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#192 - Our Birth Stories Tell a Story with Sophie Walker
Episode 1924th May 2022 • Happy Mama Movement with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz • Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
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Our guest today is quite the Podcast veteran. Sophie Walker is the host of the Australian Birth Stories Podcast, which has just released its 300th episodes.

The journey of pregnancy and birth is an important part of the Matresence picture, and it is vital that we are not telling women that birth looks the same for everybody. Listen as Amy and Sophie discuss:

  • How our own birth experiences are closely tied to that of becoming a Mama.
  • While birth is only one day, it is a very powerful and important day.
  • How we don’t always feel comfortable sharing our birth stories because we don’t want to scare anyone off and/or because we don’t want to boast or celebrate what we have been through in fear of making the person who’s listening feel bad or undermined.
  • The leap straight into motherhood that is often hard to see when we are in the pregnant phase and concentrating on birth.

You can find out more about Sophie’s work and Podcast at https://www.australianbirthstories.com/ which includes stories for women across all sorts of experiences. As mentioned in this episode you can also access the walk through heal your birth meditation via the Mama Rising Audiobook. We are here to spread the whispers of Matrescence together.

Transcripts

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Welcome to the happy mama movement podcast.

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I'm Amy Taylor-Kabbaz.

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I would like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the aura nation

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on which this podcast is recorded as the traditional custodians of this land.

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And pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging.

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And as this podcast is dedicated to the wisdom and knowledge of motherhood.

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I would like to acknowledge the mothers of this land, the elders, their wisdom, their

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knowing and my own elders and teachers.

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Welcome back Mamas.

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Imagine hearing 300 birth stories.

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Being the midwife in a way of a woman's birth story, reflecting on what it

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was like, what she went through, what happened and how it felt, and then

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being able to take that story and share it with millions of others.

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As they too begin to prepare for this transformation and write of passage.

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That's the job of this week's podcast guest, Sophie Walker.

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If you have been pregnant in Australia and wanted to know more about what

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birthing a baby is like and preparing yourself, you probably know Sophie's work.

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Sophie is the host of the Australian Birth Stories Podcast.

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It has had a staggering 8 million downloads.

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And what I love the most about Sophie's podcast, it is a

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platform for stories of all kinds.

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And this is what we need in this preparation for motherhood.

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We cannot all just go to the hospital and have the stock standard

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introduction to what labor looks like.

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Ask any mother who went through that and they will likely tell you they

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were not prepared for the reality.

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But also what we're telling women is that birth looks the same for everybody.

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There's one way to prepare and there's one outcome.

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And we also categorise certain outcomes as wrong, as a failure, as bad.

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In Sophie's work, she has really been able to explore all the ways we bring

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our babies into this world and all the ways women heal and rise as new Mums.

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I really wanted to ask Sophie onto this podcast to just get her perspective

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on what it has been like to listen to 300 women and their stories

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and how she hopes these stories allow us to prepare differently for

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motherhood and matresence, enjoy.

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Sophie, welcome to the podcast.

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I feel like there would not be many women listening to my podcast who

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don't know yours, but thank you for coming on and joining me on mine.

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Oh, thanks so much for having me.

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So we have so much to talk about.

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I want to explore so much with you.

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Uh, we are coming up to five years of your podcast, 300 episodes, 8 million

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downloads, and so many phenomenal stories of bringing babies into the world and

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what that looks like, the experiences and feelings of women as they birth.

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How did this all begin for you five years ago?

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And is it closely tied to your own experience of becoming a Mama?

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Yeah, I think it is.

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I started the podcast after I'd had my second little boy, Louie and his

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birth was really straightforward and sort of everything I'd hoped

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my first birth would have been.

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And I think because I had that contrast of quite an interventionist kind

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of traumatic 36 hour first labor.

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Having experienced a positive one, I thought, oh, I need to share these stories

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because I feel like I went into my first birth under-prepared I was confident,

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with false kind of confidence, I think.

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So I was really shocked when it didn't go the way that I thought.

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And I couldn't find any sort of Australian resources to binge

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listen to other people's stories.

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And I thought, oh, I'll just start my own.

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But not thinking it would evolve into what it has done now.

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I literally, the first episode is Louis birth story, and then my

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sisters and a few close friends.

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And then it's taken off from there.

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Why?

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Why do you think it's taken off?

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I think there's sort of two components to it.

