Having joined Explore What’s Next relatively recently, I’m still getting to know my esteemed colleagues. I had the privilege of meeting Nicole Brown for coffee this past week to get to know her and her path to becoming a specialist in perinatal mental health and maternal wellness. Nicole is a humble, intelligent, and curious person and therapist. A new mother myself, Nicole normalized and validated my experiences, making me feel heard and understood.

Nicole has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Psychology and Social Welfare. In 2003, she earned her Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University. She has post-graduate training in pregnancy and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and highlights include a Post-graduate Certificate from the Postpartum Stress Center and a certificate in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders from Postpartum Support International. Nicole has been with Explore What’s Next for four years. In addition to working with individuals, she runs a support group for new mothers called Mamas Rising and is bringing a two-day workshop for new parents and parents-to-be called Bringing Baby Home to Western New York. This dynamic program was developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute. Here is a short interview with Nicole.

What made you interested in maternal wellness and helping couples adjust to being parents?

My own experiences made me interested. My husband and I had what we believed to be a solid relationship for 10 years prior to the birth of our first child.  We thought we could handle it, or actually, we didn’t give much thought at all to how kids would impact our relationship. The truth is, we struggled. We were stressed and fought a lot. We were unkind to each other and there were times where we weren’t sure if we could make it as a couple.

When our first child was 22 months old we had a set of twins! 3 kids in 22 months! Life was in chaos and we hit a breaking point where we had to face our situation and make some hard decisions (which included a move from NYC to Buffalo in search of more support and an easier pace of life for our family). We ultimately figured things out, but it was a difficult road. I also observed friends and acquaintances experiencing similar struggles. It made me curious to learn more about how children affect a relationship. Gottman’s research tells us that approximately 67% of couples experience a decrease in relationship dissatisfaction in the first 3 years after having a child. I am very interested in how to mitigate this and this workshop is a great place to start.

What got you interested in John Gottman’s Bringing Baby Home program specifically?

Personal and professional experiences got me thinking about the way people relate to each other during the transition and the way that children impact the relationship. In my new mother’s group and with individual clients, relationship concerns are often primary. Also, our own childhood dynamics come into play when we have children and the workshop takes a little time to look at that as well. The Bringing Baby Home program provides straightforward and practical steps for couples to apply right away. It’s not rocket science—but the program suggests things that get lost in the shuffle of day to day life. One strategy is the “daily stress-reducing conversation”. Basically, it’s intentionally taking 20 minutes a day of focused time to talk (and listen) with and to our partner. That seems easy, but how many of us can say we do that intentionally, especially when we have young kids?

What does the Bringing Baby Home program cover?

First, Bringing Baby Home is NOT psychotherapy. It is a psycho-educational program, a class, essentially, that provides practical tools and suggestions for ways to improve your connection and closeness with your partner, to improve the ability to bond with your baby, and to create a family that’s healthy and thriving.

Specifically, the Bringing Home Baby program helps couples:

  • recognize the four warning signs of relationship meltdown
  • practice steps of constructive problem solving
  • recognize and honor the importance of fathers
  • understand baby blues, postpartum mood disorders, and other mental health issues
  • connect with their child/children
  • preserve intimacy and romance in their relationship
  • create shared meaning, values, and rituals of connection

What would you say to couples that are wondering if the Bringing Baby Home program would benefit them?

Take the chance if you’re interested–it’s a small investment of time for the skills you’ll take away! Participating is an easy way to protect your relationship when you’re going through or about to go through a big transition. Enrolling in the program does not mean that your relationship isn’t good enough or that you’re struggling. In fact, the program is intended for stable and committed couples. Let’s keep it that way! Relationships are dynamic and ever-changing. No doubt that a new baby entering your relationship will change the dynamic—it’s inevitable. This program can help you weather the transition with more ease and will give you tools to create the family that you’ve dreamed about. Think of it as a class in “How to have a great relationship after kids”.

Can you tell us about the Mamas Rising Group that you run?

Yes! The group was born out of personal feelings of isolation after having my kids. I wanted to create a group for new mothers of babies that was safe, non-judgmental, and supportive, where we could talk about the realities of what is happening (both the good and the bad), the times we felt successful, and the times we didn’t.  In essence, the group was designed to be another way to support mothers. Though things are slowly changing, our current culture is not terribly supportive of mothers. Motherhood is a tough gig with a steep on-the-job learning curve. This group aims to help new Moms navigate these waters. Pre-crawling babies are welcome!

Specifically, the group covers:

  • How to identify and cope with anxiety and depression
  • Identity issues and exploring the big “who am I now?” question
  • Communication and connection with a partner after baby
  • Letting go of “mom guilt” and perfectionism so you can enjoy your baby
  • Self-care and how to realistically weave it into your busy life

If you’re a new parent looking for support, consider reaching out to Explore What’s Next for individual counseling, the Mamas Rising group, or the Bringing Baby Home two-day workshop, Saturdays, September 21 & 28, 9-4.

Mama’s Rising

When you have a baby, whether your first or your fourth, life shifts in a lot of ways. It can feel overwhelming, or a little lonely. That’s totally normal. During this time of change and transition, we can all use support from others who understand. In this six week group, mothers of new babies will come together in a safe, comfortable and non-judgemental environment where we will discuss our challenges, celebrate our successes, and learn new skills to more effectively cope with life as a mom and all that it entails. Pre-crawling babies are welcome!

Saturday, September 21 & 28 9:00AM-4:00PM. Lunch & beverages included.

1416 Sweet Home Road, Suite 3

$300 for two sessions

Nicole Brown, LCSW, Group Leader. 917.674.6742

Register Today! 917.674.6742 or info@explorewhatsnext.com

Nicole Brown, LCSW

Pre- & Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Parenting, Adults, LGBTQ

Becoming a parent is a time of great vulnerability. If you’ve recently had a baby and are feeling overwhelmed, worried, sad or numb, Nicole wants you to know that you are not alone. Postpartum Depression/Anxiety affects approximately 1 in 7 women and is the most common complication of childbirth.

An expert in Perinatal Mental Health and Maternal Wellness, and the mother of three young children, Nicole understands the need for a space that is safe, non-judgemental, and nurturing during this time of distress. She brings intelligence, curiosity, compassion, and humor to her work.  When you meet with Nicole, your voice will be heard, and together, you will work to understand what’s troubling you.  You will identify your unique strengths and learn new skills to help you cope and recover. Postpartum Depression is a very treatable illness. You can feel better.

Nicole also loves working with adults, seventeen years old on up. She has great passion for helping people to feel more confident, resilient and strong. Call Nicole today.

917.674.6742  |  nicole@explorewhatsnext.com