Mama Be Kind…..

Flicking through social media I find myself coming across articles and phrases which talk about a mamahood state of…..’touched out’, ‘postnatal depletion, ‘the condition all mums should know about!!!!’

Exhausted, sleep deprived, low mood, headachy, tired, unmotivated, stressed, anxious, irritable!!!!! Are just a sample of the words which appear to accompany the above phrases!!!!

Some articles read like a warning and seem to draw the image of red flashing lights and sirens to accompany them as you scroll by. Others seem to portray a state of honor in wearing this mamahood badge of exhaustion…..But I ask myself as a professional and a Mama….don’t most mamas say ‘yes yes yes’ to one or all of these experiences at some point during their day/week/month throughout their mammering journey.

So where does that leave us????…..what do these messages say about the mental health and wellbeing of mamas…….have these phrases always been around but are now being unveiled by social media…..have these states of emotional well being changed as societal pressures grow…..

It left me reflecting on whether this information is helpful to mamas…..

Does all this talk in social media normalize the possible emotional difficulties of mammering in a way that spreads awareness of parental mental health and wellbeing, promoting help seeking?!?!

Or….. does it spread a sense of competition and achievement in a battle of who is more exhausted…. promoting a ‘just keep battling on’ approach to mammering.

Or…Does reading about the challenges of mammering and possible experiences of some help us to keep on mammering in a way that leaves us and our babies happy healthy and thriving?!?!

 

From a professional standpoint, information is knowledge and knowledge is power. From the stand point of a Mama who is yes tired and yes at times emotionally depleted from the unconditional and endless giving that a mama gives….Is it that some times the way in which information is portrayed through certain mediums enhances anxiety and if not done with care and sensitivity…. not actually promote ways in which to build well being and mental health during parenthood.

As a mama, I know all to well the feeling in the moment where you either say to yourself or out aloud ‘I just cant mama any more today’. Its been a night of sleeplessness, followed by a day where your mama resources are being handed out left right and centre, to the buba who is teething and needs extra cuddles and breastfeeds and to the toddler who is feeling the stress and needing lots of one on one time to help move through the normally easy transitions of the day.

This moment of ‘I cant do this anymore’ may be fleeting, it may pass by momentarily, but it is there. It’s an indication that you mama, need to fuel your mama tank up with compassion, care, rest and kindness. How do we take this moment of ‘mama I cant mama no more’ and turn it into ‘MAMA LETTS MAMA SOME MORE’.

Know yourself. Mamahood is a journey, it’s a journey of growth, of trial, of change, and it’s a journey of reflection. Constantly as a Mama we are reflecting on what our mammering choices have been, and how this impacts on the wellbeing of our children.

vintage suitcase

From one Mama to another, just as its important to engage in reflections about how we mama, its just as important to reflect on mama, how are you.

Learning to reflect and get to know (maybe for the first time, maybe all over again) what builds us up and what knocks us down, is important for our mental health and well being and important for the care and love we provide our babies.

Just as our little beings are wonderously unique, so are we. Each Mama will have a different capacity to cope. A different threshold of ‘mama I cant mama no more’. A different response to stress and pressure. A different way of coping. And a different way of taking care of you.

Seeking support from a friend, or professional can assist you to learn more about yourself and more about how you can learn to identify when moments of ‘Mama I cant Mama no More’ may be approaching.

Mama Being Frank…Know Yourself. Know your signs. Know what your needs are, and Know how you can get these needs met.

 

Dr Dan Siegel, a well known child psychologist writes a metaphor about the flow of a river….a river of well being. When you are in the river of well being, when things mostly feel calm and your capacity to cope is at its best, your boat flows freely down stream…..when things get tough, when your are feeling depleted, and your capacity to cope is diminished, your boat may become wedged on either side of the river. Dr Siegel explains that your boat may become wedged on one of two sides…..the side of rigidity….or the other side……the side of…… chaos…

 

reflection

For me, when I am feeling depleted, when my capacity to cope with the every day demands of mamahood is wavering…my boat moves to the side of rigidity. This is my signal. When I notice myself reacting to things that feel out of my control, things that normally would slide on bye …whether it’s the never ending picking up of random objects that present themselves on the floor, the on your toes behaviour of my active explorative little toddler, or the common dilema of buba not sleeping when you were certain beyond certain that buba needed a sleep…..When these things throw me…..I know its time to step back and reach into my bag of mamahood survival tools. Tools that will help move me back into the river of well-being.

