Author

Charlotte Newton

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Spirituality is defined by an awareness of the soul, spirit or the essence of ‘you’ and whilst it can be aligned with religious beliefs, it doesn’t have to be. Where religion can provide an ethical framework, spirituality calls for deep connection to ‘self’ in order to foster qualities such as love, empathy and harmony.

What is the meaning of life?

Are we the result of an unlikely chemical reaction 13.8 billion years ago or is there some higher power? Ultimately, the question is how do we actually live a ‘good’ life?

As a race, we have pondered our existence for 2,500 years, since Plato and Aristotle concluded that all humans desired Eudaimonia (roughly translated as ‘happiness’). While this might seem obvious, how can we achieve this bliss? Ancient Greek philosophers believed Eudaimonia could be accomplished by pursuing higher knowledge and promoting the common good, thus achieving our reason for being.

Culturally, promoting the common good is often tied to religious practice where organised religion serves to provide an ethical framework to foster qualities such as selflessness, empathy, kindness and harmony. Of course, religion is not the only way to pursue these goals, which is important since younger generations are choosing spirituality over religion.

A current buzzword, Spirituality, can be defined by an awareness of the soul, spirit or one’s inner essence, which encapsulates a feeling that one is part of something larger than oneself. A spiritual journey often involves looking inwards to address inner divinity, whether as part of a religious faith or a personal journey. This path can shift conscious awareness, allowing for a more contented and enlightened state.

Recorded experiences of spiritual awakening detail a feeling of bliss, calm and euphoria; such awakenings are often triggered by trauma or turmoil. Senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Steve Taylor, began researching and collecting details of spiritual experiences and found that many awakenings occur at times of deep personal suffering and are characterised by a sudden feeling that everything is as it should be. Dr Taylor spoke to one such person, Emma, who had been hospitalised with severe depression. Plagued with suicidal thoughts, Emma hadn’t spoken to anyone for four days when she experienced a spiritual awakening after picking up a marble from her bedside table. She explains:

“I saw reality as simply this perfect one-ness. I felt suddenly removed from everything that was personal. Everything seemed just right. The marble seemed a reflection of the universe. All my problems and my suffering suddenly seemed meaningless, ridiculous, simply a misunderstanding of my true nature and everything around me. There was a feeling of acceptance and oneness. It was a moment of enlightenment.”

Another account reveals the experience of a middle aged man who was married with children when he began to realise he was attracted to men. His marriage ultimately broke down but he describes his spiritual awakening:

“It was our last family holiday before the break up. We were in Tunisia and went on an excursion down to the Sahara. We went on a camel ride across part of the desert and at the end of the day, I sat on a sand dune watching the sunset. There were quite a few people around but it was as if everyone else disappeared. Everything just ceased to be. I lost all sense of time. I lost myself. I had a feeling of being totally at one with nature, with a massive sense of peace. I was a part of the scene. There was no ‘me’ anymore. I was just sitting there watching the sun set over the desert, aware of the enormity of life, the power of nature, and I never wanted it to end.”

Although we can’t be guaranteed a spiritual experience like these, it is enlightening to realise that we have some power over how we view the world. Our thoughts and internal dialogue are key to our experience of life according to Buddhist practitioner, Sarah Napthali. Sarah quotes the Buddha: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”  (The Complete Buddhism for Mothers). You have the power to transform your world.

Some people claim that religion and finding God has been integral to changing their world. Depressed teenager Doug claims that lithium, counselling and anti-depressants did not work but finding God and Christianity saved him from suicide. University of Texas Astronomer, Don, was a self-proclaimed “fire-breathing atheist” until he found God after reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (famous author of The Chronicles of Narnia).

Dr. Hugh Ross, the youngest ever director of observations at Vancouver’s Royal Astronomical Society, began to analyse a variety of religious texts for accuracy. He concluded that the Bible is more reliable than the laws of physics he had studied at university. And it’s not just Christianity, Los Angeles native, Kylie, explains how Judaism helped her to hone her moral values and find happiness after she became disillusioned with the materialistic world of the television industry.

If you have faith in religion, latest research (2015) by world-renowned and nonpartisan body, Pew Research Center, shows you are not alone: 31 per cent of the world population identify with the Christian faith, 24 per cent identify as Muslim, 16 per cent are unaffiliated with any religion and 15 per cent are Hindu. The remaining 14 per cent of the population practice smaller religions such as Buddhism, Folk Religions and Judaism.

Religious practice often focuses on external stimuli such as places of worship, scripture, ritual or Holy objects and involves an organised system of worship. World religions are often centred around the life and teachings of an individual such as Christ, Buddha, Moses or Krishna.

With reference to ancient religion, Adam Brady, an educator from The Chopra Centre, highlights the importance of the practical application of the founder’s teachings. He references the Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, who says, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” This suggests that spirituality can provide another level to religious faith; religion and spirituality are not mutually exclusive.

However, the 2016 Australian Census revealed 30 per cent of Australians have no religious affiliation and this trend is accelerating; whilst those over 65 are mostly Christian, younger Australians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to have no religion.