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I think women love to share their stories.

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Initially I was begging people to come on so that I had the consistent

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kind of material each week.

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And, now , I've really hidden it down the bottom of my web page, share your story.

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Because I've got over 4,000 applications.

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So it shows that yeah.

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There's a cathartic kind of feeling in sharing your story.

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And I feel like everybody feels, and they are, every story is unique and they're

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like, yeah, but my story should be told and I can help other women by sharing.

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And I think it sort of goes full circle.

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They've listened to the podcast and benefited and connected with other women.

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And then they want to pay it forward by sharing their own experience or kind

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of filling in a gap if they feel like their story was unique and could help.

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Like perhaps they couldn't find a story similar when they were

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looking and they want to then share.

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So, yeah, it's beautiful for the woman to kind of unpack and share

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her story and a lovely keepsake.

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And then it's incredibly educational and beneficial.

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Not only for pregnant women listening, but a lot of student midwives and

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midwives and obstetricians listen as well, because it's a unique perspective

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of that firsthand account of perhaps how some of the things they do in the

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workplace come across to various women.

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It's sad that it's a wonderful thing that you're doing, but it's sad in many

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ways that these types of understandings around the vastly different ways that

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babies come into this world and what a birth looks like are not part of that

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prenatal education, like you said, going into that first birth confident.

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I was exactly the same.

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I was like, yep, I'm ready, here we go.

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And I remember being terrified within the first hour thinking

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this is nothing like I thought.

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And similar to you going into the second birth was obsessed with watching

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YouTube videos and anything I could find of the raw and real births.

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I didn't know you sounded like that in birth.

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I didn't know that it looked like that.

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I didn't know that stuff was coming out.

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Like nothing was there to help me prepare for that first birth.

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Second time around, not only had I had that experience myself, but I'd

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watched all of these like, oh, that's okay, to sound like a wounded animal.

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I didn't know that that was normal.

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Um, so many parts of it is not shared.

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What do you think that does to us as a culture, if we continue

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to hide the truth of birth?

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Yeah, it's detrimental.

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And I think in the same way that I think when I was listening in, perhaps

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when you were looking at things online, I wanted to see everything.

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So nothing caught me off guard this time.

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Cause I felt like I was so under prepared the first time.

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So I know there's a lot of resources out there where they're like, oh, I'm

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only listening to positive stories, don't tell me anything negative.

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And my show definitely has all sorts of stories, anything from stillbirth

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and miscarriage, right through to sort of drug free home births with

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midwives and things like that.

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But I think by not educating yourself with all the different things that

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can unfold, you're doing yourself a disservice and you're not preparing

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yourself for all the possibilities.

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And there's a lot of things you can do say, you know, your

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birth plan, doesn't go to plan.

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Perhaps you wanted an intervention free birth and you ended up having a cesarean.

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If you've educated yourself on cesareans you can have the cesarean and the birth

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that you want under those circumstances, and then make those changes.

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And I think then you go into kind of this sphere that I know you focus all

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your work on coming into motherhood in that transition, not feeling deflated

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and traumatised, but feeling empowered and that you had some control over

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whatever unfolded on the day or the couple of days as it sometimes happens.

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So looking back at the 300 stories that you've listened to and

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told other than knowing all the different, and still normal ways

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babies can come into this world.

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What else have you seen in all of these stories that we need to do differently in

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preparing mothers for becoming a mother?

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Yeah, I think, or sort of what you were touching on before of there, a

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lot of things that aren't spoken about.

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And I know there's still a lot of women that go into hospital, not realising

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that after birth you'll be bleeding for six weeks and just, kind of, standard

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biological processes that you perhaps aren't prepared for or don't because

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it's messy, and because, there's all sorts of different elements and

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people think oh I won't tell you.

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And similarly with motherhood, I won't tell them about witching hours

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and how sometimes the baby will just cry from 5:00 PM till 10:00 PM every

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night for two weeks or however long.

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And I think keeping all that secret and not sharing that knowledge and

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experience just makes first-time parents feel like they're doing it wrong.

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And then they, and then that's when anxiety and postnatal depression

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and anxiety can definitely come into play because you feel like, oh,

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nobody else has talked about this.

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So it can't be happening behind closed doors and other people's

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houses with their newborn.

