I spoke recently with Aoife about her struggles after the birth of her second child. She put her thoughts in writing and I feel they are worth sharing.
“I am on a quest to shine a light on maternal physical and mental health. I am not an expert, but being mother to two small children has given me an education.
I gained a bellyful, and bumful, of excess weight during my second pregnancy from comfort eating.
Any type of physical activity became a struggle. Losing my healthy routine also negatively impacted on my mood, energy levels and ability to cope generally.
I was anxious, sad, isolated and overwhelmed.
I found that new mothers don’t talk about their own battles, anxieties, sleepless nights or feeding woes. We should be all part of the same club, sharing in our triumphs and failures.
Maybe by admitting to a failure to cope, we fear that we have failed as women and as mothers. So we sit silent, complicit in the lie that everything is okay.
The first step in my journey to a happier body and mind was exercise. I knew the benefits of keeping fit before I got pregnant, but I didn’t know how to combine the timetable of a baby with regular exercise.
Our needs usually are bottom of the list under children, work and housework. Even thinking about it is exhausting!
Finally it dawned on me that walking with my baby in a buggy was my only option for physical activity.
This was a life-changing moment. The four walls of our homes can protect but they can also imprison.
By motivating myself to leave the house for a walk I became lighter. Getting outside freed my legs, body, mind and soul. The clouds of stress and anxiety burned away, along with fat.
I found a passion for exploring walks that are accessible to buggies. This became a shared experience as I invited friends along. As we pushed, we talked more freely about our daily struggles.
Parenting highs ebb and flow like the tide. We’re lifted on the joy and magic of it all, but it can expose buried fears and anxieties.
We need not fight the swell or row against it alone. While post natal depression is a serious medical condition and doesn’t affect all mothers my guess is that most new mothers have dealt with some issues.
Together we can try to end the stigma of maternal mental health and open up about how tough mothering is. Walking and talking together can lighten the load.”
Share your buggy friendly walks on www.buggywalksireland.com
Dr Eddie’s Reflections
Aoife's honesty highlights the challenges families faces in early days. It shows the importance of sharing and social support. The old adage is ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has significant truth.
Support can be face to face or in online groups.
Aoife hit the nail on the head in integrating her walk/talk to her daily routine.On Operation Transformation I found that leaders who see their exercise plan as an ‘additional’ thing, tend to struggle, compared to those who integrate it in a daily plan.
Post Natal Depression requires a GP assessment.