Having no religion is not the same as being an atheist; an atheist does not believe in any gods but may have other beliefs. Aside from belief in a god, many people speculate on the possibility of a higher power or energy between us; some take this idea further and believe we all have a soul: an intense energy separate from the physical body, which will live on after we die. 

In line with this New Age thinking, there are many different branches of non-traditional world religions, such as Spiritualism ,whose followers believe that living beings can interact with departed souls, usually through a medium. Acclaimed author of Journey of Souls and Master Hypnotherapist, Dr Michael Newton, claims to have uncovered details about life in the spirit world after death on Earth through deep hypnosis sessions with 29 clients.

This may be a stretch for many, however being spiritual is simply loving all beings, including yourself; it’s about cultivating an ability to rise above one’s emotional state, to let go and to develop our essential loving nature.

Becoming more spiritual has its benefits. Research published in the Journal of Business Research has shown meditation and yoga reduces stress and improves academic performance. Professor of Medicine and Health Science at George Washington University, Dr Christina Puchalski, champions these benefits, claiming spirituality can “restore the heart and humanity to healthcare” and draws a distinction between true healing and “technical and disease oriented care”. She also argues that the caring connection between patient and doctor is integral to recovery and that, “spirituality is essential to all of medicine and healthcare”.

So, what now? If you are interested in developing spirituality, whether you are religious or not, practicing meditation is a great first step. It doesn’t have to take hours, and you don’t have to sit cross-legged on a carpet chanting, “Ohm”. Just 10 minutes of meditation daily can help us check in and reflect. You can find guided meditations on the Wellspring website. Silent contemplation is a luxury worth prioritising amongst the information overload of the 21st century; it’s a form of Self Love.

Increasing spirituality through meditation rouses a feeling of inner peace. Whether we believe that inner peace comes from a connection to God, oneself or some other energy, the effects of sustained practice are undeniable. While it may not provide all the answers to the meaning of life, it’s a great place to start.

Spirituality is a broad term and has different connotations for different people. The overarching principle is growing an awareness of oneself and one’s place in the world, expanding consciousness and ultimately promoting the common good. You can do that alone or as part of religious practice.

Philosopher Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Perhaps now is a good time to examine your own life, beliefs and spirituality.

 

On her recent Australian tour, hosted by Maggie Dent, registered child psychologist and founder of Wishing Star Lapointe Developmental Clinic, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe disclosed her ultimate formula for parenting. Offspring shares her advice.

If you’ve ever wished your baby came with an instruction manual, you are not alone. Parenting can be overwhelming and there’s so much conflicting advice it’s hard to know how to best parent your children. Thankfully, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe dispels common myths in her guide to laying a healthy foundation for the baby and toddler years, Parenting Right From the Start. She asserts that there is a way to successfully navigate the struggles of parenthood whilst fostering a sense of wellbeing in your children. It’s all down to a simple parenting formula:

1 – Make sense of who you are

2 –  Understand your child’s needs

3 –  Step in.

Let’s break it down step by step:

1- Making sense of who you are

Dr. Vanessa Lapointe makes it clear that you will parent as you were parented. This means you need to assess your own upbringing and evaluate the parenting patterns that dominated your own childhood.

Typically, these are not comfortable revelations. However, Dr. Lapointe is quick to point out that all parents do the best with the tools they have – in the era in which they were parenting. She argues that most adults these days will have been parented according to ‘behaviourist’ principles.

This way of parenting was focused on manipulating a child into behaving well. This was because ‘good’ behaviour was considered equal to ‘good’ parenting. You can still hear the hangover from this style of parenting in today’s parenting pop culture: How often do you hear, “Good boy” or “Good girl”? Often, strategies such as ‘consequences’ were devised to encourage children to adhere to the rules.

One such strategy is the principle of a time-out. In a time-out, a child is removed from a situation because they are behaving poorly. It’s the equivalent of making a child stand in the corner. The parent does not make eye contact, the parent does not give the child their voice and instead removes all connection. The problem with this model is that the most important thing for a developing child is connection.

Reward charts do not fare much better. Dr Lapointe is quick to point out that a sparkly gold sticker might be great to praise a particular behaviour, but the flip-side is it quickly becomes the ‘not-star chart’ meaning that all other behaviours do not get a star and so the child feels punished.

So traditionally we have coerced our children into ‘behaving’ by removing the one thing they need the most: connection. These old methods do usually get results, at least at first, but Dr. Lapointe cautions that it comes at a cost. To highlight this point, Dr. Lapointe refers to the ‘still face experiment’ where a mother engages with her baby as she would at home, before turning and clearing her face of all emotion. When she turns back to the baby she has a completely ‘still’ face. She has disconnected. It’s not easy to watch. The baby becomes very distressed until the mother re-engages and connects.

Thankfully, Dr Lapointe says, “Now, we know better”.  By understanding and making sense of who we are, we are in a better position to parent differently.

2 – Understand your child’s needs

The second part of the parenting formula involves understanding your child’s individual needs, and not setting the bar too high.  Most children need time to develop and grow. If we choose to rush childhood in order to make our lives easier, it can have a long-lasting negative impact.

