I spent just short of 41 weeks growing my baby and changing my body.
I’ll start with a few positives:
I was proud of what I was doing. A prayer had been answered: I had a baby on the way! I was 34 and in a solid marriage, a homeowner, financially stable and loved my career, and 11 years in recovery from my eating disorder. I knew that my body would change in pregnancy and that it could be difficult for me, but I had done the mental work. I was ready. Here is me the day I found out I was pregnant:
As pregnancy went on, my hair was shiny, my nails were strong, and I stopped having to shave… completely. My boobs got bigger, which was kinda fun. I felt feminine. I felt sexy.
I felt radiant. I was showered with love. I received a lot of attention from family, peers, and strangers. Which if anyone knows me well, I like attention. 🙂
and… in the end… I got this little nugget:
One Expectation I Met:
I looked like a pregnant lady! My flat firm-ish stomach grew into a hard, beachball sized- but- bowlingball-weighted globe.
BUT… Here’s What I didn’t Know:
My hips felt pains I never knew- as if a crow bar was slowly prying them open to make room for the little nugget to grow and eventually work toward his exit. What I didn’t know, is that even when I had lost the pregnancy weight, my hip shape had changed and widened permanently. Certain pre-pregnancy shorts could now not fit over my hip bones. As I tried on my shorts post-partum, I cried a little that day.
My cute innie belly button popped out about 8 months along… and 8 months postpartum, it’s still working it’s way back.
My breasts were sore and engorged. I was making baby milk, and those hormones needed a place to flow. I gained stretch marks from the rapid growth of my breasts, changing from a small fit athlete to having va-va-voom curves I had never known.
I read all the books and articles learning that I “should” gain between 25-35 lbs during pregnancy. I ate intuitively, I didn’t binge eat or “eat for 2”, I stayed active, and I still gained nearly 50 lbs. I was utterly befuddled and disappointed, but also trusted that I did all the right things and if my body was supposed to gain 50 lbs, then well, I guess it was supposed to gain 50lbs, even if that was difficult emotionally for me.
Approaching childbirth, I was convinced I was going to lose a good amount of weight during childbirth, right? Nope! After a 43.5 hour labor and baby/placenta/blood came out, I had actually gained 2 pounds of bloat and water weight from all of the IV fluids! I saw a scale in the hospital hallway the day after birth when my husband helped me take a walk. He implored me not to get on the scale. I did anyway. I saw the number where I weighed 2 lbs heavier than when I checked into labor and delivery, and just laughed. “Wow! I can’t even,” I thought. I was numb in the aftershock of an exhausting and traumatic 43.5 hours. I felt nothing. I couldn’t emote. The bloat took almost 2 weeks to subside.
This is the most vulnerable picture I will share, so please be kind, but here it is… (51 lbs heavier than when I became pregnant, 2 pounds heavier than when I checked into labor and delivery) :
My muscles atrophed, my butt got flatter, not smaller, just fla(bbier)tter.
I waddled like a penguin, I felt like a whale, my feet were swollen, and my laugh deepened and became a laugh from my belly (HO HO HO — Merry Christmas!). My husband and I can now laugh about my masculine sounding laugh I had for a while, but it is still slightly embarrassing.
My arms gained fat, my face got rounder, my feet became perpetually swollen. I had cankles. I had those unmentionable hemorrhoids. Shhhh…
Sex was painful during pregnancy and even postpartum for a while. Whereas I mentioned larger breasts made me feel sexy for a short time, as my belly got bigger and bigger, along with so much discomfort, hot flashes, and the other aforementioned variables, it was hard to feel sexy.
I didn’t sleep, so I got bags under my eyes. I remember people advised me through my pregnancy, “oh honey, sleep as much as you can before baby comes!” Bull crap. My advice: Sleep as much as you can before you start trying for a baby because once your body starts changing, there is no sound sleep anymore. You will feel, and feel like you look, perpetually tired. This doesn’t get any better when baby arrives.
My coloring changed. My nipples got darker… and bigger. My chest started showing prominent dark blue veins. Age spots and freckles became darker on my face and arms. I even got a very visable dark line vertically down the middle of my stomach.
Even though, I stayed as active as I could through my pregnancy in the heat of the Texas summer: swimming, the indoor recumbent bike at the Y, and prenatal yoga, I was in the worst shape of my life. As someone who has been in dance or sports since I was 3 years old, who has played college soccer, and who has completed triathlons and marathons, this was so hard for me. Note the aforementioned 50 lbs.
Then Baby Comes...
And your boobs, which could be seen as sexy and feminine, are now a food source.
And your belly is soft. Everything is soft. for a long time.
And your hair starts falling out as your milk supply drops… in terrifying quantities! Your hair becomes so thin.
And your arms and butt and legs are soft because your body does this wonderful thing for baby and holds on to fat, for what feels like way too dang long, in order to have a stockpile of calories to breastfeed your baby.
Also, your abs separated during pregnancy, which means it’s almost impossible to do ab work, so your core is so weak and your tummy is still so soft. Side note: working out when you are exhausted… is exhausting.
And you still look, and feel… Tired.
But…. I wanted this. I prayed for this. How could I complain?
Why would I mourn?
It’s all for sweet baby boy. It’s my privilege. My Joy.
It’s okay to mourn!
Saying goodbye to your old body as well as your previous independence, energy, and freedom is important. If you don’t, how will you ever accept the growth and beauty that is new. If you can’t say goodbye, how can you say hello with fresh eyes. How can you have peace if you are still holding on for dear life to a goal that just isn’t realistic; kicking, scratching, and fighting tooth and nail to get something that just isn’t you anymore. You are not a pre-baby body. You are a badass-mom-super-woman who did a remarkable body changing, life changing, and life giving thing.
Would you say your heart and mind are forever changed by having this baby?
Think and reflect for a minute to answer this…
Is your answer a resounding YES?
Is it a beautiful thing?
Well… so is Your body … It’s forever changed…
and that is OKAY. it’s more than okay, it’s awesome!
Soooo…. How do I Cope and Embrace my new Mom-Bod?
Realize I can honor my femininity and motherliness by seeing “softness” as analogous to my journey. I started with soft baby linens/swaddles/wash clothes, a soft gentle hold, a soft tender heart, and soft in compassion toward myself. As I am slowly able to be less delicate with my baby boy (and whew! at almost 9 months he is already showing to be a squirmy, rough tumbly little guy!), my body gets less soft and firmer once again.
2. I have to check the facts and be compassionate to myself. So, yes, my hips don’t lie and I will have to get some new shorts, with a different number on the tag. But those hips gave me my beautiful baby, and a number is just a number, and bone structure has nothing to do with fat. Plus, I get to go shopping!
3. Remember and trust that some things ebb and flow:
While, my belly button is almost back to normal, and so thus a moot point, I remember that my belly button tells the story of when my very big, smart, super cute, and fast paced, in utero baby was basically at a healthy weight to survive at 34 weeks. Oven timer done! He just wanted to stay a little longer with mama, and that is sweet!
The hemorrhoids healed with medicine, the sex became less painful with patience and practice (Oh darn! 🙂 ), and that dark line on my stomach went away.
The color of my nipples also came back to normal, that blue line in my chest disappeared, and while I do have some light stretch marks and smaller boobs again with a new slightly deflated look, my breasts literally gave life sustaining nutrition to my baby, and that is amazing. My husband tells me that he stills sees my boobs as very sexy even though the “perkiness” and size may have decreased. This is also what I hear most of my heterosexual male clients say about their own wives.
With baby finally starting to sleep through the night, asking for grandparent help (it takes a village!), and with the cessation of breastfeeding and finally being able to get enough water intake, Ifinally don’t look or feel quite so tired.
4. As a Therapist, Understanding Trauma:
I have had the honor to walk alongside people who survive the most horrible traumas yet are so resilient. They somehow find new truth, experience growth and healing, provide hope, and make meaning from their struggles.
This is not to belittle anyone else’s trauma, but for me personally, and many others, pregnancy is probably the most significant bodily trauma a woman will go through. And it’s not just the 43.5 hours of pain and recovery from 5 hours of pushing a watermelon out of a small hole made for something usually the size of a cucumber, it’s the months of slow drawn out trauma as your body bends and shapes itself into a new form to accommodate the growing life inside of you.
So recovering from trauma like that will take time, and you have to reach a certain level of recovery before you can even attempt to work back to your pre-pregnancy body.
