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♥Stressed Parents CAN Raise Calm Kids♥

I see you, stressed parents. Your stress, your fear, your overwhelm, your feelings of not being good enough. I see it all. And I’m here to tell you that you are good enough.

Stressed parents: "Adults addicted to their own stress hormones were once children who lived in unpredictable environments of overreaction, rage spirals, and fear. Healing is becoming conscious to when we unconsciously seek chaos, why we do it, and how often. With this awareness we can teach our bodies safety in the present." -- Dr. Nicole LePera

Born to Be Stressed Parents

So many of us lived childhoods full of unpredictable emotions exhibited by our parents. We learned how to overreact to the smallest things. Then we learned how to blame others for it, and inflict our anger on everyone around us. Children learn by example. How could we not learn these behaviors when our parents showed these uncontrollable emotions? Previous generations, just like ours, were still learning. They didn’t understand the effect of their behavior on their children’s mental processes. Emotional intelligence was for hippies. They dismissed it as “woo”. After all that, even the most enlightened among us can still struggle to fight these unconscious patterns that were taught to us.

Do Stressed Parents Always Have Stressed Kids?

No! Just because we learned those unhealthy patterns from our own stressed parents parents doesn’t mean we have to teach them to our children. Even when we struggle, and feel like we’re failing, we can teach them how not to take on our stress. Those less-than-savory outbursts of ours can become educational moments to teach them how to handle their emotions in healthier ways than we have. By including them in our healing journey, we can help foster increased emotional intelligence and support them in learning healthier ways to process their emotions.

How Can We Teach Them Better?

This starts by learning how to recognize these moments, and acknowledging them. When we acknowledge them, we can explain to our children what was wrong about our behavior and why. Then, we can tell them what we could have done better, and what we will try to do next time instead. They will learn healthier ways to handle their emotions, and we will learn increased accountability for our own. When they have their own struggles with their emotions, they’ll start to model the same process, and begin to come up with their own solutions of how to handle their stress. Over time, they may even start to help us recognize and correct our own reactions. Healing ourselves while teaching them will help them to learn even faster, and really cement the lessons we are teaching them.

But How Can You Heal?

Healing isn’t necessarily a destination, but a journey. For many people, it may not be possible to ever consider themselves fully “healed”. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. Working with a trained therapist can help you to explore your childhood and the effects it may have on your behavior and parenting. They can help form a plan to heal any trauma and retrain your brain to create new, healthier patterns. A coach can also help you to discover ways to rewire your brain and create those healthier patterns.

The most important step, however, is examining your own behavior and recognizing its effects on others. Once you’ve done this, you can start to puzzle out which behaviors you need to eliminate from your subconscious. Understanding the reasons behind those behaviors can help to make the changes needed, and make them more likely to stick. But, even if you are unable to figure out why you react the way you do, you can still train yourself to make healthier choices and model healthier behavior for your children. If you need help learning what healthier choices are, I highly recommend consulting a therapist or coach that can help you find the approriate solutions for your unique situation.

Want More Support?

Visit nami.org to find a trained mental health professional serving your area if you’d like to speak with a therapist regarding your struggles. If you don’t feel that your situation warrants a mental health professional, you can book a discovery session with me to explore what your goals are and how we can reach them. I can help you identify what changes need to be made, as well as formulate a plan for how to make them. Click here to schedule your session now.

 

♥ Let’s End Toxic Positivity ♥

 

Pregnancy is amazing. It’s an incredible time in your life, and leads to the most precious gift of all: your baby. It’s also messy, painful, and at times downright miserable. These facts are not mutually exclusive. You can love your baby and be grateful for their existence without enjoying the aching hips, the inability to keep food down, and the mood swings that make you cry at how cute something is, then want to smack your partner for trying to give you a compliment because you’re absolutely certain they said it sarcastically and think you look like a beached whale that’s been tarred and feathered. Toxic positivity can make you feel ashamed for these valid feelings that are completely normal during such a tumultuous time in your life.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is a sugar-coated form of gaslighting. It is a way of invalidating a person’s genuine feelings and making them feel shamed for them. It is the belief that a person should maintain a positive mindset regardless of their circumstances, and that any voicing of negative emotion makes them responsible for those emotions’ very existence.

