Motherhood in the Age of Social Media

Pregnancy is hard. Labour is even harder. But parenting—that is hands down the hardest!

Let me rephrase that—parenting in today’s day and age is the hardest. I can’t speak for generations before me, but being a parent in the age of social media is an added stress all on its own.

Before becoming a mother, I vowed to never be “that mom.” You know, the mom who obsessed over her child’s development and compared her kid to everyone else’s or the mom who forgot who she was and got lost in her children.  No, that was not going to be me!  I was going to be a cool mom. The mom who didn’t care about what people thought and who didn’t constantly compare her kids at playdates. I was going to be easy going and let my kid grow and develop on his own timeline all while maintaining my social life and hobbies.

And then in 2015, my first son, Chase came along and everything I promised myself went out the window. As a naturally anxious person, being a mother amplified my anxiety tenfold.

It started with a horrifying labour, I must admit, I didn’t have that instant mother-baby bond that everyone talks about when their child is born. I struggled to breast feed and I had an episiotomy that left me in severe pain for 6 weeks. I could hardly care for myself, let alone a baby. Why wasn’t this a happy time like everyone seemed to describe on social media and in the movies?

I guess you could say the first few months with Chase I experienced postpartum blues. Being sleep deprived and in pain, combined with wacky hormone levels, I was feeling anything but happy. I was also paranoid that because of Chase’s rough start into the world (he came out not breathing) that he would be a victim of SIDS. So I slept on the floor beside his crib for the whole first year of his life. The doctors warn you about postpartum blues, but they don’t emphasize how common it is and how bad it can get.

After the first few months, I started to develop my bond with Chase.  The pain was slowly going away and I was getting used to my new mom routine. Life was getting better, at least for the time being.

As a new mom, I joined lots of Mommy Groups both online and in person. It seemed like the right thing to do, but for someone with anxiety like me, this was probably one of the worst things I could do for myself.

The worst were the social media posts. I could not scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing other mom’s posting about all their kids milestones and achievements. I was slowly becoming depressed and anxious when looking at other people’s lives. When I saw other kids advancing quicker than Chase, I became paranoid about his development. I truly believed something was wrong with my perfect, sweet little boy and no one could convince me otherwise, all because I was doing the one thing I never said I would do-compare him to others.

The Internet also didn’t help me at all. My doctor even warned me not to trust “Dr. Google” but I couldn’t help myself. I would google one issue and would fall down a rabbit hole of paranoia. Everything seemed to be a “sign” or “symptom” of some sort of development delay or problem. It was a vicious cycle and I just couldn’t escape. All the while, I became resentful of motherhood.  It became my hobby to diagnose my child with a problem, when there never even was one to begin with. This was all stemming from my imagination and my impression of other people’s children on the internet.

This anxiety carried on in the back of my mind constantly. I learned to live with it, like a shadow following me around. I just went through the motions, and sort of abandoned who I was all together, putting all my time and energy into my anxiety.

It wasn’t until I had my second son, Chad, in April 2018 that I finally broke down. This time, my postpartum blues were worse than the first time, putting me in a very depressive state. My family worried for me, and 6 weeks postpartum they brought me to the hospital for help.

I was instantly put on anti-anxiety medication and was told things would get better. I felt like a loser sitting in the psych ward of the hospital. When the doctor came in to finally assess me, I told him all my worries and fears and acknowledged that they were silly but that I couldn’t seem to shake them.

The doctor then told me that with social media and mom groups, he sees a lot of mothers coming in for the same reasons. I felt slightly relieved after hearing I wasn’t alone in this. The constant comparing was literally making me sick. He gave me some pamphlets for parenting help and a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

It was shortly after this episode that I realized how silly I was being and how much time I was wasting. I decided I needed some time to focus on myself and my health. I needed some balance. So I began dancing again which I hadn’t done in years, I began to write and go back to the gym religiously, all with the support of my husband and family. Maybe it was the medication or the exercise, or probably a mix of both, but I was starting to feel good again.

I am here to tell other mothers that it’s okay to not feel okay, but it is super important to reach out and get help. In retrospect, I should have sought help a few years earlier, but due to my shame and guilt, I held back. And somewhere along the lines I had lost myself.

Fast forward 7 months after my breakdown and I am feeling 100% better. This journey into Motherhood has taught me the importance of balance. Balance for yourself and balance with technology and social media.

If you can’t fill your own bucket, how are you supposed to fill those of your children or anyone else for that matter? It almost seems shameful and selfish to put yourself above anyone else, but sometimes it is necessary. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, go get a manicure…do something for yourself, because by doing something for you, you are also doing something for your children-giving them the best version of yourself-happy, healthy and open minded.