5. I am giving myself grace and time. Because of my history of my eating disorder, I emotionally planned for this. I had it well thought out:
It takes 9 months to grow a baby
+ for 6 months I want to give myself grace to just be exhaustedand allowed to recover and find a routine and figure things out as a new mama
= I would give myself 15 months post-partum to get into the “best shape of my life” and “get my body back”
However, this I have emotionally matured in a way I didn’t think possible post eating Disorder. I have a new and clear outlook on the definition of “Getting My Body Back.” This now means: I will embrace my post baby body and be the healthiest, most feminine, balanced intuitive eater/exerciser who can still enjoy the good things in life, fittest mama I can be. If that ends up being the fittest I have ever been in my life, great!
If it’s something different, I will choose to accept it with grace and poise 🙂
Besides, who wouldn’t want to honor and spend time with this precious little one!
Thank you for your patience while I’m out spending some very special first weeks with my little precious one.
Current Clients: I have made every attempt to reach you with potential referrals that you may contact during my leave if you need supplemental support. I chose these referrals intentionally and am hoping they will be a great fit. If you prefer to wait, please reach back out to me in November. I will do my best to respond to you right away upon my return.
Potential New Clients: If can wait, I will respond about meeting as soon as I get back, and I look forward to meeting you! In the meantime, please refer to the FAQ section of my website for any questions regarding my pricing, location, etc.: http://wendylmft.com/faq.html
Colleagues: Hopefully you were already aware of my leave, but if not, know that I am thankful for your work with clients as well as grateful for your support and patience until I get back.
Reminder for All: Take care of yourself and use those coping skills! Even when you struggle, know that you are worthy of love, brave, and strong. I’m very excited to see you and work together again when I get back! Blessings!
Ps. While I gave a much more extensive and personal list for referrals, and you will have to contact them yourself to see if they are taking new clients, here are a few names to get you started: -Fadya Albakry or Traci Pirri (adults, trauma, addiction) -Kristi Waidhofer or Amanda Fuhr (Eating disorders, adolescents) -Jeff Dooley, Casey Lepper, or Anna McElearney (Couples) -Dana Doerksen or Tammy Corrales (trauma, addiction, Individual/Couples/Family). -Plumeria- Insurance Clients
Looking forward to hearing about your journeys and explorations upon my return!
When I was engaged, my husband and I went through premarital counseling. It sure was helpful, but even without a trained professional, there were countless books out there to help couples get questions answered and topics to discuss in preparation of marriage. My husband and I did one of these question books and it really helped us communicate efficiently because as a verbal processor, I could discuss these ideas forever feeling closer and closer with my husband, but for him, it was helpful to have a limited time and structure so he could be fully present and have a guide.
More recently, however, as someone now with a baby on the way, I realized that there aren’t really any books out there regarding questions couples should/could answer together and talk through to better prepare for parenting together. Knowing how helpful the premarital questions were to us as a couple, I set out on a journey to create a comprehensive list of pre-baby having questions for couples.
I want to be clear that while I believe I have created the most comprehensive list I have ever seen, a few of these discussion points and questions I found through magazine articles or blogs, some I found through other internet articles. None of this is mean to plagerize, but rather help couples by having a comprehensive list to discusssion. (I have done my best to cite sources at the end of this post).
As a couples therapist, I know full well that this huge (literally for her) transition: pregnancy, loss of freedom, infant care, loss of sex life, and parenting can be a really difficult time for couples. The questions and topics can seem endless and overwhelming, so it’s OK if you don’t immediately know where you stand. Remember that it will probably take some time—perhaps even a lifetime—before you know where you stand on absolutely everything, You don’t need to agree on everything, but you should try to agree on most things. Try and tackle each issue as a team, when you have the time and energy to really listen to your partner’s point of view. This is not meant to be an argument with winner and loser; it’s a meeting of minds so that, once the baby arrives and you are running on four hours of sleep and haven’t showered in days, you and your partner can rely on a common front. Take the time to honestly discuss the questions below and so you are united in parenting and how you will teach what is good.
Last note before you begin: I hope this will be a helpful adventure for you two as a couple. Two important notes: 1) If you already have a baby, it’s not too late. Start talking now! It could still be a great practice to go through these questions. It’s never too late to find common ground. 2) If you have a question you just can’t reach a common front, I would encourage that if it’s really important to you or will cause you stress in the marriage, that you seek out counseling to help talk through it with a professional. Let me know if I can help you find someone to work with.
So here is the list of questions to go through. Some will take longer, some will be quick so maybe try to do between 1 and 3 questions at a given time.
1. Why do you want kids in the first
place? Do you know why your partner wants kids? What is my primary goal in raising children? What are some of the
secondary goals? Why now? Is one of you on the fence about a baby?Which
do you think would make you happier — going out to eat with or without our
child, and why?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s essential to be on the
same page about what you value, how you’ve already grown as a couple and why
you both feel that it’s baby time.
The clearer you can get about your reasons for having children,
the better. Dr. Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., licensed marriage and family
therapist, told me, “Of course everyone wants to have children for the
same reason, right? How many reasons can there be? The answer — many. In
reality, not aligning with the same reasons to have children can cause the
children and you grief in the future.” She said that often, expectant
parents want children to heal their own wounds from childhood or to make up for
things they missed out on as kids. She told me, “One parent may want
children to fulfill their need to be loved because of past hurts, or to complete
that imaginary white picket fence scenario, while you want children to carry on
the family name and to raise them to make up for how you were raised. Having
this discussion can help alleviate some of the future parenting obstacles that
are in store for you.”
2. Are you ready to add another person (aka an
amazing little human) into your family?
3. What is your understanding of
co-parenting? What does it look like to you?
Which phrase best describes your role as parents:
Establishing proper connections for our children
Educating our children to be successful
Nurturing our children’s heart
Training our children in righteousness
Being good friends with our children
Name five practical ways you want to
accomplish this role.
Complete this statement: As a parent, I
hope/wish that my partner will _____
4. Which statement best represents
you? How will these beliefs affect day-to-day parenting?
Practice makes perfect.
Mistakes are opportunities to grow.
Action is better than indecision. Act quickly, adjust as needed.
Do what is expected. Excuses are not tolerated.
Think before you act.
children is one of the most difficult and most rewarding things you will ever
do. Like all aspects of life, there will be moments of pure joy and feelings of
elation as well as feelings of failure and moments where even the best plans
need to be adjusted. Patiently standing with your spouse as you learn to parent
together teaches your children more than just the process. It instills in them
a deep sense of what is right and prepares them for many future relationships.
5. Did you do any babysitting growing up? How much? How did
you like it? Would you like to do that forever? Exactly how much harder do you
think is it to have kids than to have cats/a dog? How do you feel when you
attend a baby shower?
6.Can you fart in front of
I’m totally serious. I know couples that have been together for a
long time (and some have kids) who don’t fart in front of each other. I’m not
sure how or why they do it. I’ll let you in on a little secret: parenting
is really, really gross sometimes. It starts in pregnancy, with the multitude
of sounds and smells your body produces, rears its head in childbirth (see what
I did there?) and keeps a steady pace for the next few years until you
experience the joy that is potty training. There will be a day when your child
poops in the bathtub and you have to find something to retrieve the turd,
making a point to listen to the voice in your head saying, “Not your hand.
Don’t use your hand. Don’t be a hero.” The time will come when you’ll have to
decide who will clean the puke off the car seat, and you’ll have a legitimate
argument about which one of you is most likely to vomit from the smell of
vomit. See where I’m going with this? In the grand scheme of things, farts are
the least of your concerns. You have to own the gross stuff in life and find
the humor in it. The first rule of surviving parenthood is that you learn to
laugh about the good, the bad, and the ugly — together.
7. How strong are we as a couple right now? On a
scale of 1-10 how would you rank your general happiness, your communication,
your commitment, your responsibility. How would you rank your partner’s?
Ashley Davis Bush, psychotherapist and author of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage, says, “You need to
feel that things are working, that you are close, that you handle things well
together.” A baby won’t make anything easier, so be sure you work on
solidifying your relationship first and foremost. “Often couples are
feeling rocky and think that having a baby will bring them closer together,”
Davis Bush says. “Not true. Having a baby can be
a stressor on the relationship, so you have to start strong. If you start weak, things will only get worse.”
8. What is your wildest dream
when you see yourself with your child? If a crystal ball could tell you the
truth about the future kid, what would you want to know? Complete this
sentence: I wish I had a kid with whom I could share ________ .
