Voice actor Anna Parker-Naples experienced symphysis pubis dysfunction while pregnant with her third child. But meeting with a hypnotherapist led her down a wonderful new path in her life
Only nine weeks into my pregnancy, I found myself in horrendous levels of pain in my pelvic area. Within just three days, I went from walking and being totally active, to needing crutches, then a Zimmer frame, and finally to being confined to a wheelchair. My four-year-old daughter had just started reception class at school, and I had an active 18-month-old toddler, constantly on the go. But here I was – stuck – unable to do anything for them, spending my days in bed, unable to get up and move around.
I’ve always had a positive view of life, but this was a challenge beyond my usual sunny disposition. I felt like my world had capsized, and I was scared for the road that lay ahead.
I was experiencing symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) which, although it can be quite common in pregnancy, was normally only felt in the week preceding birth as the body prepares itself for labour.
With so much stress in my life at that point (our house had been flooded, and it had taken months for our insurance company to take action, and pay out for accommodation for us), my hormones had gone into overdrive, and created a seriously intense level of pain for me.
The doctors involved commented that they had never seen a case like mine, and were concerned that it would be permanent, since the extent to which my ligaments were stretched meant that the bones were jarring against each other, causing potentially long-term damage.
I felt like my world had capsized, and I was scared for the road that lay ahead
I was distraught. All of my dreams about how I would be as a parent to three young children went out of the window. To boot, I’d put my acting career on hold when I had children, and had fully expect to return to the stage after this last baby had made its way into the world. It sounds dramatic, if you excuse the pun, but I felt that my whole sense of self had been rocked to its core.
I found myself at the lowest ebb I had ever been emotionally, not to mention the morning sickness I was plagued with. I found it degrading not to be able to get myself in and out of the bath, or to even get myself something to eat and drink. Our house was not designed for wheelchair access, and as a family we had to quickly adjust to this new future. Although many wonderful people came to our aid to help us in our predicament, offering childcare, ready-cooked meals, and even hoovering our floors, many of my good friends disappeared by the wayside. I felt useless and unappealing, and to some extent abandoned. I got to a point where all I thought about and talked about was how much pain I was in.
After the baby was (safely) born, I was determined that I would get back on my feet one way or another. Many years before, I had visited a hypnotherapist to discuss some poor sleeping patterns I was experiencing, and hypnosis had helped quickly.
I never dreamed that hypnotherapy would help me heal in this scenario, I just thought it might make me less stressed and unhappy, and at the very least, talking with someone about how I was feeling, who wasn’t involved in my everyday life, seemed like a positive step to take.
What happened that day, in that room, changed my life. I didn’t undergo a state of trance, or go into a full hypnosis. We just talked. Little did I know that the way I spoke and thought about my situation was having such an impact on me. Through NLP (Neuro-Linguisitic Programming), I was encouraged to change my language from mentioning and dwelling on pain, to thinking about healing and levels of comfort. After that one session, I put in place a strategy for not discussing what my body was doing, and changing negative thoughts about how disabled and limited I was, into what opportunities there were around me.
The effect was astonishing. Not only did I begin to notice that there were long moments where the pain was not so prominent, I began to find other things to think and talk about. I began to see that there was hope, and that the doctors may not be 100% right. Only I could know how I felt moment to moment, and seeing myself as healing, rather than as stuck in pain, was hugely freeing.
Around that time a wonderful thing happened.
A voiceover producer had found an old CD of mine that I had compiled at the start of my acting career, and rang to book me for a job. Although in discomfort, with the help of my family I managed to travel there on my crutches, rather than in the wheelchair. What I learned about the voiceover world that day gave me enormous inspiration. I discovered I could work remotely, from my own home if I invested in a small studio area and quality microphone. As an actor, that was exhilarating. If I never made it back on stage, I could still perform from my own home and from my wheelchair!
Voiceover work became a beacon of hope and I threw myself into it as a way to express myself creatively, and to reclaim a sense of self, and I fitted in recording for commercials, animation and video games around being there for the children, recording internationally for many top brands and companies.
Gaining confidence in the booth gave me something positive to focus on
Gaining confidence in the booth gave me something positive and exciting to focus on, and kept my thoughts well away from my discomfort and physical struggle. Slowly, surely, I recovered. I am now fully able to run, walk and jump around with my children.
Something remarkable happened though. I began to focus on voice acting for audiobooks, as it gave me much more creative expression and satisfaction than commercial work. I quickly found myself narrating international best-selling titles by the most amazing authors, for publishers in the UK and in the US.
I am now a multi-award winning actor, having been nominated for four awards in Hollywood, strutting the red carpets in a cracking pair of high heels.
The voice acting industry also set me on a path of coaching and personal development. I observed how often people would be hard on themselves and not see their own talents and abilities. I could relate to that.
I made it my mission to inspire and motivate other people to change their lives, and their thoughts about themselves.
So many people feel held back and limited, or unhappy, overwhelmed and stressed, believing they have no control over what happens to them. My own experience tells me a different story. I’m now a motivational speaker, life coach, master NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist.
The best way for me to make a change in this world is to effect as many people as possible, so I’ve recently launched Inspiring Mummy Club, which brings all of those elements together under one umbrella. My personal journey has been incredible, and I choose for it to have meaning. I’m passionate about encouraging other mums to get out there and achieve their dreams, because, believe me, if I can do it, so can anyone else.
“Anna’s story is truly inspiring. It shows us how, with focus, determination and a little outside help, we can turn around what might seem to be an impossible situation. With a new outlook, Anna focuses on how she could move forward, rather than dwelling on the negative, which had been fuelling her feelings of pain and isolation. Anna’s story is a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to move on and create the life we deserve.”