When I found out I was pregnant, it was a lot to take in, too big to comprehend and I was nervous. “I don’t have enough patience”, “I’m too selfish”, “what if I don’t enjoy it?’’, ‘’I like my life now” Don’t get me wrong, there were also feelings of excitement and butterflies in my tummy too!
I’m often told that I’m very laid back, I think the reason people think this is because I keep a lot of my worries inside and don’t talk about them. I feel silly and don’t want to make a fuss. I don’t know how to word them or get them out. So I kept my pregnancy and parenthood worries bottled up.
With regards to the birth, if I didn’t think about it, it would all turn out fine, right? It did turn out alright in the end – after an emergency c-section and several days in hospital later we all arrived home safe and well, if not a little tender and shell shocked.
It was from here that the anxiety began. I would lie in bed thinking ‘what if’. What if he stopped breathing? What if he died? What if I smothered him by accident in bed? I used to wake thinking he was in the covers when we had never actually had him in bed with us! It was baffling. Was I insane? Am I the only one to think these things? I couldn’t cope with the thoughts, I daren’t tell anyone about them and so again I bottled them up.
When I did my psychology degree I learnt about something called ‘thought stopping’. Literally stopping harmful and dysfunctional thoughts as they swim through your head. So I would watch some mind numbing TV just to empty my head, then I could sleep for a couple of hours before he woke me.
For weeks I had this internal battle. My husband took paternity leave and we crammed it full of visits. 2-3 things a day from photo shoots, visitors, midwife, family etc . In the end my husband said ‘enough was enough’ and made me agree to cancel things. Saying no is not usually a strength of mine but it’s certainly something I’m getting better at.
Every night I’d have these horrid thoughts and everyday I’d worry we were letting people down, my chest would tighten, I’d feel nauseous, my tummy would flip. It became frequent and worrying and I thought a lot about PND. But this was more anxiety than depression and I’d never heard anyone talk about it before so it was just me being crazy!!?? I googled ‘anxious postnatal’…and it turns out it wasn’t just me. I read that anxiety was more common than depression. This made me mad, why had I never heard about it? Why did no one warn me? Everyone talks out PND but not postnatal anxiety. Knowing I wasn’t the only one, that it was common and probably hormone related made it less serious somehow.
One thing that I felt really helped me was getting back to normal life quickly. I had booked onto Keri’s baby massage course before he was born and then he ended up being late so he was just days old at our first session. My husband managed two sessions whilst on paternity leave and took time off to attend more, it was a fantastic bonding experience for them and we’d go for lunch with the new friends we made at the group afterwards. This normality of being out and about as a family, socialising, hearing other people’s experiences was the best therapy.
We had our issues with feeding and were given advice that didn’t work for us, it was a tricky time and I am thankful for my level headed and tactful mother, the amount I learnt from watching my sister raise two kids before me and for a supportive husband. A bit of trial and error worked with th feeding, but really I think a lot of it was luck. I was too dazed and baffled by it all to do anything complex like fixed feeding times or strict routines. All of my new friends would be recording every feed length/oz consumed and every nappy change on apps, I began writing a diary. It wasn’t very accurate in terms of feeds but it became a place to empty my head of what we had achieved that day, who we had seen, the presents we had been given…and slowly the positive day to day happenings replaced the hideous thoughts.
I don’t remember feeling an overwhelming love for parenting immediately. I certainly loved him and would happily stare at him for hours but I distinctly remember one morning, thinking ‘is this it?’ as I changed and dressed him. It took a while, but it was the smiles and eye contact and when he started moving that I fell in love with parenting. I remember every week thinking ‘I wish he would stay like this forever’! The good is definitely outweighing the overwhelming, so I rarely go to bed thinking it’s been a bad day.
So when did the anxiety go away? It hasn’t completely stopped, any news story about a child is a new shocking level of tragedy for me to hear. My husband and I know we are so lucky for all we have and we try not to take anything for granted. A fact brought hammering home by a poorly family member. I still have the odd dysfunctional thought but now I can focus on giving my child a happy upbringing and new shared experiences as a family.
Would you like to share your experiences? Why not send us a blog? Get in touch , as there are lots of families who would like to hear your story.
How to keep up the good work?!
