Every postpartum is different! So whether this is your first time being pregnant or you have done this before, surrounding yourself with the proper support during this period of transition is key.
Here to offer you tools for a smoother adjustment is the co-author of Not Your Mother’s Postpartum Book and co-creator of @mamapsychologists, Dr. Chelsea Bodie.
This episode covers a lot, because honestly, postpartum is a lot — from challenging what society claims it’s supposed to look like, to going back to work, and parenting an infant along with your other kids, we’re diving into it all and tackling what it means to be a modern mama today.
Dr. Chelsea (00:00):
I remember when I brought my daughter home, my son started crying and then she started crying and then I’m just sitting there crying because it’s like, I don’t know what to do. I dunno how to handle this. So it’s really overwhelming, right? When your nervous system goes into that fight or flight, you shut down almost because you’re like, well, where do I go from here?
Dr. Sarah (00:21):
Postpartum looks different today than it did in the past. The once taboo topic is now being talked about more and more, which is so important because talking about these things is where creating support systems for new moms and dads begins. And that is why I’m so excited to talk to today’s guest, Dr. Chelsea Bodie, about the book that she recently co-wrote with Dr. Caitlin Slavens called Not Your Mother’s Postpartum Book, where they share what you can really expect in your first year. This episode covers a lot because honestly, postpartum is a lot. We talk about challenging what society claims it’s supposed to look like, going back to work, parenting an infant along with other kids. We’re diving into all of it and tackling what it means to be a modern mama today.
If you are expecting your second child, you might be asking yourself, am I ready for my baby’s arrival? Is my child? This big transition can be tough on little kids, but there are things we can do to help them prepare and adjust the shift more smoothly. And that is why I’m hosting a live virtual workshop to teach you my framework to help you help your child process the ups and downs that come with a new baby.
In this 60 minute workshop, I’ll help you create a game plan for minimizing the impact of this big change on your child’s life, to learn how to manage your expectations, your child’s regressions, and how to set effective limits and get strategies for managing your own emotional highs and lows as you move into this new stage of parenthood. So we could say goodbye to parenting guilt, plus I’ll stick around after for a Q&A so you have a chance to ask me your questions about your unique challenges and troubleshoot the things you are struggling with. And I know that your schedule is jam-packed. So I am hosting this workshop twice on March 28th and on March 30th to try to accommodate everyone’s busy lives in different time zones. To reserve your spot and learn more about all the things I’ll cover, go to drsarahbren.com/siblings. That’s drsarahbren.com/siblings. See you in the workshop!
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, I’m so excited to introduce Chelsea today. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Chelsea (03:15):
Thank you for having me.
Dr. Sarah (03:17):
Thank you. Yeah, I am was especially excited when you came out with this book, Not Your Mother’s Postpartum Book to ask you to come on because I feel like the postpartum period has been given a bit of a rebirth and I feel like we’re it, we’re giving it a new definition, but there’s a lot of, it’s very, I think the nuance in this understanding that this is a really nuanced time in women’s lives and everyone in the family’s lives has taken on a whole new meaning.
Dr. Chelsea (03:53):
For sure. Yeah, no, I think it’s such a transition and we’ve had conversations with people before where we’re just like, I think it’s so overlooked because it’s like, oh, you have a baby, and it’s such kind of this relatively, if you’re growing your family, it’s something that you experience and it’s just a thing and you don’t really think about it. It’s not in the forefront because it’s like everyone’s gone through it that has children and it’s just you get through it and it’s fine.
Dr. Sarah (04:19):
And we do get through it, most of us with probably a few scrapes and bruises along the way. But I think there’s so much fear leading into it now, anticipatory anxiety. And then when we’re in it, are we, are we feeling like we’re built up the support systems to really meet our needs in that moment? And I think sometimes it, it’s almost like until we’re in it, we don’t realize no one’s teaching us what we’re going to need before we get there.
Dr. Chelsea (04:54):
Yeah, I think for both Caitlin and I, it really comes from a genuine place and hopefully that comes across in the book, but we both really struggled in our postpartum experiences. Caitlin struggled significantly with postpartum anxiety and she wasn’t able to leave her house or driver some. So some of those things sometimes where for myself, I had, my baby was born 12 weeks early, and so we were a NICU family, and so when we were going through, she had her second baby when I had my first, so we were kind of going through postpartum together and it was so lonely and it was so isolating. And for me personally, I really felt like, okay, yeah, I have the education, you have all this information, you have resources, you have all this knowledge, and yet I was floundering and I was like, I can’t be the only one who feels this way and who feels like there isn’t enough support for the modern mom out there.
