Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts: A book review


Remember that song by Usher, “These are my confessions”??? Well here is my confession, it’s quite shocking…..I HATE TO READ. I really do. Even though I love to learn and find tremendous value in reading, I just don’t care for it (and don’t try and convince me to try audio books, because I just can’t absorb the information the same way in audio format!). But when this book by my hero, social worker and postpartum expert Karen Kleiman came out, I had to suck it up, purchase the book and dive in.

First a word about scary thoughts:

Most if not all new mothers will experience scary thoughts regarding the safety of their baby. These thoughts can be intrusive, vivid, and even violent at times, hence the name “scary thoughts”. These thoughts DO NOT mean that the mother is at risk of hurting her baby or herself. In fact, the distress caused by these thoughts, although quite unpleasant is a good sign to a therapist that the mother will not act on them. Unfortunately, moms are often terrified to share that they experience these thoughts for fear of being judged as “crazy” or even having their baby taken away.

The book is a great resource to provide education about these scary thoughts, normalize the experience and reduce the stigma around them. It is written in a lighthearted way with comics style illustrations depicting the types of secret scary thoughts moms experience while caring for their baby and in their everyday interactions.

In addition to the illustrations, the opposing pages have valuable information about what the thoughts mean, affirmations for moms, and even action steps for how to manage that particular thought or subject matter. The chapters address the different types of thoughts moms can have including general thoughts about motherhood, safety, the transition to parenthood, unsolicited advice from others, comparison, breastfeeding and much more.

Just because scary thoughts are common, what typically needs to be addressed in treatment is the distress that they cause. The book does a good job helping moms understand when and how to get help. The back of the book also has resources to access including helpful websites, how to find a trained therapist, and additional reading.

What I like about the book is that the information is delivered in small "bites”, which are much easier to digest, not just for a non-reader like me but certainly for a busy and overwhelmed new mom. The information, while covering a serious topic is presented with a lighthearted tone which helps it to be accessible to everyone who reads it. The book rings in at about twelve bucks and change on Amazon which comes in way under some of Kleiman’s other works.

I highly recommend this book for any mom. I think it would make a great baby shower or new mom gift. I’m a big fan of the adage “an ounce of prevention if worth a pound of cure”, so if a mom read this book before she experienced any scary or anxious thoughts she may be less likely to be blindsided by them and more likely to talk about them or reach out for help. I also think the book can be a tremendous resource for the partners, family, and others who support new moms.

If you or someone you know are having scary thoughts that are causing a lot of distress or interference in their life. It may be time to get some help. Feel free to reach out to me on the “Contact Me” page for more information.

And click here to order your copy of “Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts”.

What NOT to Say to a Grieving Parent


Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Perinatal Bereavement hosted by a local hospital. The event was geared mostly toward nurses and medical staff but I found much of the information helpful for anyone who touches the lives of those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby at any stage.

In addition to the general information provided we were able to listen to personal accounts of parents who have experienced a loss. Hearing their testimonies was heartbreaking to say the least but it was also extremely helpful because they were able to share what “worked” and what didn’t in terms of the support they received from those around them during this difficult time.

In this post I wanted to share some of the things NOT to say (as well as some helpful alternate options) when supporting a grieving parent. I want to be clear that I am certain people that say these things do so with good intentions. Hopefully you find this list helpful should you ever encounter a parent suffering this type of loss.

  1. Everything happens for a reason” or “This is just nature’s way of taking care of something that was wrong” : No parent who has lost a pregnancy or baby would find a reason including “nature’s way” any consolation for their loss. What you can say instead: “I’m so sorry this is happening to you”.

  2. “At least you know you can get pregnant” or “At least you have other children” : Each and every baby is beautiful and special and the fact that there may be a possibility of a future pregnancy or that there are other children does not erase or replace the pain of losing this one. What you can say instead: “Tell me about your baby.”, “Did you get a sense of his/her personality?” “Who does he/she look like?”, or “What is the baby’s name?”

