The "S" Word to Immediately Remove from Your Vocabulary

an interview with abbey + shannon

I've been looking forward to this post for a while. Shannon Wilson, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Cedar Rapids, was such a bright spot in my life as I struggled to find my way as a new mom in a new city of strangers. I even found myself seeking her counsel when we found out we were pregnant with my son for prenatal counseling as I knew our life was going to change again with the addition of a precious (but demanding) little one.

There are so many nuggets of wisdom in the interview - and she has SO many more up her sleeve. Enjoy!

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Hey, Shannon! I'm imagining I'm in your calming office for a session, with hundreds of our readers listening in for a pep talk. :) Tell them a little about yourself.

I'm a mama of three tiny humans who require me to constantly self-reflect and adapt to all that they throw at me on a daily basis, Olivia (8), Henry (5), and Arlo (3) and wife to Ben, someone I never want to live without. I am a lover of all things pregnancy, birth, and motherhood...the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love people, and I have always been a helper. I am so lucky to be able to transform my greatest loves into the work that I do. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and I co-own Murray, Wilson & Rose Counseling and Behavioral Services located in Hiawatha. I specialize in perinatal mental health, which includes the time frame from pregnancy up to the first year postpartum. I am so grateful to be able to do this work and to support and empower women during this incredibly difficult and transformative time in their lives.

So tell us a little about your work and what made you want to want to become a counselor, specifically, working with pregnant woman and mothers...other than seeing all the cute babies?

Well, I absolutely love being able to see cute babies all day long! It's a major perk for sure! I've always known I wanted to be a helper - I got my bachelors degree in social work and actually worked with older adults and in hospice settings for a few years. I decided while doing that work that it wasn't quite what I was looking for - it was more about providing information and referring to resources and I wanted to be doing more of a deep dive and helping to promote insight and change. So I went back to get my masters degree in 2008 and graduated in 2010. I also had my first child in 2010. When I became pregnant is when my obsession with pregnancy, birth and motherhood began! Adjusting to life with a baby rocked my word in ways that I had NOT anticipated! I didn't quite marry mental health and this work until I worked with my first client who was experiencing postpartum depression and it was like I had found my niche. There is such a lack of resources for women, and pregnancy and entering into motherhood is such a profound time of change and adjustment. We all need a little support and community, and I am so honored to be able to provide that!

While we love our roles as mothers, CM! also wants to be sure we are honoring our roles as women. Do you have any tips for staying true to your identity post-child(ren)? How do you get back to that person if you feel they have been lost?

I think when we become mothers, we don't really anticipate the gravity of the lifestyle change we are about to embark on. When it happens, it hits some of us like a ton of bricks and we can long for our old lives and mourn old parts of our self. This is normal and okay and doesn't mean you don't love your baby! I recommend not envisioning "getting back to normal" but instead focusing on the new normal with a child. You are going to go through some identity shift, but you can still keep the parts of your identity that are really important to you! The first three months (the fourth trimester!) is often chaotic and full of sleep deprivation and just survival. As soon as you can, incorporate some of those things that you enjoy back into your life. If you are a person who loves to get together with friends, make some time and space for it. If you're a crafter, get to it. Like to read? Do that too! Whatever helps you feel like YOU...incorporate as much of that back into your life as possible, little by little.

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Mom guilt is so real. Is there any way to combat it like a pro?

Oh, boy! Mom guilt!

1. Expectations are huge when it comes to guilt. Lower your expectations. You cannot do all of the things well all of the time. Perfection is not attainable, nor is that helpful for our children. Eliminating the word 'should' from your vocabulary can help with this. Try it, I dare you!

2. Do not compare yourself to others. Your child and your life is unique to you, and what others are doing may not work well for you and vice versa.

3. Do it anyway. Feeling guilty about taking time for self-care? It's likely this guilt is irrational in nature...just because you *feel* guilty doesn't mean that you *are* guilty. So, take that time anyway. The guilt can be there lurking in the background, but you don't have to allow that feeling to dictate your actions.

If you had one bit of advice for new moms and their mental health, what would it be?

Just one?? I could talk all day about this! I think that so many of the issues I see in session can be prevented by a little more prep in terms of knowing what is normal and what to expect when you have a baby. Having a baby can be really isolating, so I think it's important for new moms to find a community of other moms that they can relate to and discuss the joys and struggles of mothering. Also, if you don't like the way that you feel, please reach out. I often get mamas who have been suffering for months and sometimes even years believing that motherhood is "just this bad" or that "it will pass on its own." Please, reach out. You don't have to suffer. We know that with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder the sooner the better when it comes to treatment. We can reduce session severity and duration with early intervention.

I was lucky enough to find you via a simple Google search (such luck!) but for those who are not local looking for a counselor, what are some of the most important things to consider?

If you are looking for a perinatal specialist, there are some resources to help! Postpartum Support International has counselor information with specific perinatal training listed by city and state. Also, be an educated consumer in your care. The most important factor in change is the therapeutic relationship. If you have a few sessions with someone and you don't feel like they're a good fit for you it is okay to shop around!

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So CM! is all about celebrating the mama life. How do you celebrate your mom life?

Oooh, tough question! The role of mother is a significant part of my identity...I am a mom and I also work with a lot of moms! I have a couple of tattoos that celebrate motherhood...does that count??! I love getting together with my mom friends and sharing our successes and our struggles. I also find laughter and sharing the completely hilarious aspects of motherhood to be a celebration!

Where can we find you online?

Facebook : Murray, Wilson & Rose Counseling and Behavioral Services and I also have a professional page, Shannon Wilson, LMHC.