How my first pregnancy shaped my idea of proactive health care & self-care

In my first pregnancy, I learned a few lessons about myself. I was a health professional, not taking my own advice. Now I am not the first health professional to admit that either, after all, we are all human. However, this time the difference was I was pregnant and needed to see my health as even more of a priority as before. The first lesson in parenting- the baby is relying on you to look after it before it is even out of the womb. I want to share with you how my first pregnancy has shaped this one and briefly what I am doing in terms of proactive health care and self-care to prepare not only my body but my mind.

I had a fairly straight forward pregnancy. No complications with my health and no other pre-existing health issues. The only thing I guess was my slight scoliosis. I worked from home and in my home based Myotherapy clinic. I had my electric massage table and rarely did house visits to treat patients, so my lifting and bending were limited. However, at around the 2nd-trimester mark, I noticed increased back soreness at the end of the day. I was treating about 30+ clients a week. This back soreness turned into pelvic girdle pain to the point where simple tasks like putting my pants on caused tremendous pain in my groin and don’t even ask me how I managed to change gears in the car. I knew if I didn’t slow down, I would not be able to carry on working, or worse, spend the last few months on bed rest.

I decided to seek out a Chiropractor as I had always found this form of treatment helped my body. Of course, as I was a Myo specialising in pregnancy massage it was only fitting that I too had pregnancy massage by a trained professional. For the rest of my pregnancy, I continued to alternate between massage and chiro as I found this worked best for me and my body. I placed a lot of importance on my physical health, and when I say physical, I am limiting it to only muscles and joints, (there was so much else I could have been doing to help myself, but I will get to that in my next blog). I also focused a lot of attention on birth and what my options were. I decided to work with both Rhea Dempsey and Gill from CalmBirth to attempt to achieve the birth I wanted.

What I was not prepared for was what came after the birth. The fourth trimester, my transition into motherhood. I struggled with feeding and sleeping issues. I felt isolated, alone and totally overwhelmed. This was all so new to me and looking back now I was underprepared. After the birth I would be a mother and my whole identity would shift in that very moment I birthed my son into the world. Nothing would ever be the same again. I have loved being a mother, but some days I have wondered what the hell I was thinking and not because of my son, because of my unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation made me feel like I was failing.

I fell into this work from the passion I have for caring for women, but also because I see how when women are taken care of, really taken care of how this shapes future generations. Our children get the best of us. Not what’s left of us. I feel I have both experience and perspective now on the other side of that journey. I believe that when we practice proactive health care and self-care this intern better prepares us for what is to come and we can cope not only physically but mentally with the ups and downs of new motherhood.

When I was 6 months postpartum, I studied and trained as Postpartum Doula. I’ve just loved my role in caring for many new mums and supporting them to prepare for motherhood. This experience led me to study to be a registered nurse and midwife of which I am currently undertaking. For now, I am slowing down. I am doing what I wished I had done the first time around. I am reducing my workload so that I can give myself the energy that’s required to get through the last trimester and enjoy it. And this time, I will be taking longer than the 3 weeks maternity leave I had with my son. I have big plans for Untangled Living. I plan to really embrace my journey from having lived postnatal anxiety and depression and coming out the other side stronger and with clarity.

3 Myths for Expectant Parents

Ebony Korkie is a qualified Myotherapist, Remedial Massage Therapist and Postpartum Doula, who provides an in-home service aptly named Untangled Living, for the Ballarat region. She has a passion for treating women through their pregnancy and especially postpartum as she feels this is the time that women really need care and support from those around them. Ebony lives in Ballarat with her husband and son, and is currently studying Nursing at Federation University and hopes to do her post-grad in Midwifery. 

We often get so caught up in preparing for our pregnancy and birth, that we forget to prepare ourselves for life AFTER we bring our baby home! So we caught up with Ebony to ask her about what a Postpartum Doula actually is, and help us to dispel some of the myths and highlight the realities of what life will be like AFTER you have your baby! 

