Having cancer means no babies, right? This was not Renae O’Neill’s story with her fertility and cervical cancer.
In this episode, Carolina interviews Renae to understand how she went from 22 years old healthy to being diagnosed with cancer. Her heroic story captivates how she brought two babies earthside with the help of her doctors.
What you’ll learn:
1:28 Get to know more about Renae
4:29 Renae’s cervical cancer journey and her story of how she survived and was able to conceive
15:45 The importance of pap smear
24:50 How Renae dealt with anxiety during her journey
34:23 The lack of support
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The Carolina Sotomayor Podcast is brought to you by Carolina Sotomayor and the Fertility Foundation.
Carolina Sotomayor is an Expert Womb Healer who helps women conceive by removing physiological blockages with Reiki. She is the host of the Carolina Sotomayor Podcast, a show that covers everything from fertility to postpartum to motherhood, and the creator of Fertility Foundation Collective, an online membership that helps women heal at their own pace to boost their fertility.
Carolina has served over 500 women from around the world to heal. She is passionate about helping women create their families. As a result, there are over 60 reiki babies in the world.
Fertility Foundation Collective: https://carolinasotomayor.com/membership
Carolina Sotomayor Reiki: https://carolinasotomayor.com/
Full episode details:
Hi, I am Carolina, your podcast host Ann Ricky, master in WO Healer. Today we have an amazing guest on our podcast. But before we get to that, if you would like to support the podcast, please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcast and share on social media. And be sure to tag us at the Carolina soor. So today we’re talking about conceiving after.
Cervical cancer and our guest is Renee. And Renee. How are you doing today? Thank you for being. Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m so honored to be here. We’re so lucky to have you. Can you give us a background as to where you’re from and a little bit about you? Yeah, so I’m Renee O’Neil, and I’m first and foremost a wife and a mom of two, and I’m also a life and business coach for moms.
Just helping them with their business and their. In quotation marks balance in life. Cause we all know balance isn’t really fully achievable. I’m actually in Australia, so I’m here in Australia. It is springtime, finally. So it’s, it’s getting to the point where our weather’s starting to warm up, which is really lovely.
Oh wow. It’s soon to get cold here cuz we’re going into autumn, we’re going into fall. I’m in the Midwest of the United States, so I’m like right in the middle. Of the US and it’s starting to get a little chilly. So opposite changes of season. So we’re ending our year and you’re starting your springtime.
Oh, I love spring. Yeah, it’s actually quite lovely, isn’t it? Cuz it’s, you know, it’s that time of year where flowers are starting to bloom and the weather’s starting to warm up, which is really nice. And you get that feeling of like, oh, summer’s coming, and all the excitement that brings, especially with kids as well.
And you know, where I live in particular, we have land and so there are baby lambs being born in the paddocks all around us at the moment, so it’s very cute.
I love that with being in Australia. Is life slower? I mean, do you feel like life is fast paced there or is it slower? Than maybe compared to us. Yeah, it’s definitely slow where I am because I am in Tasmania, so I’m at the very, very bottom end of Australia and it’s very small community where I live. So, you know, from where I live, I can drive to the beach, to the mountains, to the countryside, like it is very small.
And it’s funny because I actually, I grew up here, so I have never left , and I just love it. Like it’s just one of those places where there’s just so much here and you know, I’m not a hustle and bustle city kind of girl, so it kind of suits me perfectly well. So you have the beach, the mountains, all within in one area?
Yes. That’s amazing. I’ve only experienced that one time. I bet you that’s really beautiful. Yeah, I mean it’s something like, it’s funny isn’t it? Like where you live and the environment you’re around, you kind of take that for granted because it’s just where you live, it becomes your normal. So for me, I’m like, yeah, that’s normal.
But it’s not until you talk to someone else and they explain what they live and what it’s like where they are. You’re like, oh wow. I’m pretty lucky to have all this at like, you know, arms lengths to me. So, yeah, we have a lot of corn and a lot of cow. A lot of corn. Yes. A lot of farms. A lot of cows.
There’s more cows than people, that’s for sure. Oh, wow. . So let’s dive in. So your story is quite remarkable. So you conceived after having cervical cancer? Yeah. Can you tell us more about that and your story? Yeah, so I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 22, which is quite young. And you know, before I, I, I guess I dive into the whole thing.
