AD: [00:00:00] Welcome to Sense by Meg Fora, the podcast that’s brought to you by ParentSense, the app that takes guesswork out of parenting. If you’re a new parent, then you are in good company. Your host, Meg Fora, is a well known OT, infant specialist, and the author of eight parenting books. Each week, we’re going to spend time with new moms and dads, just like you, to chat about the week’s wins, the challenges, and the questions of the moment.
AD: Subscribe to the podcast, download the ParentSense app, and Catchmaker every week to make the most of that first year of your little one’s life. And now, meet your host.
Meg: Hello, moms and dads. It is awesome to have you back again. I love our weekly chats with both seasoned moms, real moms, and of course, parenting experts. Each week we explore the weekly highs [00:01:00] and lows of parenthood. And I’m joined by either a parent who shares their journey and gets to pick my brain and my years of experience as an OT and the author of eight parenting books, or sometimes we are joined by a fellow parenting expert.
Meg: And today is just such a day. We are going to be joined today by Carly and she is a mom of two little ones. She is also a colleague of mine from Cape Town. She’s a clinical psychologist who offers individual psychotherapy. She does expat therapy, which we’ll maybe ask a little bit about what that is.
Meg: Parent education and support therapy for self growth. She has a special interest in attachment theory, which is very, very close to my heart. She also looks at psychodynamic psychotherapy and parenting education. So I’m super excited to chat with Carly today. So Carly, welcome to Sense by Meg Faure.
Meg: Thank you for joining us.
Carly: Thank you so much. I feel a little bit of an imposter syndrome when you talk about me being a parent expert. I’m not sure if that is [00:02:00] 100 percent true.
Meg: It’s so true. And you know, every time I say that I kind of think to anybody and even about myself, I think that’s not really true. I suppose the only parent expert is the parent of the child themselves, their own child. So I don’t know if any of us are parenting experts really.
Meg: Carly, tell me a little bit more about your family, your little ones, your journey, and then the work that you do with parents and particularly your focus on the perinatal period.
Carly: Okay. So I am A clinical psychologist and a mom of two, my children are five and seven months respectively. And I actually was always interested in the perinatal period, even before I became a mom. So I did my master’s research on doula support. It was a qualitative study and I interviewed doulas and their clients and tried to understand what is the experience of doula support and how does that aid parents as they become. You know, going through birth and beyond, and it was.
Meg: Come in there [00:03:00] because that’s absolutely fascinating and close to my heart, but I think a lot of people won’t necessarily be familiar with the term doula. So can you just unpack that a little bit as you talk about that research?
Carly: The doula is a Greek word and it basically is used to refer to a birth assistant or coach and it’s an ancient role. So always when women were giving birth, there was always other women around supporting and nurturing that person as they went through the process of giving birth. But nowadays it’s a professional role.
Carly: And essentially, it is someone who sits in a non medical way. So they don’t intervene in any sort of medical way. They don’t do any medical checks or physical examinations. They’re there to offer emotional and informational support during and after birth and before and it’s an incredible role that facilitates so many incredible outcomes.
Carly: So they have proven that there’s actually a Cochrane library [00:04:00] of randomized control trials where they’ve proven how doulas actually have such incredible birth outcomes. They reduce the need for medical interventions. They reduce the length of labor. They reduce the need for analgesia. They improve many postpartum outcomes. They reduce postpartum anxiety and depression and mothers, they increased bonding between mothers and babies. So there’s a huge amount of support for why doulas are so important in that role. And so I was doing more like understanding that what is the experience of having a doula?
Meg: Yeah. Now, interestingly, I actually had to do it with all three of my babies. When James was born, my first born it wasn’t planned. She just happened to be the midwife who was on, the nurse really at the hospital who was with me. And it just happened that my birth happened straight away through her, I didn’t have to change.
Meg: It was her shift. And so she saw me all the way through and I had the most incredible birth, like literally dilating one centimeter an hour, like. I mean, it was all manageable. I had no pain relief. She and my husband saw me through [00:05:00] it. So when it came to my second baby I decided no, I was going to get hold of her it.
Meg: But by then she’d gone into private. So I got hold of her. Luella was her name in Cape Town. You might know her. And I got hold of it and I said, please, I need you to birth with me again. And she did it again the second time. And then with my third. She did so again, and my third baby was a real curve ball because she ended up being my cesarean section baby.
