Two children born twenty months apart, the birth of a hobby sewing business, one home renovation, twenty weeks per year of night shift as a Radiographer, next to no sleep, a husband working long hours, a Diploma in Interior Design with High Distinction, fifteen half marathons, two 25km races, five 30km races and nine marathons including the New York City Marathon.
All of this since 2008.
Where did it leave Sam Verri?
Suffering from burn out, anxiety and depression.
This is a must read story for any ambitious mum, particularly one who loves to run. The lessons Sam has learnt from this journey are life changing, ones that are highly valuable to us all - and they are not necessarily what you'd expect.
Thanks so much Sam for being so open and sharing your story with us, you are an inspiration and your message will help so many others on a path to pursuing their own goals and dreams - it certainly struck a cord with me.
My Daughters were born 20 months apart in 2008 and 2009. By the time I
reached mid 2010 I had been either pregnant or breast feeding for three years and I was feeling an overwhelming need to reclaim part of myself.
One aspect of this was that I taught myself to sew so that I had a creative outlet. This led to the birth of Verri Charmed, a hobby business of the handmade children’s clothing, accessories and homewares variety. It was something that brought me great joy and satisfaction.
Single handedly making all of my own stock, Verri Charmed continued until Christmas 2016.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
From the age of fourteen I had always had a love of long distance running. In the few years prior to having children I believed I no longer had time for running, or generally caring about my health for that matter, and consequently had become over weight.
So, in 2010 when I found myself craving to regain control of my body, I naturally turned back to running. I quickly began to lose weight and, boosted by this and the natural high that comes with long distance running, I began to enter running events. By my 30th Birthday in 2011 I decided that I was going to start training for a marathon, and in August 2012 I lined up for my first ever 42.2km race - crossing the finish line in 4 hours 24 mins.
I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment, how I had to fight to keep the tears back over that last kilometre when it had finally occurred to me that I was going to make it to the finish line, having run every step of the way. Seeing my Husband and children waiting for me at the finish line was my undoing, realising how proud of me they were. There were floods of tears, and just like that, I was hooked.
The following year my husband and I conducted a major renovation on our home. It was 2013, I had a 5-year- old in her first year of school, and a three-year- old, still at home with me when I wasn’t working. I started to increase the amount of nightshift that I did during that year, taking on 20 weeks worth as our expenses climbed higher.
We lived in our home while it was being renovated, my husband was the project manager for the job, and we took on a lot of the work ourselves, including demolition, gyprocking, and painting.
When I look back I really feel like I was running on adrenaline for that entire sleep deprived year. It was 12 months of some very high highs, and this extended to my running. It was, until very recently, the year that held all of my personal best times. I managed a 1 hour 42 minute half marathon and a sub 4 hour time for my second marathon. Even my fastest Adelaide City to Bay time was claimed that year.
All the while I kept sewing.
Looking back, I still shake my head thinking about it. I am not sure how I maintained the momentum. It was a year of extremes.
So, how does one top a year of extremes?
By doing something even more ridiculous.
In 2014, I set myself the task of running three marathons, concluding the Year with the New York marathon. The year began well, I was maintaining my running form though not quite as fast as the previous year. Then, in May I hurt my hip and I battled with it for months. I finished the first two marathons of the year in 4 hours 1 min and 16 seconds (exactly the same to the second) and so began my quiet disappointment with myself that I was not continuing to improve.
In the middle of the year my husband changed jobs and while his previous role had been quite flexible and not too far from home, his new job was situated an hour away and his hours were long.
I started to feel constantly exhausted as my role at home increased further. I had one child at school and one at kindy now which I thought would afford a little freedom, but instead the days became relentless as I crammed more and more into them.
By the time November rolled around and we headed to NYC for the trip of a life time I was absolutely exhausted, and it showed on race day. I went out hard, trying to make up for what I felt were two previous failures, and ended up dragging myself over the finish line in a time of 4 hours 26 mins. My slowest marathon.
I won’t deny that the experience was absolutely incredible. But now years later I regret that I didn’t relax and enjoy it more. I wish I had taken the whole thing at a jog and stopped to take selfies and just soaked up the atmosphere. Instead I gritted my teeth through the last 8km fighting some very extreme nausea.
A result of pushing myself too hard for too long.
The trip was truly amazing, the thought always brings a smile to my face, but if I could do it again, I would do it differently.
After all of that you would think that I would have finally decided to slow down - but no. Fuelled by what I felt was another failed run, I signed up for the Gold Coast marathon in 2015.
I trained hard and believed myself to be running quite well, though my half marathon times did not reflect this. It came as a surprise to me when I hit a wall 20kms in on race day, and ambled slowly to the finish line in a time of 4 hours and 24 mins that July. But, of course, rather than concede that I needed a rest, I decided that I hadn’t tried hard enough, and signed myself up for the Adelaide marathon some six weeks later. 4 hours 1 minute and 16 seconds (no, I am not joking, the exact same time for a third time!) was my time that August.
I knew I had given the race everything I had and so I was proud of myself once again. I also finally decided to be sensible and take some time just to enjoy running again. That is exactly what I did, consequently finding joy again as I ran for the rest of that year.
During all of this time I had continued to sew and take on extra nightshift, my husband continued to work long hours and I had two children at junior primary school with many extracurricular activities.
I was reaching the end of my three-year adrenaline fuelled high, but I kept passing my low moods off for tiredness. After a melanoma scare late in 2015 I decided that it was time for a change. I wasn’t getting as much joy from my sewing anymore so I pursued a dream that I had always had of studying Interior Design.
