I have a six inch scar across my lower abdomen that reminds me of a special day that happened nearly a year ago. Every time I shower or change clothes, I have memories of that day. I walked into a prenatal visit at my OB/GYN’s office and walked out of the hospital four days later.
Although that day was a bit scary for me, I know that along with our medical team, we did the right thing. For years, I had planned on having a natural childbirth.
In fact, I thought it my best option after experiencing some medical trauma years earlier. I felt that the least amount of medical intervention the better.
I’m not disappointed in my c-section even though I spent 12 weeks in a Bradley Natural Childbirth Class that met two hours per week. That’s a lot of prep work. That’s one of the reasons why my baby and I came out of this situation for the better.
It was not wasted time. My husband and I left that class with a better understanding of childbirth. It helped us when my condition and the baby’s deteriorated.
History of PTSD
Even though I have a history of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with gynecological situations, my c-section experience did not revive those old demons. Don’t get me wrong. I was frightened.
I shook like a leaf, no, more like an entire tree, while my upper body was affixed to the operating table. It was part nerves and part narcotics.
Although I’m not disappointed in my c-section, I know others are disappointed in their own. For many like me, dreams were dashed the day that natural childbirth was trumped by surgical intervention.
Some women labor for hours and feel that they’ve come a tenth of a mile shy of the entire marathon when a c-section intervenes. It is a grieving process for many women. To not honor that is to keep a woman shackled to a secret pain.
National C-Section Awareness Month
That’s why it’s important we talk about National C-Section Awareness month. April is National C-Section Awareness Month. Cesarean Awareness Month is sponsored by the International Cesarean Awareness Network. ICAN is a non profit whose mission is “to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).”
C-section moms all have their own individual stories. It’s good to talk them out, to process them. Unfortunately, many women feel discouraged from doing this because of judgment.
Judgment that they “didn’t really give birth” that they “took the easy way out” is furthest from the truth.C-section is really the only major surgery where the patient is expected to care for someone else after the surgery.
Unlike other surgeries where the patient is considered the patient and is cared for after the fact, a c-section results in a new life that has to be cared for by the patient. I was very blessed to have many helpful helpers after my c-section. I realize that for some women this is not the case.
As the c-section rate climbs to 1 in 3 births, remember that many women are left traumatized by their experience. Dismissals such as “just be glad you have a healthy baby” do nothing to encourage healing. This means that even women who have positive c-section experiences need to be empathetic to those who have not.
A blended family is when a couple forms, and bring children from their previous families together. This undeniably brings in stress for the couple, as roles are questioned – do you replace the children’s other mother or father? How do you best treat everyone equally?
On this week’s show, we are joined by Willie and Rachel Scott, founders of Better Than Blended. With their own blended family of 7 children, they’ve learnt to focus on being Godly examples of a wife and husband, mother and father. They share with us the common barriers, and how to overcome them.
The most common challenge for women is the feeling of rejection. When you don’t get the response you want from the blended family, it’s easy to feel rejected. It can be confusing where you stand, for example being the additional mother or that you can’t replace the children’s other mother.
But you can gather strength from this barrier, through the power of an outside perspective. You’re better able to view the overall dynamic within the family and see where the tensions are, and address them in an open way.
Another pitfall is discipline, which men tend to struggle with in a blended family. When their authority is questioned, it can be a crush to their ego.
But it’s important to stick with it, and ensure that children learn morals through discipline. It shouldn’t be done for the sake of it, but for family members to learn from mistakes.
Developing open communication is key to this, by regularly reflecting over mistakes and ensuring how to best not repeat them again, it can create “short-term resistance but it’s healthy on the long-term”.
Willie and Rachel have learnt that adding fun and quality time between husband and wife has been instrumental to the growth of their relationship and family. They schedule in regular date nights so they can unwind and be more spontaneous – having seven children has not stopped them.
“In order to have an authentic, thriving family – you have to have that in your marriage first”
By modeling a healthy relationship to your children, they learn to model such relationships with their future partners. Open communication, and being Godly examples to one another, is the key to thriving blended family. The more you practice this open dynamic, the quicker you grow and address future stumbling blocks.
