Transcript: Dance Your Way Into a Happier Postpartum Recovery With Your Baby

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Dance Your Way Into a Happier Postpartum Recovery With Your Baby and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Can you think of anything more fun than dancing with your baby as part of your postpartum recovery? I must say that when mother of 3, Audrey Bready first told me that this is what she did I was impressed, but Audrey is a classical dancer after all. During our chat you’ll hear Audrey talk about loads of ways that dance is beneficial to your postpartum healing, including how it strengthens your musculature and pelvic floor and it’s advantages over a reliance solely on using kegels.

Audrey also talks about how it helped her heal from a traumatic birth that caused her injury.

As you will know if you’ve listened to my podcast previously, I’m all for anything that will help build a closer bond with your baby and you’ll hear Audrey talk about how she uses dance to connect and do this and how it helps her kids free their emotions and let them out.

And don’t worry if like me, you can’t spin like Najinsky or even the thought of doing splits makes your eyes water, Audrey has lots of ideas to help you get started.

Helen Thompson: Welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat, Audrey, I’m delighted to have you here and I was so excited when we chatted before on your Facebook live. It was great and the connection that we have with each other about dance and movement and bonding with your baby .

I’m so excited to talk about dancing with your baby and much more. So do you want to start by just telling me a little bit about you and what your passion is and what got you into dance.

Audrey Bready: Sure, thanks, Helen. Well, I want to say thank you for having me and you’re right. Our last conversation in my group was so much fun and I really enjoy sitting down and talking with you, so thank you for this opportunity to speak with you again. So I have three kids and I am a professionally trained dancer and when I had my first child, I went into this place of, okay, what do I do with this kid?

Because what I like to do is dance, but this is a baby. What do you do with a baby? And I just figured why not just stick them in a carrier and have them dance with me. And he had a great time as a baby. Now he’s six years old and is trying out new things, but my three-year-old really loves to dance with me and he will put on music and he’ll ask me to dance with him and we’ll have a little dance party, but then I also have a seven month old who I now put in my carrier and she’ll dance with my three-year-old and I, and we just have a really great time and it’s really fun to bond with them because, babies feel the music naturally. And then when you get them moving their legs to start bouncing up and down, and I have this really funny video of my first, when he was probably about nine months old and he really was trying really hard, not to have fun with me while dancing. And he has this very stern, straight face, but his feet, they just couldn’t help it. They’re just bouncing up and down and it’s so adorable and so funny, and I’ve loved dancing with all three of my children and it’s been a really great bonding experience for all of us.

Helen Thompson: Well it’s great for kids to move because I think that’s a great way for them to learn and develop too, because moving helps them to get their emotions moving and get their expression out. So is that something that you’ve found with your kids?

Audrey Bready: I do a little bit. Children have really big emotions and so when I try to invite them into doing a dance with me, when they’re angry to try and get that movement going and to get their anger out, they’re not particularly interested in doing that with me quite yet. They’re not old enough to see the goodness, but when they’re happy and excited, then they’ll jump and they’ll spin. My three-year-old especially loves doing inverted movements, which is where he puts his hands on the floor. And will kick his legs up into the air, kind of like a form of handstand, but not quite. And he tries to do lots of turns and leaps. And so it’s fun to see him express himself when he’s happy and excited, but the anger and the disappointment and the frustration we haven’t quite got to, how do we emote through movement with those feelings quite yet.

Helen Thompson: Well, that’s quite a hard thing for a child to learn. If you make it as a game, rather than as a way of getting their emotions out, it might be more beneficial. Cause I do brain gym, so I know a bit about movement and dancing and I just make it fun, but I’m sure that’s what you do anyway.

Audrey Bready: Right, they want to play, they want to engage with mom, they want to engage with me and they want us to just smile and laugh together.

And so that’s what I do with them. Then maybe one day we’ll get into the harder emotions if they decide to keep dancing. They’ll have their own lives and journeys to live, and that will be fun to watch. Yeah. But one thing that I really love to do personally, for myself with my children is to start teaching them how to dance while I’m exercising myself.