As Mamas I truly feel we often bounce from side to side and back into the river…this is normal. Mamahood is a demanding journey, physically and emotionally. That’s why its so very important to know your signs, what tells you that its time to rest, time to seek help, time to sit and have a cuppa, time to let that load of washing sit in the washer. And its important to know, what helps you Mama……to feel ok.

Each Mamas journey is alike yet unique in so many ways. Knowing yourself, being mindful of your mental health and well being is the thing that’s going to take you from ‘mama I cant mama no more’ too……’Mama lett’s Mama Some More’.

 

kindness 2

 

Article originally published via Wonderful Mama

 

 

 

A Journey Like No Other…..A Job Like No Other….A Thank You Like No Other……..

Pregnancy, Child Birth and Early Parenthood……each an experience like no other, together a journey hard to put down in words. A time of emotional, physical and self change, a time of bewilderment, a time of learning, a time of physical and emotional pain, a time of joy, and unconditional love and a time of vulnerability…..all in all…..a time in a parents life…that is like no other.

baby hand

I am a Mama and a Psychologist who has recently started on a new little venture……well being writing and Blogging!!!!! Mama Be Frank!!

Logo

 

The truth is, I was given a wonderful opportunity to write an article for a wonderful Magazine…..WONDERFUL MAMA!!!! This opportunity was hard to refuse as it gave me the opportunity to combine my two passions…being a mum to my beautiful children and being a psychologist to many amazing to be, new and second/third/fourth time parents and their kiddies!

 I thought (without thinking) that as a professional who was trained and practiced in the areas of emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and early parenthood and parenting…that I would have this stuff sorted as I entered into the journey of motherhood!! But the truth is I was far from realizing what it meant to actually live out some of the things that I encouraged my clients to be mindful of and to try.

 And that’s where my passion is…. being real, being honest, being FRANK, as a MAMA to other MAMAS and Dads, and as a professional…..in sharing my experiences, in hope that they may help other MAMA’s, MAMA to be’s and fathers……in some way.

So why you might ask….am I choosing to write this blog piece and what is it all about!?!?!?!….

I recently gave birth to our second healthy and happy little girl. Fortunately we have been blessed with two ‘normal pregnancies’ ‘normal deliveries’ and two beautifully happy and healthy baby girls.

For me the biggest difference between these two experiences was not how I carried my baby during pregnancy, how the labour progressed, or how I felt leading up to bubas arrival. For my partner, and me the most significant difference between the two experiences is the type of care and support we received through pregnancy and beyond.

We were lucky enough (and I say lucky because the availability is so sparse) to be offered a place in the Midwifery Group Practice Program at Wollongong Hospital. For those who are not familiar with the program….it is a program funded by the Public Health System. The program aligns a small team of miwdifes with each expecting mother and father. The parents primary midwife provides care to the parents through pregnancy, at the delivery of their baby and for a period of time post natally (once bub has arrived).

 

I feel immensely passionate about sharing our experiences in an attempt to provide awareness and support to the program and most importantly to share a public acknowledgement to our midwife, Anne, who supported us through a journey like no other, who has a job like no other (I couldn’t imagine carrying the emotions and pressure of bringing a new little human into intensely expecting parents) and who therefore deserves a thank you like no other.

purple heart

 

Our first experience of the care received through the public system was not a negative one. We missed out on a place in the Midwifery Group Practice Program and chose to go with shared care (care provided by our Family General Practitioner and the midwives at Wollongong Hospital).

The significant difference between our two experiences is all about the Relationship and how the relationship impacted on how we felt during our journey.

The relationship we developed with our Midwife, Anne, throughout our pregnancy, delivery and postnatally, is a relationship hard to describe. It is short in duration but so special, it will never be forgotten.

