Content warning: this post discusses late-term pregnancy loss.
Tracy Gilmour Nimoy is a therapist in California certified in Perinatal Mental Health. She has a wonderful blog about mental health and has some excellent resources on her website. Tracy was kind enough to take some time to talk with me about her practice and the story behind her clinical focus. I was deeply moved by her vulnerability and willingness to share, and I hope you are as well!
- How did you get started with writing, and how did you find your stride as a therapist/writer?
I’ve always loved writing, but until recently, it was something I kept just for myself. After my 3rd trimester stillbirth and the delivery that almost cost me my life, I realized the power writing has to reach others. I took several months off of work and during that time, I devoured memoirs. I found such meaning and power in the stories of others, and it got me thinking, could my story have a similar impact? On a whim, I decided to submit an article to Scary Mommy, and they actually published it. This gave me just the boost I needed, to seriously commit to writing. I have a unique perspective as a therapist who has been a patient, and lived through so much of my own trauma. With my writing, I’ve been able to write about the topics that a lot of people think about, but are too scared to discuss. I love writing and speaking for the underserved, and that’s what motivates me to keep writing, sharing, and telling my story. I’m currently working on a memoir about my loss, and I also recently launched a mental health blog.
- I was very moved by your piece about pregnancy loss! What was it like being so open and vulnerable with your own story?
Thank you! That piece is very meaningful to me. Anytime I write about my personal experiences, I get what I like to call, a “vulnerability hangover”. I feel insecure about putting myself out there, because I’m writing about the most intimate details of my life, which can be very unsettling. I think a lot of my fear and insecurities come from the fact that we just don’t talk about many of the things I write about. Pregnancy loss is taboo, even though it happens frequently. The statistics within maternal mental health are startling, and these experiences are quite prevalent. I felt so alone after my loss and I, a therapist (with a husband who also works in healthcare), desperately struggled to find the support I needed. Because of this, I knew I needed to become an expert and have maternal mental health as one of my specialties. I want to show up for people and provide the type of support that I didn’t get, early on. I have to say that hearing how my writing has touched people, has been so therapeutic for me. So many individuals have shared with me that they’ve experienced something similar, but never talk about it due to stigma. I’m putting my story out there, to help break this harmful notion that we shouldn’t talk about our heavy experiences. I’m creating purpose from an unimaginable, horrific story, and I’m creating a legacy for my daughter, allowing her memory to live on. I feel sick to my stomach each time I get ready to publish a new piece—I stay up all night and perseverate on every detail. Then I post it, and feel accomplished when others share feedback. It’s a never-ending cycle, but I’ve come to embrace it.
- I’ve never been pregnant, but I have seen colleagues go through the process of sharing this with clients and going on parental leave. It’s a kind of self-disclosure we don’t do a lot in our field. Did that affect your own grief process? Do you have any advice for other therapists who go through this experience and have to respond to clients asking about their pregnancy?
It’s so true. We are trained to create a space that is entirely about the person we are treating. We’re allowed to utilize self-disclosure in the therapeutic setting, as long as we are careful not to shift the focus, which sometimes can be tricky. Because I was over 8 months pregnant at the time of my loss, all of my clients already knew I was pregnant and I had been preparing each of them for my upcoming leave. My loss occurred quickly, so I had to go out on work pretty abruptly. It was devastating for me not to be able to say goodbye/transition my clients in the way I had originally planned. I was able to email with each of them and I did inform them that I lost my baby, but I did not go into detail. I made sure that everyone who wanted to continue with therapy was linked to a new therapist, and I told each of them that I didn’t know when I would be back, but would notify them when I was. Most of the clients I was seeing then, have now returned to me. They’ve asked generally about what happened, but I have to say, they’ve all been really mindful of boundaries. I share about what happened when they ask, but I do not go into the gory details. If they ask, I would share, while being mindful to not shift the focus or traumatize them, as I do will all self-disclosure. Something that’s particularly interesting about working within maternal mental health, is that most clinicians have lived experience. There are a few specialties like this in mental health, such as substance use, LGBTQ, and eating disorders. And much like those other specialties, I think clients seek out providers who have lived experience. So, when I’m working within maternal mental health, I’ve found that people want to know more about my personal experience. My advice to other clinicians who are dealing with pregnancy loss is this: you get to choose what and how you share with anyone.
- What does your clinical practice look like? Do you have a niche or specialty?
I work with many different populations. I have a lot of experience with youth of all ages, families, and adult individuals. I tend to work with individuals who have experiences of trauma, depression, anxiety, life transitions, relationship challenges, work/school stress, grief, and then my new specialty, which is maternal mental health. Maternal mental health is a pretty broad specialty, but my specific interests are surrounding loss (especially late loss), infertility, and trauma.
- You mentioned you are working on a book. Can you tell me about that project? What is it about, and what made you decide to write a book?
I’m currently working on my memoir about the loss of my daughter, Addison, in the 3rd trimester, and the delivery that nearly cost me my life. I write a lot about the systemic challenges and discrepancies between mental health and medical healthcare. I write about the importance of trauma informed care, and how mental health is not commonly considered part of routine medical practice. There is a service gap, especially within women’s health, and we (society and all providers), need to do better. I pull from my personal and professional lens, to address these barriers.
- When will your book be available for sale, and where can people purchase it?
I’m still working on the book and in the process of finding a book agent. Being part of the book world is still new to me, and I have a lot to learn. I’m hopeful that the book will be finished this year, but as with anything, I’m not 100 percent certain.
- What else would you like to share?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m so passionate about mental health and it’s my hope that others have resources where they can learn more. In my recently launched blog, I talk about varying mental health topics. I also feature blog guests—different individuals who share about their professional and lived experience. The purpose of my blog is for people to learn, and realize that they are not alone. There is support and there are resources available to them. I guess that’s the biggest thing I’d like to share—life is hard and we all go through things that we think will break us, but we don’t have to do that alone. The expectation is not to forget or get over something so big, but rather, to get through it, and there are tools and services that can allow us to do just that.