Meg: So having had two births that were vaginal deliveries with no pain relief. And in fact, my second baby was a posterior presentation, which for anybody who’s had that, that’s the most painful, horrifically painful. And she saw me through that as well with no pain relief. So she was quite incredible.
Meg: And as you say, just like really great outcomes, amazing birth. And after my third one, who was a Caesar, she phoned me and she said, I’m so upset. I feel like I failed. And I said to her, no, it isn’t like that, Luella. It was just, that was what was going to happen with that baby. And of course that baby of mine has marched to her own beat ever since.
Meg: But [00:06:00] yes, I can certainly attest to the fact, and for any moms who listening and getting hold of a doula if you’re pregnant is absolutely incredible.
Carly: Absolutely. And I think what you’re saying is so important is that it’s that constant
Carly: presence that is actually the ultimate factor and that they did studies where they had someone sit with a mother while they were in labor in like Guatemala, where they didn’t even speak the same language. And just having that physical presence, someone holding your hand stroking you.
Carly: Just being there with you had improved the birth outcome. So it is an incredible service. And I’d also recommend that people look into it. So anyway, I started with that as my interest in masters. And then I, when I, after graduating, I did two additional courses, the babies in mind course with Janie Purkle and circle of security, which is an attachment intervention, international intervention that I got licensed in.
Carly: So I was always interested in working with. The under fives and not so much [00:07:00] working with the children, but working with the parents and helping parents and facilitating that relationship with their children, the bonding and the attachment. And then I became a mom, which was so interesting because within a few months, I realized, Oh, wow, this is a totally unique experience that I didn’t anticipate.
Carly: And I knew that I have to do something and offer something to parents that I needed as the new parent being a new parent was an incredibly challenging experience for me. A lot of things were difficult in the first years of becoming a parent and so I actually joined up with Genevieve Putter from the new normal.
Carly: She’s got that Instagram account called ‘The New Normal’. She’s now in New Zealand, doesn’t really work in this field anymore, but we together created this little project called “Oh Baby WTF”, which is a kind of what we call it the like. The anti antenatal class, that sort of [00:08:00] everything you don’t get an antenatal classes, which was like real talk about okay this is actually what it’s like when you have a baby.
Carly: This is how your relationships are affected. This is all how they can be affected. This is how, sometimes you have your identity gets shaken up as a person and this is how getting back into work is so challenging after having a baby and then this is what you can do about it this is, this is how you can survive this with your mental health intact. So like a sort of mental health first aid for new parents. And I think because of that, I’ve sort of started working with parents, more new parents. And I think in the last few years, I’ve maybe carved out a little niche for myself in Cape Town with working a lot with new parents and helping moms.
Carly: I mean, I would say I’m not a specialist in postnatal depression or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but a lot of people come to me when they’re struggling emotionally and have some version of a perinatal mood anxiety disorder or [00:09:00] symptoms. Yeah, and then most recently I documented in my pregnancy the last one that I just went through and now post my most recent postpartum period, I’ve been documenting that on a podcast that I have called ‘On the Couch with Carly’, which for the last season has been all about pregnancy and postpartum.
Meg: Amazing. Amazing. Yes. We definitely going to come back around at the end to how people get hold of you. The important things to come out of that is that people can see you clinically if they’re needing assistance and they can also listen to your podcast, which is ‘On the couch with Carly’, which I’ll also just be appearing on in the next couple of weeks as well.
Meg: So I’m very, very exciting, Carly. So, let’s go back to the antenatal period. So before moms give birth I think there are so many things that after we’ve had our babies, we look back and we go, my gosh, I just really wish I knew that, I just really wish that I understood what was going to happen.
Meg: And for me, there were a couple of things that I can think back to that, I really thought that [00:10:00] breastfeeding would just be the easiest thing in the world because of course it’s natural. It’s going to just happen. And breastfeeding was for me was just the toughest journey. I mean, having had this idyllic birth that I had with James was, kind of perfect dilation, perfect birth, no pain relief.
Meg: I then come to this baby who just, I just couldn’t produce enough milk. And it was really scary. I also had the misconception that he would fall into a four hour feed routine from day one, because there was at the time a clinic sister, she is no longer alive, but she was in Cape town and she used to get babies into four hour feed routines from day one, which is rubbish.
