The Silent Shame of the Angry Mother

The Silent Shame of the Angry Mother

It’s 3am, an exhausted, sleep deprived mother stands over the crib of her screaming infant, the baby’s cries have been non-stop for hours. She’s tried everything. Everything. She doesn’t know what else to do. She snaps.

“Just go the f*#k to sleep!!!” she screams at her tiny, defenseless baby.

A moment later, realising what she’s just done, she slumps to the floor sobbing. Ashamed of herself, scared of what she’s become.

Who is it you empathise with more in this situation – the tiny baby, whose only crime was simply being a dependent infant? Or the mother at the end of her tether?

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The answer to that question is likely to hinge on whether you’ve ever been that mother. Whether you’ve ever found yourself so completely overwhelmed, so completely under-resourced, so entirely depleted and so unwillingly consumed with rage, that you no longer feel in control of anything anymore. Least of all your tiny baby. Or your emotions.

I’ve heard it said that you don’t truly experience unconditional love until you become a mother. The same could also be said for this other of life’s most intense emotions: Anger. Rage. Fury.

Personally, I never experienced true rage until I had my own children. Certainly I got my knickers in a twist over many a situation – and I experienced anger – at myself, my parents, my partners, my family. But rage against your peers, or your elders is rarely seen as a source of shame. In fact, at those times, our anger is easily justifiable, the teenager raging against the impossibly strict rules of her parents, a grown woman crying hot tears of anger over a partner who cheated on her, an employee venting to a colleague about an incompetent boss. That kind of anger is understood and openly discussed – and in many cases welcomed – anger is good – it provokes you to fight back, to stand up for your rights, or to advocate for someone less fortunate than you. We can support, or at least understand, when a person’s anger is directed at someone who slighted, deceived, hurt or manipulated them.

But what happens when the source and target of your rage is a tiny infant, or a toddler, or any child? A tiny human whose only crime is simply crying too much, or refusing to sleep, or smearing finger paint over a wall, or losing their school hat for the 18th time this week?

How many mothers do you think would feel comfortable telling another person that they quite literally screamed at their baby, or stormed out of the room on their toddler, slamming the door behind them, or threw their child’s favourite toy in the bin, because they wanted to punish them so badly. It’s a difficult truth to face. And when it happens it generally brings with it mountains of shame, self-judgement and self-hatred. The women I’ve spoken to who have experienced these intermittent episodes of rage don’t intend to behave this way. When I’ve had women explain it to me they tell me of how they “just snapped”, and how petrified they are of something similar happening again. These are not mothers who are systematically abusing their children. These are wonderful, caring mothers who wholeheartedly love their children, would do anything for them. But they’re just not coping. They snap, and then they berate themselves for being a terrible mother, because “how could any mother treat their child that way?”, they believe they’re all alone in their rage, and wonder how it is that they became so unhinged. If this is how a woman sees herself after an episode of motherhood-triggered rage, just imagine what they believe others are thinking of them.

Is it any wonder they won’t admit publicly to this silent rage they’re feeling?

But if this is you. If you’re an ‘Angry Mother’, I want you to know this:

It is okay to feel angry at your child.

Anger is simply an emotion, albeit an incredibly intense one. But emotions are never inherently “good” or “bad” – not even those emotions commonly acknowledged to be negative – anger, jealousy, shame, resentment. We are entitled to feel and experience the broad spectrum of our emotions. We can’t really expect motherhood to bring us only joy and wonder. Anger is going to be inevitable at times. We’re only human.

But it’s what we do, how we act, in response to those feelings of anger that makes the difference.

Being angry is okay. Taking your anger out on your child (or any other person really) is not. That distinction is important.

So no, it’s not really okay to scream at your child, or to hit them, or to lock them away because you’re angry with them. I’m certainly not advocating for that. But what I’m saying is that these things can and do happen – to the best of us – but if we find ourselves in that situation, what we need to do is seek support to lessen the chances of it happening again, not hide away from it due to shame and fear.

It’s okay to admit to yourself how much anger you’re experiencing as a result of motherhood. In fact, acknowledging your emotions is the first step in dealing with them. Being conscious and mindful of your anger is one of your greatest protections against not letting that anger manifest into aggressive, hurtful and potentially dangerous behaviour.

What we need is a more open discourse on the emotion of anger in motherhood. Because it’s there – hidden away behind closed doors and walls of shame, fear and self-loathing. Why is it happening? Now, today, in our western society where women and mothers have even more freedom and rights than ever before? That’s an enormous question, and perhaps one for another blog post. But my focus for today’s post is to help women understand what’s happening inside their brain and body during these rage moments – so that they might be able to prevent them from happening again.

Anger is multi-faceted, and it’s origins are often misunderstood. The good news is that “lashing out” when angry isn’t an inevitability. To avoid it, it helps to have a better understanding of what’s behind a moment of rage filled behaviour.

There’s several factors at play when it comes to why we get angry:

1) The trigger. This is generally what we blame our rage on – that driver cut me off, my husband forgot to buy milk, my boss made me work late, my baby won’t stop crying. But the trigger is rarely enough to create a rage response in itself. If it were, we’d all be flying off the handle at any and every slight against us. This isn’t how the majority of us behave on a regular basis.

2) Our pre-existing personalities. We all know people who are more prone to rage than others, who are more laid back, more highly strung, more glass is half full, or more “the world is out to get me” – often these personality traits are set while we’re quite young, and are influenced by the events,  environments and relationships we experience as infants and children. (Which is not to say they are fixed, but personalities are deeply ingrained and not easily changed).

3) Our emotional and physical state at the time of the trigger. Our response to triggers will change depending on these factors. So we’re potentially more likely to act on our anger if we’re tired, sick, stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, scared, anxious or sleep deprived (sound familiar? Hello Motherhood!) These factors can turn even small incidents into huge explosions.

