‘Spring is often more about foundational growth - inner growth, inner seeds being planted, our roots. Before we burst out, into the outside world, into the much more outward focused energy of summer.’
Emerging from our favourite footpath during our early walks this month, the dawn chorus heralds the start of a new day and the countryside yawns, opening up another beautiful view and..... my two black labradors panting and looking in dire need of a head and shoulders treatment on a bad dandruff day! The white seeds from cow parsley and camomile, rapidly multiplying at the edge of the hedgerows, have formed a jungle themed obstacle course for the three of us to negotiate on a daily basis, made increasingly more perilous by the springing undergrowth of nettles and thistles. May, my friend, has been a month of growth and struggle!
It feels as if there has been a slight disruption to the flow recently. Regardless of the umpteen bank holiday weekends and our new Kings Coronation, this month has taught me that no journey's terrain is ever flat and we are always allowed to seek safety in hibernation, a tethering to those objects standing firm, rooted and those little moments of security, familiarity and trust. Cycles, routines and seasonal patterns can fool us by seemingly offering a sense of order, but durations of time, like the postnatal period, can move in so many varied ways, changing course at any given moment, totally surprising and reminding us that just because it is ‘Spring’ doesn’t mean we don’t get rain.
In fact, the beginning of this month was very wet (with a 93% long term average rainfall for the south west of England) and the sense of anticipation for the arrival of May with all of its sunshine, colour and aliveness, was drawn out slightly more than previous years. The damp grey start to the month felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth and I recognised similar feelings of impatience with some postnatal progress, as well as a fair few breast feeding blips!
‘All around us is the feeling of expectation and growth as earth energy is at its strongest and Nature at her most active, busy growing into its full potential’
There is no set path or handbook for how to manage our journeys through recovery, change or parenthood. Nature may follow a set cycle of seasons but within those larger cycles, are smaller ones. Our lives are kaleidoscopes of ever changing patterns and though some may be predictable to a certain extent, as humans, we are constantly challenging the rules of what we can and can’t control.
May has been a tricky month for me personally. Though I didn’t start this blog to talk about my own personal life in detail, I wonder if it can be helpful to draw strength, like I have, from times that when faced with periods of adversity and a resulting awareness towards how much this might help us grow, there is a small print that we often overlook. The growing thing is really hard, as Erin Bruce agreed in her newsletter this month;
‘It is important to pause and recognise, even if things have felt very very grey throughout spring, even if it doesn’t feel as if there is a dam thing growing in your life - I would challenge you to look deeper. Look at the foundational things, inner seeds, your roots.’
Three days before April blurred into May, my father collapsed and broke his hip and while in A&E they discovered a mass of lung cancer that has spread extensively to the bone. It has been an all too familiar mixing bowl of waiting endlessly for more results, scans, X-rays and sporadic visits from an array of various doctors, nurses and medical professionals. I know too much from my own personal experiences but I know nothing of this one!
In the past, through social media and other blogs, I have considered the comparisons between the transition to motherhood and healing after childbirth, to recovering from illness and adjusting to a diagnosis of disease, so as I find myself, once again, walking on the tightrope between life as a cancer patient, mother and now supporter, I recognise that just as one birth and one baby are so different to our other births and babies, each story, each experience, each life, is valid and entirely unique.
My work has been a blessing; an escape. It has been the crack of light and my grounding, offering a different headspace where clarity reigns, where I know which step follows next. Offering a safe space through the Motherspace group, creating memories and inviting long lasting relationships through common ground as mothers and women who deserve to be nurtured, has been cathartic. Being able to think about others is deeply fulfilling and I am grateful for the clients and the families that I am working with for giving me that.
Accompanying a client to an antenatal appointment last week felt like such a priviledge. Joining her throughout the visit, I was impressed with the focus on the areas around anxiety and other pressures that many feel during pregnancy. The role of the Jasmine Team, who work to support many women at our local hospital, offering support from the early days of pregnancy, and whose care and attention as birth approaches is a reassuring comfort, giving women even more confidence in themselves, as well as the birthing environment she hopes to be in when baby does arrive. They also talk through any concerns around the medical teams that will be supporting them. It is this laying of careful, gentle building blocks that create a firm foundation, providing a solid and bespoke framework, that can be tweaked and changed if and where needed, but with a consistent and familiar team. This resonates so much at the moment as my family builds a likeminded team around our own family.
Sarah Doman’s hypnobrithing course has been a fundamental part of the framework for one client. Discussing visual birth preferences and choices has been empowering and practical, even as the landscape continues to shift with new infections, illness as well as extreme fatigue. The discussion around cortisol and oxytocin and how a woman needs both at different times, to support a bodies natural ability to birth a baby, in any situation, is so relevant, not just to all of us in stressful moments, but also highlighting the relevance of yin and yang and light and dark. The ability to turn inwards to connect with an inner strength and light at times of overwhelm and fear, requires courage and practicing mindfulness is all part of this.
In the book ‘Mindfulness for Mums’, Izzy Judd talks about the RAIN acronym. I have come across this tool a few times throughout my doula work, as well as personally.
Being able to recognise what one emotion or feeling is, focusing and naming it, helps move into acceptance, acknowledging and allowing this emotion/feeling to just be. Reflecting on this specifically takes the sting out of how we might feel it impulsively. Giving it room to breath, as it is, can be empowering. Investigating, asking ourselves why we might be feeling like this and what we need to help ourselves, is to process the physical, as well as emotional sensations, helping us accept but not identify or define ourselves by it, not taking them personally.
‘Underneath every thought there is a stillness we can reconnect to, allowing us a sense of freedom from unwanted feelings and emotions.’
- Izzy Judd, Mindfulness for Mums.
It is hard, especially with children literally hanging off us, screaming, phones ringing, gadgets beeping, kettles continuously boiling, not to mention the permanent background soundtrack of Vtech and Tonieboxes! Beltane might be the celebration of all things joy and light but there is an awareness of how difficult this has been at times this month, for clients as well as myself. However, there is light and joy in gratitude for the small wins, the quiet moments once they are asleep (or parked in front of CBeebies) and I have recognised these in abundance!
‘As mothers continually strive for a balance between taking care of their children, taking care of themselves and finding happieness in all of it, one of the most proven and powerful methods of doing so is to connect with gratitude on a regular basis’
- Julie Burton, Self Care Solution
So, as a message to you, from my spot as a postnatal doula, as May morphs into the next month, hinting even more enthusiastically at Summer, I say this:
To the mum who was expecting to be feeling more active and positive, getting into a groove, you have slowed down and re connected with a new phase of baby development and your own rehabilitation and transition, finding ways of heightening your own serotonin through massage, skin on skin, talking, gardening and being in nature and resting.
To the mum whose anxiety is bubbling, simmering like a pan of peas, because of the apprehension around a second birth, after a challenging first time experience and no family around, there has been a new tribe gathering around you, encouraging, caring, communicating and supporting and celebrating you!
To the mum who thought she couldn’t ask for postnatal support after the fourth trimester and felt overwhelmed and under nourished, there has been inspiration and relief, a sense of giving yourself permission to be nurtured, nourished and comforted. I salute you!
To the mum who thought she would never sleep ever again, let alone juggle two small children, there has been time to curl up with the peace of mind that baby is sleeping and cared for, knowing you can play with any older children later, just you and them. There is space to chat, breathe deep, as well as surrendering to massage and deeply relaxing moments.
May has been a month of blurred hope and hazy new beginnings. It is a work in progress. Yes there have been budding flowers, lush and green landscapes blooming up at speed around us, but there have also been muddy puddles that just need a bit more sun to dry. There has been a nagging echo to clients, as well as me, to stick to our footpaths, not to worry about anyone ahead, over taking or lagging behind, just to focus on going at our own speed, climbing over the undergrowth in our own way.
Since there is no one size fits all or specific map for how to navigate periods of time where we feel we are walking around in a cotton wool fuzz, blindly walking at speed towards a rather large and deep rabbit hole, knowing there is no way to avoid the imminent fall, perhaps it is this that makes it possible to fly? Finding the cracks of light, the small wins, the things we can be grateful for, the gentle growth, the joy of imperfection and the belief in ourselves to hope.
‘Beltane invites us to step aside from perfection. It is as if our souls need reminding of the joy that exists in our bodies and our selves just as we are. If you can give yourself permission to experience this, if only for a moment, then you can remember what that feels like and steer your little boat towards it.’
- Rebecca Beattie, The Wheel Of The Year
May Recipes I have been cooking;
Roasted vegetable tart - my own recipe
Rhubarb and Almond Muffins - A Table Full Of Love by Skye McAlpine
Strawberry and mascarpone tart - Waitrose recipe card
Peach and mozzarella salad - Waitrose recipe card
Fiery red rice salad - Mary Berry
Chicken and courgette tray bake - The Roasting Tin
May Playlists & meditations I have been listening to;
Air Soundtrack - Spotify
Sound Bath Crystal Bowls playlist - Spotify
Cafe Del Mar Chillout 2023 - Spotify
Dear Daughter Podcast
As The Season Turns podcast by Ffern
The Self Care Solution by Julie Burton
Brave New Mama by Vicki Rivard
Mindfulness for Mums by Izzy Judd
A Table Full of Love cookbook by Skye McAlpine