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SUMMARY- Join Carly and Jade as they discuss Jade's experience with Post Natal Depression and Anxiety, how she found the support she needed during COVID, came through the other side, and how she set out to support others through the intensity of new parenthood.

You can find @jade.postpartum on Instagram

Full Episode Transcript: 

Carly:

The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take. 

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children.  

Carly:
And welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. Today I’m lucky to be recording with the wonderful Jade Tolhurst, who is one of our fabulous volunteers for the Beyond Sleep Training project, but she is also doing some outstanding work in the postpartum area through her own page, which is called Jade Postpartum, and you can find her on Instagram and Facebook. And the reason that I feel like her work is so very effective, apart from her being so beautifully honest and vulnerable and open when she’s sharing her own stories, is that she also provides a space for other postpartum people to be able to share their stories as well, and there’s just so much power in being able to hear other stories, see other stories, because you suddenly don’t feel so alone you can feel like you’re connected to somebody across the universe. And so that’s the power of the work that Jade’s doing in her spaces, and I’m hoping we bring a little bit of that today to our podcast as well as another space that really values that storytelling in making sure that we are feeling as connected as we can as parents, especially in the age of a global pandemic. So, welcome Jade. We’re so glad to have you.

Jade:
Hi Carly, thanks for having me.

Carly:
And now, with our episode today I guess probably, obviously our focus is on how you’ve managed sleep in your family, but before you dive straight into that, do you mind just telling us a little bit about who’s who in your little crew? And then, yeah, if you would love to share how you have managed to move beyond sleep training with your family.

Jade:
Sure. So, it’s me and my husband, and we… we just have the one son, Oscar, and he will be turning two in a couple of weeks. So… so, Oscar… Oscar was born, yeah, in August 2019, and it was something I’ve looked forward to my whole life. All I ever wanted to be was a mum. So, throughout my whole pregnancy I was just so excited and, yeah, it was really smooth sailing. I felt quite lucky to have a pregnancy where I wasn’t too sick, and everything went well, and even his birth went quite well. I’d heard a lot of horror stories from people, so I had this in the back of my mind that it could be a really, you know, drawn out kind of labour, but I was really fortunate. Active labour was only three hours for me, so it was quite quick. And yeah, no, when I think back to his birth and just, you know, him coming into the world, it’s just such a special moment where time sort of stands still and I was in that… in that love bubble for I think the first few months of his life. And then, yeah, then the sleep deprivation started to kick in and I guess that’s… that’s where my story starts with… in regards to his sleep. He wasn’t a good sleeper at all, and I really struggled with that because I found as a new mother that that was the thing people were most interested in. Everyone asks you, ‘Oh, how’s he sleeping?’ And it makes you feel like you’re not doing a good job because they’re not sleeping very well. And, you know, everyone gives you all their tips and tricks. Oh, you should try this, try that. And I felt like I did try everything, and I think it must have been about four or five months into it when I came across the Beyond Sleep Training [5:00] Group, Project. And that was such a relief for me because I was reading all these other mothers’ stories saying that their babies weren’t sleeping and their babies were waking up lots during the night like mine was, and up until that point I’d felt like it was just me, like there was something wrong with me and something wrong with my baby. And yeah, just finding that group was a huge relief, like to know that it was normal. Yeah.

Carly:
Beautiful. And that’s… that’s kind of, I’m so glad we could be there when you got to that point. But that wasn’t really the end of your struggles though, that was a little bit of relief.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
But then how did real life look for you at that time?

Jade:
Yeah. So, once I came across the… the group I felt a lot more relaxed about having Oscar in bed with me and feeding him to sleep and contact napping, which is all he wanted to do. He just wanted to be with me all the time, and so that did… that did take a lot of stress away from me. But also, around that time we started going into lockdown. And so last year living in Melbourne it pretty much felt like the whole year we were locked down. I wasn’t able to see my family for a whole year because they live in Adelaide and, you know, just at home with the baby, by myself while my husband was still working out… out of home. So, he wasn’t with us. I was just, I really felt, the best way to describe it was I felt like I was drowning. I was not getting much sleep, which definitely… I think it increases those symptoms when you’re sleep deprived. I had a lot of anxiety, and I would wake up just feeling really low, and I’m really glad that I kept a journal throughout that time because I can look back and see how much things have changed. Because sometimes when I’m going… having a bad day I feel like I’ve made no progress and that, you know, things are the same. But I can see I have really changed over this past year and… and it’s not… it’s not been just by myself. I’ve really had to reach out for help and, yeah. So, I guess the first time I reached out for help Oscar was about 6 months old and I… I actually had a friend message me, and she could tell that I wasn’t doing very well, and so she… she suggested I get in touch with PANDA. And yeah, so I… I went on the website because I don’t like talking on the phone. I went on the website, and I did their little checklist, and once I went through that it was very obvious that I had both postnatal depression and anxiety. And then they give you an option to click for them to give you a call back, so I did that. And then they got in touch with me. And speaking to a counsellor was really helpful because, like, she really understood everything I was going through. Like I’d, up until that point I’d spoken to my husband and some of my friends, but often they don’t know what to say. You know, if they’ve not been through it themselves, they can just say, oh, you know, it’ll be alright. You’ll be okay. But that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted someone to say it’s not okay and, yeah, it’s like that saying – it’s okay to not be okay.

Carly:
It is.

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
And you need the right people to be hearing that so that they can actually assist you with it. I was much the same too. It wasn’t until I actually reached some more professional kind of help where they had the counselling skills that are required…

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
… that I could actually properly unload…

Jade:
Yeah. Exactly.

Carly:
… how you’re feeling.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
I’m so glad that service was there for you.

Jade:
Yeah, me too. I really needed it because I was in denial up until that point. I was just like, you know, I’ve grown up surrounded by a lot of depression and anxiety, and I had this picture in my mind of what it looked like to have that. And because I didn’t quite look like that I was like, I’m fine, I’m fine. But I wasn’t, and I really did need that [10:00] professional help. And from that point I started… Well, I booked in to see a psychologist, and because it was through COVID it was over the phone. And it was good, but I didn’t… I didn’t really connect with her. I didn’t really feel like that conversation helped me very much. And so unfortunately, I didn’t talk to her again and I had a few more months just struggling by myself. And I guess the point in sharing that is that sometimes you do have to try a few different people till you connect with someone. And unfortunately for me it meant that my symptoms got worse because I waited… I waited to talk to another person. But when I finally did start seeing somebody else, she was the right person for me and she helped me massively because the best way to describe what happened with me becoming a mother is that I had all these suppressed emotions from my whole life basically that I’d just shoved down, and it took this huge, I guess traumatic experience for it to all come out. So, I just felt like I’d fallen apart completely, and I was getting triggered all the time by the most random things. It didn’t make sense to me, but my psychologist was able to help me understand why I was getting triggered, and I guess to find that root cause of it all. And it did go back to my childhood, so it was very helpful to work through those things with her. But also, I found it very fascinating to… to understand myself in that way and why I was the way I was.

Carly:
I’ve seen that. There’s a fantastic graphic, I remember it really made a lot of sense to me too, for it’s like a person who’s sitting, talking with their psychologist, and their brain looks like this big, unravelled pile of wool.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
And then there’s like the threads of the wool going across to the psychologist, and they’re there knitting and making sense of this big, jumbled up thing. And I think that’s really accurate because what… like it’s, you can’t make sense of it on your own. Like, you’re too far in and you’re too vulnerable and whatnot. And yet by simply having that person there, they can unpack with you.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
And, oh, it’s like a weight off, isn’t it?

Jade:
Mm hm.

Carly:
Being able to have someone there to help support you through that process.

Jade:
Yep, definitely.

Carly:
Amazing.

Jade:
She… she was a massive help for me in that… in that way to, you know, mainly the triggers – to understand my triggers. And then once I understood that I felt more in control. Like, I couldn’t necessarily control getting triggered, but I could control how I acted. You know? What I did to sort of calm myself down. So, my biggest trigger was Oscar’s crying, which… which is so hard as a new mum because they cry all the time.

Carly:
It’s a baby.

Jade:
Yeah, exactly.

Carly:
Yep.

Jade:
And so, and your job as the mum is to calm the baby, but I felt like I needed someone to calm me down. So, honestly that’s something I still struggle with today. With him being a toddler now it’s more so the whining. That really gets… gets on my nerves. I think actually a lot of people struggle with that, and there are a lot of connections back to the way that we were parented and, you know, we might have been yelled at for whining. And so, that sort of triggers that within us that it’s not okay to whine. You know? So, that’s… that’s something that I’m still working on. And I found a lot of great resources through being on Instagram. There’s a lot of great accounts, like Big Little Feelings, and I found another one called Flourishing Homes and Families, that really have helped me with the triggers, with the crying and the whinging. Yeah.

Carly:
Beautiful. Especially as someone who was in lockdown for such a long time, being able to actually find these online connections, that would have been more important than ever.

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
And I guess that’s the other benefit of online is you can actually kind of curate your feed to make sure that it’s in line with your values. So…

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
… when it comes to these kind of situations you can look for support that… that actually feels right in your heart. So, there’s…

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
… small, silver linings to being in a pandemic, I guess.

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
And so, while you were going through all of this, [15:00] obviously like you’ve said that Oscar wasn’t a fabulous sleeper, but you had experience co-sleeping.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
Was there… was there certain things that you found helpful in terms of getting you all more rest into your life through that period?

Jade:
Yeah, so co-sleeping was the most helpful thing, because before I started that, you know, I was so like driven on getting him sleeping on his own and through the night, and so it was up and down, up and down. And sometimes you’d be spending like an hour trying to settle them, when really if you just brought them into the bed and gave him a breastfeed, he would be back to sleep so quickly. And so, there’s this huge, like change in your, you know, your mindset to think that it’s okay to have them in bed with you and to sort of get rid of that guilty feeling, like you’re creating these bad habits. So, see, I’d have him in bed with me and I’d just breastfeed him through the night, and you know, even though you’re waking up, you are still sort of half asleep. So, you wake up feeling more well-rested that way. So, both of us were getting more sleep like that, and yeah, somehow, he’s… he’s nearly two now and I actually can’t remember when it started happening, but he does sleep through the night now. So, it just crept up on me. Yeah.

Carly:
And when you’ve taken it off your radar and it’s not your big focus, like you say, it’s like a bit of a blurry thing. Like, oh, hang on a sec. Actually, yeah. He’s sleeping through the night. Eh, okay.

Jade:
Yeah. So focussed on it for so long, and… and the truth is it does just happen when they’re ready for it, that you can’t force it to happen sooner than they’re ready.

Carly:
And…

Jade:
And he’s… mm hm?

Carly:
I was going to say, so by day then, so you’re locked down for the majority of this time. So, what did your days look like? And naps and things like that? How did that work for you guys?

Jade:
So, naps, naps were really hard too. Every… every sleep felt like a battle for me. But, yeah, he contact napped like pretty much exclusively up until he was about one year old. So, that was so exhausting for me, like to never really have my own space. Like, I used to be sitting there with him asleep on me and just losing my mind. Like, I couldn’t do those things that you sort of really need, like I didn’t have that time to myself. But once… once he did… once he was around one year old, we could sort of side nurse and then I’d roll away and…

Carly:
You’d roll out.

Jade:
… do my own thing.

Carly:
Chuck the ninja.

Jade:
Yep. And then it’s only just recently he’s really been trying to drop the naps completely. So, yeah, every… every age has different challenges, doesn’t it? So, now we’re sort of in this awkward phase where he doesn’t want to nap, but then it comes 5 o’clock and he starts getting sleepy. And it’s like, you can’t nap now. Yeah, yeah, because then he’ll be up all night. So...

Carly:
Any of those periods of transition are so challenging, aren’t they? Because it’s like this fine line between them being just absolutely, ridiculously cactus or just not being tired at all.

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
So, it’s trying to… every day’s like a box of chocolates. Like, you just don’t know what you’re going to get in those transition periods. I definitely found that with all three of mine.

Jade:
Yeah.

Carly:
And it’s still, you know, sometimes like my little person, she’s just turned three, and she dropped her nap – her last nap – around two. But holy dooley, some days to we need to go for a drive in the car just because there’s no way we are making it through that day without having some kind of a nap.

Jade:
Yeah, yep.

Carly:
So, yeah, it’s a real juggle. But, like that napping period like, you know, when you had all of that time, 12 months of a baby who just wanted to sleep on top of you.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
And then it’s gone.

Jade:
Yep.

Carly:
Like, it’s so long, but it’s so short.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
And it’s… it’s only kind of once you’ve gone past it that you can kind of see that so clearly.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s almost impossible, isn’t it?

Jade:

Yeah. And it feels, oh, just so much of my parenting journey I was so frustrated that it was the way it was. And then you sort of look back and you’re like, oh, actually that’s so nice that he would sleep on me. But I didn’t feel that way at the time. You know? So, when he does sleep on me now, I think, oh, this is so lovely. He fell asleep on me the other day, [20:00] but I remember hating it at the time.

Carly:
But I think that’s the thing too, like I think that’s part of acknowledging, like it’s that… not that toxic positivity side of things where it’s like, enjoy every minute.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
It’s like… what? Like, really? Like, it’s impossible. But you can kind of, being in this situation, you can hold both feelings. Like, you can be so grateful and so bloody over it.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
All in the space of the same thought process.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
So, I think that for anyone listening along, if you’re in the thick of it, don’t feel like you need to be treasuring every moment, treasure it if you’re feeling in that mood, but if you are just in the, oh, what I wouldn’t give to not be touched for 24 hours…

Jade:

Yeah. Yeah.

Carly:
We’ve been there too. We’ve all been there, that’s for sure.

Jade:

And that’s… that’s what’s been a massive help for me in starting this account, is I felt like I can just say everything that I’m feeling, and… and I didn’t feel like I was being judged. I had all these mums saying, ‘Oh, me too. You know, I really struggled with this.’ And it’s so validating and… because online especially it’s like people just share the highlights, and that can become very… I don’t know, I think it can be quite damaging for a new mother to see all these beautiful pictures and people saying that they love every moment. And it’s not really true, you know?

Carly:
And I do think that there’s been a bit of a shift in that, because I feel like… like, yes, there’s still some of those extremely curated things where you’re not seeing even a hint of real life in there.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
But then there’s also, I feel like there has become a bit more of a shift where people feel like by being actually transparent and honest and vulnerable that there’s actually a lot more connection to be found in that.

Jade:

Yep. Yep.

Carly:
And so, I guess for anyone who’s listening along, if you’re only seeing the golden side of parenting in your feed, perhaps it’s time to do a little bit of more broader looking around, because there’s a lot of accounts – like yours and various other ones – where honesty is actually the main aim.

Jade:

Yep, yep.

Carly:
And busting through some of those barriers of people feeling alone is… is really important.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
And like you said, like when it comes to that period of matrescence, like it’s… it’s huge how much you’re going to find that you’re being unpicked, unravelled, and it brings all sorts of things from… that have been bubbling below the surface, right through to the top, that you simply weren’t ready for.

Jade:

No.

Carly:
And you can’t just shove them back down anymore.

Jade:

No.

Carly:
Like, you’re just cracked wide open, hey?

Jade:

Yes. That’s… that’s how it felt for me. So, there’s been a lot of things that I’ve had to deal with on top of caring for a small child. You know? It’s… it’s felt really overwhelming most of the time. And that’s why you do need supportive people around you, because it’s like how can you… how can you give everything you need to your child when you’re not getting your needs met? Like, there has to be some kind of way for you to get time to yourself, to build yourself up, so you can give yourself to your child. I feel like so much, in the beginning especially, my son was just getting the worst of me. And my husband as well, both just getting the very worst of me until I was able to get that time to start to feel better about myself.

Carly:
I guess… and I guess that’s the think. Like, I’m sure you’re actually doing an absolutely stellar job while you were feeling like that, but at the same time you’re absolutely right in that you deserve to have the support you needed to be feeling like that. Like actually feeling better…

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
… and being able to live your life without that… that fog over the top of you.

Jade:

Yep.

Carly:
Not just so that you’re a better mother and a better wife, which I’m sure you were already amazing at anyway, but because you’re you and you’re worthy of being able to actually enjoy your life.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
And so, I guess that’s the power of being able to reach out and get the support. And anyone who’s listening along who is wondering about whether they might be needing a little bit of extra support, check out PANDA. I’ll be sure to drop it in our show notes. But like Jade said, they can be a great starting point.

Jade:

Yep.

Carly:
Because they do have those online options. You can talk to a little chatbot if you’re not quite up to talking to a person yet, and it can be a great first step.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
Because people don’t need to be feeling like they’re living in this awful fog of not themselves.

Jade:

Yep. Yeah, you… you brought up a good point, Carly, that, you know, in the beginning it’s all about [25:00] the baby, and so it’s so common to just lose yourself, and that’s… that’s how I felt. I remember like writing how I was feeling. Feeling like I didn’t exist anymore. like I was just an extension of Oscar, you know? I was just the breasts that were feeding him. I was just the one that was holding him. Yeah.

Carly:
Yeah.

Jade:

And… and people without realising are always asking, how’s the baby? How’s the baby doing? And what about the mother? You know, the mother needs just as much attention as the newborn. So, yeah. With starting this account and hearing everybody’s stories, it’s such a common theme that, you know, this matrescence is just this huge… I guess rediscovery of yourself, because while you’re still the same person deep down inside, it feels like everything else has changed. So, you have to find yourself again, and you need to allow yourself time to just be you, to find the things that you enjoy that are outside of being a mother. And, you know, maybe you’re one of those people that being a mum is everything for you, and I thought that that was how I was going to be, and it was I guess a bit of a rude shock how things went because it was nothing like I’d imagined. I really… I was really naïve in thinking that I would just love every part of being a mum. But I realised pretty quickly that I needed things outside of being a mother to feel… to feel like myself. And so, I… I went back to work at the start of this year just one day a week, and that’s… that’s been really good for me, especially after being in lockdown for so long, to just be able to get out and talk to other adults. And yeah, I found that coming home to my son I was in a much better headspace after going back to work. Yeah.

Carly:
Beautiful. And I think that’s a great tip for people, especially like I found matrescence for me, it honestly carried on for at least three years of my life before I felt like I had finally come to terms with my new identity, because I was still me, but I was a different me. But it took that long. And so, if you’re… if you’re still, you know, in the early days of becoming a parent and you’re feeling completely lost – and when I say early days, this might be the first year, it might be the second year, and like I said, I think I took at least three years to get there. Give yourself a bit of a break. Like, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it can take, it’s quite a journey to go on. So, if you’re still feeling like you’re not quite you, it’s okay. One day you will again soon.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
It’s just a matter of letting yourself be, letting yourself feel it. Get yourself support if you need some help to make your way through it. But just know that every single parent out there has been through this process after having a baby land in their lives.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
You’re not alone in feeling like that.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
Now, we’re coming up to our 30 minutes, Jade, so I’d better ask you for our tip of the week

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
Because I know our listeners will be dying to hear what you’d like to share. What’s your tip?

Jade:

Oh, my tip? I should have thought about this for longer. So, I think that my tip… Yeah, my biggest tip to a new mother – and you hear it a lot, but it’s so true - that you really do need to trust your instincts, because you know, you are the perfect mother for your child, and it might not feel that way because you’re brand new and you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. But if you just give, like allow yourself to just parent the way you want to parent, sort of tune out everyone else’s advice, I think… I think it can save yourself a lot of anxiety and a lot of negative feelings. Like, I went through all that at the start, because I felt like I had to follow everyone’s advice. You know? They’d had all these children. They knew better than me. But the truth is they… they didn’t know my child better than I do. Like you, you know your child better than anyone, and if something feels wrong then don’t do it. You know? Do what feels right for you.

Carly:
I love that. And that’s… it is, it’s perfect advice. And we hear it a lot, and I know when you’re in the thick of it sometimes you feel like you might not have any actual instinct or feeling that can possibly be true, but at the end of the day when you [30:00] look back on it, it’s almost guaranteed that your gut was telling you the truth all along. If it didn’t feel right, it probably wasn’t right.

Jade:

Yeah.

Carly:
So, thank you so much, Jade. You’re a very wise woman. And thank you for being able to share your experience, especially because it’s still relatively new for you. Like, I know you’re coming out the other side now, but it’s still relatively fresh and raw. So, it takes a lot of courage to be able to share it. So, thank you so much.

Jade:

Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Carly:
That’s alright. And thank you for the work that you’re doing with Jade Postpartum online. If people haven’t started following you already, please jump on and check out Jade’s page so you can follow along and keep track of all these amazing stories, postpartum stories, from real people out there. So, thanks Jade, and thanks for the work you do for the project. We absolutely adore you and our volunteers, so thank you very much.

Jade:

Thank you.

Carly:
Thanks.

Carly Grubb:

I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. If you'd like even more from the show you can join us as a patron on Patreon and you can find a link for that in our show notes if listening is not really your jam we also make sure we put full episode transcripts on our little sparklers website for you to also enjoy and fully captioned YouTube videos as well on our Little Sparklers channel so thanks again for listening today we really enjoy bringing this podcast to you. 

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