motherhood

Reclaiming Your Identity & Releasing Guilt in Motherhood

Who feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself in motherhood, and carry too much guilt? Watch this video below to learn what I think about “Mom-Guilt”, why you don’t need to be feeling it all the time and how learning to release it will help you in connecting with your authentic self and reclaiming your identity.

“Who Am I?” - I hear this often from the women I work with in my counselling practice. When you become a mother and your focus leans away from yourself and onto your family, it’s easy to lose connection with your identity. “Who am I besides being a mother?”

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Are you the same as you were before? Are you entirely different? Or maybe somewhere in between? I like to think that the essence of who you are is the same.... while you’ve also morphed into a new version of YOURSELF. 

When you find yourself wondering “who am I?” ... I encourage you to check in and notice if you’ve been second guessing yourself lately or maybe giving too much of yourself away. Tune into yourself, your inner voice. Listen carefully. You might be surprised at what happens when you allow yourself to connect TO YOURSELF. 

If this is an area you would like to be supported in, come to my next workshop “Reclaiming Your Identity & Releasing Guilt in Motherhood”.

You will be supported to  connect to yourself on a deeper level. Participants will have an opportunity to explore: qualities within yourself that represent who you are, reconnecting with lost parts of yourself and letting go what is no longer serving you, and self-care strategies that help you be your authentic self.

Why wait to start feeling better within yourself? Register now for Jen’s workshop “Reclaiming Yoir Identity & Releasing Guilt in Motherhood”. Jen offers this workshop in-person in the Calgary area and also in an interactive online format.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

But it’s normal, right? Part 1: Post-partum Bodies

But it’s normal, right? Part 1: Post-partum Bodies:

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Is it common to have body dissatisfaction post-partum? YES. But is it normal? ...... Often when we claim that something is “normal”, it can trigger feelings of powerlessness... or make us feel defeated or like we won’t be able to change. It can also create acceptance, which is positive in many situations (normalizing, decreasing shame,etc!) , but you don’t have to just accept that you will be uncomfortable and dissatisfied with your body because you’re a mama now. You can dig a little deeper and find ways to connect to yourself to unearth what is really causing your body dissatisfaction in the first place... and I guarantee it’s not all about the way you LOOK. Continue reading more on what’s “normal” vs not on your changing body in the peri-natal period.


Come to my next workshop on “Loving Your Body” for an opportunity to truly connect to yourself and make lasting changes in how you view your body. Offered as an interactive online workshop & In-person in Calgary area.

Register online here:

“I’m keeping my calm, and then I EXPLODE.”

“I’m keeping my calm, and then I EXPLODE.”

Does this sound like you?

Recently I did an interview with my sister Jessica from Birth Takes a Village on Post-Partum Rage. We talked about common presenting symptoms, and not-so-common strategies to make long lasting changes on the way you experience anger and rage in Motherhood. 

In this interview, I talked about how lingering feelings about your pregnancy, birth & breastfeeding experiences can impact your transition into motherhood & your early relationship with your baby, triggering feelings of anger & rage much faster……Oddly, something I didn’t mention in this interview is how common it is to have feelings of anger & rage when you don’t have enough support, when you’re feeling alone, and when your baby consistently cries for what seems like no apparent reason. 

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If you find yourself going from 0-100 in an instant and then feel guilt or shame, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! In my counselling practice (The Essence of You), where I primarily work with people in pre-natal, post-partum, & motherhood, one of the most common issues people come to me with are around anger & rage. 

Register for this workshop by clicking on photo!

Register for this workshop by clicking on photo!

For an opportunity to shift how your view your anger and how you see yourself to make lasting changes, come to my next anger and rage workshop next month (BEING OFFERED ONLINE & IN-PERSON IN CALGARY). In this workshop, you will be invited to learn more about what triggers your anger, how to start recognizing warning signs and learn coping strategies to deal with these feelings and the behaviours that come with it. This workshop will also provide opportunity for connecting with other women who have similar struggles in their journey through motherhood.

This workshop is one of my favourites to facilitate. I created this workshop on this specific topic last year when I noticed this theme arising in many of my individual sessions with clients who felt so much isolation and shame in their anger. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Book into Jen’s Anger & Rage Workshop below:

How Did I Get Here? (A Tribute to My Birth Doula)

Jessica, myself and my son a few hours after his birth. 

Jessica, myself and my son a few hours after his birth. 

In less than one week, my first born will be TWO! I've been reflecting on my journey of motherhood a lot lately, and my attention keeps going to the pregnancy and birth of my son, which was the mark of many significant changes for me in my life. 