To have a health professional who you can turn to and rely on, throughout the journey of bringing a new baby into the world, provides a level of support and reassurance like no other. To have a professional know your story, and be able to provide you with the level of care and support you need and deserve as an expecting parent, has really set us on a new path with the arrival of our second beautiful baby girl.

As a Mama, it has meant having someone who I trust and feel comfortable with, available and able to provide practical, emotional support for me and my baby, at a time where seeking help and support is so crucial to the well being of both mum and bub.

As a Psychologist who has worked in the field of perinatal mental health, my experiences in the field have showed me that the support and experiences a mother has during pregnancy, birth and beyond, has a significant impact on their overall wellbeing, attachment with baby and mental health outcomes…

Pregnancy, Birth an Early parenthood is a time packed with expectations and emotional vulnerabilities. Whether we feel supported, whether we feel understood and well cared for can contribute significantly to how we cope and make it through the journey of bringing a baby into this world….in lots of cases, this has a more significant impact than the events that actually happen.

It is a time requiring high levels of support, from people who we trust. It is a time where RELATIONSHIPS have a big impact on how we feel, how we cope, and how we respond to the struggles, the met and unmet expectations that this journey can present with.

 

The Midwifery Group Program is a program that provides the opportunity for a trusting supporting relationship to grow and develop between expecting parents and their health professional. For me, there is no doubt that this provides a secure foundation for expecting parents to step into the world of parenting. This is what I experienced.

A platform in which I was supported to feel as ready and as supported as possible.

holding hands

Unfortunately, the program has limited funding, and is only able to offer a sparse amount of places to expecting mums.   The program needs support and funding. The program needs the voice of mamas, sharing experiences, sharing their stories and speaking out about the significance of receiving holistic relationship based support during a time like no other.

 

To Anne,

Our Midwife, 

Thank you

Thankyou for being the one to provide such gracious support and care, 

Thankyou for being the one who was always just right there,

Thankyou for being the one to help us on our way, 

Thankyou for being the one to bring our little girl into the light of day. 

The support you shared and the kindness you showed, 

Will never be forgotten, for as long as time goes. 

You gave us a gift, a gift like no other, 

A gift of love and support, 

Through a time like no other.

 Xx

Parenting….the easiest thing to have an opinion about but the hardest thing to do….

 

“Isn’t your baby a bit old to be breast feeding”

“Cant your baby put herself to sleep yet”

“You need to let your baby cry more”

“No wonder your baby doesn’t like to be in the car, you never put her down”

“What a big baby, how much does she feed”

“You should be/you shouldn’t be/do this/don’t do this/I did this/Oh I never did that”

Oh and a pet pet hate…when people talk to your baby in an attempt to send you a SUBTLE message…. In these moments I find myself imagining and fantasizing that my baby will all of a sudden look them in the eye and say ‘whatyoutalkinabout’!!!!!!

 

Do any of these sound familiar?!?!

 

I have previously written about how our expectations of self as mamas can have a big impact on our well being and mental health…these expectations and beliefs about self are often in built based on societal influences, our own experiences of being parented as well as our support system and the people around us.

 

We are often receiving and absorbing many messages about our self and our world, at times without even realizing. Have you ever stopped to think why we feel a certain way about a certain topic that we our self haven’t had any direct experiences with????? No matter what it is, the answer to this question is often based on the messages we have been receiving throughout our own childhood, adolescents and adulthood.

 

Humans are social beings; we learn and bounce of the people around us. This means the people around us have a significant impact on how we live our life as well as our views and opinions about things.

 

This is a powerful and extraordinary thing about humans. People have the power to connect, love, heal and nurture others through their actions and through their words.

 

At times though, particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed, unsure or vulnerable, the messages sent by people around can also at times leave us feeling disconnected and lost.

 

Parenthood is such a powerful universal phenomena and an experience that many of us experience in one-way or another. Whether blessed to carry and raise our own biological children or influence the child of another.