4) The breadth of skills we have to deal with unpleasant emotions and feelings. Our generation didn’t get taught this stuff. We never had mindfulness lessons or yoga classes at school – it’s great to see this happening more and more in schools today. But for those of us born before the turn of the century, unless you’ve studied a health profession, or undertaken formal counselling or therapy, it’s unlikely you were ever given explicit information about how your emotions work – about how they can impact your behaviour. Emotions just were. Some people had more trouble with them. That’s about all we knew. But we now know there’s so much we can do to better address our anger, so that it doesn’t take control of us.

So what can you do? How can you better manage anger?

1) Improve your awareness of your anger.  Be more mindful of times when your anger appears, and start to make connections between your emotions, your thoughts and the physical feelings in your body. Awareness is the first step.

2) Do what you can to make positive steps on a daily basis. Check out this article from the American Psychological Society for “Strategies to Keep Anger at Bay”. Finding stress management, self care and relaxation strategies that work for you is also a helpful option, such as learning how to start a mindfulness practice.

3) Seek support. Be open and honest with someone you trust about your anger experiences and concerns, perhaps your partner, or an understanding friend or family member. If you feel like you need further support a counsellor, Occupational Therapist or psychologist can help provide you with strategies to support yourself.

Remember – managing your anger better is an entirely achievable goal. Even though it may seem overwhelming and especially traumatic when you’re in the grip of “mother-anger” it’s crucial to seek support – for your own sake, and that of your children, your family, and your relationships and connection with each other.

Until next time,

Sarah

19 thoughts I had on my morning meditation

19 thoughts I had on my morning meditation

Isn’t it always the way that when life gets hectic or stressful, the first things we let go in our tight schedule are generally those things we most need?

When my life cranked up last year the first thing I let go was my meditation practice. At the start of the year I had a nice little meditation habit happening. But sometime mid year it seriously slipped by the wayside.

I didn’t think too much of it until my Headspace app renewal came through at the start of last month and I realised that in the whole of 2016 I’d not even made it through the three introductory levels!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been making a big effort last year to be a lot more mindful through my day to day life. But I do feel that, for me, adding in a regular block of formal meditation time daily has huge benefits. So I’ve been doing just that since the new year. Not every day yet, but most days, generally switching between my Headspace and Smiling Mind apps depending on how I’m feeling.

The way the Headspace app works is that I’m currently stuck on 20 minute meditations, I need to get through three more 20 minute sessions to move out of the “intro” series, at which point I again have full reign over which track – and which length track – I choose.

Only three steps left til I can make my own choices!

Only three steps left til I can make my own choices!

I gotta say – 20 minutes of meditation is a HUGE stretch for me. I struggle big time. Which is why I keep flipping back to Smiling Mind, where I can choose a lovely seven minute track I can easily manage! I’ve done many, many more seven minute tracks there in 2016 than I have 20 minute tracks here!

But at the same time, I also want to extend my practice, so this morning I headed back to Headspace.

Ready for some zen.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way…

Here’s a brief rundown of at least 19 thoughts that ran through my head through this morning’s meditation.

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1) Man I haven’t done this in ages.

2) I do love Andy’s voice.

3) Oops. I closed my eyes, I’m not supposed to do that yet.

4) Okay now I can close my eyes.

5) This is so much easier with my eyes closed.

6) But why do I struggle so much with eyes open meditation? I should be able to go that.

7) Don’t ‘should’ yourself Sarah

8) Gah, you forgot to respond to that person that texted you last Friday

9) I better send that power point presentation off its due today.

10) But I better change that slide that needs changing first…

11) Damn I forgot to link up my new accounting software with my invoicing software.

12) I really should YouTube how to do that.

13) I wonder how hot it’s going to be today?

14) I hope that dress I bought yesterday is okay for tomorrow’s conference?

15) What shoes shall I wear with it?

16) Hair up or hair down with that dress?

17) And what about earrings….?

18) Oh, there’s Andy talking again.

19) That’s right I’m supposed to be meditating…

And that was all in the first five minutes! There were way more thoughts in the following 15 minutes, but that’s okay. I’m slowly more able to not beat myself up about my wandering monkey brain!

You see the whole point of meditation isn’t actually to eliminate thought. It’s about being able to let those little thoughts come and go without getting hooked on to them. Clearly my little meditation hiatus has disrupted my ability to do just that. I did find myself latching on to some of those thoughts. Which is why I still love guided meditations, that little voice in my earbuds gently reminding me to let those thoughts go.

So hopefully I’ll be hearing a little more of Andy from Headspace on a daily basis as I head further into 2017.

What about you? Do you have a regular meditation practice? Any favourite apps? Any advice you can give me to keep a little more focused and build this habit?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

Until next time,

Sarah

Back in the Swim – My Wellbeing Journey

Back in the Swim – My Wellbeing Journey

Some of you may know that I’ve been working on addressing my adrenal fatigue in recent months. And one of the things that comes along with that is a recommendation that I give up running for a while.

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with running. I’m not a naturally gifted runner, I’m very much a plodder/shuffler/stumble over the liner. I hate that I find it so hard. But I love how it makes me feel once it’s done. The “runners high” everyone talks about. (At least, everyone who’s a runner). I loved that I worked my way up through the mileage. Beaming with pride when I finished my first 10km event, my first 15km event, my first half marathon (at which I was six weeks pregnant!)

I didn’t run much through my pregnancy, but between my first and second babies I was running pretty regularly a few times a week. But over the past four years between juggling two children, moving home to Adelaide, deciding to open my own business, and my husband changing jobs to one where he leaves the house at 5am every morning, I’ve really struggled to get back into it. I couldn’t go out for my usual early morning run as I had the girls at home, I hated running with a pram and the treadmill at the gym bores me to tears, so I didn’t run during the day, and by the time hubby got home and we made it through the cactus hour “dinner-bath-bed” routine – it was too dark. And I definitely don’t run the streets in the dark.

I’ve certainly tried, I’ve pushed myself through a run at least every other week when I found time on a weekend, and there’s been periods of time where I’ve been more motivated than others – increasing my runs to a couple of times a week – sneaking out the door as soon as hubby got home from work for a quick 20 or 30 minute job – especially in those first two years after we moved back here.

Bu then the adrenal fatigue really kicked in at the start of last year and I found I just couldn’t run. My legs always felt heavy, and I no longer actually wanted to run, despite desperately wanting to want to run (if that makes sense.)

