, a kind of like, all right, well, again, accepting i, I say this a lot when I work with clients, like, this is what’s happening right now. Because I think the right now piece especially is super important because we get very consumed with what’s gonna happen in the future. How is this gonna work tomorrow, the next day a year from now? We don’t know any of that.
Dr. Sarah (19:48):
Yeah. I think one of the things you just said that really struck me is like, you know, when we, when we notice the thoughts or the panic or the fear and we say to ourselves something along the lines of like, I know what this is, this is supposed to be my response, even though it’s really uncomfortable, we like kind of turn off. It’s like, it’s like the difference between knowing you have a smoke detector going off cuz like, you know, there was a fire on like, like it’s too much smoke coming out of the oven door and it’s not a five alarm fire versus a smoke detector going off and there and the house might be on fire. Like, what is that noise? Right? So it’s like the sound is the same, it triggers the same response, but if you can sort of give it an explanation that helps you to determine the actual level of danger, it can really help you to turn off the alarm in your body, like to turn off the physiological response to that fire alarm.
Dr. Kira (20:49):
A hundred percent. That’s a really great analogy because I think that one of the things that also is a huge part of being a more mindful parent is really being able to notice what’s happening in your body. Whether it’s when our baby is crying and we start to realize that our heart rate is racing and our hands are getting clammy and our our shoulders are up by our ears. Like all of those things are really important signs for us. And when we can have those or have that awareness early on, and I, I often think about when we are dealing with even older babies or toddlers where we start to find ourselves getting annoyed or angry or, you know, frustrated with their behavior. We can notice those signs early on in our bodies if we really start to pay attention. And I think that sometimes parents will talk about how hard it is and in those moments to stay calm and not get you know, really pulled into what their toddler is doing and take it personally.
I think that it’s in those moments, if we can catch ourselves a little bit earlier in that cycle of the smoke alarm, as you said, going off, then we can sort of slow ourselves down and react in a way that comes from more of a choice and more of a well thought out response as opposed to what I think happens when we’re not paying attention or our body just sort of clicks on and we think like, I don’t know, I was so angry the anger just came out of nowhere. But of course it didn’t. It was a kind of slow build. So when we can slow ourselves down enough to breathe and notice, wow, I didn’t realize my shoulders were so tense and I was starting to clench my jaw, like all places that we hold anxiety, anger, tension, then it’s a lot easier to make a choice in that moment, even if it’s just taking a breath, which immediately offers us a little bit of space about, what do I wanna say here? What do I, how do I wanna respond? Not easy.
Dr. Sarah (22:49):
Yeah. I think that’s so true. I have a, a workshop that I have called Be the Calm in Your Child’s Storm and it’s literally about helping parents notice the thoughts and notice the physical sensations in their own body when their kids are dysregulated or having a tantrum or behaving in an way that’s upsetting to them. And it’s really ju it’s a practice of mindfulness and it’s, it’s about bec by definition, the definition you gave before of like this sort of present observation without judgment. So being able to say, what am I physically noticing in my body? What is that communicating to me? What thoughts am I having? What meaning am I giving this behavior? Can I shift that thought? So if I have the thought, my child is doing this on purpose, or my child is intentionally ignoring my direction, well who wouldn’t feel angry with that thought? If, if you have the thought, if you notice that thought and you could say, Well, what other thoughts could I have in this moment? What other meaning could I give this behavior? Maybe my child’s having a hard time following my instruction in this moment. Just that small shift can increase empathy, increase patience, might not make you a con collected, peaceful parent, but it might not make you a screaming parent. And there’s a lot of room in between those two places that we can be.
Dr. Kira (24:14):
Yeah, it can be very challenging, particularly in the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived, to not sort of take your babies crying or challenging moments more personally because it’s exhausting and you really, especially sort of, you know, between like week four and week eight when you’re just completely demolished and you know, the novelty is worn off, the help has disappeared, perhaps your partner’s gone back to work. It’s really those, those are the tougher weeks. And being able to even slow yourself down just a tiny bit, even if you have the thought, why are they doing this to me? That’s okay. You don’t have to feel badly about having those thoughts. We all do. But just sort of taking a breath, slowing yourself down and noticing, okay, I know that this is how I’m feeling right now and this is hard. And giving yourself, by the way a word we haven’t really talked about as much self-compassion, you know, this is tough. Like what would you say to your friend if they were going through this? You wouldn’t, you know, critique them or give them, you know, a you’re doing a terrible job. No, you would say something super supportive, You’re doing great. This is so hard. You’re exhausted. All of those kinds of ways of talking to yourself in a more loving, compassionate way will also really help serve you not exactly in this frame of mindfulness, but sort of goes alongside nicely.
