My grandest positive reframe…

*Trigger warning for pregnancy loss*

On September 19th, 2007, I gave birth to a beautiful girl named Anais. She had ten fingers, ten toes, and a delicate face. When she was born, the doctor exclaimed, “She’s perfect,” yet she was dead…

I used to have a visceral reaction when I heard the word ‘perfect.’ I would cringe, feeling angry and focused on what I had lost trying to live to those expectations. When I heard the doctor describe Anais as ‘perfect,’ I felt offended and thought “she’d be perfect if she was alive.” My reaction was normal under the circumstances (20+ hours of labor and three pregnancy losses) but now I can see that she is perfect.

In order to achieve this positive perspective, I had to give myself permission and space to:

  1. Express and process through all my negative feelings and thoughts,
  2. Be validated for my loss, and
  3. Redefine life, perfection, and all its components.

Merriam-Webster defines perfect as a: being entirely without fault or defect, b: satisfying all requirements, c: corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept.

How could one be human and perfect at the same time?885711_10200369643260248_1620706323_o

What we perceive as faults, requirements, or the ideal depends greatly on context. Some faults are strengths in different situations. When you do not meet all the requirements for one position, you may very well open the door to a better one. There are many different paths to reach the same endpoint…

Thus perfection has evolved to mean when my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are harmonious and encourage me on the path that most honors my authentic self as well as evokes deep connections with others. My baby angels and all children are guides for me on this perfect path. Embracing loss, chaos, negativity, discovering my true self and seeing all the miracles we take for granted is perfection and a grand leap to peace.

As my partner eloquently describes “I am forever grateful for this loss. It was the beginning of my great realignment with my true compassionate self. A life not measured by accomplishment but treasured through connection. She is always with me, tempering my anger, flattening my ego and helping me keep my hand outstretched with kindness and generosity.”

Upon deeper reflection, I discovered another gift that Anais’s and my other babies’ deaths gave me, they were wake-up calls for me to prioritize and nurture myself. Anais especially as I’ll never forget her last movement…I was at work late faxing documents to a lawyer. I was an in-home intensive family therapist for the department of human services dealing with gut-wrenching scenarios. I chose to minimize my discomfort and fears to keep working. Even though I went through a period of self-blame, I know that everything that happens to us has value and meant to teach us. I could not have done anything differently at that point yet I now cherish every day a gift as you never know when it will be your last.

Below is what I sent all my extended family to inform of my daughter’s death…

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Here are some resources on your journey:

“First off — we need a new word for it. ‘Mis-carriage,’ in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother — as if she dropped something, or failed to ‘carry.’ From what I’ve learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn’t do. So let’s wipe all blame off the table before we even start.” ~James Van Der Beek, via  https://www.today.com/parents/james-van-der-beek-opens-about-miscarriages-emotional-moving-post-t137092

https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/miscarriage-child-loss

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/13-things-you-should-know-about-grief-after-miscarriage-or-baby-loss

https://www.famifi.com/21409/how-to-help-when-your-wife-has-a-miscarriage

http://time.com/3982471/men-are-the-forgotten-grievers-in-miscarriage/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm

https://www.mendinginvisiblewings.com/

https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.com/

Take wonderful care of yourself and family ❤

Debra

Who’s the Boss?

Many systems operate from the assumption that there needs to be a hierarchy, someone at the top, a boss to lead, to have power over. When my son was younger, he would sometimes say that it felt like I was the boss of him and he has to do what I say. I reflect back that yes, it does feel like I am telling him what to do a lot. I tell him that I don’t want to boss him around and that I want him to be his own boss.  I do know it is my job to protect and teach him healthy behaviors so when he does things that jeopardize safety or health, I tend to interject. But upon great reflection and listening to my son, I stopped my re-directions, lectures, scowling, and controlling reactions etc. I began to reflect what I was seeing, identifying feelings and trusting him to figure it out. It might take longer, things break and get messy, and he will get hurt, yet he learns what he was meant to learn every time I “let go.” I am amazed and feel great relief every time I do it. Of course, when the threat is of imminent loss of life or limb, I will still jump in but really how often does this happen. I choose to live my life in trust, not fear.