There’s tons of books about babies, milestones and what to look for and feeding and all of these things, but it just felt like that was really lacking for moms and their mental health and the raw experience that mothers go through and that transition into motherhood. And so when we went to write the book, we kind of wanted to create, we liked to call it an encyclopedia for moms, so we really talked about, okay, what were some of our major struggles? What are some of the major struggles that are brought to us by our clients and that they’re bringing to us and how can we put this together where if you don’t have time to read a full book, because lots of moms and new moms don’t have time, I don’t have time to sit down and read 400 pages right now, so can I just flip to what I’m experiencing right now and that I want some information on or some resources on. And then we wanted to make it feel a little bit more tangible by adding in some of the workbook stuff. So being able to fill it in for yourself and really hone in on your own experience and then having that resource there and that information and education kind of behind it.
Dr. Sarah (06:55):
Yeah, I love that because I, for me, one of the things, and I also do a lot of education for parents in the year one part of life, I becoming a parent, but also of child development year one. And I think one of the reasons I even started to teach around that period of time was because I was like, okay, there’s so much support for a pregnant person. We get so much information on every single month, and we’re seeing the doctors constantly, and there’s so much as a society built it around supporting pregnant women. And then when we have the baby, there’s some thought into the first few weeks after the baby’s come home from the hospital, but then there’s a support cliff that we just fall off of. And so many parents, it’s not until they kind of come up for air a few months in and realize, oh my God, what I’ve been survival mode for the last three or four months, maybe even a year. And so I’m always very interested in how do we raise up that drop of that cliff? Where do we put in more supports for parents who have just had their kid to feel confident in parenthood to feel like they know what their parenting values are? I’m so curious when putting this book together, what supports were you hoping to give to parents as a result of this?
Dr. Chelsea (08:33):
A lot of normalcy. We really wanted it to feel like this raw insight. Yeah, it is hard and you get to say it’s hard. That doesn’t take away your love for your children. That doesn’t take away who you are or how effective you are or efficient you are, whatever word you want to use as a parent. But it really is okay to say, you know what? This part I don’t love or this part I don’t understand. I feel like I’m the only person going through this. And is that just how it is? Or is this me? Is this something wrong with me? Right. Because I’m sure you hear it too. You hear those questions all the time. And so our hope was just to provide some normalcy within that. You get to say it’s hard. Boundaries are hard. Breastfeeding can be hard, or even just choosing what type of feeding method you want to use for your child is hard.
Social media adds this component where it’s kind of this double-edged sword. It can be great to have all these resources. And then you fall into the comparison trap and you’re like, well, I’m in my pajamas with a mom-bun on top of my head for the last three days, and whoever has this perfectly curated house and I feel like I’m failing. So we really just wanted to provide that real and raw insight and hopefully a little bit of humor, a little bit, not to be too scary, but that there would be that, yeah, this is real.
Dr. Sarah (09:52):
And it’s messy. And it’s, I think, normalizing how we can hold a lot of mixed feelings at once. I can be so in love with my child and feel so disconnected at times, feel so unhappy, feel so overwhelmed like that all those things can happen at the same time. And that’s normal. And it’s real, I think is so important to highlight for people because I do think the postpartum period can get this artificial glow around it. We remember the good parts and that’s what we talk about. But in reality, there’s a real amnesia that happens for most people, and I think there’s probably some evolutionary basis to that. We have to forget about how hard it was so that we don’t ever want to have more kids. We can wrap our mind around that as a species to be able to procreate multiple times, require some level of dissonance. We kind of have to forget what happened. But then as a result, I think our society kind of glorifies this moment as this glowy happy, beautiful time. And there are elements for sure that are, but also that’s not a really accurate picture. And it doesn’t make any parent less of a good parent if they don’t feel that way in the moment. In fact, probably most people don’t feel that way all the time, ever.
Dr. Chelsea (11:23):
For sure. Yes. I would love to see the mom that’s glowing because I definitely was not, there’s not a lot of glowing. Maybe it was sweat. No, but it was definitely not glowing.
Dr. Sarah (11:30):
I was greasy, but I dunno if I’d call it glowing. Yeah, no, and I think another thing I was curious too, and you know, call your book Not Your Mother’s Postpartum Book and what was our mother’s postpartum book? Where did you deviate from? Maybe how, and I think I say that in quotes because I don’t really think there was a postpartum book for our moms, and that’s the problem that you were solving for, but what would’ve been in that book that you were like, Nope, we have to change this. We need to rewrite the narrative.
