Today’s guest blog from Psychotherapist Jessica Aronson touches on a question that many working women and expecting moms often wonder. What can we do as parents or professionals to teach others (kids and adults alike) to both respect and feel comfortable with the inevitable physical changes as they grow, from puberty to pregnancy? How can we learn to cope with our bodies through different stages of life?
As you know, this is a topic I hold near and dear to my heart. Her account is decidedly honest, and I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section below.
A Therapist’s Changing Body
As I anxiously and joyously await the arrival of my second child, another boy, I am reminded of the process all over again. It’s no longer just my client and I sitting in the room; with my son growing inside of me, there are three of us now.
My clients in particular are heightened to these changes. Having worked with eating disorder patients for more than 10 years, I’m familiar with—and prepared for—the comments: “You look great, did you change your hair?” or “You’re so little,” or “You’re wearing colors today.”
So it wasn’t all that surprising that the comments continued as I too continued to grow and change. People have remarked on how big I’ve gotten; how my skin has broken out; how uncomfortable I must be (and am). The list goes on.
At eight months pregnant, there is no way to hide my belly. It now shares the sacred space of a therapy session, a place that’s otherwise reserved solely for my patient and myself. That being said, I nevertheless try not to talk about my pregnancy or my changing body with my patients at great length, as it leaves me exposed and vulnerable as their therapist.
When the situation seems appropriate, however, I do push myself to inquire as to what thoughts and feelings my changing body and unborn child brings up for them. Clients have shared feeling uncomfortable by the size of my belly. They’ve expressed sympathy as well as the desire to take care of me by offering me a seat on the couch. They’ve expressed fears about my maternity leave.
Of course, there is no way to avoid these changes—or the physical changes any woman experiences during the course of their pregnancy. And while I know it is so important to use my own position as an opportunity to help my clients explore their own feelings and fears about pregnancy and weight fluctuation, I am also honest when I say that, as a therapist, I feel very exposed and vulnerable in doing so. Sure, I am happy to make this sacrifice to benefit my clients. I’m just far less enthusiastic about sharing it with strangers.
Many of my clients stayed with me through my first pregnancy, but I still struggle to cope with my own discomfort (as the baby kicks and moves inside me), as well as anxieties and fears that arise while in sessions with patients. Like any transition or change in a therapist’s life, this too is major. We just can’t hide or cover this one up.