Teachable Moments provides examples of actual client scenarios where Dr. Robinson prescribed different therapies for families. Dr. Robinson provides different protocols in the appendices of his book including: the quieting response, therapeutic journaling, and behavior management.
Who Gets the Most Attention?
Dr. Robinson finds that many families start to struggle when a new baby arrives. He provides an example with his experience with his daughter’s colic. A trip to the pediatrician quickly helped to recenter his focus. The pediatrician told him, ”Your daughter is a third of the family, and that’s how much attention she should be getting.”
Parents need to be able to take care of themselves, rather than burning out by focusing so much on the children. There’s nothing left for the marriage.
The Plexi-Glass Pyramid of Priorities
Dr. Robinson describes the plexi-glass pyramid of relationships as God being on top, spouses next and children one step down. Extended family, co-worker, etc fall below those. Families oftentimes get this out of order.
This starts many times with the birth of the first child as attention is shifted away from the spouse and to the infant. It is important for the father to be included in responsibilities and activities.
Trends in Psychology
Dr. Robinson believes that when pharmaceutical companies were given permission to advertise on tv that many changes occurred. He feels that there has been an influx of ADHD, ADD and Bi-Polar.
He finds people are self-diagnosing these conditions through these ads and are asking for the medications that are advertised. He receives flak from many parents because he will tell them their children do not need medication.
He finds many parents come to him after they start medicating their children. Dr. Robinson studies organic and neurochemical data for his evaluations, and often finds nothing to support prescribing medications to children.
Communication is relationship. How we communicate sets the tone for the quality of relationship and our parenting. In the first chapter of his book, Dr. Robinson describes active listening and empathy. Both are imperative in healthy parenting.
He describes what he calls an “emotional fever.” Parents know how to treat a physical fever, but are many times clueless as to how to cope with emotional issues. Parents are encouraged to look at verbal and nonverbal cues from their children.
Dr. Robinson challenges parents to stop using their position as parents as a position of power, and to look at what they have as a relationship.
A family is not a democracy. Parents need to accept their authority, while encouraging their children’s input. He uses the phrase “benevolent despot” to describe a healthy parental role.
Hormones will wreak havoc. Dr. Robinson sees a certain set of issues arise during adolescence, namely a need for better self-care. He encourages therapeutic journalling.
Teenagers need to be shown that they can have responsibilities and acquire freedom as they show improved responsibility. When they prove to be irresponsible, freedom is pulled back.
Hands-on parenting: birth to age five. The child is unable to do for himself.
Directive parenting: age five to twelve. We tell children what and how to do while we watch them and help them.
Advice-based parenting: twelve to eighteen. The adult has advice to share.
Consultative parenting: parenting the adult child. The parent has advice to share IF the adult child wishes to be consulted.
If a parent gets stuck in one of these stages, the child’s mood and attitude will sour and rebellion will take place. (Dr. Robinson gives the example of a parent getting stuck in the directive parenting stage and their teen becomes rebellious.)
Parents want to avoid teenage rebellion, however, it is important for a child to find his own individual identity and so rebellion takes place. Parents can shepherd their teens through active listening and advice-based parenting.
Often kids prior to pre-adolescence hold their parents up as heroes and want to be just like them. From the ages thirteen to about twenty, kids know they are not their parents, but they do not know who they are and are trying to find out.
Dr. Robinson has learned that 80% of an adult child’s personality has been influenced by his parents. The other 20% was learned through his own independence. Parents need to be available for their teens to talk to them.
The great thing about active listening is that “you’re right when you’re right and you’re right when you’re wrong.” Focusing on what you think they are feeling while talking to them helps the child open up more, creating a healthy conversation and opportunity for the child to process.
We are instructed in Proverbs 22: 6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” When your child has an emotional fever, use active listening. Address it not by fixing it, but by helping them identify what they are feeling. Once that has taken place, you can help them as they go about fixing the problem.