Often when the end of your maternity leave starts to creep round and you start to panic about logistics of nursery pick-ups and juggling meetings, clients also feel the realisation of how are they going to fit an any ‘me’ time, and where does exercise fit into this
The nightmare of childcare is sorted, you have made a decision and completed your spreadsheet for who is doing pick up and drop off on which days ….. The bags are packed and everything is labelled, your workwear is out and your new schedule hits you …. When am I meant to eat, have a conversation with my partner or even exercise?
All that hard work of your maternity leave can easily be forgotten after your return to work, all that posture and alignment that we worked on, the flat shoes and hours of perfecting the correct ‘walk’ to ensure those pelvic floor muscles have repaired correctly. Now your time is dictated to by someone else as well as your child.
I heard someone say the other day ‘a working mum is a life of guilt, guilt that you are working, that you want to be with your child and always wishing you were somewhere else as there is always something else that needs to be done’. And I thought how true, you love time with your kids, and wouldn’t change it for the world but that project is in your head and you want to get pen to paper before you forget your brainwave. You’re at your desk wondering what your child is up to and what a lovely day it would be for a crunchy leaf walk but then feeling the pang of guilt that you’re sure you didn’t put the dishwasher on or find something for tea before you left – we all get it. But how can we find time for us?
Some of us get up very early to fit something in, others are night owls and find something to do once all their daily tasks are complete. But for the rest of us, who love sleep, there just aren’t enough hours, or are there!
Why not try some of these –
– Correcting your posture and alignment in the shower.
– Cup of tea first thing, or a coffee? Each time you drink a hot drink try 10 pelvic floor exercises, each one different from the last.
– Always take the stairs
– Always park a 5 minute walk from the office
– Can you squeeze in a power-walk at lunchtime, even 10 mins?
– Family leisure time at the weekend – walk or run with the buggy, try somewhere new or with hills! Go swimming together, one can do lengths, the other entertains the kids! Bike ride, trips to the park, you will find me running behind them on their scooters!
– Do you work from home? Could you squeeze in some exercise as you are not spending time travelling to work?
– Use your resistance bands, 5 mins every day and rotate – arms, posture, waist, legs.
– 10 mins of your own circuit, think squats, lunges, butt kicks, half jacks …mix it up, make changes
– How many of our toning moves can you remember? Could you try 5 exercises on the mat, doing your routine twice?
– Stretch – wherever, whenever!
– I bet you have at least 3 pieces of discarded fitness kit in the house, when you put the TV on spend the first 15 minutes using it!
You are aiming for 30 minutes per day to raise your heart rate, just break it down into 3 lots of 10 mins …. then before you know it you will be at 60 mins!
Mental Health and Wellbeing
The media has given a lot of coverage recently to mental health and with some high profile supporters it has come to the forefront of everyone’s minds – and rightly so. With 25% of the UK population experiencing some form of mental health in their adult years it is a lot more common than we think. A large proportion of mental health issues are around depression and anxiety, often derived from stressful busy lives or traumatic events.
Add into the mix female hormones throughout the pre and postnatal stages, baby blues and postnatal depression this topic is very important for Mums and Mums-to-be. The overwhelming feeling of new responsibilities, not really knowing what ‘to-do’ and making comparisons to others are things that I hear on a weekly basis in the coffee shops. We are honestly our own worst enemy, pretending that we are all ok, whilst feeling lonely or isolated in a new, unfamiliar ‘Mum’ world.
I felt low, I felt blue and I felt anxious that this little bundle relied on me and I really didn’t know how all-consuming it was going to be. There are so many aspects of pregnancy, labour and the postnatal recovery that no-one speaks of and I wish we would. Then I would have felt vaguely ‘normal’ in those early days, realising that everyone else was experiencing these same feelings.
With all the media coverage, I was aware that I could spiral downwards, stay inside in my PJ’s and kid myself that I was ‘chilling out’ on my maternity leave. Or I could recognise that it was going to be tough but I needed to get out and meet some new faces. One day, I got up and dressed, organised the massive nappy bag and set out with my baby for a ‘walk’ to find other ladies who were pacing the streets too! Honestly, whatever came over me that day, saved me. I walked and talked, met some Mums and found out about some fantastic things going on in the local community. That wasn’t the end of the story, it was hard. Sometimes I had to drag myself off the sofa, put a smile on my face but I did it. I felt better and more able to cope, I was more positive and knew that a ‘bad day’ was just that ‘a bad day’ as there was a new one just around the corner! I found that these ‘feelings’ were ok, others felt overwhelmed too and that by getting out and about, talking about a bad night and finding others going through the same journey a massive help.
