Having a baby: I was ready...

I had taken the prenatal yoga class, breastfeeding class and an 8 hour class on labor and delivery. My husband and I wrote our birth plan and discussed at length all the possible scenarios we might encounter. I was ready. We were ready. 

Our first child, Kelly, arrived 7 days late, so we even had extra time to prepare and think about the impending labor and delivery. And here's the thing, I was TOTALLY READY for labor and delivery. I had an idea of how I hoped it would go, but I also had a lot of knowledge about what could go wrong and what interventions may be necessary. I was also REALLY LUCKY, because my labor and delivery went as I had hoped and were uneventful (except for the fact that I stayed at home a little too long, and wasn't sure I would make it to the hospital, but that's a different story for a different day). 

Here's the thing, I wasn't ready for everything that would come after. I had a vague idea of what life would be like with a baby, but it mostly reflected those posed, post-delivery pictures taken in the hospital. I have some of those pictures, and they're accurate (to an extent), I was in awe of my daughter, and so was my husband. Once we got home, things got REAL.

I was in a lot of pain. I couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes at a time without an overwhelming aching sensation in my pubic area. My nipples were red and bleeding (latching is harder than it looks), and I was crying at the drop of a hat. After those first couple of weeks, I actually sort of got into a routine with my daughter, and the post baby blues wore off. I worked in education at the time, and the summer was part of my maternity leave, so I didn't have to go back to work until Kelly was 5 months. I had the audacity to think, I've got this. 

Here's the thing I didn't know about babies: they change so quickly and are extremely unpredictable. What works for them one week, doesn't work the next week. Just when you think you've got something figured out, they stop sleeping, or refuse their pacifier, or start rolling over, so you can no longer swaddle them. Whenever I saw women with their children, I had no idea the challenges they were facing at home just to get their child to sleep, or not cry...for 5 minutes. I had spent so much time thinking about labor and delivery, and very little time thinking about what happens after that day. And everything after that day lasts a WHOLE LOT LONGER than labor and delivery - we're talking 18 years minimum!!

Here's the good news: my daughter, Kelly, is turning 4 next month. To some extent, I've got this. In some ways, she's easier and more predictable now than she was during that first year. But this is why I've decided to turn my focus to working with moms and parents. We don't spend a lot of time planning for life after baby, but it is one of the biggest changes we will ever encounter. Sometimes you may think, "I've got this." Other days you may wonder how your child has survived this long because you don't feel like you have any idea what you're doing. Keep your head up and don't be too hard on yourself. No one told you to make an after birth plan, and if they did, all you could really put in it would be: keep baby alive. 

For more information about postpartum services in Madison, please visit the Madison Postpartum Collective website: madisonpostpartumcollective.com  

New Years Resolution or Lifestyle Change?

It's midway through January....how is that New Years Resolution (NYR) treating you? NYRs are SO HARD TO MAINTAIN ALL YEAR. I see 3 main reasons:

1. All of a sudden on January 1st we decide to change or stop a behavior that we've been doing for a long time. Remember, these bad habits has formed and been sustained for long periods of time, so stopping a bad habit or creating a new and healthy habit is difficult to do with the flip of a switch. 

2. Bad habits serve a purpose for us. Unless we recognize it's purpose and consciously replace it with a healthy habit, there will be a big gap that we will likely fill in with our tried and true bad habit. 

3. There's no preparation or accountability. We may tell someone about our resolution, but we often don't include progress tracking or make a plan for success.

Okay, so how can we think about things differently and set ourselves up for success? 

1. I like to think of a NYR as a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. For some reason, that verbiage feels more long term to me. 

2. Make small, incremental changes. Remember when you first learned about setting goals in school and they told you to make them attainable and to start small. Let's apply this to our LIFESTYLE CHANGES. If you drink 3 cans of soda a day, then maybe start by cutting back to 1 can a day, then maybe 3 a week, and then 1 and then cut it out completely? Same idea with working out. Start working out 1 day a week. 

3. Tell people about it. Make a check in schedule for yourself where you can track your progress and identify any challenges, and of course to recognize your successes.

4. Remind yourself that progress takes time, and you have 1 full year to accomplish this change in your life. You don't have to be done by the end of January.

5. Reward yourself along the way!

Now get out there and make a Lifestyle Change!



Last week, I presented with my colleague, Julie C. Kull, LCSW, to the Student Services Department at Edgewood College. We provided them with an anxiety toolbox, and each of us (Julie and I) included our favorite anxiety reducers. Mindfulness was included, and the presentation got me thinking that I should share with others how I use mindfulness in my life. While it isn't easy, it is also less complicated than it appears, and can be practiced throughout the course of the day. For simplicity sake, let's consider mindfulness as living in the present moment. For more information, take a look at this article on mindfulness as I think it makes mindfulness understandable and applicable in everyday life. 

