Brittany Schank joins me on today’s episode! Brittany is a wife, mother, veteran, and therapist who has a heart for women “in the thick of mommy hood.” Her own unique experience and honest perspectives allow women to own their struggle throughout their journey of mommy hood and regain perspective of their parenting abilities. We hope you enjoy our conversation!
Brittany Schank’s Contact Information:
Brittany’s YouTube channel:
Hey guy! On today’s episode, I have Brittany Schank joining me and I’m so excited for you to hear this conversation. Brittany just really has a passion for, as she words it, mommies that are in the thick of mommy-hood.So, really essentially what that means at least to me at least is that motherhood is hard, right? I mean, parenting in general is hard. And a lot of times we don’t have enough conversations about the impact of that. Sometimes it’s because we want to keep a really positive view of other people who maybe put snapshots of our lives on FaceBook, right? But we maybe don’t explain or share really vulnerable issues that we have and so I love that Brittany is so open and honest about her own unique experience, but also is really able to be really supportive for other parents who are in the thick of parenthood. So, I hope you enjoy this conversation.
K: Alright, Brittany! Thank you so much for coming back to the show!
B: Yes, of course!
K: So, you have been on before. You’re on an episode where we also had Emily Jones - it was episode eight - so if people want to go back and hear more about you as a therapist and some of your mental health work, they can go back and listen to that episode but I’m wondering if you can introduce yourself for people who maybe didn’t hear that episode.
B: Yes, of course. So, my name is Brittany Schank. I am a therapist at Abound Counseling and we’re based out of...our main station is out of Fargo, North Dakota but we of course have therapists throughout the entire state. I’ve been a therapist for about three years now. I have my bachelors degree and masters degree in social work and so after I got my masters degree, I needed an internship and I thankfully and luckily happened to come across Abound Counseling and I did my internship here with Sara Stallman and was kind of smitten for what they were doing and their view and their vision and they way they did therapy so I was so so lucky to be offered an internship and then a position right after my internship. I do counseling there and I mostly see teenagers and adults and I have a couple like specific niches that, if you want me to go into I can.
K: Sure, if you want to talk a little bit about that, you can.
B: Okay! So the teenagers I see most of them I do trauma therapy with so they’ve had a traumatic event or many traumatic events in their life and we do a therapy to kind of walk through their story and find out who they are outside of that story and inside of that story and kind of walking along with them through their journey of the traumatic experiences and what they what they want life to look like afterwards. Like gaining a grasp for who they are when you pull the trauma and traumatic events away. And so my adult population I like to see are mommies who are in the thick of mommyhood and I’m pretty sure we’ll get quite a bit into that a little bit later in this episode.
Also, I’m a military veteran and I specialize in seeing survivors of sexual assault so that’s both in the military and outside of the military survivors of sexual assault. So, those are some of the kinds of populations that I see.
Outside of work I am a veteran, as I said before. I’ve been in the military for about thirteen years now. I’m in the air national guard and I’m also a mom of two beautiful babies - a four year old who is like straight up spunk and a one and a half year old who is the total opposite and super calm and there are worries and concerns and happy moments with both of those temperaments and so we can also get into later some of the thoughts and feelings that come with very different temperaments with the kiddos that I have.
Also, I have a husband. I’ve been with my husband for twelve years and we’ve been married for about six years so that’s kind of who I am in my professional and personal life. I also have this new, somewhat secretive journey of narrating audio books that I’m kind of peaking into and figuring out about and it’s just kind of like my guilty pleasure on the side.
K: I love that. You know that I love audiobooks and so when I found out you were doing that I was so pumped. We’re going to have to talk about that later for sure. Can I ask, did you meet your husband in the military then?
B: I did not and I get that question all the time.
K: With the timeline, that’s the only reason I was wondering.
B: Yeah, I enlisted in the military but had not yet gone to basic training so him and I met and a month later I left to basic training and to do my basic training graduation and yeah, pretty crazy story.
K: Awesome! I love stories like that. That’s great. So, I’m wondering if you can share a little bit about really your passion with helping people through motherhood because it’s not easy, let's be real. There’s some really great parts of it and I love to talk about those really great parts but there’s some really hard parts too. I’m not sure that we talk about that side of things as much and so I’m wondering if you can share where your passion came for that?
B: Yeah, of course. I um...lets see. Okay, so I’ve known since I was as young as I can remember that I wanted to be a mom and I would play with babies and named my babies certain names that I swore I was going to name my babies when I had them and I just always knew that I wanted to be a mom. So, there was a part of my life where I was like, “I’m never having kids!” and I don’t know if that’s normal or not but that was a part of my journey but for a two or three year period I was sure I was going to be a mom and I had this picture of what came with motherhood and what that looked like and just these hopes and dreams but I also had this spot and pretty much throughout...I know when I was a teenager and pretty sure even before that I had these thoughts of, “I don’t think I can have kids.” And I have no idea where that thought really came from or where it stemmed from or what that reasoning was for it. I don’t know what it is but I carried it with me for as long as I can remember and so I remember always being really really concerned about actually being able to have kids.
So, when my husband and I decided we were ready to start trying to have kids, we were not successful. It was really, really hard for us to have kids and we ended up getting testing done on him and I and there was a lot of work for us to actually get to the point of being able to conceive my daughter. I don’t know if you want me to kind of explore our journey of fertility treatments or if you want to save that for an episode another time.
K: You know, I think it would be helpful to touch on that because when your episode airs I will have had Tina who really did such an amazing job running through her journey and her experience but we were talking through that episode that sometimes it can be problematic to only have one point of view and so I actually didn’t know that was part of your story so if you feel comfortable sharing that, I think that would be really helpful.
B: Yeah, of course! So, like I said my husband and I thought we were ready to have kids. I say thought because I don’t know if anybody is 100% ready. So we thought that we were ready and in a place to have kids and we tried and tried and tried and we just weren’t getting it so we went to my OB doctor and talked to them about it and they were like, “Let’s do some testing” and all that stuff and so we did the testing and we came to find out that things were good with my husband, everything looked great for him but for me, things didn’t look as good so really the situation with me was that I wasn’t ovulating regularly. Am I allowed to say that on here? Ovulating?