With a heavy heart, I closed down Verri Charmed and began six months of intensive study. I thrived in the course, however 2016 began to deliver some extremely low notes early on including a tear to the connective tissue in my left foot that stopped my running plans in their tracks.
I won’t go into detail with the myriad of things that lead me to seek a professional help in the second half of 2016, but after rehabilitating my foot and completing my studies with high distinction I found that I could suddenly no longer concentrate, that I felt very little joy, my creativity dried up and I felt completely mentally exhausted.
I realised that something wasn’t right so I sought help.
I was suffering from burn out, that had increased my anxiety and caused depression.
I had literally been running on empty for too long.
Taking the step to seek help gave me an initial boost. Admitting that I wasn’t coping so well had the initial effect of boosting my confidence and self-belief. Suddenly I was running on form again and training hard, I had more energy and wouldn’t you know it, I finally cracked the four-hour mark in a marathon again - not a pb, but I was thrilled.
Alas, I was celebrating my newly rediscovered self-worth a little too soon. An emotional set back in November literally took my breath away. I contracted pneumonia and was very unwell for several weeks. Not being able to do the things I needed to do for my family was a huge wake up call, and it finally drove home certain realities for me. A major part of this was the realisation that I needed to slow down, I couldn’t do everything anymore and more importantly, I didn’t need to.
I believe the timing of the pneumonia played a pivotal role in the way 2017 has unfolded so far. I was still recovering over Christmas, so by the time I reached the New Year I had made firm plans for change. The biggest changes I have made include:
Running has always been a great source of joy, however I have changed it up this year because what I was doing was not serving me well. I have found a group of friends to train with, to share the highs and lows and talk things out. I have also mixed up my training regime, adding in swimming and, for the first time, including relaxation and stretching yoga, rather than just the active strengthening yoga that I had been doing for several years.
I have found myself smiling through all of my training, and I smiled my way to the finish line in a personal best time of 3 hours 57 mins and 26 seconds at the Barossa Marathon just a couple of weeks ago.
Since 2012 I have run fifteen half marathons, two 25km races, five 30km races and nine marathons, a fact that I am very proud of. I have marathon number ten planned for later this year, however I have already decided to support a friend through this particular marathon and enjoy it rather than being time focused.
Through my years of training, I have learned strength and resilience I didn’t know I had and I have seen some of the most amazing things. Sunsets and sunrises of the most beautiful colours, dolphins frolicking in shallow waters, intricate spider webs, an alpaca being walked on a lead in suburbia, the five boroughs of NYC, squirrels in central park, vine yards stretching as far as the eye can see.
My husband and daughters have cheered me on through all of my races, allowing me to be proud of the role model I have become. A lot of this journey has been really hard but I wouldn’t change it for the world, because when I look back at it now I can see that it had to unfold exactly the way that it has so I could become the person I am today.
I have discovered the importance of slowing down and not trying to do everything. I understand now that not everything is a goal to be conquered. I feel like my eyes are finally open wide, and all the colours are beautiful and exciting.
So, I say to mums who are reading this, go ahead, pursue your dreams! But treat yourself with care and respect. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, you have nothing to prove, you are already amazing. And, if you ever feel that you need to seek help - do it. You are not alone. It will probably be one of the best things you ever do.
This weekend I will be celebrating my second Mother’s Day and it’s a big one for our family, the first without our beloved Grandma and my mum’s first without her mum.
I can’t imagine what that would be like and my heart goes out to all of you spending your Mother’s Day without your mums this year.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a big bunch of brilliant women in my life.
All of whom I’d call ‘great mums’ - yet all so different.
There’s my Grandmother, who gave her whole heart to each of her more than fifty descendants. Always kind, gentle and warm.
My Nanna. Tough as nails and honest to a degree that has created some rather awkward and hilarious moments. Her only wish in the world is to have her family safe and close.
There’s my mum, who I choose to spend time with as I would a best friend. She’s who I call on for a lunch date, to go shopping, and to describe every mundane detail of my days. So smart and driven, yet can be so ditzy that our family has coined the phrase ‘I did a Debbie’ for every time we do something silly.
My mother in law, who breaks all of the typical ‘mother in law’ rules by being approachable, open, welcoming, genuine and one of the easiest people to be around that I know.
So, what does make a great mum?
Clearly there’s no one-size fits all mold.
I frequently wonder if I’m good enough. Will Flynn one day call me a great mum?
I have this fear that one day someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and say,
“Hey, you know what? You have no idea what the hell you’re doing” and I’ll sigh with relief and respond with “Oh my goodness, finally someone noticed! I know, right?!”
Even as I sit here writing this I have that nagging feeling of guilt in the pit of my stomach.
Should I spend every waking moment playing with my son?
Am I a bad mum for not always being 100% present? For having other things to do, and for sometimes wanting to do other things?
That all got interrupted by Flynn shattering a glass on the floor… Oops. He’s fine, it’s amazing how quickly you can move when your baby’s in danger of getting hurt.
Maybe I’m not so bad after all.
That’s the thing. Being a great mum doesn’t mean being perfect 100% of the time. In fact, who wants a mum that is perfect ALL the time? That is a whole lot to live up to!
What lessons are ever learnt from constant perfection?
Mistakes make a great mum.
Trying and failing makes a great mum.
Allowing your kids to do the same makes a great mum.
This fear of not being good enough, or of being found out - it could paralyze you. It could make you so scared that you don’t take time for yourself, you don’t take risks, and you don’t allow your child to do the same.