I even signed up for two running coaching programs last year, the first one I pushed myself through with a once a week run with my personal training group. This was great – having a team around me meant that I actually went for those runs. But afterwards I would be just completely spent, and crash on the couch for the next few hours. My ‘runner’s high was completely non-existent’, and in it’s place was a ‘runner’s crash and burn’.

The second program, was a fantastic online running program, with a great online community. I had the best of intentions when I joined up – despite not listening to any of my body’s signals. I was mistaking my body’s call for rest as simply being lazy and unmotivated. “Maybe I just need a program to get me on track?”, I thought to myself. So I signed up. But I just couldn’t do it. When I did go for a run my body responded the exact same way it had in the previous program.

And it’s because it was exhausted, literally. My adrenal fatigue has just stripped my body of any energy reserves, and – quite frankly – it’s shit.

So I’ve given up on running for the next few months. Until at least April (I’m still harbouring dreams of my second half marathon in July). I’m giving my body the opportunity to rest. I’m going to be focusing on less strenuous activities such as walking, light weight training and yoga.

Oh, and swimming!

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Remember when I said I’m not a naturally gifted runner? Well as it happens what I am naturally good at is swimming. I’m not fast, no sirreee. But I’m a strong swimmer and I have great endurance. A couple of decades ago I used to be a swimming instructor and lifeguard, which is how I worked my way through Uni. Back then I used to swim 2km every morning (that’s 40 laps of a 50m pool!).

But once I graduated and gave up the swim teaching, I lost the swimming for fitness alongside of it – after all, I had a full time job now and I could afford a proper gym membership! I also moved to pretty much the coldest place in South Australia and suddenly swimming didn’t seem so appealing anymore.

I dipped my toes back in the pool briefly again during both my pregnancies, but didn’t continue after I had my babies.

Until this week, when I signed myself up for the 300m swim leg of a triathlon with some people from my personal training crew. I knew there was no way I could do the full thing. But a 300m swim – that’s less than 10minutes. I can definitely manage that!

So I jumped back in the pool for my first swim in about four years. With no idea how I’d go. Would I even be able to make it to the other end of the pool without struggling for breath? Turns out I could. I did that first 300m easily, and I felt good, so I kept swimming for another 700m. And just like that I did my first 1km swim in a very long time.

Me, after my first swim last week. Red faced, but relaxed.

Me, after my first swim last week. Red faced, but relaxed.

Funny how we sometimes forget the things we love. And the things we’re good at.

But now I’ve been reminded, I think swimming is just what my body needs. Movement, that doesn’t stress it out physically – or emotionally. More than anything, I find swimming calming. It’s just me, the water and that blue line. The slow rhythmic “one, two, three, breathe” of my stroke rate is so incredibly calming. It’s basically a moving meditation.

So while I mourn the loss of my regular runs, I’m going to enjoy my return to the pool.

Cheers, Sarah

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Why do Occupational Therapists LOVE messy play?

Why do Occupational Therapists LOVE messy play?

Something we do a lot of here at Bloom Wellbeing with our paediatric Occupational Therapy crew is “Messy Play” – in any given session one of our kiddos can be found elbow deep in gloop, slime, paint, mud or shaving cream.

And while it probably makes more work for parents in the laundry, messy play is actually a fantastic task for all children. As an Occupational Therapist (OT), I’m a big believer in providing a wide range of play opportunities for all children of all ages. Messy play is a winner on so many fronts, not the least because the majority of children absolutely love it!

The fun factor is definitely a big plus in our OT eyes – we always strive to make our sessions super fun – kids learn and develop through play – so we use play to help them learn and develop. For 99pc of our clients, they can’t wait to get back into the OT room for their next session to see what fun stuff they’re going to be doing this week.

So yes, the fun, fun, fun is important, but here’s a quick roundup of several of the other reasons we love, love, love messy play.

Messy Play supports children’s physical development:

  • The sensory experience of messy play helps children build body awareness, build fine motor skills, finger and hand strength and dexterity and improve hand-eye co-ordination. To build on this, we encourage the use of lots of tools within the sensory play, such as using utensils, filling and pouring from cups, and ‘writing’ with tools.

Messy Play supports children’s communication and language development:

  • Messy play offers lots of opportunities to talk and communicate. We speak with your child about how the activity feels – talk about the sensations they’re experiencing, colours, the actions – we use lots of describing words. Eg. “Wow, feel how fluffy this foam feels, look at this enormous/tiny/squiggly circle you drew, this slime is sloppy and bright green”.

Messy Play supports the development of children’s creative play skills

  • Creative play is another area where lots of children struggle, and messy play is the perfect medium for creating vivid, unexpected play stories. For example, if we add a few mini Mac Trucks to a stack of shaving foam it instantly transforms into a blizzard, if we add a few plastic frogs to a pile of green gloop it can become a swamp, deep inside a spooky forest.

Messy Play supports children’s emotional and social development:

  • There are no rules in messy play, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, so children can have the freedom to experiment, explore and create in their own time, without feeling the pressure of “getting something right”. This can build confidence and self esteem.
  • Messy play is also a great sensory outlet for emotions – such as joy, anger, frustration, excitement.
  • Messy play can also have a calming influence for children. The sensory and repetitive nature of some activities can help children focus their attention, increasing mindfulness, which is a powerful tool to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in both children and adults.

Messy Play supports children’s intellectual and mathematical development:

  • Messy play also provides opportunities to build foundational academic skills, including concepts such counting, measuring, mixing colours, sorting, creating patterns, predicting and observing outcomes, cause and effect, etc. It may not seem like they’re learning – but they definitely are!

 

How to embrace more messy play:

Remember that messy play is really important for your children’s development, but most of all it’s FUN! As parents we can get so caught up in making sure we do all the right things for our children’s development, but messy play is one activity we can simply set up and enjoy – we don’t need to think too much about it!