For example, once when he was playing a video game on our computer. I realized that I could not listen to my music on the computer while he was doing this. I felt irritated and entitled to be able to listen to my music on my computer. I snapped at him that he now had a shorter time to play. I felt the negativity tighten my body and heard the shrill in my voice. I stopped myself, apologized to my son for being grumpy at him, shared my feelings in a neutral tone about how I was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t listen to my music because he was using the computer. I let it go and started another conversation with my partner. Within moments, my son turned the sound off his game then opened up our music files and asked what music I would like to hear. All of this happened in less than five minutes and he was five years old.

I could cite 1000 interchanges like this where my children teach me about the power of love and trust, but honestly, this is something one must brother gently leading the wayexperiment with and experience the connection for themselves. Personally, my children get me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy life to its fullest when I am open to accepting their influence. I welcome my son’s so-called “back talk.” He makes valid points and gets me to change fear-based habits. I believe we were all created equal, this includes children. I even think children have greater insight and personal power because their body/mind/souls have absorbed less negativity or interference and are more connected. I work every day to embrace fear, let go, and love and trust more. To lead by example and use power-with instead of power-over. It is hard to let go and can be scary due to life’s unpredictable nature and the fact that many of us are completely unfamiliar with it.

This may help, imagine having a controlling boss, the ones who would like to dictate everything and seem to never be satisfied, focuses on what you do wrong all the time… Now how happy and well adjusted would you be if you lived with that boss 24/7?

If you’d like support on how to lead and guide your children with respect and confidence, you can learn more about my services by calling me at 847 603 4677 or check out Debra Wallace MS LMFT profile at WeCounsel.com

Take Wonderful Care,blog signature

P.S. Here’s an article on how Kids who talk back become more successful adults

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

The Love We All Need and Deserve

 “The essential message of unconditional love is one of liberation: You can be whoever you are, express all your thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. You do not have to be fearful that love will be taken away. You will not be punished for your openness and honesty…There may be days when disagreements and disturbing emotions may become between us. There may be times when psychological or physical miles may lie between us. But I have given my word of my commitment…So feel free to be yourself, to tell me of your negative and positive reactions. I cannot always predict my reactions or guarantee my strength, but one thing I do know: I will not reject you! I am committed to your growth and happiness… There is nothing else that can expand the human soul, actualize the human potential for growth, or bring a person into the full possession of life than a love which is unconditional. We have labored for so long under the delusion that corrections, criticism, and punishments stimulate a person to grow. We have rationalized the taking out our own unhappiness and incompleteness in many destructive ways…Unconditional love is the only soil in which the seed of a human person can grow…Of course, free will is a factor in every human life. Everyone must say his or her ‘yes’ to growth and integrity. But there are prerequisites. And one of these is someone must empower me to believe in myself and to be myself. ”

 Excerpt from Unconditional Love  by John Powell

Family Hug

This description of love is the epiphany of what I aspire to cultivate. I am blessed to reap the benefits of this intense connection. My marriage has liberated (and challenged) me in ways I have never dreamed of. The problem often comes that although we all deserve unconditional love, when we are not getting it, our fears, negative core beliefs, and most insecure parts of ourselves get triggered.

Our defense mechanisms ensue, resulting in a host of negative reactions and cognitive distortions. We become hyper-focused on the threats and negativity. It very quickly becomes a volcano of negative thoughts, feelings, triggers, unmet needs and hurt. As the unprocessed pain keeps building, our minds, bodies and hearts become overwhelmed with stress, and resentment takes over. This negative chain of reactions unconsciously distorts our efforts to give our love unconditionally as well as thwarting those who wish to give it to us.

