Why new moms should roll out the yoga mat

 Yoga  Comments Off on Why new moms should roll out the yoga mat
Jan 292017

guest post by Ben Stanford

It’s hard to imagine doing much other than care for your newborn when you first give birth, but as the weeks fly by it’s a good idea for new mamas to focus on caring for themselves, too.

Self care is KEY in the sanity-saving department, and a big part of being a good parent.

IMG_4201 When it comes to self care for new mothers, yoga classes are probably one of the most valuable uses of your time. As little as one hour on the mat per week has mental and physical impacts that will get your through all the challenges of raising a wee one.

Let’s start with the physical benefits of yoga, and get right to the point.

Shrink the uterus and tone the abs
During pregnancy the uterus grows in size to accommodate the fetus, and the hormone Relaxin encourages the muscles of the abdomen to release, to make for an easier birth experience.

Both of these are perfectly normal, truly amazing functions of the female body, but after giving birth there are ways to gently help the body back to its natural, non-pregnant state. A strong, tight lower abdomen is essential for all sorts of mama-related duties, like lifting, carrying, and cuddling baby.

IMG_4203Yoga poses like twists, planks and core strengtheners (think “boat” pose) are marvelous for revitalizing the lower abdomen post-pregnancy. What’s even better, yoga focuses on gradually building strength and flexibility, which will ensure you don’t strain such an important part of your body. It’s important to make sure you do not have an ab separation (diastasis recti) before working on your abs in this way.

Build upper body, baby-lifting strength

The abdomen isn’t the only thing affected by Relaxin: you may find that you come back to the mat (or the gym) with a little less arm and shoulder definition than before.

As new moms learn at Mothering Touch, in Victoria, you’ll be lifting a pretty precious load all day long, and arm strength and flexibility prevent against the aches and pains that can ensue (especially since Relaxin will have depleted a lot of your previous strength).

Yoga is a full-body practice, which means you’ll be using your upper body as much as your core and lower body. The overall effect will mitigate back and shoulder issues that are often attributed to holding baby (especially while breastfeeding).

Ease and/or prevent Postpartum Depression

A huge component of yoga is mindfulness, the ability to notice our thoughts and feelings, without allowing them to control us. Mindfulness is thought to be one of the most effective natural antidotes to depression and anxiety, which, let’s face it, a significant percentage of new mamas face.

When you go to a yoga class, expect deep breathing, subtle reminders to come back to the present moment, and lots of silence. These elements might throw you off at first if you’ve never been to a class, but they’re all a part of training your mind not to downward spiral.

Whether you’re suffering from PPD or not, lack of sleep and being at the beck and call of a tiny, crying being can bring even the most mentally tough woman to her knees. Training your mind to stay present and move through challenges with grace certainly can’t hurt.

Get true, deep rest

Our nervous system is comprised of two distinct systems: the sympathetic, and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic system is associated with our body’s “fight or flight” response – it’s where we go when we’re stressed.

The parasympathetic system is dubbed “rest and digest”; when we’re in this state our body actually relaxes and regenerates.

Only one system can be activated at one time. Want to take a guess which one sees a lot of action when we’re waking up every hour to the screams of our most precious loved one?

The aforementioned deep breathing and mindfulness of yoga allows your body to slip into the restful state we enter when the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged.

In short, when you attend a yoga class as a new mama, you actually get the chance to REST.

Enough said, really.

Where to Go to Get a Yoga Hit

IMG_4202Any city is likely to have yoga studios that offer gentle yoga classes, and pre-and-post-natal clinics that offer postpartum yoga. Jenny Berthiaume offers a variety of yoga classes for new and expecting moms in the Montreal area.

Whichever way you do it, if you’re a new mother you might want to think about making time for a weekly yoga class. Your mind & body will thank you.

Ben Stanford writes about various services to help you to achieve optimum health. He likes to provide you with the tools and knowledge to achieve your goals, move better again, and lead a strong, happy, and healthy life.

But who mothers the mother? Sometimes we need to ask for help

 Health, Postpartum, Yoga  Comments Off on But who mothers the mother? Sometimes we need to ask for help
Jan 212017

IMG_4140I was laying in bed, off work and feeling very unwell. I’m not used to doing nothing. I texted a friend to say I was sick and he asked where my caregiver was. I had no idea who he was talking about.