The process of trying to conceive, being pregnant, birthing, and mothering have all been life changing for me. Not only have all of these monumental life events shifted me personally, but also professionally. These events are what ultimately led me to my current role supporting women in these life stages in my counselling practice.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, my sister Jessica (who is a birth doula/childbirth educator/doula trainer from Birth Takes a Village in Vancouver) flew to Calgary to support my husband and I during the birth of our son; and she also hosted an amazing blessingway/mothers blessing for me a few weeks before my birth to help me get prepared.

Jessica is knows everything there is to know about creating empowering birth experiences for women and their families! I have learned so much from her about birth and supporting women over the years, and I continually get support from her in my own mothering journey and also I consult with her on a regular basis to help me in providing the best support for the clients I see in my counselling practice (I also often quote her on social media and in my blogs 😉).

Jessica and my son this summer (2017)

Jessica and my son this summer (2017)

Jessica's support during my pregnancy and labour helped my husband and I to create an incredible birth experience for ourselves, and along the way, she also inspired me to start my own counselling practice focusing on supporting women leading up to their births and in the post partum period.

I had worked as a counsellor for almost 6 years prior to this, and grew a new passion for pregnancy, birth & motherhood as I went through these stages myself. So with a lot of support and encouragement from my sister, I focused my learning and education into this specific area and launched my Counselling practice almost a year ago now!

I don't know where I would be without her, and I'm sure that many other women who have had her support for their births feel the same way! Thanks Jessica for everything that you do!

Did you have a doula support you for your birth and/or post-partum period? Share in the comments! 

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Post-Partum RAGE

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Do you ever feel so angry that you just can't control it?

What do you think is underneath your anger, frustration or rage? What is it trying to tell you? 

If you are reading this, you have probably felt rage, intense anger or frustration since becoming a mother.  Post-partum rage can be unexpected, out of context, uncharacteristic and uncontrollable (Robin Farr, Post-Partum Progress). While anger and rage are both symptoms of post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety, it is also a common experience for women who don't relate to the other symptoms of PPD/A. Feeling rage is a common, but rarely spoken about experience of women in the post-partum period; and it often leaves women feeling afraid and ashamed of their experience. 

What's this about? In my counselling practice, I frequently hear mothers share that they feel shame for any unpleasant or negative feelings/reactions that they have - and this shame stops these women from speaking up and getting the connection and support that they need. Is this you? 

Women go through so many changes in the days, weeks, months, and YEARS after they birth their babies! It can be easy to get lost in this and find yourself feeling angry and rage-y and not understanding why. 

"Anger is an emotion of self-protection. It may involve an effort to prevent injury or specify a boundary. It is a common response to having been threatened, hurt, or scared... Anger can escalate to rage when the threat is extreme..." - Babette Rothschild on unresolved trauma in her book The Body Remembers.

Getting to know your anger/rage, spending time with it and figuring out the root of it is a necessary step towards moving towards making positive, long term changes. When your primary goal is to push the anger away and make it stop, it will just keep coming back again and again. Anger is a SECONDARY EMOTION. What does this mean? It means that there is always another emotion lurking beneath the anger. Getting to these underlying emotions is an essential part of the process if you want to see shifts in how you experience anger.

"When we embrace anger and take good care of
our anger, we obtain relief. We can look deeply into
it and gain many insights." - Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many strategies you can use to help you manage your triggers and become less reactive, and I encourage all of my clients to do this part! And although it might seem scary and maybe even counter-intuitive, I also encourage deeper exploration of the anger itself, and the most important part - allowing it to be there without resistance. 

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

 

Getting Your Body Back After Baby - Not What You Might Think

This is one of two guest blog posts that I recently did for Dr Gillian Sawyer for her #yourbodyafterbabyproject she is doing to support women transitioning into motherhood. It is an amazing program worth checking out. ;) I also did a video interview for her project, talking about body image & mental health in the transition into motherhood. Contact Dr Gillian to sign up for her program!

In our society, there is a lot of pressure put onto women to return to their pre-baby bodies, and this can make it difficult to accept the changes that your body has gone through. Is this something that you have encountered?

Your body goes through many changes in the post-partum period as you are healing from your birth: Changes in your body’s appearance, uses (breastfeeding/nurturing baby), energy levels, ability to function, sexuality, and more.

Women are often expected to get straight back to their pre-baby self which makes it difficult to settle into the changes that your body has experienced and impossible to give your body the time that it needs to adjust and heal.