K: Yeah, you can say that. Absolutely. (laughing)
B: (laughing) I wasn’t ovulating regularly so they said, “You could continue to try on our own but the likelihood that you’ll actually get pregnant or you’re ovulating at the right time, all that kind of stuff is pretty unlikely and so we would recommend that you guys do some fertility treatments. That was a hard pill to swallow. We were young when we decided to start having kids. I call it young. Some people might not but we were twenty three, twenty four when we decided to start having kids. I think I was twenty four when we started fertility treatments and there’s a lot of like thoughts with that but there’s a lot of like shame for me in that. Like aren’t we too young to try this? Young people should be able to conceive, right? Are we rushing this? There was a lot of doubt and I didn’t have any other friends that had babies and so I didn’t know where to go. I was so lost and feeling like I was kind of making decisions blindly. Quite honestly, I didn’t even talk to people about it because it was like, “Well, there’s something wrong with me” and I just didn’t have the avenues to talk about it. Or I didn’t think I did. I did but I didn’t think I did.
We did do the fertility treatments and we got pregnant and our first pregnancy was a miscarriage and so that in itself was tough. We had just told our family over Thanksgiving, it was our first pregnancy and it was...I didn’t even know what to feel. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to feel, I didn’t know what a person did after they had a miscarriage. Do I just go to work tomorrow? I was just so lost and our loss and our hopes of like we were pregnant and this happened and I just had this thought it was never going to happen and now it happened so that was a big journey for us and we can talk more about that at another time as well but just for times sake, we’ll kind of fast forward.
That was a really dark time in my life and I had a lot of really negative thoughts about my future. Like I already thought I couldn’t have kids and now this kind of reinforced that thought of, “Brittany, you already thought you couldn’t have kids and you were right. Why did you do that?” It was just a really dark place.
K: That’s so interesting. Sorry to interrupt but that’s so interesting that you had those thoughts though, you know what I mean?
B: I know, right?
K: Yeah, that’s just really interesting.
B: Yup, I know. I know. It was something I carried with me for a really long time. So, through time my husband and I decided to try fertility treatments again and we did and on the first cycle of fertility treatments, we got pregnant and that is when I got pregnant with my daughter. It was...we were scared. I think lots of people are scared for a good portion of their pregnancy, hoping everything goes well and of course worried about miscarriage and stuff like that again. I carried her to term, we had her and she like literally came out of the womb a spit-fire. Like the day she came out she was like, “Get ready! I’m here!”
K: (laughing) I love that.
B: She has like lived up to that her first four years of life and we love that and embrace it. It’s fabulous. But, her name is Paityn and I question myself so much. I swear I’m getting to the point of why this is, why I have a passion-.
K: No, no, no. You’re doing great! This is really helpful.
B: I swear, I’m gettin’ there girl. So, um, Paityn was...it was kind of like that, “Oh, my gosh, we’re pregnant! Oh, my gosh, are we ready for this??” And then it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, she’s here! Oh, my gosh, are we ready for this?” And I really questioned myself as a mother when I had Paityn. I was always wondering, “Am I doing this right? Is this normal? Is she acting normal? Am I responding normally?” My anxiety was through the roof after I had Paityn. And, I had a lot of really depressive thoughts like, “I don’t think I’m doing this right. Should I really be her mom?” Just really, really like sad, lonely, “I don’t think I’m doing this right” kind of thoughts. So that time after Paityn was born was probably one of the toughest times of my lfe to this point. Because I was so lost, I didn’t know where the road was in front of me. It’s like driving in the middle of a white-out blizzard where you’re clenching on for dear life, hoping you’re in the middle of the road and you’re getting to the right place but you seriously don’t have any idea and you don’t know when it’s going to end. You just don’t know when it’s going to clear.
K: What a good description. You are so good a visuals. You are so good at visuals.
B: Thank you! Thank you. So, I held on tight and my husband was working a lot at this time so it was just a really...truly, he’s an amazing person and he really did the best he could but just as the cards were dealt with at the time, that’s what it was. That was my journey with Paityn.
And so at some point in that journey, I started reaching out to other people and it was a long ways in. I bet Paityn was like six months old at least by the time I started reaching out to other people and started getting the feeling of, “Oh, wait. Other mom’s don’t know what they’re doing either? Or other mom’s feel like this too? I’m not alone? This actually makes me a good mom, that I care about her future, wellbeing and if I’m doing things right.” And so that’s kind of when things started to get some light shed on them and also, added to all of this, Paityn was really collicy. So, when I say collicy I don’t mean like she cried for twenty minutes straight once every hour. Literally, I’m not joking, if she was awake 90% of the time she was awake, she was crying. And so it was so...I mean, then you do everything, right? You do like change the formula, you change what you’re eating or you change the clothes that you’re putting them in and you grab a sound machine. Everything, anything...everything you can think of. You try and change just to make life a little bit easier and I remember there being times of me thinking, “She has to go to daycare because I can’t do another day at home.” Which is such a sad thought, but it was so real for me.
K: Right, absolutely. I’ve had times like that too where it’s just like, especially at the beginning, you know you love it so much but some moments are so terrible and everyone’s telling you to cherish every moment and that’s exhausting and you don’t want to cherish the crappy moments and it’s just like there’s so many thoughts and emotions that are in play at that point that I can totally understand what you mean with that.
B: Yes, absolutely. And the guilt I felt for that. Even just hearing you say that, Kelly, like, “Oh, I thought that too.” We need more of that because I didn’t hear anybody say that and this isn’t anybody else’s fault. I’m not trying to say that. But, I think we need to hear that more and to experience that more like, “Oh, that doesn't make me a crappy person or a crappy mom because I felt like I could not care for my child and they had to go to daycare.” I think we just need to know that that’s okay to not feel so shameful about that because boy was I in like shame-spiral central during that time.
So, I started to find my footing honestly when I started feeling better about myself. The more confident I got in who I was, the more confident I was as a parent and the more confident I was in being a parent that everybody didn’t have to agree with.
I started going to like we had this girls night this book club and those were huge pieces of me feeling better. I remember in the beginning i could not even begin to talk about parenting without welling up with tears and I knew I just couldn’t talk about it without uncontrollably sobbing so it was just one of those things where you sit at the table and keep your mouth shut but you’re taking in every single piece of information people are giving because you need it so bad.
K: I’m so glad you had that.