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So I'm not managing well, or there's something wrong with my baby or all

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those kinds of tired, emotional exhausted thought processes that can kind of go

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through your mind when you're trying to do your very best, But I think, yeah,

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by not sharing all of those experiences, you're not helping anyone in you by

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keeping them in a, in a naive bubble.

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I know my sister said to me, after she'd had a six week old baby, she

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said, oh, I see pregnant women in the street now with a big bump.

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And I think, oh, you've got no idea what's coming.

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In the newborn days, I think.

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That's it, but it's such a good point.

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It's such a good point.

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Because it is why we don't always share the truth of what's happened because a)

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we don't want to scare anyone off who hasn't become a mum yet or b) we don't

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want to celebrate what we've been through, if it was a good experience in fear

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of making the person who's listening, feel bad if they didn't have it.

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And so we hold ourselves back from sharing what we need to share.

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I mean, processing your birth story is such an important part

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of the healing of matresence.

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We have just changed, transformed completely.

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And yet this sharing of that story of that transition, we hold to ourselves

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for those reasons, we don't want to scare anyone, we don't want to brag, we're

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worried that we didn't do it right.

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Any of those reasons, it's such an important part of

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the experience we've missed.

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Yeah.

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And I sort of encourage, I think, cause I've done this work

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and heard so many stories now.

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I kind of forget what other people don't know.

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It's hard and you think, oh yeah, that's not common knowledge.

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They often telling people that are feeling overwhelmed, processing

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their birth in the early days.

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Oh, did you know, you can get your birth notes from the hospital and see from

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their point of view, what happened?

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And perhaps when you're in the throws of labor land, you misinterpreted something

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that unfolded in you were unfairly judging yourself or somebody else.

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And when you see it from their perspective, putting their

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perspective and your own together can create a different picture.

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as you said, we turn it internally because we don't share it and

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we create a story around it.

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I also think it's really interesting and it's an important

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thing to remember, isn't it?

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That people say, oh, it's just one day and then you're a mother

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for the rest of your life.

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And in some ways I understand and appreciate that sentiment.

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It doesn't define in many ways how you were mother or how your child

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will be for the rest of their life.

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And yet at the same time, I've listened to hundreds and hundreds of Mums over

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the years who that one day did set them up in believing they didn't do it right.

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And so it is both, it is only one day, but it's also a very

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powerful and important day.

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Yeah, I think the statistics are one in three women in Australia have

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come away from their birth experience feeling traumatised, and then you're

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leaping straight into breastfeeding and parenting and caring for a newborn.

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So , as you say, it's one day and perhaps it doesn't matter in

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the old cliche of, oh, as long as you and the baby are healthy.

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Um, it depends how you measure that health, emotional health

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and trauma and lasting PSD and things like that are really gonna

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shape your future moving forward.

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So it's, it's one pivotal day in, uh, on a lot of, uh, for a lot of women, I think.

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It is.

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And I bet you, you are constantly blown away with the strength and

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power of the women you speak to.

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Like what we can do and what we can get through and what we can endure.

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Gosh, you must, what is that like to be continually hearing those stories?

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Yeah.

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I mean, in the wonderful stories like of late.

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I did an interview with a lady who'd been, had a preemie baby in the floods during

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COVID and was isolated from her family and all sorts of things to sort of still

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birth mothers that have gone on to create resources for other stillbirth mothers.

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And I, yeah, it's phenomenal what people are doing and the strength

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that women have, and it puts a lot of other life things in perspective.

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I often kind of, I find it hard as I'm sure you do to juggle children

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and recording times and things, and you can often come to a call

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a bit flustered or an interview.

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And then I kind of sit in with it.

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I'm never, I've never been bored , by an interview and you go right where they are.

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And yeah, there's always some unique characteristics to each person

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and it's yeah, it's beautiful.

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It's an honor to go into that space with them.

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It is and what you've got three children.

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What was the third birth after, by the time you got to your third birth,

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had you done a lot of interviews?

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Were you sort of deep into the storytelling around this?

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I had, but it's funny.

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There's a bit of a wives tale that third

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birth's are tricksters.

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And, um, so I had that in the back of my mind, but I also kind of thought,

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oh, maybe this will be like a one hour birth because Louis was a five-hour bit.

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Um, yeah, it was long.

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And I kind of feel like as soon as I had the first twinge, I didn't take on any

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of my knowledge from all my interviews.

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I just worked was a laboring woman with the same kind of fluid

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consciousness and random thoughts.

