“ I feel like an old woman”

“My knees/lower back/feet/neck/all of the above are killing me”

“ I feel like I’m falling apart”

These are some of the comments that I hear in my mum and baby classes and so I’m writing this short blog on helping you on you road to post natal recovery.

  1. Be gentle with yourself. If you ran a marathon before you had your baby, you will very likely run one again but not this year. Temporary incontinence, split abdominal muscles, haemorrhoids to name but a few post natal delights are not talked about (not many mums are happy to share their story of wetting themselves while out for a walk) but these are really common complaints and can be healed by gentle, effective but deep yoga exercises which always include the BREATH. Effectiveness of pelvic floor exercises increases when you use the breath as the foundation.
  2. Jaw relaxed (like it’s hanging off a washing line- try it, you may look gormless but that description works for me), shoulders down and drawn slightly back so the shoulder blades are drawn together- this opens your heart and prevents stooping. Try it when you are feeding your baby and walking with the pram. Look at point number 5. for ‘mindful walking,’ BREATHE!
  3. The things that we do everyday, repetitively, are more likely to cause injury than one big movement so make these into part of you post natal yoga routine e.g. getting in and out of the the car- keep your knees together and swing your legs in/out of the car, always drawing your belly in to create stability in the lower back and lower belly. Walking up and down the stairs with awareness; getting up and down from the floor, in and out of bed. Do it slowly, with the BREATH and with engagement of the pelvic floor muscles. Walking up and down stairs, feeling the weight transfer and being grounded with each step. You don’t need to go to the gym if you are making these everyday movements habitual!
  4. Your pelvic floor exercises are SO important. Start now. Wherever you are, take a deep BREATH in fully and then exhale slowly and fully. Do it again x 7. You have now connected with your breath. Now, on the next inhalation, draw the pelvic floor gently upwards and on the exhalation, draw your pelvic floor up a little more. At the end of the exhalation, gently and SLOWLY release the tension in your pelvic floor. This will bring your to another round of breath so take this as a resting breath- inhale, exhale. Now start again with the inhalation and drawing your pelvic floor upwards, a little bit more on the exhalation and then slowly release at the end of the exhalation. Do it again x 7. Tightening your buttocks along with gently drawing the belly button into the spine on the exhale is the next stage but I don’t want to overwhelm you! Best to do a few simple exercises well rather than lots of rubbish ones. As my Dad loves to say “Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).”
  5. Right, lesson over. How is this going to help me get out of my maternity trousers that I’m still wearing and into my jeans? By working with the breath you are drawing deep muscles together, gaining strength from the inside out. This also helps with oxygenation of the blood supply to the lower body, helping to heal C-Sections, knit split abdominals together, strengthen your back (it’s all joined to your pelvic floor!).
  6. Micro movements are key to post natal healing. Really small but effective movements that help with alignment. Take walking, for example. A simple activity, when slowed right down can become a challenging yoga exercise. Try it (another little lesson coming up)- make a connection with the earth and start to peel your foot from heel to toe off the ground and bringing your foot forward to begin another step. Mindful breathing and walking awareness with your baby in your arms can soothe a fractious baby and help ground you, keeping you right in the here and now rather than being caught up in the analysis of your baby’s cry (Teething? Hunger? Over tired? Wind pain?).

That’ll do for now. Have a look at my Mother and Baby classes on my website www.babynomad.net if you fancy coming along.

We were doing tree pose in class this week. This particular class is called is called Peace Amongst the Chaos and balancing poses are really helpful to find just that- some stillness. Standing on 1 leg for a longer period of time may seem pointless but if you think about how important balance is and how easy it  is to lose it then we’d use it a bit more. Try it now. treeThis cute little image shows that your leg needs to be open- it’s a hip opener too, and resting on your other leg. It doesn’t matter how far up you can get your leg up or where your arms are, it’s the balance that’s important. Now, if you fix your gaze on something non-moving this is much easier. Root your foot down into the earth like a tree, reach up through the crown of your head (breathe). If you look around then it’s easy to fall over.