B: It was so nice. So, through that time of healing and getting a grasp on life and parenting, I realized how beneficial that can be for people that are struggling and suffering so bad before, during and after having a baby. That is where my passion dove deep in on being there for other mom’s who are in the thick of mommyhood, who are preparing for mommyhood, who are doing all that surrounding mommyhood because it was so, so hard for me and the thing that got me out of it was other people understanding. I think, if we have that and we have people talking about that, we have therapists willing, ready and armed for moms that are like that, then I think we’re doing our entire community this service - our friends, our sisters, everybody a service by being able to sit with them through that and giving them that outlet to be able to find their grasp in life and find who they are and love themselves for whatever parenting strategies that they find useful in their home.
K: Right, for sure. Thank you so much for talking us through that and why that’s a passion of yours. I have to share that even just as I listened to different circumstances that you went through and different emotions that you feel, I can still feel how raw an emotion it is not only for you, not that I experienced it but just through your voice but also just hearing it thinking my own experience like my heart is still so raw in that if that makes sense and my son is almost three years old. So I think that’s really where my passion comes from is I think it’s such a learning experience and I think that we make progress but I still think that maybe those emotions we still almost feel them later on when you’re talking with somebody else and I still think that’s healing, even years later.
I have clients that I work with who are in their 70’s and 80’s and they mention something about being a parent or some circumstance they remember happening with their child and it’s just like it happened yesterday.
So, I absolutely agree. I think it’s helpful for us to be able to talk openly and honestly about it.
B: Yup, I agree.
K: So, I’m wondering, just thinking about tangible steps like as the community or what the community might be able to make - I noticed that here in our community, there are birthing classes as there are in most hospitals and obviously you see your doctor and we do have a shortage of mental health providers here in the community. It’s getting a little bit better but I’m not sure that there’s really very much structure and support for mothers in the community and I would be curious to ask people, do you remember any appointments you went to after you had either of your children. Do you remember your doctor asking or pointing out any concerns or do you remember going to any birthing classes and then really talking about any mental health concerns - anxiety, depression, etc - either than just mentioning the baby blues?
B: I’m really glad that you brought this up. So, we did do like a lamaze class, that’s what it’s called - my husband and I. During our lamaze class there was, and gosh, I’m so glad you brought this up Kelly because there was a number of times I have thought back to this period a bunch but in our lamaze class there was one section, and by the way guys, this is before I was a therapist, so regardless if it was before or after I did not have a level of knowledge and so the knowledge I had was literally from this class about postpartum depression or anything like that. So anyways, we were in our lamaze class and there’s a really short snippet that the lady went over about postpartum depression and in fact, they didn’t call it postpartum depression. They said...they called it the baby blues and they said, “There’s something called the baby blues and it’s a normal phase after you deliver a baby where your hormones are kind of finding their regular pattern and you might feel really sad.” And then they said that that’s different than postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is when you have really bad thoughts.
That was truly the end of it.
So, that’s what I had in my head. That’s what I carried with me when I delivered my baby. Postpartum depression wasn’t really a thought for me. I mean, I don’t think that anyone thinks, “After I have a baby, I’m going to have postpartum depression.” So, after I had Paityn when I was very depressed, I mean this is getting super deep and vulnerable but I remember having thoughts of, “What did we do? How did we do this? I’m going to have to do this for eighteen more years??” I mean those really, really sad thoughts of like, “I just had a baby and I should not have made that decision.” Super, super depressed thoughts and I remember asking myself not once, not twice but many many times, “Are those the really, really bad thoughts they were talking about in that class?”
I was constantly going back and forth like if I said that to somebody, would they put me somewhere? Like in a hospital somewhere? Or if I said that to somebody, would they think I can’t be a mom anymore because I don’t actually not want my baby here but it was so unexplainable. And so I was very quiet about those feelings. I felt bad saying it to my husband because I didn’t know if he felt that way and like who dare I say that about this precious little baby that we have and um, it was super, super scary for me. I didn’t know where to go so I just really held it inside.
I very specifically remember going to I think it was my six week follow up appointment. It might have been before that but it was like the one for me, not for the baby and they had me answer a questionnaire. The nurse pulled it up on the computer screen and I think it was somewhere around ten questions and they said, “This is just protocol that we do this after so long after you have a baby. Can you answer the questions on the screen when I leave and then the doctor will go over them with you when she comes in.”
So I was like, “Yup, sure I can.”
I very specifically remember looking at the questions and thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I’m not being honest.” I literally answered the questions not to match what I was actually feeling because I was so scared about what that meant and what would happen if I answered honestly to those questions. So, I didn’t. I answered to what I knew would pass this test because I was so scared about what those repercussions would look like. Once again, something that was put in to help me but I was too scared to use it appropriately because I was too scared of what the outcome would be.
K: I think that’s a really common feeling because a lot of times there’s so much shame that goes into not necessarily looking at your child for the first time, not that this was your experience but I remember being so drugged up and I looked at my child and was like, “This is just surreal.” And I even said that to my husband that it just didn’t feel real, you know? And there’s some shame that goes along to that to not have that moment where you absolutely fall in love and you go home and it’s all so happy, you know?
My personal experience is actually my doctor never asked me any of those questions. Had they, I would have been kind of leery as well because do you really want to know if your just having to answer, not to sound terrible here, but if you’re really just having to answer a question or do you want to know or is this just a liability so that you can say if something happened that you asked, you know what I mean? So, I wouldn’t have even had thoughts at that point like, is it really worth it because is this really you caring or is this just you screening me out so you can move onto the next person? That sounds really harsh but-.
B: No, no! It’s so true! It’s so true! And also I wonder, and this is nothing against medical professionals and what they’re doing. That’s in the right direction towards getting where they need to go but if anybody had even asked me, person to person, those questions I can’t imagine I would have made it through answering those without sobbing. Even just the difference of pulling a quiz up or a questionaire up and leaving the office versus just asking and having a conversation with somebody, I wonder if the results might look different but also even had that happened, I still would have been scared to answer correctly even through my fears and worries of “what does that mean.” I think we have a lot of education out there of what postpartum depression is perhaps but not what happens when you have it so when you’re in a place of going through postpartum depression, you’re not thinking super logically most of the time so automatically most of the time your thoughts jump to the worst. If we were to say, “Here’s a questionaire for you to answer. If it scores to a certain degree, the doctor will talk to you about outpatient centers that are in the area or therapist in the area that specialize with working with moms with postpartum depression.” How different that is than the unknown of, “If I get this wrong or answer incorrectly, what is that going to look like?”
