Category: family

Exercise, Motherhood & Me | Guest Writer Erin Puckett

My name is Erin Puckett and I am an Exercise Scientist and a Mother. Fitness has always been a part of my life in some form or another. We were active children playing hockey, basketball, cricket, swimming, you name it we probably tried it. So when it came to choosing a university degree, Sport Science seemed the perfect fit.

I have been working in the health and fitness industry now for over 12 years. I have trained women through every stage of pregnancy including myself and I can unequivocally say, every woman’s experience with pregnancy and exercise is truly unique, including mine. When I fell pregnant I was exercising 5 days a week, teaching RPM classes and weight training as I had been doing for several years. I was a healthy weight with no serious health concerns and injury free. My beautiful daughter turns 3 in June and I am only now managing to maintain a regular exercise routine…. and I work in a gym!

So why has it taken so long? A number of reasons both physical and mental. My body wasn’t the same post pregnancy and my energy levels were nowhere near what they used to be. Lack of sleep will do that to you! Additionally, I suffered from pubic symphysis (early separation of the hip bones) thanks to hyper mobility and was cautious about injury.  But mostly, my procrastination was a mental battle. Whilst I well and truly know the benefits of exercise and the positive effects it can have on mental health, I couldn’t seem to match that knowledge up with my new mum brain.

Trust me I tried. Daily walks with new bub were easy but they werent enough and they definitely weren’t helping shake the baby weight. I returned to the gym aiming for sessions 3 times a week. Seems reasonable right? But I would get there and feel guilty for not being at home being a mum. My workouts were ineffective because I was distracted and eventually, I just stopped bothering.  And I am not the only one. With all the Mums I have had the amazing pleasure of training over the years, there are a few commonalities. So here are a few key things I have learned through experience that will hopefully help other Mums reading with their journey to health and happiness.

1. Exercise is different for everyone and so is pregnancy. So always seek the advice of your doctor regarding what type and intensity of exercise is best for you. Supervised training sessions with an exercise professional are highly recommended for specific conditions such as gestational diabetes etc. This allows you to continue exercising while controlling those factors.

2. Mindset is everything. As a new mum, you tend to skip out taking care of yourself. So make sure you make yourself a priority. You need to be happy and healthy to take care of that bundle of joy, so schedule some me time and get those endorphins flowing. Make a plan for exercise and stick to it. Your body and your baby will thank you for it. And ditch the guilt. You are being the best mother you can be by taking care of yourself so you can take care of your family.

3. Keep it simple. I have seen women give birth and return to Pump class with a 6 pack 8 weeks later. I have also seen women gain 20kgs in 9 months baking their babies. Don’t expect the same results as someone else. They’re not you. Simplicity wins when it comes to healthy choices especially when kids are involved. Move More, Eat Fresh. Aim to get 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise 3 times per week. Stack your diet with fresh produce, lean meats and whole grains. The less processing the better.

4. Rest, relax and recover. Your body needs it. That doesn’t mean you absolutely HAVE to get 8 hours sleep a night (which would be impressive to pull off with a kid in the house anyway!). It means downtime. A slow down where you can let your muscles recover and your brain reboot. A warm bath and a good book are my go to.

5. Love yourself the way that kid loves you. Unconditionally. And they always will. So take care of yourself body, mind and soul so they know how to do it too.

It wont happen overnight. It has taken me 12 years of exercise experience and 3 years as a mum to reach where I am. I’m still a work in progress, like the rest of us.  So take your time and enjoy the ride.

 
Erin Puckett is a qualified Exercise Scientist with over 12 years experience in the health and fitness industry. She specializes in functional training and injury rehabilitation from adolescents to elite level athletes and everyone in between. You can reach Erin at Facebook or Instagram to arrange a free consultation.

A Mother’s Heartache | Guest Writer Zoe Taylor

“A Mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.” – Helen Steiner Rice

When a lot of people think of seizures they imagine jerky movements from a stiff body – even I was guilty of that image in my head, but each seizure is different and the changes within the episode are so vast. But you would never know until you saw it for yourself. This is my experience so far with seizures.

Life was full on the second Charlee arrived, it was a perfect labour compared to my first but ended in me being knocked out for surgery following a postpartum haemorrhage and transferred to King Eddies on my own. The moment I got home my attention was fought over between a toddler, a newborn and my partner who just wanted some quality time together. A few months flew by thanks to sleep deprivation, my maternity leave was coming to an end and I was running out of patience being around the kids 24/7 so I made a plan to go back to work early. We were coming home from dinner when a car turned through a green light without giving way to oncoming traffic and we T-boned them (at that point this was the scariest night of my life).

Returning Back to Work

I started back at work the next week. It was only a week after the crash when Charlee had her first seizure I second guessed myself and called dial-a-doctor (or a similar service). Because at that point she was still responding to us, babbling, following us around with her eyes, it was only her tiny hand curled up in a tight fist tucked under her chin that was shaking discreetly. The operator said “if you think she’s having a seizure call an ambulance”. Between then and when we finally got into the hospital the seizure had gone over 40 minutes! Once she was stable and awake we were transferred to PMH to be monitored. The doctors assured me this was a once off thing (‘febrile convulsions are very common in babies’) but I knew this was only the start, as childhood seizures were in my family; still the Doctors were positive and so certain in their statements.

