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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?