How this ecologist ended up a pre- and perinatal consultant

I set out, once upon a time, with passion to become an ecologist, to research solutions that would enable us humans to live harmoniously on the Earth indefinitely. I was on this track since high school, and I stayed in school a VERY long time, cultivating my expertise. Then I had kids, and slowly discovered that the 60-80hr work weeks, unstable income, and frequent relocations of a researcher conflicted with my parenting philosophies.

I had my son while completing my doctorate degree in the Biology department at University of New Mexico, and fell passionately head over heels for him. All I wanted to do was lay and look at him all day, caught up in a state of euphoria that lasted many months. Despite this, I did finish my degree, published my research, and applied for jobs. My son was accepted at a very expensive and well rated daycare, where I expected him to spend the days while I researched, published, and taught. But the experience was intolerable. My little one, who essentially never cried, suddenly never stopped crying. We gave up by the end of one week. During job interviews I realized I couldn't commit to anything that required my son to go to daycare full time. So I settled for teaching health sciences and biology part-time at Central New Mexico Community College.

Then I had my daughter. And my pregnancy with her was very different from my pregnancy with my first. Contending with loss of career, financial stress, and a marriage break down, it was hard to get excited about being pregnant. I found myself looking forward to that euphoric newborn love, like I'd had with my first, to uplift me and counteract all my stressors. Except, it didn't happen. I hate to admit it out loud, but I didn't love my daughter. I recognized this as a tragic loss for both her and myself, and I felt stricken with grief and guilt. Then she developed colic, confirming my delusion that something was wrong with her. Attending to her excessive crying every evening required all my emotional energy, and damaged both the intrinsic intimacy I had with my son and my already suffering marriage. I found myself spiraling into feelings of isolation, disconnect, and hopelessness.

A massive body of research already exists confirming the connection between maternal health during pregnancy and postpartum outcomes, including postpartum depression and colic.”

I suspected my emotional state during each pregnancy was responsible for my polar opposite postpartum outcomes. I devoured research on pregnancy, maternal health, and child development. As it turns out, a massive body of research already exists confirming the connection between maternal health during pregnancy and postpartum outcomes, including postpartum depression and colic. A few even confirmed the economic and marital discord threads. Not only that, but through my insomnia-supported research I was able to uncover obscure recommendations for prevention and intervention.

I felt lucky to have had the ideal euphoric postpartum experience first. This helped me recognize problems the second time, and motivated me to find a solution. Also, though my mama’s intuition was largely broken in regards to my daughter, it had been spot on with my son. My strong bond with my son had taught me what a baby really needs to thrive, to be sensitive and attentive. Even though I felt like I was just going through the motions, I committed to giving my daughter the same treatment I had given him. This enabled me to treat her right in the absence of good intuition, it allowed me to "fake it till I made it." 

I also felt lucky for my extensive biology background. I used scientific insights to develop effective interventions for her and for myself. Her colic ended earlier than average following these interventions, and she has evaded the long-term developmental "problems" associated with colic (such as being pickiermore emotional, less persistent, and more aggressive). And most importantly, she is one of my greatest loves now.

After several years of soul-searching to find a new direction after giving up my research career, it occurred to me that I have read enough pregnancy, birth, and child development papers to put me through another graduate degree. And though I’m not quite ready to re-enter graduate school again (I need a little breather before the blood, sweat, and tears are pulled from me again), I have a lot to offer parents NOW. My biology background enables me to read, critique, and interpret research in the health and life sciences. I also teach health-sciences at the college level, meaning I am accustomed to breaking down complex biology and health concepts for people without much biology background. And I grew up in a family of mental-health professionals, where child development and body-mind connection concepts were part of daily discourse.

Most importantly, I am SO passionate about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum sciences, and how the information from them can be used to help people enjoy parenting and raise healthy, happy, intelligent, and kind babies (see more here). This country is experiencing a secret epidemic of postpartum depression (as many as 15% of women experience it!), yet few women are aware of the toll this condition will take on themselves and their infant, nor are women aware of well-known signs that appear during pregnancy that indicate they are at risk for developing PPD. Postpartum depression is avoidable in many cases, this epidemic is entirely unnecessary. And this is an example of only one of the parenting topics that I am ready to help parents with. I don’t have a lot of free time (both my kids are under 5yrs still), but I spend my nights, my bathroom breaks, and any “me” moment I’m gifted during the day, to devour more information. And all it makes me want to do is share it, to help others who need help like I did. I can provide you with insights your doctors may not be aware of, and I can sort out all the conflicting advice from family, facebook groups, and parenting books. I cannot provide you with medical advice, but together we can solve a lot of parenting problems, and I can give you things to talk about with your physician. I'm also in training to become a certified maternity and infant sleep coach.

If you need help navigating the birth-related sciences, or making important parenting decisions, or you just need to parse out medical fact from fiction, please solicit my services. I have a lot to offer and have flexible packages to offer different kinds of families. Also, join my Evidence Based Parenting Facebook group.



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©Sarah Dean, PhD