Q&A with Madeleine Shaw

Over the last two weeks, Hysterical Women has been publishing the #NotNeurotic series, exploring the healthcare experiences of mothers and birthing parents. This series has been made possible by my partnership with BetterYou, who generously sponsored five guest posts written by parents from under-represented backgrounds.

BetterYou’s new range of nutritional oral sprays has been developed with mother and nutritional therapist Madeleine Shaw, to support family health from pre-conception all the way through your parenting journey. Madeleine spoke to Hysterical Women about how the range came about, and how her own experiences of pregnancy and childbirth have shaped her as a mother. 

SG: How did you get involved with BetterYou, and what do these products mean to you?

MS: I’ve been using their products for over eight years. I first started using their magnesium sprays and then I’ve used their oral sprays on myself and my son, so I was already a massive fan. Then we were talking about working together and I really wanted to do my own product range, so it kind of just clicked. As a new mum, I felt like I really wanted to create a range around motherhood, from conception through to sprays for kids, so it all connects really well.

I love how easy oral sprays are. I love that they’re absorbed directly into our bloodstream rather than bypassing our digestive system. As someone who’s had IBS and digestive problems I know how important it is that absorbency is good. Especially if you’re feeling unwell in pregnancy, it’s so much easier to use a spray than to take a pill. A lot of pregnancy supplements are really large pills that you take in the morning, which can be really intimidating to swallow because so many people suffer with morning sickness in their first trimester, or even throughout their entire pregnancy. A spray is just so much easier and more appealing. The same with children’s supplements – it’s so much easier to get them to open their mouth and spray it; you’re not fearful of choking, and it tastes really good so they’re not spitting it out or anything, and it can be absorbed directly into the mouth.

What were the biggest surprises about pregnancy and becoming a mum?

Probably just how much it takes over your life. That’s especially been the case during lockdown, because obviously there hasn’t been much nursery or childcare on, so now you’ve got to do your job while also taking care of your child. I think you kind of know how much of your time you’ll need to devote to your child, but you probably don’t quite realise the relentlessness of that until it happens. I think also that amazing instant connection and the love that you feel for someone that you’ve only known for a very short period of time. The experience of unconditional love is something I’ve probably never properly experienced until having my son – just having that love for every fart and every giggle. I was probably also surprised by just how at ease I felt with it.  It’s not like it’s something that always felt very natural or came quite easy to me, so I didn’t have a clue whether that would be so. I’d never been a nanny or done anything with kids. But the role felt quite nice and easy to slip into.

With pregnancy I had quite a rough time at the beginning. I was really unwell, I vomited almost every day – often in taxis, on trains, in restaurants. That was really, really difficult because it wasn’t very pleasant. But once that passed,  probably at about 16-17 weeks, I had a really lovely pregnancy. I felt very energised and really enjoyed having a bump, and I quite liked my body changing – that wasn’t really a problem for me. I loved the feeling of people smiling at you when you’re pregnant; there’s something kind of joyful and miraculous about creating a baby.

What have you found most challenging?

I would say the biggest challenge is probably just not being able to sort it out when they’re having a tantrum, or even more so when they’re small and they’re crying about something but you don’t know what it is. That lack of being able to help them, and the lack of control over their emotions, is something I’ve had to learn to become more patient and more accepting with. I still have to manage that when my son tells me I haven’t done the puppet show the right way or whatever. That acceptance of their emotions and not being able to make it okay all the time. Obviously you want the best for your children, but equally they have to go through their own challenges and experience all the emotions, not just the so called good ones.

How do you feel your healthcare experiences you know, whether positive or negative, have shaped your motherhood journey?

I had a really great, amazing midwife, who was incredible. I was very lucky to have a natural birth where I didn’t need anyone else apart from her. I got checked up on as the days went on, and then I was released quite quickly. We didn’t have any problems with feeding or anything in the first few weeks, so I did get a few check ins with the health visitor but everything was kind of fine. I felt quite reassured and looked after, especially because both my parents live really near, and I had my friends and my partner to look after me as well.

I’ve had friends who have had really rough births and it’s taken them four or five months to feel okay with that, so I think having such a positive experience really helped me to feel confident and able to enjoy the process rather than relive the trauma. I got back to work quite quickly – so I was working two days a week from when my son was three months old – but, because I’ve always worked from home, I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything. I was always there with him and had all those experiences with him.

Finally then what advice would you give to any parents-to-be?

I would say don’t be too hard on yourself. I think we put all these expectations on ourselves that they will be sleeping through the night and have a routine, and never cry or use a dummy, and all sorts of things like that. Go easy on yourself, and trust your guts with what you think is rights. Don’t strive for perfection. Don’t look at other mums on social media, who are doing every activity under the sun, and think you should be doing that. Especially when they’re little they really don’t need toys or activities or anything – they’re stimulated from looking at a wall! So yeah, just go easy on yourself, and find your own rhythm of doing things.

Soon we’ll have more physical support, so really lean on other people, whether that’s on your phone or whether someone can meet you and your little one for a walk. Having social contact other than just your baby is really important. If they can hold your baby while you sleep, or have a bath, or something like that – any kind of support – say yes to it! I think it’s so easy to say no, because you feel like they’re not going to know what to do, or the baby’s going to cry and it’ll be really awful for them. Even if the baby does cry for a little bit, as they do, you still get that little break to yourself for a while. It’s important to have those moments even though they can be hard to ask for and say yes to.

You can find Madeleine online and on Instagram @madeleine_shaw_

The #NotNeurotic series is published in partnership with BetterYou.

Sharing a food-first approach to nutrient delivery and a passion for quality supplementation at key life stages, pioneering natural health brand, BetterYou, has teamed up with nutritional therapist, author and mother, Madeleine Shaw, to develop a range of nutritional oral sprays to support every stage of family life; from conception to pregnancy, children’s health to getting your glow back – all pill-freeYou can explore the Madeleine Shaw range at BetterYou.com.

BetterYou is also offering Hysterical Women readers 15% off their entire range – which includes magnesium, iron, and vitamins B, C, D and K – using the discount code HYSTERICALWOMEN.

This is valid until 30th April, for one use per customer, and excludes test kits and bundles.