The truth is, your body will never be the same as it was before you got pregnant. Your body has grown and birthed a human being, and your body is now caring for that human being! Your body will go through many changes as it adjusts through these monumental stages of life. Will you fit back into your old jeans? Maybe. Maybe not. But your body will definitely not be the same as it was before. This could be perceived negatively, but is it a negative thing? It is important to ask yourself why you are finding yourself focusing so much on your body image after giving birth.

What is going on beneath the surface? In my work as a counsellor, I always encourage my clients to dig deeper to identify the root causes of their presenting issues.

When body image issues are triggered for women during pregnancy and the post-partum period, it is often linked to body image issues or self-esteem issues from your past. When you become a mother, it is common for a lot of the issues from the past to come to the surface.

Pregnancy, birth, and the transition into motherhood are all-consuming experiences that impact you physically and emotionally. It can be overwhelming dealing with all of the changes and emotions that come with these life-altering experiences, and when you are overwhelmed, your body can become an easy target.

If you want to get to a place where you feel true acceptance of your body, you have to be willing to look inside and see what else is triggering these feelings of dissatisfaction in the first place.

Not the answer you were hoping for? In my work I support my clients to explore the underlying issues to their presenting problems. When you go behind-the-scenes to do the deeper work, you give yourself an opportunity for creating healthy, supportive, long-lasting changes in your life. I facilitate Body Image Group Sessions, Workshops & Individual Therapy. Learn more about my counselling style here.

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

Selfish or Self-Care? Know The Difference.

We all know that practicing self-care is important, but do you find yourself neglecting this because you think that you are being selfish?

As mothers, mistaking the two and thinking that we are being SELFISH when all we are needing is self-care can be debilitating. When we don’t make time for ourselves, but we continue to give to others, we put ourselves at risk for exhaustion, burn-out and can easily trigger or escalate anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

Aside from childbirth, in the U.S. women are hospitalized for depression more than anything else (Karraa, Walker, 2014 – Author of “Transformed by Post-Partum Depression”). Assuming this isn’t too different in Canada, this is something important to consider. Post-Partum Depression is being spoken about more openly now, but the occurrence of it is not being reduced. Depression in mothers past the diagnosable post-partum period is so common but there is not enough support or advocacy for mothers experiencing this either.

How much of this would change if as women, we were better supported to take care of ourselves and to stand up for ourselves? Practicing self-care boosts confidence, self-esteem, and allows you to be more present for others, helping you to care for yourself and your family from a FULL cup instead of an empty one stewing in exhaustion and resentment!

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Self-care can be practiced in so many different ways, and the smallest changes and efforts often make the biggest difference. There are so many things that we’d LIKE to do but can’t do very often – like havingregular massages, a nice long soak in the bath (by yourself!), or for many of us, it can be difficult for find time for doing anything that we find peaceful or relaxing on a regular basis! Karraa (2014) discusses the following more subtle ways of practicing self-care:

“Going slow, listening to internal cues, and prioritizing ones needs and values”.

This includes being honest with yourself, communicating more honestly and authentically with others, taking time to breathe.

I've always told my clients in therapy with me who have had this selfish/self-care question: If you are making your choices by prioritizing yourself with consideration of yourself and others around you, this is self-care. It is when you hastily make a decision without any care of consideration of others that you might consider this selfish. The latter is only likely to happen if you are in survival mode, extremely burnt out and don’t have any capacity for considering anyone or anything except for your immediate needs in that moment. And in that case, you need to do whatever you can to fill yourself up and restore yourself to normalcy to be able to take care of yourself before you can consider others.

But what about when you know that your “self-care” choice is going to negatively impact another person? Does this mean that your supposed self-care choice is actually you being selfish?

If you consciously make your self-care choice and consider the other people involved, you COULD end up deciding that putting yourself first is the best option; whilst knowing that the other person will/might be negatively impacted. This is just the reality of living our lives authentically. Sometimes it works well for others and sometimes it doesn’t. But the most important thing is that we are taking care of OURSELVES! I love this quote by Fritz Perls:

“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.”

If you are worried about being selfish, or about negatively impacting another person, or being viewed negatively by another person, ask yourself this:

Will you be comprising yourself or your values by doing something on account of another person? If you carefully consider the impact of practicing self-care – whatever it may look like – and choose to put yourself first, then be proud of this. Allow yourself to enjoy the time you have given yourself and soak up this moment of divine authenticity!!