Dr. Sarah (25:34):
Right. Well it’s hard to be self-compassionate if you don’t notice the talk. Yes. Right. Which requires the mindfulness. Right. We have to be able to, to hear the voices in our head noticed them and then offer that compassion in response to having process what we’re hearing. So like there is so much overlap between mindfulness and self-compassion, I feel like.
Dr. Kira (25:58):
Oh, absolutely. And actually the researcher that I like so much who talks a lot about self-compassion, Kristin Neff, she has a great websites. There’s lots of information out there that one can look into, but she speaks about the different components of self-compassion and mindfulness is indeed one of them. But also understanding that being part of a, a common, you know, everyone has this kind of common universal experience. Right. Again, a lot of people are upright now with their babies and this is really hard, but I can get through it and I know that there’s other people doing it and you know, just sort of acknowledging that you’re part of something larger sometimes again makes you feel less alone. Coming back to what we were talking about early on.
Dr. Sarah (26:40):
Yes. Oh my god, you’re making me think of this illustration I saw when I, when I was pregnant that made me feel just so not alone. And it was this image of like a mom nursing her baby and then you look out the window and it’s like New York City. It’s like, and you just see all these apartment buildings with like the light on at 3:00 AM and it’s like these are all the moms Yeah. Up with their kids nursing in the wee hours of the morning as there’s a sense of like, we’re not alone. Mm. You feel so alone in the moment and yet if you could only just zoom out and see all the lights on.
Dr. Kira (27:18):
Absolutely. The zooming out right is such an important component of mindfulness. I did a a course a while back and one of the things the instructor said that I thought was so useful was he said, Imagine that you just move back up to the balcony and then it sort of gives you a different view and that different view. You see all the people dealing with the same thing. And that’s super enlightening too. And being able to know that, you know, when you are accepting what is happening in the moment and you acknowledge that there are other people that are probably dealing with the same thing, then it becomes a little bit easier to think more creatively. Right. To let yourself find the humor in the situation. I think all of those things really help us. Again, coming back to this idea of being present, when we can laugh about something, we immediately pull ourselves into the moment. Right. I don’t know that we can be laughing about something hilarious and also be, you know, worried about something in the future. Like, it just, you, you can’t do both of those things at the same time.
Dr. Sarah (28:21):
Yeah. It’s like a reprieve from the worry.
Dr. Kira (28:25):
Dr. Sarah (28:26):
Yeah. And you can look for that. We can look, look for ways to build that in, I think cuz it’s interesting, right? Like you have the brand new parents that are in the thick of it. You have the parents who, among those parents cause everyone whether you get postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, like it doesn’t mean that if you don’t have a PMAD it’s easy. Like it’s so stressful and so like all new parents are in the thick of it. And then you have parents who are also struggling with mental health issues while in it.
Dr. Kira (28:58):
Dr. Sarah (28:59):
And then you have like this other period of time, like after, you know, that fourth trimester and beyond where like, okay, every time I feel like I get my footing, my child changes. They hit some weird developmental milestone and now they have a completely different sleep cycle or a completely different need or they can really move and I have to change the way that I’ve been coping with parenting with these brand new demands. So how does the mindfulness play into like the constant changing of the demands of parenthood?
Dr. Kira (29:32):
I think that one of the things that should be like on a t-shirt is that the only constant is change, right? When it comes to parenting because it is so true. Just when you sort of figure something out, then they change and you’re like, wait, what? I just, I thought that I had this figured out. So yes, I think first of all, just being able to say to yourself, Okay, this is a, this is a phase I think is a huge piece. But also, yeah, things are changing because that is sort of, again, pulling yourself up to the balcony, realizing, you know, seeing this from a larger vantage point. They are changing. We’re all changing constantly. I think I heard something like every seven years all of our, our cells have have changed. So we’re, we’re in a constant state of change. We just don’t think of it very often because we like to believe particularly for more controlling that we are, everything is just so, and we have everything organized and planned out and it’s gonna go according to plan.
