Local mum, Courtney Whittle, has recently launched a soul-enriching new personal development business called Finding You.
We caught up with Courtney to find out about the inspiration behind Finding You and how it is helping women in the Sutherland Shire settle into their role as new mums.
Trigger warning – this post discusses suicidal feelings
Tell us about what life was like as a new mum for you.
The first time around, I settled into motherhood pretty quickly and adored being a stay home mum to our first son, Harlen. I remember saying to my husband, “This is what I was born to do.” It was funny as I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body before I had Harlen. I’d never felt so much purpose and love before.
I was the first to have a baby in my friendship group and in my family, so certain aspects of learning to mother were challenging and I often felt alone and isolated. There’s just so much conflicting advice being thrown our way it can be really hard to know what’s “right” when it comes to mothering your child.
I had no idea that having a baby would bring so much change to every aspect of my life- particularly my marriage. My husband and I struggled for a while until we found our groove after our second son was born. We learnt how to communicate, break down the stereotypical parent roles and started doing things our way without worrying what other people thought.
How was your experience of becoming a mum for the second time different?
I gave birth to Parker just as NSW was going into lockdown for the first time. So after giving birth, I was back home within less than 24 hours. When Parker and Harlen met for the first time, I remember just looking at them both with a sinking feeling thinking “What on earth have I done? I can’t do this.” It was the first time I’d really doubted my ability as a mother.
I remember making excuses to my husband as to why he needed to extend his paternity leave, I kept putting it down to rising COVID case numbers, but really I was petrified of being alone with my two children knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see anyone or do anything because of the lockdown.
Can you describe the struggles you experienced?
A few months in, I found myself drowning in motherhood. Just surviving each day became a struggle. The ideas I held and the stories I told myself about what it meant to be a good mum made me feel like I was constantly failing. I felt like I could never speak openly about my struggles without being judged, told to suck it up and get on with it, or without feeling shame for not loving every second of the life I had chosen, and needing help with it.
I felt so much guilt for wanting a break from my kids and when I wasn’t always the patient, calm mum I had planned to be. I believed that a good wife and mother should be able to do it all, calmly, without help and with a smile on her face. But as I know now this is so far from the truth.
What was the turning point for you?
It was a Thursday afternoon and I was feeding Parker when something just set me off. I remember bursting into tears. Both boys were crying beside me and I knew I couldn’t manage anymore. I had an overwhelming urge to leave, so I called my husband and said something along the lines of, “Come home right now.” When he arrived home that afternoon, I left with no plan to return. I felt like they’d all be better off without me. I sat on Cronulla beach as very dark thoughts ran through my head while I tried to figure out my next move.
Scared by my own thoughts, I called a helpline. I called them over and over, unable to get through. When I finally did, I was told that due to the pandemic, someone wouldn’t be able to respond to me for at least two days. I hung up, deflated… I couldn’t wait two days, I didn’t even know if I had two hours of feeling like this left in me.
My husband wouldn’t stop calling me, and though it angered me, I am so incredibly grateful he never gave up. After declining yet another call of his, I looked down at my screen saver- a photo of my two boys and their dad. At that moment I knew I couldn’t leave them. I answered my husband and he begged me to come back home. He told me “Whatever is going on, we will fix this together.” The next day he took me to the GP and I began medication.
Which part of your journey inspired you to found Finding You?
The GP I saw confirmed that I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.
Though he prescribed medication, he also told me that I’d need to seek help in the form of talk therapy to really overcome it. I was reluctant to see a psychologist as I hadn’t had success in the past and really wanted someone I could connect with. The ongoing cost was a factor for me too. Mostly, I just wanted to speak to someone openly and honestly, who would listen without passing judgment, and understand. I needed to feel that connection but never found that.
I had to do a lot of my own personal development work to overcome postpartum depression and anxiety and along the way, I discovered matrescence- The developmental transition a woman goes through as she becomes a mother.
It soon became clear to me that I needed to create the service I was longing for because understanding this concept changed everything.
What symptoms of postpartum depression should other mothers be on the lookout for?
The signs are different for everyone but the symptoms I experienced were
- Anger/ Rage
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling numb and empty
- Feeling like I couldn’t breathe (anxiety)
- Mood swings
- Dreading getting out of bed
You can find a full list of symptoms and warning signs here: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression
I actually doubted I had PPD because I always thought it would look like a mum who spent all day crying, or wanted to hurt her child, or who couldn’t connect with her baby. And none of this rang true for me.
What qualifies you to counsel other mums?
I have studied Life Coaching and am about to become an accredited Mama Rising Facilitator, which allows me to support and educate women about the process that happens as we become mothers known as matrescence.
My lived experience feels even more valuable than this though, as it gives me the ability to relate, understand and support women in a way that cannot be taught.
What can mums who seek you out for help expect from an individual session?
Each session is tailored to the individual’s needs but the purpose of a session is to provide them with a safe space to speak about their struggles and frustrations and receive support.
There is real healing power in being able to finally speak to someone without fear of judgement or criticism and share all the pain points you’ve been carrying within you.
Though I generally recommend six sessions, even a single session can help mums begin to unpack their motherhood journey thus far and start sorting through all the mental clutter and big emotions you feel when you’re a mum.
Mums will leave each session feeling lighter, heard, valued and understood.
You’re soon to offer group sessions. How will they work?
The 8-week long group program will support, empower and guide women through their own matrescence transformation as they find who they are in this new season of life. It will be held online and allow mums to participate without having to find care for their babies. If motherly duties get in the way, replays will also be available.
Each session will last one hour and at the end of the 8 weeks mums will be able to book a discounted coaching session with me if they’d like ongoing support. The program will commence early in 2022 and costs $240 ($30 per week).
What do you find most rewarding about providing personal development coaching?
Watching a woman learn who she is, what’s important to her, find her voice and reclaim her life is one of the most incredible things in life to witness.
What’s the one thing you would encourage mums experiencing a difficult time to remember?
You are not alone! No matter what you’re thinking or feeling, another mum has thought and felt those exact same feelings, so there’s no need to be hard on yourself for not loving every second of motherhood. Please remember that motherhood was never meant to be done alone and it’s a time where we will all need some support. Unfortunately, with all we have endured during the pandemic, we have become even more isolated.
If you’re like me and the traditional methods of support aren’t for you, there are so many women who have walked this path before you that are turning their hardships and life experiences into incredible services to support you. From fertility issues, pregnancy loss, birthing support, mental health, adoption support to support for mums whose children have grown up and left home. There’s someone there to help you!
Mums of the Shire are incredibly grateful to Courtney for sharing her powerful story with us. You can visit the Finding You website to learn more or book a session now. The Finding You Instagram and Facebook pages also contain useful advice and words of encouragement for mums.
|If this post has brought up any issues for you please contact one of the below mental health crisis services:
Lifeline — 13 11 14
Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby — 1800 882 436
Mental Health Line — 1800 011 511
Mental Health Crisis Team (South East Sydney) — 1300 300 180
You can also find support services near you via the.