post-partum

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.

Shhh! Let's not talk about our body image issues....

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“I just have to lose another x pounds and then I’ll be at my “goal weight”. “I’m not eating carbs right now.” “That has way too many calories” “I was so bad today having x” “I can’t wear that because it show my .... cellulite/stretch marks/“mom tum etc.” “I don’t want that person to see me because I don’t look good enough” “I can’t go to that event because I’ve gained too much weight” “I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror so I can’t go shopping”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Learning to LOVE your pregnant/post-partum body can be difficult, especially in a society that capitalizes off of shaming women’s bodies. If you feel like you focus a lot on your appearance, weight, or size, read on!

The majority of people talk about body image discomfort and goals for weight loss in a way that normalizes having a dysfunctional relationship with your body and/or food. People DON’T often talk about body image issues in a way that offers support or promotes healthy change.

Have you felt uncomfortable with your body since becoming pregnant or giving birth? Or perhaps carried longer term body image issues into pregnancy and motherhood with you?

Focusing on body appearance and food is an extremely common coping strategy of mothers, sometimes conscious and sometimes not. SO much of pregnancy and motherhood is unpredictable, causing women to feel powerless and out of control. Our bodies can become a very easy target. Controlling food and weight seems TANGIBLE, unlike parenting! But this distraction can quickly become and unhealthy and dysfunctional way of coping with the stresses of life.

What are the underlying causes that contribute to your body dissatisfaction? Where do your beliefs about yourself and your body come from? What are the links between your body image and your self esteem? And…. what does shame have to do with it?

If this post speaks to you, talk to me about my upcoming workshop “Loving your body” which will be followed by an optional 5-part series helping you to break down what’s driving your body dissatisfaction and help you to make LONG LASTING positive changes to the way you view your body and yourself.

Jen has almost 10 years experience supporting women with building healthy and positive relationships with their bodies and she is passionate about supporting women on this topic! Jen’s work with women struggling with body image issues and eating disorders over the course of her career is an asset to this workshop!

What do you want to change about your RELATIONSHIP with your body and food in a healthy way? Comment below.

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:

But Isn't it Normal to Have Body Image Issues When My Body is Changing?

Have you found yourself wondering if you'll ever get your old body back?

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Many would argue that body image issues in the peri-natal period are "normal" and that there is nothing else going on; but if there was truly nothing else going on, then a woman would be able to notice and accept the changes to her body instead of becoming concerned or pre-occupied with the changes. 

Pregnancy, birth, and the transition into motherhood are all-consuming experiences that impact you physically and emotionally. Our bodies can quickly become a target when other things in our lives are becoming overwhelming or when uncomfortable emotions are being stirred up - which is inevitable during pregnancy, post-partum, or when you are ttc or experiencing pregnancy loss.

It's definitely normal to go through a period of grieving when you or your body goes through any transition, but when you find yourself becoming obsessive or preoccupied with these changes, it is important to ask yourself why you are finding yourself focusing so much on your body image during this time. 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.

What is going on beneath the surface?

Come to our next body image workshop to explore this topic further! www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta with over 7 years experience working with women with body image issues and eating disorders. Visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly to find out about upcoming workshops.

 

 

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.

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Comment on a Woman's "Pregnant" Body

We've all been there. You see an old friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, or maybe a total stranger and notice that they are pregnant...or so you think.

Depending on your boundaries on that given day, you might hesitate, double check, wonder if it is appropriate or not to comment. Or you might just blurt it out without any consideration. Boundaries tend to disappear when we are busy, tired, distracted or overwhelmed.

Regardless of how you have handled this in the past, don't you think that as women, we deserve better? Our bodies are under constant scrutiny throughout our lives from so many sources - the media, friends, family, (strangers!). When women are pregnant or have just given birth this seems to escalate - many people seem to believe they get a free ticket to comment on or even freely touch women's bodies when they are in this sensitive and vulnerable stage of their lives. When if you really think about it, this is a time to stand back with more respect than ever; instead of a time to move in for the kill releasing all of your burning thoughts on how this "pregnant" woman's body looks.

It is so common for women to have body image issues, anywhere from the occasional negative thought to having a diagnosable eating disorder. When women are questioning and criticising how they look on a regular basis they do not need someone else commenting on their bodies - pregnant or not!

Here are a few reasons why you should never comment on a woman's body regardless of whether you *think* or KNOW that she is pregnant.

  1. She might be pregnant but isn't ready to tell people or talk about it yet for reasons that are none of your business (or else she would have told you already!)
  2. She might be pregnant but is worried about the pregnancy for more reasons that are none of your business (again, or else she likely would have told you.)
  3. She might be pregnant but doesn't want to talk about how you think her body looks.
  4. She may have an eating disorder and commenting on her body could be extremely triggering - pregnant or not.
  5. She might NOT be pregnant! Maybe she never was, maybe she is unable to get pregnant despite trying, maybe she just had a miscarriage or stillbirth, she might have just given her baby up for adoption, had her baby taken away from her, maybe she was a surrogate. No matter what the scenario is, nobody wants to be caught commenting on a woman's pregnancy when she is not pregnant, am I right?

And then there are exceptions to this. Some women will love it when people are commenting on their pregnant bellies and get excited when their bellies get noticed. Or maybe they have had something bad happen, but welcome the conversations and get support this way. Or maybe they just won't be impacted by your comments regardless of whether they are pregnant, in the post-partum period or have never been pregnant - but these women deserve better too.