And then of course something changes. You know, you’re about to leave for some, you know, new parents group that you’re trying to get to desperately because you want a sense of community and your baby poops up the back and down that, you know, and it’s, you can’t get there cause this is what it’s like. So I think being able to really acknowledge that change is a, a very, very regular occurrence and that change doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to abandon all the plans you had or, you know, it’s, it’s really moving into that place of flexibility and sort of seeing the change as an opportunity and reframing it, I think for yourself. But again, you can’t do that if you are not necessarily present in the moment. If you can see it as a kind of ebb and flow, it’s a little bit easier to, to laugh at those moments or to, you know, text a friend and say, Oh my gosh, can you believe this?
And sometimes that, you know, reminds me so much about how important it is yes. To be mindful and, and really work on that muscle, but also alongside the mindfulness and the self-compassion is community, right? I mean, just the fact that you do this podcast and there are people that can listen to this is an opportunity to feel like you’re less alone or to take a course and know that there’s other people doing that. That’s I think a huge, huge piece too, because once we know we’re not alone, once we know that other people have struggled with something similar and that we can call to those people, you know, whether we know them or whether we’re standing at the playground and we’re desperate to talk to someone and we walk over and introduce ourselves, which might be out of our comfort zone, but it’s super important. It just gives us a kind of community, a sense of there is, there are other people who’ve done this and I can, I can find that I can find support in that and that’s connected in some ways to also figuring out how to get more comfortable asking for help, which a lot of people struggle with as well.
Dr. Sarah (32:23):
Yeah. And I think going back to this idea of like specifically around postpartum depression or other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, that sense of like, how do I ask for help from this? Like that’s really, you know, I think where your area of expertise is really specific, right? Like this is like, when should people reach out for professional support?
Dr. Kira (32:45):
Mm. That’s such a great question. I think that it really varies from person to person because a lot of times, like I’ll get calls from people who had really challenging experiences with their first, for example, they might have had some depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum or something that they were dealing with. And then when they decide to become pregnant again, that can be a really big choice, right? Yeah. You know, the decision to do it again is big, particularly if you’ve been walled by something pretty substantial. So that’s a kind of emotional decision right there. And then once that decision is made, you know, I always encourage people like, get as much support as you can, you know, connect to a therapist as early as you can, someone who specializes in the area because, you know, like, like any area, I think particularly someone who has the, the training that is really knowledgeable about the perinatal period is so crucial because sometimes I think for somebody who, you know, might have a therapist who is a parent might think like, Oh, I can, I can do this.
I know what it’s like to have a baby. But you know, if you haven’t had the training, if you haven’t had the experience of working with someone who has, you know, scary thoughts or fears about, you know, what if I the baby and I fall down the stairs? Like, those are really common experiences that women have. And if you as a client tell your therapist and and your therapist who’s never heard something like that goes, Oh my god, you know, then how does that feel when in reality someone who’s had a little more training understands like, this is a very common experience. So just even that as an example of, you know, why finding someone with the training specifically is important. But in terms of when to reach out, I think the earlier the better. I think if you have any questions, if you are feeling that you’re struggling and you’re not sure reach out, you know, there’s no, you don’t have to have a PMAD to, you know, start supportive psychotherapy around, you know, the huge transition.
I mean, we haven’t even touched on how one of the things that happens when we become new parents is we let go, We talked about coping skills, but we let go of almost every other thing that we’ve ever known to be true. Yeah. And we have to shift into this new role. And that is a monstrous change, an identity in how we see ourselves in the world. And then there’s all sorts of choices. Are we gonna stay home? Are we gonna go back to work? Are we gonna do a combination? What is our relationship with our partner? I mean, it’s like it impacts every aspect of your life. Yes. So, you know, acknowledging that even if you don’t think that you have a PMAD or something else, even just reaching out for extra support can be so, so, so helpful and so useful.
Dr. Sarah (35:28):
Yeah. And I think also a lot of people don’t know that a lot of therapists will do consultations like, you don’t have to necessarily do months and months and months of therapy. You certainly can like, you know, we’re here, this is what we do and we, we can support people for long periods of time. But also, like, I get a lot of times people being like, I don’t know how to handle this one thing and I just wanna make sure I’m doing it right. And Yeah. Or I think I might need help, but I’m not actually sure. Can you just like diagnostically assess me? Like, can you just let me know if what’s going on is, is something that I can handle on my own with some extra support in my community or if I need therapy. So you don’t like, I think some people don’t understand that, that working with a a therapist can be like one touchpoint, it can be a whole network of touchpoints. It, it’s, it’s kind of individualized.
