What's New

The Family Building Network Support Group -
Thursday December 5, 2013

Patricia Mendell is a therapist and consumer advocate with over 25 years of experience guiding individuals, couples and families. Patricia’s work is rooted in the belief that with the right support system and practical educational tools, one can feel confident in tackling life choices and making good decisions. Life Crossroads are those moments when decisions need to be made that will alter the course of your life and your families. Click on a topic below to learn more.

Marital & Partner Relationships

Being in a relationship today is challenging. How a couple approaches problems is often the key to a successful relationship. Finding someone who you can commit to is often the ultimate goal for many. In my work with couples, I have come to believe that no level of communication can prevent conflict from occurring. Even in the best committed relationships there will be highs and lows. When arguments arise couples need to develop ways to resolve conflicts, accept differences, and retreat before discussions become damaging and destructive. Getting help from a therapist is often the key to turning what seems like an impossible situation for a couple into a learning experience that will shift the balance toward a workable solution. Add a decision to become a parent and the challenges increase tenfold. When becoming a parent, few are prepared for the new skill set that will be needed to work as a family. Helping each person understand what they bring to their union is important in developing ways to work toward solutions that support the relationship and the family. Often, life crisis can challenge even the most functional relationship, causing individuals to reassess their lives and beliefs as they work toward an amicable solution that continues to honor each another.

  • Learning how to communicate with your partner
  • Understanding gender related skill set differences
  • Accepting your partner and his/her family
  • Learning how to avoid anger and feelings of resentment over the everyday routines
  • Dealing with issues of distrust and jealousy
  • How not to keep score in your relationship
  • Understanding how to negotiate a crisis in your relationship
  • Learning how to support your partner in a crisis
  • How to become parents without losing your partner
  • Making sex an important part of your relationship

I believe that effective decision-making can only happen when one understands the questions that need to be asked.

Parenting Tools

Parenting is a wonderful experience, but even the most accomplished person can feel inadequate with the demands of being a parent. Parenting is a learned skill. Being effective as a parent takes time and a commitment to learning new skills and new ways of looking at the world. I am careful to respect each family’s background, while enabling you to create specific tools that will address your unique needs as a parent. Being able to be good listeners, understanding your child’s learning and emotional needs, finding ways to set limits consistently, negotiating sibling rivalry issues, and encouraging life skills are the many areas of parenting which I address in my practice.

Parenting Children with Learning Challenges

When children are faced with unique challenges developmentally or in their approach to learning, parents can feel at an impasse as to what course of action would be best for their child. For many parents, working together as a team can often be challenging; particularly when they view the problem differently. Patricia understands that making decisions and implementing them as a unified family team is not easy. Developing conflict-resolution skills is critical when it comes to helping your child, while creating strong and lasting family bonds. Whether a child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities or behavioral problems, there are effective methods that can be learned if parents can understand the questions that need to be asked to create workable solutions for all family members. Patricia feels that parents have a unique opportunity with each new developmental stage to learn new ways of nurturing the connection with their child, while encouraging them to learn skills of self-advocacy and self-reliance.

  • Understand your child’s unique learning styles
  • When to explore getting help for your child
  • Discovering effective tools for children with learning problems
  • Knowing what questions to ask when seeking expert help
  • How to talk with your child about their learning challenges
  • Working together as parents to develop effective strategies
  • Setting limits and sticking to them
  • How and when to discipline
  • Balancing the role of being overly helpful vs. supportive
  • Learning how not to feel guilty as a parent
  • Teaching children to be self-starters
  • Dealing with comments from friends and family
  • Dealing with sibling rivalry issues

Parenting Alternative Families

For families created through IVF, egg/sperm/embryo donation, adoption or surrogacy, parenting can feel even more challenging when innocent questions about your family history are asked. Understanding your own feelings and thoughts is important in being able to talk with not only your child, but with family and friends about how your family was created. Everyday living situations can really unearth those unresolved thoughts and feelings of how you became a parent in the first place. In my work, I have helped parents develop their unique family stories. It is only gradually over time that this family story can be developed into life; building a strong connection with one another. As your children grow and change so will their questions and needs about who they are. Being ready and able to meet your child’s origin questions will, over the years, only strengthen the parent-child connections. Frequently, parents of alternative families discover that parenting is parenting; once children come into your life the everyday work of family life will be the true test of how well parents and their children thrive.