You know, I’m such an advocate for cervical cancer now because how I discovered that I had cancer was through your Pap sm. And you know, the fact that there is this test available to women to, you know, check for these potential signs and. Of cervical cancer. I just am such an advocate of women, you know, doing what they need to, to take care of their own health.
So yeah, I had gone for a routine pap smear and got a phone call from my GP and said, you know, you need to go straight to a hospital right now. There’s a specialist waiting to talk to you. And in the moment I’m just like, sorry, what ? What’s happening? And they said to me, look, we can’t explain any of this over the phone.
You have to just go and meet with this doctor now. Like now. So I was at work, I dropped everything. I went straight to this hospital to meet with a specialist and there was something inside me that told me, I mean, I was 22 that told me, Call mom and get her to come with me because whatever this is, it’s obviously there’s something going on here.
So I quickly rang my mom and picked her up and took her with me, and we went in there and I walked in and as soon as I said who I was, they took me straight to this doctor and I sat down. And it’s one of those things where, The doctor says Cancer, and you just forget everything. Like you just go into your this own little world of.
You just bewildered, like you’re just in so much shock that th this doctor has just said this. And you know, for me it wasn’t like a situation where I had symptoms or I had pain or I had something going on and it was being investigated. This was just a, a normal everyday routine pap smear and all of a sudden I’m being told I’ve got cancer and I have to go and have a surgery at our, our big hospital.
And so I remember just being in such a state of shock for a long time, and I think too, the naivety of being 22, I was like, you know, this is the sort of thing that happens to young people. I mean, we know that that’s obviously not the case at all, but that’s the sort of feelings I had and I just remember being really shocked.
And you know, from there it’s all kind of a rush situation. You know, they, you. , obviously it’s urgent and it’s something that needs to be taken care of really quickly. And so, you know, from there I had to go in for my first procedure, which was really daunting for me because I had never had a surgery before.
You know, the only thing I’d ever endured medical was some stitches when I was a kid and fell off my bike, like I had never had anything done before. So I remember being really scared about the surgery. And the, the scary part about when you are diagnosed with cancer, and I dunno if this is everyone’s experience, or at least this was mine, is it’s also a scary time because you never actually told.
What’s going to happen? So, you know, I’m told that I have to have this surgery and I’m asking, you know, what’s the next steps from that? And I’m being told by the doctors and specialists that, you know, we just need to take care of this first, and then we’ll look at what happens from there. And so you’re constantly like in the dark of not really knowing what’s gonna happen next.
And. I mean, you know, after this experience, I ended up working in a hospital. So I’m now aware that, you know, the doctors can’t really say because they don’t know what your next step will be until they deal with this first step. So, Yeah, I had that surgery and unfortunately they didn’t get all the cancer, so I had to go back in again and they still didn’t get all the cancer, so they had to go back in again.
So I ended up having three surgeries to deal with my cancer, and the final surgery was a situation where they said to me, you know, if we can’t get it all in this surgery, then you will have to have a hysterectomy. And at 22, you know, I don’t think I fully fathom what that actually meant. I mean, of course I understood that having a hysterectomy would mean that I would not be able to have children, you know, in a natural sense.
But I think at 22, the thought of having children, It’s not something for me, I personally had thought much about, I wasn’t Someone who, you know, from being younger, had always been like, oh, I can’t wait to be a mom. I never really had that. So it was just this daunting experience, but very, very thankfully, that third surgery was all I had to have.
Which I count my blessings every day for that. I mean, I now being a lot older now, I really understand just how lucky I am that. You know, for me and my journey with my cervical cancer, it was just three surgeries and you know, not to downplay, not to be like it was just three surgeries, but you know, the experience of of that compared to, you know, I’ve got loved ones who’ve recently just been through their cur cancer journey of having to go down the path of chemo and radiation and you.
all that endures. So I feel very, very lucky that that was my journey with it. Having said that, it was, you know, six to eight months of total fear worry. You know, it was a very scary time because it was just so daunting. The whole thing. And one thing that for me, I feel grateful for as well, is a memory that always stands out for me with my cervical cancer journey.
I had met my now husband only a few months prior to my diagnosis, and you know, I remember speaking to him early on and being like, you know, I am told that my fertility is going to be affected by this because, you know, even though I. Didn’t have to have that hysterectomy. It meant that my cervix had been removed to the point where there wasn’t a lot of cervix left, which you need to carry a baby.
And I remember having a conversation with him, you know, if you want to have children one day like down the future path, then perhaps I’m not the person for you. You know, having that really open and honest communication with him, because we were so early on in our own relationship, and I remember he said to me, you know, , whatever happens, happens.