Dr. Kira (36:25):
Oh, absolutely. I think one of the things that I know for me personally was interesting when I went to graduate school I was taught that you do therapy a certain way and it was a much more traditional training. And then over the course of my career I realized a, that moving into this world of perinatal was gonna necessitate being a little bit more flexible that that was not realistic. But also that I was going to be able to be more flexible about how I saw people. And that ended up being so much more useful to the clients that I was seeing. To your point, when someone reaches out and says, I don’t know if this is helpful or not, and doing a session or two just to sort of see what comes up or someone who says, you know, I’m not sure that I can commit to this regularly, but I’d love to, you know, meet once a month.
Now sometimes that gets tricky in terms of scheduling just realistically, but more often than not it ends up being something that people find to be a really useful support and kind of, you know, talking specifically, particularly I think with you when you know, you have a question about like, my toddler is doing this, what am I gonna do? Working on something like that specifically for a couple of weeks is a super helpful support for a family. But I think that’s true for a lot of issues around therapy. And clearly now that we’re in this sort of dare I say post covid ish world that, you know, a lot of us are working virtually, which I think makes it mostly virtually makes it a lot easier for people to access help in a way that before it might have been too much to get into someone’s office, but now it’s, it’s, it’s a little bit easier, particularly when you’ve got a new baby. You could say to your partner who’s working from home, can you watch them for 45 minutes while I’m on this thing? Whereas before it would’ve been impossible. So that’s a huge improvement. One of the Yes. Small silver linings.
Dr. Sarah (38:14):
I know it’s true. I actually think because, you know, in working with this particular population, you know, the idea of going to therapy for, you know, an extra hour commuting on either end of the therapy was not really feasible for people who just had a baby. You know, like absolutely. Just being able to hop online while you’re nursing your kid like that just makes therapy more accessible and I think it’s a really beautiful thing that’s come out of a tough time in our culture.
Dr. Kira (38:45):
Dr. Sarah (38:46):
So, yeah, I agree. There’s a silver lining there. Hmm. If people wanna learn more about the work you do or get in touch with you, how can they find out about your practice and your work?
Dr. Kira (38:59):
Sure. So there’s two different ways. I have my own practice where I do a fair amount of work with, you know, new moms and families. But the work primarily I would say is through A Bridge Home. So that’s a kind of, interestingly we’re talking about accessibility pre pandemic a couple years before I gathered a few clinicians and we decided that we wanted to do some in-home visits for new moms. And it was a really great idea and it really took off. It became very challenging though obviously once the pandemic happened. Both to of course go into people’s homes, but also to get to a place where we could actually accommodate all of the, you know, huge influx of need. So we’ve pivoted to be more virtual, but it is, I think, a really incredible opportunity to have a few clinicians that are really all well trained in the same area. So it’s abridgehome.com and we’ve got all of the, you know, finding us on Instagram and Facebook and all that stuff on there too. Yeah. But you can also reach out to me directly and drkirabarlett.com is another way. So it’s, I love talking to people, even if it isn’t so much about therapy. I’ve had a lot of people reach out and just ask me questions and I will often refer to other resources sometimes too cuz there’s a lot of really great resources out there online as well.
Dr. Sarah (40:21):
Yeah. There and there are, and, and I’ll put links to all of this in the show notes so people can find A Bridge Home and learn more about your work. Cuz I, yeah, I think that that’s such important work to offer to parents and for them to know there’s lots of different ways that you can access support.
Dr. Kira (40:38):
Definitely. I think particularly for postpartum, I for many years, pretty much since my own experience have been volunteering with Postpartum Support International, which is an incredible organization and I, I work on the helpline so I get, you know, once a week for a few hours I get texts from women all over the world really who are struggling and you know, there’s, what’s wonderful about their website is there’s a tremendous amount of information. So if you’re sort of like, I don’t know, these are my symptoms, you can go online and take a quick peek and there’s a lot of information about, you know, you might have this and you might have that, but most importantly reach out, you know, reach out for help whether it’s through the helpline or to a clinician and there’s a resource page and you can pair yourself up, you know, with somebody all anywhere. There’s coordinators all over the state, all over the country, excuse me, for in every different state. So it’s a great resource. Completely free. There’s some online free support groups for many, many different iterations of the, you know, pregnancy, postpartum time. Super helpful.