9. FOO questions: Who took care of you when you
were sick? Who was home more? How did your parents arranged their work
schedules and who took you to after-school programs? Were your parents overcautious? Did you grow
up in a house with lots of yelling? What types of food did you eat? Did you
have your own bedroom? Were you allowed to sleep in or did parents wake you up
early on the weekends? How did you spend your extracurricular time?Did you go to stay away summer camp? Sleepovers?
through your experiences will help inform the thousands of choices—on child
care, discipline, religion, diet, hygiene, sleep and more—you’ll make in the
trenches of parenthood.
More FOO Questions:
would the class identity of our kid compare to the one you had growing up? How
do you feel about meeting the expectations or disappointments that come with
that? What difficulties from your own
childhood are you, quietly, in the back of your mind, trying to fix by raising
your child differently? Who is the
person who strongly influenced your view about the reality of family life or
parent-child relationships? What is the thing you most hope to replicate from
your own upbringing?
will you take care of your mental health? How might yall deal with post partum
If either of you have any mental health issues such
as anxiety, depression, substance use, or an eating disorder, it should be
discussed before having children. Will you continue medication once pregnant?
Are you in a mentally stable place to handle a child? What kind of support will
be needed with the added stress of a child?”
Having kids is one of the most stressful things you
can do, and you need to be prepared to handle any mental and emotional issues
that will arise. If you currently have mental health issues, things become more
complicated, with children. Discussing your needs and making a plan with your
partner will help you be prepare for when your child comes. Your mental health
concerns needn’t stop you from having children, but you should know what to do
when symptoms arise so that they don’t affect your child or your relationship
with your partner.
12. Do you travel well together?
get much more stressful than traveling. I don’t mean once you’re actually on
vacation. I mean the art of getting ready, packed, parked, through security,
and on the airplane before it takes off.
Do you bite your partner’s head off about how you should have left 20
minutes earlier? Do you complain about everything from the weight of the
luggage to the seemingly endless lines? Or are you the partner that runs to the
airport Starbucks to grab food and coffee before either of you get to that
point? Parenthood is stressful, and you have to build each other up, especially
when times get tough. If you don’t travel well together, you probably aren’t
going to do well when you’re both running on no sleep with a crying baby. If
you’ve never flown together, try going to IKEA on a Saturday. If your
relationship can make it through that, it can survive anything.
13. Are you both OK with your sex life
being put on the back burner? How Much Sex do you imagine having? How long could you
imagine us not having sex before you’d think something is wrong? What’s the
longest you’d be OK going without sex with me?
saying you’ll never have sex again, but it will take a while before either of
you lies in bed without immediately passing out. It takes time to adjust to
your new roles as parent and spouse. Co-sleeping, nursing, and healing all take
their toll on a sexual relationship. Turns out it’s not that easy to feel sexy
when you’re not 100% sure when your last shower was. Luckily, intimacy and
attraction can be expressed in infinite ways. Flirting, flowers, hugs, kisses,
babysitting while partner takes a night out, buying partner booze for
babysitting during your night out … As long as you’re open and honest with each
other about your wants and needs, you’ll do fine. But having kids will put a
serious damper on your do-it-like-rabbits-in-every-room-of-the-house ways. For
about 18 years, give or take. I can only assume this is why Viagra was invented.
14. What are
your greatest fears as a parent? What are fears you have for my children? How
could these affect my parenting?
15. Are you happy to help?
told a story re: an exchange with his coworker, who was expecting his first
baby: Coworker: “Do you change diapers?”
Coworker: “Well, I’m not going to change diapers. That’s gross.”
Brandon: “Are you married?”
Brandon: “Well if you plan on staying married, believe me, you’ll change
an essential part of parenting. And yes, I think taking turns changing poopy
diapers is part of that. (Or knowing when it’s a two-person job, like when you
have to change the diaper in the backseat of the car and someone needs to hold
the damn bag.) A little reciprocity and communication go a long way. Take turns
doing chores or split them up in a way that works for both of you. Be willing
to ask for help and be happy to give it in return. I say “happy to help”
because I think everyone should want to help their partner. You should help out
of love, never out of resentment or obligation.
16. Now with that happy heart, How are the two of you going to
split parenting duties?Will you both split everything
or are there distinct Dad
Duties and Mom Duties? Do you take turns waking up
at 2 am (or 3 am or 4 am or 5 am…)? If you’re
nursing, can he change all the diapers? If you go the formula route, do
you take every other bottle, or divide the day into childcare
In some families, Mom changes all or most of
the diapers, while Dad gives baths and reads bedtime stories.
You’ll work out the details once baby arrives, but discussing beforehand
how much each of you will be involved and can prevent burnout and
disappointment in your partner’s level of involvement. You may want to just go
with the flow or you might work better with a list of daily duties, such as who
gets up with baby during the night (would a tag team approach be best or does
one cover overnight but get to sleep late and nap when baby naps?). These
issues may seem inconsequential now, but once you’re in full-on parenting mode,
knowing what to expect from each other can get you through the day and avoid new-mom meltdowns.
until you haven’t slept in six days to divvy up who’s gonna do what is a
True, this is the kind of thing
that tends to work itself out, but you should have a sense of who does what.
17. If pregnancy screening reveals our baby has disabilities, what
do we do?
majority of babies are just fine, but what happens if a test during pregnancy
reveals an abnormality? Would you consider terminating the pregnancy? If you
decide to have the baby, can you financially and mentally handle caring for a
child with a medical condition? Figuring out how you would handle this
extremely sensitive situation could preserve your sanity — and relationship —
if you’re faced with it.
18. What are your name deal breakers? What names do you think are
last name will our kid/s have?
may have his heart set on his son being His Exact Name Jr., while you
think any child you push out should bear your last name. The goal
is to lovingly compromise, of course — especially because no one
wants to have that fight in the hospital. If one is adamantly against it,
throw it out. You want to both be happy with what you name your child.
19. What kind of delivery do we want? Have you agreed on a
home birth in a tub may sound dreamy, but if he saw how it can all go to shit
on Girls, it may be hospital or bust for any wife and child of his.
Do your research, and present your case. Wherever you give birth, if the
thought of seeing your in-laws while you’re in labor makes you want to remain
childless forever, your husband needs to (politely) explain your wishes before
grandparents barge in.
20. Will you circumcise a boy?
Is it a given that if
you have a boy you’ll want to have his foreskin removed? A lot of dads want their sons to look
just like them. Others want just the opposite, because it’s what they
would have preferred had they been able to make the call for
themselves. You can’t know what he expects until you ask, and there’s not much
time to debate once the baby arrives — and has a penis. Although this has been a societal
norm for years in the United States, the AAP does not feel the medical benefits
of circumcision, including slightly lower risks of urinary tract infections,
sexually transmitted infections, and foreskin infections, is sufficient
evidence that all boys should undergo the surgery. The U.S. circumcision rate
is currently on the decline. According to a health care data analysis from SDI
Health, 56 percent of baby boys were circumcised in 2006, but only 32.5 percent
were circumcised in 2009. This data does not include outpatient procedures such
as circumcisions performed in doctor’s offices or at religious ceremonies. Many
parents choose circumcision for religious or cultural reasons; others feel it
is more hygienic or helps the baby to “look like Daddy.” Parents who
decide against circumcision often don’t want their child to undergo the pain of
an unnecessary surgery. Others believe the foreskin is needed to protect the
tip of the penis and that it increases sexual pleasure, and state that teaching
proper hygiene will lower their son’s risk of infections despite not being
circumcised. If you don’t agree on this one, you may find you’ll have to fight
it out. Sometimes Dad’s opinion carries more weight in this case because he’s
got the goods and therefore may feel more strongly about the matter.
21. Should you bank your baby’s cord blood?
Wonder what all these
cord blood bank commercials are all about? They can cause all kinds of
emotional responses from hormonal moms-to-be. If you haven’t thought about the
cord blood issue yet, you and your partner should do your research and decide
if you want to pursue it. Mitchell S. Cairo, M.D., Chief of Pediatric
Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Maria Fareri Children’s
Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, says that there are two types of
banking: private directed donor banking and public banking. With private
banking, “the cord blood is processed and stored frozen to be only used by
the donor or family member at the family’s discretion,” Dr. Cairo
explains. With public banking, “the cord blood is donated by the family to
be processed and frozen and will be used by bone marrow transplant physicians
to treat other patients throughout the world and is no longer under the
discretion or controlled by the family who donated it.”
Private banking is
expensive, and is therefore recommended to families who have other siblings diagnosed with a disease
treatable by sibling cord blood transplantation.