My mom lives in BC… I am my own caregiver.

Turns out he meant my husband. But my husband wasn’t home taking care of me, he was at work making up for the money I was losing as I rested and recuperated. He was at work after being up in the morning and single-handedly getting them up and ready, fed, and driven to two separate schools 45 minutes from home. The night before he worked til 2am. He left just after bathing and feeding the kids and getting them in bed. So I didn’t even expect him to take care of me.

DSC_0261But who, then? I’d spent the week with the kids in my arms. Helping them blow their noses. Dosing elderberry syrup and raw honey. I prayed that their illness would leave and I would gladly take their place. My prayers were answered.

This illness came at such an interesting time. This week my yoga classes had been themed around the first chakra. What is support and basic needs. One’s connection to family and tribe. In my post and prenatal yoga classes, this brought up discussions of support. Who is your support? Your tribe? I heard many stories from women who in the postpartum period, had relatives close by to help. None of them seemed to take this for granted.

It’s a subject that is so important to me, especially in my work as a postpartum doula and postnatal yoga teacher. Too many new moms, myself included, wind up utterly exhausted and even on medication because they just can no longer cope with what it is to be alone. Lacking support. Not enough community. No village. But more and more, it seems, the women I’m speaking to are finding support. They have a mother in law move in, or they learn the value of hiring a postpartum doula or mother’s helper.

When I found myself, feeling comatose after a week of these sort of questions, I felt a bit of despair. My kids were finally well enough to go to school and I was alone and in pain in a dark, empty house. I don’t have any family in Montreal. I felt like I had no one to take care of me. I’m a big, girl but sometimes I want someone to rub my back and make me some tea.

Paleo Rolls, Veggie soupSo I reached out. I did the thing that many of the women in my classes also say is hard for them. It’s so hard for me. But I asked for help. I texted two friends. Two angels I am blessed to call my friends. They have their own families and very busy lives, but they each brought me delicious soup. I felt a lot less alone, and I felt the love they put into making the soup.

When my husband got home, he was of course busy with the kids. I felt well enough to sit at the table with them. Then we watched a movie. We lay in bed together as he read the Big Friendly Giant until they fell asleep. And then again, I did something I don’t ever really do. I asked my husband to take care of me. He was still running around the house trying to deal with the chaos of me being out of commission. But when I asked, he came to me. Put socks on my feet, brought me warm water to drink, and talked to me until I fell asleep, too.

May 052014

tandemI’ve been waiting for months to publish this post. Waiting till the time was right. Waiting till I was better. And I am. Better than ever.

If you haven’t heard it already, postpartum depression can happen to anyone. I thought if I knew the signs it wouldn’t happen to me. But it did.

Why I am choosing to publish this post now is that I am finally off the antidepressants I started taking nine or ten months ago.  I feel like myself again. A better self, even. Likely thanks to all the meditation and yoga I make time for.

I don’t know why it’s the image that is conjured up whenever I think of my PPD, but I see my whole family in a barn being swallowed by flames. I was the only one who could extinguish the fire and I was the one who set the barn ablaze.

I let the fire burn for months. Then I got help.

I was in denial. I was too “proud” to admit I had PPD. I was very adverse to the thought of taking brain-altering meds. Finally things got really bad.

  • I kicked holes in the wall.
  • I cried daily, more than once.
  • I was terrified my kids were going to die. Babe specifically.
  • I yelled a lot.
  • I slept a lot. It was hard to get out of bed.
  • I wanted out. My perfect escape took many forms.
  • I was too anxious to leave the house.
  • I dreaded being left alone with both kids.

I knew I needed to seek help when Babe had a fever and it gave me a full-on panic attack. She had a heat rash and I spent the day vomiting. And my breaking point was a painful altercation with a close family member. I was pushed too far.

I started seeing a counsellor who specializes in postpartum adjustment. Speaking with Carly once a week did wonders for me. She helped me cope with Babe’s behaviour “issues.” She was hitting kids at the park. It was embarrassing and I felt like it was all my fault.