How easy it is to be distracted by external influences when you are trying to find your balance. The phone reminds you of a constant stream of noise from other’s lives; your baby needs your constant attention; your toddler also needs it; you need to do the washing up/load the dishwasher; nothing for tea. The never ending stream of thoughts chucking you from pillar to post. STOP. Stand on 1 leg and do nothing except breath and balance. The focus of this pose needs your full attention. Your gazing point doesn’t shift. You root down and you breathe- deeply.

It’s really common to lose your sense of balance after having a baby. I can no longer do roly polys down a hill without getting really dizzy. Even walking very slowly can send me off balance so it’s normal, don’t worry.

 

Logo with Parents & BabiesP1020687New parents, especially as a first time parent, the constant search for what is right for your baby or what is wrong with your baby takes up a lot of time and effort doesn’t it? There’s so much information and teachings out there especially from the Buddhist philosophy that if we stop reaching grasping for whatever it is you are looking for, you will have more of an acceptance of what is and not trying to make it what it should be.
Let’s look at that favourite subject of SLEEP. In all my classes this is probably the main topics of conversation. What if, just what if, you have no expectations of how long or where or when your baby sleeps. No information about baby sleep cycles, no comparisons with other babies. I wonder if this would free us as parent to accept that this is the way things are right now. However, when you are knackered beyond belief and your baby is crying in the middle of the night probably the last thing you want to do is practice acceptance. You want answers, solutions and you want them NOW. But all things pass, and a moment by moment practice of acceptance in everyday life can be the most useful and powerful tool.
Let’s take an explosive nappy situation. Just as you’re about to leave the house to get to your baby massage class on time, your baby does one. It’s fucking everywhere, even the white t-shirt that you picked out this morning. The new one that fits beautifully around your heaving, milky bosom. The one that will make you look like a capable mum, that this is just a breeze.
You have to strip not just yourself, but your baby off. The clock is ticking, your breath is getting shallow, you’re grinding your teeth (yes- very common) and your sense of humour has departed. WAIT. Surrender and accept what its is right now. By accepting, I don’t mean leaving your baby to wallow in his own shit and you walk out with it all down your t-shirt, I mean this. To stop, to wait, to breath deeply (not too near your baby’s bum eh?), then to give a wry smile, a easy going shrug and to start to move towards a solution without being caught up in the drama of it all.
5 minutes later you have a clean top on which is far too small for you, your baby is happy and your are only 10 minutes late for the baby massage class.

So, I was teaching my Tuesday morning baby massage class and talking to a new mum who’s baby is 4 weeks old. She was tentative, unsure and downright confused about what she was ‘allowed’ to do with her baby. This mum, let’s call her Sarah, had been told by a midwife that she must stop picking her baby up every time he cried. It started because I could see her reluctance when she went to pick him up. “He needs you” I said and she visibly softened and picked him up. The conversation then carried on and she told me what the midwife had said. Frankly I was pretty outraged. This glib comment (which could have come from anyone, it jut happened to be a midwife who, to a new mum is the fountain of all knowledge) caused such a confliction of feelings in Sarah.  She wanted to pick him up, but trusting the advice of the midwife, thinking she was doing it ‘wrong’, she left him to cry until her natural instinct took over and she gave that much needed cuddle.

It wasn’t until we had this conversation in class that she was able to do this. I remember my mum telling me to pick my baby up when he was crying uncontrollably in his cot and I was determined that I wouldn’t pick him up because I was so bloody tired. I needed that sleep. I wanted time with my mum and he was crying for me; I was torn. Yet it felt like a relief to hear my mum say that. It was as if she had given me ‘permission’ to bring him back close to me. As soon as I held him in my arms and felt the warmth and heaviness of his body, his crying stopped, I relaxed and me and my mum sat together and watched a film.
Back to Sarah and the midwife….As a new mother, take your time, listen and watch other mothers who you admire, be responsive and mother from your heart, rather than from a text book. Caregivers, health professionals, teachers (and yes, that means me)-if there is a ‘method’ of baby rearing that you favour, think twice about laying this on a new parent.

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