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Sarah

Fertility treatment Self-care

Self-care & showing up for yourself with Jamie Berman

May 30, 2019

The last in our series of self-care posts for #thebigselfcareshare is with Jamie Berman, a certified life and health coach who specialises in helping women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) lose weight. I first connected with Jamie on Instagram after experiencing PCOS symptoms and found her story entirely relatable. Here, I get the low down on her approach to self-care.

Jamie Berman self-care

Tell us about yourself.

I work with women on fine-tuning hormone health and nutrition to optimize weight loss and well-being. I merge diet with the development of self-love and body positivity, which lead to transformative changes and permanent results. Through my own experiences and those of my clients, I’ve seen first-hand how mindset is often the missing piece of the wellness puzzle.

I healed my body image and have remained committed to choosing foods that nourish.

Becoming the healthiest version of myself has been a journey. I struggled for over 20 years with PCOS and my body image. Today, I am 45 pounds lighter with minimal symptoms. Through my coaching studies and certification, and extensive personal research into PCOS and insulin resistance, I healed my body image and have remained committed to choosing foods that nourish. Now, I share what I’ve learned with others who are struggling—enabling women everywhere to thrive with PCOS.

What does self-care mean for you?

It’s taking care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Self-care is doing the things that lead to positive results over the long-term, even if it feels uncomfortable in the short-term. For example, turning down foods that don’t nourish my body when everyone around me is eating them. Or meditating in the morning even if I don’t feel like it. Self-care allows me to be the best version of myself. It helps me to show up for myself every day no matter what!

Tell me, what inspired you to become a PCOS coach?

My own struggle with PCOS is what drew me to coaching. I was overweight and had a terrible relationship with my body, and with food, so I turned to a coach to help me. Once I realized that so much of my suffering was created in my own mind, I was finally able to see exactly what was keeping me stuck. I did a ton of mindset work and experienced incredible transformation through this process, losing 45 pounds, feeling better than ever, and finally healing my relationship with my body and food.

I decided that getting certified as a life coach would allow me to help women get to the bottom of WHY they’re struggling.

Since I was already certified as a holistic health coach and had understood hormones and PCOS, I decided that getting certified as a life coach would allow me to help women get to the bottom of WHY they’re struggling, so I went to the Life Coach School. Now I help women lose weight by educating them about their hormones, and help them understand what foods work best for their bodies, along with the mindset work necessary to make lasting changes.

If you could offer a few quick tips on what to stop doing today for a better tomorrow, what would they be?

Stop criticizing yourself! Our brain likes to think it motivates us, but it actually does the opposite. Being hard on yourself will never lead to positive results. When you make a mistake or mess up, just get curious. Use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.

Do you have a resource you could share for anyone struggling with PCOS, something simple to set them on the path to wellness?

I have a free 5-Step Guide to Losing Weight with PCOS that’s different from any “diet plan” out there. You can grab the free guide on my website.

Thank you so much for your valuable contribution to#thebigselfcareshare, Jamie, and for reminding us that showing up each day can help us make big changes. You can find out more about Jamie and her business at:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thepcoscoach/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thepcoscoach/

And visit her website: www.thepcoscoach.com/

Baby loss Self-care

Self-care, baby loss & pregnancy after loss with The Fitness Dad

May 22, 2019

Today on the blog we have Jonny Stacey, also known as The Fitness Dad. Jonny’s a personal trainer based in Amersham in Buckinghamshire and he works with everyday people to help them get fit and healthy. We first connected through Instagram following our experiences of baby loss and I invited Jonny to share some of his self-care wisdom for #thebigselfcareshare.

Jonny Stacey self-care

Tell us about yourself, Jonny.

I’m a father of three; Arthur, Henry and Maggie. Arthur and Maggie are here with us and unfortunately, Henry was stillborn. I also have one four-legged pooch called Ben and an amazing fiancé, Katie.

As a personal trainer, I work with a lot of parents in particular as I can relate to their common everyday problems and help them find some time to work on themselves and solve those problems. I also have a YouTube channel where I put out Vlogs on fitness, baby loss and general family stuff. I have also written a blog all about our experience with stillbirth called ‘Don’t forget about dad‘.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care, to me, is about looking after yourself so you can give your best self to others. I believe that if you aren’t truly happy, you can’t serve and make others happy. I believe we all need to spend some time focusing on ourselves, especially as a parent otherwise it’s just all give, give, give.

How do you practice self-care?

I incorporate self-care through exercise and I think daily movement is hugely underrated. The endorphins from exercise are like no other. As a parent, I also think it’s hugely important to set an example of leading a fit and healthy life for your children. Exercise has played a huge role in every stage of my life and it’s what I have turned to, to help me cope, especially after the loss of our son Henry. I also think spending time doing things you love is incredibly important.

Eating well can make you feel good too and there is some truth in ‘you are what you eat’. If you eat rubbish all the time you feel pretty rubbish and if you eat healthy food you feel good.

I also try my best daily to just be a good person and think there is something very empowering about being kind to others.

