Stephanie Sprenger

  • Introducing Our First HerStories Expert: Patience Bleskan, Child Development Specialist and Parenting Coach

    We are thrilled to begin introducing our panel of experts, starting with sleep expert and parenting coach Patience Bleskan.  Patience currently practices in the Denver metro area as a doula, parenting coach, educator, and group facilitator. Visit her website to learn more about her work.

    As the mother of 4, Patience Bleskan supports mothers with both the personal and professional perspective. She has had her own experiences with postpartum depression, loss of community, and balancing a career with raising a family. These experiences and her passion for helping others understand children is what drives her life.

    Stephanie has attended Patience’s sleep support group in the past, and was extremely impressed by her skills as both a sleep expert and a group facilitator. She had the opportunity to ask Patience some questions about her perspective on new motherhood, finding support, and the power of women gathering together in a group. Read her responses:

    The HerStories Project:  What do you perceive as the biggest challenges and most significant areas of need for new mothers?

    Patience Bleskan:  During pregnancy, women start to build and create an image of themselves as a mother. We create pictures in our head of what being a parent will look like, and feel like. We create birth plans, learn to change diapers and how to swaddle. No one ever pictures that motherhood will look like the entire family crying at 2 am exhausted and wondering if it is possible to just run away. The disconnect of the image we created before baby arrived and the reality of the daily grind with a newborn throws us for a major loop-de-loop.

    Expecting women need to be taught realistic expectation before baby arrives. The image they have of mother will happen, when baby is closer to a year old.

     The HerStories Project:  How does sleep deprivation affect new mothers?

    Patience Bleskan:  The simple answer is that sleep deprivation is one of the key factors leading to postpartum depression.

    The more complex answer is that sleep deprivation is an interesting phenomenon in America. We don’t value sleep as a culture, it is just something we squeeze in. There is almost a badge of honor that comes with being so busy you don’t have to get a good nights sleep. When baby arrives, getting things done is still a greater priority then sleep for ourselves. So in the first weeks we do, do, do and then crash.

    Taking naps in the middle of the day, leaving dishes and laundry undone does not fit in with the supermom image. Lack of sleep wears us down until we only feel like a shadow of who we were before.

     

    THSP:  What do you think women gain from attending sleep support group?

    PB:  Sleep group is a place where women can come and be honest about how sleep is going. Tears happen often in group as a new mom is able, for the first time, to really admit how tired she is. There is so much pressure from our doctors, mothers, and even strangers to have a baby who sleeps well. This creates growing anxiety for new moms. At group women get to be reassured their baby is normal and the way they feel is normal. They also leave with more information on sleep and how to make changes if they need to, but that is secondary.

    THSP:  Please share any observations you have about the power of women gathering together with other women who have similar needs and circumstances.

    PB:  My favorite moments in group are when the mothers share their experiences with each other. I often say parenting was never meant to be a solo sport. When mothers gather together we create the environment where women and children flourish. A mom in sleep group for the first time relaxes at a deeper level when another mother says, “I was there and it gets better.”

    Play group is one place where parents and children get to come and just be together. We can share about anything from our crazy parents taking too many birthday pictures, to how did you camp with your infant. The families are all in the same place developmentally.

    It makes a huge difference in the well being of the mother to see others dealing with what she is dealing with.

     

    THSP:  We are interested in how the changing needs of the baby over the first 12-18 months affect the mother, as baby’s patterns evolve and the haze of the first few months wears off. What kinds of support does a mother typically need after the baby’s first 6-12 months? How does a baby’s changing sleep needs after the first 6-12 months typically affect a mother, in your experience?

    PB:  I don’t think the mother’s need changes after the first 6-12 months. The challenges are just different. As baby gets older parents often struggle with how to balance their own needs with the needs of the infants. Since the child is not as all consuming, parents can struggle to know what they should expect their child to do. Going back to work and balancing the desire to work with the desire to be at home creates guilt all the way around. You can’t work the way you use to, and you are missing time with your child. It can feel like a lose, lose. If you are staying home it can feel secluded, and not valued. You can feel you are not contributing enough. Another struggle that comes in during this time is the relationship between the parents. It is often pushed to the side when baby is so little and demanding.