Dr. Lapointe highlights our need to grow children who are capable and independent without stopping to consider what is really age appropriate. She likens this rush to pulling on the top of a plant. A plant will not grow faster or better if you are pulling on the top of it; instead this will uproot it and cause damage. It’s the same with child development.

One area that parents are keen to rush (for obvious reasons) is sleep training. Sleep training is a key area of tension, conflict and comparison among new parents. Many new mums find themselves sneaking the cot back into the main bedroom or cuddling their child to sleep every night but feeling guilty that the child will never learn to ‘self-soothe’. Dr Lapointe reassures new mums that being attentive and fostering that intimate relationship with your new baby is absolutely the right thing to do. Babies who feel loved, connected, safe and secure will develop as nature intended and will eventually learn to settle on their own when the conditions are right.

She suggests that sleep training is in fact for adults. It is adults who need to learn to create the right environment for a secure and settled child, everything else will follow on if they have the number one thing that all children need: connection.

 

All children progress through various stages of brain development as they grow. Psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld shines a light on the way children make sense of their relationships and how parents can tune in to support them:

Year One

The attachment relationship is understood in sensory terms: Babies want to taste, touch and smell you.

Year Two

In the second year of life children add to their sense of attachment through sameness. They want to see the similarities between you e.g. Mummy likes apples just like me!

Year Three 

A child makes sense of attachment in their third year through as sense of belonging and loyalty. They are likely to become very possessive at this age e.g “My Mummy!’ A secret handshake and saying, “My boy” or “My girl” will help a child of this age feel connected.

Year Four

This year a child wants to feel significant. They want to feel that they matter.  Typically they will show you every drawing they do, seeking attention and to feel important. Try to give them this attention and stay one step ahead by thinking of ways to show them they are special.

Year Five

The feeling of love truly resonates at this age. Expect lots of drawings of love hearts! Reciprocate this new feeling of love to help your child feel connected to you at this age.

Year Six

Although falling in love with you seems like the most profound connection, in their sixth year they will feel truly known. They understand that every aspect of them (the good, the bad and the ugly) can shine through in the restful knowledge that all will be accepted.

3- Step in.

This is about being the parent. Offspring recently shared a free excerpt from Dr. Lapointe’s new book in which she discusses ‘parental swagger’. This is about being ‘large and in charge’ whilst being respectful of what your child needs you to be in any given moment. Children need to know that you’ve got this.

Dr. Lapointe describes the parenting mountain, where every parent wants to sit at the peak and enjoy the spectacular views.  The problem is that it is easy to slide off of this peak and fall down one of the sides: Either down a bullying, emotionally distant and disconnected slope or conversely down an overly kind, pandering and ‘jellyfish’ slope.

The first slope sees us so determined to enforce rules that we forget to connect with our children. It is the remnants of the behaviourist parenting theories. However, the other side is no better. This side sees you reluctant to maintain control and be in charge, it sees you lacking ‘parental swagger’ and is equally harmful for child development.

What your child needs, at any stage of development, is a balance of both. Everyone has off days but if you can provide an environment where your child feels seen, heard and connected to you then you are on the right track.

Your child needs to be able to lean on you as they navigate their childhood. If you are yelling at them or shaming them for behaviour you don’t like, are they likely to want to lean in to you and to show you their most loving side? No, of course not.

Conversely, if you agree to everything they ask and let them do as they please, are they going to feel that you are strong enough to guide them through life’s challenges? No, they won’t.

So what does parenting ‘right’ really look like?

Let’s use the formula on a real-life scenario:

Imagine your child is having a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket because you won’t let them have a cookie right before dinnertime.

1- Making sense of who you are

In this case you need to check in to understand your response to their meltdown. Are you feeling stressed about the judging eyes of other people around you? Do you feel like you just want to give in to make this behaviour stop so you won’t be embarrassed?

Acknowledging these feelings is the first step in being able to break the cycle so that you can parent better.

2 – Understand your child’s needs

No matter how old your child is, they need to be seen and heard. They need you to get down on their level and calmly tell them that you understand it’s disappointing that they got a ‘no’ when they were hoping for a ‘yes’. Disappointment is a tough emotion to regulate, and they need to learn these skills from you. Acknowledge your child’s emotional response. It’s a normal part of healthy development!

3 – Step in

Now step in with your parental swagger and be the parent. Use your ‘large and in charge’ voice to firmly reiterate that, “No, they cannot have a cookie before dinnertime”. Note that you do not have to justify yourself. Getting into a battle about whether or not they will eat their dinner is starting to have ‘jellyfish’ tendencies and is not helpful. Young children are not at a developmental age to rationalise consequences of eating a cookie now and its impact on their appetite. That’s your job.

Just step in and be the parent.

Cultivate an intimate relationship that is kind, caring and connected whilst maintaining a good degree of parental swagger. Do that most days? You’re getting it right.

Working from home is a perk of modern-day employment but what happens when you are forced to work at home for a prolonged period? How do you actually get anything done amid the chaos and detritus of everyday home life? Offspring shares some tried and tested tips.

In these strange and uncertain times, many parents find themselves working from home. In an effort to help stop the spread of the current outbreak of Coronavirus, some employers have closed offices or set up a roster for employees to work from home whilst others are choosing to self-isolate over health concerns.

