For too long, men - fathers, sons and brothers - have learnt that it’s better to suppress than express. Emotions, especially vulnerable ones, have been tightly wrapped up in our high-vis shirts and deemed ‘too weak, too feminine or too sensitive’.
Understandably, cultural issues have played a role in this experience. Generations of men being absent through the impact of war and work have taken a toll. Under-fathered boys have been taught through the rough and tumble of homes and schools that to survive you have to be tough, strong and competitive. The old adage that ‘being vulnerable is being weak’ still pervades.
It’s an interesting time for men. We are deconstructing ourselves through our desires to be more nurturing and present in our families, whilst feeling bookended by the essential needs of our woman and community to be healthy and non-violent. Somewhere in this mix, we’re pioneering a new wave of masculinity, and we need too.
In my experience, many men are isolated. Men can seem to lose sight of their friendships and networks either through being too shutdown or too overwhelmed. And yet, Most men I meet desire more connection; more time together outside of the pub, where they can unwind the layers of conditioning and find our core. Working with men and on my own masculinity for over 15 years, the future is clear, claiming our vulnerability becomes obvious. And why not? It take a good dose of manly traits to to do a full suite of our emotions. Courage, strength, determination, focus, to name a few. Men can bring all of their masculinity to their vulnerability. I know, I’ve learnt through my own journey the cost of suppression and the impact this can have on my health, relationships and work life.
So where do we start? Courage. It’s all about taking a risk really. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone and dialling a friend. Trying something other than the beer and BBQ culture, like kicking a footy around, hitting a bike trail or meeting on the beach. Sometimes, it’s about telling your partner something more about what we are feeling other than ‘i’m frustrated, tired or i don’t know’. And sometimes it not that simple. Because we may need to upgrade some skills, build some more resources and ultimately get ourselves a better emotional tool kit. We may need to rely on not only our courage, but also our determination, making those appointments to see a health professional or joining a group with other men who are also wanting transformation. And of course, we need focus. A focus to not give up, to push past the inevitable uncertainty. To find the strength to stand in the fire, face the fear and find a new version of our manhood.
In essence, I'm talking about connection. When I really look into my needs, I keep facing the realisation that there is a power in sharing my experience, where I can be seen and can belong in a more real version of myself. As men, when we can create these more intimate connections, we can start to action a transformation of our masculinity, healing the past generations of wounded men, and raising boys and girls that know men can have a heart and a backbone.
Check out my latest podcast “The Strength in Vulnerability” below.
Author and podcast producer: Sean Tonnet. You can also check out Sean's other podcasts here.
A new year's gift to Mothers everywhere.
In this episode of Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, we are speaking with Dr Marion Rose, passionate about supporting mothers and babies, Marion’s unique methods have helped thousands of families in feeling more connected, compassionate, present and loving in their relationships.
Supporting women to reconnect with their true loving nature as a mother
and supporting mothers in helping their child stay connected with their connected, compassionate and cooperative self form the bedrock of her work.
Marion has a 30 year background in developmental psychology and psychospiritual psychotherapy, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. She has been a University Research Fellow in infant development and has taught The Therapeutic Relationship to M.A. students.
Through her work, she has been supporting mothers with pregnancy, birth and parenting since 2001, becoming an Aware Parenting Instructor in 2005. Marion has two children a 16 year old daughter and an 11 year old son and is a sister mother to two beautiful twins.
First aired on 99.9BayFM in Byron Bay, Australia on December 17th, 2018.
Produced and presented by Annalee Atia with Guest Dr Marion Rose.
For more information about Marion's work head to www.marionrose.net
Contemporary Conversations where Stories, Science, Traditions and New Ideas meet.
Copyright PBB Media, Annalee Atia and Dr Marion Rose 2018
This month we feature a special article from Dr John Travis, MD, whose career has had him realise "the currency of wellness is connection". Here he speaks on the strains that can emerge with family during the emotionally charged festive season, and how we can see these as opportunities for growth.
It’s the people closest to you that can drive you nuts—especially with the increased contact during so-called festive times. Not only might you painfully compare yourself with the culture’s idealised relationships promoted by the media and Facebook, but the increased time that you’re getting reflections of your own shadow from those closest to you can be taxing.
