This Health + Wellness Coach Helps Special Needs Moms Like Herself Stay Present
Plus, an easy breathing exercise you can do anytime, anywhere
By PJ Feinstein
Sinead Quinn-Biskup was working her way up the corporate ladder in advertising when her first son Torryn, who has Down syndrome, was born. “I struggled to juggle having a child, let alone a child with special needs, in that vocation,” she says, “so for a while I was a full-time stay-at-home mom.”
Not that her life slowed down much. Sinead soon found herself the mother of three children under four years old, and a few years later, the family relocated from their native Australia to the San Francisco Bay Area. Amid the chaos of life, she became “burnt out,” and her doctors couldn’t figure out why she felt so sick. An interest in integrative health led Sinead on her own healing journey, during which she learned that has hypothyroidism and celiac disease.
Empowered by the positive changes she was able to make in her own life, Sinead enrolled in school to become a health and wellness coach and now works primarily with other special needs moms. “I love supporting other women and seeing their transformations, not just physically but also mentally,” she says. “If we can work on reducing or managing daily stressors, we can create the space to look after our body and then, in turn, our loved ones.”
A recent stressor for Sinead was the family’s big move last month from California to Bellevue, Washington. Once she and her husband, Sasha were able to get their three children -- Torryn (10), Edith (9), and Art (7) -- settled in, Sinead chatted with us about how she keeps her stress in check and how she helps other moms do the same.
When did you learn that your son has Down syndrome? What was your first reaction?
My first reaction was fear and terror. I remember saying to my friend that day, “I didn’t sign up for this!” I had never met anyone with Down Syndrome before, so I really didn’t know what it meant -- except that we thought it was bad.
We discovered Torryn had Down Syndrome when he was three days old. We were very blessed that there was a nurse at the hospital who had an older son with Down Syndrome. She told us all about him and what he can do and has achieved. We began to understand that the diagnosis really wasn’t the end of the world, that our son was still going to be our little guy, and that he was still going to grow up and could live a full life. It was just that his life wasn’t going to be the life we had already - unknown to ourselves – projected. But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be a full life, just a different version.
And of course, maternal instinct and love overrode the fear very quickly.
Love always wins.
What's the most challenging thing about raising a child with special needs?
The worry that I hold deep down – and I know I am not alone here – that almost becomes a state of ‘normal’ around your child with special needs and their future. I mean, I carry concern for my other two kids, but it’s different.
But with tools I have developed and learnt over the years, and reminding myself to come back to the present, I am usually able to keep those fears and anxiety at bay. But sometimes, like when we moved, the unknowns for Torryn around available therapy or schools can be scary.
For example, I research like crazy before any of our moves to make sure we are in the right school districts and that therapy will available for Torryn. But there is a point when I have to let it go and trust that I am being led to where we will be supported, and stop questioning myself and living in fear.
What's one thing you wish people knew about your son?
I think my biggest pet peeve with people’s perception of my son is they often identify him as Down syndrome. They do not see the individual, they see the disability.
The assumptions that are made around his personality are because of stereotypes. My son is very much his own person with his own personality. He loves, likes, and dislikes the same as everyone else. He is not Down syndrome. He is Torryn.
What are your favorite apps? What are your child’s favorites (if applicable)?
Buddhify:I love the guided meditation and use them every night
Tile: My son likes to hide our remote controls so nobody else can control the TV except him! They are all tagged so we can locate them now.
Wolf & Friends: I am using it now to build connections after our fresh move to Bellevue.
Audible: Listening to books has really become part of my life. It started because I was sick of the radio and started listening to podcasts. I often listen and also read the book.
Where is your family's happy place?
Snuggling in bed or on the sofa watching TV together. Or the beach. No matter how cold it is, my kids will run into the waves up to their knees and freeze while splashing around.
What self-care rituals help keep you sane?
Meditation, breath work, healthy eating, sleep, movement, and alone time with Netflix.
Who are your 3 favorite moms to follow on Instagram?
First, I have way more than 3 faves… so this is super hard to pick!
YogaGirl: I love how grounded and real and yogic she is. I kinda wish I was her… I love listening to her podcasts. She is young, but wise.
CelesteBarber: She makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD.
KatAbinanac: I love Kat. She is a fellow Australian and mama of a little guy with DS. She is also a social media whiz, and I love learning from her to support my business.
What TV show, book, or podcast are you currently obsessed with?
TV: “Good Girls” and “Grey’s Anatomy” (always).
Podcasts: I always go back to “YogaGirl.” She is funny and insightful, and “Ted Radio Hour” is never boring.
Books: “The Universe Has Got Your Back” by Gabby Bernstein, “Yes” by Shonda Rhimes (literally one of the best and funniest books I have read in so so so long), and “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero (really helping me shift my funk after moving states).
What 5 words best describe you?
Funny (so I am told)
What advice would you give a new special needs mom?
The fear is worse than the reality. The fear you are carrying hasn’t even happened yet, so take a breath and stay in the present wherever possible.
Also, make sure you create time to look after yourself. When you look after yourself you can then care for the ones you love and build community and support so that you can stay strong emotionally and physically.
When I first start working with a mom, one of the things we go over is breath work. It takes two minutes, it’s free, you can do it anywhere, any time, and it can change your day and your life. It’s a simple tool with just four steps:
Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly and slowly through your nose while counting to 4, while pulling the breath down into your abdomen to make a big buddha belly.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely out through your mouth to a count of eight.
Repeat two to three times, and do two to three sets per day.