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Suzanne Feiler

Flip flops, rolled-up jeans and open windows – all indicative of the laid-back, cozy lifestyle Suzanne 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 on the south side of the Trinity River, reining in her hard-working husband or chasing her 4-year-old twins, Feiler practices psychotherapy at Insights Collaborative Therapy Group in Dallas. She specializes in working with people in transition: stressed out brides-to-be, twentysomethings shifting into adulthood, expectant mothers, women in all life stages and – her special interest – those dealing with infertility.
 
With degrees in English, classics and literature, Feiler has taken a somewhat circuitous route to her professional calling. “My background in literature actually informs my approach to therapy,” she says. “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. Next came marriage and 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.
 
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 have a family. Feiler approached the endeavor in much the same way she’d 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 poor chance of conceiving again, Feiler became 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,” she says. “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 she was happy for them, their success magnified her own struggles. “Getting pregnant is the easiest and the most difficult thing on the planet,” she says. “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 anyway because, “There was always that kernel of hope. 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 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 20 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,” she says. “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 says with a laugh. “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 defuse conflict with humor.”
 
Though Feiler’s schedule is nearly always full, she credits her family and supportive colleagues for helping her maintain balance. On regular days, Feiler is at home in time to feed and bathe her children. On the days she works evening hours to accommodate clients, her husband and in-laws take turns picking up the twins from preschool.
 
She says that working with 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.”
 
A few years ago, Feiler began community gardening, and she thrives on the sunshine and good eating it produces and considers the portion she donates to local food banks a simple way to “practice loving-kindness.” Feiler admits that gardening in Dallas in the summer is often “a losing proposition, but every year I forget how difficult it is – just so I can have that first look at my tomatoes.” The willingness to relinquish control is one with which Feiler has become comfortable. In both gardening and life, she has happily learned to “just be … with what is.”