  3. “This is God’s will” or “God needed an angel”: It’s best to avoid any talk of God or spirituality. Even if you know the parent’s spirituality is the same as your own, it’ s quite possible that an event like this may cause someone to question their faith or be angry with God (which is totally understandable!). Your comments may not bring any comfort and may even be triggering. What you can say instead: “I can see how much you love your precious baby” or “I will keep you in my prayers”

  4. “Let me know if you need anything”: Most parents are so overwhelmed at this time they have no idea what they need and may require some direction. It may be helpful to offer specific options for the parents to choose from. Offering to facilitate a meal train, make phone calls, take older children to the park, or help re-organize or re-decorate the baby’s room can mean a lot even if they don’t take you up on the offer. What you can say instead: “I am planning to have food delivered for you. I will leave it in a cooler on the front porch tomorrow if you are not in the mood for visitors” or “Can I just sit here with you?”

  5. NOTHING: This baby lived and was part of this family’s life, if even for a short time. Once the initial event of losing the baby and any services/memorials have passed the family still has a long journey ahead. Even though life does goes on, it’s important to continue to acknowledge what happened and the baby. I can almost guarantee the parents will think about that baby in some capacity every day for the rest of their life, you will not be “reminding them” if you bring it up. The worst thing that you can do is to never acknowledge it. Remembering the baby on special dates is important and sending flowers, a card, a kind word, or even a text can mean so much. What you can say instead: “I was thinking about you and (baby’s name) today, how are you feeling?” or “I bet (baby’s name) is so proud of you/happy for you”

I hope you find this information helpful, although my real hope is that you never have to use it. And as always if you or someone you care about needs support around the loss of a child, please feel reach out.

Overcoming the Winter "Blahs"


Winter in Syracuse is still coming at us full force.  Schools have used all their snow days, and everyone seems to be climbing the walls with symptoms of cabin fever.  However, for some the intensity and duration of the winter weather can bring or exacerbate symptoms of depression.  Here is a list of tips for managing

1.        Sleep: The winter months can make us want to hibernate.  The days seem shorter with the dark hours lasting longer than in spring and summer.  Even though it may be difficult to climb out of bed when it’s still dark, it is so important to maintain a regular sleep schedule as part of overall sleep hygiene.  Sleep is such a crucial element to basic self-care and so many of us are significantly deprived.  Try to improve your sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, keeping weekend sleep-ins or naps to a minimum, keep screens off 30 minutes to an hour before bed, and engaging in a regular pre-bed routine.  Just like we would do for an infant, we need to provide our body cues that it is time to settle in for the night.  Lowering your lights, taking a warm bath or shower, using lavender essential oils, listening to relaxing music or meditations, and/or light stretching or yoga are all different things you can include in your new healthy routine. 

2.        Nutrition: For me, fall and winter months usually mean bringing on the comfort foods.  Unfortunately, these foods usually include rich sauces, soups and gravy, and are carb heavy which can be quite a departure from typical lighter summer fare.  It is important to maintain your nutrition year-round to be operating at your maximum capacity.  That means still incorporating fruits and vegetables in your routine daily and watching the typical increase in in heavier foods.  You don’t have to avoid your cold weather favorites but find ways to lighten them up and be sure to balance it out with nutrient dense and protein rich options as well.  You may also want to check in with your primary care physician (if you don’t have one – get one!!!) and get blood work done if it has been awhile.  Most of us become Vitamin D deficient during the winter months, so it may be beneficial to add vitamin supplements to your diet, as long as it is approved by your doctor. 

3.       Exercise: For many people, exercise is the thing they love to hate but it is a necessary component to your overall well-being.  For those who prefer to engage in outdoor activities, like running or biking it can be really challenging to maintain the same activity levels when the weather changes.  However, we know that winter comes every year, so it is important to make a plan and be intentional about how you are going to maintain your activity levels in the winter.  Join a gym, take a class, buy a treadmill, or break out your old Tae-Bo videos, just do something to move your body.  Research has shown that exercise 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes can have the same impact as a dose of Zoloft and for those already on antidepressants, exercise has been shown to enhance the results you are already getting.  

4.       Light Therapy:  For those who really struggle during winter months, light therapy may also be an option either on its own or in addition to medication management or psychotherapy.  The Mayo Clinic recommends that the lightbox should have an exposure of 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible.  It is suggested you use the light within an hour of waking for about 20-30 minutes with about 16-24 inches between you and the light.  The lights are relatively inexpensive and can be found online for around 40-60 dollars.  Before you add a light to your Amazon cart it is important to check with your medical provider to ensure this is a good option for you, especially if you have any eye issues. 

