by marikare | Sep 22, 2022 | birth, body wisdom, doula, family, midwifery, postpartum, resilience, Ritual, Soul wisdom, traditions |
Birth begins before we realize
Aisla’s journey into this world began on May 23rd. I had just finished what i has intended as my last week of work and was feeling good though tired and sore. We went to the Highland games and in the warm sun we watched men and women prove their strength and skill at dance and the heavy games just like my ancestors once did. It felt a bit like stepping back in time and the combination of the heat, remembering something in my bones and being on my feet helped things get rolling. By the time we got home i was exhausted, hot, sore and was having some fairly intense braxton hicks contractions. The first that felt more than just a tightening of my belly. At that moment i knew I was done being busy and it was time to dive into rest mode and prepare for this baby. So i cancel any plans i had made and the few clients I had let slip past my end of work date.
I felt quite different at the end of this pregnancy than i had with Ayana. I was having more pain in both my SI and PS joints, I didnt have the same energy and I wanted to be alone and quiet, choosing who was allowed to be near me at this time. I felt done with being pregnant this time round and so hoped that she would not be two weeks late like her sister was. At the same time I love being pregnant, the way my body looks, the ripeness and fullness of my flesh that can grown life within it. Despite the aches and fatigue, heartburn and carpal tunnel I knew my body was made for this. I was made for this. Finishing work and cancelling plans helped shift things, listening to my body, relaxing, play with Ayana, spending time with Adam felt good, felt right deep within me. This was what I was supposed to do, this was what I needed to bring my baby earth side.
About a week later I woke up and went upstairs for my morning ritual and my body and mind felt different. I had been having braxton hicks since the night before and as I rocked and rolled my pelvis on the birth ball sinking into and connecting with my body, a sense of elation embraced me and i dropped down into a delta wave trance and I was immediately connected to the universe, I could feel all life around and the web that connects us all. I was the great mother preparing to give life to all existence. As I allowed this feeling to be apart of me I knew this was the next step in bringing this baby forth and I wondered if this was the day she would come. And so as i was bathed in this ecstacy I started to blow up the birth pool and make the bed and gather supplies, caught between the realities of what needed to be done for this birth and the dreamy universe calling to me. This bliss held me though my contractions never intensified and when it came time to go to my midwive’s appt I knew she wasn’t coming today and with the travel outside my home the state receded. But once again I moved more deeply inward and decided I would no longer go out except to the midwife or walk in nature and I would only allow people around me who made me feel safe, revered and loved. This prolonged preparation for labour felt juicy and sweet, I knew I could wait until the time came, I knew my boundaries, I knew what I needed and what this body needed. So I moved slower, lounging, taking ambling walks, taking naps and getting rubs and it was delicious.
Several days later another day came where the braxton hicks felt more like contractions and I thought once gain she might come but it wasn’t time yet and so I let go of trying to figure it out and opened further to the universe and the great unknown. It is quite a thing to wait for a baby, the anticipation and excitement, the moments of being uncomfortable and tired and wanting them to come and the movements of feeling them move and the complete awe and amazement of being so full with child and wanting it not to end. I am so grateful that I got to experience it three times in unique and beautiful ways.
Then June 12th rolled around and I was awoken by what I thought were bowel cramps and so I got up to the go to the bathroom but nothing came and I went back to bed. An hour later more cramps woke me and this time I got up and went upstairs with my tea and granola and sat down to read my book. By this time I had given up on questioning, is this it? and so I read and ate and sent texts to some friends and family, wishing other’s a happy birthday. Then contractions slowly intensified but I didn’t think it would be today, exactly 38 weeks from when we conceived. Eventually I thought well if this is it I better get a shower in and as I got up and started to walk, gravity pulled on my body and my baby and the contractions started to speed up. As I got the shower ready I started to time them and they were at 30-45 sec every 2-3 mins and I realized this was very like last time, short contractions close together. In the shower I decided to give things a boost and get the oxytocin flowing with an orgasm and from that point on I had to stop and focus through each contraction, using the water to ease the growing pain in my low back. By the time I was out of the shower my contractions were a 45-1 min long every two mins. My body doesn’t mess around or move slow once it’s in labour.
