Bucket List Part 2


As I was saying here, we rushed back to the Labor and Delivery Room all excited.  The “coaching” team got ready by charging phones and cameras and having, what we all thought would be, our last minute potty stops.

Mama was feeling fine; relatively pain free and resting nicely.  The nurse had checked her while we had been at lunch and said that she had dilated to 9.5 centimeters.   Another nurse came in and set up a table with  many  shiny, silver  scissor- type-plier things (they all looked the same to me, but I was not the one about to deliver a baby). After another check, the nurse came back and said that the baby needed to “slide down” a bit more and she would return in thirty minutes.  I love the “hurry up to wait” dance; and so we waited.  After half an hour there were some practice pushes, and then another thirty minute “slide down” break.  Remember we had all had our last minute bathroom visits? Yeh, not so much, there were plenty more trips and even a few minutes for me to finish that wilting salad.

Eventually, it was time.  Mommy got some serious pushing going with her fantastic nurse and helpful coaches supporting her both physically and emotionally.  There were pauses of seriousness and silence; mom would rest in between pushes and we would quietly watch the monitor waiting for the next contraction.  Out of nowhere, the wrong  bed button was activated and mid-push mom’s bed was raised and elevated  into some awkward contortion that sent us all into hysterical laughter.  “I guess we didn’t get far with that one” giggled the laboring mom.

Once it was clear that baby was soon to make his entrance, the nurse called the doctor on her fancy hospital phone. Enter  the doctor donning her scrubs and it all seemed real. Personally, I was sympathetically pushing with mom the whole way.  I had full blown tmj from gritting my jaw so tight with stress and anticipation.

And then, it happened: the baby  joined the party. It was amazing! He was suddenly on his mommy’s chest, the nurse was suctioning him and we heard the most beautiful cry you could ever imagine.


His beauty was/is overwhelming.  I had tears and smiles as big as the moon; there is no way to describe how awe-inspiring it all was.  A bit later after the siblings had joined the party and then left to let mom have some quiet, I sat quietly holding the clean and swaddled newborn.  I said to mom “how was he inside of you less than two hours ago?”  Just unbelievable.

As I drove home while talking (safely on my handsfree bluetooth) to our  mutual dear friend in Ohio about the whole experience, I said, please don’t repeat this to anybody, but “I am exhausted!”.  Not like I had just delivered a baby or anything.

As far as bucket list items go, I have to say that this one just about tops it off.  It was an amazing and joyful day, I am so happy that I was included in this beautiful event.

Truly honored to be a part of this precious boy's life

Truly honored to be a part of this precious boy’s life


Bucket List Part 1


I’ve had  a little bucket list floating in my head for the past several years. It wasn’t planned or formal (I rarely operate in such an organized fashion), just adventures that I want to  experience or accomplish during this midlife crisis phase of life.  A few were athletic endeavors that I mentioned here, and the Avon  Walk was something I had always thought about and am SO GLAD it is now in my bucket (times three).  Last fall, my daughter mentioned that she would like to learn to knit.  Knitting has long been a bucket item.  The YouTube lady became our friend  and we arduously toiled and foiled  until we figured out this cool and very relaxing knitting thing.

Although I have had three children and was DEFINITELY  present at their births (and subsequent raising, although Child #1 would argue that point), I have always wanted to be on the other end of the birthing experience.  I wanted to see a baby be born when it wasn’t coming out of my body.  Thanks to my dear friend, I can now check that off my bucket list.  I was graciously invited in to the Labor and Delivery Room to join her husband and her sister witness the birth of her son. And  yes, it met all of my expectations.

My phone rang at 7:30 in the morning.  Auntie was calling to tell me that they had arrived at the hospital,  she said that I had time to take a shower and to meet them there when I was ready.  I frenzied around, left my sleeping children and grabbed some lattes for audience participants, arriving at the hospital less than an hour later.

Mom was having  back labor at the time and waiting eagerly for the glories of the epidural.  Within the first five minutes of my arrival, she had a contraction.  This was the first time I have ever seen anyone have a contraction (other than my own).  It was hard to watch;  I readily witnessed her pain without feeling it and just wanted to do something to ease it for her.  Pre-epidural, we were strongly instructed to NOT TOUCH the mommy, no one was to go near her during the contraction.

About an hour later, with miracle drugs flowing into her system, my friend was a comfortable woman in labor.  She tried to rest while we chatted, watched hours of 80’s sitcoms and waited.  We were all enthralled by the monitors.  There were graphs tracking both the baby’s heart rate and the strength of the contractions. The screen also showed all of the monitors of the other women in labor on the floor. We could tell when the woman down the hall was having a “big one” and that one woman was having twins due to two fetal heart beats. I spent hours gazing at the monitors.

