What I know now - Alia Eyres CEO Mother's Choice and Mama of Five

The motto of Mother’s Choice in Hong Kong, is Every child a loving family and it's champion is CEO Alia Marwah Eyres.

Mother’s Choice provides loving, non-judgmental support to pregnant teenagers as well as providing nurturing care to children without families, and to be a voice for them to be in a family.  It is a truly special organisation and has gained a reputation in HK as a change maker.

Alia and I were introduced on a winter’s night in Washington D.C and I immediately adored her.  I’ve since followed her journey in love, career and parenthood, via Irish and American detours to Hong Kong.  Not only am I in awe of the work that Alia does at Mother’s Choice, she is a true a hero of mine because of the way she mothers her own babies. Alia and her husband John have five divine boys, they’re growing into special humans. The Marwah Eyres family is also about to welcome baby number six any moment now. Their household is beyond my wildest imagination and what my dreams are made of! 

Q.

Alia, tell us, after five babies, have you got this motherhood business all worked out?

 A.

I am definitely still working out this whole motherhood business! I have found every pregnancy, every birth experience, as well as the character and needs of each of my children to be very different. The one thing that I do have worked out after having five babies is feeling more confident to ask others for help, and not feeling like I have to do it all myself. Motherhood is not meant to be done alone! I need other people in my life, especially other moms who’ve experienced parenting before, to help me raise my children and walk through this journey.

At Mother’s Choice we always say that it takes a village to raise a child, and I have found that to be so true for the babies without families and teen girls that we serve, as well as for my own life. Just as every child needs a family, every family needs the support of the community around them! Most of the pregnant teens that come to us don’t have anyone in their lives to support them during their pregnancy, their birth, and when they go home with their baby if they chose parenting. A big part of what we do for them is helping to rebuild relationship with their families or build safe, loving, community around them so that they don’t have to face it alone.  

Q. 

Can you explain to us how it feels to be the mama of five boys, and another bebe imminent. I can imagine it takes a lot of work. Any tips and tricks you swear by?

A.

It does take a lot of work, even with a supportive community around me. The key for me has not only been accepting that I can’t do everything, but investing time in figuring out what is really important for me both at home and at work. I have set time apart to reflect on what “success” looks like for me with my family life and my work life, and then focused on prioritising those things. When I was trying to do everything perfectly or meet other people’s standards, I made myself pretty miserable. The tool that really helped me to set those priorities is a paper diary called The Full Focus Planner (https://fullfocusplanner.com/) by leadership expert Michael Hyatt. The planner helped me to articulate clearer goals, effectively organise my time, and determine what is actually important to me so that I can let everything else go, or delegate things that aren’t important to me.

Q.

What was the very best advice you received before you became a parent?

A.

My mother and several of her close friends, the special “aunties” in my life, talked to me before my first child was born about the importance of making sure that I had time to myself on my own, just to do things that I enjoyed. I didn’t realise how important that kind of self-care is until after I had my third child, and was genuinely struggling to balance everything. I have since come to learn that making time in my schedule each week to do things that bring me joy and inspiration is absolutely critical for my energy levels and positivity as a mom. We definitely had to negotiate, but my husband and I were able to work out how we could each give each other time and space on the weekends (my break is usually on Sunday afternoon when my husband takes all the kids for a long walk, and his is on Sunday morning when I take all the kids to church).

One of my mentors also told me something that has really stuck with me – she told me to forget about being a ‘perfect’ mom, and focus on building an authentic heart connection with my children. She told me that only in the context of connected relationship can I share my values with my kids, grow their ability to take on responsibility, and prepare them to make wise choices and have healthy relationships with others. I have to remind myself of that advice daily!

Q.

What was the best thing you packed in your hospital bag before the birth of baby?

A.

I have previously underestimated the discomfort of my milk coming in and how hard it is to wear a wired or structured bra when I leave the hospital, so packing a comfortable, seamless nursing bra and nursing pads is essential for me. Also, I always make sure that I’ve packed the phone number of a lactation consultant who can be available to meet me at home as soon as I get discharged (or even meet me in the hospital if the midwives are busy!). I know breastfeeding seems to come so easily to some others, but I have found it challenging in the early days with all of my babies and I have needed a lactation consultant to help me every time.

 Q.

You had four of your babies around your due date, and then adorable Shackleton was very, very prem. Babe #6 passed those same weeks staying inside. In this pregnancy, how did you manage the anxiety around those weekly countdowns?

A. 

I was on bedrest and ended up in the hospital nine times between weeks 11 and 30 during my fifth pregnancy. Shackleton was born 10 weeks early, and he spent quite a bit of time in the hospital too. After having four very smooth pregnancies, it was a real shock to experience such a difficult pregnancy and to be told throughout that the baby probably was not going to make it. This pregnancy has been smooth so far, but I have had to be a lot more intentional about focusing on and fostering gratitude in my life to combat worry and fear. As a family we have always said what we are grateful for before we say our prayers and put the kids to bed at night, but with this pregnancy I have realised the importance of speaking out loud what I’m thankful for first thing in the morning and throughout the day if I start to struggle with anxiety. My executive coach also had me read a great book, Positive Intelligence by Stanford lecturer Shirzad Chimane, that has helped me manage my thought life through this sixth pregnancy (https://www.positiveintelligence.com/about/).

Q.

Hospital can be an unfamiliar setting, is there any tips you have for making a hospital feel a bit more like home?

A.

Bringing my own pillows and towels from home always helps to make me feel a little bit more comfortable and get some precious rest while I am in the hospital. I have learned to really appreciate those days in the hospital after delivery and take advantage of the period when you have nurses and midwives on hand to look after your baby while you take a shower or a nap!

Q.

What is your must have in your hospital bag this time around? 

A.

Maternity pads for post-birth blood loss – you have to deal with it whether you have a caesarean section or vaginal birth. Last time I completely forgot to bring them in the panic of an emergency admission to the hospital and didn’t have any at home because my baby was born so prematurely. I had to send out an SOS on our local mothers’ Facebook group and I was so relieved when a woman I don’t even know very well saw my post, went out and bought some, and had them delivered to my husband (who was busy looking after our other kids and had no idea where to find them) so he could bring them to me in the hospital! She was a real angel in our time of need, and I will be absolutely sure to have them packed well in advance this time around!

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