I also try my best daily to just be a good person and think there is something very empowering about being kind to others. Be polite to people, including strangers. And I like to try and have a very positive outlook on things which was hugely tested with what happened to Henry but I have managed to somehow cope. I think a positive outlook has helped and your circle of peers are incredibly important for this; you need to surround yourself with nice people.

They say you are a by-product of the 5 people you spend the most time with so if you spend your time with positive, happy people you are likely to feel that way. If you spend your time with people who complain, moan or constantly put others down, you too will feel down and also start to do the same to others.

Tell me, how have you found the process of opening up online about your son and your experiences?

Opening up online about Henry has been one of the best things I have done in terms of coping with his loss. I have met people I never would have otherwise and we have been able to share our experiences.

I originally created my blog as a way of expressing to everyone I know about how I truly feel as I found it hard to open up to family members and thought well if they read it then they can see how I feel. I also thought a male voice and opinion was lacking and since opening up I have had people from all over the world, as far as Australia, say “thank you, you have helped my husband” or “I now get how my partner feels thanks to you”. The fact that my sharing my experience is helping others is helping me too.

I have some huge fundraising plans for charities related to stillbirth and I also have big plans to keep my son Henry’s name and legacy known for years to come, hopefully for long after I myself am gone.

You’ve recently welcomed your daughter. How was pregnancy after loss for your family and what advice can you offer to those going through this?

After losing Henry we knew the only way we could truly feel somewhat healed (we never truly will be) was to get pregnant again. For anyone who is at that crossroad, I’ll be honest, it will be the hardest 9 months of your life. Anxiety can be at an all-time high and so my advice is to make sure you and your partner communicate and tell each other how you feel. But also, be as patient as possible with each other.

Katie’s anxiety was like nothing I had ever experienced and at times I felt pretty helpless which just made me feel frustrated and at times I took that out on her. A situation like this really tests your relationship. We had two pregnancies with just a three-month gap between them and both were very stressful situations to be in. But I used exercise and walking with the dog to help clear my mind.

If you are on edge and scared about going through it, you just have to tick off the milestones as you go along. The fear will never go away no matter how long you wait, it will always be scary. It is so worth that pain when you get to leave the hospital with a baby and we will always miss and love our Henry but we can’t let that hold us back from growing our family. He deserves to be a big brother too.

We were very afraid of getting our hopes up but tried to get as excited as we did in our first pregnancy.

We were very afraid of getting our hopes up but tried to get as excited as we did in our first pregnancy. I thought, we should get excited when we see tiny baby clothes at the shop, we should think of what to call her, we should dream of bringing her home like we did her biggest brother Arthur. With Henry, the only time we got to spend with him and get to know him was in the 9 months he was in Katie’s belly and Arthur and I used to sing silly songs to the bump and rest our heads on it at night. That was the only time I got to spend with my son and god forbid if it was to happen again I didn’t want to look back and think we didn’t enjoy the time getting to know our baby because that could have been the only time we had with her.

Talk, breathe and try to enjoy the pregnancy as best as you can.

Thanks so much for your contribution, Jonny, and for sharing your experiences of losing Henry and of pregnancy after loss. I’m sure your words will offer so much support and encouragement to those going through or embarking upon what can be a fragile time.

If you’re struggling with self-care after baby loss or during pregnancy after loss, or indeed any aspect of health or fitness, you can follow Jonny on Instagram or visit his websites:

www.the-fitness-dad.com
dontforgetaboutdad.wordpress.com

Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – support & community

May 5, 2019

Secondary school friends, Shelley Lawrence and Sophie Taylor, launched hi mama in 2017. In their contribution to #thebigselfcareshare for Maternal Mental Health Week, they talk about their own maternal challenges and how this inspired them to create a digital space for other mothers to share their experiences.

Maternal Mental Health Week - hi mama

Tell us about yourselves

We both found motherhood more challenging than we expected, so we wanted to create somewhere for mothers to share their experiences in a place of no judgement, to help others to feel less isolated and alone. Letters have a poignancy and an intimacy and give you the freedom to explore your feelings honestly, especially writing a letter to your past-self. It really allows the writer time to reflect, so they can also appreciate how far they have come. We have now created a digital library of almost 150 letters on many motherhood subjects, including miscarriage, maternal mental health, single parenthood, birth, feeding, sleep and baby loss. So many readers and writers have told us the letters have helped them and we are determined to reach more mamas with the project.

What does self-care mean to each of you?

Shelley – It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine that, as a mum, generally revolves around a lot of other people before yourself. Self-care is something I am starting to consciously think about, be it getting up 20 minutes before everyone to do some exercise or taking time to plan and think about my passions. I see self-care as something I do for me that makes my heart sing and boosts my mood, that is separate from my family’s needs.

I see self-care as something I do for me that makes my heart sing and boosts my mood, that is separate from my family’s needs.