Here’s some tips for making it easier (on us as parents!):

  • Set the activity up in an area you don’t mind getting messy – eg on the patio, on the lawn, or cover the kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth.
  • Have a drawer full of older messy play clothes for your kids, or let your kids play in their bathers or undies if the weather is warm enough
  • Make sure you prepare lots of towels, paper towels, face washers, and fresh sets of clothes before you start the activity, to make clean up quicker and easier.

Easy ideas for messy play at home:

Finger painting: use any kind of paint, or make your own (see recipes below) – add lots of other sensory items, both for the actual painting eg. Different sponges, squirty bottles, cotton balls, and also sensory items to add to the paint mixture, eg glitter, sand, sequins

  • Basic paint: One cup plain flour, one cup of water, add food colouring
  • Puffy paint: ¾ cup shaving cream, ¼ cup white glue, ¼ cup plain flour, food colour

Gloop/slime – kids LOVE this one. Here are a couple of recipes – they require hot water – so use caution when preparing and make sure you check the temperatures before allowing children to play with it.

Mix together 1 cup of lux flakes and 3 cups of hot/boiling water – whisk together in a big bowl until light and fluffy – this mix will thicken up overnight. Let your kids explore different textures by adding food colouring, sprinkles or glitter.

Shaving cream – cover a smooth surface with shaving cream and let your children explore the texture with their hands – they might want to create patterns, write letters or shapes, draw pictures, or move their hands through the foam in random movements, or pile the foam into big mounds. You can use a table covered with a plastic table cloth, or use shaving cream on different surfaces – a great option is to use a large window or sliding glass door – the vertical surface helps to build upper body strength and core strength at the same time.

From the pantry – have you got a big pack of uncooked rice, split peas or pasta shells, these are all good for messy, sensory play. Pop  a few tiny objects in the tub and have your children try to find them using their hands.

The old faithfuls – such as playdough, finger paint and kinetic sand – you can get these all pretty cheaply from department or toy stores these days.

Other ideas:

Playing outside – channel your inner Peppa Pig and get them jumping in muddy puddles, water and sand tables are a great resource – I think every home should have one – they can fit in even the smallest yards, sandpits – at home if you have space, or at the local park – or the greatest sandpit of all – the beach! These offer great opportunities for children to get messy “all over their body” which provides great sensory input.

Cooking – kids of all ages love cooking! Think about tasks which allow them to use their hands, such as kneading dough for homemade pizzas, or pouring handfuls of sprinkles onto cupcakes. Just make sure they wash their hands before cooking! As a bonus, getting fussy eaters involved in the food preparation might even help them be more inclined to try a new food.

Eating – for those of you who have babies or young toddlers, remember that messy eating is a good thing! When children are first exploring new foods it’s important for them to play and explore their food – with their hands and mouths – encouraging increased exploration can help improved children’s willingness to try different foods later on through the lifespan. Think about it this way – if a child isn’t sure about touching a food with their fingers, is it any wonder they’re unsure about putting it into their mouths? Get them to touch and explore their food.

Self care – have your children help rub in their own sunscreen or body lotions, or lather their own shampoo in the bath, let them pop extra bubble bath in the tub to make bubble beards and mohawks. Remember – the name of the game is fun!

Well that’s it from me on the topic of messy play for today. The most important thing is to not overthink it – just channel your own inner child and have fun!

Until next time,

Sarah

No, you don’t need a “Pilates Body” to do Pilates.

No, you don’t need a “Pilates Body” to do Pilates.

I’m a Pilates Instructor. I have a body.

But I do not have what would be considered a “Pilates Body”. I don’t really have to explain what a “Pilates Body” looks like, just type the words “Pilates Body” into Google images and see what the internet spits back at you.

I do not look like ANY of those images. Actually, sorry I take that back – there’s a few ‘before and after’ shots on the page, and my body probably does resemble some of those before shots.

In case we haven’t met before, here’s a picture of my Pilates Body (minus my head, which is what happens when a three year old gets hold of the camera!) I know it’s not really important that you know what I look like, but maybe it helps, so here you go:

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Check that lack of six pack, that lack of thigh gap, the squooshy boobs in an ill-fitting sports bra (it must have been laundry day!). I’d also really like to thank Miss Three for the shocking angle of this image. You’d never see a Pilates marketing photo from this angle!

In fact, when it comes to Pilates Body internet imagery you don’t even need to type the word “body”, just type “Pilates” into an image search and this is the body you’ll find. Young, blonde, female, long and lean. You’d be forgiven for thinking the only people who can or do practice Pilates are Australia’s Next Top Model contestants.

Why, when we type Pilates, don’t we see more women with bodies like mine? Or images of the 14 year old girl in her school sports uniform doing Pilates to address her scoliosis, or the 50 year old truck driver doing Pilates to recover from his back injury, or the 70 year old woman doing Pilates to keep strong after her osteoporosis diagnosis? And I know we see lots of pregnant bellies in crop tops and “Mummy and Me” Pilates – but those Mums are, by and large, quite “yummy” – there’s rarely any new Mums pictured in beige maternity bras with baby spew down their shirt and dark circles under their eyes due to lack of sleep. It’s all matching crop tops and leggings with bouncy pony tails and no hint of a “mum-tum” at all.

Pilates has an image problem. And the problem is the general public is only being presented with one image of Pilates.

Part of this is due to the fact that Pilates instructors are, overwhelmingly “Pilates Bodies” types – but that is slowly changing – here’s just a selection of a few instructors doing great things to promote body positive Pilates over on Instagram.So hopefully the stereotype of Pilates just being for the beautiful bodies is slowly changing.

But we still have a long way to go – and a lot of that rests on us as instructors to lead the charge. Just as @sixthstreetpilates, @grace.movement.pilates, @pilates.fbg and @sheofdc are doing.

At a women’s health conference I attended recently I was seated next to a lovely Pilates studio owner who did indeed have a ‘Pilates Body’, she was stunning – the workshop we were in was about marketing and naturally we got chatting about marketing our respective studios through social media, branding and imagery. This lovely lady had two studios, and while she said one just ticked along nicely through word of mouth, the second, inner city studio, was all about “the body beautiful”. That was the marketing strategy that drove attendance at that studio.