I see this pattern push children and adults over the edge and make amok of marriages. We wonder how a couple can be so in love on their wedding day then filing for restraining orders or divorce years later. When I listen to people talk to or about their children and/or partner, I am not surprised by our state of affairs.  So when your child says they hate you, or your partner says they no longer love you (although we usually “act out” way before ever saying this, and kids are more honest and direct), do you retaliate with the things they did wrong or truly listen and empathize with their fears, feelings, pain, and needs?…

We are biologically wired to be in relationship. We need one another to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We will naturally still get triggered and activate defense mechanisms to protect ourselves but what matters most is how we choose to respond and get needs met in proactive, nurturing ways once we are aware of out negative reactions. We heal best and regain trust through connection, when we feel safe and supported in a relationship with another. Every moment is a gift to transform fear to love, suffering to resilience, reaction to response. We are all born with the innate resources we need to choose wisely. Slow down, notice what you are sensing… breathe…this will connect you to your innate intelligence so you may choose to respond and align your intentions with your actions and thoughts.

Easter and our opportunities to rise again…

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty and shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative core beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through trans-generational trauma and sadly often triggers me into a negative reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stressors.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way. How I will keep working on improving myself. I shared how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded of how blessed we are that God* gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are symbols of the gifts God gives us every day. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You!” He gave ave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He hugged and expressed gratitude to the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was I Believe In Me.

The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish everyone to see the beauty and miracles given every day and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.

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How to get Calm…from Aha! Parenting

Thank you Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting for this very useful post.

“When our child acts out, or lashes out, it’s natural for us to panic.  We move into “fight, flight or freeze”  and our child looks like the enemy.  We all know whatever we do next won’t serve our child’s growth and healing, but we’re in the grip of strong emotions, and we can’t help ourselves. Or can we? What if there were three steps that would help you shift back into calm, AND keep your child from getting upset as often? There are.

“STEP 1:  Get Your Own Emotions Regulated

1. STOP, DROP whatever else you’re doing and BREATHE deeply.

2. Reduce the pressure: Remind yourself that there is no emergency.  No one is dying.

3. Change Your Thoughts: Say a little mantra in your mind:  “She’s acting like a child because she IS a child.  I’m the grown-up here.”

4. Physically release your tension: Notice where you’re holding tension in your body and shake it out. Take a deep breath and blow it out. Make a loud (but nonthreatening) sound. Get a drink of water.

5. Be Here Now. 

If you can bring yourself into the present moment, your upset will drop away.  Give yourself permission not to worry about the future or the past. In this moment, what action would be healing?  Anything else can wait.

“Step 2: Shift the Energy 

1. Make things emotionally safe. Say “We’re having a hard time, Sweetie. Let’s try a Do-Over.”

2. Empathize. Acknowledge your child’s perspective. “Seems like you want ______. ” 

3. Find the common ground. “But I need _______. What can we do?” 

4. Help your child get emotionally regulated. Kids usually do this best by crying or raging in the safety of our arms/presence. Breathe your way through this, reminding yourself that afterwards, he will feel safe, connected to you, and cooperative.

“Step 3:  Learn the Lesson

1. Learn. When you’re calm, reflect on what you can learn from what happened.  How can you support yourself to stay more emotionally regulated?  (Allow more time, get more sleep, better organization, fewer commitments, see things from your child’s perspective more?)

2. Teach. Later, when you and your child feel calm and connected, say “We had a hard moment today, didn’t we?  I’m sorry I got upset.  I guess I was worried.  When you _____, I feel ______.  What can both of us do differently next time?”

3. Change. If this is a recurring situation, make a list of possible solutions and start trying them.  Life is too short to endure the same lessons over and over again. “You won’t remember these steps in the heat of the moment.  Why not print out a little cheat sheet and carry it around with you?  A few months of practice, and you won’t even remember the last time you lost your temper.”

Dr. Laura Markham has since removed this original post I copied and pasted above, but here’s link to an updated version:  http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/How_to_Stay_Calm_When_You’re_Losing_It/ Even though this is the  advice I’d give, I still printed a copy of this to put on my fridge because no matter how well I know this, I still get stressed and forget it in the heat of moment. No human is immune to emotional hijacking. We all can benefit from deep breaths so oxygen can reach all our cells and open more channels to process the information. I’d check out more blog entries http://ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog and you can sign up for the newsletter and daily inspirations from Dr. Laura Markham. I am a huge fan of the books she recommends too.