But I’m here to stay. And so when I look back on my cancer journey and I, I think about the time that I, you know, endured those surgeries and, and the worry of it all, I’m also have this mixed feeling because I also remember, you know, the start of my relationship with my now husband and how supportive he was with me through that time as well, and how grateful I am to have had that.
But, you know, having, So early on did have an effect on fertility because you know, when you are pregnant having a baby, your cervix role in a pregnancy is to help support and hold baby in there. So for me, I was told that, you know, my chance of. Conceiving wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. It was more that having an, you know, making a baby to term is going to be a problem for me.
And, you know, they, they did explain that to me and thoroughly make sure I understood how that was going to be for me on the radar. So it’s at 22, kids were not on the radar. They weren’t even something that you were thinking about at that moment. No, not at all. . So you had cervical cancer at 22. You’ve had these three surgeries with, is it three surgeries in eight months?
Yes. Yes. And then so now they’re explaining that because of these surgeries, you can have children. However, it would just be the effect of this cancer would be possibly not being able to carry to full term because there’s not much of your cervix left. Correct. And at this point you also have met your partner, your spouse at 22 had, did you already meet him?
You said you met him during this process? No, so I’d met him prior. So we’d been together when you met him prior? Yeah. So we’d been together a couple of months at this point, , when I had been diagnosed. Oh wow. So that it’s a whirlwind. Yes. . So you’re meeting and dating this person and then living probably your best life at 22.
Like with, you know, like 22 is a really great age. Everything’s starting to get really good, right? And then you got hit with this unbelievable cancer. So you probably tell everyone to go get regular pap smears. Ah, I am such an advocate for it. I mean, you know, the way technology has changed a pap smear or they get called different things in different countries, but you know, that is the earliest detection you can possibly have.
And so quite often I know my experience in working at a hospital now, Women are told that they’ve got pre-cancer cells forming and they can deal with it before it goes into that next stage of actually forming into cancer. And so I just think for a test that I know is uncomfortable, I know it’s not the best feeling to go in for one of these tests, but.
Honestly, if you can have a test like that, that can prevent you going down a path that leads to far more intrusive procedures and possibly worse, I just think, why wouldn’t you go and get that test done and just take care of yourself? Because there is so much they can do in the earlier stages. I mean, even for me as someone who was diagnosed with cancer, Mine was still at that point where for me it was just three surgeries to help me get to that point where, you know, my cancer was gone.
And so I just think, you know, As women, we need to go and have these precautionary tests done to take care of ourselves and look after ourselves. And in particular, with cervical cancer, I mean that does play effect on fertility. And you know, if you are like me and you were 22 and kids weren’t something you were thinking about, they might be one day.
And so we just wanna take care of, of ourselves as best as. When I was growing up, uh, pap s Spears were like something you had to do annually. And then I think in recent years it switched to every three years. And then if under term circumstances in the US you can go every five years. Yeah. So I think it depends on what country you’re in, what you know country.
Yeah. That’s here in the us And I think it also depends on your. discussions that you have with your provider, your medical doctor, like what they advise for your individual case. And if you don’t have a medical provider that you’re doing a pap smear with, this is your sign. So if you’re a spiritual person and you’re like, I don’t know if this is a sign, this is your sign, go get a pap smear and you’ll be in the know.
You will not regret having knowledge. Of what is going in your womb, what’s going on inside? Because these are the things that you can’t see. These are the things that you wouldn’t know anywhere else. You wouldn’t have any other way of knowing how well you’re doing inside without this exam. And I think that’s what’s scary, and this is why I am such a big advocate for it, is I had no signs, there were no symptoms, there was nothing to suggest there was something even wrong, let alone, you know, cancer.
And so, The Pap smears is something that, yes, please, if you are overdue or you haven’t had one, please, you know, finish listening to this podcast and go and book an appointment. . So at this point you have your surgeries. You then what you went on to live life, like, how did you jump from there to conceiving?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a journey in itself, isn’t it? So from there, I always, I guess, had it in the back of my mind that having children may not be on the cards for me because, you know, the doctors had said, you know, Going to be more unlikely that you will not be able to carry a baby. They tell you how it is.
They’re a doctor, so they sat me down and. Was like, you know, if you were to fall pregnant, there’s a strong chance you will miscarry. It’s that carrying the pregnancy. That was definitely something that was going to be a huge problem for me. And again, for me at that point in time, I, I really hadn’t thought too much about having kids.
