A mother's body and mind is unique, we go through so many changes both physical and mental during and after pregnany it's no wonder we question whether many of the changes are normal. For mothers to thrive and be the best mothers we can be, we need to look after all of ourselves from our minds to our bodies. One woman has taken this as her mission, to bring wellness to mothers everywhere and naturally it was only right that her Mama Power - Wellness was included as part of our series.
anya hayes - mothers well ness toolkiT
Anya Hayes is mum to Maurice 6 and Freddie who's 3. Anya is also a Pilates teacher and a pregnancy, parenting and wellness author and speaker. She's the author of four books, My Pilates Guru, A Little Course in Pilates, Pregnancy: the Naked Truth, and The Supermum Myth: Overcome anxiety, ditch guilt and embrace imperfection. Anya has also taken her experience of motherhood and pilates and created Pilates Snacks - such a great term! Pilates Snacks are bitesize pilates exercises for time starved people, perfect for mums.
What’s been your triumphs and challenges during motherhood so far?
Wow that's a HUGE question!! I don't think there's an area of motherhood that hasn't been challenging, however triumphant that challenge has ended up... biggest most shocking challenges were without doubt my first birth, induction, 2 day labour followed by category 1 crash caesarean due to foetal distress. Tiny teeny newborn (5 lb 12) due to missed placental failure. "Failure to thrive" and painful traumatic breastfeeding experience. My recovery was slow and painful. Body shock that I wasn't prepared for in the slightest!
Other notable challenges, I had 3 miscarriages along the way. One particular one (in between Maurice and Freddie) was very physically traumatic and led to me being physically and mentally depleted for a long time, it wasn't technically labelled PND as my "baby" was 19 months old and that's where there's such a grey area (you're ALWAYS postnatal after you've had a baby, in my view), but I found the interim period between my two incredibly challenging for body and mind. In lots of ways Freddie's birth and my newborn experience with him was very healing - which I'm grateful for as i know it's not always the case.
Challenge: being a freelance working mum...generally, juggling working and motherhood adequately without feeling like you're somehow compromising your competence at one or the other is a monumental challenge for women.
Triumphs: building up so much power resilience through it all and becoming determined to channel my experiences into a positive for other women's mental health.
Other triumphs: those moments where you can press pause and look lovingly but objectively at your children and realise they are pretty wonderful and give yourself a pat on the back for doing the best job you can and giving you all the love you have in your soul.
What led you to focus on mother's wellness and ultimately write a book on the topic?
My own journey to and from rock bottom! I was so shocked physically and mentally by my birth experience and by the first 6 months of my baby's life, by judgments about my feeding "choices" or lack of "ability" to breastfeed. How "failure" was woven into my experience at every conceivable level: a baby who cries all the time (far beyond the "normal" levels of crying), a baby who "isn't a good sleeper", a baby who is "clingy" - all these subtle judgements which seep into your understanding of your own self-efficacy and competence.
I specialise in teaching mums and bumps Pilates. I decided to share my miscarriage experience with my mums class at one point as I had to cancel a few classes because I was so unwell. Pretty much the entire class had some experience akin to my own, and were all loving and supportive (and super keen to share their own stories!) and it made me realise we all go through so much epically challenging stuff as mums yet we all sit with these experiences silently - less so now with social media, but 5 years ago it was definitely not as open or supported as now.
I started running Mothers' wellness evenings to focus on physical release of tension and breathing, mindful movement, softening your relationship with your body. Plus some hypnobirthing and NLP techniques for meditation and calming the mind.
I guess ultimately my own personal experience has gradually become fully intertwined with what I was also encountering professionally, and so it has been in some ways an inevitable career progression to combine the two more actively (these things always look like premeditated steps when you look back on them!)
What would you say to your pre-mum self now?
Oh gawd. My pre-mum or new mum self? Pre-mum self I would probably say don't complain about being tired so much as you ain't seen nothing yet!! I would say really honestly just appreciate your strengths because it's such a huge waste of energy otherwise....
To my new mum self I would say you're doing so well, please don't feel other people's judgements so acutely. soften your gaze on yourself. You're doing an amazing job. It's going to be ok.
How would you say your approach to wellness has helped you as a Mum?
It has definitely helped me through low periods or particularly turbulent periods to know that everything is a phase, everything passes. I apply quite a Buddhist view on things when they're really tough. And in the moment breathing techniques have saved me during stressful times. Even if the "tools" don't always help in the actual tantrum-filled moment - I'm not going to pretend I'm never shouty mumma! I'm totally human and I lose my rag with my boys, I'm not immune to sleep deprivation's very real effects on your body's resilience to anxiety and the fuse becoming shorter - they definitely enable me to recover my calm faster after the stress cloud has passed, and allow me to have a bit more resilience, more of an objective gaze on it overall.
For more on Anya's approach to mother's wellness visit her blog where you'll find self care tools around everything from pelvic floor recovery to meditation, to help you build resilience for motherhood mayhem.
Anya will also be joining us at All Mothered Up on our Mama Power Panel and hosting pilates sessions.