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How can journaling support us during motherhood?

In the following blog article Laura, one of our Breastfeeding Counsellors, shares how she has used journaling on her own journey through motherhood.


If you'd like to try out creative journaling, we are running four Maternal Journal sessions throughout March 2024 - come join us! You can book here.


Laura has been supporting new parents in Tunbridge Wells since 2015, and is one of the founding directors of Baby Umbrella Charity.


 

I am very excited to be running four taster Maternal Journal groups for Baby Umbrella. Journaling has been a huge support to me throughout my motherhood journey, and I can’t wait to share the benefits with you through these groups.


When I first became a mother, I didn’t have any experience of journaling at all, but after a difficult birth with my first baby I had a strong urge to write my story down. Looking back, it’s hard to understand how I managed to find the time in those crazy few weeks, but write I did. It was a difficult, emotional process, and there were a lot of tears shed, however getting my birth story onto paper seemed to help me put it into some kind of order in my head. Somehow it helped and I felt lighter.


I didn’t do much more writing in that first year of motherhood, apart from a simple diary of milestones my baby met. When I look back now, it’s mostly about how little she slept, how many different things I did to try to make her sleep, and feeling like I’d failed through not doing things 'right'. I wish I had known then what I know now about sleep, and how little control we really have over when, how, and for how long our babies sleep in those early weeks, months, and years.


I had another difficult birth with my second baby and again, spent time in the first weeks of his life writing to help me to process it. At this time I was also training as a Breastfeeding Counsellor and this really encouraged me to do some more reflective writing. Developing a reflective practice is a key part of Breastfeeding Counsellor training, however we also spent quite a bit of time exploring our personal experiences of feeding our babies, the transition to motherhood, and the change in our identities that motherhood had brought. We were encouraged to share these reflections, writing, drawings and photographs with our group of trainees, and I found this process incredibly powerful and validating.


The huge changes and challenges that accompanied the first few years of having young children led to constant reflection for me. Breastfeeding and being nap-trapped for hours each day meant that I had a lot of time to ponder things and often I would turn to my phone notes and write. Sometimes it was unstructured streams of consciousness, sometimes a scribbly drawing or a photo on my phone, at times I was drawn to use a kind of poetic structure, I tried to just write or draw and not think too much. I found that this enabled me to get to the kernel of my feelings, helped me to switch off my thinking brain and really feel into how things were impacting me.


I wrote regularly during my third pregnancy, an anxious one for various reasons. The knowledge that this was to be my third and final baby made me want to savour every moment. When she arrived, I was much more able to accept the chaos, the overwhelm and the loss of control than with my first two babies. I was able to surrender more to the process of unravelling and being remade by her. And I was more accepting of the joy, the anger, the overwhelm, the frustration and the grief that comes in waves during motherhood.


I felt very creative during this phase of my life, I had so much to say. I was awed by my children, overcome with love and connection, overwhelmed by the logistical complexities of motherhood, frustrated by the gender inequality that I never saw pre-babies, and bored at times with the relentlessness and repetitiveness and challenge of it all. I have no doubt that writing enabled me to process all the myriad changes that were happening during my journey through motherhood.


Now my children are at school and I’m working more hours outside of the home, it’s harder to find the stillness to reflect and be creative. But I know it’s a tool that I can come back to whenever I need it, because the changes of early motherhood don’t stop when your children start school! As mothers, we are constantly transitioning from one phase to the next, looking with joy to the future, with grief (and sometimes relief) to the past, and of course trepidation for the unknown.


Maternal Journal is such a brilliant introduction to creative journaling and reflection during motherhood. In these small groups of mothers, something very special can happen. The validation of being seen, which is so rare in motherhood. The time to consider the bigger picture, again so rare when as mothers we are used to living from moment to moment and responding to everyone else’s needs. The security of a group of mothers who understand, safe in the knowledge that our journeys, while different, often overlap and intersect in unpredictable ways. Hearing someone else’s story, comparing and contrasting to our own, and most of all feeling not alone.


If you’d like to get involved, I’d love to see you at one of our upcoming groups in March. And I very much hope that we will be able to continue those groups in the longer term too. Watch this space!


With love for anyone out there navigating this rollercoaster journey, Laura




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