R U OK is an initiative set up by a man called Gavin Larkin in response to his dad’s suicide as a result of his silent suffering with depression. It is a simple question to ask but it can literally save lives! As we move towards R U OK day on the 14th of September, let’s all take a moment to ask our family and friends how they are doing and open up a line of communication. As new mothers, or experienced mothers let’s take this a step further to extend the enquiry to our fellow mothering tribe members. These friends or acquaintances you may have met in your mothers group, gymbaroo classes, child friendly parks or even your favourite coffee hangouts.
Motherhood and parenting is the most important job in the world and I think that is why we can put so much pressure on ourselves. It’s a real adjustment especially for first time mothers and parents with lack of sleep, the constant feeding and crying and the general enormity of the role of caring for a tiny human. Add to the mix mothers who have very little support, colicky babies, multiple babies, partners that work away, trouble with breastfeeding and the list goes on. All of these overwhelming things whilst trying to navigate in a whole new world can really compound those feelings of anxiety and stress.
You may think of depression and know of someone suffering or medicated for this disease but we may rarely categorise Post Natal Depression within our fellow mothering group! And the statistics are staggering with an estimated 1 in 7 women affected with PND which can develop anywhere from 1 month to 12 months after giving birth. What you may also be very surprised to hear is that new dads are also subject to developing PND with 1 in 10 suffering also.
If you are worried about yourself or someone you know, here are some symptoms of Post Natal Depression:
- Low mood
- Feelings of failing as a mother
- Exhausted, teary and sad nonstop
- Worried constantly
- Afraid to be alone or leave the house
- Feeling panicked or anxious
- Worrying about the baby a lot
These types of feelings are bound to come up within your daily interactions and experiences of becoming a new mum and parent but if these feelings are persistent for over 2 weeks then please make an appointment with your doctor. The solutions may be as simple as medication, community support, or offering some counselling.
So to all you wonderful mothers and parents out there if you can mark September 14th down in your already busy calendars and ask the question R U OK to your parenting friends, we can have a part to play in helping mums and dads to stop tormenting themselves and start enjoying their role of being a parent!
If you or anyone you know would like to seek some advice please contact:
- PANDA - 1300 726 306
- Beyondblue - 1300 224 636
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby - 1800 882 436
You’re pregnant, how wonderful, in comes the hormones and your ability to grow rounder and eat more than you may have thought possible. Unfortunately out goes your ability to control anything about your body, as you become the sole vessel for this miracle to develop and flourish in.
We have heard it all before, about the sore backs, the swollen ankles and the general discomfort of pregnancy. If you have a mother like mine who is very hazy on her own pregnancy experiences, I was told these aches and pains are all part and parcel of the process and you just deal with them. Luckily enough we are not this harden up generation, we are the generation of plan B’s, second opinions and how can we fix it!
I personally suffered bad reflux, like….almost dragon breathing fire reflux, lower back pain, bad swollen ankles and morning sickness for the first trimester. Now morning sickness can affect pregnant ladies in different ways, from vomiting and nausea, to the general day in and day out feeling of ‘ugh’. I know of a lady who only survived pregnancy with a new BFF…..a bucket, which she had to carry with her the whole 9 months!
The influx of pregnancy hormones and how your body deals with sharing its space will vary greatly from woman to woman. My little sister had really bad sciatic nerve pain, but my older sister saw through three pregnancies without a peep! Another girl I know had to quit her job and go on bed rest because she was bleeding and it was too taxing on her body. Then there is the lack of bladder control, the hair growth, the stretch marks, elephant size ankles, the complete left field changes in the size, shape and feel of your breasts and nipples, the breathlessness, the back pain and the list goes on and on. So once the initial excitement wears off you may start to feel some degree of discomfort as your body adapts. Then once progressing to the later stages, being large and uncomfortable whilst this little miracle grows - I have some tips to help you through these 9 months.
