In the spotlight series. For this series I will be catching up with a local mum and business woman who works in the antenatal or postnatal arena. I’m not sure Tessa needs any introduction as most of my clients have been to her pregnancy yoga classes, but incase you don’t know the lovely Tessa…she teaches Pregnancy Yoga and Mother & Baby yoga in Caversham. She also teaches Active Birth Preparation and Deep Relaxation Workshops. And she hosts the Caversham Red Tent, but more on that later. She has two daughters, one born at the Royal Berks and, who are now school-age.
Tell us a bit about your work and home life?
I have a much better work-life balance now teaching yoga, than when I was working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. It was hard, after the commitment to that career for so many years, to leave it behind, but it is worth it for being able to pick my daughters up at the end of the school day.
Yoga has long been a passion though (22 years!) and there is great satisfaction in seeing women become confident in themselves during pregnancy and as mothers in the postnatal classes. I’m always juggling classes and meetings in school hours, but somehow it all seems to work out.
How did you get into your work?
I got into teaching pregnancy yoga because I was teaching general classes and inevitably my clients would get pregnant! I felt they were getting a raw deal in a general class because the expectant mum’s priorities are different and there is a fantastic opportunity to weave in antenatal education in an antenatal yoga class. After having my own babies and attending a Mother & Baby Yoga class I experienced how wonderful it is to be able to do something for yourself AND bring your baby along, and have fun with your baby. It’s a win-win situation.
Later, I became interested in the Red Tent – a women’s circle – where we support one another; talking honestly and about things that don’t often get talked about like menstrual cycle awareness, contraception after birth, the difficulties of self-care with young children…. The Red Tent has been going now for 3.5 years and has become a wonderful community of women. What made me set it up is the idea that by the time my girls are growing into young women there will be a range of women at the gatherings to empower them in all sorts of ways, including knowledge about their bodies that we are commonly lacking.
What things boost your mood?
When I was newly postnatal, yoga nidra – a form of relaxation- was essential. I would chose whatever length track I had time for. The shortest one I have is only 9 minutes long and works a treat. Now that I have a bit more time as my girls get older, I fit in a little meditation each day. This can totally transform my mood. And of course I go to yoga classes myself. For the past two years I have been going to bellydance classes and love the way this gets me to move my body in a different way to yoga.
What plans do you have for the future work-wise?
I am planning a super nourishing yoga/meditation/relaxation/circle class where women can be deeply nourished. After all when your cup is full, you can keep on giving to your family in the way that you want.
What do you offer specially for new mums?
My Mother & Baby Yoga classes are integrated so the mum gets to stretch and move for herself, while the baby is entertained with songs and mini-moves. And importantly, you get a hot cup of tea and homemade treat at the end. I am always thrilled when a mum says my class was the favourite activity she did during her maternity leave.
What advice would you give to new mums?
Try to slow down and be in the moment as much as you can. This is no easy task I know! After working full-time, I found it incredibly hard to switch to being at home with a baby. I found that getting out the house to do one thing each day, like going to the breastfeeding drop-in or postnatal yoga, was great. More than one thing a day would make us both tired and grumpy, and with the second baby made me prone to mastitis.
I really like the book What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing. This validates all the time you spend bonding with your baby, not outwardly achieving very much at all!
Fave thing to do with your children?
Reading a book with them. There was always a window between 5 and 7pm when they were babies where I was just waiting for my husband to get home. I would lie on the bed and hold a book over the both of us, and read the story. As they got older they would want the same story again and again, but the repetition is really important for their learning and they would finish all the sentences. Fave books are The Worst Princess and The Singing Mermaid. Now my 7 year old will read her own book and we’ll snuggle together on the sofa under a blanket both reading.
Best place to go locally?
One place I just found out about is the Museum for English Rural Life. It’s great for a wet day and has all sorts of things to look at. There’s a small café when they get hungry and parking right outside.
Anything else to add?
Being a mum is both the hardest job and the most rewarding one. I think the challenges keep changing as they get older, but so do the rewards. I hope to meet more of you soon, at one of my classes or at Debs’ meet ups. You’re doing a great job!