This week’s Real Mums interview is quite unlike any other. I got to speak to the inspirational and grounded Ari. She has opened up about her loss and grief over losing her baby Mia, and how she has been able to keep going despite of it all. I’m so thankful that Ari has decided to share this story – something not many mums would be able to do – in the hopes of helping other mums amidst their tragedy. I hope you find her story as encouraging as I have.
Hi Ari! Thank you for joining us for the #RealMums Blog series. We have loved meeting different mums and hearing their stories, and we can’t wait to hear yours! To start, could you introduce us to yourself and your family?
My name is Ari and I’m 37, living in pristine Tasmania with my husband and 3 children, Belle 8, Ash 5, and Bryn 8 months. I teach part time whilst I’m growing my businesses. My hobbies include reading self-development books and blogs, walks along the beach and in the bush, hanging out with my kids and friends, and gardening including propagating plants.
You are the first mum who I can ask this question to! What is it like parenting children in different stages of life (a primary aged child vs. a baby)?
Parenting children of different ages is interesting, delightful and challenging all at the same time. All of my kids are lively, smart and energetic, they love robust play, so it can feel a bit crazy at times.
Each child has such different needs not just because of their age differences but also due to their specific personalities. Belle is flamboyant and super smart, her ability to reason can be exhausting and I often feel like I’ve created a monster (albeit an incredibly lovable monster!). Both her dad and I have a philosophy background and I think we’ve strongly influenced her perceptiveness and insane logic. For all of her feistiness she needs lots of positive affirmation, and gentle guidance to help her navigate her own perfectionism.
Ash is like a whirlwind. He’s so full on but at the same time, affectionate and gentle. He’s far less sensitive to doubts and insecurities than his older sister. Both Belle and Ash are ridiculously affectionate towards their baby brother and love to trot him around the house.
Bryn is a pretty relaxed and happy baby. He’s easily entertained and cries vary rarely, only little grizzles to get my attention for boob or cuddles. It’s been funny though to relearn some of the things babies do, lots of “oh that’s right” moments as he moves through different developmental stages. Occasionally it feels a little unfair when baby Bryn gets prioritised over the other children but having said that, they don’t seem to mind either and often like the sense of responsibility when they’ve been asked to help out.
It’s always a juggling act and trying to be mindful that each child’s needs aren’t neglected in the rush and sleep deprived survival mode that we can slip into. We try to keep things balanced, but it’s important to remember that balanced isn’t the same as equal.
You’ve been open about sharing your story about Mia. Can you explain to us how this affected you? What encouragement can you offer to other mums who might be in a similar situation?
Mia’s death was utterly devastating. Less than 2 months earlier I’d decided to go on early maternity leave in order to grow my business enough that I could leave teaching for good. It was me and Mia against the rest of the world and we were going to change the world. Everything was positive and optimistic. Her death was sudden and it was a confusing and painful time to go through being induced and holding my baby knowing that she was already gone. You see videos that do the rounds on social media about babies miraculously springing to life on the chest of their mother, as I lay there holding her perfect body to my heart I hoped so desperately even though I knew that she had been gone for too long. The grieving heart loves to torture you just a little more.
In those early days after leaving the hospital, I had to make a choice. That choice was how I would allow myself to be affected by Mia’s passing. This was hard because at the same time as not wanting to be swallowed up by my grief, I also didn’t want people to think that I wasn’t affected, didn’t care, or had “gotten over it” quickly. The reality is that you will never get over it as such but you will learn to live with your loss and grief. Someone only told me the other day, that grief is love with nowhere to go. It’s so true.
What advice can I give?
Grief will come in waves, sometime it’ll be strong sometimes as though it’s almost not there. It is what it is, don’t judge it. Each person grieves differently, your way is the right way. Don’t keep things to yourself in the hope to not make other’s feel uncomfortable but also don’t judge others too harshly when they say or do things that hurt your grieving heart. No one sets out to hurt and offend someone grieving the death of their baby but most people do struggle with knowing how to act around you. Be forgiving. Forgive them and forgive yourself. I spent a lot of time doing forgiveness work on myself and specifically on my womb. Forgiveness is powerful but it also takes time.
Ditch the guilt and be unapologetic in creating a life after death.
Cultivate people who are supportive and positive.
Make decisions that support you and your best life.
Don’t forget that your partner has lost a baby too.
Seek help if you need it.
Now from your story I know you are a busy woman! Can you share with us what you do with your time?
For all of the fullness of my life, I also get a lot of down time. I think we can sometimes glorify busy and it does no one any good. I split my time across networking events and catch ups, marketing and working on my businesses, customer service calls and emails, teaching, kids, hubby, and self-development and training.