Or, you could reframe how you look at it and it could empower you.
When I hear that little voice inside my head telling me that I’m not good enough, I use it as an opportunity to think and to reflect. I know that I am good enough. So how can I make this happen, how can I do it better, how can I change the way that I’m thinking about this?
Our minds are offering us up a tool – one that if we know how to use it could be shape a fantastic and fulfilling life. Or if we don’t, we might accidentally use it to nail our feet to the ground.
You see, that fear of being found out? It’s not unique to me; it’s not unique to you.
Being aware of it is powerful. You are good enough - in fact you are great!
You make mistakes and you care enough to reflect on them, to learn and to grow.
You love your child unconditionally so that they can do the same.
So, what do all of the amazing mother’s in my life have in common?
They are perfectly imperfect, and they allow me to be the same.
They’re great mums. So am I. So are you!
What do you think makes a great mum? I'd love to hear from you, comment below!
Happy Mother’s Day <3
I can almost guarantee that if I were to ask you for your definition of success and then head over to your neighbour’s house I would get two different answers.
Yours might be to be happy, healthy and surrounded by love. Your neighbour might say it is to live in a mansion on the esplanade and be financially free.
Who is right? Are either of you?
Something happened in my life this week that has me contemplating life and contemplating legacy.
My beautiful grandmother passed away surrounded by her six daughters, creating a wave of heaviness in the hearts of over fifty grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren that are a product of her time on this earth.
My grandmother lived a modest life in a small house in the country, not surrounded by a whole lot of ‘things’. In fact, not needing many ‘things’ at all.
If I asked grandma whether she felt that her life was a success? I am one hundred percent sure she’d give a big smile and say ‘Oh yes dear, of course!’
How can I be so confident?
Just a few short months ago my grandmother was given a photo board with pictures of all of her grandchildren and their families. We are lucky enough to have this moment captured on video and there is no mistaking the sheer pride and joy on grandma’s face as she says, “I can’t believe it. One beautiful family.”
Grandma lived her life loving and giving. No matter what was going on in our lives, whether we were doctors, tradesmen or unemployed, getting married or separating, cute little babies or temperamental teens, grandma greeted us all with the same big smile and warm hug and she ALWAYS had time for us. In a big family it was unfortunately easy to take that for granted, but what remains now is grandma’s legacy - a legacy of love.
I’m sure there is someone else who has left this earth this week who one might say is ‘successful’. They may have had an illustrious career, a heap of money and a beautiful big home. But what does that mean if they haven’t left a positive mark on the world? What do all of the ‘things’ mean if a person hasn’t had a positive impact on someone’s life?
I have one final question for you.
If you are thinking, ‘success to me is definitely a life lived in good health surrounded with those I love’ – do your actions reflect this?
Many of us when asked what we are doing to ensure a successful life will respond with ‘working hard for fifty hours per week so that I can have all of the ‘things’ I’d like and give my family all of the ‘things’ that they deserve.’
Where then is your time to give love and look after your health?
There is a misalignment there for many of us; I know this because I’ve been there.
As I move on to living in this world with a permanent imprint of my grandmother on my heart, I am feeling truly thankful for what she has unknowingly taught me.
She has taught me that success is not a destination, it’s a way of living. She has taught me that while making a positive impact on the world is a noble goal to have, it starts with making a difference to the life of just one person.
If I live my life being genuine, giving to others and being of value, ‘success’ will be a sure consequence of that. I need to trust that the version of success that comes is the right one for me.
Rest in peace Grandma <3
This is a favourite go to meal in our house. It feels like such a luxury but there is no reason it can't be whipped up at the end of a crazy day - honestly!! Easy Peasy.
Kaffir lime leaves (I have a kaffir lime tree in my garden. Lemon/ lime is fine)
Tamari (soy sauce if that's all you have)
1 Bunch Asparagus
1 Sweet potato
Dash of milk
Coriander for garnish (optional)
I have now officially lived one full year in my thirties and I’m feeling sorry that I spent the last half of my twenties terrified about the fact that it seemed ‘all down hill’ from there… It appears that life actually just keeps getting better! My 30th year was my most challenging, wonderful and transformational, yet and I can see now that this is what these years are all about. Your thirties are when you have a chance to truly shine. Here’s why
To those in your twenties, don’t despair – life goes on, in fact it gets pretty damn good after the big three-oh. For those in your thirties, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as me, feel free to let me know what you love about life in your ‘dirty thirties!’
Choosing a Childcare Centre with confidence – Make a decision you can feel great about with these insider tips
The time has come to return to the office and thus find a place for our little guy to spend his time while I’m at work. I found deciding on a childcare centre ALMOST as overwhelming as deciding on a pram!
Did you know that a child’s brain develops most rapidly between birth and five years old? Research shows that quality education and care during these years leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. These years are critical for establishing self-esteem, resilience, healthy growth and capacity to learn (National Quality Framework) Oh the pressure!! Knowing all this, it was so important to me that I felt confident with who I was entrusting with my child's care.
I toyed with the idea of a nanny, family day care and flexible casual care alternatives but made the decision to go with a Childcare centre based on my son’s personality – a million miles an hour and best entertained by a big bunch of children, heaps of activities and needing to keep a bit of routine and structure.
There are a heap of centres out there and I had no idea where to start. To combat the overwhelm I enlisted the help of an expert - working mum of three and Early Childhood Teacher Alison Uren. I am so grateful to have been able to gain direction from her eleven years of experience in childcare centres, preschools and schools. Here are her extremely valuable insider tips for choosing a Childcare centre so that you too can find a solution that you feel great about.