I have to say at this point, I found Fit and Healthy Mums so welcoming and I immersed myself in all the classes and groups on offer. Not only have I met some lifelong friends and have a continual stream of playdates for my now walking toddler. But the exercise and social aspects of the classes with other women was simply amazing. I truly believe that exercise had a positive impact on my postnatal mental health recovery, as well as making up for eating too many biscuits – because we are all human!
Thank you for such an honest account of your maternity leave, it is very humbling to know that we do truly help women in the community. You will all know that exercise is great for your body, but we know now that it has such a positive impact on your mind too:
– Regular exercise is a great way to help manage anxiety, depression and stress.
– Modest amounts of exercise are enough, you don’t need to spend hours in a gym.
-You experience a sense of well-being, achievement, enjoy a better mood and have greater self-esteem.
– Exercise can aid your memory, sleep quality and releases endorphins.
– But most of all, it is fun and we have a chat and a giggle along the way!
Why Should I Exercise Outside?
Getting out of the house can feel like a major achievement when you have a baby in tow! With the car seat, pushchair and a bag of ‘just in case’ to weigh you down. It may seem like a bit of an effort, but getting out and about is so important for postnatal ladies.
Social interaction with other Mums, sharing baby tips and the reality that everyone else is going through the same thing is a brilliant way to make you feel good and boost your confidence.
Being out and about and enjoying the fresh air is great for you, it helps to clear your mind and get away from that ‘cabin fever’. And babies love the fresh air too, it often settles them and helps them sleep.
So imagine all the benefits of exercising, plus being outside and meeting other Mums must be a winning combination!
My top reasons to exercise outside:
– Being outside is much more fun than doing a workout in the gym! Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and take note of all the little things we are often too busy to notice.
– The varied terrain and weather will make you work that little bit harder – and burn more calories in the process.
– Exercising outside also creates greater feelings of revitalization, energy, and positive thinking. All really important for postnatal ladies on a broken night’s sleep!
– In recent psychological tests, ladies scored significantly higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, and self-esteem and lower on tension, depression and fatigue after they exercised outside.
– The time outside flies by compared to being in a gym environment – no more counting the minutes left on the treadmill!
Buggyfit classes are outdoor sessions for postnatal ladies. All structured in a way that means anyone can take part, no matter your level of fitness. Intervals of cardio and toning work plus the all-important abs and pelvic floor feature in these classes. And as your fitness improves along with your confidence you can easily make it harder and more challenging!
These sessions run all year through and there is no need for childcare – bonus!
Why not have a look at the buggyfit page for more details?
New Child Friendly Summer Boot Camp
This Summer why not try our new child friendly bootcamp? Lots of fun and games to get you fit and healthy, where babies, toddlers and the kids can come along too!
A mixture of circuits, cardio games, aerobics and kettlebells. Plus lots of toning and strengthening work for abs, back, arms and legs. Throw in some pelvic floor and you have the perfect mix for Summer fitness!
There is lots going on in these classes to keep little ones entertained, and the bigger ones are welcome to join in with you!
Monday’s 1.30 pm Wootton Community Centre.
1 hour session
Starts on Monday 13th July and runs for 7 weeks until the 24th August.
£35 for all 7 sessions – and if you miss one you can come along to the Abingdon buggyfit class on a Tuesday at 10.30 am instead; which also runs through the Summer.
Why Fixing Abdominal Separation Needs A New Broader Approach
When it comes to fixing abdominal separation, gone are the days when I can just say:
Focussing solely on your mid-section and training just your abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ any distension in your tummy muscles is what’s called ‘spot reducing’.
Put simply, ‘spot reducing’ is where you focus on just one muscle group, one body part, or just one area of your body and try and tone the hell out of it!
And if you’re doing sit ups and suspect you have abdominal separation – they aren’t the answer - in fact, sit ups will make abdominal separation worse.
The human body is made up of hundreds of muscles and bones. And if the muscles in your body can find an easy way of doing something – they will.
And, they’ll do it over and over and over again until a nice little muscle imbalance has found its way in there.
Have a think about your habits as a new mum…
How do you think these everyday mummy movements affect your overall alignment?
