October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

miscarriage rock.jpg

In 1988 Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness month http://nationalshare.org/october-awareness/

“When a child loses a parent, they are called orphans.

When a spouse loses a partner, they are called a widow or widower.

When a parent loses a child, their is not a word to describe them.” -Ronald Reagan

Every October we take a moment to honor babies gone too soon. For many this may be a very difficult time of year, but can also be a time of year for healing.

Here in Madison we are fortunate to have some great resources for those who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss.

October 2- Lunch and Learn about Pregnancy after a loss at Madison Area Parents Support

11:30-12:30 p.m.

Psychotherapist Julie C Kull, LCSW will lead a lunch and learn discussing education and coping skills for pregnancy after loss.

https://www.madisonareaparentsupport.org/calendar

402 E Washington Avenue at MAPS Base Camp

October 3- Kull Counseling Miscarriage Support Group

5:30-6:45 p.m.

This support group is run by psychotherapist Julie C Kull, LCSW. The purpose of this group is to provide a safe place to share your loss and connect with others in the early loss community. We will be painting rocks to honor your babies in October.

720 Hill Street, Madison, WI

To register contact Julie at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

October 17- Bereaved Parents of Madison Support Group

7:30pm (Doors open at 7:20pm)
St Mary's Hospital in Conference Bay 4
700 South Park Street 
Madison, WI

October 19- Remembrance Day hosted by Mikayla’s Grace

“This Remembrance Day is to honor families who have lost babies through pregnancy, stillbirth, or in early infancy. This 9th Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day is being planned by local bereaved parents and Madison area non-profit Mikayla's Grace.”

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The silent suffering of secondary infertility

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“Is that your daughter? She's adorable. So you just have the one child?”

I overhear a mom speaking to another mom and cringe. Even before the other mom tells me that she's been trying to get pregnant for years, even before she tells me about her failed attempt at IVF.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Secondary Infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a child to term after already having a child. Secondary infertility, much like infertility can lead to feelings of: isolation, dissatisfaction with your body, anxiety, feelings of sadness, problems with your relationships and grief.

Secondary infertility also presents a new set of challenges:

  1. Feeling like a bad mother-There are different reasons why you may feel like a bad mother. You might be feeling this way because you cannot get pregnant again. You might feel this way because infertility may be causing anxiety or depression and may effect your parenting. You may feel like a bad mother because you want to give your child a sibling.

  2. Disconnection from your child- You may feel disconnected from your child. It may be hard for you to make sense of parenting a child that is here and grieving the one that you do not have. Infertility can be all consuming. You may have trouble staying present with your child.

  3. Feeling split between wanting more kids and wondering why you had them in the first place-It is hard to have a child. Really hard. You may be having opposite feelings of wanting another child and at the same time feeling not cut out for parenting all together. It is really hard to think about having a child when your current child is taking all of your energy and mental space.

  4. Feeling shame because you already have a child- You may be feeling shame about wanting another child. It is common to hear comments like “well at least you already have one” or “some people can’t have any”, “appreciate what you have”. You may also have trouble connecting with others that are struggling with infertility because you have a child and they may not.

If you are struggling with these symptoms you are not alone.

Ways to cope with secondary infertility:

  1. Find support- Find someone that you can talk to about your feelings. Whether this is a professional, a support group, a family member or a friend, it is important to talk about your feelings and get validation that those feelings are real for you.

  2. Make me time- In a culture that prides itself on being “so busy” take some time for yourself to do self care. Self care is not selfish, it is not a luxury, it is necessary. Taking time away from being a mother, partner and trying is important. Finding something for just you is important. This could be exercise, massage, getting your nails done, taking a class, sometimes even just grocery shopping by yourself can feel therapeutic. Make this a habit and set boundaries so that it happens on a regular basis.

  3. Make special time to connect with your child- Find some time to spend time with your child in the moment. Whether this is reading a book at night or playing a game time find to be present with your child and connect.

  4. Take some time with your partner-Spend time together outside of trying for another child. Go on a date. Have dinner without your child around. Make time to talk to each other.

  5. Take a break- You may feel that it is necessary for your mental or physical health to take a break from trying.

  6. Sit with the discomfort- know that these feelings will dissipate. Let them wash over you. Name them, acknowledge them, and let them pass. It is common for women going through infertility to feel a lack of control. This can be one of the hardest things for women to process, especially when they are planners and are used to being able to achieve goals. It is hard to sit with feelings of discomfort. Using grounding and mindfulness exercises can help with sitting with these feelings.

If you are struggling with secondary infertility I Can Help.

If you would like to learn more about coping with secondary infertility contact Julie at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Unplug and Hug to reduce Anxiety

I was honored to be a guest blogger for unplug and hug. This is a repost of the article.