K: That makes so much sense. Just that additional knowledge and I’m so glad you brought that up just about the medical providers because this is certainly in no way meant to be a bash or anything but I think it’s just a system as a whole and it’s trying to be supportive in the best ways that we can and even therapists, I always want to know are there different ways that I can interact and I ask clients for feedback too on situations as well and so I think it’s just important to be able to note that we always have room for improvement, right? And so it’s great to be able to talk with mothers as well.
One thing that I noticed, especially when I - because I have quite a few clients who have really struggled postpartum and one thing that seems to be really common or more so common to me than even the depression aspect is a lot of anxiety symptoms and that worst case scenario thinking which I think is one of the scariest parts for people because when you’re thinking worst case you might think, “Oh, we’re getting into a car accident” or “What if my baby swallowed something wrong and dies?” You know, you’re thinking a lot of thoughts like that and those can often be misconstrued if whoever is talking with you doesn’t necessarily have the skills and knowledge to know that’s not you wanting to harm your child, that’s just a symptom of your anxiety and so I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on that for yourself or for any others that you may have interacted with?
B: Yeah. I entirely agree. I think a couple things. After we have a baby it is...a baby is something that is, for anybody that’s had a baby, it’s unexplainable and the amount of, how can I put it...the amount of energy or the amount of thought or the amount of connection there is in a baby and with that I mean like any item you have that you’ve cherished in life, it is like unexplainable to correlate that to a baby. We might have something that was our favorite anything like our biggest thing in life and so to lose that would just absolutely crush us and a child is just...you can’t even put it into words what it would be and so naturally to lose something like that or for something bad to happen to our child, that is like the ultimate worst for many, many, many mothers and so most of us moms when we go to a place of anxiety and worry and we’re at our worst, that’s what we’re thinking about because it is like...it’s irreplaceable. Maybe that’s part of what I’m looking for. It’s irreplaceable and it’s a part of us and by the way, I need to caviat, I know that that bond isn’t there at first all the time and I know that bond can change so I don’t want anybody feeling guilty if they can’t find that bond right away - I need to caveat that. So, it’s no wonder that that’s where our mind goes because that’s the biggest sabotage, right?
Brene Brown talks about - anybody who’s a big Brene Brown fan - she talks about sabotaging our happiness and so it’s so easy because we’re like, for example, watching our babies sleep in those monitors and watching their little chest go up and down when they’re breathing, it’s so easy for us to sabotage that happiness and think that, “Oh, my gosh, what if my baby passes away from SIDS” or “What if my baby stops breathing right now?” or “What if a tornado just takes our house out?” It’s so easy to go there because we love them so much and honestly, I just want to say that mom’s that worry about our kids, it just shows you love them. I know that is so simply put but if you’re worried about them to whatever degree or level that is, it means you’re a good momma and you love them.
But, with that, the anxiety after having a baby is super, super common. I think it’s in part to what I just said but I think a big piece of it is what misunderstanding anxiety is after having a baby and how it can be misconstrued in many different ways. We can think that the mom is going to harm the baby, we can think that the mom is acting out in a selfish manner. There are so many judgements that can be made right after having a baby on a mom.
I’m going to go back to why I think it’s so important to find people who have a heart for working with moms, who have the knowledge for working with moms, who can help kind of tease that stuff out and also kind of switch the thought process that goes into some of that stuff because sometimes what we need is validation that what we’re thinking is normal and the other piece that we need is to kind of shift our way of thinking and how we’re thinking about things.
The biggest part with postpartum depression or anxiety is to really find a therapist or somebody that you can count on that is trained and working with people that are going through what you’re going through so the right diagnosis is given and treatment is given.
K: Absolutely. I love so many things that you said there. So many things. One thing that I do think is really worth noting is you said that validation piece is huge. I know for me personally, also for clients that I work with, sometimes you just need someone to say, “It’s okay that you need half an hour to yourself each day or an hour, whatever that might look like for you. It’s okay that you feel like you need to continue to work because this is your passion. It’s okay that you’re not with your child every moment. It’s okay that you don’t necessarily think about them when you’re gone.”
There are so many different things that mothers go through and often times for that shame piece where you really beat yourself up for it and it’s really very normal thoughts and really normal feelings but if you don’t talk about it or someone around you isn’t talking about it, then it just feels so isolating.
Can I share an experience I had?
B: Of course!
K: I even had shared with a friend that honestly being a mom is so hard to even put into words. I’ve tried so many times and there’s a part of it where every time I’ve sat down to work on that part of it I don’t know what to look for. I’m just stuck because it’s hard to formulate the words but I always mention that being a mom is the best thing that I have ever done but it’s also one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Having said that, sometimes that’s not somebody’s experience and so when they hear me say that, I’ve had people think that that’s me just being super negative but the reason that I’m saying it isn’t because I’m being super negative because I love being a mom and I wouldn’t change it for the world but I want other women to know that if they’re thinking that, if they’re thinking this is really tough, I want them to know that they’re not alone so if that means that I get a few glances or a few comments that make it seem like I’m just being negative or I’m not enjoying or appreciating what I have, that’s certainly not it. It’s just to let women know that it’s okay to not love and cherish every stinking moment and that some moments are really hard.
My son, truly I love the age that he’s at right now but I’m really interested in your perspective on this - there is an author, Jen Hatmaker, I don’t know if you’re familiar with her but I really enjoy some of her work and so one thing she talks about is how she considers herself a team mom. Obviously none of us are in the team years yet so who knows but she talks about how now that she’s in the team years with her kids, this is her jam and this is the part she loves the most and I have realized that I am not a baby mom. That is not what I enjoyed. I enjoy this toddler stage and obviously haven’t gotten past that. He’s almost three so who knows what else I will love but I love this stage of watching them learn and speak and just explore their environment and start getting an imagination and so I’m really curious, have you noticed that there are certain times, I know that you’re really early on too, but certain parts of your children’s lives where you’re like, “This isn’t really so much fun” but maybe another part is?
