Surely she’s got it all together.
That’s what we think, right?
We think she’s got this all nailed, look at her! And then we judge our own lack of ‘togetherness’. But mamahood doesn’t work like that. Whether you are a first-time mama with a colicy baby or a mama of three with a psych degree under your belt, this gig is the ultimate leveller:
every single one of us has to dig deep, and find our strength.
Alisha Weston came to this parenting ride with a bag full of coping tricks: mindfulness, yoga, a masters degree in psych. She had skills up to the wazoo to understand what was going on inside, and how to move through it, and yet – there were still challenges. Of course there were.
That’s the gift of mamahood.
“My motherhood journey has completely cracked me open and made me grow in so many beautiful ways,” Alisha shares. “As a first time mother, I felt lost. I didn’t know what I was doing and I felt I had no clue where to even start. I read so many books, researched hours each day and got caught up in the noise of the online world. This left me feeling even more anxious. Over time, I have learnt to listen to myself more and not take everything I read as gospel. I am now learning to balance my love of research, reading blogs and listening to podcasts with my own motherhood intuition.”
Like so many of us, Alisha came to motherhood after a ‘big’ life already lived. She’d travelled and lived through the UK with her husband before she fell pregnant, had built a strong career and was practicing in private practice, and felt she knew who she really was. But when her first son was born, a whole new world opened up.
“I went through all the emotions of being a first time mum; love, joy, connectedness, gratitude, overwhelm, anxiety, fear, loneliness, stress and guilt. I didn’t know many people in the area we were living at the time and thankfully I connected with an amazing mother’s group. Being around other mothers and feeling their support was one of the best things that I did in those early weeks and was a saving grace for me.”
FROM ONE TO TWO… and BEYOND
“My second pregnancy, however, was not as easy as my first. I was exhausted and hormonal. I was working as a Clinical Psychologist during this time and working with many mothers who were depleted, anxious and depressed. I was so passionate about my work and got so much satisfaction out of helping mothers and their families. I started implementing more mindfulness based practices in my therapy room and at home.
“After my second child was born, this practice deepened. I knew that the more committed I was to my mindfulness practices, the calmer I was as a mother. I coped really well during the transition from one child to two and I put this down to my self-care and mindfulness commitment. When my second son was 4 months old, I developed my 8 week Mindful Mummies program, and also started to deepen my meditation and mindfulness practices with a 40 Day online program, which also connected me with a beautiful tribe of like-minded mothers.”
And then, along came baby number three.
There’s something about the third: I remember the midwife telling me it’s often the most unpredictable. If you ever go on to have a fourth, it’s usually the same pregnancy and birth experience as the second – but the third can go rogue. No-one really knows what will happen (mamas who have had two natural births have needed a c-section, and mamas with short quick labours have spent days working through contractions.)
And Alisha’s third little guy was no different.
“I had a very difficult pregnancy with my third baby. We had a threatened miscarriage early on and a number of other challenges. The comfort and calmness that I received from my meditation and mindfulness practices during such a difficult time was incredible.”
THE POWER OF REGULAR PRACTICE
“Having three young boys has definitely been challenging, exhausting and much harder than I ever thought possible but it has also been magical and the best thing that has ever happened to my husband and me.
“My biggest challenge during this time has been trying to do it all. I have wanted to be a devoted and connected mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, psychologist, entrepreneur, student and a soulful woman. I have wanted to do it all and be all to everyone but I am realising that this juggle for perfection is only causing me to stagnate.
But being a happy mama means everything to me:
It is and always will be one of my top priorities.
I know that when I am happy and content, my family is as well. A present, happy and connected mother holds the space for her family with love and compassion. An environment created out of love and compassion encourages children to thrive and grow up knowing their own self-worth and resilience.
A happy mama is a mama who can find gratitude in each day, who can savour the small, meaningful moments and who can practice self-compassion during her most challenging days.”
MINDFUL MAMA TOOLS
“There are many different tools that I draw on to help me cope with the challenging days,” says Alisha. “Two techniques that I use all of the time are Elisha Goldstein’s STOP technique and Kristen Neff’s 5 minute self-compassion break. I use a combination of these two techniques on a daily basis. The more these techniques are practised, the easier it is to implement these during the challenging moments.
I have combined these two practices into one below:
STOP what you are doing.
TAKE A FEW DEEP BREATHS. Place your hand on heart and feel the warmth from your hand on your chest. Focus your awareness on your breath as you gently and naturally breathe in and out. This simple practice releases the feel good hormones of oxytocin, which as a result lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
OBSERVE your experience just as it is, without judgement. What are your thoughts, feelings and emotions? Can you identify what is triggering you in this moment?
Remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts, they are just a string of words traveling through your mind. Ask yourself “Would I treat a friend how I am treating myself right now?”
How are you feeling right now? Label your emotions if you can. Naming your emotions has been found to lower the intensity of them. Notice what you feel in your body. Where are you holding tension?
PROCEED with kindness and put things into perspective. Even though I feel alone in this moment, I know that I am not the only person experiencing this. All humans have challenges and I am not alone in my suffering.
Call a friend if you need, go outside and soak in the sun, take 5 minutes to shift your perspective.
Alisha Weston is a clinical psychologist, mama to three young boys, and creator of The Mindful Mummies Tribe. She runs regular mindfulness workshops and circles for mums in the Toowomba area.