A Phenomenon on the Rise

Lately, I have been seeing an increase in the number of pregnant moms hurting because their family or friends have invalidated their feelings for the umpteenth time. One mom said that her grandmother told her that she had a miserable time when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, then later that day, told her she needed to “stop complaining and just love her baby” when she tried to vent about how tired she was feeling on her own personal facebook timeline. Another told of her aunt who would tell her she needed to stop being ungrateful and “suck it up” every time she heard her mention anything not 100% positive about how she was feeling. I have heard the anguished cries of loss mamas, shamed into suffering in silence by toxic positivity, unable to seek support from their friends when they needed it most, as they went through their pregnancies with their rainbow babies.

Every Mama’s Feelings are Valid

This treatment is not okay. Just because she is having a hard time does not mean she doesn’t love her baby, and we as a society need to stop pretending it does. I love my girls with all of my heart and soul. They also drive me up the walls at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make me an ungrateful mother to wish they were able to see things from my perspective once in a while. I would never dream of telling another mama that she didn’t love her children just because she didn’t always love their behavior.

The Double Standards Need to Stop

Have you ever been so incredibly annoyed by something your partner did, but still loved them anyway? Unless you live in a fictional world or have never loved anyone, you probably have. Why can the same principle not be applied in parenthood as in relationships? Would you tell a woman she couldn’t possibly love her husband if she felt hurt that he chose to go out for an impromptu drink with his friends while she was at home puking her guts out after having to cancel plans with her friends because she felt so sick? Maybe you can see it from both sides, and think maybe he just thought she wanted to have some peace and be alone, but he should have asked her if that’s what she wanted instead of assuming. But you probably wouldn’t tell her “You should stop whining and be glad you have a husband!” or “It isn’t good for your marriage to get so stressed out over everything, you need to calm down!”

Trauma Is Not Healed By Positivity

A growing number of women suffer from trauma of one kind or another during pregnancy and birth. Many more have experienced it prior to pregnancy, and will experience it after. Some of us will even develop PTSD from our experiences. Being positive does not erase the trauma. The only way to heal from it is to process it. Yes, therapy is extremely important, especially in cases of PTSD. But support from your friends and family is, too. Shaming or shunning someone because they have unhealed trauma might make your ego feel better about your own trauma, or allow you to wrap yourself in a bubble to avoid facing it altogether, but it can be incredibly damaging to the other person, and can serve to deepen and reinforce their trauma. If the goal is to help them develop a positive mindset, this is entirely counterproductive, not to mention cruel.

A Positive Mindset Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Yes, during pregnancy and immediately postpartum, it is important to protect your emotional space and try to keep a positive mindset. It’s important for success in all areas of life. Having a positive mindset, however, doesn’t protect us from all possible negative feelings and experiences. The human brain needs to be able to process the things that happen in order to move forward. To do this, we need to talk about them. Holding it all inside can foster resentment, anger, fear, and a whole host of other negative feelings. Letting it out can help to release those feelings, allowing them to be replaced by more positive ones.

 

How You Can Help

Don’t invalidate a mom’s feelings and experiences just because they are unpleasant. Empathize with her. Try to understand what she is going through and hold space for her to talk about it and process it. Allow her to speak on it and seek to better understand her through it. Let her know she is not alone. Make her feel heard and validated. Support her. If you see someone participating in toxic positivity against another (or even themselves), gently remind them that all feelings are valid and deserve the space they need to be processed. That is how we change lives and make the world a better place.

 

Are you searching for a safe place to talk about your troubles while being supported instead of invalidated? Would you like to join a community of moms coming together to educate and empower each other in healthy ways? Come join us and help us build the village we all need.

 

♥ My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Journey ♥

 

Warning: This post contains very personal and not-pretty details regarding my anatomy, sex life, and bodily functions. If you don’t like TMI, you may not want to read it. Then again, you may not even be here to begin with in that case! 

“OH! NOW I see the problem!” — not words you want to hear your doctor say when they’re digging around in your lady bits.

But I did. And after 5 years of being told nothing was wrong, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly validating.

I gave birth in 2015, to an amazing baby girl. The birth was incredible. It was also incredibly physically traumatic, thanks to a deformity in my tailbone caused by a childhood injury I didn’t even remember. I only pushed for one hour when giving birth to her, but the first half of that was spent pushing against my tailbone until it finally broke to allow her through. All that straining caused some serious issues. I ended up diagnosed with stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse, specifically uterovaginal prolapse.