If you’d like further support in applying more coping skills like these in your home as well as learn about normal human development and improving co-parenting relationship Email me  Debra@postivereframe.org or check out my profile at wecounsel.com

Make it a Calm and Connecting Day<3

Debra Wallace MS

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

An example of focusing on the positive in a typical family day…

An example of focusing on the positive, being response-able versus reactive, the power of reflection, and my partner and I working together as a team to uphold our family values…

One of my parenting triggers is when my kids scream from another room for my attention. When I am regulated (i.e. well nourished, calm) then my positive response is, “I can better hear you if you come to me.” Now when I notice that the kids screaming for me from another room has become a habit. I take time to reflect on my own behaviors. I can say with certainty, that 9 out of 10 times, I am committing the same offense that I am getting angry at my loved ones for doing. Just now I shouted at my son from another room to take out the compost. My partner kindly said, “If you would like us to hear you, you will need to come here.” Fortunately, I was also regulated enough at that moment that I actually felt my own negativity and hypocrisy as I shouted and I was resilient to accept my partner’s valid request. I’ll be honest, there are many times I am dysregulated (ie. stressed, not well nourished) and I react negatively which I have many self-care plans in place to go do then. I finished my tasked, then walked over to apologize to my son and asked him nicely to take out compost before his grandparents arrive home. His dad agreed and said, “how about you do it now.” My son got up without complaint which I thanked him for doing so. As he put on his boots he said, “Well, I did complain in my mind.” We giggled and I said, “It’s normal to have resistance first and it matters more to me how you chose to act.”

Take wonderful care of yourselves and your family. ~Debra

Lessons from my Son


I thought I knew it all

Then you were born.

You touched my soul to no end:

Your cries burrowed a well

Stirred my consciousness

Awakened humility

A collaboration of love and labor in its purest form.

I see my reflection in your brilliance and turbulence;

Shadows of the past to heal

Vital needs to nurture

Dreams to actualize

You have much to teach me,

I am ready to learn.

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An example of turning “No” to “Yes”:

While cuddling in bed with my 4yr daughter one morning, she asked if she could play on the I-pad. I’ll be honest, there was a big part of me that dreaded to already hear this request so early. Instead of reacting with a snappy “No” (which I really wanted to do), I chose to stop my negativity and respond with, “We have to do are Good Day Principles first.” She then started to count off pointing her index finger in the air, “1- drink water, 2-  eat healthy food, 3-exercise, 4- do math, 5- ice skate, 6- write messages for our neighbors and give them to them.” I am happy to share that she enthusiastically did everything on her list except the lake was not safe for ice skating so she played in snow instead, then she got to play on the I-pad.

I want to highlight that she had asked me at different points during the day to help make the letters for the neighbors. Many of those moments were inconvenient times for me. When I wanted to react with a “No,” I reflected on the importance of what I was doing compared to the value we have of encouraging kindness and community connections. I was please she was enthusiastic about doing a random act of kindness. I made a conscious choice to say “Yes”. She ended up drawing pictures on note cards and I wrote:

Thank you for all you hard work and kindness. Your life is a constant stream of miracles. We are glad you are our neighbor.

[I drew a big heart per my daughter’s instructions]

Especially created for by S. A. W., age 4

My daughter sealed the envelops and added stickers. I then wrote on the outside  “It’s a beautiful  day in the neighborhood;-)”My daughter and I then walked in zero degree temperature to hand deliver. My daughter pointed out that this counts as exercise and outside time, too.

It really is amazing when you choose to make a positive step and let go of attachment to how things should be, how the positive energy just flows.

I also want thank my partner who takes my advice and positively engaged the kids to create our “Good Day Principles”. Kids are more motivated to participate in activities and internalize the importance if they are included into the process from the beginning. Yes this does take more time and it may not look how you wanted to, yet, in the long run, it will evoke positive feelings and change in the family. We also home educate so our list reflects this rhythm.

