After speaking to the Ealing Perinatal team who recommended I try mother and baby yoga. I had tried it once before with Alfie but had found it rather boring; the teacher demonstrated all the poses whilst I copied, and Alfie was left to his own devices, rolling around on the floor. I didn’t particularly warm to the teacher and I didn’t find it beneficial, so was sceptical of trying again. However, my friend had been going to Lulu Winfield’s yoga at Lumi in Hammersmith with her son and loved it, so I thought that I should at least try this particular class.
I was incredibly anxious during the week before the class, which is quite normal for me! Many times I made excuses to to go, whilst inside I was worrying that Mollie would cry non-stop during the class or that somehow I wouldn’t be able to cope. I was anxious about being anxious! Yet I got Mollie ready on the morning of the class and decided to go. It took us about an hour to leave the house, despite my husband taking Alfie out that morning. I’m not even sure why it took us so long!
At the start of the class, Lulu introduced herself and was incredibly warm and welcoming. I explained how I was feeling and she was very understanding. With Mollie in the sling at the start of the class, she was content. However, a few minutes into class, she woke up to feed. After feeding, that was it-a lot of crying with me trying to calm her outside the class. Luckily, Lulu came out and offered to hold Mollie whilst I at least did the last ten minutes of the class; she held someone’s baby most of the class if they needed to be held, which was so considerate! Immediately, Mollie stopped crying and I was free to do some stretches. Had Lulu not helped, I am certain that I would have left the class; I had felt so low and useless, even though there were other babies there who were restless and crying.
It was great to be able to get even a few minutes to relax. It has been months since I have meditated and am so proud of us for going to the class. I would recommend new parents to at least try such a class, and if you can get to one of Lulu’s classes, even better!
Depression seems to me to be such a taboo subject. I suffered from this (mostly without realising that I was ill) throughout my teens up until the present day. I remember trying to speak to my tutors at university about my unexplainable feelings of sadness, and then to a uni counsellor, both of whom told me, ‘don’t worry, you haven’t got much longer to go until you graduate’. Because of their response, I continued plodding along with this sense of despair until my late twenties when I moved to London. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I couldn’t leave the house. This is when my GP referred me to a counselling service called Mind. With CBT, I slowly felt more myself, but not without dredging up things from the past which may have contributed to my low mood.
A year later I fell pregnant with my first baby and was referred to the perinatal service, but didn’t click with the doctor, so discontinued treatment. Eventually, after non-stop crying with the birth of my son (both him and me!) my GP prescribed me with anti-depressants. Although I had the prescription, I was too scared to take them. What if I became numb? What if I couldn’t love my baby? What if, what if…..
I would try to talk to other new mum’s about how I was feeling, but they all said that, even though they were tired, they loved being a mum. What was wrong with me?
Then one day, when I was feeling particularly desperate and didn’t know where to turn, I took my first pill. It felt as though I was finally helping myself, and I felt relief. Weeks later, I actually started to feel like myself-it’s as if I had forgotten what ‘myself’ was. I was now able to focus more on positives, such as my son smiling, or the sun shining.
Fast forward two years and I have just had my daughter who is now 5 weeks. And guess what? Post-natal depression rears it’s ugly head again. It became so bad that I couldn’t be in the same room as my daughter, through no fault of her own. Because of this, my mum looked after her for two nights. Some may say that this was cruel to separate myself from my daughter, but I believe that a mum or dad who is suffering from post-natal depression must do whatever it takes to safeguard themselves and their babies.
It does get better…..
The past few weeks have been so hard, but having just spoken to a psychiatrist today, and after having some space, I am again starting to feel okay again. I realise that I need to lower my expectations of myself as a parent, and perhaps stop following celebrity mum’s who seem to have the perfect life!
What is interesting is that there is a lack of support groups in London for people with depression, especially in West London where I live. London is a place where people can easily become disparate from family, unknown to neighbours, or too busy to see friends. Surely it is somewhere like London where more support is needed? Such groups are needed as, in my experience, trying to speak to friends about how I felt was often met with a lack of understanding of the illness, or the response of ‘what do you have to feel sad about, you have a great life!’.