“It’s all about the body beautiful”, she said, “That’s what the clients want.”

I had to politely disagree. The “body beautiful” is what people who value the body beautiful want. But there are also people who value the “body functional”, the “body pain free”, the “body recovering from pregnancy”, to “body challenged to see what it can perform”, the “body that feels so much more relaxed after this one hour per week to myself”, the “body that just wants to stretch and move”, the “body who likes to hang out with friends in a space that’s not a pub”, or the “body who appreciates mindful movement”.

There are a hundred reasons why someone might start, and continue, a Pilates practice, the least important of which is rock hard abs.

Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, wrote a book about his work. He named it “Return to Life Through Contrology*”, not “Return to Booty Through Contrology”. (*Contrology was what Joseph originally called his method, I guess he just wasn’t Kanye enough to personally name it after himself, his protégé’s named the method Pilates after his death.)

Pilates is about moving your body, and restoring it to functional movement patterns so that it can carry you through life. In the words of my lovely friend Taryn Brumfitt, of the Body Image Movement, “My body is not an ornament, it is the vehicle to my dreams”.

So if you have dreams, and you want your body to be strong, flexible and functional, in order to help you achieve them, maybe give Pilates a go. Even if you don’t have (or don’t want) a Pilates Body – you’ll fit in at my studio just fine!

Until next time – Sarah xx

ps. If you are keen to give pilates a go, and you’re close to me in western Adelaide – make sure you check out my “Buy five, get 10” discount – 10 classes for the price of five ($90). To book or check the schedule, click here.

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Coming up for air

Coming up for air

As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch, still in my PJs, hair unwashed, binge-watching Barbie episodes on Netflix with my feverish, and very unwell three year old by my side. We’ve been awake since around 10pm last night. It’s now 11am. I’m certain I can officially write this entire day off. Not a thing will be achieved. I’m pretty sure I won’t even stack the dishwasher.

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Stuck on the couch with a sick baby.

Today, I’m cool with that. I”m certainly not thrilled. I had stuff to do today. Work stuff. Home stuff. In fact, I was looking forward to several unscheduled hours to tie up a few loose ends. That’s all out the window now. No creating new resources for work. No writing modules for my new teen girls life skills program I’m currently creating. No decluttering the kids’ toy boxes. After two nights of broken non-existent sleep, I’ve got no energy to do anything but lie on the couch and mindlessly scroll through my Instagram feed. But, like I said, I’m taking it in my stride today. It’s not the end of the world…

But if it had have happened three months ago, or even this time last month, it might have been a different story.

You see, the past several months have been hectic, crazy busy, intense. And I don’t say that in a “look at me, I’m so busy and important” attention seeking kind of way. i actually say it in an “I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been taking any of my own advice for at least the past year” kind of way.

It hasn’t been pretty the past several months. My clinic work hours have been long, My in-the-house work hours have been even longer. My husband and I had fallen into the woeful routine of “High Five Parenting”, exchanging barely barely more than a high five with each other as one of us walks in the door and the other walks out, our schedules so tightly packed and co-ordinated that I’ve even colour coded our respective schedules on my Google calendar.

The children, I hope, have remained relatively unscathed – I, on the other hand, have not. Coming off a period of adrenal fatigue from 12 to 18 months ago, from which I’ve never fully recovered, for these past few months I wasn’t managing well. I simply had too much to do and couldn’t do all of it. I also simply couldn’t shake this low level cold/flu/sickness that extended across several months. Coupled with a lack of motivation and energy this resulted in missed deadlines, forgotten emails, un-returned phone calls, turning up late to appointments, and a general feeling of letting people down. Which of course led to guilt, so much guilt. Plus a few little bouts of anxiety – such as the time I woke up at 4am, convinced I had left a candle burning in my clinic, and unable to get back to sleep. It wasn’t until I did an intentional drive-past at 8am on my day off, to check that the building hadn’t burned to the ground, that I could let that worry go.

None of this is like me. Not the real me. But it’s unfortunately too indicative of the “too much on my plate” me. It’s also exactly what I support women through in my work. I know, irony, right. Like I said, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been taking nearly enough of my own advice. With a diet consisting of way too much sugar and processed foods, and too may days consisting of too little physical movement, but still not enough (contemplative) stillness, my lifestyle has been totally at odds with my message.

That’s a particularly hard thing for an allied health professional to admit. I’ve struggled to say it out loud – for fear that if I admit to not looking after myself it will somehow render me unprofessional or incompetent. A health professional who doesn’t look after her own health? A health professional who has put on 20kg and can’t shift it? Oh, the shame. But it doesn’t make me any less of an OT or Pilates instructor, and it certainly doesn’t make me any less of a person. But what it does do is simply prove that I’m human. It also gives me a greater insight into just how effing hard it can be sometimes. For people who’ve never experienced this kind of exhaustion, fatigue or anxiety, they simply can’t understand that total lack of ability to get out of bed in the morning – even if it’s for something you love, or have been desperately looking forward to for weeks. That bone-aching tiredness that prevents you from moving your legs at more than walking pace, even when you so genuinely “want to want” to go for a run. That incredulous feeling of overwhelm when you have so much to do and don’t know where to start, so you simply choose to do nothing. Unless you’ve been there, you might be able to empathise, but you don’t truly understand. It’s a very bizarre and unsettling feeling. It makes you question your worthiness as a person, and makes you wonder when, or if, the “real you” might ever show herself again.

This isn’t a situation that’s specific to any one group of people, but I have seen it so, so much in working mothers lately – particularly in those mothers who run their own business. Being a business owner / mum is a struggle every single day, and for those of us in the midst of it, it can seem that no-one else sees exactly how hard it is, as my wonderful friend Carly from Sass Place so eloquently explained in this blog post.