So how do I stay in the present moment? Well, one thing that I have realized is that if I don't practice mindfulness regularly, it is hard to call upon it in times of stress to help me refocus and calm down. It's kind of like playing a sport or an instrument - if you don't practice, you can't suddenly play soccer well, or play the violin beautifully. 

So, here is what I do:

1. Practice mindfulness everyday. I make it a part of my schedule, that way it is a priority for my self-care - up there with exercising, eating healthy, and staying connected to those that are important to me. 

2. Incorporate mindfulness into an everyday activity. In an ideal world, I would make time to practice mindful meditation for 20-30 minutes each day; however, I have not managed to do that (yet). Instead, I have found that I am MOST LIKELY to practice mindfulness everyday if I do it while performing a task that I complete everyday. For me, this task is driving. So how do I do this while I'm driving? Rather than let me mind wander, I try to be present while driving. I direct my attention toward my posture, I notice where I'm driving and the things I see out my window, I check in with my breathing, and check my mirrors regularly. The good news is that I'm getting better at mindful driving, which I like to think is making me safer on the road, but even better, I'm able to call on my mindfulness at other times in my life. 

3. Notice stress triggers and implement mindfulness. So after all that practice, I try to implement mindfulness in situations that I find stressful. For example, a stressful situation that I often find myself in is trying to get my kids out the door. I recognize stress related to getting out the door when my mind starts to race and think about being late, my body starts to feel rushed, and I say things to my kids like, "Hurry up, we're going to be late." When this happens, I try to take a deep breath and bring myself back to the present moment - where am I? (usually my house) how am I interacting with my kids? (usually I'm not my best self!) I acknowledge (without judgment) that being late, or the idea of it, creates stress for me, but then I think about how I want to interact with my kids in this situation, and I proceed accordingly. Sometimes I notice the stress right away, and other times, it might take a while. Whenever I notice it, I do my best to be mindful, and I usually find that I feel less stressed and more in control of my actions. 

Best of luck to you on your mindfulness journey. I would love to hear back from you with any questions, thoughts, or ideas about how you use mindfulness in your life. 


Is There Something Going on with My Teenager?

This is a question I hear often from parents - is something going on that I should be concerned about? Or is my teenager just being a teenager? Often times, there isn’t an easy answer, but there are certain things that parents can look for to get a better idea of whether or not their teenager needs additional support. The two things to consider are:


This is the thing that I like to look for - changes in appearance, friend group, attitude and/or demeanor, academics, extracurricular activities, or other changes that make you stop and think. When I talk about changes, I’m referring to changes that are considerable and in more than one area. When you notice these changes, it's important to ask them about it and try to find out more information. While he/she may get upset or angry, often times they may not know how to ask for support, or even that they need help. Let him/her know that you're worried and that you love him/her.

Change Example: Your A/B student is suddenly failing 2 classes and his English teacher (normally his favorite subject) just emailed to say that he hasn’t turned in his last 2 major assignments and is at risk of failing the semester. In addition, he used to bring his friends over all the time, and it was the same friends he’s had for several years, but now, you never see his friends. Whenever you ask about his friends, he discounts the friendships and indicates that he’s not hanging out with them anymore. You’re not sure who he is hanging out with - you don’t recognize their names, and you’ve never met them. For as long as you can remember, he has auditioned for the school play and musical, but suddenly, he doesn’t want to audition anymore. At home, he seems more irritable, distant and withdrawn. He spends a lot of time in his room, and when you’re able to drag him down for dinner, he gets annoyed and maybe even angry at every question you ask. 

As for your GUT FEELING…well it’s just a gut feeling that something isn’t right. Maybe you can’t put your finger on it, or maybe you’re noticing some of the changes mentioned above and it’s giving you this feeling in your gut. Here’s what I would say - TRUST YOUR GUT and, after talking to your son/daughter about it, try to find the support he/she needs. Here are some options:


1. Start with your family doctor or pediatrician - tell them about the changes you’re seeing and see what they suggest. 

2. Contact their guidance counselor or school social worker and give them some information about what you’re noticing at home and see if they’ve heard anything at school, or ask them to check in on him/her.

3. Find a therapist on your own. Here are a couple of places to start:


    Check with your insurance to find out who is in your network

    Consult with your family doctor

Please feel free to reach out to Meagan at anytime for a free initial phone consultation. Good luck parents!