Sophie – Self-care is hard to achieve when you’re busy and sometimes I feel like I’m nearing a breaking point before I remember it’s needed. I went for a spa morning by myself when Felix was quite little and Shelley, another friend and I went to a spa on Saturday and it was so relaxing it honestly felt like a holiday. But I can’t rely on a spa to deliver my self-care! I think it’s accessing time that’s really yours and particularly at this time of life, as a working mum, it has to involve some kind of relaxation, even if that’s getting into bed just half an hour earlier.

I first discovered you through Instagram and found writing my letters so therapeutic. Tell me, what do you think the benefits of writings a letter are?

Shelley – Before we launched we both sat down and wrote our own letters to ourselves (which you can find on the site). My letter was about my first emergency C-section. It took me there, but instead of feeling like a failure as I had always before, it allowed me to step back and see how far I had come since that time. There’s something about talking to your past self with hindsight that really allows you to congratulate yourself in a way we just don’t do in general. It feels freeing.

Sophie – I think it’s how cathartic it can be to revisit a time that you found difficult and exonerate a lot of the ghosts or bad feeling. My first letter was about my son’s lack of sleep in the first year and writing about it made me realise how hard it had been but also what kind of mother I was and how proud I am now to have got through it.

If you could offer a tip on getting started with writing your own letter, what would it be?

Shelley – I’d say plan to have some time alone to think about it first, some peace to really revisit how you were feeling in that time and what you would say to yourself.

We want to hear as many voices of mothers as possible as they are all important, relevant and worth sharing.

Sophie – It doesn’t have to be perfect or have an epic journey – it’s your letter and is your experience of motherhood. We want to hear as many voices of mothers as possible as they are all important, relevant and worth sharing. And we publish every letter we receive.

Can you each share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you in the path to being kinder to yourself?

Shelley – I’m not one for giving tips or advice as I’m still figuring it all out myself, but that has been key for me the last few years… knowing that everyone else is too. I think once you accept that everyone is just trying their best, we are all just figuring it out as we go, it allows you to stop comparing and be kinder to yourself. For me, it’s finding the time for self-care, so I’d say schedule it in – it’s time well spent!

Sophie – I’m going to follow what Shelley said and also work out how I can replicate that spa feeling when I’m at home!

Thank you, Shelley and Sophie, for taking part in #thebigselfcareshare, and for telling us more about what inspired you to create hi mama. You can read their digital library of letters by visiting the hi mama website or by following them on social media:

www.instagram.com/hi_mama_letters/
www.twitter.com/hi_mama_letters
www.facebook.com/himamaletters

Fertility treatment Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – preparing for IVF and motherhood

May 4, 2019

Earlier this week I tentatively reached out to fellow Instagrammer, Lauren, about the possibility of creating a piece about IVF and her path to motherhood for Maternal Mental Health Week.

While days and weeks dedicated to causes such as mental health can bring people together, they also carry the risk of excluding others. It’s not always possible to include everyone but it occurred to me that Maternal Mental Health Week also applies to those who are trying to start their families and yet I haven’t seen many conversations about it.

Lauren is openly sharing her fertility struggles and here, as part of #thebigselfcareshare, she talks about how she’s supporting herself with a whole heap of love and laughter.

Lauren - supporting your fertility

Tell us about yourself and your fertility experience.

I was born and bred in Surrey where I now live with my husband and 2 cats – Simon, Bruce & Maverick. The 3 loves of my life. Closely followed by wine. I used to always hear people saying “there’s never a good time to have a baby” but I have since learned that this is something only the super-fertile, super-fortunate say. My husband and I have felt SO READY to start our family for about 3 years and have been TTC since 2016.

Shortly after the first year of trying, we went to visit our GP who ran some tests and eventually gave us the news that there was a male factor issue making it pretty difficult for us to conceive naturally (in spite of all my efforts with ovulation sticks, thermometers, sperm-friendly-lube, bedtime handstands, pineapples for breakfast etc).

We were totally knocked sideways by the result but a lot of learnings came out of it.

We were referred for our first round of IVF in February which sadly ended without any embryos to transfer. We were totally knocked sideways by the result but a lot of learnings came out of it and we’re now looking ahead to our second fresh cycle which we hope will begin this summer.

What does self-care mean for you and how have you been looking after yourself on your fertility journey?

For me, self-care is about finding time for the things that make me feel like Lauren. Infertility – in all its forms – can be exhausting and miserable. Whenever I feel either of those things, I know I’ve been slacking on the old self-care. Being around my friends and family is my go-to remedy most of the time. Laughter heals me so I do everything I can to surround myself with people who make me LOL and LMAO and ROFL.

I’ve recently made a playlist of tunes that take me right back to that happy, exciting time in my life.

Music is another thing that really brings me out of a bad bubble. I spent years training as a dancer (my true passion although I have long since lost all technique) and I’ve recently made a playlist of tunes that take me right back to that happy, exciting time in my life. Some other fixes for me include sunshine, yoga and bubble baths – with wine and candles in emergency situations.

We first discovered each other through Instagram. How have you found the fertility community?