In terms of social media, I have become more level headed about what I see in my feeds. You don’t realize how much time you waste on there, and the false impressions you get that make you feel bad about yourself. It’s just a highlight reel, and sometimes people forget that.  It is easy to get caught up in the world of social media and mommy blogs, especially when you are a new mom and are looking for answers. Just take everything with a grain of salt and know that not everything is always as it seems. You got this mama and you aren’t alone!

 

A Different Way to Treat Baby Eczema

Skin is the largest organ of the human body. And despite us often thinking that it separates us from the world, the opposite is true. Our skin connects us to our environment, to other people, to life outside of our bodies. It’s a complex, intelligent organ that is made up of multiple layers. And it does a lot more than just wrapping itself around our bodies.

Being uncomfortable in your skin can feel like a torture, and all of us have at some point experienced the pain of having skin that is not happy.

I started a cosmetic business after learning that my baby girl was not so unique in having multiple skin issues within days of birth. The skin of babies is delicate and different in structure from the skin of adults. It’s 5x more permeable than adult skin. Baby acne, cradle cap, eczema are some of the most common issues we see. I was one of the stressed-out moms looking at my baby, doing whatever I could to help and failing miserably. When the doctor put a prescription for steroid cream in my hand and I picked it up from the pharmacy and read the ingredients in it, I drew a line.

 

There hasn’t been enough research done in the field of eczema. Our bodies are blamed, and we are told it’s an autoimmune issue. The space age treatment of applying mineral oil-based product with powerful steroids on a few month-old’s baby seemed like a very lazy way of covering up a real problem. I started looking for other solutions, none of which brought any results and so I searched and learned and experimented in my kitchen until I had a product that was finally making a difference.

Most babies get eczema around 3-4 months after birth or as the indoor heating season approaches. For many it is a temporary issue that over time improves and does not return. In my opinion, this is the skin learning how much oil to produce and dealing with new environmental challenges.  The best solution is to bathe without soaps and apply emollient moisturizer at least once a day. My motto is “Keep calm and Butter up!”

Avoid creams that list water as the first ingredient, because despite labels of dermatologist recommended claims, they contain synthetic polymers and powerful preservatives that are known skin irritants and sensitizers.

For some babies the problem persists and even gets worse. In that case I recommend you pick up the Liver Rescue by Anthony William, or the Medical Medium as he is known on social media. Anthony’s theory is that skin issues like eczema are a result of a struggling liver.

Eczema, he believes, is a reaction of the liver to copper and mercury stored there, that interacts with a dormant virus, most likely one of the strains of EBV. The virus produces a derma toxin which then causes a reaction like eczema. Our skin purges dermatoxins to take the burden off the liver and the result is dry, itchy skin or weeping painful skin. Your baby probably inherited the heavy metals from you. Copper can come from water pipes, pesticides and mercury, which was commonly used as an ingredient in dental fillings. You may have inherited these from your mother too and your liver never got the opportunity to eliminate it.

There are a few ways to deal with this issue, or more accurately help to alleviate the symptoms.

  1. Eliminate environmental toxins. This can be quite a challenge, since a lot of clothing is infused with fire retardants and fabric brighteners. Organic cotton and bamboo may be the best way to go. Emma Rohman right here in Toronto has a great little business called Green at Home.  Her blog and FB group “the Green Product Forum” gives tips on making our homes greener and cleaner.

 

  1. Topical support for the skin. Coming from someone who tried everything under the Sun and ended up creating my own butter: petrolatum or mineral oil based products are not the answer. Our bodies were not designed to handle this kind of oil. Besides, mineral oil is a suspected endocrine disruptor – it causes more allergic reactions and dries the skin with long term use. Healthy baby skin is 5x more absorbent to begin with and inflamed and broken skin is even more permeable. Our bodies have no solution for the elimination of mineral oil, which has to pass through the liver to get eliminated. Unlike adult skin, baby skin is structured from saturated fatty acids. Using the right moisturizer is key. Unlike olive oil and beeswax for example, cocoa butter has small enough molecules to penetrate baby skin and nourish it from the deepest layers. That’s why we use 40% of crude organic Cocoa Butter in our formulas.

 

  1. Clean up your diet. Formula fed babies are given limited choices, but the amazing book “Super Nutrition for babies” written by a nutritionist and paediatrician has an entire chapter on different types of home-made formulas. Breast fed babies rely on their mom’s nutrition, and by avoiding foods that feed the viruses, such as dairy and eggs, we can improve the situation. Anthony William has a long catalogue of nutritional recipes that support the liver, including a heavy metal detox smoothie to help eliminate the trouble makers from our bodies.