Edit your options
Personally, I got stuck in procrastination mode before finally asking for help and left my decision a little late so I had some options crossed of the list for me straight away. If you’re forced to settle for a childcare spot that isn’t your first preference don’t stress - keep your eyes open for alternatives and your name on the waiting lists until something more suitable comes up.
Do your research
Check out as many childcare services as you can. Ensure that the childcare service is registered and at least meeting the minimum requirement of the National quality standard. If the centre is marked as ‘Exceeding’ in all areas that’s even better.
Check out the services policies and procedures; ask questions about it specific to your family’s circumstances e.g. Does your child have any additional needs?
Drop in unannounced
Don’t book in and give them an opportunity to make sure they turn on their A-game!! You want to see what the everyday looks like. While there are national benchmarks for childcare centres and FAQs on centre websites, there is a lot of equally important information that you can only discover in person. Drop in unannounced, pick up enrolment forms and have a look around.
Check out these key things
It’s a big step sending your child to be cared for by complete strangers. It’s ok to ask a heap of questions! I'd rather be the annoying mum than the one leaving beside myself with nerves every day wondering if my child is safe and happy. If the staff are open to your barrage of questions and answer professionally and confidently that’s a good gauge on how you’ll feel about communicating with them in the future. Here are a few things you might want to ask about.
Use your resources
There are so many great resources available to you in addition to your own detective work.
In the past I have heard the term ‘Work at Home Mum’ and associated it with women who must have found a way to have it all - the ultimate Work-life balance. Working for yourself from the place you live – could there be a more perfect solution?!
Now I have had a taste of this life and I must admit – I couldn’t have been more wrong. A very wise mentor of mine said something to me last week that rang very true and actually inspired this post.
“An entrepreneur is someone who is willing to work sixteen hours per day for themselves in avoidance of working eight hours for someone else.”
I am blessed to work and socialize with a whole bunch of driven, intelligent and passionate entrepreneurial women working toward creating a their own path. More and more women (and men) are ditching the traditional nine to five and creating their own source of income on the quest for a more fulfilling and flexible life.
We are a passionate bunch, pursuing what we love to live a life that we’ve always dreamed of and there’s nothing I love more than chatting to a like minded go-getter… but there are a number of pitfalls that I’ve come across since spending my time as a work at home mum that I know aren’t unique to me.
So. Does this elusive work-life balance exist for the work at home mum? I believe that what exists is a balance that I feel good about and I believe that there are times that I can achieve it and times when I have a major project or deadline that I won’t. But I have asked some experts and done some tweaking and I have ten ideas to focus on that have me well on my way to achieving my idea of balance.
Being a work at home mum can be wonderfully fulfilling and enjoyable and there is no better feeling than knowing you’re working within your passion. You can create a balance that works for you and your family. Follow these ten tips and keep moving toward that ultimate goal – a balanced, fulfilling and purposeful life.
I absolutely love this time of year!! Now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year that was, celebrating successes and finding the lessons that the tough stuff was sent to teach us. Then it becomes time to let it go and turn to the crisp blank page that is the New Year!
A friend was telling me last week over a glass of wine how much she has hated 2016 and can’t wait to say goodbye to it. She had a particularly eloquent way of putting it that I just couldn’t improve upon. “All year I feel like I’ve been stepping out of one pile of crap only to land face first in the next one!” After I heard her say this I realized how crucial it is to actually take the time to go through a process of letting go of the year that was and planning for the year ahead. If we don’t do this we’ll cruise on in to the new year with a piece of toilet paper dragging behind us, only to realize it’s attached to the same pile of crap that we were dealing with last year!
It’s important to reflect in a productive way rather than getting bogged down in the gory details, which is why I’ve created a document to guide you in celebrating the good stuff and focusing on lessons learnt from the tough stuff. After all, the thing that separates the pro’s from the rest is their ability to use what some of us might call failures or losses as opportunities to grow.
I’m not big on New Years Resolutions, but I do LOVE to set goals leading in to the New Year. What’s the difference you might ask? A decision and a plan. The saying “Fail to plan and plan to fail” really rings true when it comes to goal setting. I have spoken with so many people who tell me with equal enthusiasm about their big, inspired vision and the goals they have set for themselves, but only very few who have actually gone about making a decision to make it happen, writing it down and creating a plan which is regularly revisited and reviewed. Needless to say it’s the latter who are ultimately successful in achieving them... Let's be in that top 1%!
Unfortunately it’s not enough just to write down your goal on a post it note, stick it on the fridge and wait for it to work it’s magic… there is a bit of an art to doing it well. BUT if done well your chances of success are much much higher! It is SO worth it, stick with me here because I have a free resource that you can steal to help you on your way to achieving all that you dream of in 2017, just click the link below and I’ll send them your way!
Most of you I’m sure have heard of SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound)... and you probably just yawned because that’s what I tend to do when I hear that term these days. But let me break it down nice and quickly for you, because honestly it’s done to death because it works.
Specific – write it down clearly and concisely. Give as much detail as you can! Example: “Complete Encounter Bay Triathlon November 2017, Sprint distance” rather than “enter a triathlon”
Measureable – how will you know that you’ve achieved it?
Achievable – the above triathlon example is my own goal. Why haven’t I chosen one of the many triathlons in January/February next year? Because I know that I haven’t done anything in a pool since I was pregnant with my now nine month old other than play Humpty Dumpty and sing “everybody splash.” Make it something that is actually doable for you, if it’s too difficult you’re going to be putting too much pressure on yourself and you’ll end up disenchanted, down and out. We’re doing this to make our lives better and to feel positive and inspired – not more stressed.
