Intuition is a beautiful thing. The voice inside us knows what we need, even when we don’t yet know it ourselves. That little nudge in the right direction tells us to trust our gut. For mothers, intuition is significant. We are constantly bombarded with choices and advice, and it can be hard to know what to do. But as mothers, we have a unique ability to trust our instincts and our gut feelings. Parenting is a journey, and there is no one right way to do it. Trusting your intuition will help you to find your way.
In today’s episode, Karen talks with Sepideh Hakimzadeh about connecting with your intuition postpartum. Sepideh is the owner and founder of Whole Mother Therapy in Pasadena, CA, with a mission to provide mental health support to parents.
You can connect with Sepideh at: https://www.wholemothertherapy.com/
She also hosts the free virtual postpartum support group at The Family Room on Thursdays at 1pm. Click the link to join: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83448325929
Listen to the podcast here
Connecting With Your Intuition Postpartum With Sepideh Hakimzadeh
I am excited to have Sepideh Hakimzadeh join us. Sepideh is the Creator of Whole Mother Therapy, which focuses on the mental health of pregnant mothers and those in the postpartum period, especially Black, indigenous people of color. She’s passionate about her mission to transform how our culture supports parents and parents by nurturing the physical, mental, and spiritual health of women or women-identified human in a holistic way and building a community around maternal mental health for typically underserved populations.
All of Whole Mother Therapy’s practitioners are women of color with backgrounds in social work, diversity, and early motherhood. Sepideh is a working mother herself with a toddler and a teenage stepson. Her own birth story is dramatic and unique. When her mother birthed her in Iran during the revolution in 1981, her father was a political prisoner with no hope of release. Her first few years in the world were spent hiding underground until she and her mother were eventually able to sneak out of the country and come to the United States as refugees.
A long-time activist, Sepideh has expertise in cross-cultural identity, the political implications of maternal mental health, and healing ancestral trauma. Sepideh and I got to know each other while she was part of our Parent & Me program as a new parent herself. She’s been running our postpartum support group for years, including through the pandemic when she moved the group online to ensure our parents had ongoing access to this important resource when it was needed most. Welcome to the show, Sepideh.
Thank you, Karen. It’s so wonderful to be here.
I’m so excited to have you. Before we jump into the topic, it is important to come at not just the critical work you are doing to support mothers because it is so important, but also thank you for sharing your origin story. I got goosebumps reading it. Where we come from is so foundational. Those experiences are deeply rooted and reflected in your own mothering and the work you are doing nowadays to help others. This could be a whole show on its own. Do you want to share anything about how your practice has evolved?
Our origin stories inform and influence how we mother and even our pregnancy and our birth experiences, which is why something that I deeply believe in weaving when I work with people is exploring those aspects. Our experiences are so much bigger than our own. I was a therapist before I had my son in 2019.
There was a portal that opened for me after I had my son where I deeply connected to and understood in a completely different way my mom’s experience of pregnancy, early postpartum, and just motherhood in general. It struck me how powerful it was to have this opportunity to have essentially a reparative experience with my son and have my mom in the picture because she’s been with us since my pregnancy and the birth of my son.
That opened the door and the realization of my work and my passion of really wanting to work with pregnant birthing folk and postpartum. I love the work you do in the Family Room of providing support, speaking to the systemic barriers and how broken the system is, and supporting parents, mothers, and birthing people truly.
It’s something abstractly people know, but it isn’t until you become a parent then you’re like, “What is going on here? This is not right. This is not setting us up for a thriving society at all.” Part of that is healing our own birth traumas, birth story, and ancestral. We all come from an ancestral lineage where there’s been a perpetuation of wounding or trauma over and over again. Pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and motherhood open up a beautiful doorway to be able to access and heal that.We start learning as babies, toddlers, and little children how to connect to our intuition through how we're parented. Click To Tweet
It’s generational, often passed down unless it’s addressed. It’s not opened up until you become a parent yourself. It’s lovely that your mother is able to be with you and walk through this journey with you now. What a gift for both of you. It must be incredibly healing for her.