 

With this universal nature of parenting comes with it the benefit of learning through generational experiences, sharing and connecting with other parents about their knowledge and lessons learnt.

generations

In contrast to this, parenthood is an extraordinarily individual phenomena in which if your anything like me…you think you have an idea of what it may be like, how you will cope, and what choices you will make when it comes to raising your little human…. but until your in the midst of this wondrous journey of parenthood…there is really no telling.

 

The potential difficulty here is that we often receive messages, opinions, advice from the people around us (with good intentions), which may differ from how we would like to parent and raise our children, what our mama instincts tell us and what we feel is right.

 

This can be particularly difficult during early parenthood, as it is already a time filled with emotional ups and downs, sleep deprivation and steep steep learning curves.

 

The messages we receive directly or indirectly from others may sometimes leave us questioning our parenting and mothering methods and sometimes fuel the ‘mother doubt’ that may already be present in our minds.

 

I personally have found this a tricky thing to manage. Prior to becoming a Mama, I have most of the time, carried a sense of confidence and acceptance with who I am and where I am headed. I have mostly felt a sense of assurance in the decisions I have made and the direction I am headed.

 

Becoming a Mama, and having the responsibility of another precious being really shook this up for me. All of a sudden I was living with the experience of questioning whether or not how I was mothering was the ‘right’ way. And when things didn’t seem to ‘go to plan’ or sat outside ‘what I expected’ I was dealing with a new experience of my thoughts jumping to an automatic response of mama judgment, doubt and self-criticism.

 

I found that prior to mamahood, I was able to hear but move on from others thoughts and opinions if it did not feel right or helpful to me at the time. But being a Mama, it has been a very different experience.

 

I think as Mamas, we are so driven to ‘get it right’ and do the very best we can. So we really search for guidance. When that ‘guidance’ comes but contradicts how we are mothering, or the choices we make…the way in which we respond to this can have a great impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

quote

So…when thoughtful, good intentioned loved ones or strangers offer their suggestions, or advice, or feedback about our mothering and parenting choices, how do we respond in a way that will nurture and protect our wellbeing and mental health?!?!

 

My personal experience has taught me that reminding ourselves that there is no such thing as ‘perfect parenting’…and that the strive to be a ‘good enough mama’ is the path to take has been a helpful place to start.

 

I have found that staying true to your own values and mothering instincts has been the guiding light in being able to hear, process and then either choose to take on board or let go, the messages sent from others.

 

I have also found that being mindful of what our own mother insecurities are is helpful in that it gives us a sense of awareness about what messages received by others, may cause us to feel uncertain or doubtful about our choices. For me it has been very much around my and my little ones breastfeeding relationship and how this relates to her sleep patterns.

 

Practice assertiveness!!!! Often responding assertively prior to leaving the situation can assist you feel more resolved and more able to ‘move on’ from what message was provided. A simple “thanks for your input” versus a passive agreement…can often be helpful.

 

Seeking support from ‘like minded’ mamas or parents, or simply expressing how peoples messages are impacting on you can also be helpful.

 

Feel good about your mothering and trust yourself!!!!!!!! Mamahood and parenthood is challenging. We need to remember to be kind and to be compassionate to each other, and most importantly, be compassionate to ourselves.

 

“This all important job comes with little or no training.

There is no license or degree to certify you are properly educated,

Or skillfully prepared to do the job…

Unlike most careers, motherhood is one full of emotional ups and downs.

When difficult times seem overwhelming, remember: the answer is love…

Its love that will see you through every heartache and worry.

Love will soothe, kiss and hug away fears and sadness.

This kind of love never disappears, even when everything else seems to –

Because the love of a mother is the only kind guaranteed to be unconditional and never ending”.

 Barbara Cage

purple heart

 

 

 

 

Does It Really Take a Village to Raise a Baby?!?

“It takes a village to raise a baby”…………I remember hearing this saying for the first time at an early childhood conference in Canberra a few years back. A well-known Dutch professor was speaking about the importance of the early years for both bubba and mama. She spoke very passionately about the crucial nature of supporting parents as they bring a new baby into this world.