Relevant – set a goal that means something to you, that you know will improve your life, that fires you up and gives you butterflies thinking about it. If it doesn’t have this effect, either it’s too easy and the waste of a goal setting exercise or you probably don’t care enough about it to actually get it done. The ‘WHY’ is more important in keeping you on track than the ‘WHAT’. If you’re wanting to achieve more balance, try setting a goal in each area of you life. For example, I have a career related goal, a personal achievement goal (which doubles as a fitness and health goal), and a goal centered around my family. Once I achieve a goal in each area I replace it with a new one!
Time bound – Make sure you put a date on it or it will be too easy to forget about and say you’ll do it later.
That’s SMART goal setting in a nutshell. So, once you have that under control you need to make a plan. I’ve already said that the WHY is important, of equal importance is the HOW. You need a plan! Work out exactly what you need to do to get to where you want to go - breaking it down in to daily, weekly and monthly targets is ideal depending on the goal.
For my triathlon example I have printed a training plan off and I’ll stick it up in my office as well as translating each week in to my diary as I go to fit it around my schedule. I know how many times per week I need to train and what each of those sessions will entail. What this looks like will vary depending on what your goal is, the important thing is that it is done and that it is very specific. If your goal is to promote to the next level in your company, ask the person who is there what they did, break it down in to small actions and schedule those actions in to your working week. Make it happen!
I love to make life easier for you so as promised, if you click on the link below I will send you a free copy of the How She Does It New Year Planning e-book to help you reflect on the year that was and cruise on in to 2017 with some exciting goals and a rock solid plan ready for your best year yet.
Wishing you all a Safe and Happy New Year, now go and create and demolish some goals and make your dreams come true!!
My belly is filled with nervousness and dread at the thought of laying this all out on the table for the world to read. What I’m beginning to realize though is that the things that I am afraid to write about are the things that are likely to have the most impact - because if I’m afraid to talk about it, so is someone else. That person needs to know that it’s ok.
Flynn was born in the middle of March. I had a pretty ‘perfect’ labour (in the ‘oh my god this is the most effed up thing I’ve ever had to do, get him out of me’ sense of the word ‘perfect’ that can only be attributed to labour of course). He was placed on my chest and my husband and I thought he was the most unbelievably perfect thing we had ever seen. I frequently think back to that moment and try to remember every little detail so that it will be clearly etched in my memory forever.
The midwife placed him on my chest and told me it was time to feed. He latched on immediately and went for it and I said ‘Oh my goodness look at you, you’re winning at life already!’ Everything was just wonderful. We went back to our room and Flynn slept for most of the night. Dan and I? We were peering at Flynn and each other through the clear bassinet every five minutes to make sure he was ok. He was. Beautiful memories.
Thinking we had this parenting thing nailed already, we were about to get a massive dose of reality. The next night things got hard. Flynn was feeding constantly and it hurt so so much. I was in tears, Flynn was screaming , I had midwives coming in every five minutes giving their own slightly different version of what I should be doing and how I should be doing it and we were losing our minds! We kept going, morning came and we were assured that this was all completely normal until my milk came in, which it thankfully did that day.
We stayed in hospital for the full four nights, happy to be getting fed, seen to and looked after. As frustrating as the varying opinions were, I was happy to get some more help with breastfeeding – was it really meant to be this hard?! No one spoke about this!
Home we went - a cute as a button, healthy baby boy, a tired husband who had been sleeping in his swag on the hospital floor, and me, sore everywhere and wondering how on earth they were letting me take this baby home on my own without a clue what I was doing?!
Days passed and my nipples were so so horrendously sore and broken. I had bought the chemist out of every remedy that they had and I spent all of my spare time googling how to make it better. Flynn would spend up to three hours straight feeding in the evenings and one hour every three hours during the day. Every time he came towards me I was half bringing him in, half pushing him away, really not wanting to do it. I can remember in the middle of the night putting him down next to me half way through feeding and just beginning to cry. I was breaking.
Two weeks in I was feeling particularly flat and unwell, I had breast pain and a bit of a fever. I just thought I was tired. I had a follow up appointment with my Obstetrician the next day so I mentioned it to him then, he checked out my breast and saw the redness and instantly gave me a script for antibiotics. He said "take these if it starts to get worse" and I took my first one that night. Thankfully the mastitis settled but the nipple pain went on. Horrible pain every three hours for four weeks, and the worst thing? Flynn wasn’t putting on enough weight! All of this effort, hours spent feeding and I still wasn’t doing it properly!! I was struggling, I couldn’t hold Flynn to my chest because it hurt too much so I was missing precious cuddling time. I was waiting for that instant mother, son bond to happen and it just wasn’t happening! I loved him with all my heart but he just didn’t feel like mine. What was wrong with me?!
I decided to call in the help of a lactation consultant. He was great, he came around and gave me more help with technique. Could it really be that I was THAT bad at breastfeeding?! After more advice on how to treat my shredded nipples, and feeling happier for having talked about things, we kept trying.
That week Dan got the flu and we had to clear out of the house. Flynn and I went to stay with mum and I spent the first night there writhing in toe curling pain during the night trying to feed Flynn. My baby needed me, he needed to be fed, he wasn’t gaining enough weight and I couldn’t do what I naturally as a mum was meant to be doing. The only thing he really needed from me while he was that tiny and I couldn’t do it right! Now even after I fed him I had burning pain in my breast for an hour afterwards, only for it to finally go away and then have to start all over again. By this point I avoided holding him sometimes so that he didn’t smell my milk and want to feed because it hurt too much. I avoided feeding him whenever I could. I want to cry even thinking about it.