And so, you know, my now hubby, he wasn’t my hubby back then. Obviously, we. enjoyed life knowing that we may not have children. And to be really honest with you, it wasn’t something that played on my mind too much. You know, I very much was go with the flow. Whatever’s meant to be will be, you know, if children aren’t in my future, I’m, I’m okay with that.
I’ve come to terms with that and I got to that point where I was like, you know, if this doesn’t happen for me, It doesn’t happen for me. And it’s funny how as time goes on, things change. And my husband now , he and I, we got to that point where we started thinking about, you know, do we wanna have children?
You know, is this something we wanna look at? So again, we, we had this, you know, go with the flow approach. And so I did go off contraception and we just thought, we’ll just see what happens. And. Crazily to us. Six weeks after that I was pregnant and I remember being Wow. Really shocked. Like really shocked because I had so many friends and even family who had a lot of trouble conceiving, and I just thought, how can this happen?
I was meant to be somebody who this was gonna be such a problem for. You know what I, I was just in a lot of shock, I think, and I remember going to see my. Oncologist who I had through my cancer treatment because at this point I was still having to see them regularly. You, you sort of, I dunno what it’s like in the US but after five years being post-cancer, you are then discharged.
So at this point I was still seeing my doctor somewhat regularly and I remember seeing, meeting with her and saying, you know, I’m pregnant. And she was just as shocked as I was . But it’s whilst. My cancer journey didn’t seem to affect my fertility of actually falling pregnant. I was a high risk pregnancy, so this is where everything changed.
From there, at the 13 week mark, I had to go in for a surgery. So again, it’s called different things in different countries, but basically I had. Cervical suture. So that is where they go in and they basically put stitches in your cervix to basically close your cervix up. Because for me, you know, I had a very limited amount of cervix left.
And as I was explaining before, that’s what holds your baby in. That’s what keeps everything in there, everything safe. And so I had to go in and have that procedure done, which felt really scary because I was pregnant and I’m going in to have this procedure. And then from there, I was very closely monitored, so I had to see the obstetrician every single week.
They had to check my cervix every week to make sure everything was holding in as it should. But what ended up happening throughout pregnancies, there was a lot of times where, You know, my cervix wasn’t holding up and they were getting really concerned that things aren’t going to work out very well here.
Because basically if your cervix start opening up, you are effectively going into labor. And obviously when you are pregnant, you don’t want that happening up until at least 32 weeks. And even then, that’s really not ideal. But for me, my doctors were like, we just need to try and get you to 32 weeks so we can try and deliver a healthy baby.
And it was so stressful because all of a sudden I’m realizing just how big the implications are of this pregnancy. Not, you know, things don’t go well. . And you know, I remember meeting with my doctor and she checked my cervix and said, you know, things are not looking good here and I, you know, we’re going to have to put you on bedrest.
And I was like, bedrest. And she’s like, it’s strict bedrest. You need to go home now. You need to lay down and you are only to get up to go to the toilet and have a very quick shower and lay straight back down again. So bedrest was something that I had to endure, you know, I think. It was about halfway through the pregnancy, and I remember at that point the enormity of it really hitting me like.
oh my gosh, this is really serious. And I remember asking her, you know, what happens from here if things still aren’t going the way we want them to? And I remember being so scared just to even ask. Cause I was like, I don’t know if I wanna hear the answer. And she said to me, you know, I would have to go to our.
Nearest big hospital, which is about a three and a half hour drive, which for some people doesn’t sound far, but for us it’s like the other end of our state, . And she said I’d have to be put on hospital bedrest for the rest of the pregnancy. And at this point, I think I was 19 weeks, so I remember being like, That is still, you know, four or five months of bedrest.
And you know, for me it became really real, really quickly. I was like, I need to do everything in my power to prevent, you know, things from escalating. I mean, there’s nothing that you can do, let’s be honest. I mean, I can’t actually control my body other than listening to what my doctor’s telling me and, and doing great.
And. I had a client that had to get cervical stitches and luckily she was local here to Omaha and I actually went with her to give her reiki while they would have to, I forget if they were adding more in or if they were tightening. I don’t remember exactly, but like I was raking her cuz she refused to get any like pain.