My mom flew here from BC to help. While she was here she mostly helped by taking care of Babe and giving me some room to breathe. She helped me pick up some of the pieces. But I realized while she was here that therapy and placenta pills alone were not enough. Fish oil and aura cleansing might have helped too but I needed something more.

A friend I respect very much told me she once went on antidepressants at a tough time in her life. She gave me the analogy of a room so messy you don’t know where to start the job. The medication helped her to find somewhere in the room to stand as she started to get things sorted out.

That day, instead of taking her up on her terrifying invitation to go to a spa in silent meditation, I went to a private clinic and walked out with a year-long prescription for Cipralex.

I’m not necessarily advocating for psychotropic drugs but I do think that in life or death situations they have their place. I reluctantly took the medication for my family. I needed to be there for them and stop worrying about stigmas that came with taking these pills. Things got drastically better. The medication and therapy made every day life possible. Anxiety lifted, as did depression.

Those dark days are now a blur. Things are so good now that I have to ask my husband, closest friends and my mom to remind me just how bad it was. I never had the common PPD symptom of a disconnect with the new baby, on the contrary, he brought sunshine to the gloomiest days. He still does!

The closest things I take to medication now are those good old placenta pills I left waiting in the fridge when I started my Cipralex. I drink a few drops of Rescue Remedy daily as well as a spoon of Fermented Cod Liver Oil. I take care of my health with good nutrition yoga, which is exercise for the body, mind and soul.

That’s the story of the burning barn. I’m thankful to everyone who helped me, especially my beautiful husband and my mom. And am thankful I found the courage to allow myself to be helped. If you read this and think you might have PPD, please get help. You owe it to your family and to yourself.

Jun 032013
Postpartum doula Millie with my kids

Postpartum doula Millie with my kids

They wanted me to go to the emergency room and say I was having symptoms of postpartum depression. They wanted me to be followed as an out-patient. That was a week ago.

At my six-week postpartum check up, my midwife asked questions and I answered them. I had been all out of sorts, finding myself looking for an escape from my life as a mom of two. What’s more: a mother nursing two. Some nights I could visualize myself screaming as I ran out of the house, leaving my kids behind. Where would I go? No idea, just the Hell out of dodge.

Exhausted in my bones, I was not only nursing both kids to sleep at night and nap, but also around the clock, day and night. I don’t know how moms of twins keep up! I won’t say tamdeming twins is easier than my situation, but I will say the hardest part of tandeming for me has been the battle of wills and tantrums that come along with nursing a toddler. I love nursing the Bug. It’s a pleasure. But when Babe insists on nursing and throws tantrums and when she equates the word “mama” with “milk,” it makes me very upset.

I didn’t want to see a psychiatrist and I didn’t want to be put on Effexor as so many friends have. The reason is not for shame or any of the feelings that might have come along with a diagnosis. I simply don’t think I am suffering from postpartum depression. I don’t know that my midwife did either but she did express concern that if things didn’t change immediately I might very well end up medicated or hospitalized. All this because I decided to tandem nurse?

One thing is sure, Babe’s nursing was out of control. That was the root of my problems. But I had seen the smiling mamas in Hilary Flower’s Adventures in Tandem Nursing and thought that should be me too. I didn’t want to nurse Babe to sleep and through the night, but I’d suck it up. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d put too much pressure on myself as a mom. Nor will it be the last! I decided that whenever she asked for milk I’d say yes. I thought this was the way to stop her tantrums and keep her from hitting her brother. I was not right. It was this decision that sent things spiraling.

But thankfully, the same day as my six-week follow up, I was graced with a visit from my postpartum doula: The lovely Millie Tresierra. She helped us in the early days and came back when we quite desperately needed her.

She showed up with a Guinness in hand. Just what the doctor prescribed!

I explained to her the day’s events and some of the things my midwife suggested I do to fix the issues I was having. (She also entertained both kids, cleaned my kitchen and wore sleeping Bug while Babe and I went to run a few errands!) Millie agreed that I needed to make changes but advised me not to change too much too soon. She helped me decide what the biggest issues were and helped me with a plan to get everything back on track.

The worst for me was nursing Babe and Bug to sleep every night and afternoon, and being the only one able to get the kids to sleep. I was also feeling touched out and totally overwhelmed.