 

  1. Reduce your stress. Eating healthy foods, regular exercise and meditation is a huge help. Try to reduce your consumption of coffee as it is a stressor for your body. Coffee forces our adrenal glands to produce stress hormones which get processed and neutralized by the liver, putting further burden on it. This not only translates in the quality of your breast milk, but in your own anxiety level. I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but babies are so in tune with their mothers; they basically feel everything we feel. Your stress becomes your baby’s stress. It’s not only the toxins from unhealthy food their livers have to process from your milk, but also your stress hormones too. We think babies don’t deal with stress! Not true! The process of development is a stressful one. New functions of the body kick in and surprise them with their intensity. Pain of growing teeth and digestion is extremely stressful for a baby, as well as your distress. Uncomfortable skin is yet another one. So take care of yourself first mama, to take care of your baby!

Tips for New Moms from West End Mamas

This is hanging in the reception area when you walk into West End Mamas. Love it so much.

1) Dr Sarah, as someone who has worked closely with pregnant and new moms for over 15 years, tell us, what inspired you to open West End Mamas? Was there a need you saw that wasn’t being met? 

After being in practice serving only the perinatal community for over 10 years, it became abundantly clear to me that we have lost the sense of “the village” in Toronto. Mamas were scrambling to find experienced healthcare practitioners to help them during pregnancy and in postpartum, but weren’t sure who to trust, and had to go all over the city to find them.  Childcare during appointments was always a barrier, and there was a lack of a supportive community.  West End Mamas was born out of the desire to fill that gap – to provide excellent perinatal healthcare to mamas in a supportive environment where we try to think of everything that a mama might need to make life easier.

2) What is the one main tip for new moms you would offer? I realize this may be hard to narrow down!

Ask for help.  Be willing to accept help.  Be ok with not being able to do everything on your own.  Ok – that’s three pieces of advice, but it’s really all the same thing.  Somehow, over the past few centuries, we’ve come to think that we should be parenting in isolation.  That we should be capable of doing everything ourselves. But the reality is that this isn’t how parenting should work. We are not meant to do it all alone.  We are meant to raise our kids in community and to have the support of others to help us navigate the wildness that is new motherhood.  Motherhood is really, really hard, and we’re not meant to do it alone.  Ask for help.

3) Many moms have shared with me personal stories of feeling pressured and shamed for struggling with new motherhood – especially postpartum anxiety and breastfeeding challenges. What are your thoughts on societal pressures facing new moms in 2017 today? 

It’s hard to even know where to start with this one.  I was convinced I knew everything about parenting – until I became one.  “You do you” is really my new mantra.  Some women can breastfeed easily.  Some can’t.  Some have babies that sleep.  Some don’t. Some breeze through the postpartum phase, and some (like me), really, really, really struggle with it.  However, there is no right or wrong.  Seeing as how these little bundles of joy don’t come with instruction manuals, parenting is 99% intuition.  I’m a firm believer in “educated, informed choice” is best.  Not breast is best, or even fed is best.  A mama that is educated on all of the available options so that she can choose what is best for her family will make the best decision for her and her family. If co-sleeping is working for you and your family, then co-sleep.  If it works better for you to have a night nanny so that you can sleep and function, then that’s great.  If you’re going a little nutty because you haven’t slept in weeks and your little bundle of “joy” is less joyous than you expected, understand that that’s ok. We don’t have to love it all, or even most of it.  Sometimes just getting through the day is enough.  The sooner we can all be honest about how hard it is to be a new mama, the better.  I’m here to lead the charge, help women find their voices, and help them find their tribes so that they can be properly supported the way they are meant to be.

 

Dr. Sarah Mickeler

When Breastfeeding is a Struggle

When Boobs Become Food

I sat awake the night our baby was born, staring at him with amazement. Our birthing story was one of ease. We were lucky to birth him at home with a smooth and relatively short labour. In the 9 months of being pregnant I learned from friends and even strangers what I thought was every detail surrounding pregnancy and birth. I learned that if you play music they can hear it. I learned that the weekly size of the fetus can be compared to fruit. This makes zero sense really. How can a baby be the size of a leek? I learned about the hospital bag essentials. Particularly how embarrassing it can be to run into your partner’s friend while stocking up on adult diapers for said bag. I learned about the love you can feel for something that is only the size of a peppercorn yet has a heartbeat. And most importantly I learned that no, wearing spanks during pregnancy can not harm the baby. We had waited for this baby for over four years but, while being no stranger to hard work, I wasn’t prepared for the struggles that came after the ring of fire.

Following the birth, the midwives tucked us into bed and snuck off into the night leaving us with this new human staring back at us–his big blue eyes channeling the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors saying “Feed me Seymour”. The next day during our visit from the midwife she told us our baby had a tongue tie which needed to be released so that he could feed properly. The earliest appointment for this was a month out. Although he was already precious, patient and calm, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be understanding about waiting a month to eat. So we attempted to figure out this feeding thing while our midwife stood overhead until her phone rang and she rushed to the many other babies waiting to be birthed. We struggled for the next few days through nipple shields, hospital–grade breast pumps, numerous books, cracked nipples, bottles, two types of formula, lots of tears and many hours of what I have learned to be the biggest new mother no no….the dreaded deep hole of the internet…Google.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 9.08.08 PM
Photo cred: @SummerandStorm

I am pretty sure I have read every possible website advocating how wonderful breastfeeding is with supporting glamorous Instagram photos of women sipping heart-shaped foam lattes while casually feeding their babies with hashtags sporting “#the breast is best”. I sat sobbing in a sports bra with holes cut out so I could pump hands free. This was far from the images on my Pinterest board of half–naked women feeding their babies on beaches displaying what we are told our bodies are naturally made to do. It was during this time that I wished I had spent even just a little bit of time prepping for this so I didn’t feel so absolutely helpless.