In short, incredible. It was September last year when I first “came out” about our struggle conceiving and discovered the online Insta-Sisterhood. Before that, I’d felt SO ALONE. Like I was the only one having a hard time getting pregnant. The people I’ve connected with on here make me feel stronger, more positive and more clued up about fertility. I love you all. I honestly don’t know how I’d be coping if I hadn’t found this wonderful tribe.

I believe our maternal mental health needs to be considered well before we have children. Is this something you’ve considered on your path to parenthood?

Absolutely.

As much as I don’t want to believe it, infertility has changed the way I think. It’s like my brain has sort of rewired itself to associate babies/pregnancy with a feeling of pain. I’ve had my low points but I’m determined to get myself into a stronger frame of mind ahead of our next IVF cycle.

We need to look after ourselves to make sure we don’t burn out the moment we cross the finish line. Because, in reality, it’s actually another start line.

Rumour has it that the pregnancy/motherhood malarkey is no walk in the park and, ideally, I’d like to enter that chapter of my life feeling ready for the challenge. For those of us dealing with infertility and IVF – that challenge starts a long time before conception. Making a baby this way takes BALLS (excuse the pun), unrelenting commitment and a whole heap of love. We need to look after ourselves to make sure we don’t burn out the moment we cross the finish line. Because, in reality, it’s actually another start line.

Lauren, thank you so much for creating space for those experiencing fertility struggles during Maternal Mental Health Week. At your rawest, you’re supporting others and I’m sure it’s a self-care piece that will touch hearts!

You can find out more about Lauren by visiting:

www.instagram.com/laurenifen
www.thedinkyblog.com

Mental health Our story

Maternal Mental Health Week – holding on and letting go

May 3, 2019

My next blog for Maternal Mental Health Week takes us beyond my first experience of motherhoodmy diagnosis of PND shortly after my daughter was born, and my recent history of secondary infertility and recurrent miscarriage.

I created this website in early 2018 as a way of journaling about our fertility story as well as supporting myself and connecting with others during my testing and treatment. You can find earlier blogs about my testing, treatment and planning in the archives and so I’ll avoid repeating myself for those of you who are familiar with the hurdles we’ve faced over the last three years.

Today, I want to use this space to talk about the last nine months and about letting go of guilt and leaning into fear.

Holding on and letting go

Since deciding to put the breaks on trying to conceive last summer, following a fifth pregnancy loss, guilt and fear are the emotions I’ve grappled with most. The grieving process can be complex, said to be a fine balance of holding on and letting go, something I’m finally making sense of.

I no longer feel responsible for our losses, I’ve created space here and in my life and in my heart for all of our babies, and I’ve found a way to delicately mother Cora while navigating the loss of her baby brother. All of these things came with their own unique challenges and it’s taken time for me to make peace with what’s happened to us over the last few years. Of course, I still have down days, but they’re fewer. Processing guilt and learning about fear has helped.

Recently I realised that all I’ve ever wanted since June 2016 is to have Harris back, and as much as I love him and wish life was different, I can’t change it. But I can change how I respond to our situation. I need to create space for new things, something I don’t think I’ve been emotionally or mentally ready for in all the time we’ve continued to try. That was very hard for me to admit to myself for a long time.

Given our struggles, it was important for us first to take time out to see how life might look and feel without trying, to almost test the idea of stopping altogether and to give my body and mind the chance to heal, and I now see that I’d placed unrealistically high expectations of myself to recover quickly from each loss – something those around us were gently trying to let me know – and I needed to be kind to myself.

I was in a constant state of stress – in fight or flight mode – and had been for the best part of two years.

When we first took the decision to stop trying, I felt so much relief. We told our closest family and friends that we had come to the end of the road (for now), I wrote a blog to process my feelings around it (as writing is definitely my therapy!), then turned my attention back to life and work. Business as usual. Or so I thought…I had just made one of the most difficult choices of my life. And deciding to stop trying to grow our family felt so unnatural – the complete opposite of our hopes and dreams and the life we had imagined for ourselves – and the grief eventually caught up with me again. Only this time it impacted on me physically. And after learning about how loss grief can manifest in the body I don’t doubt that it had some impact on how I was feeling – guilt and fear and the overwhelm they bring meant I was in a constant state of stress – in fight or flight mode – and had been for the best part of two years.

So, over time, I’ve had to learn to listen to my body and mind and give them what they need. Following NHS physiotherapy and rheumatology appointments I was eventually given the diagnosis of polyarthralgia – but all that really does is explain some of my symptoms – pain in multiple joints. Fortunately, I’ve had private support in the form of private physiotherapy, osteopathy and reflexology, and the focus has been on managing those symptoms rather than trying to get to a root cause. Sometimes, there isn’t one particular thing that results in pain in the body and, while that left me in a state of limbo for a while, it’s also given me the chance to focus on other things such as my mental health.

Allowing ourselves to ask for and accept support is one of the truest forms of self-love.