Dr. Chelsea (12:04):
I think it was that there was partially that there was no narrative. That’s the irony of it, is there isn’t really, right. These books of, again, mostly focused on baby and their milestones and what that first year of baby’s life looks like often doesn’t even touch on mom really at all. And so that was part of it. And the other part of it was that just that modern mom’s today have different struggles, for example, working outside of the home, not that’s more commonplace now as having a career outside of the home than it was previously. There’s also the component of social media, which wasn’t necessarily influencing moms previously to this as well. So there’s just some things as well I think that weren’t recognized. So when we look at birth trauma, I don’t know if it was really even acknowledged. And at the very minimum, all birth is usually physically traumatic in some components. So nevermind the emotional side of it. It was like, you have your baby, here’s your baby, go home. So it was just really recognizing that those issues don’t necessarily have to be glossed over either.
Dr. Sarah (13:12):
Yeah, I think that going back to work peace is all those things that you said are very salient I think for moms right now and anyone in a partnership with a new baby, because I think even that those traditional roles are getting redefined by a lot of families, but this idea of going back to work after you have a baby, and I work with a lot of parents who go back to work. I work with a lot of parents who don’t go back to work, and both groups feel terrible about their decisions, and it’s so painful to see how much pressure and guilt and pain there is not for everybody, but for many parents when they’re trying to make these decisions. What are some of your, I’m curious, what do you tell parents who are trying to navigate the inherent conflict of trying to be in two places at once?
Dr. Chelsea (14:10):
Yeah, part of it is the both and kind of concept. It’s like fe really validating and being what you’re experiencing. Your emotions are okay, it’s okay to feel torn. It’s okay to feel like it is a big decision because it is, right? You don’t have to sugarcoat it, you don’t have to pretend that it doesn’t matter. People who, some people have to go back to work, they financially don’t have a choice and other people have to stay at home because childcare isn’t an option. There’s so many factors that can go into that. And so that grief that can come along with it, I think is really kind of a normative part because it is this separation or change in either separation from your child ending your work, career life, whatever that might look like. There’s this lost component that’s going to come on either side. And I think it’s really important to kind of recognize that that part is there and probably fueling a lot of these feelings and emotions that can come with that.
Dr. Sarah (15:08):
So there’s a lot of validation and making people feel like they’re not crazy for feeling this way. And then I’m wondering too, when you’re working with parents who do go back to work for example, and they do feel that loss, and another thing I see a lot is fear of what will this do to my relationship with my child? Will they have an insecure attachment style because they separated from me for so long? Or will they be more attached to their childcare provider than to me? And how do we help ease some of the fears that parents have around these catastrophizing thoughts of worst possible outcomes from going back to work?
Dr. Chelsea (15:52):
Yeah, I think it depends on who you’re working with, but some people find it really comforting to learn a little bit about attachment and know attachment isn’t a one-shot deal. You don’t get one chance to have a secure relationship. So talking about what that means and what that could look like and how you can foster that in different ways and really nurture that as I’m sure you probably talk about all the time, that quality versus quantity and how can you really use that and really be present with your child when you’re with them. Not all the time you have other things you have to do, but really having that quality time when you can and really investing some opportunities into that and helping find that balance of, okay, I’m not with them all the time, but here’s what I can do when I’m with them. And so finding what that means and what that can look like for different families I think can be really helpful. Outside of that emotional validation piece, I think some people need that. They need to hear that it’s hard and they need to explore those feelings underneath that and do that. But from a practical side of it, I think that can be really helpful.
Dr. Sarah (16:54):
Yes, I totally agree. Psychoeducation around, okay, the fear, a lot of times we fear something going wrong, but that’s because we don’t actually understand the mechanism of how that thing works. And so when we understand the mechanism, for example, the mechanism of attachment security, then we feel less anxious because we don’t have that worry, that uncertainty, that unknown because it’s more known, it makes more sense and we can fill in some of the blanks with information that actually eases anxiety rather than the blanks themselves left blank amplify our anxiety. Well, what would happen if I am not there when my kid needs me and someone else soothes them? And we know actually from attachment research that when a child feels soothed by multiple people, it creates a more solid sense of the world is safe, which makes it easier for them to have a secure attachment to their parent for sure, because they think of people as safe people and they expect people to soothe them when they’re upset. And the more people who do that effectively, just the stronger their attachment patterns, that secure attachment pattern becomes. So it’s like you were saying, it’s not either or. It’s also many attach, you can have more than one attachment, you can have many secure. The more secure attachments you have, the stronger that secure attachment pattern and style would be. So that’s very reassuring I think to parents who are going to separate from their kids to know that they’re not the only person who can foster that for them.