At some point mid-day, Auntie and I went down to grab some lunch.  We had a few bites of our  not-so-bad hospital food  only to receive a text from dad mid-chew, “9.5 cm”.   Faster than a contraction, we tossed the contents of our trays (well, Auntie did, I don’t easily discard food, so my salad joined me in the elevator) and headed up for the main event.

To be continued…

Our own game of Life


One day a few weeks ago I was finishing up a 3 mile “wog”.  Wogging consists of some walking and some jogging (my son who ran cross country and track says I “bunny hop”; I guess a long legged teenager might see that in me).  As I was wogging down the home stretch, my neighbor called out “hello”.  She is a tall, long legged, athletic young thing (not to be confused with the bunny hopper hopping down the street).   We have had many a bus stop conversation about my various attempts at athleticism; there have been 5k’s, sprint triathlons, a half marathon and, of course, the Avon Walks. (This bunny hopper is SLOW and steady, no awards even in the advanced aged category, but it has been fun interesting to plod along throughout the  years).

My lovely  neighbor asked me if I am “training for anything?”  I thoughtfully answered “no, just LIFE”.  The truth is, I have paid for an event in July, and that is probably what is motivating me to get out there and move, but I am not sure I am  going to participate, both due to scheduling and my hesitancy about my readiness for this event.  So, I thought my answer was more accurate because, I am training for LIFE; we all are every.single.day.

On a daily basis we are trying to do our best as humans:  parenting, nutrition, kindness, healthy bodies, school, work, volunteering, community, environment.  Goodness, I am tired from just reading that list.  And, yet every morning, we get up and begin the training again.

There are those mornings when just getting out of bed is considered success.  I have worked with  many who are depressed or grieving and putting those two feet on the floor can feel like a marathon at times. Some days are harder than others, and I truly empathize with their struggles. I’ve had people say that if they are able to just keep breathing, they are doing okay.

Depression and grief can be very heavy.  I’ve spoken to many whose friends and family don’t understand the heaviness, “my dad says if I just go out and get some fresh air I will be fine”.  When you live with someone that has never experienced the  “downs” it can be complicated.  A stranger to depression really can not appreciate the weight of the grief/depression, they can not put themselves in your shoes and realize how hard it is to accomplish the simplest things.

In family meetings, I do my  best to help both parties begin to understand how the other is feeling.  Mom/husband/anyone is pushing  you to exercise, work or even shower and you just can’t summon the energy to move forward.  There is an education piece for the non-depressed person where they need to learn what depression looks like, why their loved one is so dormant and how they can be helpful rather than an additional pressure.

I see these therapy sessions as part of the training for LIFE.  It is in the sessions when we build our muscles via repetition.  “I can’t tell my parents ___________” .  What are you most afraid of? What is the worst that could happen? Can you tell them a  piece of the story?  Week after week we break down the issues (depression, anxiety or anger) and do the training necessary to move forward;  sometimes it is a 5k, maybe even a full marathon, but often the training is just helping to put one foot in front of the other and show up for that game of LIFE.

Be it healthy physical choices, emotional goals or concrete work challenges, each of  us is participating in our own training program.  What we bring to the table will impact the outcome; I know the harder I wog, the better I feel in my muscles and in my mind.  Please, keep in mind, that sometimes we all struggle to tie up our running shoes, sometimes getting to the training is just that difficult.  Have patience with yourself and those around you, tomorrow is a new opportunity to train for LIFE.

Graduation Day – Again

Here is a re-post from last year.  Congratulations to the Class of 2013 and their families:

In between seeing clients on Thursday, I hopped over to Facebook to see what was going on in my little world (as opposed to those who click on US News and World Report to see what is going on in the big world).  There were many high school graduations in Fairfax County on Thursday and I was treated to numerous photos of young adults that I have known since they were toddlers donning their caps and gowns.  I was also  aware that several of my clients were missing their therapy appointments  graduating that day and I found myself  feeling very emotional.

High School graduation is a  pivotal time. I have likened it with parents of clients to jumping off a diving board.  Will their child dive in gracefully, belly flop or, like most kids,  land somewhere in between  with  a clean dive, but still getting a little water up the nose ?

The graduate is  facing one of his or her first major decisions of  life.  From ages 5-18, every September the child grabs a backpack and goes off to school.  There is no question, it is the law and it is what is done.  The September following high school graduation poses many options: school or work, what kind of school, job possibilities, what state to live in, dorm or home, roommates or parents (ha), the list is endless.  What used to be simply  a question of peanut butter and jelly or turkey and mayo is  now an important decision with longterm effects.  The weight of these decisions and subsequent effects can bring on anxiety for many of these  young graduates.

