We are hardwired to belong, and crave this from 6 weeks in utero when we begin co-regulating with our Mother. Through this experience we feel and absorb what she experiences through hormones and energetic impressions. While all primary caregivers are important, the bonding with the Mother plays a very influential role in the development of the child’s nervous system, and how they will perceive and interact with the world around them. The irony is that these are often the most challenging years as a parent.
If our Mother is at ease, has made peace with any personal or generational trauma, is rested, nourished, and present, the child has the best chance at being resilient.
How many moms do you know in this situation? Honestly, I’m curious.
If the Mother experiences stress while pregnant, Cortisol (stress hormone) is shared with her child and this continues through breastfeeding – lots of important nutrients and antibodies are also shared, so please keep breastfeeding if this is available to you! Some stress is important and normal and in fact, this is how we develop resilience. The concern is when stress or lack of emotional attachment is the primary experience, which results in long-term changes in the nervous system and physiology of the child. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop, which influences our ability to manage emotions and stress. In our formative years, we largely learn implicitly as we are primarily in a Theta state (highly influential, think mediation) – everything a child learns creates new neural pathway that form their subconscious patterns, playing out day after day for the rest of our lives… until we are able to process what is no longer serving us.
For many, even the most loving families, sleep is compromised in the early years and there are often many stresses due to all the changes and lack of support in our current society. This results in parents being chronically stressed (Sympathetic state) which often leaves us reacting from the Limbic brain, which relies on our subconscious patterns and survival mechanisms. These patterns are the same ones we learned implicitly as children – this is how generational patterns continue to be passed along.
Add in the ADD mindset society endorses – flashy objects and instant gratification – which means parents need to be highly conscious of being present to create healthy emotional bonds with our children.
Tip: While (breast)feeding, try to use this time to rest yourself and just BE with your child. I know it can be hard to resist the scrolling… but is it nourishing you?
And for extra fun, let’s add the challenges over the last few years of losing or restarting jobs and businesses, family losses, children in and out of school, and a complete sense of unpredictability and fear for many… it’s no wonder we are having a severe mental health crisis!
We are seeing a rise in chronically activated nervous systems, anxiety, depression, ADD, ODD, OCD, and trauma being experienced due to lack of capacity to handle the day to day, and compromised emotional processing (or regulation).
Pause… and breathe.
I am a lucky mom to two little ladies (currently 1 and almost 4), I have an incredible husband, we have our health, I was able to process any personal and generational trauma in my twenties, and we live in a beautiful, safe city close to nature. I share this because I believe it’s important to set the stage, and let you know that despite these comforts and my knowledge and nearly life-long practice of meditation and breathwork (thanks to my Mam), I still went through Postpartum Anxiety with my eldest and a severe Postpartum Depression with my youngest. With my eldest I was running a community space/ yoga studio and construction blocked my studio for two years, which meant while I continued to work I barely kept it financially afloat and it ‘stole’ me away from precious time with my baby. With our youngest, I didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time for a year from 5 months pregnant… and trust me, I tried almost everything except cry-it-out, which is not for me.
From a nervous system perspective, insufficient sleep puts you in a chronic sympathetic state, and overtime this leads to a Dorsal Vagal State… commonly known as Burnout. I was dissociated most of the time due to lack of sleep, escaping from her colic and my guilt at not being able to help her despite having many tools, plus our then 2 year old trying to top that with screaming because she didn’t feel heard.
My point is our situation was hardly unique. I believe in being real, and if you are struggling, I hope you know that while each of our situations are different, you are NOT alone.
- Since Covid, 41.5% of adults have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression (2021, CDC)
- Prior to Covid, 1 in 11 youth were prescribed anxiety medication (2019, Mental Health Canada)
- Up to 70% of moms have feelings associated with postpartum depression (2021, Psychiatry.org)
These stats come as no surprise.
In our current society families receive little support, on top of high costs of living, childcare concerns, and mothers often needing to return to work as soon as possible for financial reasons.
What is the result?
- Stressed families
- Mothers struggling to cope
- Children lacking deep emotional attachment
- And a society experiencing a severe and worsening mental health crisis
Moms are being prescribed antidepressants like candy, and while this can be a bridge and offer relief, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem and can be nearly impossible to come off of. I barely avoided them, and managed to get by through other alternatives.
So what’s the solution?
So as moms, yes we can and should be prioritizing our self-care… but the what we really need is for society to value and support families and maternal health.
When I was 18, I recall a powerful moment watching my Mam working on her Masters, while solely raising my siblings and I. I realized then our society was going to need to change drastically, as more women were becoming highly educated and would want to be working moms, or would need to for financial reasons. This insightful moment is what inspired me to start my community space/ yoga studio, which I got the courage to do years later.
Thankfully there has been a rise in the Conscious Parenting movement. To me it’s not about being perfect, but rather that we are present in the moment, in order to connect with our bodies, process emotions and situations in a healthy way, and lead our children by example. In order to do this, we need to create the space for holistic self-care.
We DO need the support of our villages, and for society to value the family unit, demonstrating this through affordable housing, childcare, maternity/ paternity leave, and investing in holistic Maternal health. In Canada lately I feel like we have actually been making progress, thank goodness!
As moms, we also need to use our voices and ask for support from ‘our village,’ which can be challenging when we are so overwhelmed, fear it may be harder to explain to another how to do what’s needed (if we can even wrap our heads around that), or perhaps we are afraid to ask for fear of not living up to our expectations or societies.
The truth is, we can not do it all alone… and nor should we.
While it may take a while to make the strides we need in society, there are some things you can do for yourself… after all, change begins within each of us… and being a mother is perhaps the best lesson in surrendering and the power of transformation!
Self-care is as unique as each of us! Do what nourishes your soul and whole-being – art, movement, nature, song, dance, breathwork, connection, meditation or reflection practices and many more!
My work is based on nourishing all the layers of ourselves – physical (somato), emotional, social, intellectual, and energetic. When we are able to create the space to do this, and yes I understand this often means we need someone else to take over as caregiver – we develop greater self-awareness, compassion and empathy for ourselves and others. We are also able to process and release patterns that are no longer serving us. In doing so we can be more present, resilient, experience better health, fulfilling relationships, and most importantly, lead our children by example in how we care for ourselves and handle challenging situations.
I believe our purpose is to grow symbiotically in our relationships – with our children, partners, and parents being some of our most important teachers. We will make mistakes, but what our children remember is how we handle these challenges and make them feel. So give yourself a hug, and start to create time for yourself each day to do something to nourish your soul. It doesn’t need to be long, in fact 5 minutes every few hours to check in with yourself, eating well, resting when you can, and getting exercise (which you can do with your children) is a great start!
Katie offers many free and accessible tools to empower you on your journey… to include the Free 3 Day mOm Retreat and more on the gloWithin App. You can also find more tools on Instagram @theglowithinyou or join her Facebook group – Empowered Moms💖
“The way we speak to a child becomes their inner-voice”