I felt sick the next day, my nipple was looking dreadful and it was so sore even to have fabric lightly brush over it, let alone trying to feed Flynn from it. Then I felt it. That dreaded feeling that anyone who has ever had mastitis would know well - a firm, warm lump that made me feel ill to touch. I gave the lactation consultant an emergency call and he came out to mums to have a look. He said he thought we’d caught it early enough so not to take antibiotics just yet, to keep feeding and massaging out the lump… and MORE technique tweaks. He assessed Flynn’s mouth further and questioned whether he might have a tongue-tie. He wasn’t sure and was going to refer us on for a second opinion.
I woke up the next morning in a pool of sweat. I felt absolutely awful and wondered if I actually just had Dan’s flu. Mum very apologetically had to go in to work but assured me she was just a phone call away. I sat on the couch with Flynn next to me and that was it… I couldn’t move, I couldn’t function, I felt lifeless. I was staring at the kitchen willing a glass of water to walk my way. I had to keep Flynn within arms reach because I was too scared to walk with him in case I fell. I was becoming vague and confused, I had started taking my antibiotics as well as some panadol and nurofen but I I didn’t trust myself to know how many I’d taken and at what interval so I stopped. I couldn’t remember the order of Flynn’s routine… I was feeding him when he needed sleep and trying to put him to sleep hungry. I called the breastfeeding help line and parenting help lines who told me to hang in there, take panadol and rest. I was beside myself in tears on the phone and at the end of the conversation the lady said to me, “Now I need to ask this - How are you going emotionally?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Terribly!! Did you not just hear that whole conversation??
I made an emergency call to mum who got home and read my temperature at 39.8, we called the hospital who told me to go straight in. When I arrived my temperature remained extremely high and my blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. I could barely string a sentence together. I was immediately put on an IV for saline and high dose antibiotics and felt almost instantly better with some hydration. Beautiful little Flynn tagged along un-phased and slept beside me in a bassinet. The nurses encouraged me to express to give my nipples a chance to heal which was such a relief. I did that for my three nights in hospital which meant that all I was doing was expressing, bottle feeding and putting Flynn to sleep. I felt extreme guilt that I was so unwell and so consumed with my breast feeding issues that Flynn was missing out on the love, care and attention that I would have otherwise been able to give him.
On discharge from the hospital one of the doctors came in to find me on the verge of tears with a crying Flynn. She sat down on the bed and said, “You know you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to breast feed.” I broke down. I was so confused. I knew I wanted to breast feed, I was struggling with my bond with Flynn and I thought if I didn’t have breast feeding I wouldn’t have anything to offer him at all. I didn’t say that. I never said that out loud.
I went home and there was no improvement, breast-feeding was still excruciating. The lactation consultant referred me to an oral surgeon who looked at Flynn’s mouth for all of five seconds and said yep he has a tongue-tie and snipped it then and there. Flynn coped well with the release and fed a bit better after wards. He fell straight to sleep and I was feeling elated, maybe that was it?! Could it really be as easy as that?? I called my mum, Dan, brother and mother in law to tell them the good news.
Then we got home, Flynn woke up and refused to feed from me. He wasn’t able to latch on to my breast, he couldn’t work out how to use his mouth. I called the surgeon who said, “Oh sorry I don’t know, I’ve never heard of that before.” That was it. I had put myself through absolute hell for five weeks and now suddenly it was going to be all over, Flynn couldn’t breast feed! I called Dan at work hysterical. He obviously couldn’t help me from there so ten minutes later his mum walked in to find me topless, sobbing, sitting on a fit ball holding Flynn. “He won’t feed!!” I lost it. We called the lactation consultant and he assured me that this was normal. Thankfully I had some expressed milk in the fridge, bottle fed him and kept trying. Flynn worked out how to use his new mouth the very next feed.
Was it all over?? Unfortunately not. The next week I had an appointment with the community midwife. I told her my story, said I thought things were on the improve, went and grabbed a coffee, came home and brushed my handbag over my right breast. No no no… that feeling again. Straight to the chemist for antibiotics, I wasn’t waiting this time. I still wasn’t quick enough, it hit me like a truck. An hour later my temperature was up to 39. That night I was up feeding Flynn and had to call out to Dan to bring me a bucket and hold Flynn while I vomited from the pain. We had an appointment with our Obstetrician again the next day who was so so kind, going above and beyond to give me continuing care until it was under control. He looked me over apologetically and said “you’re going back to hospital.” They arranged me a physio appointment for some ultrasound therapy, a scan to check for an abscess and a hospital bed.
I arrived in hospital that night, Dan dropped Flynn and I there and went home to grab some clothes for us. We were left to wait in the waiting room for an hour, and as soon as we got to the room I said I needed to feed. The physio told me to feed straight after the treatment and I wasn’t confident doing it in public yet. I sat down and fed Flynn while the nurse took my obs. She left without a word and minutes later an entire medical emergency team rushed in to the room. They frantically put me on the bed, snatched Flynn away from me and started taking blood and doing tests. No one was talking to me about what was going on, Flynn had been part way through his feed and was screaming. The nurses asked if they could give him formula and I of course said no, I was here because I was so desperate to exclusively breast feed him! My temperate was 40, my blood pressure was extremely low again and they were concerned I may have sepsis.