    Now that baby is older you have to redefine your relationship not just as a couple, but as co-parents. This is can be very difficult. Having your community and support in this aspect can be critical.

    Baby’s needs change very quickly and dramatically over the first 12-18 months. They go from completely dependent beings to moving communicating humans. Every new development with baby brings up yet another curve for the first time parents to navigate. This is why being in community with others is so important. Seeing and hear other mothers and children navigate the development of new skills creates an understanding of what is typical behavior and what needs to be taught or learned.

    For sleep, the 12-18 month time is usually when sleep starts to become more stable. This can be a good time for the mother whose child is now sleeping a good one nap a day, going to bed and sleeping most of the night. For the child who is still waking often it can feel disheartening. After the first birthday the brain is much more ready to regulate sleep like an adult does, which means changes can usually improves sleep very quickly. We often hide other issues behind our baby’s sleeping patterns. If baby is still co-sleeping or waking, we can avoid confronting our relationship issues that have developed since baby arrived.

    We are so happy to have Patience as part of The HerStories Project! We will continue to introduce our experts each week- stay tuned!

     And don’t forget to take our HerStories Project New Motherhood survey!

    Patience Bleskan spent the majority of her life learning to better understand how children learn, and how adults, teachers and parents, affect who children become. As a toddler she walked around nursing her baby dolls and in high school her final term paper discussed how parents can teach children to make good choices.

    As she went out into the world her choice of work was easily made as she became a preschool teacher. Patience continued to work with young children as a teacher while she received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the Metropolitan State College of Denver. She wasted no time before continuing her formal education with a Masters degree in Early Childhood Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado.

    While Patience learned a great deal about children and the many theories of development during her schooling, her study of the Reggio Philosophy of Early Childhood Education made the biggest impact in her professional life. The schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy have become the benchmark for high quality education for young children. Patience has attended numerous conferences on the Reggio Approach and was able to study directly with Carla Rinaldi from Reggio in 2002.

    After teaching preschool for seven years, Patience Bleskan founded her Parent Education and Coaching Business in 2004. The work began with classes for parents, but has grown to include groups, consulting, preschool training, keynote speaking and doula work. She has now worked with hundreds families from all over the country.

     

     

     

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  • The Case For A Friendship Break

    We are so excited to have writer and blogger Nina Badzin with us on HerStories today.  I first became acquainted with Nina’s writing when I was desperately trying as a new blogger to make sense of Twitter.  Within 15 minutes of reading about how to use Twitter with Nina’s guidance, social media etiquette started to make more sense.  Then I started reading some of her parenting articles and essays, such as her Huffington Post piece  that was part of the This Is Childhood series.  Soon I was in awe of her literary skills and reached out to her on Twitter, and I quickly learned that Nina is as generous in spirit and time to her writing peers, as she is in her essays.

    -Jessica

     

    We’re delighted to learn more about the potential value of “friendship breaks” from Nina:

     

    The Case For A Friendship Break
    by Nina Badzin

    Some former friends (okay, most former ones) are best left in the past. But sometimes an old friend can haunt you.  She’s the friend that got away. She’s the one that’s worth getting back.

    I met Becky in August 1995 on the day we moved a few rooms apart in the same freshman dorm. I can still envision her standing at my door introducing herself. “I was born in Highland Park!” she said, referring to the cutesy door signs our resident advisors made about our hometowns.

    Speaking more quickly than I did, which I had never thought possible, Becky explained that her parents moved her family from Highland Park (in Chicago) to Maryland. We marveled at the idea that we could have grown up together. That plus our instant chemistry lent a certain inevitability to our bond.

    We claimed each other in that unspoken way that girls (and women) do when they become close quickly. We went to every party together. Ate every meal together. Obsessed about boyfriends together. We were each other’s home base in those first months, then years, away from home.

    Our rift didn’t happen with a fight over a guy or something easy to name. An “incident” to reference would have been a comfort. No, instead our growing apart felt like a deep judgement on the people we were each trying to become.

    It began slowly while Becky was abroad for a semester in Jerusalem and I was in Santiago. We came back for our senior year in different mindsets. I decided not to take the LSAT. I dropped my senior thesis (that I had spent eight months researching in Santiago). Within the first few months of our senior year, I met Bryan, whom I would end up marrying exactly two years later so you can imagine that he had become a big focus of my time.

