Archive of ‘Couples’ category

Pregnant During a Pandemic

My dear friend, a Mom of an adorably-perfect-two-year-old, recently asked: “What is it like to be pregnant during a pandemic?” My friend is contemplating jumping back into the world of pregnancy tests, OB/midwife visits, ultrasounds, belly kicks, weird pregnancy symptoms, and of course, newborn life. My actual first words to her question were “NO. Don’t do it!”. But, as a therapist, and Mom of two little children (a two year old and a three year old), I figured I should stop and actually contemplate her question. Here is what I have come up with… 

What is pregnancy during a pandemic like?

To start: wanting to be pregnant and then becoming pregnant is a freaking MIRACLE. My husband and I were lucky enough to have access to fertility resources and physicians for babies #1 and #3. We are blessed beyond measure to have healthy bodies and access to healthcare to make our dreams of a family of five possible. 

With that being said, here is where I begin my rant on PREGNANCY DURING A PANDEMIC! It’s hard. It’s no joke. It’s weird. It’s isolating. My husband and I found out we were pregnant on March 18th, 2020, the same week our Mayor issued a city-wide Stay at Home Order. Every step of this pregnancy has been under the umbrella of COVID-19 and the scary unknowns that come with that. 

Moms are superheroes!

I think whether you’re a first time Mom or a second, third, fourth…time Mom, it’s hard. However, it’s my opinion that first time Moms have it the hardest out of all of us. The first time I was pregnant was the scariest pregnancy of all of mine (so far). You question every weird pregnancy symptom and constantly worry about the health of yourself and the health of your baby. Plus, now with the pandemic, the fun things that you were joyously looking forward to have been stripped away: no ultrasound visits with your partner or family, no baby showers, and not a lot of opportunities to show off your miraculous baby belly… 

Yet, then again, second, third, fourth.. time Moms know exactly what a pregnancy “could” or “should” look like and how, like me, our plans for self care and survival (child care for our older children, prenatal massages, Mom night outs, working out at the gym…) may have been washed away completely. 

But, the good news is that we are MOTHERS. And nobody knows better than us that we can shift and move on. During a time that is very inflexible, we know how to be flexible. Mothers, after all, are superheroes. But, now more than ever, pregnant women must ask for what they need, take time for themselves, and nourish their bodies with self love and self care. 

A few tips for surviving pregnancy during a pandemic: 

  • Facetime your partner, family members, or best friend during every OB or ultrasound visit. Include them. Your tribe wants to support you and this will lessen the feelings of isolation. 
  • Move your body and I don’t mean chase around your older children. Exercise however and whenever you can. If it’s not 102 degrees outside, like it is in Austin, go on a walk. Do an at-home workout or zoom class. Your body deserves to be taken care of, now and always. 
  • Find COMFORTABLE maternity clothes. Beg, borrow, or steal, I mean, buy whatever will make your body feel a smidge more comfortable as it grows bigger (and stronger) every single day. I can’t say enough good things about these leggings
  • Find a friend that is also pregnant. A preggo buddy will offer support and validation as you grapple with the ups and downs of creating life… and bonus: you can support one another during the newborn stage too! 

So, what is my final answer? I told my friend to DO IT. Life (quite literally) must go on. Again, mothers are superheroes… And, whether it is your first or fifth time with pregnancy, put your mind and your body first, and everything else will fall into place. 

Stay tuned for my thoughts on how to stay sane (and contribute safely) during a Civil Rights Movement and an American Presidential Election. 

Written by: Sumati Morris, LPC


Tips from a Therapist: Ways to Adjust to Life in Quarantine

Quarantine Zoom Call

“We’re all just making this up as we go along”, a very dear friend told me recently regarding the quarantine. These resounding words have stuck with me not only in my personal life, but my professional life as well. All of my clients, regardless of their circumstances, are making this up as they go along. All of us collectively are leaning into a huge amount of vulnerability, not knowing what the rest of the year will look like.

In lieu of social distancing and the extension of the quarantine, staying at home way more than leaving has become a new norm. We have become accustomed to isolating ourselves with our living partners. We have also been deprived of the external stimulation we were experiencing the first two months of 2020 (especially in Austin where there is external stimulation galore!!).

Through months of hard experience as well as the beautiful stories of hope my clients give me, I have made a list of tips for us to do in order to better cope with the harsh reality of quarantine. As a society, we are perhaps more in need of healthy connections, self-reflection, and coping strategies now more than we ever have been. Below are five helpful ways to adapt to social distancing so that we are alone but not lonely. 

Take Time for Ourselves (TV, gaming, “you” time)

What does this look like for you? Taking time for myself means watching my favorite movie or bingeing a favorite TV show. My partner is a huge gamer and self-care for him looks like playing his favorite game. The point is to DISCONNECT. Disconnect from work emails, news sources, endless desk time that our bodies were not made for. Disconnecting from the “outside world” gives your mind and body a much-needed pause and recharge. 

Zoom or FaceTime a Friend or Family Member

What does your social support look like in these strange times? We have all become so isolated with social distance. But the thing to remember with social distancing is: Just because we are social distancing does not mean we should emotionally distance. Check on a friend you have not talked to in a while. Call a family member you are rekindling a relationship with. Facetime a former coworker you had a great relationship with! Our friends and family need to be checked in on just as much as we do.