Parents have a tendency to be problem solvers. Dr. Robinson provides this advice: Don’t solve problems, don’t criticize, don’t judge. These tools are based on power rather than relationship. If parents are always trying to solve the problem or give them the answer it sends the message to the child that he is incapable of solving his own problems.
We don’t want to give them solutions, but shepherd them on their journey to growth. Dr. Robinson encourages parents to look for teachable moments with their children, whether it is through positive or negative circumstances.
What was an ‘a-ha’ moment for you? Any number of circumstances when clients respond positively when truth is spoken to them.
What’s your current passion? His book. He retired from his clinical practice a little over a year ago. He’s preparing a newsletter and resources for parents and helping professionals. He has been out in the community in a variety of ways.
When he was twelve he didn’t know anything about psychology. His older brother broke his neck then and has been a parapelegic for fifty-three years. He helped his brother through the recovery. He attended Wake Forest University for accounting and economics, making D’s, and was encouraged to take psychology by friends. He made an A in psychology. He went with his strong suit.
The Final Lap:
What is your most effective relationship skill? He worked most with children ages five to twelve. He used play therapy primarily and colleagues had to tell him to pipe it down, he and the kids were having so much fun. Kids got well through having fun with the interventions.
What has been your biggest stumbling block with God? Not making room for Him. Part of self-care is having a personal devotional time, a couple devotional time and a family devotional time. It hasn’t always been that way. Dr. Robinson references Genesis 50:20 “What Satan intends for bad, God uses for good” in regards to his brother’s accident and sees how as difficult as the time was, it grew them. His life impacted others and Dr. Robinson.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Dr. Robinson appreciates AA’s catchphrase, “Let go and let God.”
Who do you admire most, other than a biblical figure? Johnny Callison of the Philadelphia Phillies. Dr. Robinson played baseball for forty-six years and has enjoyed the counterbalance it provides to therapy work.
What is your favorite book, other than the Bible? A lot of the work of C.S. Lewis. His collection of books have been most impactful, both personally and professionally.
Parting wisdom: You’re never too old to learn. The journey from birth to death is about living or preparing to die. Dr. Robinson wants to see people live as Jesus said: “I’ve come to give you life and have it more abundantly.” Having life is surviving, but having it abundantly is thriving. He encourages people to move from surviving to thriving.
Through her experiences, and working with others, Laura has learned that speaking about something difficult like miscarriage helps to lessen its secrecy and stigma. Nearly 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, yet it is not a topic that is spoken about much. She wants to better educate others about miscarriage and loss using her experience for others to relate to.
Laura has worked with women who have lost pregnancies through miscarriage and stillbirth and has found that her own losses have informed her approach to counseling women coping with loss. Her advice to those with loved ones struggling with loss is to slow down.
It can be really easy to say something trite and end up doing more harm than good. Often in attempts at trying to be helpful, loved ones can say hurtful things.
Be a “Presence”
She advises not focusing so much on what to “say”, but in being “in the moment with a grieving mother.” This really means being a “presence”. Allow the mother to speak or be quiet, if that’s what she needs.
Another word of advice from Laura goes out to others who have experienced miscarriage. It may not be helpful for those who have experienced miscarriage to tell a grieving woman “I know exactly how that feels.” It’s a well-intended statement, meant to make them feel relatable, but it is not exactly true.
Pregnancy loss is different for every single individual. One woman’s miscarriage may mean something totally different to her than another woman’s miscarriage means to that woman. Pregnancy has different meanings for different people.
Grief work has to be tailored to the specific person experiencing it. As a counselor, Laura honors that person’s view of what that person’s pregnancy meant to that person.
Even a person who has experienced multiple miscarriages will find different meanings attached to each pregnancy, and possibly feel different about each one.
How to Help a Grieving Mother
It sounds so simple—but be there for her. Be a presence. She may need her space, it’s okay if she does. Ask her if that’s what she wants right now. Your being a presence to her tells her that she’s not alone.
