At City Mom Collective, we are dedicating a week to empowering and supporting new and expecting moms. Even though we have always been doing that for the past 10 years, this week, we are focused on four specific topics, EAT, SLEEP, PLAY, and MATERNAL HEALTH. Today we are having a conversation and interview with Chelsea & Caitlin of MamaPsychologists around the topic of Maternal Health. Please watch the interview below for tips for ensuring maternal health.
Chelsea & Caitlin:: Co-Founders of MamaPsychologists
Chelsea & Caitlin are two registered psychologists in Alberta Canada that co-founded MamaPsychologists a little over two years ago. More importantly, they are two best friends and mamas who started this passion project that grew into something amazing. Between the two of them they have 4 kids ranging from 5 years old to newborn. They have different specialized training ranging from perinatal mental health/challenges (such as loss, infertility, NICU, birth trauma), trauma-focused training, maternal mental health, and parenting strategies.
Maternal Health Strategies | An Interview with Chelsea & Caitlin, the MamaPsychologists
Tell us about what drives your work and how are you helping families?
When I started my career, I started specializing working with children and adolescents, and that was before I had kids, and I really, really enjoyed working with kids working with teens, and then oh, I’m pregnant. Okay, I should be able to handle this, I work with parents, I work with kids, yeah, no problem. I really had no worries, because I’m like, oh, yeah, I can totally handle this. And then baby came. And I knew about postpartum depression, you kind of see that you see baby blues, but postpartum anxiety hit me like a freight train. It was something that I was just not prepared for, and didn’t cope very well. I just didn’t really have a lot of resources to utilize. It was about about five years ago, before Instagram therapy kind of became a thing and a lot of resources were were out there online. I remember Googling things and going down the Google rabbit hole and really finding things that just exasperated, my anxiety, didn’t really help it and, and luckily, I was able to reach out and get the support that I needed. Even as a psychologist, I felt lost. I felt confused. I felt underprepared. I just didn’t know like where to go. So that really was a big factor in driving my work and helping families. So on one hand, I do like a lot of postpartum mental health and then I also can help families with parenting support and strategies from my earlier experience working with with younger children.
What are some things expecting moms can do to care for their mental health?
One thing that we really highly recommend is having a postpartum coping plan is what we like refer to it. You can create it at any point during your expecting period. What that looks like is looking at if you have a partner, what’s your partner’s role during that perinatal period? How can they support you once the baby comes home? It’s also looking at what your triggers are, what your stressors are, how do you normally respond to stress? And how do you normally try to cope with those kinds of things. So what can you do for yourself and kind of writing it all out, because we really encourage people to have it kind of just there. So you don’t have to think about it when you’re in the thick of it and you’re sleep deprived, and you don’t know which ways up. So trying to focus on some of those things ahead of time can be really, really helpful. Then we also encourage people to look at what resources are in their community. Who is the lactation consultant? Or is there a breastfeeding clinic? If that’s something that you’re wanting to do? What’s your doctor’s phone number? Just write it down and have it there. So, again, once you’re in it, you don’t have to think about these things. Because it’s hard to when you’re in it, and it can just help you feel prepared. Not that it’s going to have everything, as things can go differently or unexpected, but it gives you a chance to say, okay, what can I do, I’m in it. We also encourage people to, if you’re working with a therapist, do it proactively or early on, if you can, during that perinatal period. Talk about what that could look like, and help you feel like, okay, it’s new, it’s uncharted territory, but hey, I got these things under my belt that I can I can refer to if I need to.
How can new moms set boundaries with others when motherhood is still new for them too?
This is a big one that we work on with with so many moms. Oftentimes, we are going along, doing life, and then all of a sudden you have kids, and now it’s coming to light that we actually don’t have boundaries. When you find that people are wanting to come over unexpectedly, or holding the baby or kissing the baby or doing things that you’re just not okay with. It brings up like, “oh my gosh, I have to set boundaries with this person, this feels really, really uncomfortable.” So the key was setting boundaries is that you can only control how you deliver that message. It is not up to you how that person takes that message or responds to that message. We hear from a lot of moms asking, how do I do it nicely? How do I do it kindly? Well, it’s,” I’m feeling this,” or “I need you to do this.” Or “we’re not going to kiss the baby because all the germs going around” or “actually that day doesn’t work for us, how about let’s do next Sunday.” So it’s saying assertively, what you need. And then that’s it. You don’t have to explain why you need this or why you’re choosing to do this that way. You don’t have to explain your boundaries to anybody whatsoever. You just need to state them assertively and it’s up to that other person to interpret that and to take that on if they’re mad or offended. Well, maybe that’s a sign that you needed that boundary set with them in the first place. The delivery is respectful, tactful, I need this, because that isn’t going to work, I feel this. And then whatever else you need to say and knowing that you don’t have to explain or justify it. When you start justifying it and over explaining it, then it’s like arguing with the person why you need to set this boundary and we don’t want you to do that. It’s just this is the boundary, this is the way it is. And that’s my decision. Because I’m the mom, I’m the parent.
How can moms regulate their own anxiety in the chaotic world we live in?
One thing that we kind of argue for is, starting simple. Again, we’re going back to that it’s a chaotic time, there’s lots going on. So one really important way is to first recognize when you’re feeling anxious, which is a really big thing, right? It’s not always easy to do it. It could be things like you are having racing thoughts or your your body’s responding, you’re feeling that tightness in your chest, you’re overthinking things, trying to catch some of those kind of warning signs that you’re feeling anxious, and then doing what we call checking in on your basic needs. Often what happens with new moms, is what goes out the window first is checking in on their needs. So you know, they’re not eating, they’re not drinking, obviously, sleep is, which I know you’re talking about sleep. But sleep is one of those things that it’s hard to come by, and that can increase things, right. It’s hard to regulate ourselves when we’re not meeting our basic needs. So starting simple, trying to check in- Have I done these simple things today, have I eaten, drank, have I had a chance to pull my hair up, change my clothes, whatever that might be for somebody, it’s obviously individualized, but deciding what that means for you. Take a couple minutes in your day to try to do that, whether it’s go grab a drink of water, eat a protein bar, right, trying to manage those kind of things. One thing we also advocate for is using mantras, because we’re really big advocates for mantras or affirmations, whatever you like to call them. This can be a really good way to validate and acknowledge your experience, especially if you’re home alone with the baby. Sometimes you can have that support around you and with what’s going on. Something to say is, this is a moment in time, this will pass, I’m feeling stressed, I’m feeling anxious right now. That’s okay. I can get through this, right, different things like that, and people can tailor it to themselves. But that can be a really good way to validate and acknowledge your experience and help you kind of move through that anxiety by being like, Okay, I know what I’m experiencing, giving it a name, and then going forward from there.