Another four days in hospital, another huge dose of antibiotics which Flynn’s belly was clearly not coping with. I saw two more lactation consultants while in hospital, both lovely ladies, with completely varied opinions and advice. One said to focus on my own wellbeing, that I wasn’t looking after myself enough so my body couldn’t cope to fight the infections which is why I was getting so sick. Made sense, I was so all consumed with breastfeeding and the newborn fog that I was barely remembering to eat. The other was more medically focussed, saying there must be something underlying, lets take some samples and get to the bottom of this. I think they were both right.
Dan had been such a rock for me, he stayed in hospital with me and made sure I was eating properly and getting rest once we got home. He did all that he could but I know he felt helpless. He had googled so much and listened to all of the lactation consultants and had been helping me with correct technique – I think he’s more of an expert on breastfeeding than most women now! He was booked in the next week for knee surgery which I knew was going to knock us around again. I was concentrating on getting myself well so that I could cope for the day or two while he was recovering.
A few days later Dan woke in the middle of the night with sharp abdominal pain. I pressed on the lower right of his abdomen, released pressure and he hit the roof. With my bit of medical knowledge from my career as a sonographer I knew it straight away – appendicitis. You have got to be kidding me. Down to Flinders we went for Dan to be admitted and await surgery which finally happened two days later. The knee surgery was postponed and he now had abdominal surgery to recover from. Trying to cope with the cooking, housework, Flynn and ongoing feeding issues I wasn’t able to give him the care and attention I would have liked to during this time. I didn’t even get in to hospital to see him... More guilt. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
Feeling like we’d been through just about enough, I was desperately trying to find an answer, move on from this phase and enjoy motherhood. I called yet another lactation consultant. This time one specialized in tongue-ties, which from all my research seemed to be a contentious subject. She took one look in his mouth and said “Oh I can see exactly what’s going on here.” She showed us a tongue-tie, upper lip tie and cheek ties and did a full assessment of Flynn’s range of movement, which was not a lot at all. The release that we had done previously had only fixed part of the problem and the resultant scarring had actually made it worse. I researched and researched what to do, no one could give me a definite answer. There were journal articles about the implications of tongue ties going untreated with future speech, behavioral, health and dental issues which was my main concern. I could live with the breastfeeding pain but I wanted to give Flynn the best possible future. Our pediatrician didn’t believe in tongue-ties (whatever that means), GP didn’t want to hear about it, Obstetrician said ‘oh yeah I’ve just been learning about these that makes total sense’. Someone just give me a clear answer!!
It was going to have to rest on our shoulders. We made the decision to take Flynn to Melbourne to see the ‘guru’ of laser tongue-tie releases. We entered what we were expecting to be a state of the art facility but was actually a run down dental clinic. My gut said no, but we’d travelled all the way to Melbourne! We had to trust. There was another assessment of Flynn’s tongue with the same advice, and again it was put to us that they could give no definite answers on what we should do. We decided to go ahead. I left the room for the procedure, I couldn’t do it. Dan stayed in and had to sit on the dentist chair, one arm pinning Flynn down and the other covering his eyes and holding his head still while they started with the laser. Flynn was screaming and gurgling to the point that Dan was very nearly going to tell them to stop. I can’t bring myself to give much more detail than this but it was horrendous. Our gorgeous boy came out of the room swollen and puffy from crying and gave us a little smile. Bless him.
It still wasn’t over. So that the tissues don’t heal together and scar, we had to do a routine of stretches. Every four hours for two weeks we had to put our fingers in Flynn’s mouth and stretch out the wounds. It was a two man job as he needed to be held down to do it. Every four hours someone had to come to my house while Dan was at work and help me to torture my poor baby boy. I will be forever grateful to those who helped me through that time. Those were the hardest weeks of my life. I was Flynn’s mother who was meant to be his protector and I was coming at him every four hours to hurt him, it was tearing me up inside. I drew up a big chart so that I could cross off every lot of stretches as they happened and eventually we got there. We had to send photos through for assessment after the two weeks and thankfully we got the all clear.
Unfortunately there was no quick fix. Things gradually and very slowly improved. I am still breastfeeding Flynn after nine months, which I am of course proud of, but as I write this now I do think to myself – who did I do this for? Was it really that important for me to keep breastfeeding him at the expense of my own health and at the expense of those early months of bonding time? More guilt.
I know this was a long story but I feel that this is an important journey for me to share. I absolutely understand that there are people worse off than me and I said it repeatedly throughout that period, but looking back what I went through was hard and comparison wasn't helpful. I have no magic advice for anyone going through this now but here are some things I would have told myself knowing what I know now.
I'm going to make Christmas shopping extremely easy for you this year... thank me later! I'm so excited to introduce you to these talented and passionate small business owners and let you know where you can find absolutely gorgeous, unique gifts that are sure to leave your loved ones squealing with delight! I much prefer to know where my money is going and knowing that I'm supporting the ventures of local legends makes my shopping feel even better. Scroll down and tick Christmas shopping off of your to-do list!
Words She Wrote is a Strathalbyn based business offering hand lettering and design services. Could it get much more personal that gifting your very own message in beautiful handwriting for your loved one to display? We have two of these in Flynn's nursery and can't wait to add more to our collection. Be sure to grab your stylish letterpress christmas cards too!