5.       Socialization: Cold temperatures and snowy weather can make it easy to hunker down and stay inside, but when winter weather lasts 4-5 months a year, avoiding social interaction can really have an impact on your mood.  It just as if not more important to maintain social support and connections in the cold months as it is in the summer, even though it’s harder.  However, social support is an important factor in maintaining or elevating moods.  A tip I share with clients is to be very intentional about your social engagements.  When you run into a friend at the grocery store and share the pleasantry “let’s get together soon”, whip out your phone and schedule something then and there.  Life will often distract us from following up on that promise if we don’t do it right away.  Scheduling regular social dates can be helpful too, especially if you are trying to coordinate a group.  Planning to go out to eat every third Thursday means you start prioritizing your social commitments (read: prioritizing YOURSELF) and building your life around them, instead of the other way around.  Finally, if you don’t have many people to connect with a good resource can be  You can look up by region and find social groups for just about anything like book clubs, meditation groups, photography groups, dog walking, and more. 

If you know winter can be a difficult time for you, it’s important to try to get ahead of it by implementing these ideas sooner rather than later to beat the winter “blahs”.  If you try these and still find yourself struggling, you may want to reach out to your doctor or a therapist for additional support.  As always, feel free to reach out to me for any additional information or if you have questions. 


Postpartum Depression: NOT Just the Baby Blues


Having a baby is hard. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, the transition after bringing baby home can be challenging at best. And although that transition can come with a lot of emotional fluctuations, frequently referred to as the “baby blues”, Postpartum Depression is a whole other animal.

Frequently, when sitting across from a new mother in my office they share about their efforts to reach out for help. Maybe it’s to a family member, friend or medical provider (OB, Midwife or Primary Care Physician). What boggles my mind is how often they are told that what they are experiencing is “normal”. While unfortunately Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or bi-polar is very common affecting approximately 20% of mothers (and 10% of fathers and non-gestational parents) it is NOT normal.

I would like to share what differentiates the baby blues from a PMAD so in the event you or someone you care about is affected you will know when it’s time to reach out and get the right kind of help to feel better faster.

Baby Blues:

  • Transient mood shifts throughout the day marked by tearfulness or irritability

  • First 2 to 3 weeks (at most)

  • Influenced significantly by hormonal shifts and sleep deprivation

  • Does not significantly affect functioning

  • Affects 70-80% of new mothers

  • Not a mental health condition

  • Resolves itself over time

PMAD (Postpartum Depression or Anxiety):

  • Excessive sadness or worry most of the day for most days

  • Extends past the first couple of weeks

  • Impacts functioning for example, inability to sleep (even when baby sleeps), decreased appetite, unable to concentrate, decreased enjoyment in things

  • Scary, vivid and intrusive thoughts about harm coming to baby (both intentional or accidental)

  • Disconnection from or excessive clinginess to baby

  • Feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, worthlessness and/or hopelessness (“Bad mother”)

  • Low or no motivation to complete even simple tasks

  • Just not feeling like yourself

  • Does not get better over time

If you or someone you know are experiencing the symptoms of a PMAD it is imperative you reach out to a medical or mental health provider to get the appropriate help. Prognosis for recovery is much better the quicker the symptoms are recognized and appropriately treated. If your provider tells you it’s “normal”, and just take a walk or get some more sleep and you still feel like something is just not right, keep reaching out until someone listens! A wonderful resource is the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773. You can speak with someone who can get you connected with providers in your area that can get you the support you need.

If you are local to Syracuse or the Central New York area and think you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, feel free to reach out to me through my website or call me at 315-552-0180. You are not alone and you can get better with help!

I'm Writing a Blog!!



I am so glad you are here. One of my professional goals for 2019 is to write a blog in the area of reproductive and maternal mental health. The purpose of the blog will to be to provide education through posts, book reviews, links to resources and guest blogs!

Some topics that will be covered are:

  • The difference between baby blues and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (postpartum depression)

  • How to recognize and manage anxiety

  • Self-Care

  • Finding and maintaining social support

  • Infertility and loss

  • Postpartum planning

  • Getting sleep

  • Grief of parenthood

And so many more!

Please feel free to comment below on any additional topics you want to hear about and stay tuned!!!