It’s tempting to think that this will mean you can chill out in your pyjamas all day because really, what’s the point in getting dressed if no one will see you? However, the novelty is likely to wear off quickly.

Boost your productivity and mental health by following this advice:

 

  • Schedule time in your day for work – ideally when the kids are being cared for by someone else, and stick to your schedule.

 

  • Dress appropriately for work – you’ll feel more prepared for challenges and it will help you separate work from play.

 

  • Set up a work space – maybe a desk in your lounge room, or an office in the garage (or shed!) but make it practical and attractive so you’re happy to be there.

  • Start early – your morning can set the tone for the day. Getting up an hour early helps you to get ahead and be ready for when the kids get up.

 

  • Divide the chores between family members – this will help you to concentrate on work rather than using your time on household chores.

 

  • Sort out childcare – sharing childcare with your partner means you can still be there for your children but you can both get work done as well.

  • Equip yourself  – you probably need wireless internet, a laptop and a smartphone to allow you to work flexibly.

 

  • Use chat platforms such as Messenger or email rather than phone calls – that way no-one can hear your toddler yelling in the background!

 

  • Have a box of toys that’s available only when you’re working – pull it out when you need that extra half an hour. The novelty should keep little hands and minds busy!

And most importantly:

  • Take time to rest and reset.

If you are spending more time than usual at home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of always being available. It’s not selfish to take time out to recharge­ – maybe have a bath, curl up on your bed with a book or watch rubbish on TV. The housework can just wait.

If you have a little one starting school, it’s important to make the transition as smooth as possible – for both of you

Whether your child has been in organised day care five days a week, or has been at home with a parent, they are bound to feel nervous about the challenges of a new school. As a parent, you are also bound to feel apprehension about how they will settle in, or how you will manage the logistics of school drop off and pick up. Whatever you are concerned about, it’s normal! Below, we have compiled a list of top tips to make the transition as easy as A, B, C…

Getting ready for school:

 

Talk about school together.

Don’t push it, but encourage your child to talk about school. What do they think it will be like? What were their favourite parts of orientation? Is there anything they feel worried about? Take the time to have these conversations, being mindful not to dismiss or belittle their feelings whilst also not creating a lot of emotional fuss.

There are some great books which address the topic of starting school and many are available through the library.

Older siblings.

If you have older children, include them in the school preparations for their little brother or sister. It is hard for other children when they are not the centre of attention and including them makes everyone feel part of a team. Having a chat with older siblings about how they talk to younger ones about school is also a great idea. You don’t want your kindergarten child to be terrified by stories their big brother or sister told them!

Let your child wear their uniform and school shoes at home.

 When the big day arrives, you want your little one to be comfortable in their uniform. If it is familiar it will help them feel a little more secure during those first few days. Plus, you will get advance warning of any itchy labels or shoes that might rub.

Practise going to the toilet!

Even if your child has been successfully potty trained for many years, let them practice going to the toilet when they are wearing their uniform. This is especially important for boys who may not be familiar with the fastening on more formal school shorts. It’s also a good idea to pack a spare pair of pants and socks in their school bag just in case. Schools often have spare uniform, but having their own underwear to change into might comfort a child of they have an accident at school.

Use their lunchbox at home.

If you have bought a new lunchbox for your child to use at school, just make sure they are familiar with how to open it and they can manage it on their own. Children love to feel that they are ‘big’ and being able to open their lunchbox and packets by themselves is a great little confidence booster. That said, Kindergarten children will often eat lunch with a Year 6 buddy and so help will be readily available for those first few weeks.

Label their things!

 School is an opportunity to develop responsibility for possessions but it is likely to take some time. Label things that are easily lost like hats, jackets, drink bottles and lunchboxes. It’s up to you whether you choose to label uniform items like dresses, shirts and pants which they won’t be taking off but it is sensible to label shoes! Black school shoes look surprisingly similar when they are all piled up by the sandpit or in the corner of the classroom!

Pack the school bag together.

 It’s a good idea to get your child involved in packing the school bag as it builds a sense of responsibility. They won’t need much at first since most schools provide equipment, but your child is likely to be very excited to pack their sunhat and jacket as well as their lunchbox and drink bottle. Consider popping spare underwear in as well, and letting your child know it’s there. A little bottle of sunscreen is a great idea, and some schools allow children to personalise their bags with keyrings.

The big day:

The first morning of school.

Don’t rush. If that means setting your alarm an hour earlier then do that, but the likelihood is your child will be up early with nervous excitement. Stay calm and focused and get to school at a reasonable time – not too early and definitely not late! Try to get your child to eat a good breakfast, they may not each much lunch!

Take a picture!

Don’t forget to capture this iconic moment! Some parents like to take a picture of their child with a sign saying which year they are in or what they’d like to do when they grow up. You can buy custom signs, but a printed piece of paper works just as well.

Saying goodbye.

 Your child might be super keen to start school, or they may be more reserved and feeling nervous. The same goes for you! Whatever dynamic you are dealing with, make sure you say goodbye with a hug and a smile on your face. This shows your child that you are happy that they are starting school and reassures them that it will be ok and probably a lot of fun! 

