Karen Pohl, RN
Tell us about your own journey and how your experiences have changed the way you look at motherhood and parenting.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a mom. Shortly after getting married we started our family and quickly became a family of five with three kids in four years. It's been a bit of a whirlwind. Our oldest boy is just turning 6, our daughter is 3.5 and our little boy just turned 2. I was pretty fortunate to have relatively uneventful pregnancies, labor, and deliveries. Our oldest taught us about tongue ties and was never great at sleep, but he could nap anywhere when he needed it. Our second decided mommy was the only thing that kept her relatively content for the first 5 months of her life making it extremely challenging for me to have 5 minutes to myself or to spend time with our toddler. I learned everything I could about sleep for her and got her into a great sleep routine. When our third came along he balanced and completed our family perfectly. He came out big, face up and super fast. As a result, he developed a very large cephalohematoma hours after birth. This contributed to jaundice for the first couple of weeks of his life, torticollis and some flattening of the side of his head. We went through a few months of physiotherapy and cranial remolding therapy (helmet) to improve his head shape. Although he became a great sleeper very early on, he dropped his night feedings on his own far too early and consequently we had weight gain issues to address. Thankfully, he responded really well to reintroducing night feeds and we were able to correct his weight without other interventions. Using my own personal experiences as a mom along with my nursing experience, I hope to offer empathetic support to other new moms. We may not share the exact same struggles but I do understand what it's like to become a new mom, have to learn how to be a mom and how to navigate different babies - all three of my babies were and still are different and need different things from me.
Tell us a little about your nursing career.
I always knew I wanted to work with kids either as a nurse or a teacher. Partway through high school I decided I wanted to be a pediatric nurse and had my heart set on working at The Hospital for Sick Children. After graduating from university I got two dream jobs. The first was to spend the summer working at a camp as the camp nurse and the second was to start immediately following that - at SickKids. Throughout my years at SickKids I worked with families in the inpatient oncology unit, emergency department and later split my time between SickKids and Camp Oochigeas. I worked closely with newborns right up to 18-year-old patients and their families. I loved the challenge and complexity of bedside nursing as well as the strong relationships I made with patients and their families. Outside of the medical tasks, a large part of my job was teaching parents how to care for their child with their new diagnosis. I love empowering parents, teaching them new skills and making them feel more confident caring for their children. After becoming a mom, we moved out of the city and took a few years to settle down. I've taken some time to consider various ways to continue my nursing career while still caring for our 3 young kids. After moving to a rural area and realizing how few resources are available here for new parents or how far we have to travel to some of them, I decided to join the mama coach team.
What are the two most important lessons you've learned working with moms, babies, and families?
Every child and every family is different. What works for one family or even one child in the family won't necessarily work for another. Listening to families to really hear what they need and working together with them to come up with an action plan is essential to supporting them the best we can as nurses.
Mom gut is real. I learned very quickly as a nurse that moms know their babies the best if they suspect something is "off" even if they can't pinpoint it, it's worth exploring and working with that mom to uncover the issue and help support them through it.
If you had one bit of advice to give to a new parent, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself. Becoming a parent is a huge change that comes with a steep learning curve. There is no right or wrong way to parent and everyone will have an opinion about your choices but as long as you are content with the decisions you make for you and your child(ren), that's all that matters.
Self-care is a big challenge for parents. How do you maintain your own energy and outlook?
As a mom of three young kids, it can be a challenge to find time for self-care. At this stage, self-care for me looks different depending on what I need and what is going on in our house. It may be as simple as going for a drive and getting an ice cream while watching the sunset at the beach; sometimes I just grab a latte and get groceries alone; most of the time it is a hot bath and netflix. My husband and I try to make an effort to get out for date nights here and there and even the occasional weekend away to recharge and focus on us.
Is there anything we've missed that you'd like to share with Mama Coach clients?
Being a mama, new or experienced, is hard! Everyone needs help at some point, never be afraid to reach out for help or support!
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