The plan was to get Papa putting Babe to sleep every night he’s home. No ifs or ands, he’s in charge, even if she gets really mad about it. I would sleep in a room down the hall with Bug. We’d all rest better.

It’s been a week and couldn’t be going more smoothly! Huzzah. I nurse Babe and we chat a bit, then she goes with her Papa. She mo longer even protest.

We also started making sure Babe was eating actual food throughout the day. She had been drinking so much of my milk (which is cream at this point!) that she was not hungry for food. So she’d ask for milk. This usually happens to tandeming kids in the beginning. But my midwife tipped me off to a few things:

  • 2 year olds don’t know when they’re hungry.
  • Breastmilk isn’t enough to sustain a 30 lb kid all night.

So of course she started waking up all night! She was hungry and would cry for Mama cause she didn’t know what else to do! Now I just make sure to offer/give her food often throughout the day. We also make snack time an obvious part of her bedtime routine. A routine which was pretty non existent until lately.

We also made a schedule, which sends Babe out of the house together all morning. Sometimes with Papa or a friend or her Grandma. It gives me time alone with Bug, to get things done around the house or just relax. I take over taking care of Babe at lunch when Papa goes to work. I stopped trying to force Babe to nap. No more lying on my back pinned under two babies come Hell or high water. This too, has been very smooth.

Postpartum depression is very serious and it needs to be treated properly when that’s what it is. Some women experience postpartum elation. And if you ask Millie, some women, like myself are just experiencing “Postpartum perfection.”

Lucky for me I am quickly learning I cannot do it all and certainly not by myself. I’m building my village. With help, of course.

Inviting Postpartum Elation

 emotions, Health  Comments Off on Inviting Postpartum Elation
Dec 212011

We read a lot about the women who experience depression after they give birth, but there are potentially just as many new moms out there who are on top of the world after delivery—Bring on the postpartum elation.

By Jenn Hardy
Written for {P} The Pregnancy Magazine

After years of trying, Montrealer Kathe Lieber became pregnant at the age of 40.

“I was stunned and astoundingly happy,” she recalls. Two decades later, she still tears up just thinking about how happy she was. Lieber’s pregnancy was textbook perfect. She delivered her daughter Miranda at the hospital, her husband and father by her side for the labour.

During her pregnancy, Lieber’s doctor had referred her to take part in a study on postpartum depression. “I said, ‘I’m not going to have it, I think I’ll have Postpartum Elation!”

The follow-up after Miranda’s birth found Lieber’s instincts were right. “The doctor took a look at me—I was beaming—and said, ‘Well, it looks like your prediction did come true’.”

Lieber says she was on an absolute high when he daughter was born. “We were healthy and happy and felt supported and loved.” Lieber had a natural birth, quickly got the hang of breastfeeding and didn’t have a hard time adjusting to interrupted sleep.

Millie Tresierra, a postpartum doula in Montreal says that while she sees a number of new moms who suffer from PPD, she also sees just as many who are over-the-moon happy to have given birth.

She says often, the really happy moms are those who had situations similar to Lieber’s. “The elation mainly comes in the form of being really relaxed with everything.” She says the new mothers who are on the high Lieber remembers usually don’t bombard themselves with unnecessary pressure and expectations.

“They usually just embrace what’s there. I go over for a visit and they’re in their pyjamas and if they get to shower, great. If not, that’s okay too.”

New mom Inbal Itzhak can relate to the postpartum elation Lieber and Tresierra are talking about. She gave birth to Noa, in January 2011.

“Though I had a drug-fee birth, I definitely felt high when Noa was born,” says the 33-year-old Montreal mother. “I especially felt it during the moments I held her skin-to-skin.”

Itzhak said there were only two things she felt like doing despite her exhaustion: staring at Noa and showing her off to the world.

“I just kept saying, ‘isn’t she incredible?!’” she recalls. “My friends thought she was cute, but I expected everyone to be as amazed by her as I was. They thought she was cute, but I thought she was magnificent.”

Tresierra says there is no magic recipe that will guarantee postpartum elation, but something as simple as setting up postpartum help up in a specific and structured way before the baby’s birthday, can start things off in the right direction. She says if a mom is less focussed on chores she will have the time she needs to properly bond with her baby.