To cut a long story short, we’ve learned a lot about our fertility over the last few years, and feel ready to open our hearts back up to the possibility of growing our family again. Despite being in a challenging place physically, I feel emotionally and mentally well. Writing and talking and sharing has helped me make sense of the big stuff and make the tough calls. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be sharing the intimate details as we find the courage to try again – I’m learning to create better boundaries – but Maternal Mental Health Week has given me an opportunity to read other stories and it’s inspired me to share my own story again and invite support from the fertility community. I had a really powerful conversation with a close friend yesterday and we touched on the idea of receiving help and how difficult it can be. Allowing ourselves to ask for and accept support is one of the truest forms of self-love – and it’s something I’m ready for.

I’m also ready to put all of my fertility knowledge into action now we have the right team of people around us and feel safe and supported. Our local NHS fertility clinic has so much faith in us, my EFT coach is always on hand to offer support, my reflexologist is the absolute bee’s knees, and we have a treatment plan for pregnancy that we’ve never had the opportunity to even try. You see, we found out so much between our fourth and fifth loss – in that time we decided to invest in private testing, leaving no stone unturned – but sadly our last pregnancy ended within days and I didn’t get the chance to even start treatment. Looking back, I think felt like I’d failed at the first hurdle. And it was all too much after the time and energy (not to mention money) we’d invested.

But if we don’t try again, I’ll always wonder what if. And what ifs have been at the root of much of my guilt and fear. What if I’d done X, Y and Z…would Harris be alive? What if we knew what we knew now…would we have lost so many babies? What if we can’t grow our family…how will I accept that? Well, this is the question we have no answer to. But I do know that I’ll never accept it if I don’t give my treatment plan a chance.

It will be some time before we take those bold steps, but it feels good to be in a better place, a kinder and gentler one, where I can hold onto the memories that serve me and let go of the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that don’t.

Love,
Sarah x

Mental health Our story

Maternal Mental Health Week – reflections on PND

May 1, 2019

Today, as part of Maternal Mental Health Week, I shared my postnatal depression (PND) story with Isabella & Us. I touched on why I’m so mindful of my mental health and my experiences of talk therapy, as well as various coping mechanisms, which haven’t always been healthy.

Sarah Robertson PND

Jonathan and I knew that becoming parents was going to be a challenge, but we hadn’t quite appreciated just how anxious and fragile I was during and after pregnancy, and together we’ve had to overcome many hurdles.

Feelings of not being good enough, having no grip on reality and being unable to control my emotions left me in a dark place. But talk therapy brought me back from damaging thinking patterns and taught me the importance of self-care. Opening up has helped me to stay afloat, it’s nurtured my body and mind, and offered me the tools to support myself.

I’m no expert, but I’m passionate about delivering the message that it’s okay not to be okay. There’s always a way through. And curiously PND was both a blessing and a curse and the process of overcoming depression healed me in ways I never thought possible.

I was nervous about sharing my experience of PND but it’s been helpful to look back on the last four years. Talking is therapy, and writing and sharing can be therapy too!

Read more about my experience of and recovery from PND on the Isabella & Us blog.

Love,
Sarah x

Baby loss Mental health Self-care

Maternal Mental Health Week – baby loss & early motherhood

April 30, 2019

Louise O’Donnell created her blog after a traumatic experience of pregnancy and early motherhood. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare for Maternal Mental Health Week, Louise shares the steps she’s taken towards finding support within a community of like-minded people on her challenging path to becoming a parent.

Louise O'Donnell - maternal mental health week

Tell us about your experience of pregnancy and loss.

I had a twin pregnancy where we sadly lost one baby at 28 weeks. Our surviving baby had to come prematurely to stay safe and was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 9 weeks. I remember feeling so angry and cheated that we had experienced such a sad loss – this isn’t how pregnancy and motherhood are in the fairytales. I also found early motherhood so full of anxiety and doubt.

I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

I set up my Instagram account and blog because I didn’t want anyone else to feel like they were alone in experiencing loss, prematurity and generally not knowing how to navigate being a new mum with all its pressures, especially guilt and comparison. I feel passionate about reaching out and helping others through our actions, however small.

We first discovered each other through the online baby loss community. Tell me, how have you found writing about your experience of motherhood?

I started, as many do, for cathartic reasons and to try and find like-minded people. I was dubious about starting an Instagram account as I know there can be lots of crazy negativity but in the loss community, I’ve found so much warmth and support. It’s one of those situations where you would give anything to not be in the club of bereaved parents, but you also get to meet the strongest most inspiring people.

…through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

For me, I felt so alone in my grief as I experienced a less common form of loss, but through writing about my experiences I’m more confident in how I navigate grief and know I’m not alone – that is an amazing comfort.

Where did you find the most support following the loss of your baby and as a new mum to her twin?