The family also has growing pains upon graduation.  The parents are watching their baby become independent, move out of the home and realize that clean laundry doesn’t just happen.  They are often thrilled to get the ornery teenager out of the house while still yearning to tuck him in at night.  The parents and child must figure out  how to negotiate new norms : how often do we call, visit, text? What if he gets sick or she runs out of money?  I worked with a mother of a freshman who literally drove 3 hours to her daughter’s school several times a month, slept in the daughter’s  dorm room and was completely enmeshed in the new romantic relationship (e.g.  texting the new boyfriend and knowing WAY too much about their physical relationship).  I tried to help the mother build some boundaries into her relationship with her daughter while also helping her with her grief; the loss of having her little girl need her as the mommy she so desperately wanted to be.  It can be quite a painful process to let go both of the graduate and the identity that surrounds the early parenting years.

Siblings often struggle silently.  There is so much attention on the graduate and the parents’ empty-nest that we forget that the younger sibling is also saying goodbye.  As much as they fight, they are still siblings and share the common link of hating sharing their parents and understanding the subtleties of the family; no one knows your family and/or your parents like your siblings do.  I have one client tell me repeatedly that when her brother went to college she lost someone with whom to “diss on mom”.  Another client shared that he became the center of attention when his sister left for school.  Every grade,  forgotten chore or misbehavior was under scrutiny because he was, as I like to say “the only fish left in the fishbowl” with parents watching from every angle.

As I witness my clients and their families buy the linens, pick their roommates and say good-byes during the summer after graduation, I leave them with my tell-tale speech:  College is an amazing journey;  you will meet fantastic people, have wonderful opportunities and go to a party or two, but YOU HAVE TO GO TO CLASS, the attendance officer is staying at high school.  College is both a privilege and a responsibility .  I have had many a client wind up back on my couch after first semester with a pile of F’s, a drinking problem and looking for a job.

My intention is not to portray the gloom and doom of graduation.  It is a tremendously exciting time with a great deal of joy.  My goal is to identify some of the  the problem areas so that if you find that you or your family are struggling with a glitch or two, it is completely normal.  These feelings and struggles happen to everyone, thus the tears at graduation, it is part of the package.

To the graduates and their families: CONGRATULATIONS! This is a wonderful time. I wish you the gift of being present for the ride: the ups, the downs and the in-betweens.


A moment for pause

You may have noticed it’s been a little quiet here over at my corner of the internet.  True, it’s been crazy busy with the end of school and ten million events and such, but carpooling and track meets have not been solely  the reason for less wordage on my site.  A few weeks ago I posted something that received a few negative comments (not here, it had been re-posted on another site which is a more public forum) and I have taken a moment to pause.  The comments were not that scathing,  just some questioning of my intentions or mild criticism.  Since I have enjoyed such positive feedback and loving comments for so long, this experience gave me a wonderful little opportunity for reflection and growth.

I read many blogs where the authors have been slammed in the comment section.  These authors have written about their experience with criticism and taught me that  everyone has opinions and putting  words out for anyone to see opens one up to not only the “bravos”, but  to the “not so much” as well. I have a dear friend that is a journalist; she has been beaten up and bruised for years by angry readers and I have admired her ability to let it mostly roll off without another thought (other than an earlier than scheduled happy hour or a snarky Facebook post relating to a stressful day.)

As a therapist, we learn about countertransference   and personal boundaries, both in school and in training.  The internet has added an entirely new dimension to all of our work.  There are now classes on social media for therapists;  we are taught about confidentiality for email and Skype, guided on whether or not to text and also  how to market ourselves on the internet.

This blog has been a way for me to let you and/or my clients learn a little bit about me and how I work. I think it is nice for a client to be able to read a bit about my style and quirks personality before meeting me.  It helps to determine if we will be a good fit for working together in a therapeutic relationship.  Yet, I take a risk. I may push people away by being too Laurie, offend someone or simply say the wrong thing in a blog post. I need to be okay with that; it’s not all about the love and kudos, and that has been my lesson of late.

If I have offended or been unprofessional, my apologies.  I am a work in progress both in my office and  on this keyboard.  I take my role as a therapist very seriously and do my best to adhere to the ethical bounds by which I am governed.  It is always nice to hear the positive feedback, but as important to hear the negative; that is where I grow and learn.

Please feel free to contact me personally with any questions or concerns: laurielevinelcsw.com

Signs of the school year coming to an end

end of school

-my kids come home from school having watched movies every day

-the thought of buying deli for school lunches literally turns my stomach

-dirty, gross and tattered notebooks

-my kids come home from school having watched movies every day

-stress over how to manage the next three months via lack of structure etc. for certain offspring

-tons of last minute projects and/or NO homework whatsoever

-459 billion concerts, recitals, banquets and ceremonies

-my kids come home from school having watched movies every day

-daylight in the evenings

-teacher friends planning big fat vacations

-fear of my caseload dropping

-my kids come home from school having watched movies every day

Please add to the list, enjoy the last few days and make sure to ask your kids about the movies they’ve been watching all week.