Journeying Into Motherhood with Mental Health

Written by: Michelle Friedman, LCSW, PMH-C
Posted: December 07, 2020
I'm Michelle Friedman, LCSW, PMH-C and I am the owner of Grace Street Counseling. We are a maternal mental health teletherapy practice with specialized training in reproductive and maternal mental health. This means we are currently set up to be completely online, something I have been accustomed to doing for the last several years of my 11+ year career. I find teletherapy allows my clients to receive treatment from wherever they are most comfortable and without causing the unnecessary stress of having to get to a specific physical location. I currently see clients throughout the states of New York, Rhode Island, and Florida and while I began my career as a traditional in-person counselor, I have found that making a connection with my clients is at times actually enabled by their familiar surroundings, especially during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and now even more so during a pandemic. 

In my opinion, therapy should not be this big formal, 'something must be wrong with me' thing with any judgement attached to it. Rather therapy is the important process that helps us connect and examine ourselves better and enables us to either feel like ourselves again, or live closer to the version of ourselves that we desire to be. 

Through person-centered, supportive approaches that highlight my client's personal strengths and needs I practice cognitive behavioral, solution focused, and mindfulness-based therapies with a background in trauma informed care. All these aspects of training really help me to have the supportive approach that works best for each individual client. 

When I think about my experience as a therapist and as a mom,  one major theme is that particularly as new-moms we are either not really ready for all that is to come, or we are trying too hard to live up to expectations (i.e. social/public norms). The creation of our "To Parenthood and Beyond" package aims to help pregnant moms (and in some cases their spouses/partners) prepare themselves for the journey into parenthood. All new moms pack the hospital bag with clothes, snacks, directives, music, etc., but very few, if any, that I have come across adequately prepare themselves mentally for this journey. This journey that literally has you walk in as a pregnant woman, and walk out as a mom with a new baby. 

We as a society that is trending toward being more emotionally responsive to all people should be preparing moms-to-be better, not socially sweeping under the rug what the process is like physically and mentally. This is not to scare anyone but rather to provide a safe space for moms to ask the real questions, without judgment, without expectation, thus allowing them to mentally prepare for their individual process. We also will talk about who your support system is for during the birth, and how you (the unique you) can handle being assertive during these stressful moments. After the birth we have a session to unpack that mental journey into becoming a mother, and figure out where we are now. I like to say all births are a life-altering event; from the time you begin labor until there is a new person breathing the same air you are breathing, and sometimes just being able to impartially share your birth story without judgment can be tremendously helpful. This postpartum session is centered around exactly this. A total judgment free zone to share the story from your perspective and start the new mom process, regardless of how smooth, or unforeseen, the birth went. We can all benefit from this level of unpacking, allowing us to then get ready to really sink into our roles as moms. The postpartum time is also a good time to check up on possible mental health complications that can arrive once the baby is born. Along with the prenatal and postpartum sessions, a third session is offered to either have before or after birth based on the wishes of the mom-to-be. Again, this life phase is filled with joy and excitement, as it should be, but underlying for most soon to be moms is a sense of nervousness of the unknown. This is totally normal and if we can get past our social expectations to be all knowing and learn how to prepare mentally for the transition that is to come I think both mother and baby will have a better experience. 

Being a mom and a clinical therapist I became impassioned to help moms of all kinds be the best versions of themselves because of their story, not in spite of it. To me this means those moms out there striving to be moms, those having infertility or reproductive issues, moms-to-be who are pregnant, moms who have experienced a loss at any time, and of course those moms who are postpartum with a newborn or small child or those struggling with anxiety, depression, or elevated stress. All of these stages and situations can cause anxiety, grief, depressive moods, trauma, stress, and many other feelings that are uncomfortable, leaving us to feel as though we are falling short of expectations that either we set for ourselves or other's set for us. . Our sessions last on average 50 minutes and are generally focused on being as helpful as possible in processing things that have occurred in the past, things my client is feeling in that moment, and things that are upcoming in the short-term future as they settle into their new normal. In other words my sessions deal with how to grow, develop solutions and in the process learn how to show ourselves grace during this process.

To work with Michelle, you can find her on the Be Her Village website!
Category: Lifestyle
Tags: maternal mental health , first time mom , mental health , healthy mama , postpartum anxiety , postpartum , postpartum support , postpartum recovery , healthy pregnancy , pregnancy , pregnancy support