And so that’s really where the carrier comes in because when you have just had a child and your muscles are not quite strong any more. Cause you know, they’ve been stretched out and you know, you pushed out a baby, then you feel some weakness. Right. And so I, I use dance to also keep them with me and bond while I am rehabilitating my body and strengthening myself.

And so then they get that opportunity, especially now that my two are older that they get to watch me use it as an exercise tool, as well as bonding with them at the same time. And so it does sometimes get into this competition, like I was saying with those hand stand movements, that how high can mommy get her legs while her hands are on the floor or how long can we hold it together, or how high can we climb up on the wall. Cause my seven month old is the girl. So we’re not quite there yet. I’m sure that we’ll get into spinning. How many times can we spin together before we get dizzy? But that’s really where this dancing with my children came from .

This is how I know how to exercise my body and they just need to come along with me because as a mom, how do you find time to exercise?

Helen Thompson: Cause I know you said to me when we first talked about postpartum and getting your pelvic floor working and how to support that. So as a mom’s experience of dance using what you use as a postpartum pelvic floor stuff, can you tell me a bit more about that?

Audrey Bready: Absolutely, so what I especially love about dance when it comes to rehabilitating your body is that it’s not just sitting down and doing kegels.

A lot of doctors I found or physical therapists will just tell you to do kegels, which is great and wonderful until you realize maybe you’ve done too many kegels or you realize, oh, I can’t just do the kegel some of the time, now I have to really maintain my body and now I’m stuck doing kegels for my entire life. Which is great, we all need to do kegels, but the difference between dancing through rehabilitation versus just doing kegels is that you’re using your whole body and the muscles kind of naturally engage themselves because you are moving your full body and they have to protect you. It has to keep up with you, right?

And so there is definitely a time to sit down and focus on, am I breathing correctly to get my pelvic floor back in shape? Am I breathing correctly to bring my ribs back into place? Am I breathing correctly so that way my diaphragm is working properly? But, then there’s also this time to, I just need to move my body and let it naturally find itself again, because I felt after every single pregnancy and childbirth, there was this disconnect between who I am and my body like that mind body connection.

And I did do some physical therapy after my second son was born because he just came shooting out of me like a rocket and I did end up having a reconstructive surgery on my pelvic floor. Yeah. Two hours, it was a good stuff.

It was frightening, but because of dance, I was able to get back into shape within eight months versus my physical therapist saying, it’s going to take you a couple of years being strategic and all that. And as soon as she gave me the okay, to get back into dancing and teaching, because I also own a dance studio locally, where I live, I just busted through every single expectation that she had and that I had of myself and it was amazing. And so that’s also one of the big things that really brought me to this spending time with my children and dancing was when I saw that progression after my second childbirth, it just clicked in my head that there’s something to this rather than going to physical therapy and isolating your muscles.

Because today we need to work on this muscle. Or we need to work on this muscle, but if we can work as a whole body that really brings your mind and body connection together much quicker than when you’re thinking about just your pelvic floor or just your abdominals or just your hamstrings or just your glutes.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. That’s all to do with whole body learning and you mentioned kegels. I’m thinking here moms might not know what that is.

Audrey Bready: So kegels are when you isolate your pelvic floor muscles. So if you think about your body and if you’re sitting listening to this podcast, or even if you’re standing, so your pelvic floor is the muscles that are within the bottom of your pelvis.

So, where the baby came out, your vagina and all of that, that’s where your pelvic floor muscles are. Right. And so doing kegels is when you are thinking about lifting those muscles up into your body. You’re contracting those muscles and you’re thinking about, the best description I’ve ever heard is that you think that your muscles are kind of like a building and you’re lifting your muscles up the elevator into your body. And one way to find these muscles, if you have no idea, what I’m talking about is to go to the restroom and while you’re peeing, you stop the flow and those are your pelvic floor muscles. And so then you get off the toilet and you just figure out, how can I isolate those muscles and lift them up into my body.

Now you need to be careful because you don’t want to lift them and hold them for too long. You need to do the balance of then relaxing them and letting them have the opportunity to kind of, completely relax. And to let them, feel like they’re going down into a basement even because we’re going with this building metaphor, right?

So you take them up into the fifth floor. That’s a really strong, strong kegel, which actually gets your abdominals working with you. And then you want to be able to relax them and go past what you think is your most relaxed place. So that you’re really forcing them to fully relax. And that way you find a balance of not ending up tight in this muscular area.

