Māmā Muse: Anna Willcox

We spoke to Anna Willcox, NZ Winter Olympian, Crowd Goes Wild sports reporter and māmā to Ziggy about being induced at 37 weeks, normalising motherhood in all its messy sleep deprived glory, baby wearing at work and talking about ‘leaking boobs’ on National TV

Kia ora Anna, can you introduce yourself? Tell us about yourself, who’s in your whānau and where you live?

Yes of course! I’m 30 years old and have a beautiful 6-month-old daughter named Ziggy, I’m married to an extremely handsome teacher called Campbell… and yes, I do still have a crush on my husband. We got married at Splore festival last year (we LOVE a festy) and we were then lucky enough to fall pregnant just a week later. I’ve always wanted to be a mum and I honestly couldn’t WAIT to start trying, we were so incredibly fortunate to conceive so quickly.

 

Can you give us an overview of your birth with Ziggy? How do you reflect on your experience now?

I had a pretty chill pregnancy up till around 30 weeks when I realised, I just wasn’t getting any bigger. After some fortnightly scans it was confirmed Ziggy’s growth had dropped off completely. It was a pretty anxious last trimester with weekly, then twice weekly to almost daily hospital visits for scans and monitoring me. We got to 37 weeks and they decided to induce me, we knew that Ziggy was going to be small (just over 2 kgs) so I was prepared mentally for a c-section depending on how she would cope during labour. Though it turns out there was no need to prepare because just 2 hours after they popped my waters Ziggy was born. It was a fast and awesome birth and I’m so proud of both myself and Ziggy.

Reflecting back on my pregnancy I wish I had kept a little more of an open mind on how it could potentially go. I listened and read a lot about beautiful physiological births and how induction and interventions weren’t often necessary and foreseen as “bad”. Which didn’t do me any favours when I was told I needed to be induced due to Ziggy’s growth. It took a lot of almost “unlearning” to go into birth without all the fear I had built up surrounding induction. In the end I had an amazing birth and there was nothing to be afraid of. I mean other than the 15/10 pain that comes with birthing a tiny human!

 

It wasn’t long ago, that Ziggy made an appearance on The Crowd Goes Wild, when you carried her in the front pack! Can you tell us a bit about that?

The start of Ziggy’s TV career! Yes, Ziggy came to work with me when she was about 5 months old in the front pack. I wasn’t technically due back for another month or so but it was a story I couldn’t turn down, (chatting to our Winter Olympic medallists and my good friends) I didn’t have childcare sussed so I figured I’d pop her in the front back! It helps that Crowd Goes Wild is a comedy sports show, so it was completely on brand anyway. I also absolutely love baby wearing, especially my soft wrap carrier because it feels so good having Ziggy wrapped around me so snuggly and close.

 

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A post shared by A N N A Willcox, OLY (@anna_willcox)

How would you describe your approach to parenting so far?

We are definitely the “go with the flow” type of parents. I’ve never been into schedules or timing feeds or naps etc. It of course takes time to feel confident enough to know your baby and know that you are meeting their needs. It helps that Ziggy is a very chilled out little bubba and seems to love sleep as much as me! Though I definitely believe that she feeds off our energy and we keep our home energy as calm and happy as possible.

My husband absolutely loves being a dad and from the very beginning we have taken on parenting as equals. That includes night feeds, nappies, food preparation… everything! Pumping has been a big part of my breastfeeding journey because it has given me freedom and allowed me to have space from Ziggy which I truly believe has made me a better mum. I did some work for Sky TV when the Winter Olympics were on and Ziggy was about 2 months old, it was a dream come true to be able to be in the studio and help host the events to the nation. I even managed to talk about my leaking boobs on National TV hah! But doing that work, along with dinners out with girlfriends and even weekends away more recently has kept my cup full along the way. Though what’s even cooler then that is seeing the confidence and joy that it brings my husband bonding with Ziggy and taking the lead in parenting when I’m away. It’s a win win!

 

It’s awesome to see a māmā who is in the public eye, normalise pumping at work (the pics of you pumping during the Torpedo 7 photoshoot, and in the CGW Green Room are awesome), baby wearing, and openly talking about leaking milk! How important is it to you, to normalise all aspects of motherhood, and in doing so, shine a light on some of the harder times?

Thanks! I think is SO important, my gosh… if it were the men getting pregnant there would be a whole subject at school for it.

More discussion and normalisation of all thing’s motherhood is needed. If anything, just to make us all feel a little less alone.

Absolutely nothing prepares you for those first two months, from the sleep deprivation to the learning to breastfeed with broken nipples… and God.. the burping! No one ever tells how long that can take… and then add witching hours to the mix. It’s HARD, I really struggled the first few months and when I did post about it the response was incredible. Whenever you think you’re alone in your feelings… you’re not. I took a while to really start loving motherhood, and I was embarrassed about it. Though talking to other mums months later I realised just how normal it is and I wish I knew that and didn’t feel ashamed about it.

If you could tell a new māmā ANYTHING about parenting, what would it be?

I know I should probably write something poetic and philosophical here but instead I’m going to give you some legit advice… getting Ziggy to take a bottle early on has probably made the biggest difference in my journey.  The fact that her dad, grandparents and aunties all have the opportunity to feed her is a beautiful thing. I breastfeed 80% of the time but that 20% I get to step back and do whatever I need to recharge. Everyone has their own breastfeeding journey but this is what has worked well for our family.

I was getting 8 hours of sleep every 2nd or 3rd night from a month into our parenthood, because we could take turns on the night feeds. This was a game changer for my health, mental health and milk supply.

 

What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

That I can eat at an unthinkable pace. No one knows how to inhale a meal faster than a new mum.

 

What does self-care look like to you now, that you’re a māmā?

Anything from a good red wine with a friend to a full body massage. For me it’s having a little bit of time away where I don’t need to think about when next Ziggy needs a nap or about the pile of washing that needs doing.

Also, I still love doing skin on skin with Ziggy. I hop under the covers with her after a shower and we just cuddle and have some laughs. There’s nothing that feels better than your baby’s skin on your skin.

 

Tell us about a māmā who is your muse?

She’s actually an old friend of mine from down South, but Sophie Stevens and her beautiful daughter Tula are definitely a pair I take inspiration from. Sophie and her husband Pete take Tula Mountain biking and hiking staying in huts and tents. They hiked the Abel Tasman track when she was around Ziggy’s age and now, she’s even skiing herself. They are a super outdoorsy family, similar to ours and that’s the way we want to raise Ziggy.

Sophie’s social media is @little_difference – she makes a big difference (contrary to the name) with her art and planting forests.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to say to all those future mums, or soon to be mums that may be feeling overwhelmed by the idea of becoming mum. To the mums who are worried that suddenly you’re going to be different, and you’re going to lose the person that you have worked hard to become. You won’t and you’re not. 

That was me. After the joy of initially finding out I was pregnant started to fade I began to have feelings of anxiousness surrounding the loss of my identity. I think society makes us feel that once you’re a “mum” that’s all you are now. Your children become your entire world and everything, career, friendships, hobbies all go out the window. I was afraid that I was going to feel different and not myself anymore, but all that worry was for nothing because I do feel me. In fact, I feel more confident and empowered than ever before, I still love my career and can’t wait to get back, I still love a good dance at a gig and I still love to talk shit with my girlfriends. Becoming a mum didn’t take anything away, it only added to my life.

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