- Always holding baby with your dominate arm
- Winding baby over the same shoulder all the time (colic anyone ?)
- Sitting slumped over feeding baby...for hours and hours and hours...
- Propping baby up on one hip,
- Pushing a buggy uphill with your arms out-stretched and shoulders lifted
- Carrying that car seat on your forearm.
These things all create muscular imbalances, don’t they?
If even one of your muscles is tight, weak or stretched, does it make sense that other muscles will try and compensate?
Because this is what they do. Your body is great at adapting to what you need it to do, but often this leads to pain sites and general tightness or discomfort.
There are many reasons why postnatal women suffer with diastasis recti after birth
But the great news is there are many ways of fixing abdominal separation.
Education is key here particularly when it comes to discovering the ‘cause and effect’ of abdominal separation – and all of your other postural traits.
Here are some points I consider when treating you for abdominal separation:
- Is this your first/second/third/fourth baby?
- Do you suspect you had abdominal separation that went untreated if it’s not your first baby?
- What exercise did you do prior to getting pregnant?
- How’s your posture right now?
- Can you breathe correctly?
- Do you actually have any ‘core’ strength?
- What muscles are really tight for you?
- Which muscles dominate your entire system, without you realising it?
- What tasks are you doing with a newborn that might be attributing to your abdominal separation?
- Is your pelvic floor ok, or do you need help with that too?
Can you see what I mean, it’s a complex number of factors that build up over time.
Assessing, treating and rehabilitating a new mum for abdominal separation needs to move away from just doing tummy exercises.
It needs a broader, full-body approach to get your system working and functioning in a more optimal way.
What’s also encouraging is that there’s a 7 Steps to Fixing Abdominal Separation method I follow for clients with this condition.
It’s based on a whole-body approach, that gets everything working in the right way to get results!
Take a look at the Diastasis Detective programme?
Are your pelvic floor exercises up to scratch?
When it comes to training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after birth, as a trained Pre and Postnatal Fitness Expert who keeps her education and skills fresh and up-to-date, things in recent years have most definitely changed.
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles for postnatal women is really important and keeping your pelvic floor muscles in check during pregnancy is vital too. But the way in which we now do this has been given a bit of an overhaul.
Stress incontinence happens when you laugh, cough, sneeze or do exercise and you ‘leak’. It is quite common with 30% of new mums suffering with the condition for up to 3 months after birth. Although many women don’t seek help so the figure is probably higher.
Lots of research and testing has been done in recent years to find out more about how the pelvic floor functions; how it becomes weakened; and what causes dysfunction within it.
Some of the most important findings are -
When you leak, it’s often with a movement
When someone suffers the embarrassment of leakage, it’s also often associated with movement. This could be just in day-to-day activities eg when you run up or downstairs without thinking, you chase after your toddler, you pick up a heavy object too quickly, and notice you leak. Now we train the pelvic floor muscles WITH movement.
We know that stress incontinence is linked to not just laughing, coughing or sneezing, but also when we move our body. So now we adopt a full-body approach to exercise and the pelvic floor. Doing movement-based exercise which incorporates involuntary work for pelvic floor muscles during your movement, means the pelvic floor is being trained. Some exercises work the pelvic floor without you having to even think about it because the pelvic floor switches on instinctively. This is how the body should work!
Your glutes hold the answer!
There is a link between strengthening your bum and strengthening the pelvic floor. Basically, the stronger your bum, the stronger your back and core. This means a stronger pelvic floor. We sit down for the majority of our day and often turn into tailbone tuckers. This means your pelvic floor is tight, weak and loose, because your tailbone is stuck in a position closer to your pubic bone than it should be. However, if you build your glutes your tailbone will move further away from your pubic bone making the pelvic floor work as it should.
Squeezing is not the best way to fix
The old school style ‘squeeze and release’ and ‘draw up and hold’ Kegel exercises aren’t necessarily the answer. This is because whilst doing a ‘squeeze’ without putting the pelvic floor muscles in a more optimum position, it’s making the pelvic floor tighter and tighter in its current, incorrect position. What the pelvic floor needs during pregnancy and after birth, is a good old stretch out to remain ‘flexible’ to enable your body to facilitate childbirth, and it’s your bum that wants the work.
Workshops and private sessions are available that are specifically tailored for pre and postnatal ladies to aid recovery of the pelvic floor.