Helen Thompson: So I guess that’s how you hold your bladder. It’s to do with when you know, you really need to get to the toilet. And as a mom, when you’re having a baby, you’ve got the pressure of your baby in there and even when you don’t have a baby, but you’re trying to hold your bladder. That’s what you’re talking about.

Audrey Bready: Yes, that’s another way to find those pelvic floor muscles. Yes. Is that when you need to go to the restroom, you hold back for just a couple of minutes to see what it feels like to hold it in. And then once you’re on the toilet, then you can find that relaxation feeling there too, as you’re relieving yourself.

Yeah. That’s another good analogy for it.

Helen Thompson: Can you do this when you’re pregnant as well or does it have to be after pregnancy?

Audrey Bready: Actually we should be doing this all the time as women. And I know that this is a moms chat, but dads need to be working on it too, because what’s really interesting about our pelvic floor muscles is that they are the only set of muscles that are holding all of our internal internal organs inside our body. There’s no other layer of muscles that are holding our liver, our stomach or bladder, our gallbladder, our intestines, our sexual organs.

Everything is held up by these pelvic floor muscles. And so before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy well into decades postpartum, these muscles need to be engaged and they need to be given the opportunity to exercise themselves on a very regular basis.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. Cause I know that some moms have problems with their pelvic floor after they’ve given birth and as you say, you had that and your therapist was telling you, it will take months and you worked it through dance, which is amazing. So are there any other wonderful benefits from what you do with your dance, that you can impart to any mum?

Audrey Bready: Well, obviously the joy of seeing your child dance and start to engage with music. There’s a couple of movements that I teach my friends and my clients, that I like to call the baby roller coaster, where you lay on your back and you put your baby on your hips and you let your knees fall side to side while you keep your shoulders in place touching the ground. All right. So you’re lying on the floor, baby sitting on your hips, not your stomach, but your hips and your knees are pointed to the ceiling with your feet flat on the floor.

And so what you do is you drop your knees slowly side to side, and this gets your abdominal muscles working because you’re keeping your shoulders touching the floor as best as you can. Right. But because you’re baby is sitting on your hips, you’re rocking baby back and forth with you and they feel like they’re on this little roller coaster.

We just get the best giggles out of that. My seven month old actually just loves to pitch yourself forward and start giving me kisses while we do that. I’ve heard lots of other babies just start laughing and having the best time ever. It’s so sweet to have that connection moment while you’re still able to do what you need to do for yourself to feel like you’re a strong woman and to get confident in your body again, as well as bringing that mind and body connection back together.

Helen Thompson: Oh, that sounds amazing. Sounds very similar to yoga, but I know dance and yoga, they’re similar, but yet different.

Audrey Bready: Right, yoga, well, depending on the type of yoga you do, it’s either very static and you’re holding poses, or it’s a very flowy movement. And while dance has its opportunity to be sharp and smooth, depending on what kind of music you’re listening to or what kind of movements you’re doing.

So. Yeah, it’s fun. I love that you brought up the connection of using your emotions also to relieve your emotions, because then, you know, as a mom, we have those moments that can be really frustrating in our lives, especially with children when you’re trying to teach them right and wrong, or you’re trying to teach them how to follow directions.

Right. And so I have found when I’m at my utmost about to go over the edge. I’m going to lose it moment. If I just stick on my favorite song or my kid’s favorite song, whichever kid I’m about to lose it with. I put on their favorite song and we just bust into dance together. That really helps relieve that moment and we have three to four minutes to bring ourselves back together and to remember, we really do like each other. Of course, we love each other, but we really also like each other because sometimes it can feel different. And, and so we’ve used that in my house to really bring us back together and to relieve those frustrating moments.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. It’s interesting how you talk about music and dance because I come from a childcare background and frequently, I used to put music on to encourage the children, to get up and tidy up or encourage them to go to sleep. Or it was always the music and the movement that got them to do things.

I used to put a tidy up song on that we worked out with the kids thinking, right. Well, this is what we’re going to do to tidy up. And we put on some lovely music that the kids really liked and it was sort of quite upbeat and it was like, right, we’ve got all these toys on the floor, so let’s start moving and start dancing to pick those toys up.

