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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

Postnatal Support Advocates | Delaware Perinatal Mental Health, Part 1 | Emotional Wellness and Support with two Perinatal Therapists


Maria and Sunny, two Delaware perinatal mental health therapists, at postnatal support advocates in middletown Delaware

Postnatal Support Advocates is a team of mama providers serving moms & birthing people at any point during their parenthood journey. They are at the forfront of Delaware perinatal mental heath.


Postnatal Support Advocates maintains a proactive approach: if postnatal parents are adequately served and supported as a standard of care, there is less likelihood for postnatal mood disorders like postpartum depression to develop.


The following is a conversation between two of the moms who offer therapy and emotional wellness support through the perinatal period. Our conversation is one part girl talk, one part mental health-- a little raw and very reassuring. They may have even counseled me a bit on my own deep-seated mom guilt.


Without further adieu, Here are Maria and Sunny of Postnatal Support Advocates. Enjoy!


Could you start by telling us a little about the work you do for Postnatal Support Advocates?


Sunny: I am a licensed clinical social worker. I work with women with perinatal mental disorders. I'm working on getting my perinatal mental health certificate. I work with a lot of depression, anxiety, ocd behaviors and trauma.


Maria: I am a postnatal support advocate here. I am a therapist for moms in the fourth trimester. I talk through all the challenges they go through being new moms. 


What are some common challenges moms face during the antenatal and postpartum period? 


Maria: I would definitely say that the biggest challenge I see moms face is that being a mom isn’t always about feeling bonded to your child, or about being happy with your new role-- Understanding that being with your kid can be hard sometimes and accepting that. Understanding that your life is never going to be the same as it was before you became a mother. It’s hard to face, hard to talk about it, and hard to accept. It’s hard for moms to feel this way and not feel less-than. 


Sunny: You are right. I deal with so many moms who are struggling with guilt. They are grieving the life they had before kids. Once you have a kid, you better figure out childcare, and figure out your schedule. You have to find a job that accommodates your kid’s schedules. All those things are super stressful, but society make it seem like you should always be happy, and that it’s not going to get tough because you are a mom and you should always be able to figure it out. Those are some of the things a lot of the moms talk about in sessions with me. Even just day-to-day housework. If you are living by yourself, you clean up after yourself and that’s it. If you live with a partner, you clean up after yourself and they clean up after themselves. And then you have a kid that you are responsible for. You have to clean up after them. You have to exchange clothes from summer to fall/winter to spring. It’s a lot more responsibility. And because other women don’t talk about the increased workload that comes with motherhood. New moms have no idea what they are walking into. 


I feel this deeply. I would say that the societal expectations of being that “perfect mom” are crushing. I grew up in a house that was immaculately clean, my mother grew up in a house that was even cleaner. I felt so much pressure as a new mom to keep my house in that same pristine condition. I would feel guilty and think that I wasn’t a good mom because I can’t keep up and that my house was messy. That’s so tough. 


Sunny: Rather than to have the perspective that “My house, is a house. People live here. There are going to be toys, there is going to be clutter." A lot of conversations I have with moms go like this: “Is your house so disgusting DFS is gonna be called? Or is it because you have some clothes and toys sitting around-- laundry and dishes. Let me tell you-- There is never going to be a point when you have it all folded or put away." There is just not. 


How do you help women break free of that mindset that their homes need to be kept a certain way?


Sunny: I do a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with them. I feel like a lot of it goes back to childhood for a lot of the women, just like you said. I feel like I have to be this way because my mom was that way. My mom was this way because her mom was. Or my mother-in-law came and made a passive aggressive comment “oh, you didn’t make dinner”. These are the things that are put onto women. 


I have had the “you should train your children not to touch the walls”. My kids are like little spiders-- they crawl the thresholds and do some serious parkour  in my house. Their grubby fingerprints are everywhere.


Sunny: Their kids! 


Maria: I think a lot of it is learning to put yourself first. Give yourself the space to learn about what your values are as a parent. Focus on what kind of parent you want to be. ask yourself: "How do I want my life to look?" When you are focused on the things that work for you and your family, then all those other voices and opinions get pushed away. Just be like,” That doesn’t work for me. I am only going to do things that work for my family and my life.”