It is. She’ll sometimes speak in passing. I know my origin story. You know your story, and then it’s through other people that you’re like, “That’s intense. It’s not a common experience.” Through these years, we are hearing the stories are getting new information and how reparative it’s been for her to be able to be a grandparent to my son through this experience. She shows up in ways with him that she was never able to do with me because of our situation and life. It’s amazing to watch and witness.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. That lends itself nicely to the topic we’re going to discuss, which is your intuition and trusting your gut, which is so hard for many parents to do these days. We mentioned facilitating a postpartum support group. I believe that a lot of people come into the group with that concern about not listening to that little voice inside themselves.
Something we say here at the Family Room is that we provide research-based information but always want you to trust your gut, and, most importantly, do what’s right for your family. That’s not always so easy to do. How do you think these experiences throughout our life contribute to developing this gut instinct or intuition that we’re not tapping into or hard for us too?
We start learning as babies, toddlers, and little children how to connect to our intuition. It’s through how we were parented. How we parent is usually how we were parented. There’s a continuation of that. How we’re parented is crucial and critical in fostering if we’re connecting to our intuition or disconnecting from our intuition. A very basic, simplistic example, but it gets the point across, is food. It’s trusting your child to listen to their body and know when they’re hungry versus, “You have to finish everything on your plate. You have to eat this before you have this.”
We set limits and boundaries like, “This is dinner time. This is lunchtime.” We have to have those limits and boundaries, but we also have to give space for our child to trust and listen to their bodies. This is an example of where this fear comes up, “I want my child to be healthy. They need to eat their vegetables. They need to weigh a certain amount. They’re in this percentile. What does that mean?” I hear so much of that both in individual work, the group, and the stressors. Intuitively, I hear so often from parents like, “I feel like my kid is fine.” I hear that a lot.
I know pediatricians are wonderful, and their work is important, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes from there of, “My child isn’t in this percentile. They’re not hitting these milestones,” but intuitively, they feel like they’re okay. There becomes this disconnect that happens as a parent right of, “They’re not hitting these milestones. This isn’t happening. They’re not sleeping through the night.” We had this myth that a baby and a toddler sleep through the night, and you have a baby and a toddler, and they don’t sleep through the night. You’re right. They don’t.
It creates this real dissonance between what you feel, see, and learn from your own baby and child versus what you’re hearing through your pediatrician, parents, in-laws, mom friends, and Google. I wish people would stop googling things. It causes so much internal havoc. The comparison starts kicking in, and that starts drowning out listening to your intuition. You start doubting yourself like, “Maybe I’m wrong.” We don’t pay attention to the baby and the child in front of us and start thinking, “They need to be a different way.” That causes so much anxiety.
In this society, social media and seeing lots of different ways to do things and this perfect expectation that can’t be reached makes parents feel judged or they’re failing.
It intensifies the anxiety. One of the things I always tell clients and people in the group is to limit that intake and don’t follow accounts that make you feel bad. Don’t follow the accounts that glamorize motherhood and parenting, shows this beautiful home, everything’s going well, and these perfectly cooked meals. We all know that’s not true. That’s not a reality.
There are lots of ways to do things. There’s not one way to parent your child. Every family is so different. Every child’s different within a family, even. Another thing we often say is there’s not one size fits all because that is so limiting to doing what you think is best for your family, which is what we keep coming back to.
That limitation also cuts us off from our intuition because we think that it’s one size fit all. I remember someone speaking about this. I was so grateful that she spoke to the temperament of your baby and toddler. It’s determined so much. My son is a highly sensitive baby on the spectrum, where even going to mommy and me was stressful for me. He wasn’t the baby I had to hold or didn’t let me step out to go to the bathroom. It’s all of this stuff.
This is why intuition is so important. We have to look at the child in front of us. You’re right. If you have multiple children, they’re going to be so different in their personalities, how they react to things, and how they are with food, sleep, and socially. It’s all of it, and you’re going to have to parent them differently.
I learned that firsthand with the twins. I have this little case study in my house. They were raised in the same environment with the same parents. From the moment they came out of me, they reacted to everything differently and stayed true to themselves. I love their personalities so much. Sometimes I wonder if I’m comparing them and exaggerating who they are because I have a comparison right next to them. It’s fascinating.
It taught me a lot about their temperament and who they are. They come into the world with it. Sometimes parents question other parents because they’re unsure of their own choices. Sometimes I wonder if that is also taking place. When someone’s questioning what you’re doing, it’s because they’re feeling they may be unsure about what they’re doing. Do you think that comes into play?