I put my tens machine on my back and slowly walked downstairs taking time to stop at each contraction until I reached our bedroom and woke Adam and Ayana telling them it was time. A little dazed and surprised they got up and Adam got himself together, while I made peyote tea and labour aide and Ayana held my hand and shook my arm through each contraction, asking me “does this feel good mommy”. By the time we were all upstairs, Adam really took things in as contractions quickly swept over me and he realized things were happening much faster than he realized and he began to fill the pool and call our Doula, photographer and midwife. After not being able to get a hold of our doula and the midwives call backs going straight to message I thought perhaps it would just be Adam, Ayana and myself as I had dreamed. But I did not have long to contemplate as my contractions drew me deep into myself and I rocked on my birth ball, roaring with each contraction and clawing the carpet through each contraction. It took all I had to focus, to breath, to roar. The roaring felt so good, it rumbled deep in my belly and some how blended with the contraction to ease it, while tapping into that primal part of myself that was born to birth. By the time our doula Jennifer arrived, Adam was trying to squeeze my hips but just couldn’t get the right spot and I had begun internally thinking I don’t know if I can do this while simultaneously reassuring myself that it would be over very soon. Jennifer swooped in and took over the hip squeezes, finding that perfect spot and giving just the right amount of pressure, while Adam came to my front and held my hands pressing on LI4 and telling me how amazing I was doing. This is what got me through transition.
I had had several dreams of a swift labour, some with only Adam, Ayana and I present, others with just our midwife or just our doula and so I knew this was going to be a very fast labour. As I moved through transition Adam kept reminding me that I had really wanted to get in the pool but as each contraction passed and I started to rise another would come. Finally, I gathered up my strength and got up and stepped into the pool and it was utter bliss. I had hoped it would be and as I sat there leaning against the pool my body melted and I had what seemed a deliciously long time to just be and between each contraction I found I could relax my body more completely, allowing things to open that last little bit and just as our midwife, Jane arrived and I began to feel the urge to push. She came over and told me to open my throat more as I had still been roaring and on the next contraction as I opened into an AH instead of a roar, transforming from a lion to an open vessel, my waters broke and I remember seeing the vernix and amniotic fluid swirl in the water. I moved onto my hands and knees and then onto my side and gave every thing with each push. With Ayana’s birth I had been so blown away by the fetal ejection reflex, there was nothing that could stop my body from pushing this baby out but this time though the urge to push was there I felt much more involved in it. I pushed with all my might! I wanted this baby out! I wanted the pain and intensity to be over and to hold my baby. And so only in what seemed a few contractions I pushed her out. On the final contraction as I felt her head slip out and I still had more contraction I pushed the rest of her out. As i turned onto my back and held my baby to my chest, elation, joy, gratitude and relief that she was here and it was over washed over me. I did it! Another little being grown and birthed through this body. How amazing!!!!
After a time contractions ramped up again and i pushed out the placenta out all on my own, no synthetic oxytocin needed. A full, plump, juicy placenta slithered from my body, one last push needed. After the placenta was born they helped me from the pool and my shook from all the adrenaline and effort of birthing a baby in a mere three hours. I laid down on the mattress Ayana was born on snuggling with my girls, wrapped up in blankets as Jane stitched me up. I had torn once again, through the skin all the way from my vagina to my rectum and slightly deeper on my vaginal side. I stared into this amazing beings eyes as they stitched trying to keeo my legs open and relaxed. When they finished and I was wrapped up again and Jennifer brought me that first bite of food it was absolutely the most delicious thing I had eaten (since I last gave birth). My heart, my mind and my belly were so full snuggled up with Adam, Ayana and our baby. We did it! Though others were there to help this was our birth as a family. No other family members or friends were there, we did it together, each giving our own energy and medicine to the process. As a family we grew exponentially that day. Our fourth member here completing and solidifying our family into four solid pillars of support and love.
Lessons, Insights and Reflections
- In this second birth experience I was much more confident in my own truth and knowing what I could do. With Ayana’s birth I felt much more pressure and the need to meet my health practitioners part way but after her successful home birth I knew alot of the fears were unneccesary. So this time there was not the same pressure to people please. I opted out of the syntocin, vitamin k and vaccines with trust in my truth and my knowing what was best for my baby.