Another month after that she had her second. Nearly 3 months went by when we had put Charlee into day-care with her older sister as I was determined to have this ‘normal’ life. Within 2 weeks of day-care she had 3 seizures over a weekend, the last resulting in an induced coma; she was discharged with new anti-epileptic medication and we were so hopeful it would work. Another month and another seizure and another induced coma we were shattered, dosages went up and down and we realized the public medical system was broken as communication between specialists lacked and we had to keep up with all the details ourselves.

My partner was pushed out of his job as they didn’t like him having so much time off to look after his family, they told him he was taking the piss and that “you need to sort your personal life out”. I thought we would be supported by some sort of carers payment but everyone refused to sign documents about her condition, so I took on more hours at work and became the main income earner while my partner became a stay at home dad.

Life With a Sick Child

So far there has been two induced comas, three incubation’s, numerous drugs tried tested and failed. Charlee has had about 12 seizures (that we know of) within 8 months, each followed REturny hospitalisation of a few days. It doesn’t sound like much but they are fierce, I watched my baby turn blue while emergency operators advised not to start CPR until paramedics arrived. I had my heart crushed when they told me they couldn’t stop the seizures and had to ‘put her to sleep’. Time and time again I felt I had failed, as a parent I couldn’t save her I couldn’t ‘fix’ her episodes and on top of that the guilt of knowing the genetics had been passed down through me. I never asked for this, who would ever ask for this? How long before they damage her growing brain? How long can her body stand the cocktails of drugs? And will they ever go away?

While all this was happening I struggled to keep up with those around me; friends and family often came last, I just didn’t have the energy or time to focus on anything outside of Charlee. I was trying to keep up with my girls who were growing so fast, trying to research information surrounding my baby’s condition because doctors didn’t seem to have the time. Every GP/CHN/specialists visit is met with praise and that “she’s doing so well” or “there’s nothing wrong with her” but that doesn’t take away traumatic ED trips and the fact that there is something wrong that no one is willing to look deep enough into. Because they haven’t seen her at her worst, with tubes and wires coming from every inch of her, hooked up to machines to keep her in a ‘safe’ state giving her body and brain a rest before any real damage sets in.

A Mother’s Pain

I fight with my thoughts; ‘you have so much to be thankful for’, ‘you shouldn’t be grieving’, ‘some parents have it so much worse’ and so on. I listen to doctor’s terms that are so foreign they go straight past me, the same terms I quickly become fluent in. Nurses recognise us like we’re regulars at a local cafe, which I am extremely grateful for; you don’t realise how comforting a nurse can be when she too has witnessed the ups and downs of your child.

I am so lucky to have an amazing team of doctors and nurses at our local hospital that recognise our little girl, know the plan as soon as we come crashing through the ED doors and most importantly LISTEN and respect our wishes. We beg to stay local not to be sent up to Perth, we don’t qualify for accommodation at Ronald McDonald house which means our family is split up and usually your chances of sleeping on a chair or in your car are pretty high. PMH stays for us mean 140 km round trip each day plus parking, plus food, plus babysitters for the older sibling, plus days off work, plus medication the costs add up fast and before long we find our sanity has gone out the window and are desperate to be home.

So far it’s been nearly 4 months seizure free in our house and we feel as if it has been a lifetime since our last ED trip. Charlee is now on a different anti-epileptic drug that seems to be working (we aren’t holding our breath) and her action plan seems to work well. She is walking, talking, eating well and is smashing all the milestones for an average 16 month old. At the start of 2018 Charlee’s genetic testing results came back positive for the mutation of a gene known to be related to seizure disorders. We’ve been on this journey for more than 12 months without any real answers; we just don’t expect them anymore.

Things that I have learnt along the way:

  1. Do that first aid training course you’ve been putting off, if you can’t afford it google and YouTube is your next best bet as some first aid knowledge is better than none at all.
  2. If it’s not in writing it may as well not exists, (medical records, doctors’ advice etc.)
  3. Don’t be scared to share with strangers, on admissions they’re usually the only adult company you have as partners and/or family can’t stay.
  4. Go with your gut, your instincts are stronger than what most believe and remember no-one knows your child better than you.
  5. If you’re ever staying at PMH pop into Kalparrin, they are the nicest most amazing people I’ve ever had the chance to meet and I honestly wish there were more support centres around regional WA.

Here are some Websites and organisations that you may find helpful..
https://kalparrin.org.au/
https://www.epilepsy.org.au/
https://www.carerswa.asn.au/

"Be Brave Little One." - Little Charlee
“Be Brave Little One.” – Little Charlee

Zoe Taylor

Mother to Charlee

The thing I love about Motherhood | Guest Writer Suzanne Jones

It would be fair to say that I needed a little persuading to enter the world of Motherhood. I was enjoying a fulfilling career with all the freedom and excitement a good income allows. What little I did read about motherhood was often negative with any positives listed only as a small footnote. I always understood the need to seek comfort in sharing similar experience with others but came to the conclusion that motherhood was an overall unhappy and exasperating experience.  After all, if it was all that great, why didn’t people write about those aspects? I would see sentimental memes shared on Facebook regularly enough but the long and detailed accounts of life with a baby or toddler were reserved for dissatisfaction and frustration. I did not want to be that miserable. No thank you.

