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Creating a safe place for a new mother: Preparing for a trauma-informed birth and post-partum recovery

Birth and Trauma

Giving birth, whether it is your first, third, or beyond, can be a time of renewal, growth, and joy. Though it can also be a time of dread, angst, and fear when past trauma experiences creep up on you.

Depending on the care you receive from your selected health professionals, past trauma experiences can rear their ugly heads as there is a certain level of unpredictability when it comes to giving birth.
Even the idea of being naked in front of others can be enough to trigger an over-active defence mechanism to protect yourself and your unborn baby, which is often doing too good of a job in keeping you safe, it can be exhausting on top of the natural stress involved in giving birth.

While we can’t change the past, as much as we would love to sometimes, we can take steps to brace ourselves for the challenges coming up.

There is a lot of talk about birth plans, many people don’t see the point or need to use them, however, this is a really helpful tool if you have experienced huge trauma in your life. By creating a birth plan informing your health professionals of what you experienced (without going into too much detail), you can express what your needs are and why.

For instance, if being naked in an environment where you don’t feel in control of creates distress for you, then the health professionals can plan to limit the number of people in the room or make discerning decisions as to who is allowed in (particularly for hospital births). If you have chosen for a birthing doula to be with you, then a birth plan is a great way to advocate for your wishes without you needing to worry about enforcing them, as well as identify if the hospital requires anything from your doula to ensure they aren’t prevented from being by your side.

There may be family members who create a lot of stress for you, if they try to be present at the time of your labour, then you can use your birthing plan to request that they not be allowed in the room. Hospitals can use their authority to deny access very easily and they can avoid having you in the firing line of why they couldn’t be present.

You get to choose who is with you in the birthing room

Perhaps the birthing side of things is not an issue for you, though you may find post-birth to be the most challenging part, especially if you have experienced the loss of a child in whatever circumstances that might be. By informing the health professionals of your concerns and wishes (especially when it comes to your choice/need of feeding & sleeping methods), they can be aware through your notes of the circumstances surrounding those decisions.

Studies have also shown that Pitocin (the synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin) can trigger PND/A. This isn’t to say that it should be avoided at all costs, sometimes there is a very real need to use it, I have used it myself with my second child. Please do follow the advice of your health professional. Though be aware that this can increase your chances of developing these conditions means that through proactive planning you can take the edge off how intense they may feel. In fact, Post-natal depression and anxiety can begin soon after giving birth, right through to bub’s 1st birthday – which can be confusing, to say the least as generally, we expect it to be much sooner.

Having a pre-chosen counsellor to work with can allow you to work through the changes in your body and the responses to changing hormone levels and adapting to all the other changes that come in this season of life can really lessen the impact and severity of what could be experienced.

Bringing a new life into the world is not as straight-forward as we’d like it to be. It’s painful and amazing, wonderous and onerous, stressful and blissful and so much more in between. By getting the right support around you during this time of change is so important.

Seeking support from a counsellor or post-partum/birth doula specialised in trauma is a great way to lessen the impact of past stresses and to create a way forward that allows you to experience more joy when your little one arrives.

Do you have any tips to share from your own experience? Please share as you feel lead in the comments for the benefit of others preparing for their upcoming birth and beyond.

For more information and support services, visit PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) https://www.panda.org.au/ or give their helpline a call on 1300 726 306.

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9 Self-help books that actually help

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Please see my Disclosures Policy here for more details.

9 self help books

I love reading books, though between family, friends, work and time for myself, time is limited and I can’t afford to waste it. Are you in a similar position? Whether you are or have all the time in the world, your time is still valuable. You can’t afford to read books that waste your time.

I have had the blessing of reading some really helpful books focussed on very different areas of life from spirituality to physical aspects of how the mummy brain works and thought I’d share them with you so you can decide whether it is worth your time. AND I just want to reiterate, I love these books and happily recommend them to others all the time.