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And I think at one stage I said to my husband, I'm just

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going to have a cesarean..

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And he said, oh, well, that'd give you another perspective for the podcast.

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But,

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You've done it all.

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Yeah, I would have done them all.

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But it was fine in the end.

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I had my waters broken and I had him without any other drugs.

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So I was pleased that I was able to experience that drug-free labor again.

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Um, just because I found it beneficial in recovery with Louise.

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Um, but it was, yeah, it was tricky and I found it quite, I didn't kind of

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connect with Ottie, my third, the way that I had done with Louis as well,

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I felt like I said to my Mum, he's lovely and I'll take care of him and

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breastfeed him and do all the things.

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But I don't feel like in love with him the way that I am with the other two.

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And he just, he looked different.

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He was just an unfamiliar person.

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And I guess I was so bonded with the other two boys.

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So it took a little while.

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And then, it kind of, it felt like it hit me like a ton of bricks and I caught up.

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But, um, yeah, I think that that sort of stuff is really

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important to share as well.

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Another occasion where people think, oh, I don't feel this

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love rush that everybody shares.

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And I don't feel like doing all these amazing pictures that I see online.

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And, um, yeah.

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Am I normal is a kind of constant question I think for Mothers in the early days.

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And to have that knowledge inside of you, that it was okay, that you didn't

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feel that immediate bond with him.

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I met that's all both of us are trying to do is just trying to normalise

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what this transition looks like.

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And it can be messy and awkward.

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And it's not the way I thought it would feel at all.

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I know you now also have some birth preparation resources

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for women, a program.

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What have you included in that?

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What have we, what are you most wanting these women to know?

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Yeah.

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So I made the birth class in the same format as the podcast and an audio one

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so that you can listen on the go because that's how everyone enjoys the podcast.

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But it was important to me again, to include all the things.

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So I think a lot of other birth classes don't talk in detail about cesareans.

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And I've got a full hour long interview with a midwife about cesareans..

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And things you can do in an emergency cesarean, and things you

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can do to plan a planned cesarean.

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Um, yeah, we go through everything from yoga, nidra meditations, right

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through to the various interventions.

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So if you know, you want to have an epidural, we talk through

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what's involved in that from sort of every step of the way.

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And I've interviewed a series of midwives and women's health physios.

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And, um, one of my favorite obstetricians, Andrew Bissets who is

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from New South Wales and is fantastic.

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People who've seen like birth time and things like that.

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He's heavily involved in all of that.

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And I jokingly said, oh, you kind of like a midwife.

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Um, he's definitely got a midwives hat on.

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I said, I don't know if that's offensive,

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Oh, how beautiful.

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Or not a compliment.

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He likes to stand back if possible, and he's very pro vaginal birth.

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So he talks all through vaginal births and, all of that sort of stuff.

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So I feel like I've covered all the bases.

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We do feedbacks and breathing techniques right through to

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cesareans and how to plan.

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So I've tried to include all of the things that I felt people have

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told me over the years that they wished they knew and, Um, put it all

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together in a nice online package.

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Wow.

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And what about the transition of the woman to a mother?

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Just finally the matresence of this experience?

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Um, what have you learnt about what happens to a woman as she goes through

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this and finds a strength or resilience?

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She loses herself first as some of us do after that first birth

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and then finds herself again.

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If you were to put your own insights into matresence after all of

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these women, what would you say?

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Ah, it's hard.

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I always feel like I'm dropping the ball at the end of my interviews because I

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can only cover so much and we really focused on the pregnancy and the birth.

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And then they say something like, I mean, there's been episodes where we've gone

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right into sort of postpartum depression.

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But generally I feel like I wrap them up there.

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And I know everybody wants to know more and I do too, but there's

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only so much you can cover.

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Which I think is great referral to podcasts like yourselves, where,

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where you're really delving into that next chapter in the fourth trimester.

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I don't feel like I have enough time and space to do that.

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And I've just actually written a book, um, with a beautiful friend of

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mine, which is coming out next year.

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That's the complete Australian guide to pregnancy and childbirth.

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And the editors were saying, and could you just put in a bit about postpartum?

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And we said, we definitely cannot.

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It needs a whole book on its own.

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We're not doing a 20 page chapter because it's too big and it's

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doing a disservice to everyone.

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So a lot of my work is focused on the pregnancy and the birth, but I'm

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acutely aware of the whole next chapter.

