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The 1 Thing I Did Not Plan For During My Pregnancy

**Disclaimer: This is my personal story and journey with postnatal anxiety and depression. I am not looking for advice or opinions regarding my personal journey. I have professional support and a strong friends and family network. **

During pregnancy you do a lot of preparing for baby. You buy furniture, bedding and linen, cute little baby clothes, nappies, a pram and various items to make the home a safe and nurturing place for your new bundle of joy.

I did all these things. I prepared to bring my baby home and love him and nurture him.

What I did not plan for was the possibility of getting postnatal depression and anxiety.

In the days after Remy’s birth I was extremely emotional. And I figured it was normal. All of the hormones, lack of sleep and joy that is the rollercoaster of a newborn. I was like, “yep, it’s just the baby blues.”

BUT – the tears lasted. What I thought was normal anxiety about my baby’s health and wellbeing spiraled into depression. I can vividly remember on a Sunday afternoon being curled up in bed, sobbing inconsolably, while Remy was crying as well, and my partner had to soothe the both of us. Not only was I overly emotional and sleep deprived, but I was also telling myself horrible things.

Things like: “I am rubbish at this”, “I am a terrible mother”, “Remy deserves better than me”.

The scariest thoughts for me were thoughts of just packing up and leaving in the middle of the night or taking Remy to my parents’ and just driving away.

The new role of motherhood was something I never could have prepared for. The loss of independence, putting my professional career on hold, being stuck on the couch breastfeeding, and being covered in spew. I did not have time to eat or go to the toilet some days. I did not feel like myself. In fact, I had completely lost my identity. No-one asked about me anymore. All questions were directed at Remy. How is he sleeping? How is he feeding? Is he gaining weight? Is he happy? I became invisible.

The turning point came when I was at the 6-week Maternal Child Health appointment for Remy. Our MCH Nurse, Karen, asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears. Karen listened to how I was feeling and requested a mental health care plan with my GP. I felt relief and fear simultaneously. I was relieved to know that someone was looking out for me and wanting to help me. And fear because I felt like a failure as a mum.

Once I recognized that I wasn’t coping, I put a few things in place. As well as seeking counselling, I arranged for post-partum support with my doula. I told my sister that I wasn’t doing well and now she checks in with me daily. I arranged with my partner for some “Laura time” on weekends and arranged with my parents for a break during the week. I made the plan to return to work.

I now feel as though the dark cloud of depression is lifting. I am crying less and not having big emotions all the time. I can see the difference between the good days and not so good days. I am being kinder to myself. I am talking to my sister and partner when I am not feeling so good, instead of keeping it to myself. I am getting counselling.

I know I am not “cured” and I still have a long way to go. I am in a much better place now. And I know that if I keep doing what I am doing, reaching out to my support network, I will be able to be the mother that I need to be for my child.

This week is PANDA week, a week dedicated to raising awareness on perinatal mental health. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Strong Independent Men and Women Ask for help and accept help. If you are not feeling yourself, and think you need support, speak to your GP, MCH nurse or a trusted friend or family member. This is the first step in feeling better. It’s hard to do, and so important.

Important Contacts:

PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Sat, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306

Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support 13 11 14

Beyond Blue Support Service  via telephone 24/7 1300 22 4636

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My Top 5 Breastfeeding Game-Changers

As I embark upon my mumma journey, I am battling with my internal and societal expectations about “breast vs. bottle”.

During pregnancy, my mindset was “if I can breast feed, I’ll breastfeed, If I can’t, I can’t.” I thought I would avoid any sense of mumma guilt or shame if this was my approach.

And I can feel this mindset shifting as the weight of mumma-guilt (self-imposed?) pressed down on me.

In the hospital, I was overwhelmed with the different opinions and methods from the midwives as to how best to breastfeed, from latching technique, to babies’ position to pillow placement. I was so confused, and I did not know who to listen to. My confidence in my ability to feed Remy myself was extremely low and I thought bottle feeding would be easier as there are “less rules”.

But I was not ready to give up just yet. I knew my supply wasn’t “in” yet, and I logic brain reminded me that this is a new skill that both Remy and I need to learn, so while I feel like giving up, I wanted to persist.

Below I share the strategies that have helped me as I embark upon this chapter of my mumma journey.

  • Lactation Consultants are Actual Life Savers

The day we brought Remy home, I booked in a lactation consultant to help me with understanding how to breastfeed comfortably. And I have to say, it was a literal godsend! Please do yourself a favour and contact Tanya Maschio at Thrive Lactation and Parenting Support if breastfeeding is a challenge for you and your baby.

The support that Tanya provided was exceptional. She was non-judgemental and help me to really understand why Remy needed to latch in a certain way, how to avoid nipple trauma and how to make sure I enjoyed feeding just as much as Remy enjoyed being fed.

