The Art of Holding Space in the Postpartum Period
How Postpartum Therapy is Different Than Regular Therapy
Karen Kleinman, the author of The Art of Holding in Therapy, is a well-known expert in perinatal mental health. In this book, she covers everything from differentiating between baby blues and postpartum depression to her experience and approach in “holding” the postpartum woman.
There were numerous takeaways for me in this book, but one section I found exceptionally helpful focused on how many women’s expectations (what I like to refer to as the subconscious Mary Poppins view) of motherhood don’t prepare her to end up in my office.
The unexpected shock of finding oneself in mental health therapy leaves many mothers believing there is something wrong with them. Due to the urgency around these circumstances, the beginning stages in postpartum therapy are different from traditional therapy, in that the therapist needs to initially focus less on relationship/rapport building and more on education and grounding. We use these first few appointments to cultivate hope for a return to a new normal. We identify steps to create a plan to get you back to feeling life yourself.
Karen also cited one of her psychology teachers who presented on stress management:
“She raised a glass of water & asked, ‘How heavy is the water?’. The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for awhile and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything adequately.”
Friendly reminder for all of us, to put the glass down. Give yourself permission to be a priority, let some things go, and take care of your needs.