When you are with her, less is more with what you say. Because loss is such an individual experience, if you try to relate in the moment, it may backfire, leaving her feeling more alone.
What to Avoid Saying to a Grieving Mother
Loved ones really want to be helpful. Trying to help a loved one through loss can feel uncomfortable and awkward. Just remember that what that pregnancy meant to her, does not mean the same thing a pregnancy may mean to you.
Avoid saying things like “I understand.” Or “I lost my dog”. Or “God needed that little angel more in heaven” or “at least she or he never had to feel pain.” All of these statements are the loved one’s way of trying to relate or be there for the grieving woman, but they end up distancing her more.
Other hurtful comments are “you are still young, you can have more” or “you can always adopt.” They do not seem to understand that you are grieving the loss of THAT child. You had hopes for THAT child – not another child. Comments like “you can still have more” do not honor what THAT child meant to you and the hopes and dreams that you had for him or her.
Some Ways Grieving Mothers Respond
The meaning behind each pregnancy is different. So that woman’s feelings could be different, but there are certain patterns that seem to be commonly experienced by some women who have experienced pregnancy loss.
Laura has noticed from personal experience, and from other’s experiences that it’s not unusual to be hyper-aware of pregnant women and babies for an undetermined period of time. Grocery stores and stores selling baby products can also bring about emotion.
Also, many women who have had miscarriages will be mindful of or triggered by anniversaries, such as the day they learned they were pregnant, the day they announced their pregnancy, the due date for her baby, and how old the baby would be now if the baby had survived.
Pregnancy/Fetal Loss is Traumatic
Pregnancy and child loss are traumatic events and the mother can in many ways exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of this, she needs to process her loss instead of burying it.
Pitfalls of Unprocessed Trauma
Unfortunately, a lot of marriages fail because of miscarriage. When spouses are unable to allow each other to process the loss together, the cost is oftentimes their marriage.
A lot of times the breakdown in the relationship has to do with how well the spouses communicate with one another. The baby may have meant one thing to one and another thing to the other spouse.
How we look at death is also a possible obstacle. Many times this has to do with what death meant to your family as a child, growing up. If a spouse shuts down and walls him or herself off during a time of loss, it isolates them both and drives a wedge in the relationship.
Ladies struggling with loss may also be experiencing the bondage of secrecy. Pregnancy and infant loss can be like depression.
The more you do not talk about it the more enslaved you become to its negativity. It’s by talking about it that the negativity loses its power. The chains begin to fall off.
The Secrecy and Stigma of Miscarriage
Death is a universally uncomfortable topic. Any time someone dies, we are faced with having to look at our own mortality.
Laura believes pregnancy loss is stigmatized because it is such a personal experience. There are very few rituals in coping with the loss of a pregnancy.
In other cultures there may be ways of honoring the lost pregnancy, but in Western culture we’re all happy about gender reveals and baby showers, and when the next baby will arrive. There typically are no ceremonies to recognize the deceased.
What little shred of closure someone could feel from experiencing a funeral is not what a woman who has had a miscarriage gets to experience. She is forced to either do nothing, or create her own way of honoring her lost child.
National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month
In October of 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October National Pregnancy and Infant Loss month. He said, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
He’s saying: these losses aren’t given a name.
A Script for Those Trying to Help a Loved One Grieve a Pregnancy Loss
Laura concludes today’s show with these words, “I would say that I cannot possibly ‘get’ what that pregnancy meant to you. I can only say what mine meant to me. We may share in that we have both lost, but I cannot know the feelings you had for that child.”
“Then I would say that there are people in this world who do not have all the answers, but they would like to sit with you and maybe just be quiet. Or talk. If that’s what you want.”
Today’s guest is John Stengel, founder of the JSCM Group, a cyber security business helping companies set up firewalls and to protect their computers and employees from outsiders. His company was one of the first to do website blocking.
His company does testing assessments for churches and schools. They evaluate the likelihood of something going wrong with these organization’s computers. The original goal was to prevent employees from abusing company equipment, but it morphed into preventing harmful materials from being accessed on company computers, such as identities being stolen and pornography.