IMG_9936B&W

At the time I was ‘baby less’ and yet to realize how incredibly and astoundingly true her message would be. I remember hearing this message ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and thinking ‘this is a nice notion’, and that when the time comes for me to have a baby, I’ll be fine because I am blessed with wonderfully supportive and near by family and friends’.

 

I remember the professor spoke about how many tribal villages have multiple ‘primary’ carers for each baby, and how this was NORMAL. I remember she spoke about how some mamas would carry around their babies in wraps, baby breastfeeding freely on and off, and how this was NORMAL, and how other mamas would give their baby to a grandmother or aunty for hours/days on end whilst they went hunting and gathering…and how all of these mama choices were NORMAL.

babywearing2_zps94ed8c2a

Its now that I realize why the professor spoke about these tribal ways of mothering…it was because all of these ways of mothering were viewed as ‘normal’ and mamas were given the message ‘what you choose to do is accepted and ok’…there was no judgment, no expectation that a mama should do it alone, or shouldn’t do it alone, and this is what seemed to work so well.

 

Becoming a mama has truly led me to reflect on what this idea means and that its about so much more than just having access to a great support network (of course this is such a great start). I now realise the complexity that is attached to this belief ‘it takes a village to raise a baby’. I now know that even when you are blessed with such wonderful accessible practical and emotional support…utilising this support can be difficult for many different external and internal reasons.

 

As a Psychologist, one of the first things you assess is a clients support network…. and one of the things you work towards is improving and building on these supports…again one of those ‘I thought I knew moments’. Not until I became a Mama did I truly understand that, accessing, reaching out and building yourself a village of support is intertwined with many complex emotions, thoughts, expectations of self, expectations of others, that are commonly experienced by many Mamas.

 

If I need something from someone, what does that mean about my mama self?

I should be able to cope on my own….shouldn’t I?

Isn’t asking for some time out to do ‘something for me’ selfish?

My partner should know how I feel and what I need…right??

What does it mean about my self as a Mama if I feel the need to have space from my baby?

 

The experience of unrealistic expectations and self doubt is a common one, and these expectations and doubts, whether stemming from how we were raised, westernized culture or the parenting influences that surround us, may get in the way of us accessing the support that we truly need and deserve.

 

Shout out to Offspring Fans again…you may recall the scene where Nina is wondering back and forth, left to right, aimlessly around the hospital corridor, mumbling to herself as her internal dialogue goes into overdrive…. colleagues looking on…well I often imagine this is how I look when experiencing the confusing state of knowing you need some help, but not knowing what with…and how on earth to communicate that to those around you.

 

I remember in the early baby days, my partner would ask me…. what can I help you with, and in a sleep deprived, hormonal, love bubble state…my response would be ‘something but I don’t know what’….

 

Knowing when you need extra support and how to ask for this support is essential in this journey of mama hood. As mamas, I feel its so important for us to remind ourselves and each other that being a parent is wonderful yes, but it is also hard work. And it wasn’t until becoming a Mama did I truly understand the importance of seeking support and asking for help when its needed, and sometimes when you feel its not.

holding hands

Mama Being Frank…its ok to ask for help, it’s a common experience to have mixed thoughts and emotions when asking for help…and these thoughts and emotions do not have to dictate whether we seek the help we need and deserve.

 

Mamas have a right to need and seek help from others

Mamas have a right to put themselves first

Mamas have a right to express thoughts and emotions….as they are experienced

Mamas have a right to ask for help, emotional support and anything else you find yourself needing

 

 

Using the supports we have, finding the support we don’t have, learning how to ask for help, and being ok with some of the mixed thoughts and emotions that come with building ourselves a village during this journey of mamahood, can be one of the most effective ways to nurture our well being and mental health.

 

So…does it really take a village to raise a baby….YES!! and importantly, is it ok to need a village to raise a baby? YES YES and YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

If you find yourself needing support outside of your little or large village, below is a brief list of some support lines and services that you may find helpful.

Karitane 1300 227 464

Tresillian Parent Helpline 1800 637 357

Parent Line 132 055

Life Line 131 114

Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) Pregnancy Birth and Baby Helpline 1800 882 436