B: Yeah, absolutely. So, like I talked about in the beginning, I have two kids and so my oldest is four and my youngest is one and a half and they have entirely opposite personalities which comes with...well, I just want to go into this really quick but with my daughter, I worried so much about the temper tantrums and how much she would scream and tell people what she doesn’t want and somebody would walk in a room and say, “Hi, sweetie!” and she would be like, “Eeeah!!” and I would be so embarrassed. But now that she’s a little bit older I’m like, “Yes! You let people know what you want! You’re able to stand your ground! I don’t have to worry about you running away from me.”
There are phenomenal pieces to the pieces that are really tough with her and so now on the other end of it, we have my son who was like the calmest baby, rarely ever cried, I mean just entirely different and it’s funny to see my worries for him because they’re the opposite of my daughter like, “Oh, my gosh. I hope he’ll be able to stand up for himself! I hope he cries when he’s hungry!”
It’s so funny how different temperaments can be. I used to be judgemental. I’m just going to call it what it is. I used to be judgemental of parents like, “Your daughter has such an attitude! That’s a parenting issue!”
No, honey, that’s not a parenting issue. For the most part, that’s a temperament issue and that girls going to have that probably her whole life. So, she has really humbled me as a parent to the point that I recognize of course, there’s parenting we can do and of course, there’s things we can do to help balance things out and things like that but when you ask me the age and what I kind of like and don’t like, one would think that the ages for each of my kids would be different for what was easy but quite honestly that one to two years old for my daughter was really tough for me and for my son is currently tough for me. That kind of thing where they want to do it themselves but they can’t do it themselves. I want to stand on my stool in front of the makeover station but I can’t actually stand on it without falling or I want to walk down the steps but I actually can’t walk down the steps by myself without falling so I don’t want help but I actually need help. That’s the stage that’s been a little more difficult for me with my daughter and my son so we’ll see how it goes. Once Paityn hits two and a half, I felt like things were much easier in life for us so we’ll see if that happens with my son, too. Right now, I’m not quite so sure but I feel like his age right now is a tough age for him and was for my daughter as well so I think that this part of life has been the toughest for us so far.
K: Yeah, that makes so much sense and that’s really insightful that you’re able to break it down too, you know? With both of them and their different personalities and how that’s impacted and you are...I would say you’re very accurate. That is a tough time in life because the wanting to do it themselves, not really being able to and sometimes that’s frustrating because you just need to get going and it’s like, “I don’t have time for you to want to do this by yourself and you do need help” so that’s definitely tough.
I also think that once kids can tell you what is going on with them a little bit more, I think that’s super helpful. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that but once that they can, not that kids are able to process through everything, but once a kid can process through and say, “I would like a snack” it’s much easier. You don’t have to guess as much as far as what some of their needs are and I think that’s super helpful too.
B: I totally agree.
K: So, we’re going to change gears a little bit. I just want to talk about what are some of like your maybe biggest challenges or you talked earlier about your expectations for motherhood that you had before and so I’m wondering if there are some that you had that were way off base for what you experienced that maybe ended up being some of the biggest challenges for you?
B: Yeah, of course. So I think one of the biggest kind of challenges for me or expectations that wasn’t my reality was where kind of as a society and I guess me as a person for sure had this view of what having a baby would be like and it’s like sunshine and roses and the baby will probably cry every once and a while and you might not know what to do but overall it’s like this whole new life and it catapults you to this new place and all that has pieces of truth intertwined into it but I think that one of the biggest struggles for me personally and I imagine other people, I personally was grieving the loss of my old life and wasn’t prepared for that.
So, the simplicity of being able to wake up on whatever day if I planned it or not planned it and be able to just chill out on the couch and watch TV for an hour or a couple of hours, whatever that looks like and get up and go grocery shopping whenever I felt like it and clean the house whenever I felt like it or planned to go out with friends. I wasn’t expecting it. It was never a thought but I literally grieved the loss of my old life and what that meant.
Recognizing and understanding and processing that that old life served a purpose and created who I was but likely wouldn’t be again and that my new life I needed to grow into and learn to love and it’s not that black and white but it is in a way that black and white. The day that my first baby was born was a super happy time but it was also a super sad time that I wasn’t prepared for feeling that sadness of.
And I initially, when I came to terms with like, “Oh, my gosh, I just lost what I had before and I’m starting new” I felt really selfish saying that. Like boo, hiss, you don’t get to sit on the couch any longer whenever you want to. But it’s true and it’s real. It’s kind of like, I’m going to put it in perspective a different way but it’s kind of like if somebody decides to pick up and move states. So like maybe there’s more to do there, maybe you’re improving your quality of life if you move but the likelihood that you’re not going to be sad or grieve over leaving your old place is unlikely.
So, I hope that that helps other people to feel that and to recognize that that’s okay and that it is true - that your life is changing and will forever be changed and there's absolute beauty in that but also recognize that it’s okay to feel sad for what’s behind you as well.
I think that I didn’t even appreciate those days when I had them. I didn’t know what about them to appreciate and now looking back it’s like, “Gosh, I wish I would have appreciated and loved those more instead of looking to the future of like, “Let’s build a family! Let’s move forward!” I wish I would have been more content but I think that was probably one of the biggest challenges for me was grieving the loss of my old life and moving into my role as being a mom.
K: I definitely relate to that a lot and actually my husband and I did pick up and move from one state to the next so I can tell you that even now we talk about how we miss the people at home. We miss them dearly, we really do. We know that we’re where we’re supposed to be but we also miss them dearly. We also miss that time in life, if that makes sense. So we’ve talked a lot about that. It’s almost like when you have a big change like that there’s before our move and after our move, if that makes sense. Like before our son and after our son. Any big life change like that it’s like the before and after and not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a difference in life essentially and trying to navigate that and feel comfortable with your new “normal” if there is anything called that. You’re definitely not alone in that by any means.
So, I know that we’ve talked before and you mentioned too about really feeling confident in your own ability to parent and I’m wondering, can you share a little bit about your progress with that and how you’ve been able to find some additional confidence in your parenting?