A key concept in wellness is “owning your projections will increase your connections.”
Owning our projections requires confronting the deeply embedded cultural conditioning that we carry from early infancy. We are conditioned to find someone/thing to blame for our problems, along with suppressing our inner feelings. Deconditioning ourselves is the ultimate test of resilience, and relies on our recently discovered neuroplasticity.
Owning our projections is the key to taking full responsibility for ourselves and experiencing more self-love. It’s also a great shame-voider.
Our shadow contains the opposite of all of those qualities that we define ourselves to be (“a caring person,” “a careless person,” etc.). “Within the appearance is its opposite.”
We project both our dark shadow (criticising/blaming), and our light shadow (admiring/idolising) and until we own every aspect of ourselves, light and dark, we’ll continue to project them onto others, thereby decreasing our ability to connect. Thus learning to “eat” of our shadow brings liberation from shame and greater connection.
The Five-Minute Relationship Repair--SusanCampbell.com
Re-evaluation Counseling (Co-counseling)--RC.org
For more exploration of our shadows, and how to deal with them, catch our interview with Dr John Travis in this podcast (below).
We also spoke with Dr Travis earlier this year about how our shadows can show up during times of enormous personal change, such as when a baby arrives. Catch that interview here (below).
Earlier this week NSW Health published an online survey "Maternity care in NSW: What's important for you?" for families who had had a baby in the past 10 years. On their Facebook page NSW Health stated they are "reviewing the maternity care policy and want to hear what’s most important in your experience".
The survey has sparked lots of interest in six days it has been out - in large part to the lack of the option of independent midwife in Question 8 for the type of care received.
While mother of three and consumer advocate from Tamworth NSW, Samantha Wibberley, agrees with this shortcoming, she sees a series of other problems with this survey that will limit the amount of information NSW Health stands to glean from its consumers.
Samantha and I exchanged these messages yesterday morning in between shopping and dropping kids off (my responses are in blue).
Samantha had a good mind to write an article "picking apart" the survey but in this fast-moving online world and three kids under six to juggle, how's a mum to get time for that?? I don't know how she does it all, but like her, I was keen to seize the moment, so we made time for a quick recorded chat yesterday afternoon about it to share with you now. (Click link below.)
Samantha has since added that she's really happy to see the "survey being shared with so many people and that consumers are actively engaging with NSW health and wanting to provide their feedback, I hope more women continue to do so and keep on demanding a service that meets their needs. We deserve that!"
She would also like to know if NSW Health had consulted with a advisory group with consumer reps when they developed the survey. I'd love to know that too!
Samantha has been advocating for the women of her region for 18 months now, since the closure of the Midwifery Group Practice at Tamworth in April 2018. She and the women of that region stepped up to have their voices heard and the MGP has been reinstated (in a manner of speaking) and a maternity services committee with consumer representation has been established to improve the services there.
You can connect with Samantha and her community's campaign at Friends of Tamworth Maternity Services in Facebook. You can also hear about the early part of Samantha's work in this podcast (which also features two other women's struggles with their local health services).
Our thanks to Samantha for sharing her thoughts and being willing to bring them to an open forum, and to NSW Health for starting the conversation! We'd love to engage with NSW Health more! We have much to be proud of with the quality of care that can be found within NSW Health, but they could do so much better with more consultation. And we'd love to help with that process.
If you have comments you'd love to share about your maternity care, or this survey, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Sally Cusack
This morning my sister sent me a #NICUAwarenessMonth video on social media (NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). It shows women with their premmie babies in the intensive care unit. The music is powerful and the words inspiring:
”This is not what you pictured... your baby surrounded by machines and wires... leaving the hospital empty-handed... But you are strong.. Because your baby needs you... To comfort them even when glass separates you... This journey is overwhelming... But you are adapting.”
Nine years ago I had a premmie baby. I had pre-eclampsia which resulted in my son being born two months early via emergency caesarean. He weighed 835 grams. We had gone for an impromptu check-up and didn’t come home for two months. Most of that time we spent in NICU. That baby has grown into a wise, creative, funny, resourceful, intelligent and beautiful little boy. We are so blessed.
