Sometimes that social media picture of being a happy and thriving new mom, is just that, a picture. Too often, women struggle with anxious thoughts, hopelessness and depression in their new role—a struggle that social worker Laura Winters, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, knew all too well. After giving birth to her daughter, and dealing with the realities of nursing, parenthood and anxiety, Laura discovered a newfound passion: To work with new moms to help them find their way back to being themselves again. To that end, she opened Postpartum Health & Harmony, a safe place where parents can come to talk about postpartum mood disorders, as well as fertility and pregnancy challenges for parents-to-be. We sat down with Laura to talk about her journey in becoming a certified perinatal mental health professional, that one piece of advice she tells new moms and the go-to local coffee spots she heads to for loading up on #NJMOM fuel.
Director of Postpartum Health & Harmony & NJMOMpreneur Laura Winters
NJMOM: Where do you live in New Jersey?
Laura: I live in Wayne in a great neighborhood where my daughter’s school is just a couple of blocks away. I love walking her to school in the morning. It gives us a little extra time to talk and be together.
NJMOM: What makes Postpartum Health & Harmony different?
Laura: At Postpartum Health & Harmony we specialize in pregnancy and postpartum mental health, including such challenges as pregnancy loss, infertility, birth trauma, and perinatal mood disorders. We offer individual, group and couples counseling. Our team has advanced clinical training in maternal mental health and infertility counseling, so you don’t have to explain any of the infertility terms or procedures or worry about child protective services being called for the thoughts you’ve been having. We realize that there can be barriers to getting help so we strive to make the process easy, by accepting insurance and doing video chats if needed.
‘No’ is a complete sentence. There is no need to explain yourself because you feel guilty or that you owe someone an explanation. Simply say no and leave it at that”—Laura Winters
NJMOM: How do you juggle owning your own practice and being a mom?
Laura: It’s a balancing act, and something that I’m always aware of. Some weeks the practice needs more from me and some weeks my daughter needs more from me. I take it day by day, and week by week.
NJMOM: What inspired you to work with parents?
Laura: I thought about becoming a doctor, like my father, but it was my mother who suggested social work (they really do know best!). I started out my career working with children and families, because I always enjoyed being around kids, so helping them felt very natural and fun. But it was my own journey into motherhood that inspired me to specialize in parenting challenges. After having my daughter, I struggled with breast-feeding and anxiety. Fortunately I found an awesome lactation consultant that helped me resolve my nursing issues, giving me confidence again. But even after nursing got easier, my husband and I had no idea what the realities of parenthood were day in and day out. So my new found appreciation for parenthood peaked my interest in getting more training in these areas and making them my focus.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Laura: It’s a real privilege to have my own practice and an awesome feeling knowing that the work we do makes a difference in people’s lives. When you become a parent, there are all these expectations about how you are supposed to act, how things are supposed to be—it’s enough to make even the most confident person crumble. I’m proud that we are there to debunk these myths and guide our clients back to finding their confidence and peace.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Laura: I started taking ballet in my mid-20s. Adult classes are not easy to find!
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Laura: The laughter and that it makes me appreciate the simple things. We like to joke a lot in our family and my daughter is always saying or doing things to make my husband and I laugh. Having a child definitely helps me to slow down and appreciate the little joys of life, whether that’s seeing the world through her eyes, playing outside, blowing bubbles or just being together and snuggling.
NJMOM: At your practice, you help moms coping with their pregnancy and postpartum mental health. What can other moms do to support a friend or family member who is dealing with pregnancy/postpartum mental health issues?
Laura: You can ask her how she’s really doing. Automatically, she will say, “I’m fine” or “I don’t need anything”, even if she’s feeling overwhelmed. To help, you can share a personal experience—assure her that many new moms feel the same way and it’s normal. You can also offer to lend a hand: Let her know specifically what you want to do, whether it’s look after the baby or cook a meal, and ask what would be a good time. This way, she can really think about what she needs and when.
NJMOM: What’s the one piece of advice you should give to a mom who is struggling?
Laura: It’s important to let her know she’s not alone. There are resources and help out there, and she should take advantage of that. There’s counseling and support groups in New Jersey that we have through Postpartum Support International (PSI). There are also women volunteers who are available to talk on the phone or text with a mom who is going through it, and share their own experience to help her.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year, personally and professionally?
Laura: I love running but don’t get to do it as much as I’d like. So that’s definitely one of my personal goals, to be more consistent with my running and improve my pace. Professionally, I’ll continue to work on partnering with more businesses that serve our clients. One collaboration that I’m excited to be starting very soon is offering a support group for pregnant and postpartum moms at Homeless Solutions. So be on the look out for some new groups or classes we’ll have over the year.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Laura: If I had to pick one, it would be maternal and paternal mental health. Pregnancy and postpartum is the time when women are most vulnerable to experiencing a mental health disorder. It’s incredibly significant not just for moms, but also their partners and families. For the past 5 years I’ve been co-leading a Climb Out of the Darkness walk to gain awareness of maternal and paternal mental health, and raise funds for our NJ chapter of Postpartum Support International.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom ever gave to you?
Laura: “No” is a complete sentence. There is no need to explain yourself because you feel guilty or that you owe someone an explanation. Simply say no and leave it at that.
NJMOM: Where are your go-to family places in New Jersey?
Laura: Top of our list is vacationing in Wildwood. I went there as a kid and my daughter loves it now. Make sure to check out the ride and waterpark wristband specials. It varies by time of day and on certain days they offer a specific perk. We also love going to Point Pleasant, usually in the summer, but I really enjoy when we can get away on a nice fall weekend to the boardwalk—it’s less crowded and you can still go on rides through October. Anytime we can be outside, whether it’s in our neighborhood or at a local park, I’m happy. We have two dogs, so they get us outside in all kinds of weather.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Laura: If you asked my daughter, she would tell you Chili’s is her favorite restaurant. This summer, we found this cool restaurant in Wildwood, The Crabhouse. It’s great for families with huge outdoor seating on the water. There’s a band, and the kids eat on a frisbee and get to pick out a prize from their treasure chest. The food was also delicious. By our offices, I love grabbing tea or coffee from Drip in Chatham or Mara’s Cafe in Denville, which not only has delicious coffee, but the most amazing baked goods and breakfast. For the best ice cream, we head to Curly’s in Riverdale. It’s been there for forty years, and everything they serve is homemade.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Laura: Go for it! And find yourself a mentor or group of mompreneurs who can be your cheerleaders and offer support and guidance. Starting your own business can be scary but it’s so worthwhile.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Laura: Make time for you. As moms, we tend to be caretakers and tend to everyone else’s well-being. Our needs get pushed to the bottom of the list or forgotten about all together. Invest that love and energy back in yourself. You and your family will be better off for it.