This post barely touches on my experience of depression, but I just wanted to let people know that it does exist and it is okay to talk about it.
More awareness is needed, more support, and more encouragement to be open about the illness. I am therefore looking into setting up a relaxed support group for those suffering with depression, with various themes each time. I hope to hold these ‘chats’ in a relaxed environment as opposed to a sterile room, maybe even at my local pub! If anyone has any ideas, please do contact me, or keep an eye on this blog for more developments.
Where to go for help
For those mums or dads suffering from persistent low mood since having a baby, I would recommend seeking help. Speak to your GP, health advisor, or midwife if you have one. As I live in Ealing, I was referred to Ealing IAPT which is free service that provides psychological therapies, however, the service is available throughout the UK. Details can be found on the NHS Choices website. It is also possible to self-refer, but this process can take a while, so I would recommend seeing your GP to be referred. Furthermore, if any pregnant women are feeling low, it is best to speak to their GP or midwife so that treatment (talking therapies, possibly medication if safe) can be started before birth. This would mean that support is already in place.
Before I had lovely Alfie I was foot-loose and fancy free, able to practice yoga twice a day, attend classes and book onto workshops without a second thought.
Life and yoga was so easy back then……
Fast forward a year and a bit and one yoga teaching qualification later (plus a baby Alfie!) and how things are different! There was me thinking that I’d continue my self-practice with Alfie calmly sitting nearby, or I’d casually drop him off to nursery whilst I went and taught my 5+ classes per day (yeah, right…). Not so much. The reality is this….
Looking after a baby is HARD. Sleep deprivation means that getting up an hour early and going to bed an hour later in order to practice yoga than usual is less than appealing .
Nursery in London costs around £75 a day-in order to break even, I would need to teach roughly 4-5 classes per day. In order to make money, I’d have to teach many more…talk about burn out!
It’s pretty difficult to find yourself teaching 5 classes per day, 5 days per week; I think that this applies to new or established yoga teacher. It’s necessary to have another job, at least at the same tim. But then, when would one spend time with their child/children?
Teaching yoga, like some other careers, means studying to keep knowledge up to date. However, without an employer to help pay for your studies, it is up to you to finance this. Hopefully you have family close by who are willing and able to look after your baby in order to save money on childcare.
If and when you do have a baby, you may need to take extra time off teaching to allow for your body to recover. Your self-practice may certainly go out the window for a while. This happened to me, meaning that, because I was in such a physical job as a teacher, I didn’t feel comfortable teaching to students whilst sitting in a chair. That would definitely have been doing them, and myself, a disservice!
Unless you are lucky enough to have those supportive families or trusted friends to help out, or do not need to worry so much about money (oh, I can but dream), once you have a baby, teaching and practicing yoga really does become more about the money. Is it taboo to talk about yoga teaching and making money? Yes! But it needs to be addressed, especially if thinking about starting a family.
Have a plan in place, maybe think about getting a part-time job to supplement your yoga salary, and get lots of help from loved ones!
As for me, I am relying on savings and my loving parents to enable me to teach, and of course the support of my husband who works long hours in order to look after us all. Although only able to teach sporadically, as there is only so much one can call on family to help, at least I am still teaching. However, with another baby on the way, I am well aware that this is only a short-term option; savings run out, my parents need to rest, and so does my husband!
It would be great to hear some inspiring stories from other mums who have managed to balance teaching and having a baby. Please do post some or message!
I’d meant to start documenting my experience with YMCA Fit’s Yoga Teacher Training from Day One but this kind of went by the wayside with a bout of the Flu and an excitable nine-month old at home. I really cannot believe I have managed to come this far with a new baby, having started studying the anatomy component when my son was only a few months old.
And trying to get a daily self-practice in like I did before: way harder when my son likes to roll underneath me when I’m attempting Sun Salutations.
