postpartum

How to be a fabulous mom in 500 words or less

Ah, I see I piqued your interest! I must confess this post has a misleading title- the real answer is only three short words… You already are.

Not a day goes by when at least one [usually all] of the clients I see come in and take a brief reprieve on my couch, sometimes with tea, other times with one instead of three or more babies in tow, and share their most personal, guilt-ridden notions of shame and guilt over not being ‘good enough,’ or not giving enough. The running theme I see with these amazing moms is that all of them are giving more than they have to offer, they strive to pour from that empty vessel in hopes of giving one last drop to others, and because of their selfless love, they feel it is not enough.

in my fairly-expert clinical opinion, Each mom I meet IN MY PRACTICE is giving more than enough.

 

She lies awake at night wondering if she met each little one’s developmental needs. Did she read enough? Were those snacks healthy enough?

Each chicken nugget served comes to represent a Pinterest 32-step recipe shortcoming all while minimizing the inquisitive conversation shared over dinner or the veggies on the side.

The dirty laundry left overshadows the many drawers in the house that she has transformed into a home full of clean clothes.

The moms that I meet in my professional and personal life are constantly swimming against the current of self-judgment, wanting to give more, do more, plan more, tidy more, organize more, bake more, read more, play more, and all the while, the hustle and bustle of daily life is swept under the proverbial rug instead of giving credit where it is due.

Modern American Moms are constantly pulled in many directions, they work outside the home, they work inside the home [without union-negotiated breaks or paid time off!], they plan how children get to and from school and daycare, how they will get home, and sometimes where they will be safe and cared for in between. They are the keepers of massive amounts of mental post-it notes, address books, phone numbers, birthdays, doctor’s appointments, the never-ending grocery list and meal plan, extra-curricular calendars, family calendars, work calendars, the mental list goes on and could fill all of Google Drive in one day.

youareenough

You are a great mom. How do you do that? You are doing it. Everyday. I have no doubt you are giving what you can with what you have and then some. I urge you to shy away from social media shaming of moms and one-sided articles that can induce mom guilt, there’s enough of that in this world.

Disclaimer: This post is informational in nature and not a substitute for psychotherapy.

ABC's of Intrusive Thoughts

During the perinatal period, intrusive thoughts are extremely common. Approximately one in ten women disclose having intrusive thoughts and my clinical guess is another four in ten are sitting back thinking to themselves, “Like heck I’ll tell you about these dark thoughts, you’ll think I’ve lost my mind and take my children away!”  

You may be wondering yourself if you have lost your mind. Having the insight to ask this question tells me, probably not.

You may be terrified that if you share your scary thoughts with someone that the thought will come true. Again, not likely so.

Perhaps you were brave enough to tell someone and they judged you. Likely because they do not understand.

What the heck is an intrusive thought, anyway?

 

intrusive.PNG

 

An intrusive thought is unwelcome in your mind. It was uninvited and showed up anyway as if you don’t have enough to worry about right now! You’re expanding your family and your whole life is turning upside-down in enough ways. These thoughts cause distress, panic, disgust, and often fear and worry.  Here come the promised ABC’s

✔ If you find the thought APPALLING and AWFUL  

✔ If you think the image or act your thought is about is BAD, negative or wrong

✔ If you find yourself CONSCIOUSLY avoiding or being CAREFUL about the thought

then you are NOT experiencing something out of the ordinary, you are experiencing an unwanted intrusive thought.

Safety Check: If you DO experience a disturbing, violent or harmful image or thought and do not think it’s a negative or unwanted thing, now is a good time to check in with a trusted healthcare provider, therapist, psychiatrist, OBGYN, midwife or primary care, or call 911- these are very different and you want to consult a medical expert as soon as possible.

mind filter

 

Very much like a colander, our unconscious mind filters through thousands upon thousands of thoughts per day, many pass through with ease…  

Oh what a lovely flowering tree. Wow, traffic is heavy today. Do I want romaine or iceberg lettuce today? I hope steaks are on sale this week at the grocer. While I’m at the store I’ll pick up more laundry detergent. Why do socks always separate in the wash never to be matched again?  

These thoughts do not elicit a strong reaction and we may give them little attention- when a thought is dark, violent, disgusting or scary it sounds off all sorts of alarms and panic- WHY did I think that? HOW could I imagine something so terrible?! And the narrative of self-criticism and panic starts.

Giving time and attention to these questions occurs when that thought gets stuck in the colander, it sits there creating resistance and perhaps worry or panic, which leads us to focus on it more in turn allowing this unwanted thought to grow bigger, louder, brighter. What once was a tiny abstract thought is now a giant LED billboard in Times Square.

In reality the thought is no more likely to pose a risk to you or your baby than the lovely flowering tree, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.  You may find yourself full of dread and agony, over-thinking each step you take to protect yourself or your baby [or both of you]. Perhaps you avoid possible perceived risks or dangers to protect yourself or your baby, this is your maternal instinct protecting you both. It speaks to what an amazing parent you are.

Working through these thoughts in counseling with a trusted therapist may seem scary, it requires courage to disclose that your mind goes to such a dark place, but you are not alone. You are not the first nor are you the last mom to think and see upsetting images or thoughts. The potential benefits include less anxiety and worry, a more peaceful mind, feeling safer and more confident in your parenting and more enjoyment in your day to day life.

One more A-B-C for today:

ANXIETY about an intrusive thought is a strength, it’s a positive sign that you are having a symptom, a thought, not an ACTION.

BAD thoughts do not equate bad mothers. You are not bad, you are not terrible, you are living with unwanted thoughts or images.

COUNSELING can help. Speaking to a therapist who understands perinatal obsessive-compulsive and intrusive symptoms can help you CALM and quiet those unwanted thoughts so you can get back to enjoying your life and your family.

Disclaimer: This post is informational and nature and not a substitute for psychotherapy.