I knew things were a mess down there. You expect them to be after giving birth, right? But there are some messes that are a bit harder to “clean up” if you know what I mean. I didn’t tear; I just had a couple of small skid marks at the edge of my perineum. My midwife checked me out and said everything was fine. Even my broken tailbone was denied until my chiropractor did an x ray for me and proved what I already knew. I went to my family doctor a few months after birth, asking her to give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist for pelvic organ prolapse because I knew I had it. She did a quick exam and told me everything was fine, and I had no prolapse. I felt dismissed. She gaslighted me. She wasn’t trained in pelvic organ prolapse. She didn’t even know the right ways to check for it, much less diagnose it. I asked her again a few more times over the next year, and was always dismissed. I gave up. I resigned myself to the new troubles I was having as a new way of life.

Over the years, it would improve for a while, especially when I was more sexually active. But during the times when I was not, it would worsen considerably. A student midwife friend of mine told me I just needed to “use it” more. She might have been right, but it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re in pain, or your cervix is hanging out of your body.

In early 2020, I broke my ankle and spent 4 months unable to walk. I only really had sex one time during that timeframe, and it didn’t last long. Without any reminders, my vagina seemed to forget where it was supposed to be. I found myself having to “tuck myself in” more often, and had to wear my period panties all month long because of worsening leakage when I coughed or sneezed. I had more difficulty with urinating and bowel movements, regardless of their consistency, because my rectum was fighting with my bladder for the open space in my vagina. My vagina would bleed after bowel movements, because it would get over-stretched and the walls would tear a little each time, unless I remembered to “splint” it. I had to urinate much more frequently while on my period, when my cervix was at its lowest in my cycle. Whenever I tried to have sex with my husband, I would have to stop very quickly and then curl up in bed, crying in pain after he hit my uterus, so we stopped trying to have sex at all.
Finally, as I recovered from my injury and began walking again, I got determined to demand the care that I needed and deserved. No one deserves to suffer the way I had. I got a new doctor, who referred me without even doing an exam because she knew she was not qualified to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse. At first, the specialist I saw sounded like she was skeptical of my symptoms. I’m young and relatively healthy. I couldn’t possibly be having this much trouble. My body couldn’t be doing the things I said it was doing. Bodies simply don’t work that way.
Halfway through the exam, I finally got the validation I’d been seeking for 5 years. “OH! NOW I see the problem!” That’s what I heard her shout from between my legs, as she poked and prodded and told me to bear down. The tone of shock in her voice sent a chill up my spine, and filled me with dread, while a wave of relief at finally being vindicated washed over me at the same time. She concluded the exam, and had me hold a rubber glove by two of its fingers. She held the other end, and gestured to the palm of the glove. “This is your vagina,” she said. “And these are the ligaments that hold up the top of your vagina,” she continued, as she pointed to the fingers I was holding. “And this is what is happening to your vagina,” she explained, as she had me move the tips of the fingers to meet her hand at the bottom of the glove. My vagina was collapsing because the ligaments that hold it up had become stretched and lax. She showed how I was correct that it was my cervix that was protruding from my vagina and having to be tucked back in. She explained that it was blocking my urethra, making it difficult to urinate or fully empty my bladder. The harder I’d try, the more blocked it would become. My uterus was hanging down and filling the space, putting it in the path of my husband’s penis. She told me that it was technically stage 2 prolapse, but would feel like stage 3 to me because of the protrusion of my cervix.
We wanted to have another child. This news was devastating. I can’t even perform the act of trying to get pregnant, much less carry a baby, with everything trying to fall out of my body! And surgery to repair it would make it dangerous to attempt pregnancy again.
Thankfully, she did give me hope that a pessary and physical therapy could improve things enough to make it possible to have another baby, and pregnancy might even help hold things in place as my uterus got too big to fall into my vagina anymore. So we scheduled my pessary fitting, and she referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist.

Unfortunately, at my first visit with my physical therapist, I was informed they will no longer take my insurance beyond the end of this month, and there are no insurances I could switch to that they will take. The next closest one is over an hour and a half away. I can’t drive 3+ hours round trip multiple times a week! I have a business to run and children to care for. It simply is not feasible for me.
Lucky for me, and for anyone reading this and going through similar, but unable to get treatment, I won’t give up that easily. Stay tuned for updates on my journey as I learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and ways to treat it without a professional physical therapist.