B: Yeah, of course. So, like I had said, after I had my daughter I just didn’t know what was write or wrong and so I think that some of us maybe grew up with kids or grew up with family members or siblings where you had a good grasp on maybe what it looks like to raise a baby or what’s right or wrong with a baby but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember seeing that and so I felt really blind in how to raise my daughter in the miniscule things, right? I knew big picture like I need to change her diaper, I need to feed her, that stuff I knew. But the miniscule things like okay, how many naps a day is normal and is it normal for her to wake up after thirty minutes consistently? How much sleep should she be getting? Is it okay for her to have a pacifier and when is it okay for her to have a pacifier? How often should she be eating and what’s this breast feeding thing. Those little tiny things where unless you have somebody who’s recently gone through it, or somebody who’s really good at remembering or someone who’s currently going through it, it is really hard to get answers for that stuff and to trust in yourself, in what you’re doing and that your intuition is right.
The other piece is many of those things if you ask ten different people you’re going to get ten different answers. I just had these thoughts of like, “which one is right and which one is wrong?” At some point and for a time, it didn’t just happen, but I had to come to a place of loving me and loving who I was and accepting who I was and recognizing that I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to do things really, really, really well and I honestly think that the change in my confidence in parenting happened when I got past the postpartum depression, when I kind of refound myself and regained my confidence in me. I can’t imagine me being able to find my confidence in the middle of feeling as icky as I did. Honestly, I think the key to being a confident person in parenting is, at least for me was about finding me and loving me first and then after that, it’s far easier to give grace to yourself.
There was one time I...life was chaotic, I was very depressed...there was a time I forgot to buckle my daughter. My daughter was like, I don’t know, eight weeks old or less and I put her in her car seat and I told you, sleeping was hard. I got her to sleep in her car seat, I brought my mother-in-law to the walk-in clinic. Anyways...I had gotten her to sleep, I was in the middle of this crowded room at this walk-in,dirty clinic and I had gotten her to sleep. I had been super embarrassed because she was screaming bloody murder and I had all of these feelings of, “People are looking at me thinking I don’t know how to care for my child and in fact I don’t know how to care for my child right now. I just have to get her to sleep. Got her to sleep in her carseat which is very, very rare and so I just pulled the top visor shut and in that carseat the visor went all the way to her feet so it was like shade everything. Well, low and behold, my mother-in-law came out, I scooped up my daughter, we went to the car, I put her carseat in the base, dropped my mother-in-law off on one side of town, drove to the other side of town, pulled my daughters car seat out of the base, got inside, popped that little canopy up and guess who wasn’t buckled into her little seat??
I held myself accountable for so long for that. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, Brittany! Social services could have been called on you! You’re such a bad mom! What if you got in a car accident?”
I held myself so accountable for that. Like, “You should not have been a mom, Brittany!” I was so hard on myself!
But grace is so much easier to find in yourself when you love yourself and so I’m like dude, that’s happened since then when my four year olds in the back seat and I like put the car in gear and she’s like, “Mama! I’m not buckled in!” and I’m like, “Hallelujah, you can talk girlfriend!” I’ll go back there, buckle her in and we’ll go on our merry way.
But I don’t think I would have found motivation or the confidence in parenting had I not first gotten myself to a point of loving who I am.
K: Yes! I love that so much! I can definitely identify with that in so many ways and I thank you for talking us through that and just being really open and honest about that. You know, a lot of times I’ll see articles and one that keeps popping into mind is parents leaving their kids in the heat or the cold and we could go on a whole nother tangent about that but what I really love in some situation is where another parent will say, “You know, I almost did that” or “I did that and caught it right away.”
And not that that’s dismissing any choices or whatever but I think just being able to say like sometimes mistakes happen, we’re human, you know? I’ve even heard of people that are...I wont say where they are because that’s not necessary but in certain roles where their job is to help somebody parent and they’ve even made mistakes like that. The car seat is one in particular, you know and so if somebody in that role is going to be able to make a mistake because they’re human too, why do we hold ourselves to a standard that we’re never going to make any mistakes, you know?
B: I think sometimes it can be easier to tell ourselves like what that person did was really heinous or in appropriate because it almost protects us from thinking that we’re capable of doing that when, in fact, we’re all just human beings and we’re capable of doing a lot of things, especially unintentionally or on accident that we would hope we never would do but we find ourselves in situations sometimes where we’re like, “I just can’t believe that that really did happen to me.”
I think when we do that, it can be a protective factor of thinking, “I couldn’t possibly do it” but in fact man, I have done lots of things where I’m like, “Gosh, I did it. That was me.”
The other piece is, I think in certain professions but I think that this can go to every profession, we think that we’re in that profession, it can’t happen to us but dude, if you’re a plumber, your plumbing can still burst, right? If you’re a doctor, your kids can still get sick! Just because we’re therapists doesn’t mean mental health doesn’t apply or just because we’re therapists doesn’t mean we just know the answers to everything or we’re available and intune at every moment in every life. We are all just human beings. We have a profession that we were called to and that’s what we do in life but that doesn’t mean that we’re not human along with our profession.
K: Absolutely. YOu know, often I think about different skills and things like that and clients will have this perception that we’ve maybe we’ve never struggled with anything or we’ve got it all figured out and it’s like no, I am human just like you. There are certain skills that I use just like you, you know? I may not be able to run through my situation because that’s not ethical and this time is about you, not me but my goodness, there are things that I work through all the time and I know for me personally, I would not be as passionate about helping mothers or fathers in the postpartum journey had I not gone through that myself and if I’m not still working through that.
I think for some reason we try to convince ourselves that we have to be completely past something in order to be able to help other people with it and I just don’t think that’s true.
B: I agree. I totally agree. I think that having somebody who’s been through it, I don’t think every therapist has to be through everything that they’re helping people with. That’s not it at all and I hope nobody gets that from this but I think there’s a huge piece of having actually been there and felt feelings which could be similar or different from somebody that often times sparks a fire in us of like I really want to help that person because I remember how desperate it felt when I needed help or just also feeling like I have a piece of me that just wants to help and this is an area where I just feel super, super passionate about helping so I think that it gives a spark inside of our little souls when we’ve been through it often times.
K: I would absolutely agree with that. That’s a great way to summarize that for sure. So I want to, in wrapping it up I usually have questions I ask everyone. Last time you were here, I had you answer some of those. We’re just going to take a different spin on the last few questions but I really want to hear more about your new YouTube channel, your audio books. You briefly mentioned that earlier so can you tell us a little more about that and your movement towards private practice? There’s like so much excitement going on right now so I’d love if you can just tell us about it.