After a few consultations and numerous support phone calls and text, my confidence in being able to successfully feed Remy has increased tremendously. Of all the things Tanya taught me, the side lying feeding position has been an amazing skill to master for those middle of the night feeds, when I feel too tired to sit up. I lay on a comfy mat with my little one and rest my eyes gently as he fills his tummy.

To find out more about the services Tanya provide, visit her website: https://www.thrivelactationandparentingsupport.com.au

  • Galactagogue Goodness

Almost every mum that I speak to swears by Lactation Cookies. There are a lot on the market now. And I do not think it matters what brand you buy. The common ingredients in these cookies seem to be brewer’s yeast, oats, and flaxseeds. These ingredients are galactagogues, known food and herbs that can help to increase milk supply. I have tried a few different brands of cookies and they seem to help me, when I feel my supply is low.

I have also experimented with a few different brands of lactation teas. Infused with fennel and aniseed, these ingredients have also been known to boost milk supply. Whether it does or not, sipping these herbal teas are quite relaxing for a sleep deprived mumma!

I am also taking domperidone, a medication originally used for gastrointestinal disorders, which has also been shown to boost milk supply. I am tackling the challenge of boosting my supply from all angles from natural remedies to Western medication

  • Get a Postpartum Cheerleader

I will dedicate a whole blog post to Beth of Popbellies Doula, but I must mention her here and now. For those that don’t know, a doula is kind of like a pregnancy, birth and postpartum cheerleader. Providing non-judgmental emotional and practical support during pregnancy and postpartum, Beth has provided me with invaluable support during the first few weeks of mumma-hood.

Beth has a wealth of knowledge, experience and reminds me that whatever parenting choices I make for me, my family, and my baby, it is the right choice. I do not know how I would have managed the early stages of postpartum without her support. Even with a supportive family, it is nice to have a conversation with someone who can give non-biased opinion.  

To find out more about the services that Beth provides, visit her website: http://popbellies.com.au/

  • Develop Realistic Family Expectations

Some say “Fed Is Best”. I know this term gets used a lot. For me and my family, it rings true. After a particularly rough night of feeding and waking and settling a cranky Remy, my partner and I had a frank and honest conversation about our expectations for our family. At the end of the day, for us, we wanted to ensure that Remy was getting enough food and was happy. We decided that if this meant “topping up” with formula then so be it. Removing the expectation that our baby needed to be breastfed 100% of the time has reduced my “milk supply” anxiety and it means that Dad can take over for a night feed when I am too exhausted to function.  I am grateful for a supportive partner and that we have taken the time to curve our expectations, ensuring that they are realistic and will work “for us”, rather than against us.

  • Strong Independent Women Ask for Help… And Accept the help that is Given

Elicia, my business coach, told me this a few years ago when I was trying to overcome a challenge in my business. I have applying this saying to many life circumstances and is now my mantra.

Motherhood is something I could never have planned and prepared for, even if I tried. There is a roller-coaster of emotions, hormones and sleep deprivation so exquisite it is something unlike In have ever experienced.

As a new mother, asking for help is the #1 thing that has helped me. Whether it is calling my mum at 2am because Remy has been inconsolable for 5 hours and I am losing my mind; asking my partner to take over “the night shift” (as we call it) so I can seep; or contacting the Maternal and Child Health Line at all hours just to “ask a quick question”, asking for when you need it the most means that you can avoid big emotions like guilt and shame about your parenting style and easily manage the new responsibilities of motherhood.

At the end of the day, mums will do what is best for their family. As I continue my breastfeeding journey, I know I will gain more confidence in my skills and a mother and further develop my relationship with my baby. And if I need some help along the way, then I know that I have a network of family, and services that I can call on for help.

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I am the 14%

or the 8 simple ways I am regaining control of my gestational diabetes diagnosis…

I have just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and It is a huge wake up call. Because I must face the facts (that I have ignored for a long time) that I am addicted to sugar.

Before I launch into my experience of gestational diabetes, lets learn a little but more about this condition and how it can impact your pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and most women will no longer have it once baby is born. In Australia, 12-14% of women will develop GD during their pregnancy.

The placenta produces hormone which aid the growth development of the baby. These same hormones can block the action of insulin and create insulin resistance. As a result, the need for insulin is 2-3 times higher than normal.

If GD is not well-managed and blood glucose levels remain high, there may be implications to the pregnancy, such as having a large baby, premature delivery and still birth.

After pregnancy, blood glucose levels usually return to normal and GD can resolve and disappear. In some cases, the insulin resistance can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Prior to my pregnancy I never had any issues with my blood sugar levels. I knew deep down though that I ate way too much sugary, carby sweet treats and my portion control for meals was out of control. Plus, I know I am an emotional/boredom eater, so this does not help.