What I now realize is the best thing to come out of my extensive research was the term Lactation Consultant. I called the first number my close friend Google gave me, Lynda Kirby. The voice on the other end of the phone was so magical that for the first time I felt relaxed knowing that my boobs would be in good hands, literally. Lynda arrived at our door with a bag full of tricks including a doll she used to show different breastfeeding positions whose name is Flow…get it?! I loved that she found humour in something which seemed so painful at the time. She came over almost every day for the next three weeks for what she called Booby Camp. The power sessions involved football holds, tubes, cups, bruised boobs, more and more tears but most importantly emotional support. Lynda amazed me with her selflessness and dedication to her work of helping others. Her compassion and warmth are something I think about daily. I thought back to our struggles to conceive him and how I never thought we would be able to make him. I told myself that as with those struggles, this too shall pass and that like all worthwhile things in life, they take practice and perseverance. It was with her support and the hard work of all of us that we made tiny baby steps each day to perfect the delicate dance of breastfeeding. Each day we lay together for hours, baby and I, making small progress until one day everything fell into place and he lay sucking away happily while I rubbed his feet as smooth as silk.

While breastfeeding isn’t everyone’s choice, and sometimes not possible at all – we must do what works for us in this crazy world of new parenting. What I pictured to be the most natural thing in the world didn’t start off that way. However, with help and perseverance it has paid off in the form of a chubby boob-loving baby who enjoys spending his days at the cafe eating while his mom sips her heart-shaped foam latte dropping croissant crumbs into his hair.

In a Heartbeat: A Story of Miscarriage

 

miscarriage

The news about the baby not having a heartbeat at the ultrasound clinic wasn’t a surprise. I had known something was wrong for a few weeks in my core.

I knew, as friends would tell me how good I looked, and I kept thinking, at 4 months pregnant I shouldn’t look this good. My belly should be bigger. When every woman recalled how big they got with their third child I just kept thinking, what’s wrong with me?  My husband and I would justify it. I was way more active in this pregnancy biking to work, doing Pilates twice a week. But, something still didn’t seem right.
When, at our 16-week appointment with my midwife we couldn’t get a clear sound of the baby’s heartbeat, we justified it. The placenta is in the front and muffling the sound. Leaving without hearing that quick beat left me feeling unsettled. And unsettled I felt until the morning of my 20-week ultrasound.

Maybe all the justifications were right and things were okay. So we went as planned, brought my two boys to the clinic so they could help see if the baby was a boy or a girl. I felt relief as the technician proceeded with the ultra sound. I figured the longer she did her thing, the greater chance everything was fine. She left and said she was going to get my husband.  I assumed she wanted to bring him in for the fun part.  But when the technician came back she was alone. She handed me the phone awkwardly and said my midwife needed to talk to me. And then I really knew.

My husband came in with the kids. As my midwife spoke to me through the phone, I repeated the words she said to me by mouthing then to my husband so my kids wouldn’t hear. “The baby has no heartbeat. There was a complication. Something about the brain. It hasn’t grown in weeks.”

I hung up the phone and had to explain to my kids why they wouldn’t be seeing their little brother or sister today. I wanted to just shut down and walk out of there and mark it as one of the worst days of my life. But then I looked at my little 5 year old and his tearful eyes as he asked in his sweet innocent voice “Why? What’s wrong?”
So I got out of my own head, bent down and looked him in the eye and said. “Charlie, we aren’t going to see the baby today. Growing a baby is really hard and lots of things can happen while the baby is growing and sometimes things go wrong and the baby dies.” His eyes opened wide and he said almost in a whisper “the baby is dead?”  “Yes” I nodded and gave him a big hug. My 3 year old was thankfully pretty oblivious to the situation couldn’t really grasp what was happening.
My 5 year old was not done yet and burst out “but that’s not fair. I wanted a sister!”  Holding back my desire to shout with him, in a calm slow voice I said “I did too, but if the baby was so sick, we wouldn’t have wanted him or her to be born sick and she or he wasn’t strong enough to make it into this world.”

At that moment I realized that having to explain this to my son was the most therapeutic thing I could have done. It forced me to think about the situation in rational and simple terms. It is sad. We don’t want this to happen. But, this is what nature intended and it wasn’t meant to be this time

“We are so lucky that you and Jack are strong and healthy boys. You may still get a sister but she needs to be healthy and strong enough to get big enough to grow. And this time it didn’t happen.”

