Dr. Bethany Cook is a 42-year-old licensed clinical psychologist ( and member of the LGBT community ) with a specialty in neuropsychological assessment. She's also a music therapist, a trainer of therapy dogs and is an "ex-communicated Mormon from Indiana with a wicked sense of humor," according to her website, ParentingAdvice.net .
In addition to these hats she wears, there's another side opening up publicly for the first time: a really tired side. A mom side. Cook's the biological mom of two young childrenand she's in a same-sex relationship.
In an October 2019 article for Mabel + Moxie, Cook wrote: "Getting pregnant with the help of medical intervention makes things less romantic, more sterile, and more stressful and expensive. It's important to speak up for yourself and your needs. Make sure you do as much research as you can. Know you are not the only person doing this and you're not alone. Find others in your community you can lean on for support and keep stress to a minimum."
For What It's Worth: A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting Ages 0-2 ( Mirador Publishing ) captures the essence of mere survival in the late night shenanigans and early morning hours that occur when a mother's most primal sensations are at their peak. The book is a refreshing look at the trials, tribulations and tantrums ( yes, including ones of the adult variety ) involved in parenting, including not sleeping for literally years, rearranging your entire day for a feeding and so much more.
"My life experiences afford me a unique perspective into parenting," she said. And she just might be onto something.
"I released the story as soon as I got consistent sleep because I knew I had to write it down before I forgot how incredibly awful it is when your children are under the age of 2," she said. "I wanted the book to be as close and to the experience that I kept. So my daughter, my youngest, started sleeping consistently when she was two and I was like, 'I have to get this book down.'"
She kept notes and wrote a few chapters and thoughts down even before she had even decided to put it in book form because she was, quite frankly, overwhelmed. She said she remembered wondering, 'What am I going to do today for 10 hours with this baby?'"
"I took out, swear to God, 300 cuss words before I even sent it to somebody to read because it was cathartic," she admitted. "I had to write it; it was therapeutic. And I wanted other people to know that you're not alone."
In fact, her fans and followers on social media helped her feel less isolated.
"Social media offers the chance for people to see others struggle," she said. "But it shows the struggle we want to showand it shows the positive we want to show. Nobody's life is perfect. I want everybody to know nobody's perfect. There's not one perfect way to raise kids. I had so much undoing in my own head mentally when it came to what it meant to be a stay at home mom. The stuff I had in my head was not positive and I didn't like that. And I didn't like the fact that I wasn't valuing myself."
Criticizing ourselves and our mom friends happens on the regularand Cook knows the game all too well. Screen time, anyone?
"I have a TV and I will turn it on, but it's with purpose," she said. "I've thought about it. I've planned it out. I spend my whole day waiting for those 20 minutes. I'm going to let my 13-month-old watch your show because I'm pregnant and exhausted. You know what I mean?"
There's also guilt because "you wanted this child and now you're complaining," the peanut gallery chimes. "But at the same time, obviously the good outweighs the bad, but when you're in the middle of it, that's not helpful. 'The days are long, but the years are short…' and you just want to be like, 'Why don't you get out of my face?'"
Cook said there were about "365 days when I seriously wanted to punch my hand through a window just so I could feel so numb, so tired." She added, "My daughter had eight teeth at six months. It was just a nightmare and I just stepped into myself. I had one to three hours of sleep for six to nine months and my daughter would not allow my wife to help out. She only wanted the boob and she wouldn't take anything else."
Cook's bond with her daughter was different than her own upbringing that included being shuffled around from family members to foster homes.
"Zero to nine months: I was with my biological mother and my biological grandmother. Nobody wanted me. My mom didn't want to me, but she was told she had to keep me. Then I was with seven foster homes," she recalled. "I was adopted onceand I was returned."
Eventually her story had a happy ending.
"My parents picked me up when I was nine months old from another foster home and then officially adopted me when I was a year old," she said. "So that's my first year. And, and then from year one to two, I was told I wouldn't let women hold me or touch me, especially my mom. Only men. The social workers thought this was due to the fact that women had abused me. I never bonded with women for a very, very long time. My mom just didn't know what to do with me. I was just kind of a wild child from day one."
There's a chapter in Cook's book about nature vs. nurtureand rightfully so. Cook's own bio daughter wouldn't let her wife hold her also for a yearand she didn't want to be touched by anyone but Cook.
"Obviously I'm a woman, but to me that made me go, 'Whoa, maybe my schtick with women didn't have anything to do with abuse or neglect, but it had something to do with something else. And the fact that I never bonded or attached."
When they chose the DNA for their children, Cook was all about it.
"Oh my God, my wife didn't like looking through everything. I loved it," she said. "I thought it was so cool. Like picking the perfect genetic stud."
With the success of For What It's Worth: A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting Ages 0-2, Cook is focusing next on getting ready for a follow-up. Or at least trying to start writing one.
"I'm hoping to make this into a series, to be honest," she said. "Two to four needs to happen. I need to start writing that because my youngest has just turned four and I want to do it when they are through the phases. I keep notes the whole time, but it is so hard. And the lifestyle that I was raised in doesn't exist anymore. Maybe in some small towns, but it never, it's never void of technology."
Isn't that the truth!
Learn more about Dr. Bethany Cook by visiting www.parentingadvice.net .