Medication. And she was on strict bedrest. Yeah, too. And it was her second pregnancy and it was her last. And just had so much deep respect for the fact is that I can barely handle a pap smear. And here she was getting stitches and she had that point. She, her husband was traveling. And she didn’t have any family in the area, and I gave her Ricky through the rest of her pregnancy and even after baby was born.
But it was always a scary, very, very stressful time for her of like, all right, how much have we faced? How much is left and how, like how close are we? And still, then she delivered a little bit early, but not, she made it to 37 weeks. So yeah, it was almost completely full term. But that, that stress is immense.
How did you manage that anxiety? Honestly, it is a lot and you know, obviously you’ve been able to witness that. I remember at one point I, I remember I was on my strict bedrest and so I’m laying down and I remember my husband coming home from work. And he’d set up the living room like a hospital basically.
He’d wheeled our bed out. So I had the tv, he got a little bar fridge and it sat next to my bed so I could eat and drink without having to get outta bed. Like he, he, he set everything up for me. And I remember him coming home from work and I burst into tears and I was like, I’m just an incubator. I’m just laying here.
looking after a baby, and this is now my life. There were so many emotions involved because when you’re pregnant there are a lot of emotions involved. You know, you’re most of the time you’re excited and you are, you know, getting excited for what’s to come. I mean, you of course there is still always that worry and things inside as well of, you know, hoping that everything.
is going to go well. But this was just enormous stress and worry because at any moment I’m like, what if something goes wrong? And you know, there’s just so many what ifs in play. And because again, no one knows what’s going to happen. It’s, it’s, uh, very scary. And for me, I just wanted to get to 32 weeks because as much as 32 weeks is really early to deliver, you know, they were telling me that hopefully baby would be okay from that point.
So I’m like, we just need to get to 32 weeks. And I was counting down to try and make it a little bit better for me, but. You know, trying to take care of myself through that process because I didn’t want my stress and anxiety to stress the baby. You know, I didn’t wanna cause unnecessary stress, then I needed to.
And so I just did everything in my power to try and keep myself as calm as possible. And I would often just visualize, you know, having baby in my arms. I mean, we didn’t know what we were. We didn’t find out. So I would just picture, you know, walking around holding baby and you know, I would just try and picture like this end destination of everything being okay.
And I think that was sort of helpful. But I think it was also reaching out to, you know, my friends and family and getting their support as well. Because, you know, being able to talk about how you’re feeling, you know, is actually very valuable and helpful. And I, I also remember at the time, I mean, you know, this is a long time ago now, so it, you know, social media wasn’t quite what, what it is these days, but there were some Facebook groups that had, you know, been going on and I remember finding a Facebook group of women who had.
You know, high risk pregnancies and there were, I actually found women exactly like your friend who had been through what I was going through, and I was able to reach out to some people. And, you know, that was so comforting because I just wanted to talk to somebody who’d been through what I was going through.
But, you know, had that happy ending. I wanted to know that there was hope that this was gonna be okay. And I found that really helpful as well. But the pregnancy itself, I mean, You know, here I am now and that baby that I’m talking about is now nine years old. Well, she’s nearly 10, and so, you know, she was born early, so I managed to get to 36 weeks and she was born healthy, which.
I was very, very thankful for because obviously when you have a baby early, there can become, you know, issues when you have a premature baby. And in particular with the lungs. I remember having steroid shots early on just in case baby came a bit early, but I was able to deliver at 36 weeks and you know, I’m just so grateful to have her and I think.
Because of the journey that I’d been through with the high risk pregnancy. To finally have a healthy baby in my arms was just, I mean, everyone, when you have a baby, it’s this, I call it the love bubble. You get in this bubble of love and happiness and so much joy of like this beautiful human that you’ve created.
but for me it was just . It was that, and also this end of this period of time that was just so hugely stressful, full of anxiety, worry, and it was just, it felt like it’s, I can breathe again. You know, this is finally here. I’ve gone through this and you know, had my beautiful baby. But you know, from there I did go on and have, Two pregnancies, both of which were high risk.
But unfortunately with our second baby, we, we did lose that baby. So at 15 weeks, unfortunately, I did have to deliver, which obviously was quite a. An awful thing to experience and it really put into focus just how lucky I was to have had our first baby and to have, you know, gotten to that point of 36 weeks and, and been able to have a baby in my arms.
So, it’s interesting, you know, looking back on my experience with, you know, Pregnancy because there is definitely highs and lows to it. And you know, we all experience that. You know, unfortunately, you know, I dunno about the statistics in America, but in Australia it’s like one in four women experience a miscarriage.