Otherwise, if you’d like to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends the public
donor route. The only downside to donating your baby’s cord blood is that
sometimes the hospital requires the umbilical cord to be clamped and cut
earlier. Recent research has suggested that waiting longer to cut the cord — a
few minutes or until it stop pulsating — will allow your baby to receive more
of the cord blood and crucial stem cells.
22. Will you
Speaking of baby duties, how do you plan to feed your child? Do you have
an opinion on breastfeeding versus formula? This is often a decision that Mom
ultimately makes, but Dad may have strong feelings about it too. You may wait
until you’re expecting to come to a resolution, but learning a little about
your options right now may help resolve any differing opinions. The AAP
considers breast milk the best nutrition a child can receive in the first year
of life. “We now know that nursing your child strengthens not only the
quality of your relationship with her but also improves her health, enhances
her brain development, and provides her with precisely the type of nourishment
she needs at each critical stage of her development,” writes Joan Younger
Meek, M.D., in The New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding.
“Breast milk is such a rich, nourishing mixture that scientists have yet
to identify all of its elements; no formula manufacturer has managed or will
ever be able to fully replicate it.” Beyond medical reasons, the choice
between breastfeeding and formula feeding may depend on whether you’re willing
to commit the time and energy it takes to breastfeed and whether you’ll be able
to pump during work if you’re not staying home with Baby. In January 2011, the
Surgeon General launched a call to action to encourage breastfeeding support in
the U.S., citing a study published in the journal Pediatrics that
estimated that the nation would save $13 billion per year in health care and
other costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six
Whatever your decision, it’s worth doing thorough research to decide
what’s best for your family. Bear in mind that, despite some moms’ best
intentions to breastfeed, some women can’t do it or fail to produce enough
How do you
feel about Formula? Is one partner willing to take over a night feeding? Will
23. Will you use cloth diapers or disposables?
Since the invention of
disposable diapers in the 1950s, a majority of parents in the United
States have opted to forego yesteryear’s cloth-and-safety-pin approach. Now,
new cloth diaper models are available (think snaps and Velcro along
with fleece or biodegradable liners) and parents with green and/or economic initiatives
are choosing cloth more frequently. Some people argue that the energy and water
it takes to launder cloth diapers is equally as harmful to the
environment as the energy used to manufacture and break down
disposables in landfills. And for some parents, the potential green benefits
don’t outweigh the convenience of disposables.
As for how much you
could save financially if you chose cloth, Consumer Reports estimates that
parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 on disposables per year. The cheapest form of
cloth diapers, pre-folds, could run you under $300 total (washing and
drying included), while more expensive models, all-in-ones available for $17 to
$25 each, could cost around $800 to purchase and launder. Keep in mind, though,
that cloth diapers can be reused on subsequent children.
24a. Should you co-sleep?
Opinions differ as to
whether having a baby in bed with his parents is detrimental to his health,
particularly if it reduces or increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death
syndrome). On AskDrSears.com, renowned pediatrician William Sears, M.D.,
hypothesizes: “I believe that in most cases SIDS is a sleep disorder,
primarily a disorder of arousal and breathing control during sleep. All the
elements of natural mothering, especially breastfeeding and sharing sleep, benefit
the infant’s breathing control and increase the mutual awareness between mother
and infant so that their arousability is increased and the risk of SIDS
decreased.”The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against
co-sleeping, which is sometimes termed “bed-sharing.” In a 2005
article in Pediatrics, it is stated that is “more hazardous than the
infant sleeping on a separate sleep surface.”
Even beyond bed-sharing,
you may want to discuss whether or not Baby will sleep in your room. Will she
have a bassinet next to your bed, which can make night feedings and
tending to her when she cries easier? Or will she have her own nursery so you
and your partner can have a little privacy in the bedroom? If both of you
desire to share your bed or your bedroom with your baby, you’ll need to
pinpoint why it’s right for you. If one of you is for co-sleeping and the other
against it, you’ll need to figure out who will give up the fight (or his side
of the bed) before Baby arrives.
24b. Also, as child gets older, How do you feel about kids sleeping in our
room — or bed? What age is the cut off? If you’re firmly against opening the
bedroom door to kids and your partner’s on the fence about it, better to hash
that out before you’re both desperate to get some rest.
25. How many children do
you want? After having one child, What if trying to conceive in
the future is challenging for us?
says couples should also discuss the possibility of not getting pregnant right
away, and how that may feel. So questions like, “How
would you feel if we were unable to conceive?” or “How do you feel about adoption or surrogacy?” are important
to talk about. “Infertility
is a very stressful and challenging obstacle for many couples. Rather than silently hope you’ll be one of the lucky ones with no
problems, discuss the importance of having more children ahead of time,”
Cocharo says. “Ask each other about your openness to infertility treatments, as
well as adoption or surrogacy. Assuming that your
partner feels how you do, without discussion, is a recipe for disappointment
and disaster down the road.” This one
variable — number of kids — will have more impact on the dynamic of your
family than almost anything else.
26a. What kind of childcare will we use? Do you both want to work?
Is one of you going to stay home? do you want to send your
child to daycare or are you more comfortable with an in-home nanny? Are both parents going back to work? Is one
parent going to stay home? Ask the grandparents to
take on a few days? Find a day care center?
Finding a situation you’re both comfortable with is key. If one parent is
giving up their salary, discuss how you will make up for the loss in income. This financial shift will take some getting used to and you’ll need
to adjust your budget, so communicate with each other openly. “I went
back to work two months after my son was born, which meant that I needed to
track down hard-to-find infant care. While an in-home nanny siphoned any income
I made that year, the comfort of knowing that my son was safe and loved in our
home was priceless.”
Try to anticipate conflicts
before they arise. 26b. If your child is
sick and both of you are working, who will stay home?. How did your parents divide
parenting responsibilities (like sick days, snow days, or washing the dishes)?
How would we want to change that? These can be volatile topics, rife with
ingrained stereotypes on gender and division of labor, so it’s important to
tackle these questions slowly, steadily and gently before getting pregnant.
If you both want or need jobs,
leaving your baby with your retired mom might seem like a no-brainer. But is
your husband hoping his mother would do the honors instead? Or is family
too far away, so you’ll need a nanny or daycare? You gotta know what’s
feasible, because the answer will likely need to become a new line item on
your budget. Have you discussed
whether one of you wants or needs to stay home with your child or if you’ll be
using child care? This decision is sometimes driven by financial factors and sometimes
by each individual’s passion for pursuing a career. Staying at home with a
child can be just as tough as the corporate grind, even if you love what you’re
doing. Take some time to talk over each of your ideal work/family balance
scenarios and how you could achieve them. Remember — there’s no shame in
deciding either to stay at home or to place a child in day care or with a
babysitter. As long as the two of you are in agreement as to what’s best for
the family, that’s all that matters.
27a. What lifestyle and SES are you
expecting for your children? Do Brand names Matter? Fancy Vacations? Private
lessons/education? Car when they are 16?Will you
create a new budget together? How will you save for your child’s education and expenses?
Be clear and up front about this with one another.
Babies come with a magical
power: They make your every nickel disappear. Cribs! Diapers! Postnatal care! A
tricked-out Bugaboo stroller with a built-in Blu-ray player! These little
creatures have the gall to ask for food too. Make a realistic financial plan and leave some leeway for the unexpected
27b. Set realistic short-, medium- and long-term
goals for your career and family lives, and revisit them as needed. Few
topics are as volatile as work and money—the top factors, says Seidel, in the
breakdown of a relationship. Couples are much more likely to get divorced three
or four years after having kids—in some cases, even earlier, she says. Be
honest with yourself and your partner about your goals before getting pregnant.
Example: “I never anticipated the
amount of cleaning up after a baby and laundry I would be doing. It seems
endless. Neither of us is really good at housework, so we both agreed that having
a cleaning lady was a good idea,”
28. Is your home large enough for your family?
Are you happy with your current home and set up? Baby proofing?
language or languages will your child speak?
30. Will they be raised
in a certain religion? How much
religion will be in our kid’s life — and which one(s)? What values do you hope your children embody in their own lives? Prayers
at dinner or before Bed? Sunday School? Summer Camps? Vacation Bible school? How will you set an example for them? Does this mean attending religious services, or living according to
your own moral guidelines in any particular ways?
Just because your partner didn’t protest your childhood
pastor officiating your wedding doesn’t mean he’ll be as blasé about his kid’s
upbringing. Touch base on birth rituals (Baptism?) weekly worship, and
celebrating holidays. If you practice different religions, plot out how
you’ll explain your individual beliefs without slamming the other
31. How organic/vegan/earth-friendly are we going
to go?If you’re a
vegetarian, do you want to raise your child with the same dietary restrictions?