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And I have got another course on post-partum called discovering motherhood

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where we touch on different things, both for the mother and the baby, but it's,

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yeah, it's a whole huge breadth of work, which is what you do so beautifully.

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And I don't feel like I can do it justice in a 15 minutes slot

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at the end of each episode.

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So I've kind of left it at that point.

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But, you know, we, we say in the Mama Rising training, meet them where they are.

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Meet the Mama where she is.

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There's so many women in this training who were in the pregnancy and birth

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space and want to talk to her about matresence there's more than the birth.

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There's more than it's going to be happening.

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And yet when you're sitting with a pregnant woman, to move her beyond the

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birth is actually very difficult because that's, it's almost as far as she can see.

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I just, I want to get past that and yes, I know that then I'll have to

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breastfeed on have to figure that out.

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But I just and even I remember the second and the third time round, there was still

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that kind of like timing of I'll get to the birth and then I'll look beyond.

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So I think you're doing what I say to these women in Mama Rising.

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You're meeting them where they are at.

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And you're showing them that, there is no one way to do this, just because

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you have to have an emergency cesarean doesn't mean that you're not a good

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mother, that you've started out wrong.

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You're actually breaking down those barriers that prevent her from that

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beautiful postpartum period, because she's filled with regret or worry or shame.

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So although your stories finish at the birth, I think you are still

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very much honoring what we need to do with Mums, which is show the

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different way and make it all okay.

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And I just hope that they find other resources.

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I mean I'm always getting messages from people.

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And I think women that have already had one baby say, oh, it's all very well to

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prepare for the birth, but what about, you know, the next chapter is the challenge.

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And, um, I think, I think A lot of my listeners are second and third time Mums

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and they're like, all right, I'm ready to kind of do the work and really prepare.

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So, um, yeah.

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And I imagine a lot of your clients would be the same.

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A hundred percent.

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Most of the women in my programs over the last decade, a second or third time Mums.

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Because the first they were too busy Googling, what does that cry mean?

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And why does my nipple look like that?

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You know,

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Yeah.

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And it's the second and third time around, they can breathe a little around

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that and start reflecting on themselves.

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Well, I think the fact that we're at a time in our culture and in our world

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where we can so openly share information.

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We can so openly tell the stories.

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And as I said to you, before we hit record, what I love about your

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podcast is that if you went through this rare complication and last time,

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and you want to hear someone else's experience of that, I think you'd

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be able to find it on your podcast.

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I love the breadth of stories that you have, and thank you so much for bringing

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them to the world, because I do think it's changing the birth stories and

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allowing us to tell our birth stories is one of the first steps in really

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honoring this transition of matresence.

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Well, thank you.

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I definitely love doing it.

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So I'll be around for awhile.

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Yay.

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And congratulations on five years.

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That is phenomenal.

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Wow.

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Thanks so much, Sophie.

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Thanks Amy.

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300 episodes, five years, and 8 million downloads.

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What a gift Sophie has been able to give so many women.

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And as she mentioned birth workers and being able to tell

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the stories of these women.

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If you have never had a chance to reflect on and share your birth story, I really

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suggest that this is something you look into, find a friend, find a loving,

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supportive person, find a coach, find a doula, find someone to process this.

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Yes, it is one day in your life.

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And you did do it no matter how it happened, but to reflect on it and to

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find your strength and redefine it.

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Is really, really important.

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You can go to Sophie's website, australianbirthstories.com and

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explore not only the podcast, but her short courses, the birth

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class and discovering motherhood.

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And also, I would love to mention If you get my audio book of Mama Rising by

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Hay House, I walk you through a healing your birth meditation in the audio book.

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It has music.

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It is a real meditation and you can close your eyes and begin to retell

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your story in an empowered way.

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Until next week.

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Thank you for being here to listening to all of these stories.

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I hope it helps you heal yours.

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Thank you for being a part of this conversation, Mama.

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We change the way mothers are valued and seen in our society and our world

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by bringing these conversations to light and spreading the whispers of matresence.

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And so I ask you to be a part of this movement now.

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Speak to others around you about matresence.

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About your experience of motherhood.

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Let's bring it to light together.

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To find out more about my matresence.

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Go to amytaylorkabbaz.com forward slashmatresence.

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And receive your free ebook the matresence map.

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So you can understand it even deeper.

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Thank you for being a part of this.

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Until next week.

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