“Inappropriate material has become readily accessible to children now as schools and parents have armed them with technology such as laptops, I-Pads, and smartphones.”
John gives an example of how “guardrails” protect us in our internet usage. He states that if he were to go on a walk with someone, he is not likely to pick up a rock and through it through someone’s window, because he is with someone.
Because the internet is open in nature, there is no one monitoring your usage. The “fear factor” is gone. Risk avoidance is not taking place.
There are plenty of people out there to accept you, to support you giving you negative encouragement. Chat rooms can be like a form of peer pressure. We do things on the computer that we would never do anywhere else.
Children and teens are already prone to making bad decisions. Pairing them with this technology encourages risky behaviors that are seemingly “consequence free”.
Thirty years ago, a child would have to steal a pornographic magazine and deal with the consequences of being caught. Today a child can look at pornography online without being caught.
Google will present you with any image you want to see, and has made it difficult for those policing the internet to do anything about it.
The internet always offers someone out there that seems willing and understanding, leading you to bad decisions, whether its someone who takes your side when your marriage is struggling, or someone who will chat or message with a child who feels bad about himself.
The Dark Web
The dark web is an illegal underground marketplace. Sex trafficking, child pornography, drug purchases, etc. occur on these sites.
Children are easily recruited. There are certain tools that are used with computers to give someone access to the dark web. Children pass around these tools at school.
When your identity is stolen, it is sold on the dark web. The “Silk Road” is the Amazon of the dark web. It is where children buy drugs, and can get recruited into sex trafficking. The “secretiveness” is very appealing to children who are going through confusing periods in their lives.
Risks for Elementary VS. High School
The American Pediatric Association states that there are risks with putting children on devices too soon. Yet schools are putting them in the hands of children anyway.
Electronic devices affect brain development. They are missing human interaction. They are rewiring their brains in a way that can prevent developing important fine motor skills. John believes that it is okay to give elementary-aged children devices with limited usage.
Middle schoolers risk growing up too fast with devices. Sexting is becoming prominent amongst teens.
Children more likely to overshare information, communicate with adults unknowingly, and more likely to have sex at a younger age.
Teens are misled with apps that you can put pictures on that disappear after ten seconds, but unfortunately, someone can take a screenshot and use that picture however they please, leading to more child pornography. Everything you put out there is forever out there.
John warns that apps are meant for accessibility and that if someone says “you can’t do this” or “do that”, they are wrong.
He also warns about how employers and schools are looking into people’s profiles and can find unflattering information, if that person has overshared online.
Children are giving away their identities. Fake websites are luring kids through the allure of coupons and scholarships. Regardless of a company’s reputation or legitimacy, people’s identities can be stolen by security breaches.
Kids and parents need to be sparing about giving away your name and email address. Databases can be hacked.
Advice to Parents
Know what apps are on your kids phones. John says that with his own children they are required to check with him prior to purchasing an app. He goes onto his own device and researches the app prior to giving them permission to purchase the app. He does not allow computers in their rooms. He states he cannot stop what happens on the bus, but his monitoring at home hopefully influences their decisions when not at home
Don’t allow children to “chat” with others playing online games. John mentions Minecraft and how it is an opportunity for the wrong people to be in contact with children. This is the new form of “stranger danger”. John warns that if parents are “checked out”, their children will pay the consequences. You wouldn’t allow your child to walk up to strangers in the mall, why would you allow it at home?
Video games, internet, email, chat, and apps are all concerns. Don’t make them grow up too fast. Don’t be afraid to push back if others are trying to force your kids to get devices or phones.
Do educate your children. Help them understand why you are blocking and having restrictions. Let them know that you as parents even have restricted use. Let them know the risks. Our society’s view of computer technology can change, but it has to start with the parents. They must educate their children about the risks involved with device usage.
Resources: www.opendns.org (website offering free “Family Shield” that parents can use on their computers to block adult content)