The last couple of years have seen an incredible force of women unite to break the stigma around endo, from women reclaiming their bodies online (by sharing their experiences with the hashtag #thisisendometriosis) to celebrities such as Lena Dunham, Alexa Chung, Julian Hough and Hasley revealing their honest battles with the debilitating disorder.
The latest celeb to share her story is Aussie actress and mother of two, Penny McNamee. Here, the new mum sat down with WH to talk self-care non-negotiables, how she tackles the work/life balance, and the reality of falling pregnant after her endometriosis diagnosis.
Congratulations on the arrival earlier this year of your beautiful baby girl, Neve. What’s surprised you most about having a baby the second time around?
I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly my body recovered from childbirth second time around. I didn’t have any of the issues I had with my first. I was walking around and pain-free within 12 hours. Muscle memory is amazing!
You were diagnosed with endometriosis last year, a chronic condition that too often goes undiagnosed. What were your symptoms, and how has your approach to and outlook on your health changed since your diagnosis?
I’ve always had terrible period pain, but it was my normal and I didn’t have anything to compare it to. My approach now is to ask more questions of my girlfriends and sisters about their health and their bodies, to ascertain what is their normal and what is not, as well as continuing to monitor my condition with my doctor.
What’s your experience been with the condition since having Neve, and what strategies help you manage it?
I had surgery for endometriosis a year before Neve was born and I found I have been in far less pain since. However, it is not a curable disease and has the potential to grow back, so I will have to monitor my pain levels to see if I will need surgery again in the future. I am much more aware of my body during my period now; I listen to it and if I need to rest and take pain relief - I do it.
You’ve also been open about your struggles with fertility. For women experiencing similar issues, what advice or insight would you give?
Infertility is such a painful and isolating experience and often we suffer in private. My advice would be to confide in a handful of close friends or family members. Call them or text them when you are feeling disappointed or angry or hopeless. Sharing your pain can often lessen it. Also - don’t plan any social events on the day your period is due... putting on a brave face on the day you realise you’re not pregnant AGAIN is killer!
I’d love to ask about your approach to fitness. How do you approach exercise and what workouts do you enjoy?
I play netball one night a week with friends, then I try to schedule one or two workouts at the gym during the week. Having young kids, I find the best time for me to do this is in my lunch break at work. My gym is across the road from my work, so I can quickly fit in 20 minutes on the treadmill or 30 minutes of strength exercises. I have the SWEAT app which helps me know what exercises to do... without a PT yelling at me!
How do you make time for yourself, especially as a parent, and what are your self-care non-negotiables?
Full disclosure - I’m terrible at this. I do, however, buy myself a nice coffee every day - after making the kids’ breakfast, changing nappies and dressing them, having someone else serve you and make you a coffee is heaven!
I also love to be home for bath and bed-time with the kids. It helps me wind down and it’s one of my favourite times of the day with them; sitting on the bathroom floor while the kids splash and chat about the day. We use Johnson’s CottonTouch Newborn Wash and Shampoo, which is super gentle for the kids and smells divine. As soon as I smell it - I know bedtime is close!
What’s your approach to nutrition, and what does your typical day on a plate look like? Do you have any tips for eating well with minimal time?
I’m a simple eater, and I tend to eat similar things each day. Quite boring really, but it streamlines the preparation and thought process! Cereal and coffee for breakfast, muesli bar for morning tea, salad sandwich for lunch, fruit in the arvo and meat and 3 veg for dinner! But I always have to eat a square or two of chocolate at night!
I read in a recent interview you said that you’re going back to work soon. Have you started already, and if so, how are you finding it? What’s helping you strike the best balance in a new routine?
I have started back filming, so life is a constant juggle! Having systems in place helps us keep things moving smoothly. Simple things, like at home we each have a basket on our staircase, and every time we take off shoes or jackets, they go in our baskets and at the end of the day, we unpack them. We also try to keep the kids’ routine the same each day, no matter which one of us is with them. Johnson’s 3-step bedtime routine is a must. We do a bath, massage and then finish with a book– this makes bedtime negotiations a lot easier.