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Hoag Maternal Mental Health Clinic Helps New Mom Overcome ‘Intrusive Thoughts’

“I would tell any new mom that she absolutely deserves to take care of herself and seek the help she needs,” she said. “There are so many resources out there to help her. She’s not alone. Taking that first step can be scary, but I hope she doesn’t hesitate. It’s worthwhile.”

Taylor should have been overjoyed. She and her husband went through five years of fertility treatments and miscarriages before finally getting pregnant with Rhys. Her son should have been the light of her life. Even in the midst of a pandemic, her beautiful family should have brought her contentment. She should have been smiling from ear to ear.

Should have. Should have. Should have.

Society sets such explicit and unrealistic expectations about motherhood that when women feel anything other than unfettered joy, shame and self-doubt creep in. That’s why Taylor wants to open up about seeking maternal mental health services at Hoag. She needed help post-partum, and she received it.

“I feel terrible that women think that this is something that is just happening to them or that they’re bad mothers. It’s so frowned upon to seek help,” Taylor said. “But we’re going through such incredible changes and our bodies and minds don’t have time to adjust. Getting help is so important because these feelings can be very isolating.”

Sick from preeclampsia and the difficulty of a premature, 45-hour labor, Taylor did not immediately experience a feeling of attachment with her son. Then, what Taylor described as “intrusive thoughts” started to creep in. She didn’t trust herself to be alone with Rhys. Her husband and best friend supported her without judgement, a safety net that Taylor said was invaluable.

When it was clear that she needed more than her family’s support, Taylor reached out to Hoag’s Maternal Mental Health Clinic. The clinic provides individual psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment to women who are pregnant and up to one year postpartum. They assessed Taylor and set her on a treatment path to address her depression and anxiety. She began counseling with Angela Mains, L.C.S.W., once a week, as well as medication management sessions with a reproductive psychiatrist.

“I struggled with feeling that I wasn’t a good mom. I wasn’t feeling natural maternal instincts,” Taylor said. “I fought so hard to have a baby, and I got so lucky after so much effort, and now I’m not good at it? I felt like maybe I wasn’t supposed to have this baby.”

“Angela helped me so much, I can’t describe it,” she said. “She helped me understand that this is a very common thing, especially during the pandemic when we’re isolated from family and friends. Through cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, I was able to get out of my own head and realize that the intrusive thoughts weren’t in my heart.”

Weekly therapy sessions provided Taylor with the tools to address her mental health crisis and the nurturing environment at Hoag made Taylor feel safe articulating the problems she was having.

“I immediately felt comfortable with Angela. She showed me that by acknowledging it and getting help, nothing bad was going to happen,” Taylor said. “She gave me resources and was always available to me. They were all so supportive and so kind.”

Taylor learned cognitive behavioral techniques as well as mindfulness and breathing exercises. She discovered the importance of taking time for herself to get fresh air, connect with her five senses and regroup.

“They helped me see that I was born that day, too. I became a mom,” she said. “The grace I was giving Rhys, I needed to extend to myself to learn how to be his mom. It was normal to feel overwhelmed and have anxiety about little things.”

Today Taylor is not an idealized version of a mom whose life is perfect. But she now accepts that nobody is.

“I feel so much better now. In these two months, everything has gotten so much better,” she said. “I feel grateful for what I’ve gone through and the help I received because every day is so much sweeter with my son. All the moments that take your breath away, the giggles and smiles, are more meaningful to me because of how far I’ve come. I’m proud of myself.”

Taylor urges pregnant women and new mothers to reach out to the Hoag Maternal Mental Health Clinic if they’re struggling.

“I would tell any new mom that she absolutely deserves to take care of herself and seek the help she needs,” she said. “There are so many resources out there to help her. She’s not alone. Taking that first step can be scary, but I hope she doesn’t hesitate. It’s worthwhile.”