Mental Health Awareness Week: Debbie's Story
Today I am talking to Co-Founder of YogaTherapies, Deborah Jackson. She gives us an insight of what it’s like being a new yogi mum.
Hey Debs, talk to me about your yoga journey. When did you start? How long have you been practising?
Yoga has been something I dipped in and out of since my teens. I revisited yoga for calm and peace of mind for various reasons and through many transitions in my life. I guess I realised that I always felt best during those periods, and eventually yoga became a permanent part of my daily life.
As my practice deepened I met other teachers such as Esther, and began to explore shamanism alongside my Yoga practice. I made a personal pledge to spend at least one week with Esther a year to truly reconnect to nature, my yoga and shamanism.
Are there certain times of your life that yoga was especially important?
My practice became a real support during my pregnancies.
It took me a long time to have Lowell having experienced several miscarriages over a period of 3 years. When I did carry Lowell, I was part of a trial utilising progesterone supplements to support the maintenance of the womb.
Progesterone is involved in maintaining the womb lining, but it also plays a key role in a lot of pregnancy’s less desirable effects like morning sickness and fluid retention. My morning sickness was a 24 hour thing, my weight ballooned and the fluid retention really aggravated my joints making it difficult to use my hands at all. My sleep was severely disrupted (mostly from all the vomiting!). By the time Lowell reached his due date I felt completely exhausted.
Two weeks overdue and I felt completely battered! In the end my active labour lasted 40hours before culminating in an emergency c-section as Lowell’s shoulders were simply too broad. The medical team at the RVI were beyond amazing, but In the aftermath I felt like somehow I had failed my body, and it had failed me... It took me a long time to accept that that wasn’t the case.
I recovered relatively well from the surgery itself in the short term but even now I experience some discomfort around the scarring and a lot of numbness in the entire area around it. My coccyx was displaced during the labour and requires a certain level of constant maintenance. My asana practice plays an important role in looking after my body.
During this entire period I maintained a regular physical practice, although what really amplified for me, and still remains totally essential, is my medicine baths! It started as a way to ease some of the weight of carrying ten pounds of baby, and evolved to include extended meditations, cleansing with palo santo and other nurturing herbal remedies. It certainly wouldn’t look great on Instagram but it truly is a moment of connection and self enquiry.
It’s also maternal mental health month. What would you say to Mothers out there who may be a little overwhelmed and needing some guidance?
It’s a tricky one, because in so many ways there is so much information and support for new mums, yet despite all that it can feel so incredibly isolating.
My advice would be hormones are powerful things! Trust that the way you are feeling no matter how drastic is may feel is the normal result of your hormones reeling after the experience. It is not your core self. It can take as long as two years for the body to truly settle back into balance and potentially longer if you continue to breastfeed.
Perhaps a relatable way to explain it would be if you drunk a whole bottle of wine you would expect to be affected by it, and when you were you would accept it was the wines effect and not you. For some reason though when it’s a hormone effect we don’t see the distinction. We identify with the emotions completely, and we criticise ourselves all the more strongly for feeling them.
In yoga we place a great emphasis on appreciating impermanence. Understanding that our thoughts, feelings and even our life circumstances are transient and do not define us. It’s one of the hardest teachings to truly accept, but one of the most profoundly transformative.
On a more daily basis, I absolutely LOVED attending the baby yoga classes. Caireen is a true baby whisperer and with the same mothers attending each week, and most with babies the same age, it very quickly became a closely knit support group. Caireen manages the perfect balance between professional delivery and fun.
As for the pressure on new mums to get back to pre pregnancy weight, I can’t even begin to explain the strange expectation we place upon ourselves, for some it seems easy, for others it not. Either way we have just grown a baby and then given birth, along with sleep deprivation and a tiny human to care for 24/7 we need to attempt to accept we will get there eventually.