And so there’s, there’s, it’s like the same statistic, one in four women that experience, experience of loss. It’s one in eight that experience infertility issues. So you know, it’s the same one in four mm. And it’s, it’s, it’s the same number. I know more women who have lost a baby through miscarriage, pregnancy loss.
If it’s further along, then I don’t, but I think that’s also my line of work. Yeah. So the thing is that here in the States, we don’t talk about it enough. And it’s, there’s a lot of suffering in silence, which I’m actively trying to break as a society. We are learning what to say better. We, I think most people have the best of intentions, but you know, when a woman loses a baby and if it’s known, you know, things like, oh, they’re in a better place, or, , things like that, you know, they’re still very hurtful.
They do a lot of damage, so I think, yes, it’s more prevalent than people know, and a lot of women choose not to say anything for different reasons. Some of it’s guilt, some of it’s shame, some of it’s fear of judgment. Some of them would just rather deal with it alone because they don’t wanna deal with comments or questions.
Versus, you know, everyone’s personal decision and their journey is so different, you know, as to why they may or may not talk about it, but a lot of women suffer alone, unfortunately. Yeah, and I guess it, it is that personal preference. I mean, you know, you, you share what you’re comfortable sharing and you know, at the timing going through your own grief, you might not be at that point where you.
Share that with others. I know for me and my husband, we did share because we were already past that point of, you know, typically, and I mean this isn’t to say this is what others have to do at all, but you know, we’d had our 12 week scan and. Whilst nothing was said at that scan, I as mother definitely felt something wasn’t right, and I will never be able to explain that other than just I had this inner knowing of something just doesn’t feel right.
And I remember saying that to my husband, and my husband is the most grounded. Calming person and I’m sometimes the complete opposite . And I remember him saying to me, no, no, you know, you’re just worrying because of, you know, the pregnancy we’ve had prior, like, everything’s gonna be okay. He was trying to reassure me, but I just had this knowing that something wasn’t right.
But for us, we did share with our close friends and family. About our experience, and I personally found that very helpful. And I think, again, this is a very personal thing, that, you know, you have to do what feels right for you, and only you can know that. But for me, having the support of people around me was.
Really helpful in dealing with that grief that we experience because you know, it’s a lot to deal with. And you know, for anyone that has experienced that, and as our statistics show that is a lot of women, my heart goes out to you because it is such a lot to deal with. And, you know, for you, Carolina, I love what you do in, in helping women.
Thank you as well. Thank you. And we need more people to talk about these topics, so, People feel less alone in their journey because I think that’s what often happens is you feel really alone in the journey and experience, and in particular, if you’ve, if you’ve not shared what’s going on, even more so because you haven’t got that support that you probably need.
I find that the people that I end up working with don’t have the support or they’re doing alone in some capacity, or there’s an absence of a partner, or there’s a lack of knowledge on how to support the person who’s trying to conceive, or, yeah, who has lost a baby sometimes. Is this as simple as like they don’t know what to say or do or show love?
So sometimes I’ll work with couples and then I’ll, I’ll work with them individually and then I’ll work with them together. Or if it’s out of my scope of practice, then I will say, I think actually, you know, a couple session used to probably get a therapist. Go individually and then go together. And that actually might be a better fit depending on the situation because I think grief with every loss is so layered.
Mm-hmm. . But having a a neutral party help you guide that conversations also very helpful. Yeah. And I think it, it does come down to that people want to help, they wanna support, but they really don’t know how. They don’t know what to say. And I think, you know, having conversations like this is helpful for people to have that awareness, you know?
And I think sometimes you can get caught up in knowing. What the right thing to say is, and I think just being there, being a listening ear, providing any kind of help and support you can, and knowing that it’s coming from a good place. I think too, you know you, that the people in your life, you know, care about you and, and they’re doing their best as well.
I always recommend, my husband calls me a fixer. I’m an active listener, but he calls me a fixer. My mother-in-law, God bless her, she’s a doer and a fixer. If there is something that you have to do for, for a person that is grieving or is they’re you not even grieving, perhaps, maybe it is, say it was one of your friends while you were on bed rest.
Some things that are helpful are gift cards to restaurants, gift cards to maybe grocery delivery or ordering them food depending on the situation. There’s so much newer things now. Yeah, , especially here in the us. I gave birth six years ago almost, and it was. Right before Instacart came out, but now you can like order someone groceries and have it delivered to their door.
