This is a post I started well over a year ago, but never got around to finishing. As my old GP (who left to have a baby) has recently been back in touch, this all feels stirred up, so I am hoping the process of finishing this will be somewhat cathartic.
Lots of people find my blog through search terms like ‘my therapist is pregnant’ or ‘how to survive pregnancy in therapy’. Every time I see it pop up in my stats it hits me in the stomach.
I remember that gut-wrenching moment of fear so well. I actually did the same thing when my therapist at the time, R, announced her pregnancy, and found myself at this wonderful post. Reading that someone else had been there, and survived, was the first step to believing that I would survive! So, in case this helps someone else who stumbles here in their moment of despair, here are my experiences.
A brief background. I liked R from the moment I met her, and not just because of her beautiful accent. R is incredibly comfortable and comforting to be around, and our sessions always had an easy quality to them. R works really hard at her job and I never had to ask twice for any sort of support or intervention – she was always there, front and centre with how she could help support me through my degree. We had been part time, but for reasons that are irrelevant for this post, I wasn’t happy with the other half of my time, and so I made the decision to move to her full time. I made the decision, hammered my choice into the stone, no going back, went on my summer holidays, and our first session back after the holidays, R announced she was pregnant.
I remember saying ‘congratulations!’ and genuinely being absolutely thrilled for her – for about 4 seconds. Then my mind caught up with what it actually meant and I wobbled. She had prepared herself for the moment but I hadn’t even considered it a possibility. My boyfriend had asked me a few months previously whether there was any chance of her having a sprog – my response? Noo! She’d never dream of doing that to me!……….
………you can see why this wasn’t a foolproof plan. But I was genuinely completely shell shocked. I’d always known she was married and the right age to be doing the sprog thing, but I had naively and arrogantly assumed that she would never have taken me on, with all my attachment issues, if she knew she’d be leaving.
These things helped me get through:
Being angry. I really only survived those first few weeks because the people around me allowed me to express my anger and shock at the news. I am very grateful to the people who did not leap in with platitudes about finding someone else to work with, but rather sat with me whilst I sobbed at the unfairness. It was very important to allow myself that space to be angry, but I felt like I almost needed somebody to tell me that it was okay to feel that way. Pregnancy is such a happy thing, and I felt overwhelmingly guilty at the time for crying at her wonderful news – I was very grateful to the people who allowed me to voice the thoughts that I felt were ‘wrong’. R definitely created the space for me to be able to express these to her, but it was impossible to speak these feelings in front of her. Having other outlets for this expression was hugely helpful.
Dealing with what it brings up. The initial shock of R’s pregnancy was just the beginning. Pregnancy is quite unique in that you have a long time to prepare for the inevitable – whilst the person grows this obvious, in your face focus point to ensure you have to be aware of it. I spent a lot of time in therapy with another therapist, dealing with what her pregnancy brought up for me. Some of the issues were abuse issues, some were connected to my own fears about having children myself, some seemed to have no obvious root but were still keeping me awake at night. I definitely felt a push, after the initial shock of the news had died down, to stuff all my feelings down inside me because of a belief I should be ‘over it’ – in reality, I spent nearly the entire time that R was pregnant dealing with the issues it brought up. That’s okay – I can look back at it now and see it for what it was – a unique experience to process some deep, meaningful issues, all of which helped me to grow immensely.
Revisiting it. Pregnancy is different to most news. With most things, they can be somewhat ignored if desired. Pregnancy literally causes changes, every single week, that are impossible to ignore. I went from being worried about what I was wearing to a therapy session, to being seriously concerned about R trying to climb those stairs before and after our session, or losing focus in a session because I was wondering if the baby would be able to hear the details of abuse I was sharing. R allowed me to revisit the issue as many times as I needed, and this allowed me to deal with things as they came up. I initially wanted to shove it into a box and pretend it wasn’t happening until she left, but pregnancy doesn’t make this possible, so it was very helpful to have the space to revisit it over and over.
Preparing well for the ending. One huge benefit of a therapist’s pregnancy is that you get a lot of notice. Other changes, such as them moving to a new job, might come with a two month notice period. Pregnancy gives you a good six months, maybe longer. R and I started talking about the ending in the very first session when she told me, and this proved to be really helpful. By the time she actually left, we had discussed every conceivable possibility – what would happen if she went into labour early, would somebody tell me when she’d had the baby, how would we say goodbye, what did we need to do in our last session, how long was she planning to be off… it felt like we went over and over this, but knowledge is power and feeling well prepared helped me to cope really well. I also spent literally months considering a leaving gift for her – I felt a very strong, very insistent urge that I needed to choose something that baby could enjoy, so I considered this for a long time. Giving this helped me to feel like I was, even in only a teeny tiny way, a part of what was happening – which helped. R also emailed me, long after the baby was born, to tell me that she loved reading him the stories I had bought. This connection meant the world to me, and still soothes me to think of it now.
Knowing where to go next. This is sort of linked to preparing for the ending, but was not something I managed particularly well. Thankfully, R put a lot of thought into who would look after me after she had gone on maternity leave, which meant the transition was very smooth. I wouldn’t have been in any fit state to start the hunt for a new therapist after the ending, so it was very helpful that this was all arranged. We had a few transition meetings where I met with both R and T2, which gave me a sense of R’s desire for me to be safe and happy. It also allowed me to feel secure as I knew that T2 had agreed to tell me when R had had the baby etc. – this all being agreed beforehand helped.
Giving myself permission. I have placed this last because I think it is most important. I struggled to give myself permission to feel the absolute whirlwind of emotions that were inside me for most of the time between announcement and birth. When I did, when I finally allowed the tears to fall, or my excitement for her to show, it felt so relieving and so wonderful. If you are reading this because you googled “oh shit my therapist is pregnant”, then please know this – it is okay to be a mixture of a million emotions. Allow yourself to feel the full force of all of them, because that is how this eventually begins to feel okay again. Allow yourself to be supported through this. Allow yourself to revisit this as many times as you need to. Give yourself permission to cope with this news, however you need to – because your heart knows best. Trust in yourself, and give yourself permission. Most of all, know that you will be okay again, even though it doesn’t feel this way right now. You will be okay again, so give yourself permission to not be okay just yet.