- You create a relationship with your midwife and other supports and they want to be there at this moment with you. They want it to turn out the way you do. They want you to have your dream birth and have to navigate the possibilities that it may not turn out that way with you.
- Allowing the Man/partner to really show up is sexy and empowering for him and the whole family. With Adam being my primary support and the one who had to get things together when I went into labour and care for me after the birth, he grew enormously, as did we as a couple. He stepped into the King role and made me feel like a Queen. As Whapio says He was the perfect intimate advocate!!
- I am deeply appreciative of having a large birth team at Ayana’s birth, but the energies of family and old friends can change the dynamic. Having this birth just being Adam, Ayana and I as a family and the key supports was just the medicine we needed at this time.
- Having a separate sacred space for me to birth and then for Aisla and I to be in our own energy for the first weeks/month was so deeply nourishing and allowed for healing and connection on so many levels.
- Can we really prepare for birth? Learning to trust yourself, face your fears and create little rituals to channel the mind can help enormously as it is only you and this baby at the end of the day. So you must believe in yourself!!
by marikare | Oct 25, 2019 | Acupuncture, birth, body wisdom, chinese medicine, doula, Flower Essences, grief, midwifery, postpartum, traditions |
It is believed in Chinese Medicine that proper healing in the postpartum period can lead to a graceful menopause, greater health overall and even recovery from previous illness and chronic dis-ease. The body, mind and spirit go through tremendous changes in pregnancy and these changes don’t stop once baby is in the outer world. We must grieve our lives from before, we must learn to communicate and support a whole new human who is utterly dependent on us, we must find a new rhythm and our bodies must find a new normal. This takes time, lots of patience and support from our greater village and can lead to amazing, almost magical transformation in our bodies, beliefs and perceptions.
While most put lots of emphasis on the birth plan and what the nursery will look like, not many think about those tender weeks, months and first year of recovery and transformation, love and grief, confusion and joy. It truly takes a village to support a new family in this period of time and I encourage all my clients to sit down and make a plan in advance. Asking friends and family to help cook food, do chores, run errands and give a family space to find their new groove.
In many traditional practices including traditional Chinese medicine, the mother and baby were left from one moon cycle up to 6 weeks to recover and build their bond. Family and friends would bring food, clean, keep mom and baby warm and away from cold, wind and the outer world, in order to protect the new family from illness, over exertion and emotional overwhelm. In some cases the mother was not even allowed to bath. Her only job was to eat, rest and learn the language of her new baby. In our modern world we know it is good to bath on occasion and getting some gentle exercise is very important to help in both physical healing and mental wellbeing. But the general principles behind these practice are still important to keep both moms and babies healthy, encourage recovery and bonding and lead to long term health outcomes.
In this article I am going to go through some of the key elements to work with postpartum that I have learned in my studies, practice and life.
Building up the blood and yin
“Qi is the commander of blood and blood is the mother of qi”
It takes Yin, Qi and Blood to make a child. Yin the material form of all life gives rise to the anatomy of the body; its organs, tissues, muscle, skin…. Qi the energetic form of all life gives rise to the physiology of the body; digesting food, breathing, thinking, moving,… Blood, a yin substance connects the mother and baby, nourishing the fetus in the womb and then turning into breastmilk after the baby is born. Labour requires an extraordinary amount of qi to birth our babies and with the birth mothers lose some blood and with it more qi. Thus it is essential to build up the yin and blood to restore mama to her full strength and to make the milk that baby requires.
The best way to build up yin and blood is through the food and drink that we consume. Bone broths, liver, red meat and red fruits and vegetables are the best for building the blood. Whole grains, nuts, seeds and spices help build up the milk. Warmly cooked and neutral foods are easiest to digest. Here are a list of foods that are great to give a new mama.
Bone broths (my favourite recipe)
Red Meats and Liver to replace Iron
Beets and Red fruits esp. Chinese red dates aka jujubes, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries to build the blood
Oats, Barley, Peas, Legumes, walnuts, almonds, sunflower, flax, pumpkin and hemp seeds to nourish the milk
Fennel, anise, dill, coriander, caraway and cardamom to aid digest and increase breast milk.