But, luckily for me. It has all finally seemed to turn around in the past month. Since about mid September I’ve felt like I’ve finally come up for air. That i can come home from my day at work without contemplating another few hours on the laptop to finish some important task. That I can take a full day off work without feeling the pull of what else I “should” be doing. That I’m no longer rushing – everywhere and everyone. That I can go to bed at night without a mind frustratingly going over everything I didn’t tick off my “to-do” list. So what’s changed? In short, I started heeding my own advice.

comingupforair

I made a concerted effort to say “no” and “yes” in a more considered fashion. Better boundaries with working hours and additional requests that required a “no”, for which previously I may have said “yes”. And more “yes” to extra quiet time, earlier nights, screen time limits, meditation, and the reading of real, actual books. I had several big events I was committed to in the past few months, including three interstate trips in five weeks. Some of them were non-negotiable, some of them I brought upon myself and potentially shouldn’t have. I’ve certainly learned a lesson about over-committing myself.

I asked for help. I outsourced tasks within my business. I booked a few sessions with a counselor. I had an art therapy session. These things all helped. Yes, they all cost money. But for me, they were worth every penny – and more. I had to invest in myself. What I was saving in terms of dollars, I was paying for in my dwindling wellbeing.

I stopped pushing so hard and accepted a level of consistency in my business. There’s no magic solution for this one unfortunately, for those of you in the slog of a start up phase of a business. Maybe I always had to put in the hard work I have done over the past two and a half years to get my business to the point where it is now running comfortably and I’m about to start a waiting list. But what I do know now is that I’ve resisted the urge to add an extra clinic day to my caseload or add more after hours sessions, when previously I would have done just that – eager to provide more services. Right now I know that’s not the right move for me. It’s time to put a boundary on myself. What I also know is that while I perhaps couldn’t have brought my business this far with less work, I could have (and should have) implemented better self care strategies. There were absolutely habits and behaviours that I overlooked which could have made a big difference to my wellbeing.

I stopped mentally beating myself up for not achieving my self-imposed expectations. The big “aha” moment came when my counselor asked me – “Have you always placed these kinds of high expectations on yourself?” It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. I can spot a chronic over-achiever a mile away, but I couldn’t identify it in myself. What I’d always told myself was simply hard work, commitment and drive, was actually, in fact, great expectations and setting myself up for a fall. I just couldn’t see it in myself. I expected more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else. Who else can say that about themselves?

Which brings me back to today – as I sit here, trapped on my couch by an overheating toddler. This moment, a mere month ago, would have sent me into a tail spin. I would be trying to finish presentations or balance my expense account while caring for a sick child, getting distracted, making mistakes, and ensuring whatever tasks I tried to do only got done half as well, while taking twice the time. It all came from a place of fear. That my business, or perhaps my world, might fall apart if I didn’t keep pushing. When in fact it was the opposite. It was the push that was causing the cracks to deepen.

I’m not saying there won’t be another time where its appropriate for me to start pushing again. But I know that right now, is not the time. A forced slow down is exactly what I – and my family – need right now.

So today, as i sign off from this blog post. I’ll turn this laptop off, switch Netflix over to re-runs of the Gilmore Girls, now that munchkin is sleeping and just embrace today as a day when nothing will get done. Because the world won’t fall apart., my business will still be standing tomorrow, and I’ll still be good at my job after a day off.

Until next time,

Keep well, Sarah xx

Anyone for incontinence cake?

Anyone for incontinence cake?

It’s not often a birthday cake disappoints me. After all, who doesn’t love birthday cake?

But this one did.

I know, I know, it’s supposed to be funny – and I admit, it’s an excellent cake in terms of technique – it looks so amazingly real! I found it on Facebook (of course), and the story goes that the lady whose birthday it was chose this cake herself, because she wanted something different and funny for her birthday.

And maybe I just have no sense of humour, but as someone who works in women’s health, I just don’t find incontinence funny. I’ve also spent a few years working in aged care facilities in the past, and as anyone who has worked in this industry can tell you – incontinence is no laughing matter in aged care.

Did you know continence issues are one of the major reasons people are admitted to aged care facilities – when they can no longer manage their own continence, and their family can’t (or won’t) manage it for them. It’s heartbreaking.

Did you also know that continence issues are one of the leading causes of falls in the elderly? So many falls happen overnight during toilet trips. And with falls come other injuries, such as fractures and head injuries. And so it goes that continence becomes a much bigger problem, and absolutely not a laughing matter.

But when you’re just 50 years old – and aged care isn’t even on the horizon, it’s just fun, fun, funny. Right?

I think the issue here is that it’s an “if you can’t laugh at it, you’ll cry” sort of situation. Incontinence, or “leakage” is something that affects so many women. It’s extremely common, but it’s also extraordinarily embarrassing, shameful and life altering. Women make all kinds of changes to their daily lives to avoid or hide their “leakage” issues. Which is why we laugh at it – because it’s easier to pretend it’s funny, rather than the fact that it’s destroying our self confidence and self concept.

I’ve blogged about “leakage” a few times before, I’ve spoken about how there’s more to it than just pelvic muscle weakness, and about which exercises are safe for your pelvic floor, and I’ve also written this post about what I call the “normalisation” of female incontinence. I write about it a lot because part of my mission is to help people understand that leakage for women may be common, but that doesn’t mean it is normal. #commonnotnormal

Because I’m a big fan of prevention and early intervention I often talk about pelvic floor health for new Mums on my site. But I can and do work with woman of all ages. In fact, the majority of my clients at the moment are women whose children are school age. And yes, I’ve even worked with 50 year olds!

I think perhaps the issue is that I use the term “postnatal” a lot. Because I’m guessing most people associate “postnatal” to those first 12 months or so after birth.

But I have a little phrase I like to use:

“Once you’re postnatal, you’re always postnatal”.

Basically that means that the issues that can affect you in that first year after childbirth can actually stick around for a a very long time, years, decades even. But the good news is that you can address it, it’s never too late to work on improving your pelvic floor function. Just because you’ve leaked for the past five, 15 or 25 years, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be dry again. You just need the right support to help you reach that goal – that is, if like me, you don’t think it’s a laughing matter.

If you want help, or know someone who might want help, please contact me, even if it’s just to clarify any queries or questions you might have.

Cheers, Sarah

Motherhood and architecture

Motherhood and architecture

Do you ever have random thoughts crop up at you from nowhere?