  1. The Reality Slap by Dr Russ Harris
    The Reality Slap
    Ok, while the others are in no particular order, this has to be my favourite go-to book all the time. Dr Russ Harris specialises in ACT  (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and built ACT Mindfully. I attended the Introductory training a few years ago which went over 3 years. I bought this book just before I went for lunch on the first day and I finished it on the 3rd day. I couldn’t put it down (though obviously did for the training). What I was pleasantly surprised about was that Dr Russ Harris writes as he speaks so I could hear him speaking through the book in the same way as he was teaching in the training. Though, that doesn’t explain the benefit of the book. This book addresses those sucky situations where you can’t change the details. Situations like divorce, infidelity, death, betrayal – basically situations where you can’t change without a time machine. People talk about just thinking positively, though it isn’t so simple. The Reality Slap takes you through an easy to understand-process of working through the barriers in your mind to accept what you can’t change and commit to what you can. There are exercises built in throughout the book for you to use which is great to break up the amount of information you take in. Talk about a transformational book! Please note, it is not a magic wand, you will still experience pain and grief, though you will be able to live with pain and grief without it taking over your life, better than that, you will be able to grow and flourish with it.
  2. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
    The Purpose Driven Life
    I love books that walk you through practical steps as you read it. I’m the kind of person who needs to apply info as soon as I learn it, and this book does exactly that.
    Rick has an amazing ability to walk through the various intricacies of life as though he were speaking directly to me. The exercises are relevant and easy to use, throughout you get a real deep understanding of how to live a life of purpose that God planned for you right from the beginning.
  3. The Oxytocin Factor by Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg
    The oxytocin factor
    For the science geek to the Mum who wants to know what the heck happened to her brain after childbirth, this book is for you! I gave birth 15 months ago for my second baby (6 years after my first), and I continued working… and studying… and felt like I was going crazy. Why were things so difficult all of a sudden? Sure I was tired, and breastfeeding, though why was I struggling with emails that would take me two seconds to answer normally? Why was I struggling to explain concepts to people that usually I can do in my sleep?This book answered all my questions.

    Yes, it’s a bit technical and scientifically-wordy, though 4 months postpartum, struggling with all of the above and I still managed to feel reassured that I wasn’t going nuts.

  4. A Woman’s Secret to a Balanced Life by Lysa TerKeurst
    A womans secret to a balanced life
    I must admit, the flowery cover grabbed my interest as I was choosing what to use my birthday gift voucher on from my Mother-in-Law. Though I also really wanted to know what the secret was too. Lysa has a way with words, I love following her on Facebook with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Through this book, Lysa melodiously communicates peace and tranquillity in a practical sense that makes just logical sense.
    Admittedly, with love of practical application, Lysa meets my love for analogies in the form of weaving a picture that pieces together throughout the book, namely through a waterfall starting from God and flowing into every other aspect of life.
    Want to know the secret? Read this book!
  5. Wisdom in Leadership by Craig Hamilton
    Wisdom in leadership
    This is a down to earth, nuts and bolts book on leadership. Craig Hamilton is an experienced pastor who gets what is involved in leading others with integrity and authenticity. While I love flowery visuals and practical application, I am a sucker for down to earth approaches. Throughout this book, Craig explains that there is no biblical model of leadership, which opens up the option for us to be individuals. Oh, the freedom!
    We learn the values and application of leadership to consider, and this can translate into all walks of life whether you are a church leader, a team leader in a corporate setting, or a parent leading your family as they grow.
  6. The Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung
    The father heart of god
    Throughout this book, Floyd explores the relationship between our earthly father and God the Father. While easy to read, this revelatory journey has a transformational impact on your relationship with your Dad and with God as you start to see them for what they are as they are. Quite separate.

    Sharing personal stories of the testimonies of others who have been through this leg of the journey, this makes it easy to identify with and move towards a place of healing in your Christian walk.

  7. Toxic Mom Toolkit by Rayne Wolfe
    Toxic mom toolkit
    While our relationship with our earthly Dads has such a powerful impact on our lives, it is also true about our Mums. Rayne shares her own story in a powerful way. Through sharing the raw life journey of her own relationship with her mother, Rayne has also shared the hope of life beyond. The promise of enjoying life on your own terms without being swept up through the bitterness of hate towards the one person who is supposed to breathe life and love into your very being.
    Along with this journey of healing, many others share their raw and honest experiences of healing in the process. Though please note, a trigger warning is needed. Some experiences are incredibly painful and traumatic. Be sure to read when you are ready, in small doses if need be, and use those self-care practices you’ve been using to protect you.
  8. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
    5 love languages
    Ever wonder why you and your spouse just keep getting it all wrong? Like, you both have good intentions, though it keeps blowing up in your face?

    This book is a game changer when it comes to getting relationships back on the same page.Relationships need more than just love, they need communication to let the love be known!