What if my child doesn’t want me to leave?

It’s heartbreaking when a child cries and clings to you when it’s time to go in to school. Rest assured that Kindergarten teachers are experts at dealing with this and at helping your child to settle in to their new school.

Some people suggest sneaking out when your child is busy, but this has the potential to cause further separation anxiety and erode the trust between you and your child. The best thing you can do in this situation is get down on your child’s level and reassure them that they are going to be ok and you will be back to collect them in the afternoon. Make sure you give them a big hug and a smile before you leave them with their teacher. In a few minutes it is likely they will have calmed down and will be settled in the classroom engrossed in an activity – you might take longer to recover!

However you feel, don’t hover outside the classroom and try not to let your child see you if you are emotional. When children see that you are worried, it undermines their self-confidence as it sends the message that you think they cannot cope. Loitering around the classroom just drags out the separation process and prolongs the emotional upheaval. A swift, positive goodbye is the best way to give your child the opportunity to develop confidence and resilience.

After school:

Don’t overschedule.

 Your child will be exhausted during the first term of school, so be careful how much extra-curricular activity you schedule. Many schools suggest that Kindergarten children do not do any after school classes for the first term. Even if your child is enjoying school and is settling in well, they are still exerting a lot of effort to manage their emotions, social expectations and a steep academic learning curve throughout their school day. They may burst into tears after school and not know why. This is often tiredness and it happens to most Kindergarten children in the first term – it’s usually nothing to worry about!

Set up a sensible bedtime routine.

You may already have a solid bedtime routine, but giving it a little refresh after a long summer break is bound to lead to a happier household. Make sure you have set a sensible bedtime for your children and build in some time to wind down before it’s time to sleep. It won’t be long before home readers and homework has be to factored in so taking some time now to cement your routine will be well spent.

Screens stimulate children and using them in the hour before bed can make it hard for them to fall asleep, so turn them off in plenty of time. Try to include some time for a chat before bed or to enjoy a book together if you can.

Questions to ask instead of  ‘How was your day?’ 

Ask any child how their day was and you are likely to get a one word answer: Good. Since you probably want more information than that, here are a few ideas of some questions that might spark a conversation:

  • What was your favourite part of today?
  • What did you learn today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch?
  • What didn’t you like today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • Did anything funny happen at school today?

However you and your child are feeling about school it is bound to cause some challenges. Whether this is the first child you are sending off to school or your fourth, it is often a bittersweet moment for parents as they say goodbye to the preschool years and embark on the primary school journey. It is indeed the end of an era, but it’s also the start of a really exciting one.

Good luck!

Karenna Wood, founder of Your Fertility Hub, shares her secret to success and opens up about the reality of being an ordinary mum and an entrepreneurial business owner. From an office in her shed to chasing rogue prams down the street, nothing will stop her on her mission to break the taboo around the silent heartbreak of infertility.

Your Fertility Hub is designed to get people talking about fertility. According to Karenna, infertility affects up to one in six families; she calls this the silent heartbreak.

“It’s still a taboo,” she says, “there’s still a stigma and no-one is talking about this. There’s research to show that those going through infertility have the same levels of stress, anxiety and depression as people with a terminal illness. It is that serious.”

Karenna, 35, and her husband, Lee, emigrated to Perth from England in 2011. They now have three children: Isla (6), Ellie (4) and Jack (10 months). Her background in Childbirth Education, HypnoBirthing, HypnoFertility and as a Fertility Coach since 2012 has given her direct insight to the consequences of infertility. Karenna’s altruistic nature is evident in the very foundation of Your Fertility Hub, which came from a desire to support other women when they feel emotionally drained by this condition.

“I’ve seen how dangerous it is when we compare ourselves with others. We need to be real, and we need to be vulnerable.”

“Too often the focus is solely on medical reasons for infertility, but mental health and stress is so important in understanding this condition,” Karenna says. Her wealth of knowledge is evident as she discusses how stress hormones are produced in the same part of the body as reproductive hormones.

“So if you’re stressed,” she says, “your body goes into survival mode and thinks it’s not the right time to conceive—and it’s the same with birth too. Your body doesn’t do what it’s naturally designed to do.” Karenna is clearly fascinated by this link and she’s keen to get women talking about fertility as it’s an issue which so many still shy away from.

“Infertility is a temporary situation. It feels permanent but it is temporary. There is a way to become a parent if you keep going.”

Through Your Fertility Hub, launched in 2017, Karenna has coached 121 women and says that receiving those pregnancy messages and baby pictures is “just the best”. Her passion is evident as she says, “It’s so special and such a privilege to be with these women and I feel so close to these families that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. And what’s so important is that infertility is a temporary situation. It feels permanent but it is temporary. There is a way to become a parent if you keep going. I am the luckiest person in the world to do this job and it lifts my soul.”

Karenna explains, “It’s heartbreaking when everyone around you is getting pregnant but I’ve seen how dangerous it is when we compare ourselves with others.  We need to be real, and we need to be vulnerable. That goes for all women.”