And it really worked cause it stimulated, as you mentioned their emotions, but also it stimulated them to move and to actually take action and it triggered something in their brain. Oh, we’ve got music on, we’ve got to dance, but we’ve also got to tidy this up. This particular music is for that movement that we’ve got to do.

Audrey Bready: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. We can definitely train our bodies and we can train our minds to hear a certain song and we go, oh, that’s our cleanup song. Or I like to equate it to, growing up when it was my turn to clean the kitchen, then I would put on music and have my alone time cleaning up the kitchen while my brother was off doing his homework or my parents were off doing their work stuff or their downtime.

Yeah, it helped me get things done faster. And it’s the same for our children. We just , forget that sometimes as adults, because as a mom of three I’m so constantly on the move that I forget that we can use these tools because I use them to deflate situations but I forgot about the cleaning, thanks for reminding me Helen.

Helen Thompson: But you can also do it, if your baby’s quite young, to put your baby on you like in a carrier and if you’ve got to do the housework or if you’re feeling that you want to dance, just sort of dance around with your baby and put the vacuum on and you can incorporate dance that way as well and putting it as an everyday routine to help. I don’t know if you have a routine with your kids, but I’m sort of imagining a sort of dance routine that you can do with your kids to help to encourage that.

Audrey Bready: Yeah, well, we don’t currently have a routine because, you know, in the first year of life, a baby doesn’t have a routine and so we’re all just scrambling, trying to keep up with her but we do like to say, okay, this is what time we’re doing things. And typically we’ll give our children the option. Do you want to listen to a song? Do you just want to get it done? What’s going to help you today. And so they do sometimes choose music and sometimes they’re in a bad mood and they don’t want to be lifted out of it. So they just drag their feet until they decide to get things done.

Helen Thompson: Isn’t that what adults do sometimes? Moms do that sometimes themselves. They’re over tired, they’re distraught, they’re overwhelmed because they’re not getting any sleep and they don’t really want to lift themselves out of it. All they want to do is to go to sleep and they’ve got a baby to look after and that’s not always that easy.

Audrey Bready: No, no, it’s not. It can be really hard. When you have a little person depending on you all the time, and, and you’re not necessarily getting all the love and cuddles back that you wish you could get or whatever it is that you expected motherhood to be like, it can be really hard when it’s completely the opposite.

And to find things like dancing to music or playing games or doing silly books with your children can really help find those moments when you’re feeling like, oh, this isn’t really what I expected. You gotta use some tools, definitely. But you’re right, sometimes we don’t want to lift ourselves up and we just want to have a pity party.

Helen Thompson: You say you think tools, what kind of tools would you use to do that through your dance?

Audrey Bready: For my dance, well, I would usually start with a slow calm song when I don’t want to be in a good mood or, you know, find some lyrics that really means something to you and you just listen to that song once or twice, a few times. However long it takes you to really feel like, all right, this is the feeling I’m having and I can name it and I can express it. And then what would be a song that would lift you out of that. Now that you’ve named it now, you know what the opposite can be, right. And we can do that with our children too.

Now that you can name your emotion, what’s the opposite. How do we get there? So you either imagine like you’re climbing a ladder with, okay. I’ve listened to my super sad song. So what’s a less sad song. And then what’s a less sad song than that. And then you transition into happier songs step-by-step or if you’re the type of person that can just switch your emotions and decide, okay, now I’m going to be happy. You’ve listened to your sad song. You’ve moved around with it. You’ve danced it out with your kids even, cause you can do it with your kids. If you’re just having a bad day, put on your sad song and dance with your kids. You’re going to be amazed what they come up with when you’re playing a slow, sad song, or really, you know, rock and roll screaming song, because that’s how it feels in your head.

Right? It’s amazing what they come up with and what you come up with through your body when you’re listening to different types of music and having a completely different rhythm or a different atmosphere within the music. Right. And so, but sometimes you can go from sad to happy in the blink of an eye, play your sad song once and do a super happy song once.