Absolutely. That’s such a great point. It’s my experience working with parents and moms especially. My husband speaks to this too. People are desperate, especially in their first and early years, for a handbook. It’s like, “If you do this and this, everything will be fine. It will be easier.” That’s the one size fits all model. That’s where the comparison and the mom judgment come in. It’s like, “Oh.” Sleep is one of the big ones. You either sleep train or you don’t. People judge what the other person is doing.
I always tell people. I’m like, “You got to choose what’s right for you.” I believe you need to have all the information in front of you and make your informed choice. Whatever that choice is, great. Feel confident in that, but don’t feel like you have to do that because, at four months, your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and still waking up multiple times a night and needs food because that’s very normal. That’s going to keep happening.
I see that a lot in terms of just as an example of the comparison, even the self-comparison, “My baby was sleeping through the night, and now they’re not. What’s wrong? What did I do? That baby is sleeping through the night, and mine isn’t. What’s wrong? What am I doing?” They’re frantically googling and asking. I hear so much the anxiety of, “I don’t want to do these things, but I feel like I have to do these things because if I don’t do these things, then my baby’s never going to sleep through the night. I’m never going to get rest.” The list goes on and on.Don't follow the accounts that glamorize motherhood and parenting. They show this beautiful home, and everything's going well in these perfectly cooked meals. We all know that it's not true. That's not a reality. Click To Tweet
We feed into that because we have apps and trackers to how long you breastfeed on this side and that side. All of that is helpful when needed, but at some point, it can create more anxiety. “Your baby’s gaining weight. They’re okay. You don’t need to keep doing that.” I’ve heard Jessica say that a million times in the feeding support group.
People get stuck on, “I got to weigh my baby. I got to track how long they’ve been awake.” Instead of being attached to a gadget and an app, which can serve a purpose is, “Let me pull out and look at my baby and see what’s in front of me and let that observation guide me.”
While you were speaking, what came up to me was this feeling of isolation in the fact that we parent so differently. A lot of new parents haven’t been around babies, so they honestly don’t know what’s normal, so seeking out good research-based information makes sense. You didn’t grow up with a million cousins, aunts, and uncles necessarily, and see babies and have a reference for what to expect and what’s normal. We’re so detached and isolated that it spirals to where we are now.
Our lives are not set up to witness other people raising children. We do it in isolation. That feeds into it because we don’t know what to expect.
We’re trying to seek that information, and once we do, we get information, judgment, opinions, and eye rolls. It’s hard.
More than anything, people have a lot of opinions. It’s great to have an opinion, but you don’t have to share your opinion. Keep it to yourself. I have a lot of opinions, but I’m not going to share it at every opportunity I have. That’s one of the things that social media has exasperated. It becomes this hotbed of like, “Let me jump on that and let you know what I think. My baby did this. This is what works.” It’s such certainty. That’s great for you, but that’s your experience.
That’s one of the reasons why I felt so strongly about the Family Room. It’s because people need human connection. You wouldn’t say the comments you sometimes read if that mother was sitting in a room and looking at her. It’s a different experience when you bring people all into a room and get them offline. It’s very humanizing. You realize that you have more in common than you don’t.
That’s one of the biggest gifts that Family Room has given the community. That is community space to connect. It’s the thing that we are so lacking.
We can all be different, and we all do it differently here. I often hear that after people are graduating from our Parent & Me program, saying like, “I thought that you would push sleep training or not push sleep training,” and being very thankful for a space for parents to be what is true to themselves.
That is a gift in our world nowadays.
Thank you for being a part of it. What would you say are a few tips or resources that our readers could use to help them develop their own intuition, cancel out the noise, and build their own confidence in their intuition?
That’s the majority of my work with people, regardless if they’re aware of it or not. One of the biggest indicators is anxiety. Your intuition isn’t going to make you feel anxious. Your intuition is going to have a sense of calm, peace, and deep knowing. Think about a moment in your life when you just knew. There was no way to qualify or quantify it, but you deeply knew. That’s your intuition. Anxiety is a sign that you’re not connecting to your intuition. Anxiety is a symptom that you’re not listening or connecting. You’re being distracted by the noise and all the information that’s coming your way.