And of course, my pregnancy has me craving all manner of unhealthy foods, such as donuts and Maccas (which I never used to eat prior to pregnancy). When my partner expressed concern for my food choices, I would reply “But I’m eating for two now!” Which is such a poor excuse for unhealthy eating, especially when I know that what I eat impacts my baby’s health. * Cue mummy guilt in 3, 2, 1*

I am taking this diagnosis as an opportunity to get my diet into order and make healthier and better choices with how I fuel my body.

With stress and pregnancy affecting my sleep patterns, my serotonin and melatonin levels are a bit out of whack, meaning that I am craving food at all hours. Which makes it hard to stabilize blood sugar levels and manage what I put into my body and when.

Add to this the fact that I must wait a few weeks for my follow up OB appointment and referral to the diabetes educator. I feel a bit lost and alone trying to manage my diet on my own when I have not been great at this before. I feel like I am failing before I even start and placing further risk on my health and my baby’s health.

Despite this, I know there are easy and simple changes I can make, without seeing a doctor. Now, I am not a dietician, or nutrition expert. All I want to do is share my story and what I am doing for myself. Please consult a health professional for advice of managing your gestational diabetes. The purpose here is to share what I am doing to enhance my health and wellbeing.

  1. I have started by cutting out those sugary, carby sweet treats. No more dounts, cakes or pastries. Period. This seems like the easiest and most obvious change I can make to make my blood glucose levels.
  2. I have boosted the number of veggies I eat with each meal. Fresh salad greens or sautéed vegetables are piled on to my plate. Packed full of fiber, vegetables have been helping me to feel fuller for longer and I know that they are good for me.
  3. I am eating more consciously. To do this, I am eating my meals at the dinner table instead of the couch. Where possible I try to focus on just eating, without other distractions. No phone, no TV. I can pay more attention to cues of “fullness” and I eat more slowly meaning that I do not have my usual sugar craving after a meal.
  4. I am swapping foods. Instead mindlessly woofing down a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate for dessert or after dinner snack, I have fruit and Greek yogurt with a few chopped nuts. This is helping me to recognize that dessert is not “bad”, and I can make better choices.
  5. I am focusing on portion control. I am a visual person, so when it comes to food presentation, I aim to have half of my plate full of veggies, ¼ for protein and ¼ with a carb element. I like to fill up on the veg and protein first, before starting on the carb element
  6. I am moving more. Due to self-isolation, I have been going on daily walks. Now I have done my best to up the ante with my exercise. I am walking a few times a day (this helps to alleviate that boredom eating), I have a trusty stationary exercise bike if the weather means I can’t venture outdoors and I have a space to do yoga or pilates to stretch and strengthen.
  7. Hydration is key. I already drink heaps of water and now I am even more aware of how important it is for me to stay hydrated. Drinking water helps me to negotiate whether I am hungry or thirsty as often these cues get confused.
  8. I am minding my language. I am becoming more aware of the way I talk to myself about food. By changing the way I think about food, I can more easily manage sugar cravings and my negative self-talk that is causing “mum guilt”.

While I would prefer to have a completely healthy pregnancy with no medical issues, I am grateful that I can make some long-lasting health changes in my life. My diet was something I knew I had to change but did not know where to start. I am looking forward to the opportunity I have been given to make better choices, improving my health, and enjoying the rest of my pregnancy.

 

For  more information on Gestational Diabetes, please visit Diabetes Australia

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7 Ways To Boost Your Health and Productivity While Working from Home

Are you finding it hard to focus while working from home? Has procrastination got the better of you? Is the call of the laundry or dishes more appealing than that report you are meant to be writing? In this blog, I explore the 7 Ways You Can Boost your Health and Productivity While Working from Home.

 

  1. Clear Desk – Clear Mind

I am a big believer in removing clutter from your desk before getting to work. Now this isn’t an excuse to procrasti-clean. Rather, ensure that you have all the essential things you need in your immediate work area to make the day run smoothly. For me, I make sure I have my diary, to-do-list, a range of pens highlighters and post-it notes (more on this later) and a beverage close by.  By clearing your desk, you can create a fresh start and reduce unnecessary distractions.

 

  1. Write a To-Do-List the Night Before

At the end of your workday, or over the weekend, spend a moment to jot down the important tasks that you need to get done the following day. Writing down a to-do-list means that you won’t use mental energy “trying to remember everything”. It also means that when you get ready to sit down to work the next day, you already have a plan of what you need to do. My to-do-list hack is to write one task that I can easily achieve, so that at the start of my day I can cross something off. It’s mind-game I pay with myself to demonstrate how efficient I am. And it’s so satisfying crossing a task off the list at the start of the day.