How I spend my time is always in a bit of flux, lots of adjustments responding to how needs change from day to day, week to week. Weekly plan sheets, quarterly goals, diaries and planners, keep me clear and on track but sometimes you just have to wing it and every now and then things might just crash and burn. It’s life. I’ve gotten better at accepting that, perfectionism is a curse.
I like having a full life. Sometimes I listen to others complaining about how busy they are but busy is a choice. We all have the same 24hours the difference is how we choose to prioritise that time and delegate tasks. What you allow will continue.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Polish your Sparkle?
I run a successful direct sales business with a team and solid client base. The training in self-development provided by that company lead me to investigating self-development on a deeper level, specifically from the angle of mindset, emotional blocks to success and self-limiting beliefs and that lead me to discover a process called Creatrix®. My experience of this process was so explosive for my business and life in general that I trained as a facilitator and am now growing my client base there too.
I believe women are so critical to changing the world for the better. We process things differently, our minds are different to men. Creatrix® is designed by a woman for the female mind so I believe it will be the key to releasing women from their emotional shackles and in turn their children and all of those around them.
How do you juggle your time between Polish your Sparkle, your jobs and your family?
For me the juggle is being clear on my values and priorities. With these in place, decision making and how I choose to spend my time becomes easier and by using Creatrix® I’m also freer from the emotional charge that we can load ourselves up with.
I cleared guilt, shame, resentment and anger back when I first discovered Creatrix® and since then many more limiting beliefs and negative emotions. They impact our lives in every way. We inherit emotions epigenetically as well as through our childhood, so sometimes we are primed for emotional states and responses. Autopilot, unconscious responses, which can make the juggle feel incredibly overwhelming and lonely.
By being emptied out of automatic programming, and clear on my values the juggle doesn’t feel so precarious. I’ve also got an incredibly supportive husband so sharing childrearing, housework, and shopping means that I’m not completely overloaded and overwhelmed.
As a mum, what is the biggest challenge you currently face and what strategies are you using to overcome it?
I recently struggle with a bout of postnatal depression, we were going through some tough financial times, and Bryn’s birth freshened up my grief, throw into the mix some awesome hormones and trying to support my friends and family who were also going through their own tough times, and it was a bit of a perfect storm. Essential oils, Creatrix®, EFT, journaling, and above all else shameless in asking for help. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we have no one to call on for help but once we make a decision to get help to solve our problem, it’s amazing who you can think of around you.
You are really passionate about empowering women and helping them to achieve all they can. What advice would you give new mothers in relation to empowerment?
I am extremely passionate about the empowerment of women as I believe it will ultimately make the world we live in better. Becoming a new mum can be both the most empowering and most disempowering experience at the same time.
We’ve just birthed this incredible little being, our unconscious body grew it and pushed it out into the world. We are powerful and exhausted at the same time. Regardless of the method of birth, we are healing, sore, and stretched out of shape, coming to terms with out little creation and them coming to terms with life outside your womb. It can be a little terrifying and overwhelming.
Everyone is an expert and will well-meaningly give you advice on everything whether you need, it, want it, or ask for it.
There is also the dilemma of some elements of parenthood being pretty much entirely up to personal preference and then there are others where there’s a fair bit of evidence to weight one approach better than another. This can make parenting contentious and combative depending on our personalities and those of the people around us.
Knowledge is power. The most empowering thing you can do is get informed but not from the point of view of getting it right but instead from one of wonderment. Learn everything you can but with a carefree heart so that your gut can guide you. When you learn about things where there’s no obvious best practice, your gut will guide you. The same goes for any unsolicited advice you might get, you’ll learn what to take on board and what receives the “uh huh!” nod. You know the one, where you agree with everything the person tells you, while in your head ignoring everything they say.
Be Flexible. Babies change quickly, literally over night! What worked one day, may not work the next. We have to be willing to adjust and not lose any sleep over it. (Hahaha, just kidding you’re totally going to lose sleep!!)
Self-care. It’s easy to think that our needs no longer come first with a new baby. There’s certainly enough on social media to try and convince you that as a mother you no longer matter beyond what you do for your children, that to prioritise your needs over theirs is selfish and egotistical.
Now I’m not advocating all night benders while you leave the baby with a sitter but I do advocate massive self-care. You cannot give from an empty cup. You don’t want to role model to your children how to let people walk all over them, you want your children to learn from a happy, confident mother who looks after themselves, values her needs and at the same time cares and loves her children beyond measure.
Self-care is what keeps you in peak mother-hood performance! And please don’t be fooled that self-care is using the good shower gel or a new razor! Leave the home. Do things without your children. Get a massage, have some girlfriend time, work if you want to, don’t work if you don’t, do what you need to do to maintain and grow your identity. You are YOU first and a mother is just one of your many roles that you play. It may well be one of the most important roles you’ll ever play but nevertheless it is a role, an aspect of your identity, not your whole identity.