  • Loving a child that is not related to you genetically
  • The meaning of being an older parent
  • Parenting children with different birth stories
  • Psychological issues for children created through egg/sperm/embryo donation
  • Understanding the many disclosure strategy options
  • Talking to your children about their family origins, using age appropriate language and creating effective family stories
  • Questions when disclosing to older/adult children
  • How to disclose to family and friends
  • Exploring options to meet the donor and donor siblings

Single Parenting

Being a single parent is not easy. It is challenging and exhausting but filled with unexpected rewards. Understanding what is needed in becoming a single parent is important when deciding to have children without a partner. Being prepared is key to managing your life as a single parent with a child. Evaluating your life and supports before electing to become a single parent will be an important factor in your success in parenting without a partner. I have worked with numerous individuals who have made the decision to parent alone; helping them in their decision to become single parents.

  • Understanding the pros and cons of single parenthood
  • Evaluating your needs and supports
  • Grasping the economic issues of single parenthood
  • Establishing supports as a single parent
  • Understanding the implication of sperm/egg donor or surrogacy
  • How to talk with family, friends and work colleagues as a single parent
  • Answering your child’s questions about their beginnings

LBGT Parenting

Parenting is filled with many challenges. For LBGT parents the issues of having a family in a world that often is in conflict with their life styles can make parenting especially difficult. Deciding to become a parent involves: addressing both examined and unexamined feelings about oneself; exploring what it would mean to parent children who will have gay parent(s); being not genetically related to your child; dealing with continued comments by family and friends; developing communication skills that will allow your children to ask the tough questions and learning effective tools for parenting.

  • Exploring what it means to parent-single/couple
  • Understand alternative parenting choices and implications
  • Learn language tools that are age -appropriate for your child
  • Develop family stories for your children
  • Discover how to create effective communication with your child
  • Learn to recognize parenting challenges vs. questions about life styles

Fertility Treatments

As a therapist with a distinct approach to conflicts and problem solving, I have worked with many at an impasse with their fertility treatment options. I believe that family building decisions can best be made only after fully exploring and understanding the numerous choices available; from low-tech approaches, to IVF, to identifying and procuring egg/sperm donors, to finding surrogates and gestational carriers, and making the tough decision to end fertility treatments and move on to adoption/childfree living.

  • Understanding your fertility options
  • What to look for in a fertility specialist/IVF program
  • How to ask your doctor the right questions to get helpful answers
  • Understanding when it is time to move on to plan B
  • Understanding the risks of multiples with embryo transfers
  • Finding ways to work with your partner while going through treatment
  • When baby making takes over love making
  • Being single and going through treatment
  • Managing comments from co-workers, friends, and family
  • Coping with the holidays and baby showers
  • What stress has to do with fertility
  • Feeling alone with secondary fertility

Donor - Egg, Sperm, Embryo & Surrogacy

Often when the recommendation is made to use an egg, sperm or embryo donor, individuals find themselves at a crisis point in their goal to become parents. I have found that no matter how you arrive at the decision to use a donor, you may still find the notion of being genetically disconnected to your child painful and impossible to imagine. Preparing to parent with a child conceived by a donated egg or sperm involves many complex decisions. For many these options are a wonderful way to build a family, but they are not for everyone. For those who have been on the fertility treadmill, absorbing the information can be exhausting and confusing. In my work, I have been able to successfully assist individuals by: educating them on their options; identifying, procuring, and evaluating donors and surrogates; helping them navigate and assess the differences between in-house egg donor programs and egg donor/surrogacy agencies and sperm banks.

  • When is it time to consider using an egg/sperm donor
  • Is this option psychologically right for me/us
  • Understanding the pros and cons of choosing a known egg/sperm/embryo donor
  • Understanding anonymous egg/sperm/embryo donation: pros and cons
  • Evaluating IVF programs when considering donation/surrogacy: pros and cons
  • Egg donor agencies: advantages and disadvantages
  • Evaluating sperm banks and understanding the differences
  • How to evaluate an egg/sperm/embryo donor profile
  • Researching and assessing donors and surrogates
  • Meeting the donor: what to consider
  • Traditional surrogacy versus gestational surrogacy: the pros and cons
  • Evaluating the costs of donor egg/sperm/embryo or surrogacy
  • Choosing between donation and adoption: points to consider
  • Understanding and finding legal help with donation, surrogacy and adoption
  • Disclosure to the child and others: To tell/not to tell: when, what and why
  • Gender differences in men/women when considering donors
  • How to talk with friends, family and others