Fast forward a few years and I was happily settling down with a wonderful, caring man. The urge to create a family between us crept in. As happens when you hit a certain age, friends started having families of their own and I was able to see these women go through the most wonderful transformation. They glowed with the love and joy of their babies and, most surprisingly to me, they were still interesting, vibrant and had their own identity. I thought maybe I could be a mother and still be the ambitious, geoscience geek that I am. And so, not long after we married we started trying for a baby. We were blessed with our daughter Madeline Theia in February of 2017 and nothing in this world has made me happier.

Coming up to Madeline’s first birthday I have been looking back over the past year and thinking about all the things I have enjoyed. I decided to write a list of just some the unexpected pleasures that come with being a mum to counterbalance the more negative articles I had read in the past.

I should say that the following are my personal experiences, not a generalization. I have deliberately kept it positive. There certainly are hard times and many challenges but those have already been covered so many times. I am not trying to gloss over the hard times or deny they happen, because they absolutely do. This is just my happy version of the “Dear First Time Mum” blog… and here goes…

Unexpected Positive Experiences When You Become A Mother

The moment a child is born, a mother is born - Rajneesh (Image Credit Lion Fox & Co)
The moment a child is born, a mother is born – Rajneesh (Image Credit Lion Fox & Co)

Just about everyone is friendly

Most trips to the supermarket take a long time. Not because the baby is unruly but because most older ladies you pass will stop me to chat to Madeline. She mostly obliges with smiles but even when she grimaces at them, they still smile back and chat a little. It’s not just the granny types either, the granddads wave and other children come up to say hello to a baby and parents make polite small talk. I overhear people whisper “oh she’s so cute” and yes, I will admit that I actively engage in these conversations and covet the baby compliments. They make me smile and I genuinely enjoy the interactions. Joking aside, there was a time when I started to feel very isolated. We have no family in Western Australia and my husband works away. These casual ‘friends’ I made at Woolies were what stopped me slipping into a dark place.  Thank you friendly strangers.

The Baby Vortex

I can lose hours each day just being with Maddie. We call it the Baby Vortex. When she was first born I could at her sleeping for such a long time I would get neck ache. Newborn babies quickly learn to control their eyes and they can maintain eye contact for what feels like hours. I would wonder what she was thinking and if she knew who I was. Nowadays I catch myself just watching her play, other times I am being silly to keep her laughing. Sometimes a whole morning can go by and I realise that I haven’t done any of the chores I set out to do and I forgot to prepare lunch. The Baby Vortex is amazing. It’s why it takes me so long to get anything done.

More ambition, enthusiasm and motivation (just redirected)

People used to tell me that I would probably lose interest in my career when I had a baby and that my life would be ‘put in perspective’, as if it were out of perspective prior to becoming a mother. I would find it so frustrating and patronising. Well, I have not lost ambition or enthusiasm at all. In fact, I feel more driven than ever. I have a daughter and I need to be a role model to her. I want to show her that she can achieve anything she wants. The difference today is that I may have redirected my ambition. Time is precious and if I am away from my baby girl, it needs to be worthwhile. I feel a strong urge to show young girls that they can be part of the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) world. Maybe I have found perspective, my interests have evolved, I am more ambitious than ever because I am now accountable. Its not just me anymore, I have a responsibility to this little girl and nothing is more motivating than that.

Birth can be beautiful

My birth did not go to plan. Not at all. My baby’s heart rate kept dropping so the obstetrician decided to intervene. Maddie was born in a bit of a rush with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. To make matters worse she was holding on to the cord and with every push she tightened the noose. Then, when Maddie was only two hours old I was taken down to surgery as I was hemorrhaging. It was four hours before I was reunited with my little family.

Thankfully, our little girl was OK. She was perfect and I was in a state of complete bliss. My poor husband was frazzled and in shock. It was now 2am and he had watched me go through a complicated labour, worry about our little daughter and then had to wait whilst I disappeared off to surgery for four hours. Amazingly, on that long day, not once did I feel scared. I had been seeing the same obstetrician for all my appointments and had a student midwife following my pregnancy. I knew the team we were with that day and they knew us. I could have had a very different experience had I not had complete trust in them. They kept me calm and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful care they gave to us all.

I love my stretch marks!

I didn’t particularly want stretch marks. I used three different types of lotions and oils in the hope of limiting the spread of these scars as they grew across my pregnant belly. However, after the birth of our daughter I experienced a kind of sadness that she was no longer inside of me; we were no longer physically attached. My reminder of the nine months of carrying her were these stretch marks and my wobbly, swollen belly. Now, a year later, my belly is almost back to normal but I still have some faded stretch marks and I love them. I smile when I see them when I get out of the shower and I hope they never fade completely.