I then said to Charlie “we are so lucky that you and Jack are strong and healthy boys. You may still get a sister but she needs to be healthy and strong enough to get big enough to grow. And this time it didn’t happen.”

And then we left the clinic. Distraught, confused, drained and disappointed.

We drove up to Charlie’s school. Despite the news, we thought, being in his routine would be best. Quickly pulling aside the teacher I let her know what had happened so that she could be considerate of his emotions that day and keep me in the loop.

And then the reality sunk in that I have to tell everyone. I was coming up on 20 weeks. Everyone knew and asked me about the pregnancy. This was going to be horrible having to tell all these people who have shared in my excitement for the past few weeks.  I ran out of the schoolyard and hid in the car. I did not want to see anyone else that morning. I needed to process this on my own.

I sent my family a few texts and said I didn’t want to talk. One family member who had gone through this said that he’d really like to talk if I was up for it. I called him immediately. Speaking to someone who knew what I was feeling was comforting, and helped me get clarity around the ‘what happens next’. He said “there are no words that help in this situation” and he couldn’t be more right.

A few hours later we spoke to the midwife and made a plan. I was going to have a D&C next week. “Could anything be done sooner before the weekend?” The following week was the earliest.

Jon and I decided to go on our pre-planned trip to New York. It was my birthday present that had been booked since August. We figured why be sad in Toronto when we can be distracted in one of my favourite cities.

In the back of my mind there was a constant worry I would go into labour and have to rush home. Every cramp, every time I went to the bathroom, I was nervous as to be in a situation that I didn’t want to be in. But we made it through the weekend slowly, carefully and being kind to ourselves.

New York turned out to be the perfect way to pass the weekend. We managed to find distraction in the bustle of the city and find an inner calm against the backdrop of the noise. We were able to feel some of the most intense emotions we have ever felt and talk about it. I wasn’t yet overwhelmed by sadness. I wasn’t grossed out by the dead baby still inside of me. It gave me more time to get ready to say goodbye in a way. Indulging at delicious restaurants, visiting ‘our’ spots, seeing a few friends.  Mostly though, we kept to ourselves. It felt as though we were in negative time, just passing moments until day 0 when we would actually get to deal with the situation and not just let time pass over us.

During this time, many people have said some incredible things to help me mourn, understand and stay appreciative and grateful. Jon said “To feel joy, you must experience sadness.”

My life is filled with moments of joy. Just saying the word conjures images of the most incredible moments and memories. And yet, now, there are also stabbing impulses of pure sadness that make me feel there is no light in this world. To feel joy, you must experience sadness. I will continue to remember the moments of joy while honouring the moments of sadness and the role they play in life.

Time to face reality. 

Hospitals have a way of turning everything emotional into a scientific process. It was the Monday after we returned from New York. Here were the facts. Here’s what we needed to know. What to do, what not to do, and when to show up. We went home to more waiting, and a lot of anxiety. I gave my kids extra long snuggles that night and never wanted to let them go.

Tuesday morning we got up quicker than usual. We both just wanted this to be over. The doctor asked if I had any questions. Of course I did. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t think of any. Another woman was waiting for the same thing. We smiled in compassion. I said “it looks like we are both here for one of the worst days of our lives”.

More waiting. Another visit from the surgery team, this time with my husband. I wanted to know more about the recovery process and what to expect. Could I have other children? It felt wrong asking that question. Selfish almost. I still had a dead child inside me and I was thinking about my next. I have two amazing kids at home why do I feel the need to have more?

Surgical rooms are nothing short of chaos. Everyone has their role, but to the quiet patient, it’s a whirlwind. I’m hooked up to monitors, and IV. A few deep breaths and then I was out …

My eyes slowly opened. I looked around, I was in recovery. It was over and suddenly I was swept with emotion. It was real. I would never hold this child. I was empty. The baby I was once growing inside me was gone as was the excitement and anticipation of meeting this child.

 It feels strange to mourn someone I’ve never met.

After the surgery, it’s time for the healing process to begin. It’s unknown territory. I know the devastation and overwhelming sadness that comes when someone you love dies. I know the feelings of mourning and talking about memories of the person. How they made you feel, different moments in time that you had together. But, this child never came to be. So how do I mourn? What do I remember? And where is this heavy sadness coming from?

There are two parts of this healing process, physical and emotional. The physical part is easy. But the emotional side is hidden, secretive, and if you don’t seek support on your own, you are left alone and in isolation. I reached out. I wrote to my friends and family, telling them what happened and tried to express my feelings, and letting them know that while I appreciated their support I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

Time does make it easier, but the pain remains. It hibernates. It latches on to a feeling or a thought and grows. I had a flashing thought that I failed at being a mother because my body couldn’t grow a child like it was supposed to. My sadness hung to that feeling for a while, but then let it go. It wasn’t true. My body did what it was supposed to do by not letting a sick child continue to grow.