And you’re good to go. And sometimes that’s what we have to force ourselves to do as moms, because school still has to happen or you still have to make dinner, life still has to go on. So we don’t really have those moments all the time to be able to slowly work our way out of our tough days. It would be nice if we did though.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think of ballet and I think of how watching ballet really relaxes me because you just see the way they move. It’s just amazing to me when you do ballet. I find that really emotionally intriguing , how they just dance around and they just lift themselves up and they stand on their toes and I think. If you’ve got a baby and you’re doing that and you’re teaching them that it’s to do with the heartbeat as well, if you’ve got your baby close to you and while you’re moving, they feel the beat as well of the music and they can learn how to use that beat to help them to grow. Does that make sense?

Audrey Bready: Yes, it really does because if you’re carrying them in a carrier that has you either chest to chest or back to chest you’re right there feeling your heartbeat. Typically, I find that we move up and down, with the beat of the music, right. Even if we’re going side to side, there’s still this up and down movement, that’s going along with it. And so then that’s showing their body what it is that this music means to you because that’s how you’re moving, right. But it’s also very interesting and wonderful how perceptive children are. They can just look at your face and they know and then they either decide to push your buttons or they decide to try to help you get out of it. Right. Depending on how they’re feeling that day. But you can help them understand how you’re feeling through the music too. And so it’s a beautiful bond because then they know, okay, my, my mom’s a human being.

Sometimes she has bad days. Sometimes she has super great days and I’m just living life with her. And sometimes I have bad days. And so I had this really beautiful moment with my son this morning, actually. We’re driving on our way to school. I know it was a good morning. We were all having a really great time and all of a sudden, he goes, mommy, can you play this song for me?

And I don’t even remember what the song was, but can you play this song for me? Because I feel happy and this song helps me stay happy and I want to be happy and go to school. Sure, son, we can, we can do it. And thankfully there was just enough time before we got into the drop-off line where his song played the whole thing through, and it stopped right as he was getting out of the van and he was ready to go.

He was ready for his stay, but through dance and through listening to music and connecting to music with my husband and I, he was able to put an emotion to a song and say, I’m going to choose this. And this song is going to help me.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s, that’s really lovely, cause he’s obviously learned through you and how the emotions work with dance. You have a dance studio and everything, so how do you support moms with your dance?

Audrey Bready: Yeah, so I love working with moms with newborns, especially because you can really start nice and early with training your baby to dance with you. So that way you’re not starting at two years old thinking this’ll be great with my kid and your kid going wait a second. This isn’t what we do, mom. We don’t do this together.

Right, you want to start as early as possible and so currently I’m working one-on-one with moms to rehabilitate their bodies while bonding with their babies. And training their babies up into dancing and exercising with them. And so, yep, just one-on-one I don’t have any classes yet because I don’t know when my kid’s going to be happy.

Meaning my seven month old, because we’re in that phase of every day is completely different. So working one-on-one instead of having a group of people, relying upon me and a baby who might be teething, stresses me out a little bit. So one-on-one is, is my sweet spot right now.

And like you mentioned, I have a group on Facebook. It’s called Postpartum Dancing Moms. It’s fun. I have a lot of fun I’m finishing up a series of 30 videos tomorrow and I put out videos once a week with some exercises sometimes with my children sometimes with just one of them, sometimes I’m by myself because it depends on what’s happening that day or that week.

And we have a good time. Moms ask questions, we do some good exercises together and stretches.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve watched your Facebook group sometimes and watch your movements and dancing and I look at it and think, gosh, I’d love to be able to lie on the floor while I’m watching you and just learning. But every time I’m lying on the floor, I have to get up and think, oh what’s she doing now. I’m really inspired by your Facebook group and I highly recommend they watch and listen, because when you’re doing your dance, you can see the emotion and the passion that you have when you’re dancing, especially with your kids.

Audrey Bready: Thank you. Yeah, especially once you throw the kids in there, you just got to go with the flow and have a good time. That’s all you can do and their smiles, you know, make it all special and wonderful. And I love it. I love it. I love teaching them. I love being able to teach my children about something that’s important to me.

Right. Absolutely. Because I think it’s really important for kids to know what is important to their parents. What we see as priorities, and to be reminded that yes, children, you are my priority, but I have a life that you have entered into. And I invite you to share that with me.