I most certainly do. And so it was that last night, I was lying awake in bed, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of my three year old’s chest when my thoughts, as they tend to do, turned towards the concept of motherhood. Anyone who knows me or has read a few of my blogs would know that I’m fascinated by the topic of motherhood. It intrigues me – the politics, the intrigue, the martyrdom, the drudgery, the misconceptions, the mummy wars. All of it. I often find it consumes my thoughts and, perhaps I’m simply a boring conversationalist, but yes, my conversations with people generally tend to navigate back towards motherhood too. It doesn’t help that my work revolves around motherhood and mothers. So I’m surrounded by it. Obsessed, my husband says.

But back to last night. At 2.30am, I was for some reason, comparing in my mind motherhood to other formal professions. And I came up with this random analogy of the role of a mother in comparison to an architect.

Bear with me here.

I was thinking about the theories, concepts and rules that underpin all those things good mothers “should” do. And I began to wonder about how many of these “shoulds” are actually 100pc essential, must have, must do, non-negotiables. And how much of motherhood is completely up to us? Totally at our own discretion, upon which to exert our own creative licence, to adorn with our own preferences and beliefs, and to orchestrate according to our own wants and needs.

And it made me think of architecture.

Granted, most of my architectural knowledge comes from binge watching Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs, but here’s how I see it:

Architects have a few rules they MUST stick by. They have to make sure the creation they design abides by the laws of physics, that it is structurally sound and safe. That it’s stable, and won’t all come crashing down with the first winter downpour.

But apart from that, they have creative licence. They can do what they want. And they are applauded and lauded for it. In architecture, creativity and design flair are commended. Sure an architect works to a brief set down by their client. But within that brief they can go for broke. Try something out. Client doesn’t like it? Grab your eraser and try something different.

So why not Mums?

What are the rules of motherhood?

What are the rules of motherhood?

Why can’t we value and express our individuality and creativity. Why can’t we curate our own style of motherhood and implement it with confidence and flair? We have clients too. In our case, the clients are our children. And bet your bottom dollar your child will let you know if they don’t like your style of motherhood.

But I have a feeling that most of us never let our creative motherhood flag fly. Not for fear of what our pint-sized clients might say. But for concern about going against what the “experts” recommend, getting some cardinal rule of motherhood wrong, and being judged harshly by the “Mummy Mafia” – whoever they are.

We’ve lost our ability to mother intuitively, from our own hearts and minds, and so defer our parenting decisions to others. Why?

It’s because we don’t have rules. Sure we have morality and tradition and research and guidelines galore. But all of those things differ across the globe, and have so many motherhood theories have been muddied and altered and bent and broken over the decades. Certainly there are some theories that hold more weight than others – I often speak about them here on this blog. But theories aren’t rules. And they are still always open to interpretation.

So as it stands there are no set rules in motherhood.

And there’s the major difference between architects and mothers – at least the major difference in regard to this analogy. An architect’s “musts” are set in stone. I’m sure there’s a bunch of engineers and some sort of giant building quality standards rule-book document that outlines beyond a shadow of a doubt just what it takes to ensure a structurally sound design under the laws of physics. (Because unlike the “laws” of motherhood, the laws of physics haven’t changed at all in the past few centuries). Here’s another difference. Architects have a bunch of useful tools to help them abide by their musts, to check all the necessary angles and physics calculations, to make sure their design is up to scratch. Those fancy calculators, the good old protractor, and don’t forget all those computer assisted drafting software programs. And then I bet they have to get whatever they design checked off by someone before it gets built. I don’t know the name of the man or woman with the red rubber stamp. But I know they’re there. Giving a definitive yes or no.

Mothers never get a definitive yes or no.

That’s what makes motherhood hard.

Sure, there will be an expert for every situation to give you an absolute yes or no. But take two steps to your left and you’ll find some other expert who will give you the exact opposite response for that particular situation.

There’s very few “musts” that 100 percent of experts can agree on when it comes to motherhood. And that’s what makes motherhood hard.

So in an effort to make it a little easier for you, here’s my list of motherhood “musts”:

1: You MUST figure out what works for you and your family – try a hundred things – always with the best of intentions – and figure out what does and doesn’t work.

2: You MUST go into motherhood with an enormous sense of compassion – for yourself, for your child, for your husband or partner, for your own parents, for the family dog. For everyone. Compassion is like magic dust. Worth it’s weight in gold.

3: You MUST realise that no one thing works for 100pc of people, 100pc of the time – nothing.

4: You MUST live a life according to your values – those guiding principles by which you aim to create a richer, fuller, more meaningful life, for you and your family – figure out what the are and live by them in all that you do – including parenthood.

5: You MUST have confidence in your ability to know what’s right for you – you’re the expert in your own life. After all it is YOUR life.

6: You MAY disregard any of the above advice – because, see point one again.

So there you have my “musts”. I hope they help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check ABC iview for the latest episode of Grand Designs.

Until next time,

Sarah xx

Pelvic Organ Prolapse – Interview with Heba Shaheed, The Pelvic Expert

Pelvic Organ Prolapse is a serious condition affecting many women, particularly those in the postnatal period. However, it is an often misunderstood, or even unknown, condition to so many.

In a world where so many women of all ages are reluctant to even say the word “vagina” out loud, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a condition affecting a woman’s vagina and the rest of her pelvic region is still not widely spoken about.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse affects one in every two to three postnatal women

But with statistics showing that between 30 to 50pc of postnatal women experiencing a prolapse, this is clearly a topic that needs more awareness.

Particularly because Pelvic Organ Prolapse can have such a significant impact on a woman’s overall physical wellbeing, and her sense of body image, self esteem and mental health – particularly if it is left untreated.

In this interview I speak with Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Heba Shaheed, who provides us with advice on what Pelvic Organ Prolapse is, how and why it occurs and how we can treat and prevent it. Heba has such a wonderful way of explaining this issue and I’m sure you’ll love her ‘balls and rubber bands’ imagery, which makes this topic so much easier to comprehend.

Click the link below to watch:

Great information hey? Heba has such a great knowledge on all areas pelvic health. If you want to connect with her you can find her website here, connect with her on twitter here, or visit her facebook page here.