Because I had a twin pregnancy, I used the charity Tamba (Twin and Multiple Births Association) through the good, the bad and the ugly, from the first scans to the loss. After the loss, I used their bereavement befriender service to get me through the early raw stages of the grief. The lady who I was matched with is now a close personal friend who I cherish more than I can say. In terms of Instagram, there is such a wide community of parents who have experienced loss in many different ways and I have found the ones who I can relate to. Grief is so personal and I’ve learned you need to connect with those who ‘get it’. I’ve also recently attended Baby Loss Hour Live hosted by Jess, The Legacy of Leo, and this was hugely significant for me in meeting other parents and again reaffirming that I’m not alone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

How would you define self-care and how have you prioritised it during this time?

To me, self-care isn’t going to the nail salon or having your hair done (although both are lovely!). I think it also includes looking after your mental health and wellbeing – like going for a walk, taking time out for yourself, picking up the phone and calling a friend. I try to set a realistic self-care plan that I know I can achieve – right now it’s to cut down on alcohol, cut out coffee, make sure I get outside every day and before bed I write a gratitude list and meditate. Usually, I try to make an effort to reboot if my resources are low rather than just taking easy routes of shutting off in front of the telly and pouring a glass of wine! Saying that what counts for self-care for one day might not cut it the next so I stay flexible!

Can you share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourself as a new mum?

I would say the thing I find most helpful is getting outside every single day (illness aside). If I don’t have any plans for the day, I get the pram, put on a podcast and pop my earphones in and just walk. It doesn’t matter where. There are times as a new mum where you get to mid-afternoon, you haven’t got dressed, all the day has brought is poo explosions and screaming (from the baby…hopefully!) and you just feel like you’ll go under.

…feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible.

Just get out, even if it’s around the streets a few laps! I also think its really good to book out baby-free time ahead in your diary with friends so you can reacquaint yourself with the old you – feeling a loss of identity was a huge thing for me as a new mum and you need to bring the old you back out whenever possible. As much as I cherish being a mum I was someone before that too!

Thank you for your raw and honest contribution to#thebigselfcareshare, Louise, and for sharing your story and the inspiration behind your blog.

You can find out more about Louise by visiting:

www.instagram.com/helpamummyout
www.helpamummyout.co.uk

Mental health Our story

Maternal Mental Health Week – my motherhood

April 29, 2019

For the first day of Maternal Mental Health Week, I rewind to the time we decided to start a family.

This comes with a trigger warning as I do talk about our experience of an uncomplicated pregnancy as well as our experience of secondary infertility and recurrent loss. This can be hard to read when you’ve faced fertility struggles of any kind, but I think it’s important for me to share the ups and the downs. Sometimes joy and pain go hand in hand.

Sarah Robertson - maternal mental health

Starting our family

It was April 2014 and our wedding plans were underway. But we weren’t enjoying that side of things and I was beginning to feel the pressure. My partner Jonathan suggested we focus on trying for a baby instead. And it felt like such a relief, a simple (really?) alternative.

Fertility was something we thought could be a challenge for us. But for whatever reason we were undeterred. We decided to start trying, see where it took us and didn’t really talk about the obstacles.

We just felt that growing our family was a good idea and something to focus on sooner rather than later.

In previous years I’d undergone investigations after facing hormonal imbalances since my teens. I suppose you could say I had a ‘funny feeling’ things might not go our way. But we weren’t overly worried. We just felt that growing our family was a good idea and something to focus on sooner rather than later.

A day or so after discussing our family plans, it occurred to me that I’d experienced an incredibly long cycle. Much longer than usual. I didn’t say much to Jonathan but spent the next few days observing how I felt and initially put it down to thinking about babies and becoming more attuned to my fertility. Then a few days later, I started to feel movement, and we joked that the immaculate conception had taken place during our ‘family planning’ chat the week before.

When two became three

Well, there they were. Two lines. I think I did four tests just to be sure then rushed Jonathan out to the pharmacy to grab a digital test just to see the word ‘pregnant’. I think it might have been the most shocked, excited, petrified and grateful I’d ever felt in my life.

My thoughts immediately went to the safety of the baby and the need for an ultrasound to determine how far along I was. Was I weeks or months into the pregnancy? I had no clue. We would have to wait a week for an NHS appointment so decided to book privately for peace of mind. And the scan the next day couldn’t have been more unbelievable.

I was 15 weeks along, watching a moving, kicking baby. We were a family of three.

It was then that we decided to speak to those closest to us, especially the family and friends who had been experiencing fertility struggles. It was important to me that they heard the news from us first, and that we follow their lead in terms of keeping in touch and seeing each other if they were comfortable with that.

Fast forward five years and I often wonder how and why I took that approach. There were so many aspects of pregnancy with my daughter that I took for granted. But not once did I wish to showcase my pregnancy regularly on social media. And while I don’t judge those who do, for me it felt like it must be a painful thing to have to see if you’re experiencing fertility struggles or baby loss, and those struggles were very close to home within my family and among friends. I didn’t want to stir sadness in anyone. And it meant keeping a little of the joy to myself, something I think we forget to do in this digital world, so it was no bad thing.

Our experiences of loss

I often wonder if my views related in some way to what the future held for us. Maybe I knew I would experience baby loss and fertility struggles someday? Who knows.