I’m doing okay until a mom at my kids swim class is chatting with me and pulls a hair off my shoulder and says “sorry, you are shedding, but how is that possible, you are pregnant?” I couldn’t even speak, tears came and I said in the loudest voice I could muster, barely a whisper “not anymore”.

Women are superheroes in disguise.

 

Throughout this journey, some incredible people have shown up in ways that have been loving, supportive and wise. Especially women. And, so, so many had a similar story to share. They know the pain that I feel. They comfort me. These women are strong, compassionate and have moved forward with their lives. I know I will too.

The pain doesn’t end. I felt an incredible feeling of isolation and loneliness. I’m thankful to the amazing women who continued to be in touch in gentle ways, and understood I didn’t want to talk. I was about to embark on a journey of adding to my family, and now that’s gone, so please show me your love and that you are there for me over and over.

There has been unconditional love without any expectations.  People who dropped off food and left, met me and didn’t comment, didn’t push. Those who understood that I didn’t want to talk about nonsense, but didn’t want to belabour over my sadness, so we climbed up slides to the happy squeals of my son, gave me nanny advice and called doctors for me when I couldn’t. Notes saying, “no need to write back, but sending my love”. All of this made me feel that I had a community of people but I didn’t feel burdened or guilty by not responding.

This overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all that I have in my life has helped me through this time. I am thankful to those who built me up, reminding me that I am a strong woman and a wonderful mother. I needed to hear that. I am grateful for the trip to New York with my husband, and how it allowed us to grow closer together. We so often forget about the father, and this gave us time to explore our emotions and support one another. I am grateful for my son’s teacher who gave him extra kindness on that morning. I am even grateful for losing my voice as a side effect of the anesthesia. It forced me to choose my words carefully, calm down, and let others around me do things their way. And most of all, I am incredibly grateful for my two children whose innocence, big eyes, strong hugs, soft kisses, and boisterous laughter remind me of the joys in life.

There are still incredibly dark moments, especially in the middle of the night, when you wake up and the house is silent and the only thing moving is your mind and your thoughts at warp speed. These are the times of loneliness and pain that are hard to escape.

So hold onto the moments of joy and let them lift your sadness.

julie

Healing from Birth Trauma

Hi Jane. Thanks for being here and doing this. What has inspired your work as a trauma coach?

That is a complex answer. In short, I wanted to find a way to feel more healed and less broken from my own personal trauma history. I fought hard to explore ways that would help stop the broken record of my personal stories. I needed to put things in my life that would bring greater happiness, peace and a deeply felt sense of purpose that I was able to fulfill.

I also found that working in the safer space of my studio, Urbanfitt, that people’s bodies were asking for deeper healing far beyond just wanting to feel more fit.  People’s spirits or highest selves were starving to be fed as well.  I’ve worked with clients with a variety of traumatic stress and trauma histories and found some commonalities amongst them.  Their bodies were reacting in similar ways, keeping them stuck in patterns of fear, reactivity, physical and emotional pain.  I started voraciously researching connections, training in alternative therapies that respected the body’s role in impacting the brain and started naming the work I’ve been doing for many many years.  Whenever I see common patterns amongst clients, I start looking for the research to confirm my observations.  It’s important that our work with the body also stay grounded in science.

 

Finding balance through breath regulation
(Jane helping me find nervous system balance through breath regulation and somatic awareness.)

 

The word trauma seems really heavy and is even stigmatized for a lot of people. Can you define birth trauma for us?

I look at traumatic stress as falling on a spectrum.  Many things about being a human being on this planet can feel like traumatic stress.  Whenever what we have to face feels like it exceeds our ability to cope, we have come in contact with traumatic stress.  Some people get far more than their fair share of traumatic stress and traumatic experiences. To think that trauma happens only to ‘other people’ does not allow us to sit with our difficult emotions authentically.  Divorce, death, injuries, car accidents, job loss, life threatening illness, a very difficult birth or pregnancy can leave us feeling helpless and lacking in the ability to influence our circumstances.  We can stay stuck in the memory of events, unable to leave them behind and fully engage with our present lives.  We might feel that we could completely fall apart.   I’ve also worked with survivors of sexual assault, child abuse or neglect, torture or war.  It is unquestionable that we would view these people as having suffered from trauma.  People often get stuck thinking that to have suffered from trauma, we have to be suffering with PTSD, but that’s so not the case.  We can be carrying past trauma that shows up as chronic pain, sleeplessness, depression and anxiety among many other symptoms that aren’t black and white like a diagnosis of PTSD.

How are postpartum depression and birth trauma linked?