But somehow, with the support of my gorgeous and selfless husband, plus the best parents ever, not to mention friends who have allowed me to practice on them, I did it! (Yes, I know I haven’t actually done my final exam yet, but I ‘m thinking positively).So with only a couple of weeks to go until my final practical exam, here is the lowdown on the teacher training so far…
Both Jonathan and Annie were incredibly supportive. Jonathan made us laugh every single day, and was so engaging. He knows so much! Both were always to available to answer questions or emails. most importantly, they taught us so much and instilled in us a confidence that we could be the best teacher we could possibly be.
I even had the confidence to teach Headstand, something I had been too scared to do since falling over into our sofa at home. I’m always petrified that I’m going to break my fingers and then somehow die….hhmm.
This London-based blended-learning course was held at OneKX near Kings Cross. The studio was clean with loads of equipment and a nice little vegetarian cafe downstairs. Also two minutes walk to one of my favourite coffee shops, Half Cup. Please go there if you can-the staff are so friendly (so rare in London) and I think that I love their coffee as much as Caravan. I know. Yogis shouldn’t drink coffee. I never said I was perfect…..
Now a bit about the rest…
The e-learning materials were fabulous, but I must say that the support via email or telephone was pretty much non-existent. I felt that once my payment had been accepted, then the YMCA were satisfied that they had done all they needed to. Many of my emails for help went unanswered; staff on the telephone were either rude or had a “couldn’t care less attitude”.
However, overall I would recommend this course. It fits in so well with my lifestyle right now, and I have actually looked forward to each session, which is unusual for me as it is usually rather hard for me to stay focused or engaged. I am pretty excited about our practical exam as I will finally be able to go out and teach for real! YAY.
Wow, it’s HARD being a mum. I actually used to (inwardly) roll my eyes when I heard people at work go on about how little sleep they were getting, and how their baby was going this or doing that. I couldn’t relate, so generally switched off. In fact, I found the subject boring. Now, of course, I try not to bore other people with talk of sleepless nights, feeding routines and post-pregnancy tummies. Now I realise that those parents at work needed an outlet, and that the easiest way for them was to talk about their problems, even if the listener had no clue as to how they were feeling.
Using yoga as an outlet
So I only talk about baby stuff to those who may relate to what I am on about. Otherwise, my other outlet is through yoga. Whenever I have been going through hard times in the past, yoga has helped me focus on something else, and I have always felt better after my practice. The problem does not go away but I find that I am more equipped to deal with it after yoga. I’d like to share with others this way of helping ourselves deal with emotions. For this reason, I am embarking on a Yoga Teacher Training Course with the YMCA. I don’t exactly love the YMCA training so far, mainly because I called my tutor and he didn’t even know who I was/ask if I needed any help. He only seemed interested in taking my money for another course. Anyway, more on the course in another post. I am aware that the yoga teacher market is pretty much saturated within London, and that everyone knows someone who is training to become a yoga teacher. I would still like to give it a go though, hopefully without becoming a cliché! I am not suddenly going to call myself a Yogini and wear yoga clothing All. The. Time.
Unfortunately, procrastination is fun.
The YMCA blended learning consists of online theory covering Anatomy and Physiology. I’ve always found it difficult to motivate myself to study without being in an actual classroom. When needing to learn online, I find that Asos is much more fun, as is the Topshop Lookbook. And Instagram. And then there’s that Whatsapp message on my phone I need to reply to. What makes it even more difficult to sit down and study is needing to look after my six month old son. I try to read when he is napping, but as those with babies may know, sometimes naps can only last half an hour-just enough time to have a shower! My son just LOVES to catnap, just like a cat. I have, however, managed to complete some of the online work which I have been able to do when my husband is home. He is my saviour!
The hardest part has been getting back into my physical practice. My core has become significantly weakened since pregnancy and birth, as have my inner thighs, making poses difficult which I once used to find easy. These are poses such as Wheel and any plank variation. In a public class, I spend a lot of time in Child’s Pose, something I used to be embarassed about doing, but have no idea why.
Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for me to actually get my yoga clothes on in the first place. Seeing as I am so incredibly tired anyway, I have resorted to waking up an hour before my son at 6am as that is the only time I seem able to practice. Actually, I have only done this once (this morning) but I will try to continue this. The practical side of the course doesn’t start until January, so I am hoping by that time that I can at least hold a Wheel without wanting to cry!
I haven’t posted in absolutely ages as was busy giving birth to my now six month old son and have been completely preoccupied with looking after him! It was tough at first, but things have got easier due to us managing to get him into a bit of a routine. He is, however, exactly like myself when was a baby (so I’m told), in that he is demanding, attention seeking, and generally hard work! That said, he is anything but boring, and is massively affectionate and intelligent.
I hated being pregnant. There, I said it.
It’s funny thinking about how much I am gushing about him, as I certainly did not feel like this at the start. In fact, controversially, I disliked being pregnant, hated the way my body looked, and felt it was completely out of my control. You wouldn’t have thought it, though, from looking at photos of me, or talking to me, as I was always trying to hide how I felt. If I did try and explain it to someone, they would think that I was crazy: “what?! How can you not be excited? How can you not like being pregnant?” Most of this came from those who had not had babies, but also to a lesser extent, those who had. This made me feel guilty as if something was wrong with me. I did go and see a Perinatal Counsellor, but this again made me feel worse. I felt that I would need a lot of help when the baby was born, but the counsellor suggested that he would not know who his mum was if I let other people look after him. So I stopped seeing her.
Post-childbirth is not always all hearts and flowers like in films.
Fast forward to the birth. It was not all smiles and celebration when he was born; it was a long 48 hour labour and I was absolutely knackered. It was more relief that I felt; relief that the pain was over and that perhaps I could rest. Little did I know that babies do not allow you to rest! Being a spirited baby, my son cried A LOT. I couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding either.
I ended up breaking down in my GP’s office whilst attending my son’s 6 week check. She offered to prescribe me antidepressants. I was so desperate, I agreed. I had been scared to take them before in case of addiction or scary side-effects, but I was at the point where I didn’t care. I couldn’t seem to bond with my baby, I was sleep deprived, I couldn’t breastfeed and I felt that nobody understood. Another doctor got me an appointment with a family psychiatrist whereby I was to go and speak to her with my baby. Leaving the house with him on my own freaked me out as I hated doing this. I was always anxious that he would start crying and that I wouldn’t be able to cope. I managed to go it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I felt proud that I had made it to the appointment. The sessions were helpful in that they helped me to empathise with my son and see why it was so frustrating not to be able to communicate with words.
The only way he could tell me what he wanted was to cry. I made an effort to talk to him more and involve him in what I was doing. I started to feel less anxious around him and really started to miss him when I went out to run errands, ironically because I was spending more time with him as opposed to avoiding him. However, I did find that the counsellor kept advising against other people looking after him. My parents would look after him when things got too much, especially when my husband was away working. She said that this was not a good thing and should be avoided where possible. So I felt guilty for doing this and stopped, leaving me depressed again and completely shattered. I decided to take what advice I needed and to leave the rest, which really worked for me.
I still ask my parents to look after Alfie as I love having time alone with my loving, supportive husband and sometimes I just really need to catch up on my sleep! Alfie loves seeing his grandparents too, and I no longer feel guilty about this as it helps me feel so much better physically and emotionally.
These feelings were not just ‘baby blues’; I felt too anxious to be alone with Alfie, I cried most of the time, I couldn’t sleep and wouldn’t eat anything. I was scared to leave the house with him, and was scared that something bad would happen to him if I wasn’t constantly prepared for the worst. I have to say, I wish I’d started taking anti-depressants earlier, and speaking to someone professional sooner. Friends didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to bother my family with such worries. I just wish women didn’t feel such pressure to be the perfect mum!
If anyone has similar feelings postnatally or even during pregnancy, I would definitely recommend speaking to a professional and possibly opening up to another mum as she may be going through the same thing. Also, don’t compare your baby to others; they are all individual. I used to ask myself, “why can’t Alfie be quiet and calm like that baby?” but now I feel blessed to have such a lively, happy and expressive son.