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
Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day

Daughter.

Sister.

Friend.

Student.

Athlete.

Worker.

Confidante.

Non-comformist.

Activist.

Performer.

Lover.

Artist.

Seeker of truth.

Seeker of light.

Traveller.

Adventurer.

Mother.

All those things you were, before you were a mother, you still are.

Just with greater complexity. Additional intensity.

Because you are also a mother.

concept of love and family. hands of mother and baby

And in the very moment you became a mother, the whole world changed.

A change so dramatic it shook your very core for months, perhaps years. Though it was imperceptible to others.

Did it change the way you viewed yourself and all those “before you were a mother” roles? Perhaps you gave them up. Dismissed them as unimportant. Or did you decide they no longer blended into your new filtered world. That the sharp, daring angles of your previous life no longer fit in this surreal new landscape of motherhood.

Because, you became a mother. And you will forever see the world through the lens of motherhood.

At that moment your child entered your life, a filter was thrown across your world view. One that seemed perhaps so uncertain, so strange, so fragile and frightening at the time. But as time passed, you slowly became accustomed to this foreign haze. And now, you barely notice its existence. For that filter is your new normal. And if it were ever torn from your life, the world would suddenly seem unnatural and cold and harsh and a lesser place to be.

Because even though you are still all those things you were, before you were a mother, you are now a mother. And that changes everything.

And that is why we celebrate today.

Because you are a mother – and everything you do, every choice you ever make, will be, in some way, influenced by the fact you are a mother.

But you are also so much more than just a mother. You are still all those things you once were, for as long as you still wish to be. And whatever you else you so desire to become. Because while a filter may change the way you see things, it doesn’t prevent you from seeing them. It doesn’t exclude you from being them.

You can be whatever you want to be. You can be a mother, yet so much more.

Be more. Be you. Just more you.

Happy mothers day to each and every mother.

All my love, Sarah xx

Don’t read the books…

Don’t read the books…

I’ve been doing more decluttering lately. I love it. It’s become my thing. I’ve been ruthless. Clothing, handbags, kids toys, the bathroom cabinet…. all decluttered. Without getting all woo-woo on you, it really does feel like energy flows much better in my uncluttered home. If only I could convince my children of that fact…

So yes, decluttering. I’m a convert. But like anyone, I still have my decluttering Achilles heel.

My bookshelf.

I love books. Always have, always will. I was the self-proclaimed read-a-thon champion in primary school, and I can still knock over a whimsical chick-lit novel in one day if I really put my mind to it (but only if the kids are staying at Grans.)

So I have quite a few books. Fiction, of course. But now I’m mostly buying non-fiction, work related tomes, and my bookshelf is beginning to buckle under the weight. Sure I buy a few things on kindle these days. But if I can, I always prefer to buy the physical copy. All the better to dog-ear, highlight and cover in post-it notes, I say.

So while I was perusing my overflowing bookshelf recently, trying to decide which books I could possibly bear to have torn from my possession, I came across all those baby books I accumulated while pregnant with my first. You know the ones. You probably got most of them at your baby shower, Kaz, Robyn, Tizzie… all the usual suspects. Actually I bet at least three people tried to give you a copy of Up The Duff, am I right??

This isn't all of them....

This isn’t all of them….

Seeing these titles reminded me of something my beautiful child health nurse , Tracey, said to me on one of her visits, when I, as any good bookworm new mother would, asked her what was the absolute, number one, best baby book to read to help me figure out what the heck to do with my baby.

With a sideways glance at the precariously balanced tower of parenting books on my bedside table, she simply said to me.

“Don’t read the baby books, read your baby”.

It was wonderful advice for me at the time, and it has always stuck with me. As a brand new mother, I was desperate for knowledge and advice, I scoured ALL the books, all the time, furtively searching for that one paragraph, that one sentence that would miraculously show me the way, that would cease my five week old daughter’s constant wailing and provide me with the tools and skills I needed to be a good parent. Looking back now I see how futile my incessant searching was. Instead of reading whenever I had a few moments of peace, I should have been resting, better yet, sleeping. Perhaps then I would have had a little more energy to manage the late nights, and a little extra zen to manage my own response to my baby’s crying.

So at that moment, the advice to stop reading books and start reading my baby was exactly what I needed to hear. And over time, I understood that Tracey wasn’t advocating getting rid of the baby books altogether. But at that moment, from her many years of experience supporting new mothers, she could see how much I was trying to intellectualise motherhood, and how I desperately needed to get my nose out of the books and stop looking for a written answer to such a visceral, experiential issue. I’m forever grateful to her for guiding me down a more intuitive path. And it’s one I continue to promote to the women in my programs and clinic today.

My advice: “Read the books, but read your baby too.”