Dr. Chelsea (18:36):
For sure, for sure. And that transition of having your child have that safe place, I think once you feel comfortable with it can be really reaffirming like, oh, okay, daycare, school or this care provider is a safe place for them. I know that they’re going to feel comfortable and they’re going to be okay, but that obviously takes time too.
Dr. Sarah (18:55):
Yeah. What are other fears that you feel like parents have? I’m curious, when you work with families, what do you hear parents saying or some of their fears going back to work?
Dr. Chelsea (19:07):
The workload can be one. Finding that work-life balance again, and then adding in the addition of obviously being a parent and a care provider is a big one, often to that identity piece. What happens with, is this going to add to my identity? Is this not, what does this mean for me? And then of course, boundaries is a big one too. Setting boundaries either at work or at home or with family friends, finding what that could even mean or it could even look like once you’re back at work.
Dr. Sarah (19:37):
Yeah. What are some boundaries are so huge. What are some my ideas or strategies that you teach parents either through the book or in your work to help give them strategies for setting boundaries or even knowing what are boundaries worth setting? How do I decide if this is a boundary worth setting? And then if it is, how do I set it?
Dr. Chelsea (19:57):
For sure. Usually we start with talking about values or what do you value? And obviously then there’s a practical side of it. What does your support look like? Sometimes boundaries are harder to set if you’re a single parent or you don’t have the support or community around you, family near you and things like that. So it’s kind of going to one, what’s your support system look like and what resources do you have? And two, what do you value? Some people really value work and really if they’re emailing after the kids go to bed, not a big deal. Doesn’t bother me. I’d rather feel productive and do it. And other people are like, no, when my day is done, I don’t want to have to do those things. So again, finding what you value, finding what works for your life and how your circumstances, and then actually finding ways to put that into place.
So in the book we do go through some scripts and different things like that, Hey, this is how you can lay out a boundary and what that could look like. And obviously boundaries are so hard. And then once you have the boundary, sticking to the boundary is hard, right? Oh yeah. But I like to talk to people about flexible boundaries too. Are there circumstances or times where you can feel like that can bend, or do you feel like there’s those people in your life where you’re like, no, if I bend, I know it’s going to be taken advantage of or what that looks like. So it’s kind of finding also who those people are in your life and what that looks like.
Dr. Sarah (21:16):
I love that. I think that idea of a flexible boundary is so important because I think we can get sometimes stuck if we set a boundary and then we actually don’t want to die on our soil. We, but we want to be able to back up with some grace and integrity and feeling like we’re not undermining our authority either. So it’s, I’m curious, when you are talking about a flexible boundary, do you feel like that gives parents more permission to say sometimes it’s okay to hold it and sometimes it’s okay to let it go?
Dr. Chelsea (21:49):
Yeah, I think so. Unless somebody’s really black and white when they’re like, I need that structure and I need to know this is my boundary and this is not. But if you’re not quite in that realm, I think it’s really nice to be like, okay, I know that I can give myself permission to do this sometimes, or if I do have to work late one night, I know that it’s not necessarily going to be damaging to the relationship with my child and I can take that time for work or for myself to get those things done. And so it’s kind of allowing yourself a little bit of grace, I think, by having that flexibility.
Dr. Sarah (22:19):
So we don’t beat ourselves up when we don’t follow a boundary, because then I feel like then we fall off the wagon with the boundaries. If I am working on work-life balance, if I’m working on saying, when I’m done with work and I’m with my kids, I want to put my phone away. I want to really be present. I want to make that quality time because I might not have the quantity of time accessible anymore, but I’m going to take those two hours and make them really quality. And that’s my boundary for myself. And it becomes a boundary with work and with others. Because if someone tries to come into that space during that time, I have to say I’m not available. But also there’s going to be times when I’m going to just pick up my phone and get distracted and do the thing I said I wasn’t going to do, or there’s going to be a time where something really important comes through and I have to give up my boundary and do the thing. And I think sometimes if we don’t have this sense of permission to not be perfect with the boundaries that we set, and to be flexible versus rigid, that’s the difference between beating ourselves up after that kind of moment where the thing didn’t go the way I was hoping it would, and then not bouncing back and trying to reset the boundary next time versus being like, perhaps this is too hard. I can’t do this, so I’m not even try.
Dr. Chelsea (23:46):
For sure. Yeah. Or it’s the idea that, okay, I didn’t set it once. So it’s almost the diet, right? You’re like, oh, start again on Monday. And you’re like, okay, you can restart, right? It’s okay. You can have an off day.