Re-Evaluate Your Mental Health

Realistically, most of us have been struggling long before the pandemic. Whether it has been anxiety, depression, relationship issues, bipolar, ADHD, any kind of mental struggle has undoubtedly been exacerbated by staying quarantined. Being deprived of the things that have brought us joy our whole lives will bring some kind of sadness, grief, or anxiety. Our mental health matters more so now than it ever has. If you need a therapist, by all means reach out to Austin Family Counseling! We have virtual counseling to ensure the safety of all of our clients.

Re-Evaluation of Self-Care

What does self-care look like for you in quarantine? We have been forced to change our methods of taking care of ourselves. Things like going to the gym, going to concerts, going to your favorite museum (some self-care methods I used to engage in prior to the pandemic), are now changed, and we are having to be very creative. Things like going for a run, discovering new bands, and watching live concerts online all have become my new norm as they are the safest and most socially distant alternatives to my former ways of self-care.

Adopt an Animal

Studies show that having an animal improves our overall happiness and quality of life. In times like these, life quality improvement is an absolute must! There are so many animals in Austin that need homes. And if we are stuck at home most of the time, why not have a furry human to keep us company?! Austin Animal Center, Austin Pets Alive!, and Austin Humane Society are all places that are open during pandemic and are actively allowing pet parents to adopt and foster pets!

By: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

3 Things You Can Do To Encourage Your Husband/Partner To Speak Up About Their Sexual Health Without Fear

Although studies estimate that 15-20 percent of men deal with sexual issues, the overwhelming fear and shame of speaking about it continue to haunt them. In fact, shame is also a key reason behind 60 percent of men avoiding doctor visits. In a recent AARP survey, one in five men admitted they weren’t honest with their physicians, mainly due to the embarrassment of discussing certain issues, including their sexual health. However, by taking steps to encourage the man in your life to open up about their sexual health and concerns without the fear of judgment, you can begin to take the first steps in preparing for a successful marriage and lifelong relationship.

Time The Conversation, Mood And Location Well

Picking the perfect time to have a conversation about their sexual health is crucial to having a productive conversation. This is because you want to choose a time where you are both receptive and ready to listen to what each other are saying. For most couples, setting aside a time to discuss it normally helps. You can also help your partner feel more at ease by maintaining a calm and positive tone during the conversation. Efforts to help them feel more comfortable with intimacy of all levels will help them relax and be honest with you. You can do this by encouraging your husband/boyfriend, and setting aside designated time for intimacy. 

Reaffirm The Positives Of Your Relationship And Commit To Exploring Solutions Together

By focusing on the positives of your relationship, you can help your partner feel reassured in the bond that you have. Instead of focusing on the negative emotions surrounding sexual health, stick to the issues and potential solution, opting for a more positive ‘can-do’ attitude. It is also important to remain positive throughout the conversation by reassuring them that there are solutions to sexual health issues out there, and that you are committed to exploring any issues they have raised together.

This added support may turn out to be the boost they need to speak to their doctor about erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, or any other sexual conditions that warrant medical help. There are hundreds of solutions out there for sexual issues, and they do not always include medication. In addition to a healthy diet, exercise, and couples’ mediation techniques, your partner can boost their nutrient intake to reduce nervousness. With so many studies showcasing the effects of stress and anxiety on the body, chances are that focusing on improving these can greatly help your partner with his sexual health. As a bonus, it may help them feel more comfortable, since the solution may not involve going to a doctor.

Practice Non-Judgmental Listening And Conversational Techniques

Communication is key in any relationship. However for a sensitive conversation to be truly productive, it must be free of judgment and assumptions. The alternative is that due to the fear of being judged, your partner opts to not be completely honest with you or engage in conversations about your sex life at all. This is particularly relevant if there is an issue of conflict in the bedroom. Research has shown that people avoid conflicts because it either presents a threat to their relationships, partner or themselves. However, with the use of non-judgmental listening, you can soothe those fears and encourage the man in your life to be truthful about his sexual health, shortcomings and all.

To Master Non-Judgmental Communication, Focus On Avoiding A Fault-Based Way Of Thinking

A great non-judgmental communication technique to use is the DUAL Method, penned by Leo Babauta. This recommends that you avoid passing judgment and become more self-aware before practicing empathy and understanding; accept the differences in your partner’s point of view; and embrace the good that comes with their sexual revelations. For instance, the positives of having your partner open up about performance anxiety include better communication of sexual needs and the chance to pursue a remedy as a couple. Pay attention to your non-judgmental cues in the conversation as well. These can be just as telling as your words.

Sexual health and fulfillment is a key part of satisfaction and happiness in any relationship. While men can find it difficult to open up about their sexual health, there are ways you can encourage them to do so. By creating a safe space and maintaining an emphatic and non-judgmental attitude, you can begin to build a stronger and more intimate relationship.

By: Issy Lovett

After an initial career spent as a sexual health nurse, Issy turned to writing to make a living and now pens articles on topics relating to sexual health and the anxieties it can create. She believes strongly in talking therapies as a way to help overcome issues, after experiencing her own struggles with mental health. Issy now lives with her girlfriend and their pet dog Barney.


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