At my 6 week appointment I asked my doctor if I was allowed to have…
Hi, mama. How are you feeling?
I don’t mean physically – you get asked that all the time, don’t you? As soon as people see that belly, they want to know how often the baby kicks, if you have heartburn, and if you’re having weird cravings.
Or maybe you’re past that stage and your sweet peanut is on the outside. You’re lucky if anyone’s asking about YOU at this point, right? If they do, maybe it’s about whether you’re breastfeeding, how you’re sleeping (WHY would anyone ask a new mom that question?) or something about tummy time.
I want to know how you’re feeling on the inside.
Maybe you’re enjoying every moment with that new baby smell (wait, but is that actually just spit up?), getting snuggle time in, and going for stroller walks in your neighborhood with a latte. Or maybe you haven’t left the house in who knows how long because you’re too worked up to “nap when the baby naps” (WHY would anyone give a new mom that advice?) and your thoughts are sometimes… scary.
Maybe some of both? There’s not enough space for AND in new mom life. I think my baby is a miracle AND I’m worried I’m accidentally going to drown her in the bath.
I know, it’s kind of shocking to read, but if you’ve ever had a scary thought like that, mama, you are not alone. I’m here to tell you that I’ve had them, and if you have too, it is ok.
Having that thought does not mean you are going to act on it. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. And it could mean that you need more support. Find me a new mom that doesn’t need more support.
If you don’t have a therapist in your corner yet, I want to share some information with you that could help make the process easier to wrap your head around and take action on. I know that the idea of working with a therapist can bring up a lot of questions.
There are the practical ones, like…
- What’s the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?
- Does my insurance cover this?
- How do I even find a therapist?
Then there are the emotional ones…
- Does this mean I’m crazy?
- Do I need medication?
- Am I ever going to feel like myself again?
It’s overwhelming. I know. I’ve been there, too. We are going to take this one step at a time, together. Let’s start with the practical ones, because they’re easier. *wink*
A quick note before we dive in, since I know how huge and impossible this can feel, I support you sending this email to someone in your support system that you trust. That can help initiate the conversation with someone you love and who loves you. And they can help support you by doing some of the work for you.
What’s the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist? How do I know which one I need?
A therapist is someone whose job it is to listen to you. He or she provides you with a supportive environment to talk about whatever is on your mind, with no judgments. Therapists are licensed by the state and have a master’s degree plus 2000 hours of supervision.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health and can prescribe medication. This person is Board-certified and has earned a four-year medical degree, and spent an additional four years of residency specializing in this topic.
Figuring out which specialist is right for you will entail a combination of what your needs are right now, who you can find in your area, their availability and fees, and your insurance or budget. If you can’t even deal with this and are about to click away from this article, please stick with me! I promise I’m here to help!
No idea where to start? I would suggest looking for a therapist first. If you do need medication, chances are a therapist can refer you to another resource that can help you. Certain medications for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can also be prescribed by your primary care physician or your OB, so you may not ever need to find a psychiatrist.
OK, but how do I actually find a therapist? Am I supposed to Google it?
No, friend. I would never just dump you on the internet’s doorstep and walk away. Let me share with you the two main ways to find someone, and we’ll dig in from there. Note: Links to the resources mentioned are available at the bottom of this article.
Online Searches: There are online resources like the psychologist locator on the APA website, the Find a Therapist page of the Psychology Today website, or the National Register of Health Service Psychologists. You can search by location on all three of these places. The reason I’m directing you here is because these are trustworthy sources where you’re sure to find a licensed mental health professional. So in case you get sucked into Dr. Google I know you know which sources are trustworthy 😉
You can also get matched with a therapist using an online service like Alma, Headway, Talkspace, BetterHelp, or NYC Therapy. One thing to consider these days is whether you want to meet with someone in person or online. There are benefits to both, and not all providers are offering in person sessions yet, so it’s a good idea to know if this is important to you.
Personal Recommendation: If searching feels like too much (I get it), getting a recommendation can be a great way to find someone. You can ask friends or family members. I understand that this can feel really vulnerable (this article can help with that part). You can also ask your primary care physician, your OB, and even your baby’s pediatrician! They refer people all the time and are all here to support you and your new family.
You can also try your employer’s Employee Assistance Program, if you have one, or you can check on who is in-network with your insurance. Looking for more information around your rights and available support for returning to work? Click here.
I know that this is overwhelming. And figuring out these logistics can be a really difficult part of the process with a new baby. You’re hurting, and you just want some help. Stick with it, because it is worth the effort. If I just hit the nail on the head, you can forward this article to someone in your support network and ask them to help you by doing some of the legwork. Remember, your loved ones love you.
I found someone, but how do I decide if he or she is right for me?
I’ll give this one to you straight. Here are questions I recommend you ask a potential therapist:
- Are you accepting new clients?
- What is your availability?
- What are your fees? Do you accept insurance?
- What type of license/credential do you have?
- Do you meet in person or via telehealth?
- Can we schedule an initial consultation?
Also feel free to ask about the provider’s identity if that’s important to you (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, age, religious affiliation, LGBT).
So… is this my person now?
Once you have that initial phone call and take the leap to schedule a first session, and you even get so far as to have a first meeting, you might be wondering: is this it? Is this the right person for me? Do I like them? Do they like me?
If you find yourself in this position, I want to ask yourself:
- How did this person make me feel?
- What thoughts and feelings came up for me during and after the session?
- Were they supportive/insightful?
- Do I feel comfortable with this person?
- Do I feel taken care of by this person?
My biggest piece of advice here is to trust your instincts — and balance that with the knowledge that this is a relationship that will take some time to develop. Trust takes time to build. So if you’re not sure, know that it could take a few sessions, and that is ok. Also know that if you feel in your gut this isn’t the right person for you, you can try someone new. And I know that can feel daunting so you can always recruit one of your support people to help do the legwork of finding someone new.
If you’ve gotten this far, know that I think you are amazing. It’s hard work to take care of yourself, not to mention your baby, too! And any other family members that you care for. You’re shouldering a lot, and I acknowledge that.
Take it in baby steps. (Hah!) Try to do a little bit every day. When in doubt? Speaking to another mom who is in it too will always understand. Looking to build up your mom crew, we’ve got some tips, tricks, and ideas here and here.