Breast milk, cloth diapers, and growing and blending your own baby
food is just the beginning. If it’s important to one of you, it needs to
be important to the other too. But if becoming an organic farmer isn’t as
important as being a sane mom, tell him where you stand.
32. Where do you stand
on sleep training? Which statement below best represents your beliefs?
What are some of the pros and cons of this belief?
Letting infants cry until they soothe themselves teaches independence.
It is important to figure out what our children are telling us when they
cry, then decide how to handle the situation.
It is never okay to let our infants and toddlers cry.
Also, What will you do when a child wakes
up at night (feedings, nightmares, bed wetting, sickness, habitual waking,
storms, asking for a parent)?
role do you see your parents playing in our lives after the baby is born? How much help do we want, for how long, and from whom if anyone other
Let’s say that Grandma and Grandpa want to stay in your home for eight weeks
to “help.” Is that good news or bad news? How much will they influence your own
style of parenting? How much is Grandma allowed to spoil them? Discipline them?
grandparents who want to move in for eight weeks to change every diaper
can be a blessing or a curse. Decide how you much you’d want the help of either
set of parents — before they start requesting off from work.
like you want to be a united front to your children, it is just as important to
be united when talking to parents.
How frequently do you want them involved? How would you
handle a situation in which your children’s grandparent disagreed, openly
opposed or defied your parenting method(s)? How will you handle
disagreements or conflicts with grandparents?
about conflicts between the two of you? Different parenting strategies? When
you reach an impasse, what do you do?
My technique? Bombard my husband with
complex, important questions and expect an immediate answer. It has taken me
years to learn that giving him space to think and come back with an answer is
invariably the better way to go. In the heat of an argument, it can be hard to
stay calm, so Seidel suggests approaching each topic as an attempt to
understand your partner’s position. That means actively listening—not finishing
each other’s sentences—and framing conflicts around how you feel, not about
who’s right and who’s wrong. One brilliant mom friend of mine and her husband
invented their own quirky technique: By standing or sitting in a certain spot
of their house, they can gently signal that a conversation needs to happen,
without conflict or confrontation.
35. Where are we raising our kids?If one gets the better job that would
mean our family has to move, do you willingly follow, or will you resent the
of you may want to trade the city for the suburbs before welcoming a
kid. You both may want to live closer to one or both of your families
once you start your own. No time like the present to ensure you’re seeing
eye-to-eye on these quandaries.
What challenges do you think will arise if we are a multiracial family?
37. Who will be our kid’s guardian should something happen to
may not want to think about the possibility, but securing your child’s
future in writing will offer peace of mind.
38. How strict are we going to be? Which is more important to develop, obedience or
responsibility? How do you plan to do this?
learn from a shockingly early age which parent to ask to get their way. Chat
about how tough a stance you’ll take on screen time, sugary treats, and all
other kid vices — and how you’ll work to maintain a united front,
especially when he or she tried to play one of you off of the other or
manipulate or only ask the more lenient parent.
39. What is the
difference between discipline, punishment, and redirection? Which do you plan
to implement? When and how?
Why would I
choose to punish or discipline my children? Why might I choose not to
discipline or punish when my children display incorrect behaviors? If you ask 100 different people about the best
theory on childhood discipline, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. What
types of punishments are acceptable when it comes to kids-to-be? Time-outs?
Spanking? You don’t have to nail down every scenario, but make sure you and
your partner are in the same stratosphere.
Will you spank
If so, give
three examples of times you would spank your children. Is there a time to
If not, what
methods would you use? When and how would you implement them?
Marriage and family therapist Chrissy Powers, herself a mom of two,
says discipline is a must-discuss item. “Discipline is about so much more than
just correction. We learned about discipline from
our own parents, and as all married people know, each family is different. I
wish that most people understood that discipline is more about the relationship
with your child,” she says. “My husband and I have had to get on the same page
with this, but it’s taken us four years to do so because we had different ideas of how to
discipline. When bringing up the topic of discipline, I think a couple
should discuss how they were disciplined as children and what they did and
didn’t like about it.”
“It is very
important for parents to discuss the disciplinary techniques they will use
before they start
a family, and to come to an agreement, whether that be time-outs, grounding,
taking away favorite things, sending children to their room, or spanking if it
is one of their choices,” says Ron Mackey, author of Parenting: The Bottom Line.
psychologists, and pediatricians believe that spanking can have harmful side
effects as a child grows up, possibly leading to violent behavior, slowing
mental development, and hindering achievement. But those in the spanking camp
believe that spanking (not beating) is an effective disciplinary tool because a
gentle swat catches the child’s attention, provides a consequence, establishes
that you are the parent, and lets them know that they are participating in
unacceptable behavior,” Mackey says. He also cautions that bad
behavior ending in a spanking should be explained to the child, so he can
change the behavior, and that you should show affection and give reassurance of
your love after spanking. Mackey calls this “training, correction, and
According to Mackey,
although most pediatricians are against spanking as a primary form of
discipline, more than 53 percent believe that under certain circumstances it
can be effective. It’s also worth noting that 74 percent of kids who were
spanked when they were young say that they spank their own children.
Because presenting a
united front is vital in disciplining, you’ll want to have your game plan
hammered out by the time your little one needs it. This may mean reflecting on
your own childhoods, researching a variety of methods, and figuring out how
you’d like to approach behavior problems as a team. Discuss the tactics you’re OK with — and the ones
you absolutely won’t use. For instance, the time to learn that your spouse
thinks spanking is acceptable is not when your child’s belly-down on his
40. What age should this stop? What do you
imagine doing when you are very angry and feel like hitting? What’s an appropriate
punishment or consequence for a child hitting you?
41. Will we send our child to public or private school?
What kind of school experience
do you want for your kid, how much are you willing to pay for it and how will
those (staggering) expenses change your financial options? How much will you
sock away for college? If one of you insists on private school, does that mean
that you, say, buy a smaller home?
reason to have this talk sooner rather than later? It affects where you live
and every single expense, because as your student loans never stop reminding
you: Paying for education is freaking expensive.
42. We’re going to follow our pediatrician’s recommendations for
immunization/ vaccination, right?
43. How will we handle any kind of coming out? When we learn the sex of our
child, either before or after birth, what significance will that have for you?
(And what impact might it have on our parenting?)Would you let our son go to kindergarten
in a dress?
I suggest address this with love and acceptance? Even if you know as the
mother or father of your kid, you will love them unconditionally, if he’s got
older relatives who will shun a gay or trans grandkid, get on the same page
about how you’d respond to that.
44. How will having this baby change you as a couple? How will we
keep our relationship strong? How do we plan to say connected? How will we make time for our relationship after baby?
effing impossible to be a happy parent if you’re on -edge (OK, maybe
even miserable), because you and your partner are passing ships in
the night, teaming up only to tackle spit-up, dirty diapers, and feedings.
In the midst of acclimating to this whole parenting thing, you
still need to have adult conversations — and some sex every now and again
— to stay happily married. Tackle how you’ll keep the spark alive, whether
through monthly date nights, a yearly weekend (or week!) away, or just an hour
a day after bedtime for kid-free talk.
does respecting the father look like in your house? Respecting the mother? If a
mother or father are wrong, commit a sin, or lose their temper, should they
apologize to a child? Ask for forgiveness?
46. Is “because
I said so” an acceptable answer to a child when they ask for something?
47. What role
does humor play in your family? Would you use it to diffuse tension, while
disciplining, to make a point or teach a lesson, or purely as fun? Will
we be the kind of family that can talk about farts?
48. How do
you imagine a typical day with your children (routine, exploration, structure,
spontaneity, indoor play, outdoor play, sports, music, drama, etc)?
49. What lifestyle standards do
you have today that you have to keep, or you won’t be able to function? How
would we accommodate those things, especially during the first few years?When does mom get a break? What does
that look like? When does dad get a break? What does that look like?
If a crystal ball could tell one positive part of your child’s future
environment and one negative part of his/her future world, what would you
predict or want to know? How might you handle this?
We must consider the world in which
our children might be raised.
four ways you want to have fun with your family. How will you balance
family-centered time, children-centered time, and parent-centered time?
52. Which best
describes how you will protect your children from negative influences:
We will keep our children away from children and adults who believe
differently than we do.
We will ask and expect people with other beliefs to conform to our
standards when around our children.
We will be the referees as we expose our children to a variety of
We will be coaches on the sidelines, giving advice but not interrupting
our children’s interactions.