Dr. Sarah (41:42):
Dr. Kira (41:44):
Dr. Sarah (41:45):
Yeah, I think I’ve, I love, I’m always trying to get parents to go to PSI, Postpartum Support International cuz especially if you ha like as a person who might be pregnant in an anticipation. There’s so much information on there too. Yes. Like to, it’s just a really great resource.
Dr. Kira (42:02):
Dr. Sarah (42:03):
Yeah. Well thank you so much for coming on. Is there any, in closing, like I’m wondering if we could maybe do like a quick mindfulness exercise or something to like Sure. Give parents a little idea of something they could do. Something like you said that was, that maps onto what you’re already doing rather than adding something on. Correct. Who has the time for that?
Dr. Kira (42:24):
Yeah, well I have two thoughts. One is at a retreat I had this incredible chance to do something that I had never done before. There was an outdoor mindful guide who was leading us on this mindful hike. And it was all about just, you know, in silence really bringing our full presence to the experience of being in nature. And what she had us do was she said, Okay, now I want you to close your eyes and think about what it was like to be a six year old girl and now go out into the forest for the next 20 minutes and be that six year old girl and just notice what happens for you. And it was so cool because I realized as soon as I closed my eyes, I could remember the freedom that I felt in that, you know, six year old world of just sort of, what was I gonna do?
Of course I was gonna jump on the rocks and jump into the puddles and throw rocks at the puddles and you know, just sort of found my, found a way of being much more present in that moment and freeing myself of some of the Yeah. Sort of usual like I should do this and I everyone’s supposed to and all of that stuff. So it can anyone do that? Absolutely. Like I, you could do that in your backyard. Just sort of pulling yourself back to a time, you know, we were talking about how mindfulness is something that is accessible to everyone. We don’t need special equipment, we all have it inside of us. We don’t have to learn this skill. It’s just pushing away some of the stuff that has kind of clouded that. So sometimes I think it’s really just about being able to remember to do it and remind ourselves cuz we forget really easily.
And sometimes I encourage people just to put up a post-it here and there, you know, remember to breathe, remember to close your eyes and think of some, some kind of positive thought or you know, at the front door when you’re feeling really overwhelmed with your baby and they’re crying, put a little post-it that says go outside. Because we don’t think of doing the things that help us get grounded. So not a mindfulness exercise per se, but definitely just sort of little things that I think we can do to remember some of the things that maybe you’re hearing about in this episode or have read about. But doing them becomes very difficult cuz when we get dysregulated we kind of go offline and so we forget to be as creative and flexible.
Dr. Sarah (44:46):
That’s such a good point. And I love, oh my God, I’m totally gonna do that exercise today. Like, I love the idea of connecting with like my inner six year old self.
Dr. Kira (44:57):
It’s super fun.
Dr. Sarah (44:59):
I don’t do that enough. And I actually, that makes me always think of the fact, like one of the things I tell most of my patients as adults who I see is like, are you playing? Like, what’s your play?
Cuz in it, obviously it looks different for us as grownups play, but we gotta make sure we’re doing something that feels playful for us. Not play with your kids. That’s great. You could do that. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about like, what’s your play.
Dr. Kira (45:26):
Agree. I I think that can be your next podcast episode.
Dr. Sarah (45:31):
Good one. All right, well thank you so much. This was lovely talking to you. I’m thrilled. I’ll see you soon cuz I know that we, we cross paths all the time.
Dr. Kira (45:39):
Sounds great. Thank you so much for having me. It was such a pleasure.
Dr. Sarah (45:47):In this episode, you heard me mention my workshop, Be the Calm in Your Child’s Storm. One of the best first steps we can take to support our child’s emotion regulation ability is to address what is already within our control, our own emotion regulation. And that’s why this workshop is all about you. Just like dysregulation is contagious regulation, which is basically our calm nervous system, that’s contagious too. And sharing this calm, a process called co-regulation is one of the most effective tools for helping a child who’s having a hard time. But in order for co-regulation to work, we have to actually and authentically be calm first. In this workshop I teach you simple but powerful steps to change the way that your brain and your body interpret your child’s dysregulation. And I arm you with the tools you need to stay cool in the heat of the moment so you are able to help them calm down too. Head to drsarahbren.com and click the workshops tab to get instant access to Be The Calm In Your Child’s Storm: How to keep your cool when your child loses theirs. That’s drsarahbren.com/workshops. Thanks for listening and don’t be a stranger.
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