If they’re an apartment, they’ll take it to their apartment door. You can DoorDash, you can get food delivery from almost any place in town. So there’s so many. So if there is something you wanna do for someone, That is high risk, pregnancy, pregnant, or you know, grieving a loss or newly postpartum. All of those things, just ask them what would you like to eat and order it for them.
When they say that they’re gonna need food, those are always well received. I think food is also a beautiful love language. Oh, absolutely. I remember after, you know, I have my. Daughter. My, my first baby. Yeah. A friend delivering like a home cooked casserole. And I remember just being so thankful for that.
Like, it’s the small little things. It’s, you know, sending food, it’s even just sending a text message asking how, how you are, you know, it’s the small things and. And in particular when you’ve had a baby, quite often the focus is always around the baby, which of course it should be, right? But it’s also checking in on mom, making sure mom’s okay, right?
Because mom’s just endured a lot over the time. And of course, everyone’s excited about the new baby, but please also check on mom because quite often moms will be struggling in silence and quite often there’ll be poker face happening and they might not let in, let let anyone know. That they might be struggling as well.
So always, always checking on on the mom as well. Always checking on on the mom postpartum. A hundred percent. If you just don’t know. what? The sleep deprivation and maybe sometimes if there’s a hormonal imbalance or if someone there is, like when you have these high emotions and then you also then have these steep drop-offs in hormones.
Mm-hmm. , you don’t know how that’s going to end up for the person. So sometimes like that listening ear is like, is just the fix for it. Oh, a good cup of coffee, a good meal and a good listening ear can solve a lot of postpartum problems. But always, I, my best advice for any person that’s preparing to go into postpartum is to make sure they have a good relationship with their general practitioner, like their regular doctor.
Mm-hmm. . And I always think. Great to have a standing relationship with a therapist and one that is, that is familiar with women’s health. I think it’s a preventative actually. Uh, I like to think of it even if you’re, you’re not actively working through any issues. I think it’s always good to have a standing relationship with a therapist, so, As a preventative.
So if you do get home from the hospital in your postpartum and you feel a little off, you already have, you don’t have to go looking. For a therapist, you already have a standing relationship. They know you, they know your history, and you’ve at least seen them once or twice during your pregnancy as a check-in.
Like I compare it to like an oil tune-up. I go in once a quarter, say hello, is there anything I need to work on? Anything like that. I even do it for my marriage just so that if there is a crisis, I’m not starting fresh, compounded with. The issue that I have to solve or something like that. So my best advice is take account of your mental health when you come home to the hospital and have that standing relationship with a therapist or a medical provider that you trust.
I think that is such amazing advice because I know for me, especially after my first pregnancy, I did have. Anxiety throughout pregnancy, but also postpartum. And I think being able to reach out to people that can offer, you know, support from a place of, you know, real understanding and you know, that professionalism of being a therapist or someone is invaluable, especially postpartum because you know, once baby arrives, You know, your world’s turned upside down.
All of a sudden you’ve got this baby that’s demanding all your focus and energy and attention. You know, you still need to take care of you and in particular, if you are struggling or you’ve got anxiety or depression or you know, you’re just not feeling yourself. Reaching out for help is a hundred.
Needed and sometimes the people closest to us aren’t, aren’t the right fit. You know, we might not feel comfortable sharing just how we might be feeling. We might need that outside person to, to really help. So I think that’s such great advice. , I think the outside person is absolutely critical because for my own birth it was very traumatic and we ended up with this emergency C-section.
I stayed in the hospital, actually it was a total of like six days is almost a week. Allie ended up in NICU and I had the worst time trying to breastfeed, but I had not achieved everything I wanted in my birth plan. Uh, almost nothing on the birth plan, so I hung onto. , the breastfeeding as a coping mechanism because I felt like completely out of control and it was the only thing I could try to attempt, and it was giving me groundedness in what felt like a complete nightmare.
And everyone who tried to talk me out of breastfeeding, I basically just banned because I was like, either you’re on my boat or not. And it wasn’t until the therapist sat me down and said, you know, , this is, you’re being a little bit erratic and you definitely has postpartum anxiety. And I said, I just don’t get how my mother could tell me that I shouldn’t.
And even, you know, other family members said, you don’t have to feel the pressure to breastfeed. And I said, well, it’s all I got. And I think that having that serious conversation and having the therapist as, as a voice of reason, it was like a person I had trusted and cuz I had that established relationship with her prior, so I was receiving the words from her in a different way than the other people that were family members were trying to voice me, like, we wanna take care of you, but you know, you.