Meg: You can’t do that, but she would tell you that she could do that. And that increased my anxiety. And then the third thing was that my anxiety was just sky high. I mean, I have never felt so out of my depth in my life. So if you look. Back, and it’s, it’s much more recent for you. What are the things that you think that moms should know as they come towards the end of their pregnancy?
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Carly: think it’s a tough question and I want to acknowledge that pregnancy is this time of hope and there’s a lot of imagining of what is to come. And part of that is romanticized, right? You have no idea. And I don’t think anyone can ever prepare you fully for what’s to come, but you do tend to romanticize and imagine this sort of like blissful, a lot of [00:12:00] words like natural, automatic, like you’re going to automatically fall in love with your baby.
Carly: Breastfeeding is going to feel natural. Everything’s going to come naturally to you. There’s two main things. Number one, I think moms need to be prepared for the concept of matrescence which I think is a really important scientific and medical experience, which is that.
Carly: As a person who transitions from being pregnant to having a baby, that period is marked by the most radical shift in hormones and radical changes to your physiology, to your body. So much so why it’s called matrescence, kind of like adolescence, because it’s not since adolescence that your body is going through so many shifts and emotional and Hormonal transitions.
Carly: And yet we all know about adolescence. We all have an understanding of how like if someone who’s a teenager [00:13:00] is behaving a bit erratically or having a big emotional you know, eruptions that it’s like. It’s the hormones. They’re a teenager. There’s a lot of understanding and societal sort of like cushioning around that phase.
Carly: Whereas almost nothing is known about mattresses and we, and culturally we’re not really set up to support women during that time. Even though what’s happening inside of our bodies and our brains is something incredibly intense and complex. And so I wish that for the most part that that was the first thing.
Carly: Is that, that everybody, moms and dads, everyone who’s going to be supporting that person as they give birth and beyond knows about mattresses and understands how, if your body and your brain are being hijacked by so many hormones and physiological changes, I mean, just how your boobs change, in pregnancy and then when the milk comes in and then when you’re breastfeeding and engorgement and, it’s a [00:14:00] lot.
Carly: Physically to go through, and there’s always an emotional component. So I would say matrescence is a big thing that we need to prepare parents for. And then the fact is that there are a lot of emotions that are going to come up in that postpartum period. And just being prepared for the emotions, knowing what might come up, I think is really important because it normalizes the experience, because if I don’t know that this is normal.
Carly: And to be expected, then when I go through the experience of suddenly feeling incredibly weepy around day five, when my milk comes in or whatever it is, or incredibly anxious in the first few months postpartum, if I don’t have An understanding of why that is and that this is a very normal and common experience.
Carly: I might think there’s something wrong with me. Why am I experiencing this? Why is this so hard for me? It must be only me that [00:15:00] experiences it in this way. And that can be very Alienating and isolating and then compounds the emotional experience and that’s when we see the occurrence of depression and anxiety symptoms coming in.
Meg: It’s amazing. I mean, it’s so true what you’re talking about. First of all. We don’t talk about it ahead of birth and it is romanticized but then to compound that. So we romanticize what’s going to happen in our mind, which you said is a normal condition and we need to do that, but we also are not prepared.
Meg: But the third thing is we then faced with social media after our babies are born. And the story that everybody tells on social media just looks so fabulous. Everybody else has got it sorted. Everybody else’s baby’s okay. Everybody else is feeling all right. Everybody looks like they’ve got up and done their hair in the morning where I haven’t showered by 12 o’clock, so I do think that on a number of levels, we are completely unprepared and we actually thrown, we kind of thrown under the bus as new moms.
Carly: Absolutely. And I want to think about the baby industry as well and how there’s [00:16:00] this, multi million dollar industry and how a lot of what pregnancy a lot of the energy and effort that you spend in pregnancy is like getting this beautiful nursery together and buying all these products and over beautiful baby, like tiny little baby outfits. And I completely relate to that. I get completely swept up in the cuteness factor, but I do think it’s a lot of it is like distraction from the fact that like, yes, your baby is going to be incredibly cute and you are going to be in love with this child.
Carly: And it’s going to be this. It is going to be the romantic ideal as well. You are going to have moments where you just stare into this little person’s face and fall deeply in love. And you’re also going to put them in cute outfits. And you’re also going to change them in the changing table that’s been designed in Denmark or whatever it is, but that’s not the full picture.
Carly: That’s a snapshot.
Meg: It’s also
Carly: And we need to also be aware that there’s another, there’s a both and, and it’s not that they, that it can’t look scrubbed up and pretty and that we won’t get joy out of [00:17:00] putting our babies in their strollers and walking on the promenade, but we also have to know that there’s there’s another side of it as well, and I do see a little bit of a shift in that on social media, like since I started doing ‘Oh Baby WTF’, I’ve noticed a massive change over the last five years where there are a lot more sort of raw and honest motherhood accounts where people are, videoing themselves crying, videoing the mess in their house showing what it is really like to have postpartum hormones and it’s slowly balancing.
Meg: No. For sure. No, I think you are right. That is happening. So that’s one helpful thing. On the other side, antinatally, so we’ve spoken about the fact that parents romanticize what’s coming next, it’s really hard. And you and I have spoken about this. It’s really hard to run courses or to tell parents about what’s coming on the gritty side, because people are romanticizing it, but you have set out to do that in a course.
Meg: Can you tell us a little bit about your course we can talk about its availability in the app in time. And then also [00:18:00] where else people can get more information on that.
Carly: Yes, absolutely. So I’ve actually created two courses, but I’ll start with the first one. So the first one is ‘Oh Baby WTF’. I started out with Genevieve and I’ve refined it and created an online version. So I recorded myself presenting the course and then there’s like questionnaires that go along with it.
Carly: So you watch a video and then you answer the questionnaires to sort of process the material , in terms of your own story and your own situation, and I encourage people to do this in couples. I think it’s a good process, like an antenatal class where you were both the mom and the dad come together or mom and mom, dad and dad come together and, and process this material together.
Meg: And it would be done before the baby’s born. This is an anti, an antenatal
Carly: Antenatal. Yes. So you, I, I’m aware of the fact that a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they’re getting when they’re pregnant and they’re not quite sure what they need to do to [00:19:00] prepare. I think this course is really useful before you have the baby. But what I have found, what Genevieve and I have both found, was that a lot of parents were actually only making use of it once they were already in the fourth trimester.
Carly: So once baby was born and they had already started experiencing the real experience of having a baby, like, Oh, this isn’t actually the romantic idea we had. And also because maybe they’re on maternity leave, they’ve got a little bit more time on their hands. So actually, if you are in the first three months or the first period after having a baby, it’s also an okay time to do the course.
Carly: But essentially. What it is it’s an explanation around mattress and some what to expect. It’s an explanation around how the relationship with your partner shifts and what are the dynamics that commonly occur between parents because what Jenna and I kind of worked with and then what I noticed in my practice was that the same stories are told again and [00:20:00] again, there’s very typical common experiences that new parents face, so for example.
Carly: If you have a traditional setup where mom is taking an extended maternity leave of say four months and dad is going back to work after say two weeks, that’s what the paternity leave is in South Africa. Then there’s a very specific thing that happens. Dad goes back to work. He comes and goes, he’s away for most of the day.
Carly: And mom is at home with the baby doing the newborn muddle, which is just an endless kind of two hourly cycle of feeding, sleeping, eating, pooing, changing, and it’s endless. And dad comes home and says, what did you do all day? And mom goes I don’t, I don’t even know, but actually, you know…
Meg: It’s been a drown, but I can’t tell you.
Carly: Yeah. , and then dad’s been at work and he’s kind of been living his life as before. His life hasn’t really changed. He’s still got his routine. He’s still getting to do his [00:21:00] exercise in the morning or in the afternoon after work. He’s still seeing all his same colleagues. He’s still out in the world.
Carly: He’s still dealing with traffic. He’s still listening to the radio and his way to work. And he comes back with stories from the world. And mom’s like I can’t think right now. I can’t think about anything except my baby, which is very normal and actually needed. It’s called maternal reverie. We actually have to be completely involved with our
Carly: from a psychological perspective, but it means that moms and dads have these polarized realities. They’re so different. What I experience and what you experience like two different realities. And now we have to try and come together, communicate and talk and be together. And we actually almost living in different worlds. And it’s very, very difficult. So we try and prepare parents for that.
Carly: You know, this is what to expect. And this is how you can manage that. And we give tools so that you feel equipped
Meg: So can you, I mean, it sounds incredible and certainly something that I would have needed when [00:22:00] my firstborn came and I’ll never forget one day, and I think it’s the only time that I’ve resorted to physical violence with my husband was it had been a Friday afternoon and somehow Fridays are just the worst days with babies because it’s been a five day week.
Meg: It’s been like drudgery. And he came home late on a Friday afternoon and it was probably only six o’clock that he came home probably an hour later than usual. I don’t know, seven o’clock. And I can remember just shoving him straight out the door, slamming the door in his face and saying, just actually go.
Meg: I am not interested in having you being involved in this child’s life. Meantime, the poor guy had actually been thought he was pulling his weight. But I was just, I had reached a point where I actually just couldn’t anymore. And I was exhausted and I was so resentful that he could do that. What you described, he could walk out the door at seven o’clock in the morning and his life could, for all intents and purposes run according to normal.
Meg: And mine was just. A complete mess. And I can just remember that feeling. So, I mean, certainly sounds like a course that we want moms to do. [00:23:00] It part of it is going to be available inside the app. The other part they can do through you, but let’s just get really practical because we don’t have. An endless amount of time here, give us one tip for managing that feeling for managing that piece of the relationship, navigating your partnership with your husband or your partner, and kind of sharing the load.
Meg: What would your advice be?
Carly: I’ve always said at this point, what’s really important is to not expect understanding. I think if we expect the other to understand where we are, what we’ve experienced, what we’re going through, it’s too much. We can’t, we living in different realities, but one thing that we can always offer each other as a couple is comfort.
Carly: It can be physical comfort. It’s about tapping into your love languages and knowing what your love languages and knowing what the other person’s love language is most importantly and saying, okay,
Meg: So true.
Carly: I’m walking into this home. I can’t even expect myself to understand what’s going on with her.
Carly: She might be having, she might [00:24:00] be shoving me out the door. But my job is to work out what I can do to comfort her. What can I do to offer something that is comforting, soothing, supportive, caring. That’s going to get us over the line here.
Meg: That’s so fascinating. I just love what you’ve said. And it’s an epiphany even at this stage of my life because my love language is time and my husband’s love language is acts of service. And for those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, the love languages, please do go and read the book and the five love languages.
Meg: Who is the author again? Carly? Do you
Carly: Oh my
Meg: Yeah. I’ll pop it into the
Carly: but I do, I do use. I use the five love languages in my second course, Ready, Steady, Baby, which is a zooming in of the couple relationship. And you have to do the love languages quiz and you have to work out your love languages. So yeah, it’s all part of that course.
Meg: No, it’s brilliant. Well, when I think about it, my love language was time. So for me, the fact that he overshot the time and wasn’t there with me was a major thing. And of course, for me, just having him with me. Partaking. He didn’t have to do anything. He [00:25:00] just had to be in my space and be with me was really feeding, would be feeding me.
Meg: And of course, I didn’t really think about that at the time I’ve thought about it now. His love language is acts of service. So he made sure, and to this day, he is a parent who shares the load, but he made sure that he changed as many nappies as he could. He got up in the morning. It’s six o’clock or five o’clock whenever the kids work in the morning every weekend and did that time.
Meg: And that was his act of service to allow me to sleep in or whatever. So he really had felt he was ticking the boxes, which actually was fabulous. But for me, it was just all about time. So I think that’s an incredible nugget. If people can learn about the love languages on your course, it would be really amazing.
Carly: Absolutely. I think it’s the core of coaching people with the couple relationship when it comes to preparing to become parents is about working out teamwork. Number one thing you have to do is work out. How do we operate as a team? What does teamwork mean to us? What is the metaphor we’re going to use to manage this new project of having [00:26:00] a baby together?
Carly: Are we an organization? Are we a company? It’s sometimes it works to just use a sort of metaphor to understand. Okay. What are your roles? What is your portfolio? Who’s going to be doing what and how do we meet at the end of the week and establish how everyone’s done in their respective roles and how do we support our teammate when they’re struggling?
Carly: What do we have in our sort of like armory to support and assist? The other person.
Meg: Yeah. What’s quite interesting there is that unfortunately you could get into a, I’ve done more than you scenario there, I mean, if Philip and I had had a debrief at the end of the week, I would have definitely have said to him, listen, you have done absolutely nothing and I have carried the entire load.
Meg: So I don’t know how useful that would have been, but having said that I do think that one of the things that’s important and I’ve just learned it recently or relearned it recently with my adolescent daughter. She’s been going through a really tough time and she’s been seeing a psychologist and I phoned the psychologist and I said, I just.
Meg: I just need some help. I’m just really battling here. And, I just know I’m not being the best mom I can. And she said to [00:27:00] me, stop trying to fix it. Just say, yep, that’s really hard. And just keep reiterating that what she’s going through is really hard for her. And, it actually, I think in that situation, when you are in this partnership and this team. Which I love there is a little bit of kind of debriefing to say, this is what we’ve each done this week, but there’s also a lot of flip it’s really hard for you, instead of going, well, actually I’ve also changed 15 nappies this week, so it is a lot of just listening and kind of holding each other and understanding that he might be, I mean, I think my husband would feel.
Meg: You know, he felt like he’d given up his entire life when we had James, even though I felt like I was the one who’d given up my entire life. He now couldn’t play golf on a Saturday morning. He couldn’t stay late up for drinks after work. That felt like his whole life for me. I had actually stopped work and I felt like it was my whole life and both of us were right and just needed to be heard.
Meg: And somebody to say, yep. Yeah, no, this is, this is hard.
Carly: But also I just want to say that in our, so one of the themes we talk about is also money in Ready [00:28:00] Steady Baby. And in that discussion, interestingly, is about this understanding of the workload. And if you take a maternity leave that’s longer than the paternity leave, then you are in some ways financially contributing that time that you have to almost quantify your time and effort.
Carly: So if you, at the end of the week, If you did my course, you would already know, okay, I’m going to be taking maternity leave, which means that I am going to be spending my labor on this. This is my effort. And he is taking the financial hit by staying at work and contributing financially or whatever it may be.
Carly: So you do find that balance, but it is important to kind of say that up, you know, upfront that my effort taking leave from my career is a financial contribution as well. So it’s a massive contribution.
Meg: I’ve always run startups, as you know. And one of the things in the startup world is that we have something called sweat equity, which is that I don’t get paid necessarily my market related salary in a startup because it can’t afford me, but I’m going to get shares [00:29:00] in lieu of that because I’m putting in the sweat and that’s effectively what early parenting is.
Meg: It’s sweat equity, whether you are the person who’s gone out to go and get the money, like the fundraiser and the startup and to earn the money, like in the traditional role that the husband would or whether you are the person staying at home and caring for the baby and you might not be earning anything but it’s sweat equity.
Meg: So, yeah. Super interesting, Carly. We do need to have another conversation. I haven’t got to half the questions I wanted to ask you. But I don’t want to leave people without knowing where they can get hold of you. So let’s start with your clinical practice. Where would people find out about your clinical practice?
Carly: So everything is on my website https://onthecouchwithcarly.com/, but you can also find me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/onthecouchwithcarly/ and on my website, you can also access both of those courses that I’ve mentioned, “Oh Baby, WTF” and “Really, Steady, Baby”. And you can buy them. It’s like there’s an e commerce site, so you can buy them and purchase them and you get login details.
Carly: And then you have access to those courses forever. And we’re also going to have a couple [00:30:00] videos on the Parents Sense app, so you can have a look at that and then find the rest on my website. All my contact details are on my website or on my Instagram as well.
Meg: Brilliant. And that website again.
Meg: Brilliant. Okay. So moms and dads, this is what you need to do. You need to go into the parents since app, have a look at those courses by Carly and they will be up very shortly if they’re not there already. And then if you don’t find it there, please go onto, https://onthecouchwithcarly.com/ and go and pick up this conversation there because this has been super useful for me. So I know it will be so for parents as well. Thank you very much Carly for joining me.
Carly: Thanks Meg.
AD: Thanks to everyone who joined us. We will see you the same time next week. Until then, download ParentSense app and take the guesswork out of parenting.