The reason you feel anxious is because it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t feel aligned to your experience or what you want to do even. That’s important too. That’s the difference between what moms and parents want to do on what they think they need to do. I hear that so often in a group and the anxiety that causes it. If you listen to what you want to do, you’re not going to feel that anxiety. You’re going to feel more of freedom. That’s one of the biggest things. Pay attention to the anxiety. The other piece that I always encourage people is to listen to their body. Where do you feel your intuition?
We use the word gut instincts. In fact, science has shown that we have the same cells that exist in our brain in our gut. We think with our gut. Science has proven this. Use your breath, take a moment, pause, and feel into your body, “Where am I feeling my gut? Where am I feeling my instinct?” That’s your intuition. The more you connect to that, the more you’re able to differentiate between, “Is this what I want? Is this something that I feel like I should be doing?”
You’re right. Whenever something bad happens, your stomach immediately hurts before you can even process it. It’s an immediate physical reaction. The anxiety piece, too, is so important to recognize because often we don’t even recognize it, I’m guessing.
It’s amazing to me, and I’ll share my own. I never thought I was an anxious person until I did therapy. My therapist was like, “You have so much anxiety.” It’s because I was so used to moving through the world in that way. It was my normal that it wasn’t even registering for me. For a lot of people, it’s their normal. The other end of the continuum is depression.
They often interweave. They’re best friends, anxiety and depression. The truth is, for a lot of people, it’s easier to feel anxiety and depression. Depression is a lot harder to navigate for a lot of people. It’s denser. Anxiety has an energy of like, “I can get stuff done and push through.” It can give a false sense of purpose. Learning to read your anxiety is huge in being able to connect more with your intuition.
I’ve been working in this realm for many years, but the anxiety piece is so true. It could be a whole topic on that. I’ve always been pretty comfortable in my choices as a parent. For whatever reason, I’m like, “This is the way I’m doing it for the most part.” You always question yourself because you want to do what’s right, and you’re scared of screwing them up.Anxiety is a sign that you're not connecting to your intuition. Click To Tweet
That’s the piece. It’s like, “I don’t want to screw my kid up.” The truth is we’re going to screw our kids up. You just have to be comfortable with that. It’s not perfectionism. We’re going to mess up. We repair and learn and do differently next time.
I always feel better after I talk to you. It’s true. You have this presence that’s unlike mine. You’re calm and even.
I’m going to start coming to the group on Thursdays. I know we don’t want people googling, but I am going to ask you because I’ve been asking people, “What did they google?” Hopefully, it didn’t give you anxiety or make you not trust your gut, but what did you google? What did you learn?
It’s funny. What I googled was I did some press on nails. I’ve never done press on nails in my life ever. My fingers hurt so much. I’m like, “Is this normal? What’s going on?” I googled it.
I feel like that’s not. What did you learn?
I learned a lot of stuff. I was like, “I don’t have an infection. My nail bed is there. I have healthy nails because I never do this.” I press them on too hard. That’s what it is.
Did you take them off? Are they still on?
They’re still on. I haven’t had time.
You got to get them off. It’s so funny you said that because I painted my nails for the first time in years. I haven’t gotten a manicure or pedicure because of COVID. The other day, I was like, “This is ridiculous. I’m going to do them myself.” I painted them and was like, “I should get some fake nails.” Now I know not to do it too hard.
Don’t press too hard. That’s what I learned.
That’s also helpful. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me, Karen. I love being part of the Family Room. Thank you.
We love having you, so thanks again for being with us. For anyone who’s looking to connect with Sepideh, we have our postpartum support group, which is free and online on Thursdays at 1:00. You can go to the Family Room website. Under Community, you’ll see the link. I’ll let her also tell you where you can find her with Whole Mother Therapy.
You can google Whole Mother Therapy. That’s our website. We offer free consultations. We’re in the works of getting some groups up as well in this new year, which we’re excited about. You can also follow the @WholeMotherTherapy Instagram account.
Everyone should do that. Thank you so much for being here with us. I enjoyed that so much as a parent myself. It never stops. It’s interesting to hear what you had to say on the topic. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and time with us as a mother and an expert. It’s easy to see why our postpartum support group is so popular, given that you’re facilitating. We’re so thankful for you.