And yet, as I sat at the table with my morning coffee, watching this video, tears poured down my cheeks. It caught me off guard. Again. This mountain of feeling - so mixed with grief, love, traumatic memories, gratitude, and even a bit of shock, all these years later. The endless helplessness and shock. The survivor guilt - so many people so much worse off. The babies that didn’t make it.
And I’ve done a lot of work on this already. Am accustomed to deep self enquiry.
So how to survive NICU?
My son is thriving. He has flourished since his first breath, though we all fought harder than we ever expected to. We focussed everything on him. That habit was hard to break. Time has offered its mellowing gift. Six years ago we had another beautiful son, also birthed in fairly dramatic fashion. These days we are getting on with the business of living. But it took quite a few years for us to find our feet. More than I expected. We were deeply impacted by all that happened, and there have been lots of challenges along the way.
When I think of that time, my greatest support is the bone deep certainty that we did everything we possibly could to create an environment in which our baby could thrive, despite the beeping machines, changes of staff and invasive procedures. We left nothing in the tank. From Kangaroo Cuddles to fierce advocacy. We held firm to our convictions around attachment parenting, despite the dominant culture.
This claiming of our parenting style in the midst of an environment less than conducive to an intimate connected family circle, helped to ensure our role in a setting where we could easily have felt extraneous. One of us was with our baby 24 hours a day, just as it would have been if we were home. I sang lullabies through the glass. We even put up little signs on the humidicrib asking people to speak respectfully to/about him. Some staff loved us, some not so much. For someone who is a bit of a people-pleaser, that was surprisingly OK. I let my Tiger-Mama do her thing when necessary. If we had listened to the dominant culture, then and later, there may have been a very different outcome.
In essence, we shaped the situation in any way we could, in a situation where so much was completely out of our control.
One of the offshoots now, is that other people’s opinions about our parenting don’t matter so much. Under the layers of shock, we found a deep sense of agency that has seen us through our parenting to date. We learned to trust ourselves and trust our kids.
I have come to see that the important question isn’t “How was the birth?” But rather, “How have you been transformed by motherhood or fatherhood?”
This processing of our experience has been hard-earned and is ongoing. There is a whole lot of isolation that comes from such an extra-ordinary experience. It’s not great coffee shop conversation. No-one really knows what to say to you. And it can be tricky to integrate into the “Mums and Bubs” set with such vastly different formative stories. I didn’t talk much to other people in the beginning. It was hard to reconcile my experience with what I presumed theirs had been. A surprising number of friends dropped away. I was so insular, both out of my own trauma and the reality of needing to protect my vulnerable baby. It seemed like there was no way anyone could connect with me in the enormity of all that had happened. And I was too exhausted and focussed on survival to try. I wish that I had kept talking, taking the risk to be heard, had kept going until I found the support I needed.
I’ve come to a place, finally, where I am ready to be heard. To be witnessed. For someone to stand present with everything I say and not feel compelled to compare it to something they’ve heard or experienced. To not try to make it better. Just to listen. I’ve discovered my own need to stop protecting other people from my story and to have the courage to just tell it. There’s a surprising amount of fresh air in the places left by the telling.
You can listen to Krishna's interview with Sally via this link below.
Mandala Diehl is director of Federal Children’s Community Centre in northern NSW and a childhood educator. Over years she watched an overrun piece of land grow thick with lantana and had a vision for change: she would create a living classroom – a bush tucker garden for the children to learn about nature, to appreciate nature and to be in nature.
Together with a local bush regeneration expert and the Widjibull elders (on whose land the garden stands) they created an astonishingly beautiful garden that thrives today. This is more than just a bushtucker garden. It’s a living, breathing classroom that teaches children about bush foods, plants and local animals. It also works to forge a bridge between the indigenous community and it’s white inhabitants.
People visit to sit in the beauty of it’s nature, they come to learn how to replant the native plants that belong to this region, and they begin to understand the impacts of working with the ecosystem of the Widjabul land. Animals are returning, the soil is nurtured and the community tie is strong.
Today anyone can enjoy the space; come together and learn about this living classroom.
Federal Community Children’s centre is also thriving. Under the nurturing care and tutelage of a bunch of remarkably passionate educators, each child’s individuality is celebrated. The kids spend swathes of each day outdoors in child-led play, and in this garden.
Come and visit sometime. It’s worth the short drive.
Author and Podcast Producer: Kimberley Lipschus
It is not our differences that divide us; it is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences.
Every human being on the planet is born an individual; there is not a finger print on a single hand that is the same. Yet, in 2018, we live in culture that holds a candle to conformity. When this becomes the dynamic, for those who are different, it can be a dangerous time to be on the planet.
Segregation, exclusion, judgement.
But what is it to feel different? Perhaps you live with a disability: physical, sensory, psychiatric, neurological, cognitive and intellectual. Others may feel they stand out for entirely different reasons – race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual persuasion. Even political beliefs can set someone apart.
Whatever the reason a person stands out from the crowd, no one deserves exclusion.
Everyone deserves to experience it’s opposite – inclusion.
Misa Alexander’s middle son, Hugo, lives with mild autism and an intellectual disability. In the playground Misa would watch other children regard his behaviours – which included shrieking and spinning - with curiosity. She watched her son’s exclusion from play, from friendships. She saw a trajectory of exclusion spreading out before her son and a fire ignited within her. It started with a flyer in the pockets of all parents in Hugo’s pre-school. This is my son, she told them. This is how he may act throughout the day, and this is why he acts this way.
It worked. The parents talked to their children and slowly, Hugo’s life of inclusion began.
But more was needed. She collaborated with author, Erin Knutt, and together they created Fergus and Delilah, which Misa illustrated. The book turned into a website, and the website became a tool kit that any school or educator can use.
Today Hugo attends a public school, and his mother is a full time Inclusion Advocate, not just for her son, but for anyone who stands out from the crowd.
Surely all of us should seek to stand out? Stand out for what we believe, for who we love and for who are. Teach our children to celebrate difference in others as well as themeselves. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have Misa proudly declare that she’s out of a job? We think so.
Author and Podcast Producer: Kimberley Lipschus
In this episode of Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, we are discussing Gratitude, Gathering and the power of storing positive experiences in building true resilience, a more positive outlook on life and a whole suite of additional benefits! Dr Lauren Tober, a Clinical Psychologist, Life Coach and Yoga Teacher based in the Byron Shire is with us in the studio, she is the founder of acclaimed photographic happiness project Capturing Gratitude and runs a heart-centred practice in Mullumbimby - the Centre for Mind Body Wellness, where a gorgeous array of practitioners supports individuals in the local community to lead a life of wholeness, happiness, health and authenticity. Listen to our celebration of World Gratitude Day, in the podcast below.
we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy
Join the Gratitude movement!
Capturing Gratitude is a global photographic happiness project founded by Clinical Psychologist Dr Lauren Tober, with the lofty goal of increasing worldwide happiness. The research is clear, a daily gratitude practice increases our physical and emotional health. And sharing our gratitude spreads the joy even wider. The idea behind Capturing Gratitude is simple. Pause throughout the day to take photographs of things you’re grateful for, then share them online to create a ripple effect around the world.
Dr Lauren Tober, a Clinical Psychologist, Yoga Teacher and Gratitude Photographer based in the small town of Mullumbimby Australia, stumbled upon gratitude photography by accident. After ditching her DSLR for her iPhone camera one day, Lauren started taking photos of things she was grateful for, just for fun. But Lauren felt the effects of this simple gratitude practice immediately. “I started radiating happiness almost right away” she says. “I thought gratitude photography would be a fun creative project, I had no idea the profound effect it would have on my own happiness and those around me!”
And the research is backing up Dr Lauren’s experience. Robert Emmons, one of the world’s most prominent gratitude researchers has found that a short and simple gratitude practice has far reaching effects on both our emotional and physical health. In an early gratitude study, Emmons and McCullough asked hundreds of individuals to either record things they were grateful for, record hassles from their daily life or simply record any events that had affected them (2003)1.
In a series of studies with hundreds of participants, they found that those who had been randomly assigned to the gratitude condition:
Not bad for a simple shift in focus!
More recently, Rash, Matsuba and Prkachin (2011) found that grateful contemplation resulted in increased physiological coherence, suggesting increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response) and decreased activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response)2. Their research indicated that being grateful reduces stress and increases wellbeing. All the gratitude research to date has confirmed what we already know, that counting our blessings is good for us, and those around us.
Nobody sums this research up better than Brother David Steindl-Rast, who says “we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
Tips for taking in the good with Rick Hanson.
Lauren and I discussed the work of Rick Hanson's on the podcast, below is a wonderful intro to what he is all about. His books mentioned were Resilient and Just One Thing. You can listen to Lauren's interview with Rick here and more like it on her website.
Consent is on everyone's lips. From media discussion about 'enthusiastic consent' in sexual encounters to medical requirements for 'informed consent', it seems pretty clear there is a problem with 'consent'. If consent was what mattered, we would not need to prefix it with a qualifier.
Consent is about freeing someone of liability. To seek consent is to clearly express a desire for a
particular action or outcome. The person seeking consent has the power position. They are placing
someone in a position where it is known they are expected to consent. To not consent is to ‘refuse’ or
‘decline’. To not consent can be met with repeated asking – coercion – until consent is relented. It can
also be met with increasing pressure and threats. In some situations consenting to ‘step one’ is treated as consent to any subsequent steps.
In medicine, it is a legal requirement to obtain ‘Informed consent’. The legal role of the person seeking
consent is to provide full disclosure of the procedure…and any subsequent ones that may arise. In
maternity care, this consent is often sort at the critical moment, under intense stress and pressure. The ‘informed’ component means “I told you what I was legally required to” not “you know all you need to know to decide what is right for you”. It does not mean all options were understood or available.
When it comes to pregnancy and birth, it is possible avoid this situation. This means considering various possibilities in advance, and taking the time to look at the risks and benefits of different options and make an informed decision about the direction to go. So if ‘consent’ is requested it can be given as actual informed consent, or confidently declined knowing that the decision is valid and based on understanding.
Reflecting on that, replace ‘consent’ with ‘decision’ and the implied yes is removed. The person seeking consent may still recommend, assume or prefer a particular outcome, but when framed as a decision the other possible outcomes become visible. With ‘consent’, only one outcome is spotlighted. This simple shift in language may just be the key to helping reduce birth trauma.
Above image by Rawpixel on Unsplash.com.
As a midwife, I face the enormous and important task of educating women and families on pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenting.
Because a woman’s care is often fragmented and she may see a different midwife or care provider at every appointment, it is very difficult to ensure we are providing all the information and knowledge that a mother is deserved so she can make informed decisions throughout her care.
A study in 2010, ‘Queensland Centre for Mothers and Babies: Having a Baby in Queensland', states that in their study of over 3500 women, 70% of women who had an epidural felt uninformed or did not provide consent to the procedure. They also stated 26% of women had not been informed or consented to their episiotomies. As midwives, how can we better ensure women are involved in their care and informed appropriately?
I have worked in several models of care, and in my experience, the model of care that can provide the most thorough and informative education, and therefore true informed consent from women, is that of a model where there is continuity such as a midwifery group practice or through a private midwife (look out for our radio podcast all about Privately Practising Midwives in August).
When we work in a model of care where there is not continuity, as midwives, we must really make sure that the women we see receive all the information they need and are actively involved in their care. We must know that the decisions they make are based on INFORMED consent. We have a responsibility and duty of care to keep women and babies safe, and they have a right to be respected and not coerced in their decisions.
Sometimes women make an informed decision that goes against routine or recommended care- they may decline a routine blood test or ultrasound, or decline administration of antibiotics for GBS. We must make sure we find out why she declines, as a woman declining electronic fetal monitoring in labour, may not be opposed to monitoring, but she may be concerned about mobility in labour. We can better understand her needs by asking questions and respecting her right to make her own decisions.
Top photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash.
Danie Smallwood, Midwife and PBB Media Contributor
NE PLUS ULTRA
The authors of this segment are varied, each post will indicate the author of that particular post. For more information about our team, visit here