I know how much we all value books. We know there are many people out there who are much smarter than we are, who have done the research, and who understand the microscopic workings of a baby’s brain and anatomy so much better than you or I ever will.  Luckily for us, these intelligent people put what they know to be true in book form pretty frequently. So yes, there is always value in seeking support from the books.

But just remember that a book doesn’t know you. It doesn’t know your baby. It doesn’t understand your connection or your family dynamics. Every mother is different, and every baby is different. There is no one-size fits all approach to parenting and babycare. What works for one mother may not necessarily work for another. And what works for a mother with her first child, may not be the answer for her second or subsequent child.

So what do we do? Use the books (or indeed the blogs, including this one) wisely. Consider them as a research tool, or a guidepost, but not as an absolute. See them as a suggestion, rather than an order. Most importantly read each book through your own lens. Read each book with critique in mind.

Most importantly, learn how to trust your own intuition a bit more. I’ve lost count of the number of mothers who have said to me “I wish I’d trusted my instincts more” with regard to their early parenting days. Mother’s intuition isn’t world famous for no reason, after all. You’ve got it. You just need to start trusting yourself enough to use it.

Until next time,

Sarah

xx

Is Pilates the reason I don’t wet my knickers when I run anymore?

Is Pilates the reason I don’t wet my knickers when I run anymore?

Women ask me the BEST questions!

Since I moved into this field of pregnancy and postnatal wellbeing, the funniest thing has been happening – I now get asked all manner of questions I never thought I’d be asked when I started my OT career.

In one-to-one appointments, group Pilates classes, Facebook forums and even at fancy-pants awards dinners, women start asking me the most awesome questions whenever I tell them what it is that I do.

Here’s a few of the questions I’ve had in just the past week – and my answers.

Q: “I just realised that since I started Pilates, I haven’t needed to wear a Tena-lady anymore when I go running – could that be due to the Pilates?”
A: Yes!! Pilates is awesome! (ps, this lady was talking about Pilates with another instructor – who is clearly awesome – so I’m not blowing my own trumpet here!)

No Tena Lady required!

No Tena Lady required!

Q: “If I had a pelvic organ prolapse, would I know about it?”
A: Not necessarily, there are different stages of prolapse, and in the early stages the prolapse is still contained within your body – it’s not until the late stages that “things pop out” of your body – so if something doesn’t seem quite right with your lady parts – get it checked out by your gynaecologist or women’s health physio.

Keep those pelvic organs right where they should be!

Keep those pelvic organs right where they should be!

Q: I had a C-section, do I still need to worry about pelvic floor rehab?
A: Yes, definitely. It’s not just birth that puts strain on the pelvic floor. Nine months of your little baby bouncing up and down on that collection of muscles will definitely stretch and strain the pelvic floor. Rehab is always recommended after pregnancy – no matter what type of delivery, it may just be a different level of rehab.

Pelvic floor rehab is for all women, no matter what type of birth you had.

Pelvic floor rehab is for all women, no matter what type of birth you had.

Q: What’s the minimum amount of time to wait between pregnancies, from a physical recovery perspective?
This is a tricky one, and we really need to look at it from a functional perspective, rather than on a timeline. It would definitely be advised to wait until any diastasis recti (abdominal separation) is healed and core strength is restored, ditto for pelvic floor difficulties. So you need to be physically “put back together” in order to give your body the best chance of staying strong during your next pregnancy and recovering again post-pregnancy. But women also need to consider how well their hormonal levels have rebalanced, and how well their nutritional stores have recovered. If women are still nutritionally and hormonally depleted when they conceive again, then this will put an added strain on their body during that subsequent pregnancy. This would differ for every woman. I dare say many women don’t get back to being fully functional and balanced before getting pregnant again, even if a year or two has passed since they gave birth, and this can lead to increased risk of further and more pronounced dysfunction through the second pregnancy.

Ready for baby number two?

Ready for baby number two?

So there you have it – just a few of the conversations I have with women every day! I truly have an awesome job.

Now over to you. Do you have a burning question? Feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to respond anonymously on my Facebook page in a Q&A post.

Alternatively, you could always join my Body Mind Baby program, which begins in Adelaide on Thursday, March 17. Find out more about it here, or call me on 0432 420 846 if you want to chat about it in person.

Until next time,

Be well and live your best life.

Cheers, Sarah xx

When is a mother most at risk of postnatal depression?

When is a mother most at risk of postnatal depression?

We often think of postnatal depression as something affecting only new mothers with young babies. But recent research has shown that PND can persist for much longer than previously thought.

Check out my latest guest blog post over on the Mum Central page here.

Mother with  daughter

If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may have depression, please seek support from your GP or another health professional.

For immediate crisis support, please call LIFELINE on 13 11 14.

For more information on PND visit the PANDA website here or the Beyond Blue website here.

Sarah xx