B: I love it! Well, thank you for asking. I have been joking like probably for the last couple weeks that I don’t know what it is but whenever anybody asks me about like my alternate endeavors so like you said, narrating audio books and my YouTube channel and private practice, I get so nervous! I don't’ know what it is! I was just stopped in the hallway before this podcast and someone was like, “Hey dude! Cool website!” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah, bye!” I can’t even appropriately accept compliments on it and I just like think it’s because it’s new and change is hard so thank you for bringing it up. I appreciate it. I’ll just talk quickly about the audiobook narration because that was so random. I literally was listening to a podcast for mental health therapists and it was about building your own private practice and in this podcast, the gentleman who was being interviewed talked about writing a book and how he was in the process of getting it narrated to go on, he was talking about Audible. And he said something about this website called ACX. I googled it and like literally I watched this video that was like, “You too can narrate audio books!” I was like, “What?! Me too??”
K: I love that so much! (laughing)
B: And so I started watching YouTube videos to see what it was about and if it was actually possible for a person like me to narrate an audiobook because I have no acting skills. I’m just a human being - a normal human being. I’m quirky, I misread words a lot but I looked into it and was like, “What the heck. I’m going to try it and see what happens. I think I’ve got it from these YouTube videos.” Also, I need to add, that I’m not very techy. I can do like your normal powerpoint emails and stuff but I am not like a super techy person. So how it works on this website is there are books. There are like hundreds of thousands of books that are just out there for people to audition for people who are looking for a narrator. So I literally pulled up my iPhone and used the little voice recorder and I submitted an audition for a book that, to me, looked interesting. I was like, “I think I’d read that book. I’ll try it.” And guys, my audition got accepted and I was like, “Oh no!”
K: (laughing() I love that that was your response. Like, Oh no!
B: (laughing) Like seriously! This is actually happening? The biggest part was that these people were actually waiting for me to give them the material. It’s not just like...people were actually counting on me to do something for them. And so I was like, “Alright! Here we go!”
It was a three hour long book and so they estimate that for every hour you record, estimate up to five hours for editing and so I was like, “Well, I’m a newbie so it’s probably going to take me more than that. It’s going to take me more than that to edit it.”
K: You have to edit all that yourself?
B: Yeah. Yeah. You can hire somebody if you wanted but yeah, I wasn’t about that. I didn’t even know enough so I just did it. I did my little YouTube thing, did everything that I saw on the YouTube channel, did all of the chapters. Mind you, it was like three hours long so I probably spent thirty to forty hours on doing this audiobook in the middle of having two little kids at home. At 8:30 every night I was downstairs in my peace and quiet recording on my little microphone. So I submitted everything and felt like the biggest rockstar for submitting it. I threw myself a party and like two weeks later I get an email back from ACX saying here’s a list of everything you did wrong and you need to fix it.
K: Oh, my goodness!!
B: Like literally, I couldn’t even think. I was so nervous and anxious thinking, “I don’t know how to fix any of this! I don’t know what to do.” Of course, I went back to my YouTube videos and I couldn’t figure it out and so I found this blog about audacity is the program I use and I literally submitted my flies to these gurus that are technology savvy people and their response back to me was, “You’re going to need to re-record all of that. It sounds like you have a sound machine playing in the background.” And I was like, “I did!”
K: Oh no!!!
B: It was honestly such a good experience. I took a couple days to get my stomach back to feeling normal and not feeling sick about it and I was like, “Whatevs. I’m going to do it. I will finish it.” But in the meantime I found a couple more books where I felt I could actually do this now, I’m going to audition for these books and so I auditioned for a couple more and it just kept going. I submitted that first book, I got the approval, it’s for sale and so I just kind of kept going. It was like, “Dude, this is kind of sweet. It’s like extra income. I get to read these books that I would normally like to read and I get to read them for free and I can increase books and audition for books when I have more time, then lay low when I don’t have time and so it’s just kind of a guilty pleasure for mine on the side that I do and that’s kind of how I got into it. So that’s my audiobook thing.
My YouTube channel, for real guys, I’ve been wanting to start a YouTube channel for years and was always too scared to start a YouTube channel. And my inspiration for it was before I went to grad school and I wanted to be a therapist, I started watching this lady's therapy channel. I’m going to shout her out, I don’t know her, I’ve never met her, I’ve only watched her YouTube channels but her name is Katie Morton and she does all these videos on mental health disorders and life and just kind of everything to do with mental health therapists.
Before I was a therapist and from then on, I’ve watched her videos to help me in my competence as a therapist. She talks about diagnosis and how to treat them and just real life stuff. She talks both to other therapists and to just the regular public and from the time that I started watching her videos I thought, oh my gosh, I want to do this because it was so helpful for me. I want to be able to help other people this way and in time her channel has grown to be huge and literally, it is just such a huge inspiration. All those people saw that video on mental health and what an awesome way to be able to get mental health spread throughout the world, really. Throughout the world. And what it means, to be able to talk to so many populations and a variety of people to give them hope and healing and ideas of when should you go in and when is the problem more than just a little problem. That was my inspiration for doing it. I’m not kidding you, you guys - when I put on FaceBook that my first video was out, I was sweating bullets. My hands were shaking. I was just so scared for the comments on that post because it was so vulnerable and I was like, “I hope I said the right things and I wonder if people will agree with me” and all that stuff.
So that’s kind of where that came from. I have been continuing to do two videos a week and I will continue to do that even through my nervousness and all that stuff because I really do just want to get some words out there for people to hear and to help people who are looking for some help that don’t have access to it or just need like a little pick-me-up for the day.
K: Absolutely. Can you say where or tell people where they can find your YouTube channel? Obviously they could just search for it on YouTube but what is it called?
B: Yeah, of course! So, if you just go into YouTube and in the search bar, if you type in my name it’s Brittany Schank, you’ll find me. I’m wearing like a white and pink sweater and I have brown hair. You’ll see my picture right away and you can get to my channel and search through my videos and all that stuff.
K: Great. I’ve watched your videos and I think that they’re fantastic so I’m really excited to see where you go from here. And I’m going to check out Katie! She sounds pretty great!
B: She is! She’s totally phenomenal. And thank you for your compliment.
K: Absolutely. So, let's talk a little bit about private practice.