We will let our children learn from their own actions.
activities or skills do you want your children to learn? What is your
motivation for this? If they want to try something new and then want to quit,
how quickly do you let them quit?
if ever, should you leave or cancel plans on account of your children (i.e.
throwing a fit, tired, poor influences, exposure to drugs/alcohol, your child’s
aggressive behavior, another child’s aggression, exposure to the cold, exposure
to the flu, has the cold or an illness)?
counts as spoiling?
Will you be tight or loose with
Kid Money? Do they get everything they want? How old will they be when they
start getting an allowance? Do they have to do chores to earn that allowance? Do
they have to do chores anyway even for no allowance. How
much TV can they watch, and how much Internet surfing is too much?
56. What should our kid’s
relationship with technology be? At what age should our kid get their first
cell phone? Ipad, Computer in their room? VR headset? Are there curfews? None
at the dinner table? Will there be “Play outside, reading, or drawing”
Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert? What if our kid
is very different from us in this or other ways?
What would be a difficult issue to parent a kid through? How will you talk to
them about drugs and alcohol? What type of sexual education will you want to
What is something from your own childhood that you don’t want to have your
child repeat? What kind of parenting strategies might help them avoid that?
How can I show you gratitude when I’m a sleep deprived zombie bending towards
What are the things that you imagine you would be unwilling to give up or
change about yourself, even for your children, even for me?
What if we have a kid and it’s not great? Will we feel like we ruined our
lives? What do you think about couples counseling?
What other challenges do you predict could arise because of the differences in
your personalities/ parenting styles?
Imagine it’s 20 years from now, and
we’re sitting in this same spot talking about our kid. What would that
conversation be like?
Role play it out.
65. What do we want our future to look like?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of
starting a family, but what do you want life to look
like when your kids are grown?Will you travel to Ireland? Buy a boat? Move to
the mountains? Go back to work?Do you dream of family
vacations with one or two adult children, or Thanksgiving meals with a football
team of kids gathered around?“At some point—18 or so years after the baby arrives—the
baby will leave. And the two of you will have to
look at each other alone all over again. Also, yall will be free to make some
choices,” Brittle says. “Don’t wait to start dreaming
about what you’re going to do. It really doesn’t matter what your dream is, but it matters
that you have one.It’ll help you keep your head up when the baby demands all your
attention, and it’ll give you vision for the future when you’re overwhelmed by
66. At the end of this: what are you most excited about in partnering with your spouse as you enter this journey as parents? What are you most worried about in partnering with your spouse on this journey?
Again, I hope this was a helpful adventure for you two as a couple. Two important notes: 1) If you know a couple struggling to communicate in this transition of a newborn or pregnancy, please pass this on. If you already have a baby, it’s not too late. Start talking now! It could still be a great practice to go through these questions. It’s never too late to find common ground. 2) If you have a question you just can’t reach a common front, I would encourage that if it’s really important to you or will cause you stress in the marriage, that you seek out counseling to help talk through it with a professional. Let me know if I can help you find someone to work with.
9. My schedule no longer revolves around food and exercise. My hunger and fullness has become my body clock. I eat when I am hungry. I listen. I stop when I’m full. I listen. I remember when I was in college and marathon training, I skipped a friend’s birthday party because I didn’t want to eat chips and queso and birthday cake since I had a long run the next day (and I was unwilling to wait one single day to do my long run).
8. No more lies… In that story above, I faked a stomach ache to avoid those “bad” foods, and missed out on a fun night and the chance to love on a good friend. The number of times I said, “I just don’t like pizza or bacon. They make me feel bad.” Who doesn’t like those?! In moderation, they don’t make me feel bad at all. I regret so many of those inauthentic moments.
7. I finally am at peace with food. I no longer see food as “good” or “bad”. Food is just food. It is not my worst foe, nor is it my soothing comforter after a bad day, my savior and idol, or the answer to my problems.
6. I only do exercise and activities that bring me joy, I no longer exercise to punish myself for what I ate earlier that day. I used to have intrusive thoughts that each step of my run was dropping off pounds of fat, so as you can imagine when I wasn’t doing those daily runs, I just imagined all of that fat on me. Now instead, I see myself as strong, and fun, and I picture the sweat just clearing out stress and toxins from my life and joy building inside of me. In the past, I only considered certain types of activity or duration of time a “real” workout. Now, I play soccer, ultimate frisbee, allow myself to walk with a friend, play golf, or do restorative yoga with no judgment.
5. My diet is no longer a bank account with a balance that carries over from day to day or meal to meal. One meal that is more fun treat foods, one day at the county fair, or one holiday where I go to 2 Thanksgiving dinners, does not mean that I will gain 5 pounds. Nor does it mean I shouldn’t eat the next day. I give myself grace from day to day. His mercies are new every morning. I finally trust that my body cannot change that much from one small indulgence or one meal or day of not eating enough. It’s about a lifestyle of fueling myself well.
4. I can try new, fun foods! Like tamales and guac at Costco; the fruit, truffles, or smoked salmon samples at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, a restaurants’ house specialties, new boba tea flavors. I can bake and try new recipes. And…. I can participate in days like National Cupcake Day, guilt free! (Here’s is a friend and colleague’s video from the recovery center she started in the DC area):
3. I no longer compare myself to everyone else (what they eat, how they eat, how they look, how much they work out). I am less critical of myself and others. I give myself and other’s grace. I realize that not every thin person has an eating disorder. Also, not every thin person works out all of the time or doesn’t eat enough, and not every bigger person eats too much. I realize that cultural ideals are arbitrary and bullshit, and thin or fit looking is not something to be jealous of, especially if you are unhealthy or don’t have your priorities in balance. I know now you can be healthy or unhealthy at any size, and it is a good idea to get to know someone’s story and ask questions before I start making any assumptions or judgments. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Comparison is the thief of Joy.”
2. Freedom! (with food). I could drink fancy Hawaiian cocktails, eat chicken and waffles, and eat delicious cake at my wedding. I could eat no different than every day ever and not crash diet up until my wedding day. I can go through life and never DIET, or Whole 30, or do whatever fad or cleanse ever again, because I have found a way to live in balance and peace and eat however I want when I want and reject a destructive cycle.
1. FREEDOM! (with body image). I am so peaceful with my body and the most confident I have ever been! I always thought, if I just reach this weight or size or body shape or run at this pace, THEN, and ONLY THEN, I will be happy and confident. I have finally stopped counting and weighing. Only in recovery, I have been my most confident self, loving me every day whether a good day or a bad day, knowing I always deserve to be fueled and enjoy food!
So how do you get to Recovery???
First, you have to STOP and decide that your eating disorder is a big enough problem in your life and that the imprisonment you feel to obsessing and counting and weighing and body checking and comparing and well… you know the list can go on… is just not worth it!
Next you have to admit that you CANNOT do it on your own. You can’t. You need support. You need God’s grace and his bigger plan. You need people who know science (doctor’s and nutritionists) to teach what could happen objectively if you stay in your ED patterns. You may need people to eat with, to hold you accountable for being balanced, fueled, and healthy. You need love and support and cheerleaders. You may need a therapist to challenge those cognitive distortions or higher level of care treatment if you need daily support.
Third, Reach out and ask for help! (Tell one person whom you trust). If you bring your secret out of the darkness and into the light, the secret will lose it’s dark power.
There are so many options for ED recovery. Please reach out if you need resources for you or a friend.
Yep, today is known as a day for food, fat pants, a pre-morning run or a post-afternoon walk, football, celebrating, etc., and for some holidays are extra hard. Last year in 2016, after my divorce, I think Thanksgiving was the most difficult day of the year for me. It was hard to feel happy or peaceful.
BUT… I do encourage you to sit in some stillness today by yourself or with loved ones, and think about what you truly are thankful for. That has continuously helped me move forward and smile.
These are the 8 precious things for which I am so very Thankful:
1) God’s Grace- I have had a lof of ups and downs over the last year and a half and I don’t think I would have been able to get through some of those downs without God’s grace reminding me I am loved, worthy, and strong.
2) My vocation- I LOVE my Job- which is NEVER boring. I respect and value each one of my clients. I feel so grateful that they are willing to trust me with their pain and the intimate details of their lives, and that “AHA!” moment when they grow, heal, gain confidence, and love themselves just a little more. Pure Gold.