  9. Family Ties that Bind by Ronald Richardson
    Family ties that bind
    Starting a family is easy, keeping it healthy is another ballgame entirely. To keep the oxygen flowing, it is really helpful to understand how families work as a system and an appreciation for how the family we grew up in have an impact on how our newer family works. Richardson has a captivating and easy to understand approach to the family system, explaining in ways that make sense which is great when you understand things on a visual level like I do.

    So if you are wanting to understand your family on a deeper level, adjust your approach or find ways to shake things up (in a good way!), then this book is for you!

 

I hope these books help you as much as they have helped me in my journey.

Have you read a book that has deepened your faith and life journey? Share in the comments! I would love to add to my collection!

Finding my feet 🐾

If you like gorgeous photos and everyday stories turned into big adventures, I highly recommend following Candice at Outback Rose!

Moving from a small country town to a big city takes a little more adjustment than what my pants require after weeks of unrestrained great food.
But moving on your own also poses a potential great adventure…

With work not yet on the cards, my days are open for endless adventures!
I think everyone needs an adventure at some point in their lives; to heal, to learn about yourself, to learn to love yourself again.
I’m not normally one for spontaneity and lack of plans, but i’ve walked to the nearest bus stop and gotten on the first bus with little idea where I was going. I’ve chosen the traditional check out instead of self serve and struck up heaps of conversations with the locals. I’ve been enabled to spend half an hour deciding between the milk and dark chocolate coated almonds, finally settling on the honey cashews at the…

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The window to the soul – or is it?

unrecognisableselfieday1

Selfies are the way of life.

I am constantly finding new apps and filters to embellish, decorate, or even distort the picture entirely.

There is nothing inherently wrong with them; sometimes it is the only way a mum can get a photo with her kids!

The only problem with selfies, is that it takes so many attempts to get the best picture! Holding the camera at the right angle, lighting needs to be just right, background needs to be checked – quite a bit goes into the best selfie. Though to the untrained eye, they appear to be spur of the moment photos, quite misleading to what is actually happening.

A carefully constructed window into a disguised life.

What selfies fail to show are the tears, the weary eyes, the frail body, the chaotic home, the cracks of a natural life (I don’t even look like me in this one!!).

How does this help our friends and family to know we need help?

How does this help someone else reach out for help?

Psychotherapy uses insight to gain awareness and knowledge into our past, giving us direction on how to use our present to build a better future.

Though we need the real picture – not the carefully constructed image presented in a selfie.

For Psychotherapy Day, 25th September, I challenge you all to a first take, spur of the moment, real selfie.

Here is one to kick things off!

selfieday1

 

Perfection: How is it destroying your life? and what can you do about it!

perfection

Is it better to be loved because you are perfect? Or loved despite your imperfections?

So often I feel the pressure to be perfect:

  • Perfect mother;
  • Perfect wife;
  • Perfect friend;
  • Perfect employee, and the list goes on!

It’s tiring and absolutely exhausting. Not only this, it is also incredibly distracting which does not help my efforts to be perfect, I stumble and fall whenever I strive to move forward while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. Even in Scripture we are told that “no-one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). That’s right, not even Mary Poppins!

If no-one can be perfect – what makes me think that I can be perfect?

Through thinking over the stresses that seeking perfection causes, I wonder if it is worth the cost?

Perfection seeking can lead to:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Addictions;
  • Failed relationships – personal and work related;
  • Utter despair which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

So it is not achievable and comes at a high cost – not a wise investment if you ask me!

So what gives me hope despite not being perfect?

Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

I am still loved despite my flaws; and you know what? 

  • My daughter still loves me;
  • As does my husband;
  • I still have friends and family in relationship with me;
  • I love my field of employment;
  • And I have an identity that I continue to desire to grow and nurture into a person of excellence.

Looking at these points, I can see that I have everything perfectionism promises, though never delivers. What’s more, I can breathe, relax, and enjoy this life on earth.

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

Do yourself a favour and stop seeking perfectionism, rather strive for excellence.

What areas do you find yourself seeking perfectionism? Share in the comments your plans to change direction!

The deadliest epidemic that mankind faces: What can you do?

The deadliest epidemicOur children are dying. Simply put, no beating around the bush; our children are dying and we are standing around watching helplessly. Oh yes, we all exclaim “what is happening in the world”, though that is often the extent of our response.

Simply because we have no idea what we can do about it!

Last week I wrote about addiction proofing our children and the week before that we explored what addictions are.