Not every woman is the same, but every woman deserves to be treated with respect. Of course pregnancy can be a very exciting time and many people want to talk about it and celebrate it by commenting on your body - which likely comes from such a kind a loving place.

What I'm really suggesting that the next time you see a woman who *looks* pregnant, please consider all of these above scenarios. And if you DO choose to comment after careful consideration, please comment with grace, love and as much respect as all women deserve!

*The inspiration from this post came from an interaction I had recently. I am very passionate about respecting women's bodies, and a way that I practice this is by refraining from commenting on how women's bodies look. I take great pride in this. However, recently I met a woman and I thought she was pregnant. I exclaimed "You're pregnant!" without a glimpse of consideration. She very gracefully told me that no, she is not pregnant. She seemed to be completely confident within herself and not even a little bit rattled by my tactless comment and she accepted my apologies without hesitation. 
Despite her calm and admirable reaction, I was mortified and disappointed in myself. This made me reflect on my own boundaries. Do I give "pregnant" women the same body-respect that I aim to give all other women? Or do my boundaries fade in these circumstances like so many other people? I will be very mindful of this going forward, and I'll be sure to not repeat this same mistake again. I am very fortunate that this being my first (and last!) time in a situation like this was with a woman who did not get offended or take it personally. I have learned something from her and for that I am grateful. And in this moment I am going to accept myself as a flawed human being and forgive myself - while also giving compassion to all of the other people out there who have made mistakes and learned from them! But let's do better!

"Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby" - Is that ALL that matters? - Let's talk about the impact of how women are treated leading up to the birth of their babies.

“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”
- Ina May Gaskin

This is so true! A woman's birth experience is a big deal, but so many people downplay it with saying: "Healthy mom & healthy baby, that's all that matters!" I disagree. Your birth experience matters too, and so does your transition after your baby arrives.

Women go through enormous changes during and after experiencing childbirth. Who you surround yourself with and how you prepare yourself is so important! All of your thoughts and feelings leading up to the arrival of your new baby will be very influential on your birth experience. Unresolved emotional issues from your past can have a detrimental impact on your labour and birth, and will also impact your ability to connect to and cope with the demands of your new baby. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Post Partum Depression) discusses how a woman’s birthing experience is impacted by the state of her mental health, and that complications in childbirth are often caused by untreated mental health issues.

How many women out there are experiencing unnecessary birth trauma because they have not had appropriate care and support leading up to their birth? Complications in labour seem to be more of a norm now than an anomaly. There are many things that contribute to this, and before I get into a rant about our health care system … I will come back to mental health.

“In our culture childbirth has been seen as a medical procedure, with the majority of public discussion concerned with safety and statistics, as defined by physicians, and with little room for debate and dissension – especially from those who are at the centre of the process - women themselves.”  - Sarah Buckley, 2009 – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.

How many people think that your mental health and unresolved issues from your past will impact your birthing experience and your relationship with your new baby? This isn’t something commonly spoken about, but it is an important matter to consider. And it doesn’t stop there – all of your relationships might be impacted by your birth experience and also the transitions that follow when you become a mother (and more changes with each subsequent birth & baby). If this was something that was discussed more openly, women might be more inclined to get support to prepare for each birth & new baby on a deeper level than your typical childbirth education classes (which are very important too!)

Your emotions LIVE in your body, they are felt by your body, and they are stored in your body.

“Emotions, though interpreted and named by the mind, are integrally an experience of the body…each emotion is the result of interplay between the sensory, autonomic, and somatic nervous systems interpreted within the brain’s cortex.”  - Babette Rothschild, 1957 –  The Body Remembers.

Even when your mind shields you from your emotional pain, your body remembers. When you are suppressing your emotions, you are disconnecting yourself from your body, and in turn, disconnecting yourself from your intuition. Both connecting to your body & connecting to your intuition are SO important – maybe even the MOST important – parts of birthing & mothering. You need to connect to and listen to your body and intuition during birth, and also to be able to respond to the needs of your children once your become a mother.

“To prevent complications during and before pregnancy, we need to work on ourselves, emotionally ridding ourselves of any negativity about our bodies, past history or childbirth itself.” (Zuki Abbott, 2007 – This Sacred Life, Transforming Our Life Through Birth

 It is so important to give yourself space and time to connect to your body, your emotions and your intuition leading up to the birth of your baby. When you give yourself the opportunity to do this prior to your birth, you will be more prepared to cope with your feelings during the birth of your baby and your emotions once your baby arrives.

“Recovering from birth and caring for a newborn wreaks havoc on women physically, psychologically, and emotionally, especially when they live in a culture that does not take care of it’s new mothers.”  - Walker Karraa, 2014 - Transformed by Post Partum Depression.

So not only does the saying “healthy mom, healthy baby – that’s all that matters” disregard a woman’s birthing experience, it also disregards her experience as a mother – her transition into motherhood with her first baby and also the continuation of her journey as a mother with each subsequent baby. Respected mom, respected baby – this matters too. The way that a woman is treated leading up to, during and after her birth is so significant and influential on her birth experience & her transition into the post-partum period. Women need to be heard, respected, empowered, supported, and honoured during these life changing experiences. This is arguably the most important time in a woman’s life and just being “healthy” isn’t going to cut it.

Contact Jen for information on Pre-Natal, Post-Partum & Body Image Sessions. Individual Sessions, Group Sessions & Workshops are available.

Sources:

Abbott, Zuki (2007) – This Sacred Life, Transforming our Life Through Birth

Buckley, Sarah (2009), Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Karraa, Walker (2014), Transformed by Post Partum Depression

Rothschild, Babette (1957), The Body Remembers