3. Health and Recovery- As someone who had terrible post concussive syndrome a few years back, it is amazing to feel this good again. Also, when there were 6 months of unknown stomach problems and hospital visits, and after finally going gluten free and feeling 100% better, I can say I am truly thankful for my body’s ability to recover. Mentally I am 9 years recovered(ing) from an ED. I pretty much eat what I want whenever I want (Donuts, salad, tea, chocolate, sushi, pizza, smoothies, french fries- all are okay!). I am active when I want to be. I don’t have any food rules. Life is so free now. and my body feels energized and awesome.
4. Travel- This year alone I have been to Australia, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Boston, Chicago, Colorado, LA, Wisconsin, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Singapore, and The Philippines… and played frisbee in more than half of them. Not bad. Also grateful that gluten free food is so easy to come by in the world now.
5. Teammates- working toward a common goal on the frisbee field, volleyball court, or soccer field. Endorphins and adrenaline flying everywhere! High-fives, hugs, encouragement, community, Competitive fun, and joy emanate from these people in my life.
6. Family- My parents, brother, sis-in-law, niece and nephew, aunt and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. They have supported me through so much. Especially this past year.
7. Love- The last 6 months with this new wonderful man has been a true blessing from God in my life. He is such a man of integrity and reminded me coming out of a painful time that God has a plan for me and that Love is Patient and Love is Kind.
8. Friends- You know who you are. Deep close personal friendships who can laugh with me, remind me who I am and what I value, call me out on my shit, hold me while I weep, and encourage the heck out of me.
Hey everyone! I am so excited to be announcing a new group that I am starting for teen girls who are at least 14+ years-old (going into High School – getting ready for college).
This group will cost $55 a session (less than 1/2 the price of my normal individual therapy session price and yet a half hour longer!). I will have a package of 5 sessions for $210 if you pay up front ($42 per session) or a package of 10 sessions for $400 ($40 per session).
This group will focus on:
Self-Esteem, Body Image, Body Positivity, Intuitive Eating to Nourish and Fuel us.
Coping with Stress/Sadness/Anxiety within specific family situations, friend groups, relationships, feeling lonely, and more generalized versions of these feelings.
Making Safe and Healthy Choices– eliminating self harm/destructive eating habits,
We will do this by creating a supportive space of safety, trust, acceptance/non-judgment to process life events, explore relationships, We will encourage Vulnerability, Communication, and Honesty.
We will challenge each other to set positive goals for our lives and keep each other accountable.
I will be sending out an email to my clients families today in order to vote on the best day/time for the group.
In an era where we see so much negative stuff going on: self loathing/hate, bullying, mass shootings, failing morality in the political system, selfishness, broken hearts, broken families, etc., it really is easy to get bogged down with the weight of it all and and wonder how one might be able to slowly crawl forward, inch by inch, every day.
I want to talk about a few key principles that I think can help someone stay strong and resilient through the tough times. But first what does it mean to be resilient?
So after compression, pain, or difficult conditions, can we spring or bounce back? Can we recover? How do we stay positive when pain and devastation strike our personal lives or someone we deeply care about?
This isn’t just “Hey, get over it. Everything happens for a reason.” Who likes to hear that when they are crying in a ball on their bathroom floor? It’s not even a biblical quote! So stop saying it! However, faith is this idea in the midst of pain that, “yes, this freakin totally completely sucks, and it will suck for a while, but I need to believe that I will get through it. I will cry. I will be angry. I will need support. and help. and maybe even therapy. BUT- I will also learn from it. I will grow stronger. I will have more empathy and compassion in the end. I will be able to use this lesson in my future.” This is something you believe in when you can’t see any of the light. In Religion and Spirituality, faith is trusting in something bigger than yourself- that some creator/God has a good plan even despite any free will that might change the amount of time it takes to get there. I have had my heart broken a fair amount of times. My grandmother passed away a few years back. Sucky stuff happens in life. Will I have faith in myself to get through it, faith in my community to support me, and God to be my rock when the rest of my life is unstable? Faith says, “I can’t see the light yet, but I will believe it is there, and that I can reach it.”
Hope is so tough to have when you are heart broken, or angry, or depressed, or scared. When you don’t know what’s next, or if your past has shown you that things don’t work out the way you want them to, then why hope at all? Are you not just setting yourself up to get crushed next time? All I know is that whether something crappy actually happens, or if you are living in fear of the worst case scenario happening, then either way your life will be more pain and struggle-town, and less fun and joy-filled-city. If you are living in fear of something that hasn’t actually happened, then you are actually living in a way that is less authentic than real life. It’s not real so why live in a negative moment that isn’t truth. Hope, on the other hand, brings excitement, a flutter to your heart, smiles, conversation, and if you are honest about your hopes with someone else, then they can be there to celebrate with you when your dreams become true, or love and support you if it doesn’t work out. Either way, a hope is fulfilled- dreams came true, or connections were made. Call me an enthusiast or optimist, but hope drives out dread, skepticism, anger, and brings in light, connection, motivation.
Such a powerful word with a million definitions:
“I love you”, “I’m in love with you”, “Love ya, I love pizza!” Feels good on the ears- great to hear. We are all pretty exceptional creatures at offering love to someone else out there: a significant other, family member, friend, humanity… and I truly believe that being willing to be honest and vulnerable and ask for help and RECEIVE LOVE FROM OTHERS is imperative to resilience and moving through pain. Some of the most painful memories in my entire life are also some of the moments when I felt the most supported and cared for in all of my life by people who love me.
I also believe that if you can GIVE LOVE TO OTHERS when you are experiencing personal hardship and pain, it is one of the ways to best lead yourself out of the dark. Getting outside of yourself and your own story and being in relationship with other people and offering yourself to other’s needs is a beautiful way to illuminate perspective.
But when it comes to life’s deepest pain:
LOVING YOURSELF and giving yourself the space to just grieve. Be compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to open the floodgates of emotion, ask for help. Love yourself – if even just for a few days or weeks- completely unconditionally- with no expectations, with grace to just be who you are in your pain.
I wish I had a magic wand to erase the trials in my life, in your life, in the world. As a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and trauma, I talk with people about heartache, hopelessness, and pain every day. It’s tough, but pain and disorder is a part of life. Never the fun part, but a reality none the less. My ability to sit with clients in the mire and muck yet simultaneously help clients turn toward faith, hope, and love, makes me optimistic that I am an effective therapist and hopefully a good fit for many. http://www.WendyLMFT.com . Also, Look out for my next blog post which will be about Keeping the FAITH, HOPE, & LOVE in the midst of eating disorder struggles.
To quote the bible here because no matter what you believe, this is very simple, practical, helpful, and yet, transcendent. Let this speak to your soul in times of pain and my desire for you, for me, is to embody this every day:
“FAITH. HOPE. LOVE. And the greatest of these is LOVE.”
Last Month, a soon to be associate therapist from a Texas Graduate School contacted me regarding some questions she had about life as a real day-to-day therapist in Austin. I had so much fun writing her about what I do, so I thought maybe clients, other therapists and colleagues, or other students might be interested as well.
What is the range of salary for Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors in the San Antonio and Austin area?
I don’t know San Antonio, but I’m pretty sure in Austin area you can make anywhere from 30k-170k just depending on what you do: community health vs private practice, and then if you add in groups, speaking engagements, podcasts, being an author, etc., I am sure the benjamins could really add up!
– Is there a demand for LMFT’s?
I definitely think that while Austin is saturated with therapists (LMFTs, LPCs, LCSWs Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Family counselors, Pastoral Counselors, etc, I do also believe that there is a demand for certain nitches here. When I look around the therapist network and community, EMDR gets requested a lot, DBT groups, LGBTQ therapists, therapiss who specialize in Eating disorders, Couples, Addiction, Christian Counselors, etc. If you have a good specialization here, you are golden.
– What is your perception of availability for job opportunities?
There are good opportunities if you market yourself well. I do know that people who are trying to get into community health gigs rather than starting their own private practice find it hard to find a good paying gig. Also, if you are trying to see how private practice might work out for you but don’t network or market, the chances of building a successful practice are slim to none.
– What and who are some of the resources you refer your clients to for other services?
Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, NAMI, Al-Anon, TimberLine Knolls Residential in Chicago, EMDR and DBT- out of my scope of practice, ERC
Also, Books: “Intuitive Eating”, “The Power of Now”, “How to be an Adult”, “Eating in the Light of the Moon”, “Too Good to Leave/ Too Bad to Stay”, etc.
– What type of professionals do you refer clients to?
Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, other LMFTS, sometimes LCSWs and LPCs if I have built a relationship with them and trust them.
– What do you enjoy most about being a counselor?