BACK PAIN - I found the New Beginnings Support Belt and Tube a huge relief and in fact I bought it for my friends and sister when they were pregnant.
NAUSEA* - Try to drink plenty of water and sleep it off when you can. I took ginger tablets and tea which helped settle my stomach.
REFLUX* - Watching the acidic foods that you are consuming and taking some pregnancy approved tablets or sprays. I always had the chewable Mylanta tablets in my handbag ready to go!
STRETCH MARKS - I started using Bio Oil early on and continued right through with this. Although I think stretch marks are unavoidable if you are predisposition to them, either way it made me feel like I was helping.
BREAST CHANGES - Your breasts can be so tender, your nipples grow and become very sensitive, so an investment in a great maternity bra ie a New Beginnings maternity bra, is an absolute must. I found the soft fabric and UGrow™ technology a perfect mix to support my growing breasts but gentle enough to not irritate my nipples.
So hang in there, take care of yourself and utilise good, safe products. Growing a tiny human can take a big toll on you physically and mentally so rest when you get the chance and try to enjoy the changes and the awesome feat that your body is performing for you. And remember that there are perks too…bigger boobs, eating all you want, a luscious mane of hair, a Jennifer lopez booty, plenty of sympathy from work and friends when you are feeling unwell and get to spend all day at home in bed and of course the beautiful, healthy baby to hold at the end!
*Please consult your health professional before consuming any supplements or medical products whilst pregnant.
To know or not to know, that is the question!
So what type of couple will you be; will you utilise the modern comforts of technology to find out if you are having a boy or a girl? Will you be the couple that opts for that lovely surprise come labour day? Or are you a new generation of couples that throw a gender reveal party instead?
I think if you were to look at your group of friends and peers, there would be a nice mix of couples who need to know (like myself) or like being a bit old school and waiting until the baby is born, or some couples deciding to ditch a traditional baby shower and have a gender reveal party instead! If you are interested in throwing tradition to the wind then here are my top 5 gender reveal party ideas!
ADAM OR EVE?
-A cake cutting baby shower that centres on a cake being dyed inside either blue or pink!
-A piñata party where your guests can all relieve some tension to reveal your babies gender upon cracking the shell with blue or pink coloured lollies, or coloured card!
-Helium balloons that have been filled with pink or blue confetti which the couples pop revealing the gender to their guests.
-White sugar tablets for all your guests to pop into their drinks that uncover either blue or pink dye when dissolved.
-Paint throwing where couples throw small balloons filled with coloured water or paint at a white wall or canvas to show the colour and reveal the gender.
Whether you do decide to find out or not, needs to feel right for both you and your partner. I have heard of one partner wishing to know and the other not so the sonographer writes the gender down in an envelope for the couple to take home. It’s then a matter of self-control as to who can resist that tempting piece of information glaring at you from across the living room.
I will leave you with how we found out about my first born babies gender. We had our first scan at the usual 19 week mark to excitedly discover that we were having a little baby girl. But my partner and I were not entirely convinced by the sonographer’s findings because our baby had its legs crossed and would not budge from this position. You could image our surprise at 27 weeks when we booked for another scan, to be told beyond a shadow of a doubt that our little girl was actually a little boy. Now that is what I call a gender surprise!
New Job Application
Giving birth to a baby and becoming a parent is like jumping into a new job and very quickly learning how to sink or swim. If you were to apply for a new job you may wish to do some preparation work before the big day and this is how I approached going to antenatal classes. You want to have a look into the company and what the job description is (like learning more about what happens to your body during childbirth and getting some more pointers for breastfeeding etc). You might have a look at the company staff and the building they are located in (like knowing how the maternity staff will help you, options for birthing rooms ie water births & the other facilities at the hospital you will be attending). Then ending your prospective job preparation with weighing up the pros and cons of this new position (like looking at your birth plan, knowing about pain options and what you may find difficult or easy as you become a new mum).