    Becky had a serious boyfriend too, but she was going through her own strange year. We bickered a lot, doing a poor job of letting the other one grow and change. Becky would admit that she was harder on me than necessary that year. I can admit that I was a party-pooper to put it mildly.

    After college our long distance friendship felt forced, but since I didn’t know how to let things drift to a natural end, I did something a bit dramatic. Essentially, I told Becky that I didn’t think we should stay friends. My “wish” came true. We were not in each other’s lives during my engagement or when I got married. I’ve been married for twelve years and I still can’t believe Becky wasn’t there. It doesn’t seem possible considering how close we are now.

    Author Julie Klam writes in her memoir Friendkeeping, “There is something to be said for having ‘breaks’ in friendships. Sometimes you find there are things you need to do in your life and a certain friend may not support that change, at that moment anyway. It is very fair to allow people to grow and change, but it’s nice to be able to come back home again, too.”

    After about two years, I missed Becky terribly. As Julie Klam put so well, I wanted to “come back home.” I took a chance that she felt the same way and sent her a handwritten letter explaining how much our friendship had meant to me. I asked her to forgive me for not seeing a different way to handle my need for time apart years earlier.

    Becky never wrote me back. I had set the terms for our break and now she had the right to determine if and when we would reconcile.

    I think a year passed with no word from Becky, but when two of our mutual close friends had weddings planned for the same summer, there was no avoiding each other. During the first of those weekends we hugged (awkwardly) and decided to go for walk. By the end of that walk, our break was over. Becky addressed some of what I had written in the letter, but we honestly didn’t harp on the past too much. We agreed, (with ridiculous amounts of maturity!) that however difficult and hurtful our “break” had been, it had served its purpose. We had ended up with time to grow into ourselves in ways that were hard for the other one to understand and therefore support.

    B & N option 1Our original chemistry was back in full force and we found that we led similar lives with similar values. Bryan and I attended her wedding the next year. Our firstborn children (eight years old now) were born only months apart. We’re now both moms of four and we’ve been there for each other (emotionally though not physically) after the births of each child in those first ugly months when everything makes you cry. We can go two months without talking then speak every day for a week as we try to get to the end of one simple story.

    I feel Becky’s college influence on my life even now. I had always admired how analytical Becky was, how bright, how proud of her Judaism. That I send my kids to a Jewish parochial school is directly connected to Becky. I wanted my children, like Becky, to move confidently and intelligently around all the details of our religion and culture from the ins and outs of the Hebrew language to a deep knowledge and understanding of why we do what we do.

    If that was all Becky had given me it would have been enough. But she gave me so much more. She gave our friendship a second chance. For that and so much more she has my deepest respect, gratitude and love.

     

     

    Badzin125

    Nina Badzin is a writer living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Her essays on parenting, marriage, friendship, healthy habits, social media etiquette, Jewish life and more appear in the Huffington Post, Kveller.com, The Jewish Daily forward and numerous other sites. You can find Nina posting weekly on her blog, or chatting away on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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  • Baby Friends

    *Originally posted on April 29th, 2013

    Do you ever find yourself connecting with another mom, a woman you’ve never met, simply because you both have children the same age? This essay, written by Stephanie, shares her experience of making friends with strangers, even temporarily, as a way to find support and encouragement. Read Baby Friends

  • My Sister, My Friend

    *Originally published April 22nd, 2013

    Kate Hall, of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine, joins HerStories with an essay about her friendship with her sister. Starting with the memory of the day her sister was born, Kate shares the history of their relationship into adulthood. Read My Sister, My Friend.

  • Pen Pals

    Pam Moore, of the blog Whatevs, shares her story of her childhood pen pal, and how they stayed friends over the years. Her essay reflects their ups and downs as their friendship evolved into adulthood. Read her story here.

  • A Thank-you Note to My Friends

    *Originally published on April 9th, 2013

    We don’t always take the time to thank our friends for the things they do that make a difference in our lives. Sometimes their acts of kindness are monumental, but often it is the simple act of bringing us a cup of coffee, braving the swimsuit fitting room with us, or venting about toddler problems over a couple mimosas that make the biggest impact. Written by Stephanie, here is an Open Thank-You Note to some important friends.