Watching people Heal and learn to love their body and accept themselves as a whole package. Decreasing their anxiety and depression. Watching them thrive. After 7 years in community mental health and 55 hour weeks and tons of paperwork, I also love creating my own schedule and being financially fruitful.
– What does a session typically Cost?
This is a tough question because I do believe that if you are paying something for your therapy you will value coming and getting something out of it much more. However, I do believe there are people who couldn’t otherwise afford coming without a very minimal fee and I want to honor those who are struggling. I truly believe that’s what Jesus would want me to do. So I have a handful of my lowest fee clients that are paying $30-$50, while most are somewhere between $80-$120. My initial intake is a flat rate $150 because it is a full 90 minute assessment (30-40minutes longer) where there is prep paperwork, post paperwork, a full assessment, discussion of a treatment plan, and possible referrals and resources given.
In your opinion, what is the most rewarding and the most difficult part of working in this field.
Two sides of the same coin.
Clients remind you how important it is to be well balanced and healthy. To take care of yourself and be 100% authentic and honest in your own relationships with people. Helps you remember the own internal healing work you have done to get here.
At the same time… Self Care is difficult at times when you are caring for everyone else. Also therapy does a good job of stirring up your own sh*t. When clients bring up your own stuff, your own insecurities/ self criticisms, marital problems, or lack of self care (I think you know this is called “COUNTERTRANSFERENCE”) It can be rough. But clearly you have to hold it together in the room, be authentic in the therapeutic relationship that you are not perfect, and then talk with your own therapist, colleagues, friends, etc. about it so you don’t let it effect your work. Doesn’t mean you are a bad therapist if you have countertransferences. It is natural. Just not one of the easiest parts about therapy.
– Working in a field where your job is about helping others with their problems, how do you deal with the emotional toll it takes on you and practice self-care?
good follow up to my last answer.
Good Friends, Datenights, alone time, working out, eating balanced (mostly healthy with some small indulgence(s) every day), GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP!!, faith, prayer, a consultation group I built with some other colleagues that are also starting out private practitioners, Every once in a while a good Netflix binge 🙂
– What made you decide to become a Marriage and Family Counselor?
1) I was working at a summer camp and there was a girl with an eating disorder and a messed up home life. I wanted to help, but all I knew to do in that moment as a 21 year old was to hug her, tell her that Jesus loves her and it will all be okay! That’s nice, but not necessarily that helpful practically for her. So I knew I needed to gain more tools. So i did.
2) I was a missionary in El Salvador working at an orphanage with a ton of kids that were there because of broken family situations. I wanted to help more and again just didn’t know really what to do. After grad school and trainings now I do. It’s a cool feeling.
– What licensing and education did you acquire in order to become an LMFT?
Masters in MFT at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena California
Lots of Curriculum Courses, Extra Psychopharmacology Course from an online University, National Exam and Jurisprudence exam for Texas Board of MFT, Seminars/Conferences in both CA and TX
3000 hours of Supervised Therapy
EBP Trainings: MAP, TFCBT, EMDR Basic (not fully certified so, NO, I don’t do EMDR ever in sessions), Seeking Safety
California Written MFT exam and California Vignette MFT Exam
BOTH CA license and TX licenses
– What was it like for you when you first started out as a graduate?
I was young, 23, and I didn’t really have a major college freedom experience, so at 23, I was going to class and doing my work, but also being very social and mingling with the cohort. I was also healing from my own eating disorder, so I was growing and healing and finding myself during that time. I think I really grew up in the year/years post graduation in 2010- now. I feel in the past 3 years like some how around 27-30 years old I just became a full fledged adult. The school piece was always pretty easy for me. It was the real world experience where I really grew up and learned to be a great therapist. I had to learn especially about self care, and about not letting every traumatic story sit inside my heart and mind for too long. I grew some healthy armor. I am present completely in the moment with that client. Sometimes I will even cry with them, but at the end of the day, I put all those client stories in a “box” and leave it in my therapy room. It’s too much to take home with you every day.
I am so glad I am still a therapist today. I think it is a perfect job for me and I really feel blessed with the clients that I work with, the company I keep, and the God who has blessed me with the gifts, heart, passion, and talent to be an effective therapist.
A few weeks ago, I was getting my haircut by this sweet, attractive, wonderful, newly engaged, 27 year old fella with a baby on the way, and today I get an email from a mutual friend that said her buddy (my hair stylist) went into the ER a few days ago and after biopsies and tests, found out he had cancer. WTF?!!
Ugh to stress! Relationships are hard, work is hard, friendships can be hard, death is hard, having high self esteem and confidence is hard, etc., so when a crisis happens, it creates an unexpected, overwhelming identity crisis as well as an addition to the normal amount of difficulty and stress that come with these aforementioned topics. Here are a few ideas to help get us through the moment in crisis.
Know that “We” are stronger than “I” can be alone. Don’t try to handle the crisis alone. We were made for community and for connection. Talk to someone. A friend. Parent. Therapist. The person who cares about your well being more than anyone is a great start.
Take a step back and see the bigger picture. “Pain and Beauty are entangled in a big knot called HOPE.” Know that there is struggle and stress, but there is also character development, strength, and making yourself better for the long run. There is some brightness out there, go find the light and bathe!
“The Joy of The Lord will be my strength.” If faith is a resource to you, lean in during crisis. We live in a world that is imperfect and where free will sometimes mean people hurt us. Believing that there is a higher power out there bigger than your pain and your suffering who cares and hurts with you and wants to comfort you can be helpful. Meditation and prayer have scientifically been shown to reduce the release of cortisol (an arousal hormone) in your brain.
4. Have emotions, understand that it is okay to experience the range of emotions, but Don’t emotionally React. Don’t hurt others in your hurt.
Know that a broken heart is a part of your story that helps you understand and empathize with others’ heartache. It’s also is helps you appreciate when the good love comes around. Never underestimate the power of ruling out 🙂 Stick your heart out there, and although it may get broken, keep glue nearby to mend it. Let it stay warm and not grow cold.
5. Knocked off your pedestal and freaking out at what others might be thinking about you? Take a breath. Think about that middle school dance you went to where you felt so awkward and thought everyone is looking at you.
Well, guess what? Everyone else is thinking and feeling that about themselves too. They are not worried about your shortcomings because they are so preoccupied with their own. We are all so self critical and want to be seen as perfect, but the sooner we realize that is impossible the better we will be able to handle a crisis. How many perfectionists do you know that are perfect?
Anyway, I hope that:
A) having someone to lean on, B) keeping HOPE, C) having faith D) remembering that a failed Relationship, Job, etc. is just a learning lesson that helps you rule out out what didn’t work and why, and E) not trying to be perfect but just accept that you are doing the best you can,
will help you get through the next crisis that comes your way successfully.
Holistic Wellness is my game. Here are my New Years resolutions. I hope that they can motivate you to make a few of your own.
Meet new people! Being in a new city (even though I went to college here, I moved away for 7 years and moved back), I still feel a little lonely. I have to remember there is an adjustment period, but I also can’t complain about being lonely if I don’t put myself out there to meet new friends.
Cultivate deeper friendships. This takes time. I want to feel connected. I have my husband and he is my best friend. However, I need some ladies in my life to share and connect with as well! It is not a quick fix, but again I have to put the work in.
I play lots of sports (like soccer, ultimate frisbee, and running) that make me feel powerful! I eat pretty well- with some room for fun yummy indulgences! However, I want to have some more overall wellness, flexibility, and strength. So More Yoga, Swimming, Climbing, etc. (Things that use your whole body but aren’t super hard on your body).
Falling asleep on the couch, only to stumble later into bed without taking my makeup off and brushing my teeth, is pretty typical when I’m exhausted (Don’t worry I do it ridden with shame in the morning). I want to take better care of my hygiene.
Mental Health: I will go to therapy and make it a priority instead of saying every time,”I am a therapist. I can handle it.” I believe in getting and giving counsel. Let me practice what I preach!
Brain Oils: I have read a lot that oils are really healthy for your brain, memory, preventing dementia, healing concussions, etc. Coconut, Olive, Avocado, Sunflower, Safflower, Almond, Flaxseed, Grapeseed Oil… May the cooking fun begin!
Spiritual/Soul Giving/Emotional Health:
Find a church that I can invest in the community and find a friend with whom to discuss faith and real life as well as having someone to encourage/pray for/and pray for me. Pray more.
Be more encouraging and less critical of myself and others. I am a developer, which means I have high standards and expectations. That can cause me to be critical and direct at times, but that attitude is not always helpful in my personal relationships.