The aim of Your Fertility Hub is not just to help individuals but also to educate society at large to be more sensitive. She says, “People think it’s ok to ask women when they will hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet. I’ve had clients literally run out of the bread aisle of Coles because they can’t bear that conversation.”

It may come as a surprise to learn that Karenna does not have her own fertility story. She candidly reveals that she felt like a fraud when she first started out in this industry, “I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Everyone else had suffered through infertility and could share personal experience. I just couldn’t get out of my own head.” It was her sister that reframed the situation saying, “You don’t choose a heart surgeon because they’ve had heart surgery. You go to them because they have the knowledge and skills you need.”

Learning from her many clients, Karenna has developed an abundance of wisdom in this area. She has found, “For me it works better because I’m not trying to compare my story and fit in with them. And it’s not about going backwards and dwelling, it’s about being positive and moving forwards.”

This is a lesson that Karenna has put into practice in her own life. She has been supported by her husband who pointed out that everyone starts somewhere. She recalls his encouragement at the beginning, “He said, ‘There you are. You have one Instagram follower, now you have eight, now ten.’” Karenna now has more than 1,000 Instagram followers. “So, she says, “for any mums out there who are thinking they couldn’t do what I do, don’t compare my middle to your beginning. Just give it a go, because you never know until you try.”

Your Fertility Hub has grown from humble beginnings, “When I started out, I made a space in my shed that I literally had to climb into. It looked great on camera, but I was surrounded by boxes. Too often we see images on social media which aren’t real. I’m a hot mess most of the time, but you don’t see that part of it when you are comparing yourself to others.”

“It’s hard with the baby as well”, she says, “ The other day I’d done the school run and got the baby back in the car. Then I’m driving off and on a call with a client in New York and there’s my pram, rolling down the street next to me because I’ve forgotten to put it back in the car! Argh!” she laughs.

Karenna says, “Juggling it all is a daily battle, basically. I work early in the morning and late at night. When I try to work when the kids are around, it doesn’t work. But it’s about snatching bits of time and valuing my business enough to get childcare when I need it, even if the business isn’t paying at that point. And to put effort in to the stuff around the edges, like the social media, that isn’t necessarily the service that you offer but it’s important.”

With no extended family in Perth, being organised and using available tools helps Karenna to manage the day-to-day aspects of motherhood whilst running a home and a business, “I’ve got a two-week meal plan and I get the food delivered direct to my bench. That, and I use childcare when I need it.

“Both my girls will be in school from February so it will be working around five nap times and how much work I can get done whilst Jack is sleeping. I often get to the end of the day and I’m crying because I’m over-tired and I feel like I’ve failed the kids because I’ve been saying ‘just a minute, just a minute’ all day and I think, God, I could have done that better. Like all mums do.”

Karenna’s authenticity is tangible as she is honest about the challenges of being a Mumpreneur. However she doesn’t value self-pity saying, “I’ve got a little phrase stuck up in my kitchen which says, ‘Tomorrow is a new day. Try again.’” It’s in line with her philosophy for fertility treatment as she reiterates the benefit of building yourself back up and then moving forward. To do this in business, Karenna advises, “Find your tribe. You don’t have that water cooler chat, but it’s important to have a support network of other mums doing the same as you.”

“I do have those crazy days where I just think this would be so much easier if I just worked in an office!”

After a bad night with the kids, Karenna has a good cry in the shower and then gives herself a slap before focusing on gratitude in her journal, “Writing changes how you think about things. And being grateful for where you are right now means you are starting from a better start point. Just go outside and feel the sun on your face; notice the little things.”

Karenna is grateful that she gets to be there for sports days and swimming carnivals saying, “That’s what’s important to me. I do have those crazy days where I just think this would be so much easier if I just worked in an office! Then I wouldn’t have to work late tonight and be kept awake wondering about Pinterest…but then I couldn’t be there in my kid’s lives the way I want to be.” Joking about the challenges of motherhood aside, it is abundantly clear that Karenna’s family is everything to her. And she wants to bring that joy to other women across Australia and the world.

When considering the future of Your Fertility Hub, Karenna smiles, “An App is coming soon. This will include a monthly membership where people get even more support and contact with me. The next step is gaining pre-registrations so that I can launch the App.

“I’ve got big dreams and I’m going to find a way to make them happen. I want to be able to show my family that you can do what you love, and follow your passion, even if it doesn’t work the first time.”

As Karenna forges ahead with attitude and passion, further success seems imminent for her– and for hundreds more women on their fertility journey.

Photos courtesy of @ALEISHALIEBEZEIT_

 

Preparing for a baby is so exciting, but it can also be mind-boggling when faced with so many options. Offspring to the rescue! Here’s the only guide you’ll need to be ready for your new arrival…

Before baby arrives:

  • Maternity clothes are a must have. It won’t be long before undoing that top button just won’t cut it!
  • Invest in good quality maternity bras — mastitis (blocked milk ducts) can be caused by ill-fitting ones.
  • Take care of yourself using skincare products specially designed for mums and bubs.
  • Book a maternity and newborn photo shoot. This is a great way to commemorate this special time in your life.
  • Consider taking a plaster cast of your pregnant belly! It can be decorated and hung on the wall of the nursery.