When we face traumatic experiences that leave us feeling out of control – including during medical procedures over which we had no choice – we can end up with residual impacts of trauma in the body.  Some women who experience trauma during birth can be left feeling frozen, especially if we felt very fearful during a medical procedure that we had to remain completely still for, or if we were subjected to emergency c-sections, or feared for the safety of our baby.  This frozen feeling can leave us almost paralyzed from intense fear, unable to move in order to keep ourselves safe.  Further on the spectrum, our minds and bodies go into a state of collapse, literally playing dead in a primal response to fear so we look less attractive to a predator. These responses are all meant to ensure our survival, back when we were getting chased by tigers.  Postpartum depression might be linked to a trauma response because when we feel a threat to our survival or the survival of those we love, our bodies will go to a very primitive nervous system response of playing dead, like a reptile does in order to not get eaten.  This is a totally unconscious survival response that allows us to numb out and feel less should we actually experience our worst fears.  Our body and brain are actually trying to protect us from physical and psychological pain by cutting ourselves off from fully experiencing what is happening in the moment.  This response can also feel like anxiety in terms of the freeze response or depression in terms of the collapse response.   But the issue is that if we aren’t working in a trauma informed health care system, we aren’t being given the tools and strategies to get out of these states that become stuck in our nervous systems and tissues.  If mom and baby survive difficult births, we are left with feeling like we should be grateful but our bodies still feel like we are stuck in that intensely fearful state.  This feeds shame about the birthing experience and poses many mental health challenges.

What advice would you give to any woman reading this feeling she may have experienced a traumatizing birth?

Become your own guru.  Become your own rescuer and research the impact of trauma on the body.  When you start to make sense to yourself, the weight of your experience can lift.  Search for trauma informed movement professionals and therapists who completely understand the impact trauma has on the brain and body. There are more experts coming into the field of trauma informed healing and movement every day.  Spend more time with people who ‘get it’, who validate your experience.  Trust that you can tap into the brain and body’s ability to heal and change.  You can tap into the experience of your trauma and use it to become even stronger than you were before by becoming your own health advocate.

 

How Osteopathy Can Help Your Baby’s Development

OSTEO-WHAT?! This is the question that I am often met with after I introduce myself as a student of osteopathy.  Although the profession of osteopathy has been around for centuries, it is still often perceived as a mystical form of alternative medicine. I’ve set out to enlighten and hopefully put to rest some of those doe-eyed reactions surrounding the practice! baby osteopathy

Osteopathy is a natural form of medicine that views the body as one interdependent, continuous system. The practice aims to restore normality and function throughout the entire body by determining the cause of imbalance and discomfort. Treatment involves a subtle, intuitive manual manipulation of bone and soft tissue within the body’s limitations. Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor with a mechanical background. After the loss of his three sons to meningitis, Still sought out alternative interventions to enhance the inert healing capacity of the body. He focused on removing mechanical “blockages” and emphasized free circulation and mobility within the body.

In 1882 Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. Several of Still’s original students enhanced the profession by developing new manual techniques such as cranial-sacral therapy and myofascial release. Osteopathic manual therapy is often recommended for the relief of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and pain management. However, the scope of practice extends to the treatment of respiratory and digestive issues, menstrual irregularities, migraines, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and peripheral or local pain management.

Currently trending among midwives and numerous health practitioners is cranial-sacral osteopathy for newborns and babies. It is now commonly recommended that new mothers make an important visit to their friendly osteopathic practitioner to assess, correct and relieve trauma which may have occurred during birth. As babies make their journey through the cervix, their heads must rotate, compress and narrow. In some cases the re-inflation or un-moulding process can be incomplete. A difficult birth, such as one that required forceps, a long labour, or a caesarean most commonly contribute to cranial compression and incomplete re-inflation.

Symptoms associated with unresolved cranial compression are: latching or feeding difficulties, discomfort during tummy time and plagiocephaly which is the appearance of a flat or odd shaped head. Unresolved, these issues can also present as colic or excessive crying and restlessness. However, there is hope and relief for everyone! Studies show that osteopathic intervention immediately following birth has been extremely successful in restoring symmetry of the cranium and in significantly relieving colic.

Finally, let’s remember that the theory of osteopathy suggests that the body tends towards normality – it wants to heal itself. Naturally these resilient little bodes can resolve many of the issues on their own. However, osteopathic treatment can help speed up this potentially long and uncomfortable process; enabling more space for a happy and healthy development!

The Truth about Libido after Baby

To spice things up in the bedroom after baby, it can be as easy as tapping into these top 10 issues…libido 2

1. Determine If You Have a Medical Condition: First and foremost you must determine if there is something medically significant going on. Are you suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or hypertension that could be affecting how you feel both in and out of the bedroom, as well as your ability to become sexually aroused? Do you experience pain with intercourse? Are your hormones out of whack? Do you have adrenal fatigue? If you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance –which is common postpartum – then this could be the reason behind your lagging libido. If you think something might be up, it’s time to chat with us or another healthcare professional to see what is going on.