3 Tips for Managing your Expectations in Pregnancy for Postpartum

Credits to Centre of Perinatal Excellence-COPE

All babies sleep most of the time

Whilst it is true that babies do spend most of their time sleeping, some baby temperaments and/or health conditions (such as reflux) can greatly impact on their tendency or ability to soundly sleep. Rather, such conditions can leave some babies very unsettled, crying, and sleep and it greatly impacts both the parents and the baby. Many expectant parents are unaware and unprepared for the reality that this can bring to the early weeks and months of early parenthood, so being aware of this important. There is a local sleep consultant, Louise Shalders who also comes to you to help. Knowing these resources are here for you is great reassurance!

Breastfeeding is going to be easy and natural

Breastfeeding for some does come easily and naturally, however for many women this is not the case. Breastfeeding for some is painful, frustrating and can leave many women feeling vulnerable and inadequate. This is often made worse by images of motherhood and even pressure and attitudes of family members and health professionals.  Being aware of the challenges many women face is important, and knowing that there is information and support available for those who do struggle with breastfeeding is reassuring.  For now, be aware of the challenges that can occur, and it is not as uncommon as you may think. Getting familiar with ‘how to’ breastfeed can help as it is a learned skill that takes time to master. Australian Breastfeeding Association is a good place to start.

The baby will fit into our lives – not the other way around

Many parents think that their life with a child will not be much different to life before children. Many parents are unprepared for the fact that having a child impacts on all areas of life – priorities, activities, social life, finances – just to name a few.  Many parents are unprepared for how ‘all consuming’ a new baby can be.  It is important to try and get a realistic picture of what life with a child might, or an additional child, will be like.  Talking to others and gaining realistic information can help you to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself, and prevent yourself feeling in a state of shock. Planning for a baby is like planning for a wedding, except sometimes you forget that you’ll actually be married at the end of it, and in this case parents.

Your Postpartum Plan

So you have a birth plan – now what about your postpartum plan? Firstly, what is the difference between postnatal and postpartum? Both refer to the period after birth. However, postpartum is correlated with the mother’s condition after birth, whereas postnatal relates to the baby.

Many pregnant women are so focused on the upcoming birth that they forget to plan for the time afterwards. The postpartum period is a steep learning curve, made harder without a village. I too was in the same boat when I was pregnant with my son. I thought that as I was surrounded by love from friends and family that I would have all the help in the world. The problem was, I didn’t have a plan and I wasn’t very good at asking for help. I didn’t have any form of support set up for me when I got home. My husband started a new job the day before our son was born and so I only had one day with him at home with us before he needed to return to work and I was on my own to navigate through the ‘fourth trimester’. To say it was hard would be an understatement. In my experience in caring for pregnant women and new mums, I see this far too often and the statistics of pre and postnatal anxiety and depression in Australia indicate that something needs to shift. So I have made it my life’s work to help women with the transition from woman to mother exactly what I and so many women before me wished they had. In doing so I feel this helps to alleviate the strain and pain placed on you physically, emotionally and mentally.

I will soon be offering a free postpartum plan e-guide, to download it from my website; http://untangledliving.com.au/ for expecting parents yet to plan for postpartum. This e-guide will be a sneak peek for my upcoming online course to be released next month. In the course I will take you through all the things you need to know for creating a peaceful postpartum, see it as your virtual postpartum doula. We will discuss why new mothers feel exhausted and overwhelmed and more importantly, what to do about it. If you are interested in the course or the plan, please visit my website and pop your name on the email list so I can notify you when it’s available!

Here are some kind words from a local client who has benefited from having postpartum care from Untangled Living.

As a new mother, with my first child, I was so very lucky to have Ebony work with me in her role as a postpartum doula. She alleviated angst around the unknowns of having a newborn. She anticipated many physical and emotional needs I would require, which made the first 6 weeks of motherhood smoother processes. I would have been stressed and felt quite unsure without her guidance and support. Knowing Ebony was there for me, and having the trust in her, helped me to transition into my new and exciting role as a mother. I would highly recommend this service to anyone who is pregnant and nervous about their new role. My partner and I felt supported, cared for, and I believe this helped us become confident in our new roles, and enjoy our transition into parenthood.

Many thanks and gratitude.

Rebecca 

It takes a village to raise a child. When mothers do not receive adequate support, from health providers, family and friends, they become depleted. In my experience, this is more common than not. What I love is helping to redress this imbalance, working with the needs of each woman and her family to help establish healthy foundations for and current and future generations.

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