Dr. Sarah (23:59):
Yeah. Yeah. No, I think flexibility is so key. I mean, I think anything that’s part of the transition into parenthood is learning that being flexible is one of your biggest assets and it’s really hard. It’s really hard. Totally. It’s a crash course and learning to figure out what are your priorities and what can get, you know, got to triage as a parent, nothing all the time.
All the time. And even just going back to work too, that piece about identity, the shift in identity, the conflict around how much my identity, we can have multiple identities. When I’m work on my work self, my work self state kind of comes out. And when I’m with my kids, my mom’s self state kind of comes out. And I think now we live in this world sometimes where we are being pulled in multiple directions at once. If I’ve got my phone on me during family time and work stuff comes through and distracts me, then it’s almost like I’m being kind of forced to have these multiple personalities at once. My work self is now competing with my mom’s self and it, that’s actually a big stressor for our nervous systems, for our bodies. It’s really overstimulating. I’m curious what your take is on trying not to multitask and trying to have separation in our roles and our identities.
Dr. Chelsea (25:27):
I think it comes down to, in those kind of instances, it’s almost like, you’re right, you’re over overstimulated. Everything’s feel like it’s spiraling or feels like it’s a little bit out of control, or you’re like, ah, I need to finish my thought in this email, but my kid is screaming and I hear Paw Patrol in the background and I just can’t even know what my thoughts are. So I really actually tell people to slow it down and really give their nervous system a break. So I call it sensory breaks. So it’s asking yourself, am I hungry? Am I tired? Do you know those basic need questions? Am I clean? And so for a clean, I mean, could you go splash water on your face, have a reset if you have time for a shower, depending on what time of day is or what you’re doing, just try to reset your day.
Is it I haven’t eaten all day and I’m living off half warm coffee that I’ve reheated five times. Okay, well can you grab yourself a drink of water? Can you grab a granola bar or is there something in the fridge? Really paying attention to those basic needs and then taking that sensory break if you need it. Right? And so obviously if you’re tired, it’s not like you can go have a nap, but maybe it’s just being mindful, okay, today I was up last night with the kids and I just know I’m not going to be functioning at my normal level and I’m just going to give myself permission to feel tired. Sometimes. It’s those things I always say, not that you want to lock yourself in the bathroom, but I say bathroom because I feel like that’s one of the only places in a house that typically has for sure has a lock on the door.
But do you need to, your kids are throwing, if you’re a screen screen time family, can they have a little bit of screen time? Can you go put your headphones in for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, take a few deep breaths in the dark and then go back out? It’s just really finding those ways that are realistic for your life, but adding them into your day that don’t have to take a lot of time. It’s just those resets to be like, okay, now I feel like I can think and I can finish that email. Or My kids are distracted for a minute, so I’m just going to take a pause.
Dr. Sarah (27:31):
Yeah, no, I think that’s such, I love the idea of a sensory break and the importance of it being able to happen in 30 seconds. You don’t need to take a 10 minute sensory break for it to have an impact on your nervous system. Would it be nice if I could find 10 minutes of peace and quiet, but for the effect of moving out of fight or flight into rest/digest, right? Getting into that parasympathetic nervous system activation that we can do that in a few seconds if we have the space, if we can physically take a minute and intentionally kind of regulate our nervous system in that way, that it doesn’t take that long If you’re not at 10, if you’re out of 10, it might take a while to come back down. But if you’re feeling that creeping, rising agitation because you are feeling more and more overstimulated because you, you’ve got your kids need you and your work is needing you at the same time, or you’re physically with your children, but your brain is in your work and how incongruent that feels, and that could be really agitating to our emotional state.
Yeah, absolutely. I know I get more irritated and frustrated when I’m with my kids and I’m thinking about something I have to do for work just because of the dual demand on my cognitive attention. Yeah, it’s too much. It’s over stimulating to try to hold both of those things.
Dr. Chelsea (28:59):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s like that mental load. It’s like you’re mentally running down your to-do lists at work and you’re then somebody yells or hits the sibling and you’re like, I’m going to lose it. I can’t. You just don’t have space for regulating everything.
