Insights Therapist Suzanne Feiler Shares her Journey to Motherhood
Flip flops, rolled-up jeans and open windows—a perfect description of the laid-back, cozy lifestyle that Suzanne Johndrow Feiler shares with her young family in Oak Cliff. When she isn’t worrying over the tomatoes in her little patch of a community garden/food bank on the south side of the Trinity River, reining in her work-a-holic husband, or chasing her three-year old twins, you’ll find Feiler practicing psychotherapy at Insights Colloborative Therapy Group in Dallas. Feiler specializes in working with people in transition; stressed out brides-to-be, twenty-something’s shifting into adulthood, expectant mothers and women in all life stages and–her special interest–those dealing with infertility, having faced that unique challenge herself not so long ago.
With degrees in English, Classics and Literature,
Feiler has taken a somewhat circuitous route to her professional calling though she firmly believes that her collegiate studies play a significant role in her work today. She says, “My background in literature actually informs my approach to therapy. Everyone has an important story to tell. I love listening to the stories of my clients’ lives and looking with them for clues that will assist them with their preferred ways of being.”
One of those degrees came from Boston College where she met her future husband, Michael, who was earning his Master’s in Philosophy. But as they realized their love for each other, they also realized that two people in the same relationship with liberal arts degrees meant that one of them would inevitably end up as an attorney. Next came marriage and yes, law school in Dallas for Michael.
When the Feilers moved to Dallas, she re-charted her dream of becoming a poetry professor and went to work for a homeless shelter for women and children. Feiler had spent many of her formative years in Houston and Austin and in her heart, felt that she was “back home” in Texas. She and Michael were excited about their future together, which for them included children. As soon as he graduated and started his legal career, they began trying to start a family. Feiler approached the endeavor in much the same way she had always accomplished her goals: by focusing all of her energy on the outcome and waiting for the results to be successful. Only this time, it wasn’t happening.
After several miscarriages and being told she had a very poor chance of conceiving again, Feiler became very discouraged. “I didn’t realize at the time that I was actually in the grieving process—grieving for the children I had always imagined as part of my own identity, but could not have,” she says. She consulted a fertility specialist who suggested she look at egg donor catalogs and consider adoption agencies. “Though my husband was also disappointed that we could not conceive on our own, I think he was more upset because I was so freaked out about everything. I felt extremely alone and felt as though I had no one to talk to, even though Michael tried his best to be supportive.”
To make matters more difficult, all of Feiler’s friends began getting pregnant and though happy for them in their good news, it also magnified her own struggles. “Getting pregnant is the easiest—and the most difficult thing on the planet. It sounds funny but for women, having babies can be a competitive sport.” She says there were plenty of times she wanted to quit the fertility treatments but continued in spite of it because, “There was always that kernel of hope [of getting pregnant]. But that kernel kept getting smashed.”
Somewhere along the way, Feiler realized that it was becoming nearly impossible to maintain her positive attitude, manage anxiety and keep her marriage strong. She needed a major change. If she didn’t start taking care of her mind, body and spirit, her health was going to suffer—and she would have zero chance of getting pregnant.
“Like so many women in their 20s and 30s, I was a stress junkie,” Feiler confesses. “I was chronically underweight, ignoring my body’s needs in pursuit of being fashionably thin. Young woman all too often under-eat, over-exercise, and over-extend ourselves—then wonder why we can’t transition into motherhood as easily as we do everything else.” Feiler began assembling a team of specialists to assist her in her path toward wellness, including a therapist and an acupuncturist whom she visited once a week for seven months. She drank Chinese herbs, gained twenty pounds, stopped strenuous aerobics and rediscovered yoga. Feiler also made a conscious effort to edit her own negativity and learned to calm herself through meditation and quality sleep habits.
All of this began to make Feiler feel both healthier and happier, but she says the biggest change she made was a mental one. “Infertility is an anxiety-provoking experience, and anxiety only increases your infertility; it’s a Catch-22. I had to find a way to accept the fact that I very well may not get pregnant, and that life would go on and still be good. And finally, with help, I was able to do that.”
Feiler went back to school—this time, to become a psychotherapist specializing in women’s issues. She felt better than she ever had before and was once again excited about the future—with or without children. And as fate would have it, she soon found out she was indeed pregnant—with twins. Babies Henry and Genevieve were born in 2008 and have kept Feiler in a blissful state ever since. “Mothering multiples is sometimes a portrait of insanity,” Feiler laughs. “I am so thankful I finally learned how to cope effectively with stress before the twins were born. Everything I learned on my own path to wellness—I use on a daily basis with my children. And my husband has been an excellent instructor in teaching me to diffuse conflict with humor.”
Though Feiler’s schedule is nearly always full, she credits her loving family and supportive colleagues for helping her maintain balance. On the days she works evening hours to accommodate her clients, her husband and in-laws take turns picking up the twins from pre-school. “My fellow therapists at Insights are not only enthusiastic about my particular practice but also understanding of my commitment to my family. I know that as a working mom, I am extremely lucky to have flexible hours. I also benefit daily from the wisdom of eight therapists (several of whom are also parents) just down the hall. Their expertise adds value to my practice and my personal life.” On “regular” days, Feiler is at home in time to feed and bathe her children. She says that working with her clients through their struggles and triumphs boosts her own energy level; at the end of a long day in the office, she falls happily into bed bolstered by the confidence of their feedback. On the other hand, a day spent with her children is a “wonderfully different kind of fatigue; the kind you experience after cleaning spaghetti off the walls, ” she says with a smile.
Suzanne Feiler specializes in women’s issues including fertility struggles. To learn more about her, click here.
This article was originally published in Dallas Child Magazine in February 2013. To read it there, visit Dallas Child Magazine.