 

  1. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying “If the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.” The frog in this context is the biggest and most daunting task on your to-do-list. It can be easy to get side-tracked into all the little tasks and avoid the big ones. You’ll be surprised how much more you can get done when you complete the biggest task first. So go on, Eat that frog!

 

  1. Keep Your Workspace Separate

If its possible, set up an office space in a study or spare room. This way you can “compartmentalize” the time when you are at home and the time when you are at work. Then at the end of the day you can close the door to your “office” and enjoy being at “home”. If you do need to set up your office at the dining table, then have clear boundaries around that space. Set it up and pack it down at the end of the workday. Try to find another space to take breaks so you don’t feel like you are “at work” during your lunch break.

 

  1. What’s a Pomodoro?

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management hack. It was created by Francesco Cirillo who used a tomato shaped timer (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato) to improve efficiency and time management.  Using this technique, you set the timer for 25 minutes, start a task, when the timer goes off put a tick on a piece of paper and when you have more than 4 ticks, you can take a break.  Now you can vary the working time limits to whatever suits you. For shorter attention spans, work in 10-15-minute blocks before taking breaks. Work with whatever if best for you.

 

  1. Find Variety in the Everyday

Sometimes there is nothing more boring than feeling as though you are chained to your desk, without freedom to move. This taps into one of our core needs. The Need for VARIETY. (You can read more about the core needs here). The need for variety can mean that we distract ourselves of procrastinate to keep ourselves entertained if a task is particularly arduous. As a visual person I fulfill my need to variety with tones of pens, highlighters and colorful post-it notes on my desk. This gives the option of choosing either the blue or green highlighter to mark tasks off my to-do-list or the pink or yellow post it notes to write a reminder on to.  I also make sure I have variety of beverages on hand, so I don’t get sidetracked thinking “I can’t get to work yet – I don’t have a coffee.” I usually have a coffee, water bottle, a glass of mineral water with lime juice within arms reach so once again, I can choose what I want to drink.

 

  1. MOVE IT!

Sitting for long periods will kill your motivation to work, and your productivity will plummet! When the Pomodoro timer goes off, use this as an opportunity to stand up and stretch and move. Stretch your neck, your arms, your back and your hips. Walk up and down the hallway. Do squats, lunges, star jumps.  Take a walk around the block at lunch time. Get your body moving and blood pumping. A little bit of movement not only breaks up your day, but it can ease postural aches and pains from sitting, improve productivity so you get more done and boost your mood thanks to the endorphins that exercise creates. If its a struggle to leave the house for exercise, try walking around while on the phone to get a bit more movement into your day.

 

By making a few small changes to your routine, you can ensure that working from home is just as, if not more productive than working in the office.

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Our Top 3 Healthy Spring Recipe Ideas

The sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and the gardens are beginning to bloom. It’s springtime! This amazing season grows some of the most delicious produce that can make your breakfast, lunch and dinner pop with flavour and nutrients.

Here are some great spring recipe ideas that make the most of the season’s produce.

Breakfast bowls and smoothies

Spring is the season of some amazing fruits such as bananas, strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit. Putting a handful of each along with some organic yoghurt and milk (of any variety) into a blender will create a great on-the-go breakfast for busy schedules.

A colourful breakfast bowl with some soaked or toasted oats, cinnamon, yoghurt and fresh mandarin, banana and berries will help keep you full and energetic for the day.

Salads and Stir Fry

Fresh avocado, capsicum, celery, cucumber, tomato and spinach are all available in abundance during spring. All of these and more are the base of a great salad bowl with the addition of some proteins such as egg, chicken or salmon to bring it all together.

Stir fry is also a great way to pack a bunch of healthy ingredients into one amazing dish with some spring beans, onion, zucchini, leek and mushrooms which are all in season. You can add any flavour to a stir fry base such as soy, fish, and oyster sauce, honey, or peanut butter, which will all develop amazing flavours with some rice, noodles, or any other carbohydrate to add in the mix.

Vegetable bakes and roasts

Weeknight dinners are best when they’re quick, easy, and fulfilling! Turning a typical lasagne into a smorgasbord of spring veg and flavour is a great way to get your fill of healthy produce. You can even replace the lasagne sheets with sliced eggplant if you’re watching your carb intake. Adding some egg and flour to the mix instead of lasagne sheets can also produce a great vegie bake that refrigerates and reheats well.

One-pot roasts are also a great go-to dish for weeknights. Roasting vegetables such as potato, pumpkin, parsnip, carrot and other staple roast veg are in their prime during spring. Surrounding a roast chicken or pork with these vegetables is a great set-and-forget option for dinner and will produce amazing flavours as the juices from the produce and the roast develop together in the oven.

You can get some more recipe inspiration by taking a look at a seasonal produce guide.