By Martelle Esposito
This week we talk with Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, a member of the inaugural class of Mothership Certified health service providers. She is a private practice therapist who specializes in supporting women and families through the childbearing years. Her areas of specialty include adjustment to pregnancy and parenthood, attachment and bonding, infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, medically fragile infants and NICU experiences, grief and trauma work, and perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression. She also teaches infant massage classes in the community and writes a creative blog called Ava’s Alphabet.
What are you most proud of in your life?
I am proud of myself for learning to take chances even when they scare me. I have been blessed with some amazing opportunities along the way, and if I hadn’t found the courage to take them, I would not be where I am today in my life, both personally and professionally.
What do you love about your work?
I love the hopefulness in my work. I have always been drawn to working with women, families, and babies. I think this is because it is a time in life that offers up so much hope for the future. I know women and families will get through the challenges of early parenthood, and it is amazing to watch them grow, blossom, and find their way.
Can you describe an experience with a client where you felt inspired by them and their parent journey?
I am inspired by all of my clients. There is such a raw vulnerability that women experience during pregnancy and early motherhood. It can be scary and unsettling, especially to women who are used to feeling independent and in control. I am always so impressed by the courage of the women that I treat. To be able to reach out and ask for help or to admit that one is struggling during such a vulnerable, delicate time is an amazing act of strength.
How important is empathy in the work that you do?
Empathy is critical in the work I do. I want my clients to feel safe, valued, respected and heard in their work with me. To sit with a woman who is struggling with her parenting journey and help her feel validated and less alone is a powerful tool. Once that connection is made, the true healing can begin.
When a parent is having a hard time with some part of their parenting journey, what do you tell them to empower them?
I often remind the parents that I work with that it is okay to not love every minute of the parenting journey. It is okay to not love pregnancy or the tiny newborn stage or the art of breastfeeding. We will all find the aspect of parenting that we shine in, and it is okay to admit that there are things we do not love about being a parent.
One of my favorite quotes about motherhood is from author Jill Churchill. It reads “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” I often see new parents struggle with trusting their instincts because they are so inundated with advice and information about “best practices.” It is impossible to follow all the advice. I want to help parents own the choices they make because they are what are best for their baby and their family.
Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?
My current personal mantra is “progress, not perfection.” I know that my own perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. This statement is a reminder to myself that I cannot do it all and that sometimes it is okay to lower my expectations.
What advice do you have for new parents?
Be gentle with yourself. Listen to your gut. There is no one right way to do this. Choose what is best for you and your family, even if it may not be what others want you to do.