Want more information?

This video was initially recorded as a bonus content module for the Bloom Wellbeing postnatal wellbeing program, Core Floor Restore. For more information on Core Floor Restore, visit bloomwellbeing.teachable.com/courses/

My lost Mother’s Group

My lost Mother’s Group

Something interesting popped up on my personal Facebook feed today, it was a memory from three years ago of the little announcement I made about us moving from our hometown at the time, Yeppoon, Queensland, back to my old home town of Adelaide.
 
Apart from the cane toads, flying cockroaches and biannual tropical cyclones. My husband and I loved living in Queensland. The weather was amazing for eight months of the year, our lifestyle was super laid back and we both had stable jobs.

More importantly for me, it was where I became a mother.

meandellabeach

Yeppoon. Birthplace of Sarah, the mother.

So in a sense, Sarah, mother of two, was born in Yeppoon. It was here that my metamorphosis from woman to ‘woman and mother’ occurred.
It was where I met and connected with the amazing group of women from my mother’s group. The friendships I made during that period, in that sleepy little coastal town, were something different to any other friendships I’d experienced until, or since, that time. I still remember our first mother’s group session, run by the gorgeous child health nurse, Tracey. I dressed Ella in her cutest little ruffled outfit. I watched as the new Mums around me fumbled with maternity bras and squirming babies, and I second guessed my decision to put Ella down on a blanket on the floor, ‘everyone else is just holding their baby, am I allowed to put mind on the floor???’
EllaFirstMothersGroup

First day of Mothers Group – must choose extremely cute, but highly impractical outfit…

There’s something unique about the friends you make while deep in the trenches of early motherhood.

A shared, but largely unspoken bond. Those women had an enormous influence on my experience of new motherhood. Whether they knew it or not, it was their presence that carried me through the rough days and the sleepless nights and the intense feeling of not knowing what the hell I was doing. Knowing I could turn up to our regular Friday morning catch up at the park and have a sympathetic ear to hear my struggle made all the difference. It got me through every single week. Especially the hard ones.
 
When my husband and I made the decision to move home to Adelaide after our three years in Queensland it was for one main reason: we wanted our children to have more opportunities to build close relationships with their extended families here in South Australia. But in making this choice with my children’s future relationships front of mind, I failed to realise that the choice I was making would have profound implications on my own relationships. 
As adults, making decisions is an enormous part of our lives. As a parent, life-decision making is an even greater emotionally charged experience. Weighing up the pros and cons now requires two pro-con lists. One for us, and one for our children – add a third list if your partner and you have differing needs and opionions. It’s a rare moment we can make a life decision where the pros and cons on all of these respective lists line up perfectly. Rarely will a decision support every single one of our wants, needs and desires – as both a human and a parent.
Which brings me back to our decision to move. Though I was excited to be back home closer to my old friends, most of whom now also had their own children, and with whom I was looking forward to now sharing the experience of motherhood, I knew I would be sad to leave my Poon-town mum friends. But I didn’t realise exactly how much of a gaping hole it would leave in my psyche. Firstly, can I say, it’s been amazing to reconnect with my old friends, I love them to bits and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Secondly, I’ve been immensely fortunate to have made wonderful new friends since moving home – mostly other mothers, and mostly from the circles of small business owners in which I now mingle.

So while I’m now surrounded by amazing women, who also happen to be mothers and are also true friends, it’s just not the same.

They weren’t there in the trenches with me in those early days – we didn’t bond over lattes and stories of cracked nipples and leaking boobs. Our children didn’t grow up side by side. We didn’t use each other as important sounding posts around issues such as sleeping routines, introducing solids or which childcare to choose.
 
I didn’t realise how much the loss of my mother’s group would impact me.
The crew

The crew – that’s Ella, in the bottom left corner.

I haven’t been able to re-create a mother’s group situation here in Adelaide. My old friends are spread all across the city so it’s quite an effort to get to each other, and we all work different days, so it’s a rare occasion I connect with more than one other mother at a time. My new friends are from my business life, so we tend to gather sans children to discuss accounting software and world domination. And so I find myself mothers group-less.
Even now, three years on from my move, when I spy other mothers groups at the park (when I’m there alone with my girls), I become envious. A little pang of longing in my belly for my old mama-crew. Some days I want to gatecrash these strangers’ playdates and ask if I can pretty please be their friend.
 

Perhaps I’m romanticising it too much.

Maybe our little crew would have quietly dissolved over the years, as the commitments of work schedules, school drop offs and extra-curricular taxiing of children took hold of our worlds. But maybe not.
 
Maybe this Friday I’d still be wandering down to Appleton Park, oohing and aahing over Steph’s new baby, chatting with Marise about the best online store for ballet shoes and trading Thermomix recipes with Paloma. Maybe Cassie and I would still be running laps of Taranganba, dodging cane toads at dusk. Maybe Di and I would be sipping chilled Sav Blanc on her balcony overlooking the bay while the men-folk tend the barbecue. Surely I’d still be chatting to my neighbour Leanne over the fence, while our girls made faces at each other through gaps in the palings…
 
Maybe not. And if I moved back to Yeppoon tomorrow, could I just pick it all up again – would it be the same. Or is it true that you can never go home?
Maybe it’s not just the mums group that I miss. But what it represents: a different time, a different community, a different lifestyle. Maybe under all of my city girl, business owner bluster I’m just a small town beach bum who’s happiest while on maternity leave and elbow deep in burping rugs and nappy changes? Maybe I’m actually mourning not just the loss of my mums group, but also the loss of my childbearing days, with hubby now on the list to “get ping and pong sorted out”. Either way, there’s a definite sense of loss whenever I think about my mothers group.
 
I’m not quite sure what my point is here today. But I guess I just want to honour that little crew of mine. To remind myself and them of what an important part of my life they were. And to remind other new mums everywhere to, as much as possible, enjoy this special time and this unique relationship with these women who have been catapulted into your life based purely on the fact that you all gave birth around the same time.
And if you do have a wonderful mothers group, let me know just one thing…
Can I join it too?
Until next time,
Sarah xx