This week I want to explore practical steps that we can do to act now against what I believe is arguably the most deadliest epidemic facing humanity:

Suicide!

According to Psychology Today, people with substance use disorders are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Rehabs.com, an American rehab database website, highlights that while addiction increases the likelihood a person will take their own life, it also sets the wheels in motion as the means of carrying through with suicide are at their disposal and a reduction in inhibitions that might otherwise deter them from such a consequential decision.

So the risk is high – though we have more resources than we realise!

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

First things first, we need to have an understanding on suicide and what we need to look for. While this isn’t preventing addictions, it will give you something to implement now for those who are already in the grips of an addiction.

According to SuicideLine, there are 4 key points that all professionals, trained in identifying suicide risk, use – and you can use them too!

Thoughts:

  • Are suicidal thoughts present?
  • When did these thoughts begin?
  • How persistent are they?
  • Can they control them?
  • What has stopped the person acting on their thoughts so far?

Plan:

  • Has the person made any plans?
  • Is there a specific method and place?
  • How often does the person think about the plan?

Important note: A suicide plan or preparation for death, such as saying goodbyes and putting affairs in order, indicates serious suicidal intent.

Means:

  • Does the person have access to means to carry out their plan? For example, is there a firearm available?
  • How deadly is the method?
  • Type of occupation? For example, police officer, farmer (access to guns), health worker (access to drugs).

Important Note: If a person has developed a potentially fatal or effective plan and has the means and knowledge to carry it out, the chances of dying from suicide are much higher. 

History:

  • Has the person felt like this before?
  • Has the person harmed themselves before?
  • What were the details and circumstances of the previous attempts?
  • Are there similarities in the current circumstances?

Communicating with an emotionally distressed person can be difficult, but it is important to persist and gather the information required to estimate the risk, identify protective factors and determine the appropriate management.

To summarise the above, go through this list:

Have they had suicidal thoughts?
If yes 

Do they have a plan to carry out the suicide?
If yes

Do they have the means to carry out the plan?
If yes

Have they attempted suicide before?
If yes, then the risk is high and you need to seek help from a professional.

Below are services that are open 24/7 and trained to attend to crises just like this, though if you feel that the threat is imminent, call the police on 000 for immediate assistance.

SuicideLine

Lifeline

Suicide Call Back Service

Kids Helpline

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

If you have lost someone to suicide or are having thoughts of suicide, please contact one of the above crisis lines today to get the support you need, whether it be counselling or referral to the best services for your needs.

Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

Addictions: What are they?

What to do when you feel stuck

Addictions are a growing issue that many people from all walks of life, deal with in one way or another. Addictions can be in any shape of form, from drugs and alcohol, pornography, internet, food, lack of food, exercise, people, and the list goes on.

It is also quite often that people will develop more than one form of addiction which can feel overwhelming and out of control, while some, more so myself, will admit to having an addictive personality (not to be confused with people being addicted to my personality!), in which we exert some self-control by not engaging with certain things that we know we will get hooked on.

Dealing with multiple addictions can feel like living in an incredibly messy house – where to start? The task at hand just feels insurmountable and that there is no point to even try to tidy up, because one person can only do so much on our own.

Let’s look at what addictions actually are. They are a defence mechanism that we develop over time to take away the pain we are feeling, to drown out the messages we don’t want to accept. It starts off small, a house doesn’t get messy overnight, we believe we have things under control – then realisation sets in years later, if at all!

Personally, I would feel like setting fire to the house, though for some reason I would hate to let it go – a really confusing feeling! Why would I want to hang on to such a messy place?

Because it is my place.

Mine! 

That will never change.

Same with addictions, the addiction is the mess, the house is us – our identity is not shaped by our addictions, our addictions hide our true value.

Let me re-frame this concept: we develop addictions because we are valuable.

As highlighted above, addictions are defence mechanisms, defence mechanisms are engaged to protect something that is worth defending – you would not be defending yourself if you did not believe you have value.

Now, I am certainly not advocating for the use of addictions, there are healthier defence mechanisms we can develop to protect ourselves, and at the same time enjoy the serenity of a clean house.

This process only needs to happen one step at a time and a bit of help goes a long way. See here for helpful services or feel free to contact me to develop an action plan.

Remember, the mess wouldn’t be here in the first place if you didn’t see some self-worth in you.

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Misery likes company
doesn’t want to be alone,
it drags you down into the hole,
dries you up right to the bone.

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