Brittany Weckert, or the ‘she’ behind Words She Wrote started scribbling on anything she could get her hands on from the moment she received her pen licence back at Moonta Area School at the tender age of 7. As many artists will tell you, Britt didn't consider that this creative outlet could actually be a legitimate career path so instead, she has spent the past 9 years gaining general business and management skills through personal assistant and marketing roles within iconic South Australian organisations, including the Hilton Adelaide, Penfolds Magill Estate, Restaurant Orana and the Glenelg Football Club.
In December 2015, inspired by the success of fellow South Australian woman Tania DeBono (The Writing), Britt took to scribbling song lyrics to liven up her apartment and decided to share an image on social media. So began the flood of requests for commissioned pieces! Brittany has spent the past year honing the skill of lettering and finding her own style, which I'm sure you'll agree she has nailed.
Website: www.wordshewrote.com.au (Going live 5th December!)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: @wordsshewrote
Meet Lucie from LP Handmade! A 19 year old from Strathalbyn, creating a stunning range of clay and wooden jewellery and accessories. LP Handmade began as a year 12 design project and quickly escalated to direct orders, markets and wholesaling to boutique gift stores South Australia wide!
Lucie has always had a creative passion and a desire to make something handmade and unique. She says she '...loved having something that no one else had'. Countless hours spent researching, creating and completing assignments became worth while when school was over and Lucie was suddenly being approached by stores wanting to stock her products!
Lucie takes great pride in the fact that all of her creations are unique. It was important that her business name, (LP being her initials) included the word 'handmade' letting customers know that they are getting a unique, one-of-a-kind product. Using polymer and fimo clays, her earring patterns are never identical and each clay bead is hand rolled. Tremendous patience and passion at such a young age. Just one year after establishing LP.Handmade, Lucie has completed her first year of 'Bachelor of Business, Advanced Leadership' at Flinders University as well as continuing to grow her business and sharing her unique products. Watch this space, this is a girl who is going places!! Of course you are desperate to know where to find these creations?
Pearle Boutique, Pony, Kohl & Soda, Best Wishes, The Ivy Room, Lotus Gifts, Little Bohemian
Instagram - @lp.handmade Email - email@example.com
I've had the pleasure of introducing you to Alysha Sparks from One of a Kind Design before. If you missed it, do yourself a favour and check her out here. Alysha is local to Jamestown and offers stunning paintings in a variety of styles - abstract florals, colourful abstracts and a selection of more realistic animal portraits. She works with acrylics and her work is beautifully framed and ready for your wall. All who see Alysha's work fall head over heels in love with it - you would be in the good books for all of 2017 for gifting one of these!
Facebook: @alyshasparksartist Instagram: @oneofakind_alyshasparks
Meet Andrew and Kim from The Field Wholefoods! The Field is a bulk health food store stocking a range of nuts, grains, seeds, dried fruit, mueslis, flours, teas and they also do coffee and delicious smoothies. What I love about them is that they only sell what they eat themselves and feed to their two adorable children Sophie (2.5 years) and Jimmy (10 months) at home. That goes for the food's nutritional value, geographic sourcing and low waste and environmental impact.
This is a family business which is obvious from the minute you walk through the door and talk to the staff. The people who work at The Field Wholefoods have a genuine interest in food, its nutritional value and how to cook with it. On staff are aspiring dietitians, nutritionists and naturopaths, along with Andrew, an Ironman Triathlete with a 15 year history in advertising, and Kim, a Pharmacist and mother of two young children.
The Field Wholefoods was created by Andrew and Kim in January this year. Kim is officially on 'maternity leave' after having their second child but she actively works in the business at the Hyde Park store while Andrew gets their brand new Brickworks store up and running. Andrew says they made the decision to create The Field Wholefoods so that "...our kids don’t know any different when it comes to food and how to cook with it. When Sophie comes into the shop and requests some goji berries, an acai smoothie or some chia for breakfast you know you’re on the right track!" He says "...the health side of things is one thing, but job satisfaction and the potential to make a living out of something we’re both passionate about is something that we will hopefully look back on one day with great satisfaction."
How awesome is the passion that this couple has for their business and their family?? But back to Christmas shopping - I love this idea! The Field sell a range of pre made jars, for example Energy Ball jars - all you need to do is tip them in to a food processor and roll into balls! The picture above is of a 'Seedy Crackers' jar, you literally just soak them for 15 minutes, spread on a tray and bake for an hour. Clever and creative gift ideas, but also an easy, healthy snack option to keep you on track during the festive season.
Make sure you check them out at these locations:
158 King William Rd, Hyde Park
Shop T35 Brickworks Marketplace
158 King William Road, Hyde Park
158 King William Road, Hyde Park
Meet Frog (AKA Alice Elliott) of Frogs Frills! Alice, originally from country SA and now local to Adelaide, started dabbling with the creation of Frills in 2015 which was no surprise to those who know her as she has a clear obsession with statement jewellery pieces. Alice says she loves "...to wear something that is a topic of conversation or just that bit different. You won't see everyone walking down the streets in the same necklace!"
Alice started out making her 'Frills' only for herself and gradually things have expanded as people see them and just have to have one! Alice says she loves seeing people getting excited by having a Frill created especially for them. She is a physiotherapist by day and a 'Frogs Friller' by night so enjoys the opportunity to get creative.
How do you get yourself 'Frilled Up'?? The easiest way is to private message Alice or pop a comment on the photo on Facebook or Instagram of the necklace you like and she will get in touch regarding availability and price. Alice is also happy to discuss design and colour requests as available.
All Frogs Frills are hand crafted by an absolute perfectionist and range from $40-80.
Facebook: @frogsfrills2016 Instagram: @frogsfrills