B: Yeah, so how it works in North Dakota for therapists is you get your license as a social worker and then your masters degree and then you have to do clinical work for a certain amount of hours and get supervision for a certain amount of hours and then you’re able to go independent. So right now, I’m at Abound Counseling and I am an employee of Abound Counseling but in just a few short months I think right around April, I will be eligible for my highest level of license to be on my own and open my own private practice, really. So, I will continue to be at Abound Counseling but I have decided on a practice name and I will start seeing clients through that private practice as well and the name is Solace Counseling.
That kind of has been a journey in itself as well of like where to go and how to do it and what that looks like and all that type of stuff that comes with it. I’m super nervous and excited all at the same time.
But that’s it! Eventually within the next few months Solace Counseling will be open and that will be who I am and that will be my private practice name.
K: That’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing that. And I love that you said when you posted it that you were feeling really nervous. I mean still, at times, depending on the topic of the podcast I’ll be like, “Eeeh.” I know the one that’s coming out tomorrow like oooh I’m going to ruffle some feathers with this and I’m not really sure how I feel about that but it needs to be done and said and I’m just going to put it out into the world but there’s still kind of that feeling of a little uncertainty as to how it’s going to be perceived but I think, as long as we keep in our minds that we’re one, doing the best that we can and we have good intentions and we may not be perfect and we may not say things and word things exactly how we would always want but as long as we continue to try and strive to improve, then I think we’re on a pretty good path. At least, that’s what I tell myself because it’s scary to put yourself into the world because that opens it up for people to critique what you’re doing and sometimes that just feels really scary.
B: Yes! There’s no hiding! There’s no hiding behind somebody as you’re saying something. Like, this is me and these are my decisions and they’re open for the world to see and it is super, super vulnerable. I try to remind myself though in anything I do, look at how many other people have done it and they were brave enough to do it and I too am brave enough to do it and I’m sure that I have a good support team around me that is gracious and holding my hand through my good decisions and the decisions that may not be the best and they’re still there to say, “Well, we all make bad decisions and I’m still here.”
K: Yes, absolutely. I love that. I heard that, I can’t remember who said it to be honest but a while back I heard somebody say that with vulnerability, people often think it’s really brave. That’s the outside perspective but it feels really scary. It feels very very scary. And so I think that’s a portion of it too. As long as, I’m just speaking for me personally, I’m not speaking for you, but just for me as long as I feel like I’m doing my best to be as vulnerable as I feel appropriate because we all have a limit, right? We don’t bear our heart and soul to the world but I feel like that vulnerability can just be really super beneficial kind of like we talked about where people know they’re not alone because had you not said, hey, you know posting to the YouTube channel I was nervous about what people were going to say and how this was going to be perceived, if somebody’s going to start that themselves and they know that it’s a normal feeling and they’re not alone in being scared about it, I think that’s really empowering for people and what we need in the world, I think, is just more positive encouraging voices out there just sharing good knowledge, you know? That’s a really simplified way of what we need in the world but-.
B: Yeah! I agree! And also, I try to remind myself when I’m being vulnerable, is this something that i wish I would have heard when I was going through that tough stuff. And that helps me gauge my own vulnerability level like is it too much, is it not enough? I’m vulnerable typically to help other people but of course it helps me as well too.
My growing motivation is to help other people and so I try to remind myself like if you’re teetering on the “be vulnerable, don’t be vulnerable” level, many times if we’re not vulnerable, it’s hard for people to connect with us. So, if my true goal is to help other people, I question myself, is this something that would have been helpful when you were here and going through it? If yes, then it tips my vulnerability scale to be like, “Okay, be brave, you can do it.”
And the other piece is like, really, I self-talk to myself. I say in my head when I’m feeling nervous and uncomfortable, I literally self-talk and say, “Brittany, this is you growing. Brittany, this is you growing” to remind myself that this isn’t all for just nothing. It’s like being vulnerable and just saying this going to go nowhere? If it doesn’t help anybody else, which I hope it does, I also know that it’s me growing and so cheering myself on in that way like, “Brittany, you’ve got this. You’re growing. This is what it feels like to grow. When you’re nervous, you’re growing.”
K: Absolutely. You know, you have the video that talks about the New Year's resolutions versus having a word for your New year and I really have been thinking on that. I’ve been thinking on that for quite some time, actually and I just can really not come up with a word per say for this year but I happened to read this article the other day from Brene Brown actually, but it was talking about courage over comfort and I think that, not that everybody needs to know, but that’s going to be my focus this year is to have courage over comfort because it’s so easy to pick the comfortable and it’s not always so easy to pick the thing, the thing that is just scary. And so that certainly is my goal. If other people haven’t thought of a word or are wondering what we’re talking about, you should go watch that video because it was really great.
B: Thank you, I appreciate that.
K: Yeah, absolutely! Do you have any last thoughts? We’ll put your contact information again. We will make sure we have the link to the YouTube channel and also, at some point, if you want us to link your private practice whenever that is up and going as well but is there any last thoughts that you have?
B: I think the biggest thing is just hoping people can heal from this is that postpartum depression, anxiety, worries about having babies, worries about getting pregnant, anything surrounding that, if that is part of your life, please, please, please know that there are trained professionals out there whose passion is to work with you and help you through that and just know that there is help available out there so seriously, you can google therapists when you're in your area. When you’re talking to them, ask them if that’s their specialty, ask them if they’re comfortable with people who are going through stuff like that because I just think it is so important for us to know that there’s help out there, that you aren’t going to get thrown in some hospital because of postpartum depression or anxiety. Just know that there’s help out there and reach out to find it. You can reach out to the contact information Kelly is giving you for me. I’m sure Kelly would be more than willing to point you in the right direction but just reach out if you need that help. Please don’t let the shame get you down. Just reach out.
K: Absolutely. I honestly think that that is so fantastic that you touched on that again because it is so important to know that there are certainly resources and if you can’t find them or you just need to touch base or whatever that may be, certainly we’ll have contact information for Brittany. You can always contact me as well. It’s definitely, as you can probably hear through the podcast, a huge passion for both of us so in any way that we can help with that, certainly we would want to do that.
Well, thank you again Brittany for being on the podcast and being so open and honest with the things that you’ve been through. I really appreciate it.
B: Of course. Thank you for having me again.
Brittany Schank’s Contact Information:
Brittany’s YouTube channel: