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Episode 430

Katie Rose | Postpartum – five babies, blended family

Katie Rose, a yoga teacher, doula and mother of five discusses her postpartum experiences and the joy and chaos of having a big family. Her eldest is 17 and her youngest is two so she brings a beautiful wisdom to her story, reflecting on her perfectionist early parenting years and the ease and joy she has found by letting go of control and simply being present. If you’re in the depths of early motherhood you will glean so much from Katie’s story.

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“I’ve had a lifelong passion for yoga and Ayurveda and I’ve always had an interest in pre and postnatal yoga. I had a really positive birth with my firstborn and I felt called to do more work in that area so I trained as a doula and wrote my book, The Yoga of Birth.

“My first postpartum was a real mixed bag. I was married to my ex-husband and we were living with his parents who were Greek and very active and supportive grandparents. My mother in law really cared for me throughout pregnancy and postpartum. English was her second language and that barrier made her a wonderful caregiver because it really was about acts of service and her presence which was very comforting; instead of opinion, ideas and feedback there was kind and loving support.

“During a lot of that time my ex-husband had an alcohol dependency problem so I was navigating that while living with his parents. He was fairly often absent and if he wasn’t absent he was drinking which meant that my whole pregnancy and postpartum was good but with distinct challenges. My family were all back in the UK so I didn’t have my immediate family with me which was isolating.

“It’s incredible how aligned Greek and Ayurvedic postpartum practices are. In India you practise the first 40 days of real deep care of nourishment and rest and it’s also practised in Orthodox Christianity and you stay home for forty days and the first place you go afterwards is to church to receive a blessing from the priest, reemerging slowly back into the world. It was so aligned with my yoga and ayurvedic training, it was a serendipitous matching that the Greek Orthodox element was in absolute support of that. I ate lots of warm and easily-digestible foods; soups and long-cooked rice dishes…my mother in law cooked it all for me.

“When I look back now I can see that I put so much pressure on myself and really wanted a perfectly curated birth, postpartum and parenting. I had lots of strict regulations around things like screens and sugar and my son is 17 now and he’ll often tease me – in a light-hearted way – that he had it so ‘tough’. My fifth child is nearly two and she gets so much more flexibility regarding screens and sugar. My eldest always comments on what she can eat, telling me the only sweet treat he was allowed was a dried apricot. Sometimes I think I could be more strict with her but the flipside to that is that I enjoy mothering her so much because I feel a sense of ease; I’m so much more relaxed in the sense that near enough really is good enough. It doesn’t all have to be this perfectly curated, designed lifestyle that ticks all the right boxes. It’s enough to be loving and present and joyful.

“Five kids is unfathomable to most people which I completely understand but my first was by far the hardest. For me it was about the loss of freedom. I remember breastfeeding at four months postpartum and crying because I had no idea how I could do it for another six months, it felt like it was sucking the life out of me. Whereas with the second, third, fourth, I hardly remember breastfeeding them because it just happened amongst everything else. With the first, everything felt more serious and poignant and slow; the year after birth was the slowest of my life. It ground to a halt and was very monotonous. You can’t see the wood for the trees but with subsequent children, you know how fast it goes. I had the narrative that I’d continue to do all the things I’d always done and the baby would just come with me but it was exhausting and depleting and it took me several months to realise my life was changed and travelling and working with a baby was really hard.

“My second and third babies were planned, and the fourth and fifth were surprises. I still don’t think of myself as the earth mother with lots of kids; I don’t relate to that archetype at all. I love being a mum but I’m also present and I’m around a lot, but I’m still surprised by the fact that I’ve got five children.

“I birthed my second at home and I had a lot of support during postpartum again. I’d given myself permission to take time out to be a mum and pause work for a while. I spent a lot less time looking in the mirror and caring if my body was ever going to look like it did before pregnancy. I dropped into accepting that it was a different season and I enjoyed it so much more.

“My fourth baby was very chilled. I think a relevant part of postpartum is the baby; all babies are different. Some are cranky and fussy and don’t sleep well and others are a walk in the park. I really believe there is such a thing as easy and difficult babies. When you have lots of children, I don’t carry the same level of physical responsibility because there’s many people to hold and cuddle and play with the baby; the tactile need of babies is met by the whole family. However, the flipside is with a big family you need to have strategies in place otherwise life gets chaotic very quickly. Things like meal times, life admin, homemaking…the more kids you have, the more systems you need otherwise it very quickly becomes unmanageable. I don’t show up for everything all the time because I don’t have the capacity for that.

“I conceived my fifth baby during lockdown and in some ways, it was easier for the first trimester. But it was a fairly new relationship and the kids were only just starting to accept and bond with him as a step-father. It was a bit too much too soon; all of a sudden a blended family with a new baby on the way. I was 43 when I conceived her. I’m really healthy and I eat well but I feel my age now after five babies; it takes its toll on your body. That said, where I have made the investment to rest after birth, it’s paid off down the track.

“I’d had four amazing natural births with the boys and I imagined the fifth to be the same but I actually had a very difficult birth. I had an epidural and felt very disappointed with that. I also felt a bit embarrassed because of all the birth work I do so I had a lot of harsh judgement on myself which I’ve now worked through. It was very interesting for the fifth birth to be so different but also, there’s no set patterning. The pregnancy was also hard for the family but now that she’s here, she’s the glue that brings us all together. The idea of a blended family doesn’t exist; we’re just a family. My partner has two boys from a previous relationship so our little girl has six older brothers.”

If you’d like to connect with Katie and learn more about her Reclaim Birth summit click here If you’d like to download Katie’s book, Yoga of Birth you can download your copy here.

Episode Sponsor

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