But when we lost our second pregnancy, in the summer of 2016, it came as a total shock. We were beyond the apparent safe zone, almost halfway through the pregnancy, when my son was born far too soon. When we lost Harris, I was shown the same love and care that I had always attempted to show others in times of difficulty, even if I never quite got the words or actions right back then, and with the losses that followed the support from the majority of our close family and friends remained constant.

Everyone’s take on these experiences will be different but I felt a strong bond with my son, encouraged by the midwife who helped to deliver him.

Between  2016 and 2018 we lost five pregnancies; one late miscarriage, two early miscarriages and two chemical pregnancies. Everyone’s take on these experiences will be different but I felt a strong bond with my son, encouraged by the midwife who helped to deliver him, and I felt connections with each of my subsequent pregnancies, one of which was another son, confirmed through genetic testing.

Finding the joy in between

Today I want to focus on three positive aspects and the things that have helped me cope with loss and honour my son while continuing to parent my daughter. Because this is my experience of motherhood so far.

  1. With regular counselling, journalling and EFT (tapping), I’ve found the capacity to find joy in between the hard times. It’s not always easy, but with practice it’s possible.
  2. Discovering gratitude has been an unexpected side-effect of loss. While I very much want to grow my family, I’m also thankful for the life I have, although accepting that my fate might not change still involves some daily work.
  3. I strongly believe that what’s for me won’t go by me, and while I hope that our fate might change, I understand that there isn’t always a happy ending. Or not necessarily what we think our happy ending might be.

In learning to mother the child we got to take home, and in navigating life after the loss of the babies we had to leave behind, the following words have always stuck with me: “the only way out is through”. To me, they are a constant reminder to ‘do the work’. Not in a blunt or harsh way, but to simply keep going at your own pace until you see that there are still moments to be thankful for if you look closely enough.

Tomorrow I hope to share more about my early experiences of motherhood, specifically postnatal depression.

If you’d like to reach out or add your own thoughts do comment or share below or over on Instagram.

Love,
Sarah x

Self-care

Kat Nicholls on self-worth & upping your self-care game

April 24, 2019

Kat Nicholls is a writer, blogger and coach who wants to help people discover their self-worth and up their self-care game. In her contribution to #thebigselfcareshare, she talks about learning to accept and love who she is and helping others to do the same.

Kat Nicholls on self-worth

Tell us about yourself.

In my teenage years, I struggled with an eating disorder, low self-esteem and didn’t think I was worthy of, well… anything. Over the years, with the help of therapy and a lot of self-development work, I’m happy to say this has changed.

I’ve learnt to accept and love who I am and to believe in myself. My aim is to help others do the same through writing and coaching. Monday to Thursday I work as a writer for a company that runs mental health and wellbeing websites and Happiful magazine. I fit my blogging and coaching work around this, which can be quite a lot of work! To keep my mental health in check, I have to ensure I practice what I preach and prioritise self-care.

What does self-care mean for you?

For me, self-care is all about tuning into what my body and mind need – and giving it that. Sometimes that means saying no to a social invite because I need to prioritise rest. Sometimes it means dragging myself out of the flat for a walk because I know my body needs movement.

I consider being creative an essential act of self-care.

As well as the more ‘stereotypical’ self-care practices like meditation, yoga and baths (which I love!), I consider being creative an essential act of self-care. Having the space to write and take pictures helps me express myself, something that I think can get forgotten when we talk about self-care.

I first discovered you through the Creatively Human podcast. Tell me, what inspired you to build a career as a coach?

I’ve always wanted to be able to help and support people, but I was beginning to feel a little restricted doing this solely through blog posts and articles.

Self-care and self-worth are incredibly personal things. We all have different circumstances, different histories, different experiences. This can make it difficult to create a blog post or magazine article that’s tailored – you have to keep things quite generic.

Through coaching, you have dedicated time with one person. You’re able to listen to their experiences, their obstacles and help them find a way forward. This is why it appealed to me, so I did my training, got insured and launched my services! To me, it’s felt like a natural evolution from what I was doing through the blog.

How do you make sure you’re looking after yourself each day?

I like to take time on a Sunday to plan my week ahead and always make sure I include self-care on my ‘to-do’ list. I know that if I don’t carve out space for self-care and rest, I can get overwhelmed and my anxiety can spike.

Because I know the consequences of neglecting self-care, I give it the same weight of importance as any other task on my list.

Because I know the consequences of neglecting self-care, I give it the same weight of importance as any other task on my list. As well as having this time scheduled in, I check in with myself daily through journaling. This just helps me stay aware of how I’m feeling, what I need more of and what boundaries I need to put in place.

You talk a lot about self-love. Share a tip, something that’s helped you on your path to loving yourself a little more.

A tool I used when I was recovering from my eating disorder, and one I still use today, is having an ‘evidence bank’. Back then it was a tiny notebook I filled with compliments from other people. Every time my eating disorder voice tried to make me feel worthless, I referred back to my evidence bank and argued back.