Helen Thompson: But also, I think it’s teaching children that, as you say a mother or a father, whoever it is, has a life as well and I think that’s really important to value as a mother that you’ve got a life as well. And yes, you’ve got to look after your children and yes, you’ve got to give them as much care as you can, but then you’ve got to give yourself care as well. And I think that’s where your passion from dancing comes in, because your self care is your dance.

Audrey Bready: Absolutely. Absolutely and so I’m inviting them in to learn about my self care. So that way one day they might go, oh, I need some self care. This is what mom did. I can try it out. Okay. It didn’t really work for me, but I know that there’s this thing called self care and what is my self care routine going to be?

And so I love that you brought that up. Thank you Helen.

Helen Thompson: And before I go what, what words of wisdom would you give to a first-time mom who was struggling with bonding with their baby, or just having those emotional problems and struggling and being overtired overwhelmed, exhausted?

Audrey Bready: Yeah, I would say to find a supportive community and not just a social one. Maybe to either be able to get on a video chat and talk with somebody. You need to go find a group, or a coffee shop group or something where you can sit down and relate to moms.

Yes. Facebook groups are great and wonderful. I don’t know what you’ve found in Facebook groups, but in my local area, the Facebook groups, aren’t always that uplifting and encouraging. And so if you can get face to face with somebody and really get to a place where you feel comfortable to say, this is what I’m going through, I’m not getting enough sleep and you don’t even need to find answers for how to get more sleep. You just need somebody to say, yup. Exactly. And it will get better. Just fill yourself up with coffee or tea and get through today. And, you just need that encouragement because when you feel like you’re all alone, those emotions, aren’t going to get better. You’re not going to find happiness when you’re sitting all alone, feeling like no one else is dealing with this in life. And so you need to find somebody that you can open up to and be honest with.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s where Zoom comes in these days. You can have zoom meetings because I’m thinking more of the COVID stuff that’s been going on at least having zoom meetings, catch-ups and coffee clubs, and Zoom cafes. You can have a moms group, but online. And you’re actually face-to-face, which I think is very valuable.

Audrey Bready: Absolutely. And now that we have these fantastic cordless headphones that we can put on our heads and if your baby’s crying, especially if you’re on zoom, you can mute yourself, but you can still hear what’s going on and to do what you need to do, turn off your screen and you’re still within the community. People can still see you’re there. And if you are getting into that frustrated moment and you can just unmute yourself and say, ladies, help me!

Helen Thompson: Yeah, exactly, which I think it’s good.

They can do that with the dance group that you do, because although they’re muting themselves, they can still watch and be inspired by what you’re doing as well, which I think is good too.

Audrey Bready: Well, thank you. I hope so, cause I definitely have those moments with my kids and I’m like, I just need you to do this video with me please. And then I’ll bribe them a little bit and then they get into a good mood once they know they can get a little bit of candy, but, having a community is going to be absolutely the best thing you can do for yourself as a first-time mom.

Helen Thompson: And if anybody wanted to find out what your one-on-one courses are, where can they find out about you?

Audrey Bready: Well, you can join my Postpartum Dancing Moms group, where it’s really easy to find my profile page and you can message me and ask questions or, my Facebook profile name is Audrey Dao and you’re welcome to message me and just say, Hey, I listened to this podcast. I’d like to get some more information and I’m happy to have a conversation with you to see if we could be a good fit. I don’t have a website right now. I’m just scraping things together with a seven month old and two boys.

But I’m doing what I can and I love reaching out with moms and helping be that community. Like you said, letting moms know they’re not alone, this is hard, but let’s, let’s put on some music and let’s dance together.

Helen Thompson: No thank you. And before I go, I will say once again, that that Facebook post partum dancing is great. It’s, it’s, it’s an inspiring to watch and seeing how much fun dance can be with babies and toddlers. So thank you for being a part of this community and supporting it through dance, because I think movement is so valuable with kids. So thank you for sharing all your valuable tips with me today.

And I hope that other moms are inspired by you. So thank you so much for being here.

Audrey Bready: Well, thank you, Helen. Thank you for the opportunity to sit down and talk with you again. I always enjoy it.