2. Amp Up Your Nutrition: Just like great abs are made in the kitchen, great sex is made in the kitchen, too. Ensure you are eating a well-balanced, whole-foods diet complete with enough lean protein, complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as healthy fats to keep you nourished and energized. The simple act of cleaning up your diet can make a huge difference in your sex drive. Your naturopathic doctor can run simple food intolerance testing to determine if certain foods are no good for you.

3. Determine If You Are In Need of Supplements: Even with an excellent diet it can be possible to be low on certain nutrients. Lab testing done through your medical or naturopathic doctor can determine if you are low on things such as iron or vitamin B12, which could be affecting your overall vitality. This is especially common for women after giving birth. From there, your ND can work with you to determine which supplements may be most beneficial while also considering medical conditions and medications.

4. Amp Up Your Hydration: Sex requires a lot of fluids, especially for vaginal wall lubrication, excreted fluids and blood flow. Without ample hydration, you could be drying yourself out. If you are breastfeeding you will need even more fluids. Aim for 2-3 litres of water each day minimum.

5. Check In With Your Body Image & Awareness: Are you feeling less than stellar about your appearance? Are you beating yourself up for how you look? It’s time to get real with how your thoughts may be affecting your bedroom confidence. Compassion and love for our bodies and ourselves is especially important after giving birth. Remember, you just grew another human being in your beautiful body and it will take time for your body to recover from giving birth. If you have had any complications with giving birth this is even more pertinent and it is important to be patient and compassionate with yourself. Consider working with a counselor to sort through your thoughts toward your body if you feel you need someone to talk to.

6. Check In With the Health of Your Relationship: Are you and your partner connecting? Is there an issue at the root of your relationship that could be causing your sex drive to sink? Do you not want to have sex because you feel you are giving too much of yourself in other areas of life? It may be time to have a very honest conversation with your partner or consider working with a relationship counsellor or a sex therapist to bring your relationship back into a healthy state so that sex becomes pleasurable and enjoyable for both. Remember that sex changes over the course of a relationship and it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your partner about his or her expectations. There are also many ways to be intimate beyond having intercourse that you can explore with your partner and will help you both feel loved and connected.

7. Exercise: Blood flow and endorphins are key for sexual enjoyment. Nothing gets your blood flowing and your endorphins up like exercise. We suggest finding an activity that you truly enjoy to increase your chances of sticking to it! Also consider working with a personal trainer or joining other moms to stay active. Do what you love and feel comfortable doing after giving birth. If you suspect that you have diastasis recti or issues with your pelvic floor, we suggest seeking help from a pelvic floor physiotherapist or speaking with companies like The Bump Method about how to best approach postpartum exercise so that you are strengthening your core and not creating further imbalance or injury to your body.

8. Practice Relaxation & Optimize Sleep: We all lead such incredibly busy lives making it easy for stress, to-do lists and exhaustion to get in the way of sexual desire. The need for rest and sleep becomes even greater when you are a new mom and sleep is scarce. Implement a down-time routine before bed – take a bath, cuddle, enjoy a cup of tea, lower the lights, and light a candle. Once you are in a state of relaxation, it is much easier for your body to enter a state of readiness for sexual pleasure. Ensuring you are experiencing optimal sleep is also crucial. Exhausted people simply are not going to want to have sex – and this is okay. Practice compassion for yourself and nourish yourself and the libido will come. If your sleep is seriously off base it is a good time to speak with your naturopathic doctor to determine what can be done to get you sleeping soundly. We find that sometimes it’s the patents that need help sleep training once baby is on a schedule! P.S. Check out our Sleep Month posts on our blog to learn more.

9. Practice Mindfulness & Meditation: Tapping into your true desires can bring out your true self. Consider developing a meditation schedule using tools like Headspace.com to help you turn inward, and bring out your true self. Meditation group classes may also be of benefit. Be mindful of how you are talking, treating, and relating to yourself and your partner. Simply changing your mindset can make for magical bedroom moments. Mindfulness will help you be in the moment with your partner rather than making a grocery list or planning your next day in your head.

10. Practice Gratitude: Being thankful for your body, your mind, your soul, your partner, your baby and so on, can spark a fire of good feelings enhancing your ability to get in the mood. Try it out tonight!

As always, we are here to guide you through any or all of these steps. We’d love to chat with you about optimizing your libido, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@clinicintrinsic.com to learn more about working with one of us.

Not sure if we can help? We’d love to offer you a 15-minute complimentary consult to see if we’re a good fit for you. Have you tried out these tips? Did they work for you? Tell us about on our social media platforms or by emailing us at info@clinicintrinsic.com. Don’t forget to share this with a friend in need 😉

Here’s to your lifted libido,

Dr. Rachel Corradetti, ND & Dr. Maryska Taylor, ND