Curriculum or KPIs
Antenatal classes are kind of like your induction for the role that you are about to perform-child birth and becoming a parent. These information packed classes give you a blow by blow about what happens at every step in the later stages of pregnancy and the ins and outs (pun intended) of the labour process. For some people it’s all a bit too much and for others it’s a great way to learn about it all. Most of us sit somewhere in the middle, like myself with my ignorance in thinking that I have a few nieces, I’ve heard some stories, skimmed through a book and somehow I know the basics! Then you arrive, are handed a class schedule and you read some very foreign words like meconium, mucus plugs, stretch and sweeps and you start thinking…I’m not sure this was the job I applied for!
I found it nice to surround myself with other mums, to be and to watch weekly as they steadily expanded and swelled into an uncomfortable blob much like myself. I enjoyed hearing about why the changes were happening to my body and I found the whole labour explanation quite fascinating (although very graphic! ). My partner and I were able to ask and answer questions amongst a supportive group of peers and open up about what our expectations were pre and post birth. It was nice to hear that similar fears where shared throughout the group and then talk these through in bite size pieces. It was also great to learn some more practical skills like swaddling and changing a nappy.
Signing the Contract
I would highly recommend going to some sort of antenatal class if you are first time parents. Take the time to invest in learning more about what will happen, ask all the crazy questions that come to mind, why it happens and management plans. It’s also a chance to really touch base with your partner, build a stronger connection as a team and to be around individuals who are dealing with the same issues, in a safe environment. Having a baby and being a parent are both hands on roles and you do learn as you go but if someone was to give you a little bit of advice before you went to that job interview and it made the world or difference, wouldn’t you like to hear it?
As the final stages of pregnancy creep up on you, much like those swollen ankles, you know it’s time to start thinking about the arrival of this baby. I’ll never forget sitting in my antenatal class and having our teacher passionately describe how women have been birthing babies for thousands of years. How it’s such a natural process for the female body to contort and stretch for this very purpose. When I look back at my labour I would agree that it is a miraculous event and my body adapted very well but it didn’t go exactly to plan and holy moly was it painful!
It’s all written in the word isn’t it? Labour.....meaning exertion, struggle, hard work and it is! Have a chat with your partner, OB or midwife about what is really involved during birth and have a loose birth plan – think about;
- What type of birth do you want- water birth, natural, laying down, or resting on a fit ball?
-What tools will aid you ie music, oils, breathing techniques, tens machine?
- What type of support will you require from your partner ie pep talks, holding your hand, strong & silent, giving you a blow by blow as it happens, no touching at all?
-What pain relief is available and are there any side effects for the baby?
-What will happen if I need a cesarean and what does that recovery post baby look like?
Here’s hoping everything runs smoothly but in the case your baby needs some extra support post birth, it’s important to know what you and your partner want to do. We decided should bub need to leave my side for any reason, my partner would follow at all times, I felt more comfortable knowing this.
This will be an experience where you won’t know what to expect but you can be informed and have asked questions beforehand to help feel comfortable. Your midwife or OB will generally ask what your birth plan looks like so they can cater to you but please remember to be flexible. I had every intention of having a natural water birth and in the end I found the bath offered no relief and that gas was not sufficient enough to relieve the pain. I found the tens machine worked really well in redirecting my brains pain receptors but I did end up having an epidural that did not relieve me completely of pain (no one had told me that epidurals don’t always work) but definitely took the edge off. I knew myself enough to know when I needed extra assistance in the form of pain relief and I was able to continue with my intended plan and give birth to a beautiful baby.
Let’s face it, giving birth is a heroic feat and it will test you and your partner’s determination and strength but what an amazing sight it is to see this beautiful baby at the end of all your hard work.
Remember to be informed and aware and follow your plan but be flexible about adjusting it to suit the needs of you and your bub. Enjoy it, as much as it is the hard part, be in the moment and communicate with your partner and support team. You are not in this alone, there is a tiny being ready to be glued to your side for the rest of your life. Good Luck x