We wanted to introduce our newest LCSW, Katie Burgess. Katie is an experienced mental health provider and a new mom. Here’s a quick Q&A with Katie, as well as her thoughts on postpartum life during 2020.
What has it been like having a newborn during a pandemic?
It’s both beautiful and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Becoming a mom has always been a dream of mine and I feel so blessed to have been given that honor. But, being a mom, in general, was so much harder than I thought it would be. I really struggled with the transition, all the uncertainty, lack of schedule, postpartum physical health, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and just feeling completely overwhelmed.
Then about a month later, quarantine happened and I was even more out of my comfort zone. We had to navigate keeping our baby safe from something that was completely unknown and make decisions that parents have not had to make for a long time. We kind of just had to guess and try to make the right decisions for our family. In many ways, it was beautiful because it allowed both my husband and I to both stay home longer with our newborn, and it also allowed us to focus on our new family of three and on attachment. But we lost our entire support system. It was just the three of us 24/7 and we did not have any additional physical support, and that was really tough at times.
I was also excited about building a “mommy” community, which I have not been able to do given the current state of things but I know many other moms are in the same boat as me, and I know we will connect one day.
Can you speak a little bit about the spectrum of postpartum highs and lows a new mother might experience? Were you, as a new mom, surprised by any of these?
Postpartum is different for everyone and everyone’s experience is valid. There are high highs and low lows and everything in between. You’re going through what may be the biggest transition of your life, while also having major hormonal swings. This can lead to many different feelings. You can have “baby blues” from the sudden drop in certain hormones and from this major life transition, something that 70-80% of women experience.
There could be symptoms of sadness, anxiety, insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping), irritability, or some might experience difficulty bonding with their baby. I’ve had a couple of other moms tell me about their experiences postpartum and that has helped me to not fear the worst when I did have the baby blues. If these symptoms persist, it may be Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Both are fairly common but I think it is not talked about enough, which leads to many women to, unfortunately, suffer alone.
Connecting with your new self can be challenging as a new mom. Do you have any tips for mothers who are struggling to relate to their new bodies, their new identity, and even balancing work and personal life?
I think first and foremost I want to recommend some self-care and self-love.Now, I know sometimes when we hear someone say that, we roll our eyes, and that’s fair. If you felt like you didn’t have time for self-care before a baby and you feel like there isn’t a second to spare each day, I totally get it.
"You have been through so much, Mama, and taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of that sweet baby."
If you can carve out an hour, amazing! If you can carve out five minutes, amazing! But I do know that you have to be purposeful about it and you also have to ask for help sometimes. I am pretty prideful about not asking for help and I love taking care of others, but I’ve definitely realized that in order to do that, I have to take care of myself. This is still a challenge for me, so how does one do this?
First, I encourage you to seek the safe people in your life and ask for what you need. This can be daunting sometimes, but I bet they’re wanting to help you more than you think. Try not to let that “mommy guilt” get you. It can get to me sometimes, but I know that I can’t give my baby all that he needs if I don’t have anything left to give.
How can we embrace these new parts of ourselves and our new lives? I think talking about it openly, whether that’s with your partner, a family member, a friend or a therapist is the best way to navigate all this newness.
What challenges might new parents face in their relationship? Do you have any tips for navigating this new chapter?
Every relationship is going to be challenged differently in this process. You’re both going through a major change in your life and your identity and as individuals, you might process that differently. You are also each individually going to feel like you’re doing 100% of the work, which might make you think that your partner is not pulling their weight. The reality is, in most cases, they actually might be, there is just truly that much work to do.
You are also having to make decisions you’ve never made before in your life and you’re going to have to make them together. We were all raised differently and that impacts, in par,t how we parent, so there are some things you may have to navigate together that you don’t fully see eye-to-eye on.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Tell your partner how you’re feeling, how you want to handle things, etc. But to truly communicate effectively, you need to listen.
Finally, make time for each other. Sometimes this can just feel like another task amongst a million other things you have to do, but it truly makes a difference to feel connected with your partner when you’re navigating everything else.
As a mental health professional, what are some professional resources for getting help?
- Postpartum Support International: (800) 944-4773
- Postpartum Therapist
- Online Education: www.thesterlinglife.com
**I am not endorsing these resources but just passing them along, one mom to another.
Would you recommend some coping strategies for getting through the upcoming holidays?
Like much of this year, this holiday season is possibly going to look a little different for you. In my family, holidays are important and celebrated in a big way. I have definitely had to manage my expectations of what my baby’s first holidays are going to look like and I’ve allowed myself to grieve that because it is disappointing. However, I can only control what I can and accept what I cannot.
Although we might have to shift a little bit, and might not get to see our full extended family, we are still finding ways to celebrate. I am having conversations with my family now about how we can be safe and cautious and still spend time together.
We hope you found comfort in Katie’s experience and words. We sure are excited to have her on our team. To all the new parents out there, you’re not alone; there are so many tiny joyful moments, but it’s also REALLY really hard. You will get through this. Please reach out for help.