Pregnancy Concerns

Whether you are a survivor of the fertility wars or miraculously became pregnant the old- fashioned way, the experience of pregnancy and its aftermath is often filled with unexpected surprises. It is not unusual to experience a feeling of joy and fear at the same time when you learn that a pregnancy has occurred. For many, their pregnancy seems to take over their lives; particularly when the pregnancy symptoms are strong and interfere with activities of daily living and working. A sense that life will never be the same is a common feeling among women. There may even be a question about whether you have created a potential disaster in your life. Whether this hard fought pregnancy was achieved through fertility drugs, IVF, donor eggs/sperm/embryos, gestational/traditional surrogacy, the feeling what have I/we gone and done? feels troubling. I have found that normalizing early pregnancy fears can enable even the most frightened person/couple to weather the storms of early pregnancy. Often, once these fears have been addressed many finally begin to look forward to becoming parents.

  • Dealing with difficult pregnancies
  • Understanding your partner’s needs during pregnancy
  • Being single and pregnant
  • Being older and pregnant
  • Managing a multiple pregnancy both emotionally and physically
  • Financial concerns during pregnancy
  • When to consider gestational surrogacy
  • Legal, financial and emotional aspects of traditional/gestational surrogacy

Pregnancy Loss

For those, like myself, who have experienced repeated pregnancy losses, there is a fear that you will never complete your pregnancy and have a baby. The joy of a subsequent pregnancy is often never the same. In particular, for those of you who have had late pregnancy losses there is resentment that you will never again experience a naiveté that others experience who have never had fertility or pregnancy issues. If bed rest or hospitalization is required, the ability to remain calm and hopeful may continue to be overshadowed by the ever-present fear that you could lose the pregnancy. Birth is the only event that will enable you to fully believe that you have succeeded. When you have waited so long for a pregnancy, having to consider fetal reduction for chromosomal abnormalities or an unsafe multiple pregnancy can be bittersweet, making it tough to make this time-sensitive and difficult decision.

  • Late term loss: what it means and getting the support you need
  • Repeated pregnancy loss, understanding what your options are
  • How to continue to hope
  • Dealing with family, friends and co-workers after a pregnancy loss
  • Coping with depression and grief
  • Trying again after pregnancy loss
  • Becoming pregnant after pregnancy loss

Termination & Reduction

When you have waited so long for a pregnancy, having to consider fetal reduction for chromosomal abnormalities or an unsafe multiple pregnancy can be bittersweet, making it tough to make this time-sensitive and difficult decision. It is important to the well-being of you and your partner that this difficult time-sensitive decision is made with the help of your doctor and an experienced mental health professional. The choice to terminate should never be left on the shoulders of one person. It can only be considered after looking at the medical options; including the risks to the mother and baby (babies). Counseling can help couples ask the important questions they need to know to make this difficult decision and plan for their futures.

  • Deciding to terminate due to multiples: pros and cons
  • Decision making with your partner: communicating without feeling guilty
  • Mourning the loss of the pregnancy that was: how to honor the loss
  • Present and future psychological concerns when reducing multiples
  • Disclosing to friends, family and others the decision to terminate or reduce: pros and cons

Postpartum Depression

It has been my experience that the transition to parenthood is often not easy. There is an expectation that once the baby is born, that all new mothers will instantly bond, be excited and happy. Yet, there are many women who feel they have failed in Motherhood 101 when their feelings turn to sadness. It is not uncommon for you to find bonding difficult. Often you can find yourself crying over everything. A difficult delivery and/or a multiple pregnancy will only compound the fragility of being a new mother. Those with donor egg or sperm automatically feel that having a donor baby is at the cause of these feelings. Some of the indications that you are experiencing postpartum depression include: emotional hormonal changes; feeling unhappy as a mother, or with the baby; lack of interest in your husband or friends; feeling hopeless, anxious; having no energy; poor appetite; and being unable to sleep even though you are overtired. The belief that having a baby or babies should only give you the feeling of pure joy, is doing a disservice to the realities of parenting. Few cultures are as unsupportive as the western culture. Many other cultures reach out to the new mother with both family and community support. Getting help is not a dirty word. Again, counseling, medications, home helpers, and time can enable you to work out your feelings and work through the magnitude of the changes that have happened to you. For couples, the new demands now placed on the marriage and on the supportive partner can be difficult. Old issues of how the division of labor has been handled, or mishandled in the past become even more glaring.

  • Knowing when your feelings are not just hormonal
  • Helping first-time mothers with their concerns
  • Learning how to ask for help without feeling guilty
  • Finding the joy in being a parent
  • Becoming a mother and resenting your life
  • Helping husbands feel helpful
  • Learning how to work together as parents now that the baby is here