Dr. Sarah (29:15):
And I think people have, it’s funny cause we, we’ve kind of shifted into talking about life with many kids, which is totally realistic. And I think being, going back to work, one, you have a postpartum period every time you have a kid. And the first time it’s the first time and there’s no other competing things. It’s just you and this baby. But when you are a second time parent or third time parent, it exponentially more challenging each time because you don’t have space. When I remember had my second postpartum experience with my second was way, way more challenging for me emotionally. I went through postpartum depression with my daughter and I didn’t with my first. And I think in part one of the reasons that was is because I, even knowing all the things that I knew going into it, having the particular type of training that I have, having never experienced it, I assumed it would feel the same. And so when it was different and in retrospect I realize now why it was so different because I also had a toddler. But it being different than what I expected really pulled the rug out from under me. And I think it really took me, it made the symptoms of postpartum depression that I had more surprising for me, which made it harder for me to recognize what was going on.
And I think that’s another piece is each postpartum period we have is going to be profoundly different just by the nature of it being a different phase in our parenting journey.
Dr. Chelsea (31:00):
Absolutely. Every postpartum child’s needs and temperament and all of that is so different. And I did anyways, I noticed my daughter was very different from my son and I was like, oh, okay, I got to figure you out. You’re a whole person. And it’s not that I didn’t rationally know that, but then you have this tiny being and you’re like, oh, okay, now I got to figure you out too. And I have a toddler who’s changing every day and I can’t keep up with their emotions and let alone my own that are going haywire.
Dr. Sarah (31:31):
And there’s so much pressure I think we have on ourselves to give our second the exact same experience we gave our first. And the reality is we can’t. And that’s okay. I think I experienced so much guilt with my second because I was like, oh my God, I’m not giving my first what he’s used to getting anymore, so I’m abandoning him. And I felt so much guilt about that. And then I felt tremendous guilt that I knew I wasn’t giving my daughter my second what I had given my first. And I was like, felt so much guilt about that. And I think that was a big part of my postpartum depression story was kind of understanding and processing that surprising level of guilt that I had not anticipated.
And a really good friend said to me, and this is still something to this day, that I really found to be one of the most pivotal pieces of guidance I’ve gotten all of my parenting journey because it really shifted, it snapped me out of, not completely, but it really shifted my postpartum depression was you said your first gets your undivided attention and your second gets your expertise and experience as a parent. And it was like this light bulb went off for me and I was like, oh my God, I am not, I’m not supposed to be able to give both the same experience and that’s okay. I’m not the same parent to both kids because I’m at a different place. The second one entered at a different point in my life, so I’m a different person. And my first didn’t get my expertise as a parent.
He got me throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what stuck. And to some degree I had to do that all over again because I was like you were saying, I had to learn my daughter, but I was more confident as a parent that second time around, which allowed me to hover less, give her more space, be less reactive to everything. So I think that there is, once I just realized, oh, I have permission to be a different parent for both kids, and that’s totally okay. It was a big turning point for me, I think.
Dr. Chelsea (33:39):
Yeah, that’s beautiful.
Dr. Sarah (33:41):
I wondered too, your book, I imagine, how long does it go for? How long do you feel like it’s applicable?
Dr. Chelsea (33:52):
I think it’s for the new mom, I think it’s for the season mom. I think there’s definitely topics, mom, guilt, social supports, so social media relationships, all of those things are touched on boundaries. And so I think those can impact you regardless of where you are in your motherhood journey. Even sometimes birth trauma, I’ve had clients that have come in and they’re like, my child’s 10 and I still can’t even think about when I gave birth to them. So sometimes that’s even a concern. It’s just something that you haven’t had a chance to process. So I think there’s a lot of topics that could be relevant even for a “seasoned” mom.
Dr. Sarah (34:30):
And postpartum from a medical standpoint, we look at it as the first year, which a lot of people think it’s the first three months, and that’s not true your postpartum from a medical standpoint for the first year after your child is born. But I feel like a lot of you were saying, a lot of the stuff that comes up for people in their postpartum year doesn’t get processed until later. Because on some level, we’re too in survival mode that first year or we’re too much dealing with the immediacy of everything. And it’s not until we really have some more space from that time in our life that we’re able to look back and say, oh, I do need to process some trauma from my birth, or I do need to make sense of some of the emotional challenges I had in that period of time, or I need to reevaluate my identity as a parent because I never really looked at that.
Dr. Chelsea (35:46):
For sure. No, absolutely. I agree. I’m like, oh, he is like, oh, one year. That seems so short to me. I don’t know how you’d, again, medically for sure, but I don’t know how you define that from an emotional standpoint because I really believe you’re always learning and growing with your child. They’re always a new stage. There’s always a new right, and even if it’s your third child, you still haven’t done it with that child. So how do you know it’s going to be the same?