If every time we faced this dilemma we chose to put others needs/wants ahead of our own, it would be very easy to build a lot of resentment and fall into passive codependent behaviours. Don’t let yourself fall into this codependant trap, it is a breeding ground for depression and anxiety.

“When stress is so severe and she [a mother] is forced to find a solution in order to maintain control of her emotions, the depression becomes an interim state of protection” (Kleiman, Karen 2014 – Author of “Therapy and the Post-Partum Woman”).

Neglecting yourself, your emotions and your needs is never worth it in the end. It is SO imperative to put yourself first to get your needs met, yes, even as a busy mother! If you are worried about letting people down around you, then taking care of yourself is the biggest gift that you can give them. When you do find yourself putting your needs or wants aside to put others first, make sure that you are able to do this without sacrificing yourself, and that you are still finding other ways to take care of yourself and get your most important needs met.

Make time for listening to your body, checking your reality & expectations, being authentic, and for feeling your feelings! This is the kind of self-care that is going to make the most noticeable and long term impact on you and your mental health!

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

"The Internal Dialogue is What Helps Most"

One of the many helpful texts I received from Jessica to support my friend in her labour tonight!! 

One of the many helpful texts I received from Jessica to support my friend in her labour tonight!! 

You know when someone is passionate about supporting birthing women when they text you all evening to support you in supporting your birthing friend! My sister Jessica (Birth Takes a Village) is a trusted, respected and well known Birth Doula in Vancouver. I trust her more than anyone else when it comes to birth. I gained so much from having her support leading up to and during the birth of my own son; and I often rely on her for information and support for my friends too! She never hesitates to answer all of mine and my friends questions and send information, research articles and birth stories and videos to help however she can, regardless of her busy schedule! Tonight, alongside tonnes of helpful information to support my friend through her contractions, Jessica said:

 

"The internal dialogue is what helps most."

 

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I love that someone who has so much education on childbirth believes this to be true! Coming from a psychological perspective, this is my belief too. I love helping women in preparation for their births by supporting them to identify and release fears, and process their thoughts and emotions about pregnancy, birth and the post partum period. When women invest time into emotionally preparing for their births, they give themselves a much higher chance at having an empowering and positive birth experience and a positive transition into the postpartum period.

It's also very important to process past experiences that might impact your birth experience and transition into the postpartum period. There are often many negative internal dialogues that women have playing on repeat that interfere with our trust in ourselves to birth and care for our babies. These could be messages received during your last birth, from hearing other women's birth stories, or from past experiences in your life completely unrelated to birth but related to your ability to believe and trust in yourself and your body

What is your internal dialogue saying to you right now? Is it helping you or holding you back? 

 

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

This is me and some of the most important women in my life during my pregnancy who joined together to support me during a Mother Blessing. This day was FULL of affirmations and had a huge impact on my own internal dialogue for my labour and birth. I am so grateful for having had this experience to prepare me in such a positive and empowering way.

This is me and some of the most important women in my life during my pregnancy who joined together to support me during a Mother Blessing. This day was FULL of affirmations and had a huge impact on my own internal dialogue for my labour and birth. I am so grateful for having had this experience to prepare me in such a positive and empowering way.

Contact me for information on my Birth Preparation Sessions!

New Year - Time to Discover You!

When the new year rolls around, many people are always saying "New Year, New You!" What about instead of finding a "new" you, give yourself the opportunity to really get to know and become yourself? Dedicate this year to discovering the you that is already here.

These last few days, I have continually seen this quote circulating in my Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds:

"What if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself more?"

I think this is a great idea. Instead of having resolutions for how to change or do things "better" or differently, what if we just focused on loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and discovering ourselves? Find the essence of you! My own journey with this process is where my motivation for my work comes from and keeps me going when I think I can't.

When you put energy into yourself, amazing things start to happen. Increased self-care and self-awareness inevitably leads to better mental health, physical health, and stronger relationships with everyone around you. As a mother it can be challenging to meet our own needs and take care of ourselves, but finding time to nurture ourselves is so important. We can't pour from an empty cup!

"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not." - Albert Bessler

Getting to know yourself creates a deeper awareness and understanding which leads to an ability to live your life more authentically. When you accept and embrace yourself as you are and let go of how you WANT things to be is ironically when change usually starts to happen.

In my opinion, nobody needs a NEW version of themselves, we all just need to tap into what's already there and let our inner selves shine through. You are enough!

Who's ready to make 2017 a year to become the year for YOU?

I am running a Motherhood Workshop on January 14th that is all about reclaiming your identity. For details on this and my other upcoming groups and workshops, click here. Individual Sessions also available.