Put Your Oxygen Mask On First
Postnatal well being is a relatively new concept in the world of parenting and babies. We've all heard that taking care of yourself is important, but how do you do that? How do you carve out any time at all when you're drowning in diapers and sleepless nights, and in some unfortunate cases, postpartum depression. What is a new parent at the end of their rope to do? These are the questions that Clio Wood, founder of &Breathe, asked herself, and she came up with a unique solution - postnatal retreats. Clio gets it - you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of your kids. I personally believe that &Breathe Postnatal Retreats is the answer to the gap in maternity care (or lack thereof) in the United States. As a society, we are coming into an awareness of the Fourth Trimester and how new parents need more support during this critical time.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the flagship &Breathe postnatal well being retreat in Texas with my 3-month-old son, and I was overwhelmed by the level of care, thoughtfulness, and love put into each and every aspect of this amazing retreat. The &Breathe philosophy empowers, inspires, and says, "It's okay to need help. In fact, we're here to do that." It was an experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Although I was nervous at first, I quickly realized that the trip would be unlike anything I had ever experienced. I came away from the retreat feeling empowered and enthusiastic for what's to come, but also with the realization that being overwhelmed doesn't mean I'm a bad mom.
Postnatal Wellbeing Done Differently
In the past, postnatal wellbeing meant going to a follow-up appointment with the doctor and asking your mom for help with all the new aspects of mom life that we new mothers face. &Breathe approaches the concept of postnatal wellbeing differently. The retreats focus on the mind, body, and spirit simultaneously, offering an approach to postnatal rejuvenation that leaves you feeling like you can take on anything, even a dirty diaper at 3 am. At their retreats, moms and dads will learn about maintaining fitness, a healthy diet, and a healthy mind in order to stay fully present in their lives and the lives of their children now and well into the future. The retreat is broken down into the three “F”s: FIT, FOOD, FEEL. I would add a fourth, FRIENDSHIP.
&Breathe focuses on postnatal fitness and the importance of approaching it properly. Remember, it took 9 months to grow your baby. That's 9 months of widening hips, internal organ movement, and loosening and stretching of your pelvic floor. Even if you didn't gain much weight during your pregnancy and you looked the same relatively quickly after giving birth, your body knows differently. This was especially important for me because I lost my tummy and my baby weight just 1-week postpartum. No joke. Everyone comments on the fact that I look like I never had a baby. Although this is meant to be a compliment, it is not the truth - I DID HAVE A BABY and it’s important to acknowledge that.
Our 2 trainers, George and Caroline, took the time to teach us how to properly strengthen our bodies with a specific focus on the pelvic floor, glutes - working the muscles that were underused during pregnancy (the answer to flat “mom butt”!) and proper mobility in our day-to-day movements of childcare (i.e. bending over to change diapers, picking up baby, getting up from the floor while holding baby). George and Caroline are both pre and postnatal expert and specialize in rehabilitation post-injury - and yes, pregnancy/childbirth should be treated like injury recovery! Together, they explained something to us that my doctor never did - pelvic floor fitness matters. As a little known part of our core, our pelvic floor is involved in almost every exercise we do. If we jump back into our normal exercise routine without taking the time to get our pelvic floors strong again, we could cause ourselves (lasting) damage. This is what accounts for things like incontinence, pain and in some cases, organ prolapse.
It was an amazing learning experience, filled with various cardio and strengthening activities like HIIT training, Pilates, up-tempo cardio, and more; all done with each mom's individual physical fitness level in mind. The week begins with a one-on-one personal training session for each Mom and partner. And we went home with a personalized training program to follow after the retreat. In just one week, I went from feeling like it would be impossible to find dedicated time to exercise - to doing daily exercises in the natural flow of taking care of my son.
After the week was over, I came away with a new understanding of how to properly exercise and remain fit. This was especially an eye-opener for me as a life-long athlete. It turns out I had been working out and stretching incorrectly even before I got pregnant. I will never look at fitness the same way and I feel stronger and more balanced in my core. I am finally making the micro-corrections that make all the difference when exercising.
A key aspect of postnatal wellbeing, and one that's often overlooked, is the food we eat. Proper nutrition keeps us healthy, energized, and able to keep up with the demands of both motherhood and life. However, so many of us come home and never give nutrition another thought. The Food aspect of &Breathe was one of my favorite because it emphasized the importance of remembering to take care of ourselves from the inside out.
Throughout the retreat, we were treated to healthy breakfasts that were filling and satisfying. Their lunches featured big, hearty salads or soups that didn't bog me down but kept me feeling full until dinnertime. The dinners were delicious and provided a rewarding end to the day, but they still remained healthy. All the amazing food offered during the retreat served to reinforce one overarching idea - healthy eating doesn't have to be boring or miserable.
&Breathe uses their food to show moms that they can eat a diet rich in healthy foods and still actually enjoy food. They focus on preparing fresh, healthy food, providing tips to stay on track with recipe ideas and shopping lists, as well.
As the name suggests, this part of the retreat helps moms and dads remember how to feel like themselves again. I think it might be the most important part of the entire retreat. At first, I was nervous to be at this retreat on my own. After all, it is for couples. However, the three other couples and one other solo-mom at the retreat were down to earth and friendly. I felt completely at ease almost immediately with no pressure whatsoever to interact or be social. But, I ended up being very social and making some new friends! One mom and I decided to do our “date night” together since we had come without our partners. And the beautiful remoteness of the Gathering Oaks Retreat location made me want to stick around and visit during my down-time. That was important for me to be able to soak in what the FEEL portion of the retreat is all about.
One of the things we new moms and dads are never told is that we can and will lose sight of who we are when we have a baby. That is OKAY. It's an overwhelming experience and responsibility. One day you're painting the baby's room and the next, you're responsible for this little life, and by your parenting, everything he or she will do for the rest of their lives. It's daunting. &Breathe has a heavy focus on getting back to who you are as a person and as a parent.
Clio Wood took us through a series of guided meditations and exercises to help us make our way through the emotional quagmire of being new parents. She showed us how a short meditation session can help recharge and reinvigorate us, allowing us to overcome the stress of parenthood and be our best parenting selves as we face the challenges of raising a child.
The biggest treat of all was the 60-minute massage we were given. A big part of what makes the postnatal wellbeing retreat work is the relaxation aspect. They offer full childcare during the retreats, so parents are free to focus on themselves during their sessions and then focus on their little ones afterward. The environment is one that makes it easy to relax without guilt, and the team at &Breathe emphasizes that even after the retreat it's okay to relax without guilt.
The &Breathe Postnatal Wellness Retreat Recharged Me
I love the postnatal wellness retreats that &Breathe offers. When I agreed to be a part of their first-ever United States retreat, I thought it would be an interesting experience, and at the very least, a nice little vacation. It was so much more. This postnatal wellness retreat strengthened my mind, body, and soul, and it gave me insight into my own needs and desires as a mother and woman. It's all too easy to lose ourselves in motherhood - sometimes to the point of getting lost - but &Breathe retreats help us find ourselves again and be the best women we can be in every facet of our lives. Clio and her team remind us to take a pause for one second in our days and just BREATHE.
Sign Up for an &Breathe Postnatal Retreat!
&Breathe currently offers retreats in France, the UK, Morocco, and now the USA! Find their schedule of Retreats Here and sing up using my special link for 20% Off USA Retreats and 10% off International Retreats: andbreathepostnatal.com/jesyka