Series: What’s in your toolkit 3 – Emma Cannon

Emma Cannon is a fertility expert, author,  natural conception and IVF support acupuncture practitioner, and has been supporting women in their fertility journeys for many years. I had the great fortune to work on Emma Cannon’s first book, The Baby-Making Biblewhen I was working for the health and wellbeing publisher Rodale at Macmillan, in 2008.

Liz Gough, then Rodale Publishing Director and now Publisher at Yellow Kite Books, came into the office having had a meeting with Emma, full of ideas and buzzing with inspiration. She said to me, “you would LOVE this woman, she is amazing: inspirational, a true wellness expert. Absolutely beautiful too.”

Working on her book was a total privilege: all of her wisdom resonated so powerfully, and planted itself somewhere deep inside me, a little internal seedling in case I needed to draw from it at an as yet unseen point in time. When I subsequently had my own fertility issues, suffering several miscarriages, I always had a copy of her books by the bed for a calming reassuring source of support and feeling of taking ownership of my own fertility destiny. I’ve lost count of the amount of copies I’ve bought for and lent to friends, and not just those looking to become pregnant, but if feeling generally under par, depleted, out of sync, the practical tips and understanding of how to achieve hormonal and emotional balance through our monthly cycle are indispensable.

While newly pregnant with my first baby I was serendipitously working on her second book, You and Your Bump. Before the age of Instagram postnatal support networks, this book provided me with the confidence to trust my instincts and provided solace in those newborn dark days.

Her new book, Fertile, is out now. I’m kind of sad I don’t have a legitimate reason to buy it! Maybe I’ll have to in the name of research…

Emma is a passionate advocate of the fourth trimester: a period of time to honour the seismic shift in circumstance and nurture new mothers  – taking it slow, being gentle, nourishing the body properly, resisting pressure to “get back to normal”. Emma’s poise and wisdom, drawing from her years of supporting mothers, and the wealth of understanding of mind-body balance from millennia of Chinese medicine teaching, is something that we could all do well to cultivate in our own lives.

An understanding that a life well lived will always, inevitably, experience highs and lows: where there is light there is corresponding dark – and this is natural, to be expected and not feared. Her books offer women the tools to take control of their wellness in preparation for becoming a mother. I talked to Emma about what she considers to be her essential wellbeing toolkit.

1. Your Instagram account is calming and inspirational. Tell me more about what you do day to day.

I work Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday morning in the clinic seeing patients. I have spent many many hours in clinic listening to women’s stories.

I spend Tuesday writing and doing a yoga class. Friday is yoga and meeting people or doing ‘cures’.

I keep myself well by exercise, doing the Viva Mayr Cure once a year, and cooking and entertaining friends and family.

2. In your experience, are people becoming more aware of the impact of stress on their health, and keen to nurture their souls and combat modern life stressors before pregnancy?

Yes people may be more aware… but they are also more stressed than ever. There is a lot more awareness but there is also a lot of inauthentic stuff out there – wellness spiritualism has become very commercial, and with that comes the charlatans.

3. Recently there has been more of a spotlight shone on perinatal mental health and the challenges of motherhood, with the Duchess of Cambridge opening the floodgates to get people really involved sharing their stories and chatting about these important issues. Do you find that mums-to-be are more aware of their mental health nowadays and understanding of pregnancy’s and early motherhood’s potential affects on it?

Oh yes, this whole area has really opened up into an industry now. When I was pregnant with Lily (now 21) there weren’t even pregnancy jeans! On the mental/emotional side I think there is growing support and awareness. Yet still, mental illness is a taboo area and one that people shy away from.

For me, the fourth trimester is very important – it is a time a woman’s health really can take a turn for better or worse, and how well supported she is in that time will determine how well she thrives and adjusts emotionally and physically to motherhood.

4. What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolkit?

A calm mind: I think too many people give in to obsession – but having the ability to deal with what is in front of you without worrying about things that have not happened is a gift. Sometimes it takes discipline – having the strength of mind just not to go there – being able to bring the mind back and not catastrophise.

5. The eternal question – How do you balance kids and work?

Well, my children are 21 and 15 so they are much easier now, and I’ve been juggling for so long I don’t remember any other way of living. For me the key to this is flexibility; know that what works one day, or month or year will change – arrangements need to be revisited and changed from time to time.

I laid really good foundations with my children – the first year is critical.  I think it is important to work out what works for you and your family and make that the priority – I am my own boss so I know I am lucky. I made it up as I went along – I was the only person I knew with a child and I needed to work – but I have been able to grow things organically around my family so it has been great like that.

6. What would be your top tip for keeping your mental health on track throughout your fertility journey, pregnancy and early motherhood?

Develop your intuition; do not obsess and become a google addict.

Have belief, and build your resources.

Have a good support team: acupuncture, meditation, friends who make you feel good, and don’t say glib things like ‘I just know you are going to be alright’.

Don’t compare yourself to other people – this is really unhelpful and causes a lot of anxiety. Everyone is entirely different and has a unique set of circumstances.

7. Who are your personal wellness gurus/favourite books/mantras to live by?

I believe that the time of the guru is dead and we should all be our own guru.

Be your own guru…

However, I have been working in this field for 25 years and of course I have my heroes… I love Peter Deadman’s book Live well Live Long.

Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Women’s bodies Women’s wisdom by Christane Northrup.

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