Electronics can be great. We love having our gadgets connected to us and we love having what our gadgets connect us to.  The amount of information available at the touch of a finger (thanks to the internet) is life changing.  FaceTime with family has changed the way we interact and stay close to distant relatives. Social media connects us with friends and family that we don’t get to see often. There are wonderful mental health and meditation apps on phones and computers these days.  Connectivity anywhere, anytime allows flexibility at work to check and manage email when out-of-office.

 

As a psychotherapist that focuses on helping those with anxiety, I see a lot of college and graduate students in my office.  Many of these young adults use their phones and social media in a way that increases their anxiety.  Being active on social media can attribute to the fear of missing out. It can also lead to constantly comparing your lives to others. It can also provide a false sense of social support. It can reinforce those negative thoughts in our head that we are not good enough or that others are better than us.

 

While not all use of social media is negative it is important to unplug once in a while. Instead of grabbing for your phone in a moment of anxiety make time for mindfulness and bring yourself into the present. Focus on your breath, notice your discomfort, observe and let is go. When you are using social media be aware of how you feel. If you notice your anxiety symptoms arising or getting worse it is time to set a boundary and put your device down.

 

Besides practicing mindfulness when you are feeling anxious it can also be helpful to take a walk, spend time in nature, connect with a friend, exercise, read a book or practice another form of self-care.

 

How to support someone suffering from anxiety

Anxiety is our body's natural response to a perceived threat. We all experience anxiety now and again when dealing with the stressors of life. However, many people experience such severe anxiety that it interferes with daily life and makes it extremely difficult to perform at work, maintain relationships; or start/finish tasks.   

The following highlights some common signs of anxiety and some questions to ask yourself to determine if your friend, family or loved one may be exhibiting those signs.

Common signs and questions to ask yourself to determine if a loved one has anxiety

1. Worry - Do they worry a lot? Do they worry about things they have little control over? Are they uncomfortable in situations that they cannot control?

2. Irritability - Do they feel keyed up, sometimes on edge?

3. Stress - Do they have a hard time feeling calm or an inability to relax?

4. Rumination - Do they have a hard time letting go of things- ruminating on something that was said or done a while after the incident occurred.

5. Negative thinking - Does this person have a lot of negative self talk or view of the world?

If these symptoms sound familiar, your loved one might be suffering from anxiety. The good news is you can help! Below are several Important tips to being a helpful and supportive ally, including several things to avoid when trying to support someone with anxiety:

1. Be a support person. Let this person talk to you about their feelings and emotions. Try not to judge what they are saying. 

2. Learn about about anxiety. The more you know the more you can be supportive. If you find anxiety frustrating, imagine how this person might feel. Think about a time when you felt anxious and how that felt. Imagine feeling that way every day or for prolonged periods of time.

3. Encourage the positives. Suggest positive coping skills such as: regular exercise, meditation, mindfulness, balanced nutrition, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol. Reinforce rational thinking and  help them try to avoid thoughts that are irrational.

Are you worried you may say the wrong thing? To help guide your conversation below are some hurtful phrases along with some more encouraging ones.

Hurtful-

"You should try to relax." "Don't worry about it." "Please try to calm down."

Helpful-

"How can I help?" "I am here to talk if you need someone." "I noticed that you did x even though you were really worried about it, I am proud of you."

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out because you won’t say the ‘right” thing. By talking to someone who is struggling with anxiety, you are already taking an important first step in making them feel heard, supported, and understood.

If someone you love is suffering from anxiety and needs help please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage

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A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will have a miscarriage. While many women have a miscarriage, it still remains a taboo subject, and can be very isolating for a woman to go through. 

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage:

1.  It is a major loss - Going through a miscarriage is a major loss; whether you were 4 weeks pregnant or 20 weeks pregnant. Every woman has a different reaction and experience with miscarriage, and needs time to process and grieve what they have gone through.

2. The physical process can last weeks, if not months - Some women will miscarry at home while others will require medical interventions. Miscarriages can last weeks before they are completed. Because hormones are in the body some woman can continue to experience pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and weight gain. Once a miscarriage has completed it can take months for a woman's body to acknowledge they are no longer pregnant.

3. The mental process can last longer - Miscarriages are tough to deal with and can make you feel alone. People will try their best to support you and help you through your miscarriage, but may not understand what you are experiencing. In addition many people do not feel comfortable discussing having a miscarriage, which can make it feel isolating when you are experiencing one.

4. Your partner's grief will be different than yours -  It can be difficult to understand how your spouse or significant other feels.  Everyone experiences grief differently. While your grief can be different it is still possible to support each other. Open communication is key in understanding your partners grief.

5. It's okay to want to try again - Medical providers have different recommendations on when you can start trying again. Some for medical reasons and others for emotional/mental readiness. No one can tell you when you will feel ready to try again. It is something that each person will have to assess for herself. 

Each person's experience with miscarriage is completely unique and there is no "right way" to process grief. Not every person that experiences a miscarriage will need extra support, but if you feel like you need support through a miscarriage please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.