Dr. Sarah (36:13):
And parenting with other children around is a whole nother skillset because we were saying with the going back to work and having to juggle multiple demands at the same time, at least with work, you can just turn your phone off if you need to. You can’t turn a toddler off when your baby’s crying and your toddler’s crying. You can’t just say, I’m going to close the computer on you right now. They’re there.
Dr. Chelsea (36:43):
They’re following you.
Dr. Sarah (36:44):
It’s not, it’s you don’t get to decide, I’m going to, going to take a break from this right now. If the level of overstimulation becomes, like we were saying, exponential when you have multiple kids and you’re postpartum. Because another thing that I think is important to mention is there structural changes in our brain and nervous system when we have a baby that make us more sensitive to having a threat response.
Dr. Chelsea (37:16):
And there’s like noise.
Dr. Sarah (37:18):
It’s evolutionarily basis. There’s an evolutionary basis for that. We want to be on some level, able to access our mama bear when we have a baby, but it also means that we are so much more vulnerable to overstimulation.
Dr. Chelsea (37:35):
Oh, absolutely. No, I remember when I brought my daughter home, my son started crying and then she started crying, and then I’m just sitting there crying because it’s like, I don’t know what to do. My son’s screaming, my daughter’s crying. I almost like, what did I do? I dunno how to handle this. So it’s really overwhelming when your nervous system goes into that fight or flight and you’re just like, you shut down almost because you’re like, well, where do I go from here?
Dr. Sarah (38:01):
Yeah. So where do you go from here? What are some strategies that parents can use it? They’re feeling overstimulated in that moment where I can’t turn off, I can’t go into the bathroom right now. I can’t get away because too many people need me to keep them alive right now.
Dr. Chelsea (38:16):
Yeah, for sure. Well, sometimes it’s the practical things. If that really annoying toys is sticking in the bath background, go turn it off. If the TV’s on, turn it off. Try to reduce the noise or the stimulation where you can. If there’s some practical ways to do that, try to bring that down. Depending on the age of your child, if they’re having a behavioral struggle or they’re having an emotional outburst, sometimes is it just sitting on the floor with them getting down to their level? And even if you have a mantra for yourself, I love mantras if it’s like, okay, this is just a moment right now. This moment is going to pass. Or one of Caitlin’s favorite favorites that she always shares is they’re having a hard time. They’re not giving me a hard time. They’re going through their own struggle right now. I’m going through my struggle. We can just be struggling here right now and we will get through this moment. So sometimes doing things like that, and as cheesy as it sounds always, and as I’m sure you share too, it’s like breath, right? Sometimes we’re not breathing, we’re holding our breath, we’re tense. Just waiting for this to end, and you need to remember to try to breathe, just try to take a couple deep breaths, and sometimes that’s enough just to give you a little bit of a reset.
Dr. Sarah (39:27):
Yeah, absolutely. No, I think that that’s so important, and I totally relate to that idea of sometimes I’ll check in and be like, whoa, I’m like on fire right now. Why? And if I do a scan of the environment, I am I, I’ll notice there’s the TV’s on or the radio’s on, or these toys are making too much noise. I have a, I’m super mean. I don’t let my kids have toys with batteries because it makes me overstimulated. So I like if they get gifts with, they get gifts with toys at a batteries, I just don’t let, I never taught them that you could put batteries into a lot of their toys just like, this is the toy.
Dr. Chelsea (40:08):
Dr. Sarah (40:09):
This is how it works. My five year old’s kind of figuring it out a little bit, so I might lose my edge there, but selfishly, it’s just because it’s overstimulating to me, and I’ve realized actually I’ve become way more aware of my own sensitivity to stimulation as in the years I’ve parented. I think I realized that I am more sensitive to stimulation than I realized, and it might be that my brain has changed in the course of becoming a parent. I don’t remember being this sensitive to lights and sounds and even textures. I don’t think I’ve either, I was oblivious to it before I had kids, or it’s a new phenomenon for my own nervous system and my own sensory receptors have shifted, but I do, I have to really think about muting my environment more when I’m with my kids.
Dr. Chelsea (41:05):
Yeah, for sure. Well, and it’s great to know that, right? You think that’s, there’s power in knowing that it’s like, okay, I know I need to do this, or I know this is too much for me. I have had times where my daughter is crying or upsets and I have headphones in. I can see my son, but I’m like, I’m listening to something else because I can’t listen to just what’s going on in the environment right now.