You’re going about this in a very unhealthy way, but I wasn’t receiving that message. I just thought saw them as somebody that was negative. So versus therapist’s, like, okay, you know, we are, you can go about it a different way. Here’s an option. And then it helped me come up with a plan. It was less triggering for me to receive the message from the therapist because she was a neutral person.
Hmm. Versus. As a person of like my mother-in-law or my mom or friends, I just saw them of instantly. I was like, okay, you’re against me. So, and my postpartum, my anxiety just got heightened from there. So a lot of postpartum, in some cases, like for mine, I was, had severe postpartum anxiety. You just have to make sure that you are creating these relationships.
That’s why as a therapist, she was safe. Yeah, and even though you might be close and have these great relationships before baby is born, doesn’t necessarily, you just don’t know how postpartum is gonna go for you. You don’t know how your birth’s gonna go or what will trigger you or what your relationship will be like with Baby.
You don’t, maybe you’ll bond with baby or maybe you won’t bond with baby and how everything unfolds. Is, is no shame to you or shame to, or guilt or blamed to be had on the mom at all? Is this making sure that you have the support? , you’re building the support ahead of that time period. That’s the biggest mistake I see moms to be make, is they haven’t built the support or the community necessarily beforehand.
And that’s not necessarily all with friends and family, it’s also with their like, let’s plan the postpartum, let’s preventatively make sure we have everything in place to make sure you have the best care possible. Mm. . That’s my like, best advice for anyone that’s struggling in pregnancy. Go see a therapist, go see your doctor.
Yeah. And see what options you have. Because I learned in postpartum that I most likely had prenatal anxiety, which you know, is basically pregnancy and anxiety and it just amplified when after all the trauma happened. So it’s really important that you’re checking in with the people. That you trust that our medical providers, and if you don’t have one, then um, get referrals.
Um, those mom groups in your local area are priceless. Uh, here in the States, if you have a, if there’s a town you’ll get and any type of mom, there’s like, if you wanna be a crunchy mom and into the essential oils and join the natural parenting group or the, maybe just the one for your town, I’m in all of them.
And get referrals. If there’s like a particular doctor you’re looking for or a style of therapist or style of a even pediatrician, whatever it may be, just make sure that you’re actively seeking out who you need to talk to. Renee, if there was any advice you were to give to a mom that’s struggling in their pregnancy, what advice would you give them?
I think just knowing that you are not alone. I know for me, I felt really isolated in my pregnancy and you know, I think because I’d look around and everyone in my world hadn’t experienced anything like I had experienced and so, you know, as I shared, you know, I sourced out a Facebook group and found other women who had been through what I’d been through.
But I think my best advice is exactly what you were just talking on then. It’s reaching out for help. Whether that is loved ones, whether that’s a friend, whether that is your therapist, whether that’s a coach, whether it’s someone you’ve connected with online, you know, someone like yourself or me. You know, there’s people that are there and more than happy to support you.
And I think just speaking out when you are feeling like that, because you. Struggling alone, honestly, is far worse from my personal experience than, you know, speaking to somebody and getting the help. And so I think just knowing too that. It is only temporary. Just doing what you can to take care of you and really making sure that you are a priority for yourself and reaching out for help is, I mean, I feel like that’s the, the whole premise of this podcast episode is just acknowledging how you are feeling.
and then taking the paths to, you know, getting the help that you need. Because more common than I think women realize. And I think talking about it like we are here just goes to show that more people have experienced similar things. I mean, you know, prenatal anxiety and postpartum anxiety is something that I too have experienced as well.
And so, you know, if you are not feeling yourself, then definitely reach out for. Could you tell listeners how they can get in contact with you and where you are on social media? Yeah, so my favorite place to hang out is over on Instagram, so you’ll find me at renee dot O’Neil. I love Instagram. I more than encourage you to come and jump in my dms and say hi.
I find Instagram to be great. I’ve connected with so many amazing people over there, and so I definitely would love to connect with you over there. And then I also have a podcast as well, which, Has just been rebranded, so that is the Mum Boss podcast, so you can go and check, check that out as well. Oh, I can’t wait.
I’ll definitely be linking it in the episode description below. Well, Renee, thank you so much for your time and thank you for being here and sharing your story. It’s definitely gonna impact so many. Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been honored to be here