Sunny: Then how many of us hear-- let’s say you're holding your own against your mother, or something: ”Well, do you think I don’t know how to raise kids? You think I didn't know what I was doing?” There are so many layers: you, as a mother, are trying to find your own way and maybe are trying to pull away from the ways that you were taught as a child, then you’ve got this guilt, then add in your hormones, if you are not working, then you’ve got financial stress and then relationship stress on top of it... 


Maria: RELATIONSHIP STRESS! Put that there in capital letters! That is another big thing too. The tear that happens in relationships when a child is brought into the world. That’s a big one. 


We call my little guys the wedges. Wedge #1 and Wedge #2.  


Sunny:  If I try to kiss my husband, my kids will be like “No, that’s my dad!” I can go to kiss him and my little one will take my hand and pull me away. 


Yes, if my husband and I go to hug, my boys will come up right between us and push us away from each other. 


Sunny: I could be in a conversation with my husband and then here comes kids storming into the room. It’s hard to even have conversations with your partner let alone be physically affectionate.


And then there are some people maybe didn’t have the best childhood. And they are trying to over-exert themselves because they don’t want their children to be growing up in a certain way. Maybe their mom worked all the time, so they are trying to not work as much so that they can be present for their kids.


Maria: Or trying the gentle parenting thing…


Sunny: ...with kids that aren’t gentle!


Maria:  …Because maybe their voice was always suppressed as a child and now, as a parent, they are like “I want to hear about all the feelings that you have and all the things you have to say.”


That is another big challenge-- Moms want to do all the right things. But what are the right things. Too much of something could also be bad. It’s taking it day-by-day and doing what makes sense for you. 


Sunny: We can talk about work stress with our friends, or even financial stress, but even a lot of moms don’t come to their mom friends to talk about the mom stress. So now all the moms are just in their own heads, stressed out, nobody is talking about it but everybody is feeling it. 


Maria: I feel like in my group of friends, I am always that one to call it out. I say, “well this sucks”, “today was hard”, or “my kid is getting on my nerves”-- you know something like that. And then they will try to get around it and change the subject. But if I ask “well, how are you feeling?”, “How was your night?”, or “you look tired, what’s actually going on?” eventually those walls come down and they are like “I wanted to strangle my kid!”. Moms have a hard time talking like that-- they think that CPS is going to get called or that they are a bad mom because they had a bad day. It’s not okay to act on those thoughts, but it is ok to have those thoughts. We are human, we have emotions, and as mothers we are under a lot of stress! 


Sunny: I have so many clients who are like “I feel like the worst mom” and I will be like “because of what?” and they will be like “because I yelled at my kid.” 

Well, are you yelling at your kid to degrade them? Or are you yelling at them because you got overly stimulated? We are not taught how to cope with the stress and stimulation. We are not going to ask for help. We don’t take time for ourselves to decompress. We talk a lot about the importance of self care, but everybody doesn’t prioritize it and it’s honestly hard to do if you are depressed. So when do you get that break to reset? You are not a bad mom because you yelled. You yelled at your kid to go pick up your toys. Yelling doesn’t make you a bad mom. 


Maria: Motherhood is so romanticized. You see on instagram the moms who are crying after giving birth, or having fun being a stay-at-home mom playing with their toddlers. When do we ever see moms stressed out, or having a bad day? 


I think you need to go people watching at Target for that. 


Maria: Me personally, I didn’t cry when I gave birth to my daughter. I guess I can speak to that experience a little bit.  They were like “do you want to hold her, or do you want us to clean her off first?” And I was like “clean her off”. And they all looked at me like I was wrong for saying that. 


Sometimes you just need time to process. 


Maria: Yes, And then when I was holding her, I didn’t feel that instant connection. I tell people about that all the time. Not feeling an instant connection with my kid  doesn’t make me a bad mom. Everyone’s experience is different. Just because you didn’t have an emotional reaction to your baby doesn't mean that you are less-than. 


Sunny: When I gave birth to my first kid, I went into labor at 2am and I didn’t have her until 9 at night. The first thing I wanted was food. I was like “I will hold that baby afterwards” And they looked at me like I was crazy. But you can’t eat anything, you are in the hospital all this time, and it was my first kid so I was trying to follow the rules and didn't sneak any snacks. That’s a long time to be without food. I needed to eat something. And the rest of the kids- 2nd and 3rd- I told my husband “Do not let them put that baby on me without wiping that baby off. Do not”. It doesn't make me a horrible person, I’m still going to be there-- just clean the baby off first. I don’t want all the fluids on me. Childbirth is already a vulnerable situation, there is a lot going on, I’ve busted it all open. Can we please just wipe the baby off? 