Dr. Sarah (41:26):
Yeah. Yeah. Actually, one of my, I know some parents, I haven’t tried this, although I’m not opposed to it at all, is that they use earplugs when they’re with their kids, not as a, I’m not going to listen to you, but just to mute the intensity of the incoming stimulation. So if you’re highly sensitive to certain types of sensory input, finding ways to get dimmer switches in your house, be able to dim the lights, that’s a huge thing. Or being able to put in earplugs, you’re not ignore, it’s not to tune them out, it’s just to dampen the background noise, so it’s just less overstimulating. I think that those are things that can be helpful too. And obviously that’s true if you are just a highly sensitive person navigating the world, but I think because postpartum parents do have increased sensory sensitivity, which again, the, nobody’s been talking about this, people don’t let parents know.
I don’t think very often, I’m curious if people are listening, even did their OB say, by the way, when you’re planning your postpartum recovering, know that you might be more sensitive to sensory stimulation. So to have a game plan for how you can mute things. Like knowledge is power in that way. When we know what we can anticipate, when we know that that certain changes are likely to happen and we can anticipate them and plan, prepare for them, one, when they do happen, we’re not as taken by surprise, but also we’re able to have a plan, which then makes us feel more comfortable and confident.
Dr. Chelsea (43:02):
Absolutely. Yeah. I don’t think I was ever warned about how loud motherhood is.
Dr. Sarah (43:11):
But it sounds like your book is a great resource for giving people that heads up, this is what you can expect. And it sounds like it’s not just about, let me just prescribe a bunch of things to you, but what’s going to work for you? Let’s prompt you to do a little inventory of your own and say, what do I need? What works for me and my family and my values and my body? So I think that’s amazing.
Dr. Chelsea (43:34):
Yeah, absolutely. Well, everyone’s so different and it’s so hard to, in a book, capture that, right, to be like, this is one size fits all because it’s not so here. Make it your fit.
Dr. Sarah (43:45):
Yeah. If there are parents listening right now who are, I’m, I guess there’s kind of multiple people who could use a book like this. There’s the parents who, the people who are pregnant with their first and have not yet experienced the postpartum period and are maybe anxious about it and are planning and want to reduce their anxiety around their postpartum period and reduce their risk of mental health challenges and things like that. There’s the parent who’s in it and needs to feel seen and supported and have address things as they’re happening. And then there’s the parent who’s done this before and has now all this insight into how, just how they might want to do it differently the next time. So if any of those three mamas are listening, what would your advice be for each of them?
Dr. Chelsea (44:34):
Yeah, I think that it’s never too late to start, even if you are in your pregnancy, sometimes it’s like, oh, I should have been planning this beforehand. If you’re already in the postpartum period, and we get questions like that all the time. I’m four or 5, 6, 7, 8 months postpartum. Is it too late? It’s never too late. Even if it’s you’re five, 10 years down the line and you’re like, I’m still struggling with this. I think it’s important to recognize that if you’re thinking about it and it’s impacting, you can always find those resources or go through this book or really have a chance to look at some of those things that you haven’t had a chance to.
Dr. Sarah (45:12):
Yeah, I think that’s so important. It’s never too late and you’re never not postpartum, so you’re never done needing help with your postpartum journey. You always have permission to go get some help processing that and support around that.
Dr. Chelsea (45:27):
Yeah, absolutely. Right. I think, yeah, postpartum is definitely more of a physical term. We’re not talking about the mental health part of it.
Dr. Sarah (45:34):
Yeah. Oh, well, thank you so much for coming on the show, and it’s so interesting talking to you about this. I love hearing your take on how we can shift the narrative around what is postpartum.
Dr. Chelsea (45:46):
Well, thank you so much for having me. It was great to be here and to talk about all these things. I mean, Caitlin and I always talk about how honored we are to be able to have a platform and to be able to talk about these things and share this type of information.
Dr. Sarah (45:59):
Yeah, we’re very lucky to have you out there giving sound information to parents that is validating and psychologically accurate, because I feel like there’s a lot of noise out there. So I always love connecting with people who are giving parents information that’s accurate and useful. So I appreciate it.
Dr. Chelsea (46:24):
Dr. Sarah (46:25):
If people want to learn more about your work or get in touch with you, how can they do that?
Dr. Chelsea (46:31):
Yeah, so we do have a website, mamapsychologists.ca. Our biggest platform and where we’re most active is Instagram. We do have a Facebook page and we’re pretending we know how to use TikTok. So we are on TikTok, and we do have a Pinterest page with some of our posts too. But for the most part, you can DM us or talk to us on Instagram. We do like community pools and stuff like that. So it’s a really great way to connect and find other parents too.
Dr. Sarah (46:59):
That’s great. Well, congrats on this book.
Dr. Chelsea (47:02):
Dr. Sarah (47:07):
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