Positive attitude
Positive attitude

To deep breaths and baby steps ~Debra

An accepting look at sleepless nights…

“But the first steps to dealing with the fact that your young child doesn’t sleep through the night, or doesn’t want to sleep without you is to realize that:

  • (1) Not sleeping through the night until they are 3 or 4 years of age is normal and healthy behavior for human infants.
  • (2) Your children are not being difficult or manipulative, they are being normal and healthy, and behaving in ways that are appropriate for our species.

Once you understand these simple truths, it becomes much easier to deal with parenting your child at night. Once you give up the idea that you must have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, and view these nighttime interactions with your child as precious and fleeting, you get used to them very quickly.” ~Katherine Dettwyler, PH.D

Sleeping through the Night   http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/sleeping-through-the-night.html

This understanding helped my sanity immensely when my daughter was an infant and wobbler. I have had this gut feeling that forcing children to sleep alone was counter-intuitive.  When I did it to our first-born son, I frequently felt torn. I thought how hard and confusing for him as his parents went to sleep together every night. I love cuddling with another soul at night, how could I deprived him of such a simple and wonderful comfort.  I also think having separate rooms is a luxury that many civilizations have not afforded. He must feel alienated and alone. Every night, around 1 AM, he would bump through the dark hallways to climb a ladder to our bed and I allowed him to stay there. Then I worried if he would ever learn to sleep on his own.

When he was 3 yrs old, I learned that 85% of brain connections were made by age 3 and 45% of the connections that were not made are gone. This is huge and pretty much explains how most our society may only be operating on a half of our brain’s potential. Up to that point, I had considered myself well-educated on child development and parenting, and I was when you consider mainstream. I am glad that I have the thirst for knowledge and embrace my weaknesses. I learn something new every day and challenge my “wrong truths”  (my son’s wording).  Along with a greater of understanding of neuroscience, I also have a theory that forcing a child to sleep through the night may cause the brain to develop out of order and/or skip crucial and formative connections.

Hence, I accept that my daughter (nor I) will not be sleeping through the night till age 3 or 4.

[Deep breaths]… I can do this and it will be worth it.
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…. [A couple years passed]…

My daughter did eventually sleep through the night. I literally went 3.5 years without a full night sleep, co-sleeping, no allowance for “cry it out” and frequent night nursing. I’ll be honest, I would (emotionally) lose it about every 3 weeks due to exhaustion then I’d review my research, read new studies and reflect on our wonderful relationship and the other leaps and bounds she had made. So I continued. I had very little support. I felt I couldn’t even tell many my experiences and theory as they would think I was crazy. Fortunately, my marriage is stellar so my husband believed in me and loved me through the extremely tiring days. Her progression of sleeping through the night was extremely gradual and even getting a full sleep cycle was sporadic.  She still at infrequent times awakes in the middle of the night and stumbles to our bed for a bit of milk and wakes around 6 or 7 AM for some more milk. It didn’t happen overnight and looks more like the second “success” picture:

I wish I knew who to give credit for this picture.

I believe everything exists on a continuum and there are many ways to reach the same endpoint (equifinality). So there are babies who can and will sleep through the night sooner than later and vice versa. There are many nurturing, respectful, and creative ways to get vital needs met.  There are also many emotional, physical, environmental, and contextual variables that play into sleeping through the night too. My oldest son is a rock solid sleeper too. We actually welcomed him back full time into our family bed when he was 4 yrs old for many reasons. At age six, he was ready and motivated to have his own space where he has been ever since (well, about once a month he still asks for a family cuddle;-).

This is a reflection of my unique experience so take what fits with your lifestyle the best and leave the rest. Where ever you are on this erratic trajectory, keep in mind these moments are precious and will be over be for you know it.

To help you find a balance that works for you and your child, I highly recommend listening to this podcast: Attachment Parenting Versus The Science of Attachment, Clearing Up Misconceptions

Some online resources respond to nighttime wakings:

https://www.parentingscience.com/sleep-tips.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201301/simple-ways-calm-crying-baby

http://www.awareparenting.com/sleep.htm

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/sleep-problems

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10358548.htm

http://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/sleep/

To deep breaths and baby steps, this soon will pass.

~Debra