Start thinking about the birth:

How you choose to give birth is a personal decision. If this is your first baby, it’s natural to feel apprehensive. If you’ve had a baby before, you may feel upset and anxious if your previous birth didn’t go to plan, or you may even be looking forward to the birth! Many women say birth is a natural and enjoyable experience.

However you are feeling, it’s normal. Take some time to research your options:

  • Will you give birth in hospital or at home? Home birth is legal in Australia with a registered midwife or obstetrician.

 

  • What pain relief options have you considered? No doubt you’ll have heard about an epidural which is a spinal injection to make your lower half numb, but there are other options like gas and air (laughing gas), pethidine injection (related to morphine) or using a TENS machine (to stimulate nerves in the lower back).

 

  • Who would you like to be present? Most women choose to have their partner present, but some also choose to have another support person such as their mum, sister or close friend.

 

  • How about a water birth? Many claim water birthing is relaxing and eases pain.

 

  • Have you thought about hiring a doula? A doula is a (non-medical) trained professional who offers support throughout labour and birth.

 

If you plan to go to hospital, get your bag ready early.

“Everyone has a different experience of birth.

Try not to get stressed if things don’t go to plan”

What to pack for hospital:

  • Paperwork – maternity notes, medicare card and birth plan.
  • Old nightie or T-shirt – and maybe a dressing gown.
  • Socks – feet get cold during labour.
  • Lip balm – particularly if you plan to use gas and air.
  • Your toiletries, toothbrush and glasses/contact lenses.
  • Hair ties.
  • Snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up.
  • Something to distract you and help pass the time  – maybe an iPad loaded with your favourite shows.
  • Maternity and breast pads.
  • Old underwear.
  • Newborn nappies – disposable are best for hospital.
  • Baby onesies.

 

Travelling with baby:

 You will want to show your baby off to the world at the first opportunity, but it is sensible to limit visitors and outings for a little while. You will be exhausted after the birth, and those first few days getting to know each other are precious – enjoy your little baby bubble!

  • Car restraint

Newborns must be in a rear-facing seat which conforms to Australian standards. Consider having it professionally fitted and buy new for safety. You might like to hire a baby capsule since newborns grow so fast although some seats can accommodate newborns to four year olds. There are also capsules that lift out of the car and click straight onto your pram which can be very helpful when baby is asleep!

  • Pram

Take your time choosing the right pram. Test drive them! Practice putting the pram up and down and don’t forget to check it will fit in your car boot. If you plan on having more children, consider a pram that can take a second seat.

  • Baby carrier

Babies love to be held and a baby carrier means they can be close whilst you still have your hands free.

  • Nappy Bag

There are so many stylish options available. It’s a good idea to choose a purpose made nappy bag as they often come with a portable change mat, bottle insulator and a zip-close pouch for storing your valuables.

Setting up the nursery:

  • Bassinet and Cot

Many babies spend the first few months in a bassinet close to mum. This makes those night feeds a lot easier! Another option is co-sleeping and there are cots that attach to the side of your bed if this suits your family. Make sure you buy a new mattress if you opt for a second hand cot.

 

  • Changing space

Set up an area with a mat, fresh nappies and wipes, plus a nappy disposal bin for convenience.

  • Nappies

There are lots of great re-useable nappies out there. They save money in the long run and are better for our planet – Win! Win!

  • Feeding chair and pillow

A reclining glider chair can be your saviour if you are struggling through night feeds or to settle a distressed baby. A nursing pillow will save your neck and back too.

  • A baby monitor

Put your mind at ease and invest in a monitor. Some have video option so you can see as well as hear your sleeping bub. There is also a heart rate monitor option which can help decrease the risk of SIDS.

Helping older siblings adjust:

It can be challenging for existing children to accept a new arrival. Choose how to break the news carefully. They may not be as delighted as you are. Depending on the age of the child, sharing a book about a new baby is a nice way to introduce the idea.

Let children be involved in preparing for the baby. Maybe they could help paint the nursery, help wash their old baby clothes ready to give their new brother or sister, or even be involved with choosing a name!

Once baby makes an appearance, consider getting a gift from the new baby to their sibling as a way to encourage a bond. Also, try to ask visitors to acknowledge the new big brother or sister before they fuss over the baby.

Baby clothes:

Lots of people gift baby clothes so it’s up to you how many outfits you buy, but looking at baby clothes for the first time is particularly exciting. Enjoy!

  • Onesies

Size 0000 and 000 fit newborns. Buy more than you think you will need and get a variety of styles such as long sleeved and short sleeved. Some also have scratch mitts incorporated.

  • Cute outfits

It’s nice to have one or two little outfits – but be aware babies grow quickly

Feeding time:

Breastfeeding gives your baby the best nutrition, boosts the immune system and is sterile and convenient. However, if breastfeeding is not possible for you, don’t beat yourself up! There are lots of different formula options available so accept the situation and enjoy time with your beautiful bub.

  • Formula and bottles

Buy a couple of different formulas, bottles and teats – your baby may not like the first one you try. It’s sensible to have some on hand even if you plan to breastfeed. Babies are unpredictable and you will be more relaxed (and probably more successful) knowing you always have a back-up available.