♥ Loss Never Leaves Us ♥

Trigger warning: Loss

 

 

I recently suffered something that a large number of childbearing-age women do every year. Something that is not talked about enough. Something that happens and then is swept under the rug. Something everyone tries to avoid talking about and pretend it never happened. Miscarriage. The loss of my unborn Child. It wasn’t my first, and it may not be my last, but it was a unique event all of its own, similar in generality, and yet entirely unique from any other experience. This particular one was what is known as a missed Miscarriage, where Baby has passed, but the body continues the Pregnancy for a few weeks, or longer, without the Mother realizing that Baby is no longer developing.

    At 11 weeks, I started bleeding, which is not unusual during pregnancy, but it lasted longer and was heavier than I had experienced in previous Pregnancies. I tried to remain optimistic, simply waiting for confirmation one way or the other. But 6 days after it began, it reached a point where I knew it was definitely over. It was a miscarriage. Instead of cramps, I began having contractions.

   I was in a training class for a promotion at work, and we were not permitted to miss any time of training under threat of losing the promotion and possibly the job entirely, and I knew that losing my job in addition to losing my Baby would just make things so much worse. So, for the last 2 hours of class that terrible Tuesday afternoon, I lied on a blanket on the floor in front of my computer (I work from home), listening to my trainer without really even hearing a word he said, and vocalizing through my contractions.

   I went to the hospital after my class ended, to confirm and ensure that nothing had been left behind, and that is where I delivered my tiny Baby into my own hand. The sac was still intact, and much, much bigger than Baby was. This was because Baby had not developed past 6 weeks, meaning that my body only thought it was still pregnant for half of my Pregnancy. My Husband was not permitted to be in the room while I had the ultrasound, so he was not with me when Baby came out in the bathroom in between tests. By this point, I had accepted that my Baby was gone, and shock had made me mostly numb. I had to endure another 10 minutes of testing before my Husband could come back in the room with me. I managed to hold it together until he had returned and the sonographer left the room, but just barely.
     The next few days, I spoke very little and I could not really focus at work. I made it through training, but not at the standards I normally hold myself to. During the week before, I told myself and those that knew what I was going through that I’d never be able to go through another pregnancy again if I lost this Baby; it was just too painful. But right after I opened the sac, held the baby on the tip of my finger, and said goodbye, I felt this immense emptiness inside. I’d spent the past 8 weeks believing that I had a life growing inside of me, and now, I did not, and yet I had no new Life to hold in my arms either. It felt like a cruel joke, and it just made me want to have another Baby even more. I told my Husband that I wanted to try to get pregnant again right away because I couldn’t wait. This was the spacing between children we wanted, and this was the time we had originally planned to try to have our next, and final Baby. And after all, immediately after miscarriage is a time when a Woman is at her most fertile.

   But it was not a good time to have a Baby. Pregnancy is very hard on me, and due to a deformity caused by a childhood injury, I break my tailbone in labor. Right after a promotion, in the middle of trying to buy a house and move, was most definitely not a good time to have a Baby, especially for me. And so now we wait. We will wait until next year. When things have settled, when I have healed, when our life is stable. Hopefully. And I’m okay with that.
     Mostly.
     I have accepted that this is not the time to bring a new Life into our Family. I have acknowledged that it is merely selfish desires that drive me to want to try to have a Baby again right away. And I need to think of the Children I already have first. They need me right now, more than ever. It would not be right to take my time and energy away from them. But it doesn’t stop my yearning to fill my womb to replace the Baby that is no longer there.
      I miss my Baby every day. Just as I miss the Baby that I was not given the chance to grow 11 years ago. One month has passed since the day I said goodbye to my little tadpole. No one asks about my Baby anymore. No one asks about me anymore. Life is moving on without my Baby. But I feel sometimes as though it is moving on without me, as well. I feel a tiny bit of my heart died along with my Baby. I have so many friends that are pregnant or have recently had Babies, and it hurts me so to see and hear about them. But, just as I did after losing my first Pregnancy in 2006, I will survive. I will be the best Mother I can be to the Children I have with me right now, and someday I may have more.
      I will survive, even though it doesn’t really feel like it right now.

Please, if you have been a Presence in the life of someone that has experienced a miscarriage (and chances are that you have been), ask them how they are doing. Acknowledge the life of their Baby. Let them know that you have not forgotten about that tiny Being’s brief life. Show them that they are loved and that their Baby still has a presence in this world through the love of others. Not constantly. Just once in a while, to let them know that they are not alone, and not forgotten.

 

 

Miscarriage can make us feel helpless and alone. For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 

 

If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Miscarriage can take a huge toll on our mental health. Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources.