Becoming a healthy mother
Being a mum of a child with disability is full of unknowns. The baby books may give us some idea of what to do when raising a typical child; they can be virtually thrown out the window for those who have a child with disability.
For those of us raising a child with disability or developmental delay, our mothering journey, as I have learnt, can be very similar.
First, most of us go through a phase of shock or sadness, followed by a seeking information phase. We then move to a phase of focus on all things disability; and, eventually, a balanced phase. It’s common to shift back to different phases at key transition points of your child’s life. This is just one of many gems I learnt from participating in the Healthy Mothers Healthy Families (HMHF) workshops and online program.
It was validating to learn what I had gone through and was now experiencing was similar to what other mothers had said. And most importantly, I could eventually move to and look forward to a period of balance. This was just one of the many A-HA moments I had doing this program.
I was introduced to the program by a friend who was involved with Reframing Disability, whose opinion I trusted, so I thought, sure I’ll try it. I am open to any opportunity to upskill myself to be the best advocate for my child and family.
But what I learnt was, this program ultimately was about me. As the primary caregiver, I can support myself to fill my cup. It was a chance for me to reassess where I was personally and what I could do to improve my well-being.
I’ve heard ‘seIf-care’ bandied about a lot; it’s become somewhat of a buzzword. Yeah yeah, I thought… look after myself, I know…. I’ll get around to doing that in the moments between my daughter’s therapy and Dr’s appointments; sigh!
But this program goes much deeper than just urging me to do so. By the time I finished the program, I had already taken meaningful actions and steps. I left with clear, immediate, short and long-term goals and a real conviction to see them through.
It was, in fact, a mindset shift. I matter—my well-being matters. I can’t control everything, but I can prioritise myself. I was acutely aware of the things that can happen if I don’t take care of myself. The statistics around the health of mothers raising a child with a disability are pretty sobering…but the good news is, it can be prevented!
I learnt well-being is not just about food and exercise, but time doing what I enjoy. This included time to just have a cuppa, listen to a podcast or whatever fills me up.
I learnt how important my relationship with my GP is; I booked a health visit, including a skin check, overall check-in, general physical and mental health. I felt proud of myself for doing this and taking control of my health. I’d been to so many Drs for my daughter but never thought to go for me! As primary caregivers, we really carry a heavy load, so we need to make ourselves a priority.
I have added walking into my weekly routine and changed a few small things about my diet to improve my healthy eating score. (There is even a little test you can do in the course modules to check this!)
The course format is online via Zoom, which worked well for me as it was not as big a time commitment or effort to join. The modules could be done in my own time between the sessions. A group chat was set up for us. By sharing examples of steps they had taken, I was motivated by other participants to make changes myself.
I wish every mum of a child with disability did this program, as it’s so essential to achieving balance at every stage of the mothering journey. It really is true, you need a healthy mother for a healthy family!
by Heather Cox
Heather is a mum of two girls, Erica (8) and Arianna (5) – the youngest of which has Sotos Syndrome. Heather and her husband, Alberto, are proud parents Iiving in the Inner West of Sydney. Heather is passionate about inclusion and making life better for people with disabilities and their families. She is particularly passionate about rare diseases and has helped set up and is an active committee member of the Sotos Syndrome Association of Australasia. She has big dreams for both her daughters and hopes that the world wiII be a better, more accepting pIace in the future for aII unique famiIies.