Antonia writes: I met Sarah Tessier at a wonderfully inspiring network event in London. We were lucky to be sat next to each other and she was looking rather the multi tasking mum-boss with a baby and a notepad. I was already in awe (I had obviously palmed off my two on the first available child care option that came my way!). Immediately Sarah and I clicked about the idea of teaching mothers the importance of resting immediately after you’ve had a baby. We live in a culture where women are praised for getting ‘up and about’ soon after producing an entire human, but actually this sets up mothers for a very hard transition into motherhood. There is lots to be done to educate people about this time immediately following birth; a time that some people call the fourth trimester, and which Sarah called the ‘Mother moon’ (like a honey moon period but as a mother). I LOVED the idea and I’m deeply passionate about spreading the message. Sarah runs workshops so please do check those out. Here she tells us much more about it all and what her journey into motherhood looked like….
Sarah writes; As a postnatal doula I’m passionate about changing the culture around how we support new mothers and helping women have the start to motherhood that they deserve. This starts with having a ‘mothermoon’. This passion was fuelled, as these things usually are, by my own experience.
I had hoped to have my first baby at home but instead gave birth by emergency caesarean and spent ten days in hospital with him. I was overwhelmed with having to recover physically from surgery, come to grips emotionally with a birth experience which had left me traumatised, find my way as a new mother and what it meant to have this tiny human dependent on me 24/7 for survival and overcoming the challenges we were experiencing with breastfeeding.
I realise now, in an effort to try to regain a sense of control over what felt like an out of control situation I tried to get back to normal and just get on with it. I was going for Sunday lunch at the pub, going to the market, having friends over and entertaining within days of coming home from the hospital.
Three weeks after giving birth I was taking my family who were visiting from Canada sight- seeing because I felt the need to make sure they were entertained and were having a nice time on their trip.
I was three weeks post caesarean. I was sore. I was tired.
I was self conscious breastfeeding in public.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
Why were they letting me do this?! Why weren’t they telling me to go back to bed?!
Not looking after myself in those early days and weeks took it’s toll and I struggled to adjust to motherhood in a big way. I struggled with the trauma that I experienced during birth. My relationship with my partner suffered, I struggled to cope with the lack of sleep and any kind of stress that I experienced. I threw myself into looking after my son because I felt I had let him down in the beginning and wanted to make up for it so I poured all of myself into him and neglected me.
Fast forward three years and I became pregnant with my daughter. I knew that I wanted to do things differently. While pregnant, I came across Heng Ou’s amazing book The First Forty Days and it changed me. I started with Ou’s book and read everything I could on the postnatal period, other cultures and the customs and rituals they have to support new mothers and the very real difference this can make on a woman as she adjusts to this new life with her baby. I knew I wanted something different this time around. I wanted what I now refer to as a ‘mothermoon’.
I once again planned a home birth and nearly got my wish. She was born in hospital but the birth itself was exactly what I hoped for. Unfortunately, there were complications with my placenta which meant that I was again going to be recovering from another physically challenging birth and looking after myself was even more important.
I knew ahead of time that I wanted to limit visitors in the first few weeks. Our families live abroad and we asked them to hold off for a few weeks before coming to visit so that I had time to rest and recover and we had time to start to find our feet as a family of four. I also didn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary and treated myself to lots of lovely herbal soaks in the tub. I spent the days in my pyjamas hanging out in bed or on the sofa snuggling with my new baby. I had also done lots of batch cooking ahead of time and asked friends to gift us with food rather than babygros so we had lots of good food ready to go.
The result was that I healed remarkably quickly and I also experienced a lot less emotional trauma when arguably, my second birth was more serious. I remember one of my last thoughts before being put under GA to have my placenta removed was ‘am I going to die’ and one of my first thoughts on coming to was ‘am I alive?’. Heavy stuff. To come out of that without any lasting emotional trauma is pretty significant and I credit that to the support I had around me and how I looked after myself.
Having a mothermoon also helped me cope a lot better with the lack of sleep. This was one of my biggest worries while I was pregnant. I was very much a sleep when the baby sleeps kind of person with my first and was worried that because I wouldn’t be able to nap this time around because my eldest would still need my attention and I wouldn’t be able to cope. Instead of running around trying to please everyone and do everything, I pulled up the drawbridge, took it as easy as possible and napped whenever I could while my partner was on paternity leave which helped me to conserve energy. Bedsharing from the beginning also allowed me to maximise night time sleep and I let go of the guilt and accepted that some days the only way to get through the day was to let my pre-schooler binge watch cbeebies.
It was experiencing for myself the difference that having a mothermoon can make that motivated me to become a postnatal doula and to launch the Mothermoon Workshops which help mums to be plan for the postnatal period. I am passionate about doing whatever I can to ensure that women don’t experience what I did after the birth of my first child and that they have the start to motherhood that they deserve.
Find me on Instagram @sarahtessierdoula
Find my website here www.sarahtessier.com
Find Mothermoon Workshops based in London here