First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes, well, you know. What we don’t know, or maybe don’t want to admit, is how our relationship with our partner changes. Thankfully, Dr. Cara English, DBH, has a lot experience and knowledge to share with us. This Q&A ought to get you excited about her upcoming session, Your Marriage After Baby, at the Third Annual Fourth Trimester Arizona Conference. We know we are!
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a mother of an amazing soon-to-be 14 year old son, and I’m married to an incredibly supportive and caring man. But boy, have we had our challenges. Both my husband and I struggled with perinatal anxiety and depression. We found it incredibly difficult to survive the sleep deprivation, colic, reflux, and non-self-soothing temperament of our infant son. It nearly broke us up as a couple, and we each had a really rough time coping individually as well. We experienced nearly every kind of crisis that a family can experience. Fortunately, we clung to one another, and here we are nearly 14 years later. Living through something like this and surviving it teaches you a lot about yourself. I learned to embrace the process of change and transformation, rather than fighting it, and I learned how to nurture and support my marriage and son so that we could be resilient and strong. Learning through the crises helps me help others. It’s a gift to be able to help other families through the process, and to support them in their own transformation journeys.
Dr. Cara English has 20 years of experience in the fields of psychology, counseling, and integrated behavioral health care, and is thrilled to open Terra’s Place with a mission to serve women and families suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She is passionate about empowering mothers and their partners to make informed decisions about their care that are in line with family cultural and spiritual values.
What compelled you to want to speak at the Third Annual Fourth Trimester Arizona Conference?
There are still so many challenges that families face during the postpartum year and beyond that have not been explored sufficiently or discussed in our community. Last year, I spoke on a panel with other providers about treatment for perinatal anxiety and mood disorders. In the year since then, I have been influenced by the founder of Postpartum Support International (PSI), Jane Honikman, who shared the PSI origin story at the 2019 annual conference. She co-presented with a male psychologist and in an era of #metoo and a renewed women’s movements, they dared to say, “what about our men?” Most of the mothers I work with are not parenting alone, but there is so little support for men; it is certainly not equal to that we’ve cultivated for women, but even more alarming is the lack of quality support for the couple in the postpartum year. This is the most difficult year of most marriages, but so little community support is available. I wanted to shed some light on ways that couples can address these challenges, reduce stresses, and prevent the overwhelming despair that many couples face when their lives are turned upside down by bringing baby home.
Is there hope for couples after baby arrives? What nugget can you share that will give us hope that things will get better, as a couple?
Absolutely! That’s the nugget: that there is hope, there are ways to prepare for the stresses that will come and ways to cope with the stresses that reduce risks for the couple and family.
What are some common issues that parents face after baby comes? Are they avoidable?
Bone-deep exhaustion due to sleep deprivation, inadequate nutrition, physiological pain and/or illnesses, lack of help from family and friends, social isolation from others and from each other, financial challenges, and changes or losses in life that happen in the year prior to birth or during the year following birth are common challenges. Additionally, some couples face fertility challenges, miscarriages, or infant loss, adding excruciating pain and grief to the overly tall order of what birthing couples normally face. Some of these challenges can be avoided or reduced with proper preparation, including arranging or coordinating social supports such as meals and care for older children. I have found in my work with couples that talking about the realities of challenges and preparing for them rather than getting swept away in the fantasies the media and social media portray of having a baby can be very helpful.
What would you like someone who hears your talk to take away, above all else?
I want attendees to be hopeful, realistic, and informed, so that they can face these challenges by turning not away from one another, but towards one another in a marriage; to become a team that can cope with the stresses that come, set boundaries and realistic expectations for themselves, and address anxiety and depression by engaging resources rather than neglecting themselves or the marriage.
Don't Miss Out!
Don’t miss out on the wisdom that Dr. English can betsow upon us that will help us take the steps we need to restore our relationships.
Days Until the Third Annual Fourth Trimester Arizona Conference