Good for the moms that like to do that! Everyone has their own lane. 


I just attended a birth where the mom was laboring in the tub, but was adamant that she wanted to get out to push because she didn’t want any of the vernix washed away in the water. 


Sunny: I’ve heard some people say you should rub it in. 


Yeah, it makes the baby's skin really soft. 


Sunny: Yeah, the baby's skin is already soft! It’s already soft without the gunk. 


I think it is very valid that everybody should be mothering in a way that feels instinctive and true to them. And that there is no one right way to do things. 


Maria: I think it goes back to who actually defines what motherhood is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to feel? How far back does that even go? Like what we were talking about earlier, with the whole cleaning the house thing. It really depends on what was your experiences were like growing up. Then what was your mother’s childhood like, versus her mother’s childhood. What was passed down through the generations as the “right” way to be a mother. 


for me personally, my mom grew up in a house where they would pull all the furniture into the center of every room, vacuum the perimeter, and wipe the base boards every single week and the couch and lamp shades were covered in vinyl. My mom wasn’t as much of a clean freak as my grandmother, but we still had the cleanest house of any of my friends and it set an unrealistic standard-- and created a lot of pressure for me as a mother with a house of my own. As a kid,  my mom would be plumping pillows after you would get up from the couch, would yell at everybody because we left toys out or didn’t flush the toilet, or when we would be going on vacation and we would all be waiting in the car for her as she vacuumed inside. She didn’t want to come home to a dirty house, even if that was like a single crumb and two specks of dust. I had to make a conscious decision to not get so angry at the constant messes or to spend all my time cleaning when my house is just going to get messy again.


Sunny: Think about all the memories you would be missing out on if you spent your life so hyper-focused on this one thing. Think about those expectations that our moms put on us of “what would other people think?” In my culture, which is Indian-Pakistani culture, that is a really big thing. 


Maria: It is a big thing in hispanic culture too. 


Sunny: “What would other people say? how are other people going to perceive you?” If you get stuck in those mindsets,  you are always worried about how things are going to look. You feel that you’ve always got to be put together, I always have to be on-top of everything. And then you just crumble inside. 


I hope that women would seek therapy or some kind of help before they crumble!


Is there anything else you would like to add, I really enjoyed how you had a back and forth and bounced off each other. Is there anything else you would like to share?


Maria: You miss being present in the moment too, because you are so worried and focused on all the expectations that are put on you. Enjoy the time with your kids and what works for you-- whether those expectations are cultured, or passed down through the generations. Just RELEASE it. 


Sunny: When you are stressed out, figure out WHY. That is the great part about therapy. Why is that trigger there? If your messy house makes you anxious, let’s figure out why! Let’s work through that and figure it out. For you, it’s passed down from your mother. Well guess what, that is your mom’s thing. Focus on you. Release it and move on.


You also need to find moms who are HONEST. There are these moms on instagram that live in “perfect” houses, everything is white and gray, they talk in these soothing voices, and play with their kids peacefully, everyone is behaved-- you know what? That is unrealistic! A lot of people’s houses are loud and chaotic-- but there is still love and nurturing there. It doesn’t have to be in a cookie cutter way.


You have to find your people that are one the same path as you. If you are hanging out with another mom and their expectations are so high that you feel like you have to fake it all the time, find yourself another mom friend. 


Maria: Sometimes it is learning to be that voice. I have been in a room where I have voiced my opinion, which was different from everyone else in the group. And just learning to have that backbone to have the peace within yourself to know that it is ok to have the feelings, it is ok to have the thoughts, and it is ok to share them is so important.


Sunny: Then that is like advocating for everyone else too, you are doing it girl! Good for you! 


If you need help working through your own mom guilt or any of the other challenges that are a normal part of motherhood, but not normalized in our society-- don't hesitate to reach out to Postnatal Support Advocates.


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If you enjoyed reading this interview with Maria and Sunny, you might also enjoy this article on intrusive thoughts. You can read it HERE.



  


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