These days it’s a photo album on my phone filled with screenshots of lovely messages, emails and comments I get that remind me what I’m doing is making a difference and that I’m on the right path. Set up your own evidence bank in whatever format works for you and start to use it to argue with your inner critic.

I really enjoyed reading your contribution, Kat. And the concept of an ‘evidence bank’ is one I’ve heard of but it’s great to know how it started for you and how you continue to use it. Thank you for taking part and for giving us such an honest perspective of your self-care routine.

You can follow Kat on Instagram and Twitter and find out more about her self-worth coaching at Blue Jay of Happiness. Kat also has a brilliant blog, newsletter and works at Happiful Magazine.

Mental health Self-care

Why IT’S OK TO FEEL S.H.I.T with Susie Aitken

March 16, 2019

Next in my series of self-care posts for #thebigselfcareshare is Susie Aitken, founder of parenting and lifestyle blog, So Happy In Town / S.H.I.T. She recently launched the #itsoktofeelshit t-shirt campaign to raise awareness and funds for Young Minds, a charity striving for improved mental health support for young people. Susie and I first encountered each other on the Selfish Mother Masterclasses – it was only recently that I discovered she’s an Edinburgh lass too – and here she tells me more about her blog, the inspiration behind her campaign and, of course, her approach to self-care.

Susie Aitken and why IT'S OK TO FEEL SHIT

Tell us about yourself.

I founded my blog two years ago because I wanted to write about the rollercoaster that is parenting – the good sh*t but also the not so good sh*t – with the main ethos being that we’re all in this together. I’m originally from Edinburgh but moved down to London in my early 20’s and now live in West London with my husband, Mr S.H.I.T. and our three children, the little S.H.I.T.s – I did run this by them by the way!

What does self-care mean for you?

Self-care is something that we’re all guilty of not prioritising enough. It’s really hard when you’ve got children and you obviously put their needs (and often that of your partner) ahead of your own, which most of us can’t help but do. Self-care to me is quality time to yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. I know even 10 minutes a day can seem like a mean feat when you’re juggling a million other things, but it really is so important to have some quality me-time for our own mental health.

How do make self-care a part of your daily routine?

I make sure I go to the gym regularly as this helps my headspace so much – I’m like a different person afterwards. I also use the Calm app every day to meditate, as that 10 minutes each day, having quiet time to myself, is so important and clears my head. I’m someone who definitely needs time on my own, just to be me, whenever I can grab it.

Share a tip, something that’s helped you on the path to being kinder to yourself.

Sleep! I know it’s not rocket science but once I’d got the children to bed (which gets later and later now as they older), I used to start frantically trying to get lots of things done that I hadn’t managed to do in the day. Then I’d crawl into bed utterly exhausted, not giving myself enough time to unwind, and before I knew it would be morning again and time to get on the hamster wheel again. I was frazzled, irritable and broken most days. Now I make sure I’m much stricter and get to bed by 10 pm, reading for a little bit before going to sleep and giving my body and mind a really good chance to recharge overnight.

I’ve started to think of one or two things a day that I’m grateful for. Even when I feel I’ve had a rubbish day, there’s always something good that has happened.

Also, before I go to sleep, I’ve started to think of one or two things a day that I’m grateful for. Even when I feel I’ve had a rubbish day, there’s always something good that has happened, however small, and this little ritual really helps to leave my mind in a positive place before that day is done. I get my children to do it too so that positive thoughts fill their heads, even when they’re not feeling it.

Tell us about the S.H.I.T. t-shirt campaign you’re running for YoungMinds.

I started the #itsoktofeelshit t-shirt campaign, with 100% profit going to YoungMinds because I feel passionate about young people’s mental health having first been hit myself by depression and panic attacks in my early 20’s and not knowing or being told it was ok to feel like that. I thought I was a freak who would be ostracised by society if I told anyone how much I was struggling when it seemed that everyone else was coping so well. But even more so, because we, as a family, have been affected first-hand and we are very much not alone – one in five children will experience a mental health difficulty at least once in their first 11 years, and many adults with lifetime mental health issues can trace the symptoms back to childhood. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness and to let kids know that it really is ok and it’s good to share.

Where did the idea for the slogan #itsoktofeelshit come from?

I know it’s slightly controversial but I wanted to play on my blog name and seeing as it is called S.H.I.T. it seemed the perfect slogan. And it totally sums up what I wanted young people to feel – that it’s ok to feel shit and there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Mental illness is just like physical illness and it’s so good to talk about it.

Susie, thank you so much for your contribution and for sharing more about what prompted you to start the campaign. I love your self-care tips and your approach proves that sometimes the simplest things can help you cultivate a supportive, everyday self-care practice.

If you’re quick you can buy one of the remaining t-shirts from www.sohappyintown.com/shop. 100% profit from every single tee sold goes to YoungMinds, who are fighting for an era where there is mental health support available for every young person who reaches out.

You can also find Susie on the following social media channels:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sohappyintown
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sohappyintown
Twitter: twitter.com/SoHappyInTown

And visit her website: www.sohappyintown.com