Motherhood changes us in mind, body and soul. And while it’s a challenge, there is so much beauty to behold. Steph Claire Smith talks about taking postpartum at your own pace.
By Nicole Fuge, MD® Managing Editor
Mama to almost two-year-old son Harvey, Steph is the co-founder of Keep It Cleaner, a health and wellness app that is all about feeling your best, not looking a certain way… which we LOVEEE.
She also co-hosts super popular podcast KICPOD (with fellow Keep It Cleaner co-founder Laura Henshaw), and its spin-off KICBUMP. A cool poddie chatting all things motherhood. KICBUMP is also a program in the KIC app that is tailored for mums in their pre and postnatal journey.
“KICBUMP is all about raw and honest conversations that parents can resonate with and know that they are not alone,” Steph says.
“(If able) we create a baby, we give birth to another human being – another BODY! We should be celebrating more of that and let go of silly societal expectations to look a certain way.”
Because there really is nothing quite like motherhood. And nobody gets that, other than another mamas.
“Parenthood is a wild experience with so many highs and lows, but it’s truly such a special time. Embrace the ‘pinch me’ moments and the memories you’re creating,” she says. “We live in a noisy world. So try to block out the unsolicited advice and just trust your own instincts and do what works for you.”
How did your life change when you became a mum?
In ways, life has changed dramatically, but in others, not so much.
I think falling pregnant during lockdown, after already being in lockdown for a year, was a blessing in a way (well in many ways of course), because prior to COVID my life was incredibly spontaneous.
Josh and I were travelling interstate almost every fortnight. Having events on most weekends. And heading overseas multiple times within a year.
Obviously COVID slowed all of that right down, in a similar way that becoming a parent does.
Prior to having kids you feel empowered to be selfish, and as soon as you become a mother suddenly being selfish sounds like a horrible thing! I’m learning that being a great mum doesn’t require me to be completely selfish all the time, it actually requires me to make sure I put time aside to fill up my own cup too.
Life has changed, but it’s changed for the better – it was a change I was ready for.
How do you manage to make it all work – #mumlife, career aspirations, looking after yourself?
I’m glad it looks that way, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way all the time.
There is a constant tug of war between mum, work life and the things that make me feel good. KIC is my other baby, so naturally I want to prioritise something that I have created and am so passionate about.
Moving my body is also so important to me and a big part of who I am. It helps me feel energised and sets me up for a productive day ahead.
So when I prioritise either of those things, of course the mum guilt still creeps in.
The juggle of work-mum-life is something I’m still working on. But I think it’s all about learning as you go and what works best for you and your family. Josh and I are lucky enough to be in a situation where I can go to work and he can stay home with Harvey, but as a mother, the guilt never stops (or missing Harvey beyond belief!).
My advice would be to know that it probably won’t ever be ‘perfect’, and every situation differs from parent to parent.
Balance is hard, and I have so much respect for every other parent out there. But if you can find a routine that works, whether it be a hybrid working days, flexible hours and trusted friends and family you can lean on, as well as finding the time for YOU and the things that fill your cup, then I think you’re doing a pretty good job.
There is so much pressure on mamas to ‘bounce back’ after they have a baby. What is your take on that?
This pressure is so silly and the ‘bounce back’ mentality is unsustainable. I avoided consuming information out there that fuels this mindset because it’s actually not fair to our bodies. I can totally appreciate the idea of your body changing after pregnancy is a little daunting, because it is a big part of who we are, but I think we take for granted just how amazing the female body is.
(If able) we create a baby, we give birth to another human being – another BODY! We should be celebrating more of that and let go of silly societal expectations to look a certain way.
When it comes to looking after your postpartum self what are your top tips for health and wellness?
There is a lot of information out there on how to look after yourself after having a baby. But everyone’s postpartum journey is different and what works well for one mum might not work for the mum standing next to them. And in reality there will be weeks where you will find more time to prioritise your health and wellbeing and weeks where you simply won’t. So don’t get too hung up on it and just embrace the experience that is motherhood!
Having a baby takes a huge toll on the body both physically and mentally, so be kind to your body and allow it to recover.
For me, I knew I wanted to start moving my body again after my six-week clearance, because that’s what makes me feel good. However due to a slight bladder prolapse, I had to start off gentle, and stuck with our KICBUMP postnatal Pilates or KIC yoga flows and short walks to satisfy that motivation to move.
These days I’m loving our KIC minis, which are 5 to 10 minute workouts that are perfect for all fitness levels, designed to help you feel good and still get a solid dose of endorphins. There’s nothing more empowering than building strength back up that you once had, but there is also nothing worse than overdoing it and setting yourself back.
If you’re looking for something to follow in those early stages of postpartum and don’t have access to a physio, KICBUMP postnatal Pilates may be for you. It’s all about building back up your pelvic floor and deep core muscles prior to getting back into regular training.
Everything changes when we have kids… our bodies AND ourselves. How did you navigate these changes in identity?
I was very lucky to have a really positive and magical experience throughout my pregnancy, and then after having Harvey it was like a new pocket of love just opened up inside me.
As a mother I feel you’re constantly learning new things about yourself that you didn’t know existed or are actually a big part of who you are. So for me I feel like my identity grew and matured which is quite special.
Of course my routine has changed so much and I’m still learning as I go. For example I love my sleep ins, so becoming an early riser (along with having to get up several times throughout the night) was a hard transition for me and there are days where I really struggle because of a sleepless night the night before.
When this happens I try to not get too frustrated or stressed over it because it only makes the exhaustion worse, and I will communicate to my team at KIC or Josh that I won’t be 100% today. I am so grateful for how supportive they all are.
Thankfully with where Harvey’s sleep is at currently, those days are few and far between. But I’ve been told not to get too comfortable!
When the days feel tough and you don’t feel like yourself, my advice would be to communicate with your friends, family and work colleagues and ask for help when you need it.
Don’t bottle it all up, you’re not alone and tomorrow is a new day!