  • Steriliser

This is the best way to keep your bottles germ-free.

“Feeding time is a great time to bond with your baby

– whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed”

  • Breastfeeding cover

If you plan to breastfeed, you might like to buy a cover (a bit like an apron) for when you’re out and about. That way you can breastfeed anywhere without compromising your modesty.

  • Breast pump

It’s a good idea to have a breast pump too – electric ones are the easiest. This way you can pump and have spare milk to use if you get sick and need to go on medication, or if you need to be away from your baby for a while.

Bath time:

  • Baby bath

Buying a small tub to put inside your bath or shower saves water and makes bath time quick and easy, but you can also use your sink!

 

  • Toiletries

Invest in good quality nappy rash cream, shampoo and body wash specifically designed for babies. There are a lot of harsh chemicals in some products.

Other essentials:

  • Muslin cloths

There are many beautiful designs out there for this multi-use item. These can be used to swaddle baby, drape over a pram for shade or even to mop up baby vomit – it’ll happen!

  • Baby thermometer

There’s nothing worse than being up in the middle of the night trying to decide if your baby has a fever.

Top Tips

You can often borrow baby items from friends or family – don’t be afraid to ask around.

Search for second hand items online – you can save a lot on your big ticket items that way!

Your baby will grow faster than you think, consider preserving those tiny fingers and toes by creating a plaster model from a kit. When they grow up, they won’t believe how little they used to be!

Jennifer says, ‘it’s a dream come true’

Aussie sweetheart and former Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins, recently gave birth to beautiful Frankie Violet Hawkins Wall.

Jen and husband Jake Wall describe their first baby as a ‘dream come true’. They are delighted to finally have a healthy baby girl in their arms after Jennifer suffered a miscarriage and was diagnosed with Stage 4 Endometriosis. Speaking to Stellar magazine, Jen revealed that this tragedy almost ‘broke her’.

 

Now though, Jen has been quick to praise the staff at Sydney’s Mater Hospital saying,

‘The whole maternity ward and midwives were so incredible, we can’t thank you enough! We had a beautiful experience’.

Proud dad, Jake, claims he’s ‘already wrapped around Frankie’s little finger’.

We can’t wait to see more!

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your never-ending to-do list, read on to discover how to take control of your life…

As a parent, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed at times. There is so much to do and remember: fill in the school permission note, buy a costume for dress up day, help with maths homework, buy more (lactose free) milk, wash sports uniform, check for nits, check again for nits, book a dentist appointment, buy a present to take to the party this weekend…

And that’s before you add in work meetings, emails and conference calls. So how do you keep on top of it all? Introducing….. The Bullet Journal!

This is actually a method of organisation, developed by Ryder Carroll six years ago, using a paper-based journal. This might seem a bit backward in today’s digital age but there is something very reassuring about having everything written down in a hardback book.

 

The analogue method for the digital age. It’s a way to ‘track the past, organise the present, and plan for the future’ – Ryder Carroll

Here’s how it works:

1 – Take a blank dotted journal such as the Leuchtturm 1917 brand

2 – Use rapid logging symbols to show tasks, notes and events for each day.

3 – Have fun creating your customised pages!

See this 5 minute tutorial:  https://bulletjournal.com/pages/learn

You can use it in the same way as a traditional diary/journal, you can add grids to track habits, you can create master lists of housekeeping chores, meal plans, birthdays, exercise schedules, holiday plans, whatever YOU need in your life. The idea is that it is all together in one place for easy access. Psychologists suggest this practice creates peace of mind and also makes you more efficient!

There really is no right or wrong way to use a bullet journal. It can even serve as a creative outlet as it offers an opportunity to draw and doodle.

For parents, it is helpful to be able to see a whole week at a glance (although you can draw your journal up as you like). Bullet journalling means you can see where your days are going to be busy and plan accordingly – maybe it’s takeaway food that night? It’s a place to quickly jot things down or to create an artistic masterpiece. Type #bulletjournal or #bujo into Instagram for inspiration. But don’t be put off – your bullet journal doesn’t need to be a work of art, it just needs to be functional!

It may be helpful to carry the journal with you or to simply add things to the calendar on your phone, or to-do app and copy them across each night/each weekend for the upcoming week. You make it work for you and your lifestyle.

 

Sometimes self-care means putting in a bit more effort to make a change. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by life, it may be worth giving bullet journaling a go!

And his name has a special meaning to her…

We are delighted to congratulate our cover star, Lucy Durack, 36, and her husband, Australian entertainer, Chris Horsey, 47, on the arrival of baby Theodore Lindsay Durack Horsey, born last month weighing 3.78kg.

Four year old big sister Polly is super proud of the latest addition, nicknamed Little Ted.

Speaking to New Idea Magazine, Lucy says,

“We’re just in this little bubble now where it’s all about Theodore – changing him, feeding him and cuddling him. I just want to relish this time.”

When asked about his middle name, Lucy revealed Lindsay is actually her grandad’s name.

Lucy won’t have long to adjust to life as a mum of two — she is due to start rehearsals for Shrek: The Musical  this month! You can read more about the wonderful Lucy Durack in our latest cover story.