Meeting Mom Friends

Meeting Mom Friends

June 29, 2016

This is never easy! It's like being back in freshman year of high school or college, except now you've got a whole new role to figure out and a new human being to keep alive (and love, and feed, and nurture). At first, you'll be willing to hang out with/talk to any other mom who is willing. You just don't want to be alone at the lunch table (aka: any parent/child event). It's a very vulnerable time as you start to navigate your new mom role, and at this point, it's all about survival. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you survive:

1. Keep expectations to a minimum - making mom friends takes time! Somewhere along the way, you'll start to notice that you feel more at ease and relaxed around certain moms, and it may not be the "type" of mom you expected, and it also may be someone completely different than the friends you've always had, but just go with it. 

2. Be open minded and non-judgmental...of yourself and other moms. Remember that you and all the other moms out there are trying to figure out this mom thing - there will be successes and lots of hiccups along the way. Don't be too hard on yourself or the moms around you - we're in this together!

3. Don't forget to give time and energy to the other roles in your life that are not "Mom." This is really hard to do, because now you're a lot busier, but it's really important. Take time for you and build friendships in other areas of your life. 

3 things is usually enough to try to remember, so let's stop there. 

Setting the Stage

All too often we follow the same old patterns of behavior, and all too often we get the same result. A stressful event arises, you/your body recognizes the stressor, triggers a response to the stressor, and then there is the behavior. Maybe this isn't always a bad thing, but maybe you're looking back on an event and wishing you had recognized that it would be stressful and would likely trigger some of those unhealthy patterns of behavior. One strategy I like to use is what I call, "Setting the Stage."

Setting the Stage is useful when you know in advance about an upcoming event that might be stressful - holiday dinner with the in-laws, studying for finals, starting a new job, getting the kids (and yourself) out the door in the morning and on time - and spending some time preparing your mind for how you want to handle it. This might sound obvious, but often times after a stressful event we look back on it and think, "next time I'm going to do things differently," but we don't always set ourselves up for success.

Setting the Stage includes some advance preparation:

  1. Take a moment and visualize yourself after the stressful event - how do you want to feel as you reflect upon the situation?
  2. Hold onto that feeling, and think about what you need to do during the event to achieve that outcome. Visualize the event and think about how you want to behave.
  3. Identify your pitfalls or triggers - negative self-talk? lack of preparation in advance? getting caught up in things that may not be that important? Recognizing these triggers in the heat of the moment can help us to notice that we might be in danger of falling into old patterns of behavior.
  4. Recognize what you can control (yourself) as well as the things that you cannot control (pretty much everything else!). As unexpected things happen (they always do), you can notice them more readily and respond to them with conscious awareness (as opposed to following those old patterns of behavior).

Old patterns of behavior are hard to change, but recognizing these patterns and making plans for change is the first step. Good luck Setting the Stage!


Parenting - Trust Your Instincts

You are the expert on your child. Since the moment your child arrived in your life, you have been the primary caretaker - the one who is up at night when your child is sick, laughing with your child over goofy nonsense, feeding, bathing and clothing your child, wiping away their tears, worrying, having fun, learning about and understanding your child's needs. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to get your child to sleep, you have this “feeling” that something is not right, or you’re just trying to raise a good kid – you are the expert on your child.

Too many times I talk with parents who are distraught over advice from their child’s doctor, a suggestion from a trusted loved one, or the words of a stranger. Family and friends may have their own experiences of what has worked for their own children, and maybe some of those ideas will work for your child, or maybe they won’t. The same goes for doctors and/or experts – one thing I have learned is that you can find a pediatrician or an expert who supports almost any parenting technique – from ideas about sleep, to feeding your child and disciplining your child – there is not one right answer.

Don’t get me wrong, there is value in gathering information and seeking advice from family, friends, your pediatrician or the experts; however, at the end of the day, you are the one who decides how to parent your child. Consider the facts and ideas, consult your understanding and knowledge of your child, and trust your instincts.


3 Quick Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation - this elusive state that we're always trying to achieve, but don't always have the time. Each of these techniques can be done in 5 minutes and wherever you are - the car, the park, at home:

Color Breathing - If you can, close your eyes, and visualize 2 colors - the color you breathe in is the color you visualize on your inhale indicates the way you want to feel, and the color you visualize on your exhale is the emotion/feeling you want to eliminate. As you inhale, envision your body filling with the color you want to feel, and as you exhale envision the negative emotion/feeling being released through the chosen color. For example, you may choose green to represent confidence and visualize this on your inhale, and gray to represent self-doubt to visualize on your exhale.

Circle Breathing - As you inhale visualize the breath rushing up the front of your body from your feet to your head, and as you exhale the breath rushes down your back from your head to your feet creating a circle of breath.

Mantra - Pick a phrase that you can repeat while breathing. Ideally it is a 2 part phrase and you say one part on the inhale and the other on the exhale. For example, control can be a trigger for tension and stress, so come up with a mantra that helps you to "let it go." A possible mantra could be: I cannot control everything (inhale), I will just let it be (exhale). Simple, and to the point.


Tags relaxationdeep breathingcolor breathing