Keeping the body warm aka mother roasting
All that qi and blood that gets used in labour can leave one feeling chilled and more vulnerable to invading pathogens like wind and cold. Thus it is essential to keep both mom and babe (who can’t regulate their temperature yet) nice and warm. There are several ways to do this.
- Wrap mom and babe in warm clothes and blankets
- keep windows closed, especially if there is a cold wind.
- Feed mom warm teas and foods
- Moxa!! An amazing medicine in my tool kit. Moxabustion is made of Chinese Mugwort, one of the only ways to increase qi and Yang (heat) from an external source. I give all of my postpartum clients a moxa stick to use three days after birth (six weeks after a cesarean) The stick is lit and held over the womb space and slowly moved over the abdomen in circles, spirals or figure eights until the skin becomes slightly red and warm. This feeds the qi, warms the body, moves the blood to prevent stagnation and clotting and generally feels amazing!
- Get a full Mother Roasting treatment! For more info
Of course you do not want them to get to hot either, so in summer do be mindful of the ambient temperature of your rooms.
Reducing pain and inflammation
The body’s natural response to going through the hard work of labour, the stretching and sometimes tearing of tissues, the hours of squatting and pushing is to send fluid and immune cells to these tissues to repair them. This insurgence causes inflammation which causes pain. In order to reduce the pain we want to reduce the inflammation by helping the healing of tissues. Good nutrition as mentioned above is key to repairing the skin and building new vessels and cells, especially helpful is bone broth and collagen. Other helpful nutrients are vitamin A, C and zinc which are crucial to building new collagen and blood vessels, Rutin and grape seed extract are antioxidants that help vitamin c enter the cells and prevent scar tissue formation. Also taking natural anti-inflammatories like bromelain or turmeric can reduce inflammation, pain and speed healing.
One of my favourite and safest ways to speed healing, reduce inflammation and pain is with acupuncture. Acupuncture works by stimulating neurotransmitters that modulate pain, release tight muscles and helps the body find the optimum path to healing. Ideally, having acupuncture in your home three days after your delivery is best to promote healing and well being. But it can be done at any time even months after delivery to help heal scar tissue and residual aches and pains.
Homeopathics are gentle yet potent medicines that hold the vibration of the plants, animals and minerals they are made from and help the body find its return to health by itself much like acupuncture. For pain and inflammation: arnica Montana 200c, calendula officinalis 200c, staphysagria 200c and hypericum perforatum 200c are taken one tablet at a time up to every half hour.
Keeping the emotions balanced
In TCM, Our emotional well-being is controlled by the liver who is responsible for the smooth flow of all our mental, emotional and physical energy, as well as bodily fluids. So if we get stuck in a mental or emotional rut or don’t move enough our qi becomes stagnated causing the liver to become upset and stagnate further. As we know post birth there has been lots of qi and blood lost and the change in our hormones, sleep schedules and need to rest can lead to further qi stagnation and emotional imbalance.
Acupuncture excels in balancing the emotions. In fact, in Chinese medicine each emotions is associated with a different organ. Long term emotional imbalance can injure the organs as can injury to organs lead to emotional imbalance but lucky it is quite easy to help the qi move smoothly and find the correct path again, relieving anxiety, depression, worry, sadness, fear, shock, anger and over stimulation.
Some other ways to help process and balance your emotion are:
Support groups- We are never alone in our experiences, though we are each unique we also share so much especially in the world of birth and parenting. We were all born and were parented and many will go on to birth and parent themselves. Finding others who have gone through birth and parenthood or are going through it helps us to remember we are not alone and allows us to express our feelings and thoughts and hear from others perhaps gleaning some nuggets of wisdom, tools or compassion for ourselves and others.
Counselling- seeking out a trained counsellor who has experience in working with birth and parenting and can offer tools and insights can be a real game changer. I am especially fond of somatic and mindfulness based approaches.
Placenta pills are made from your placenta. The placenta is cleaned and dehydrated and then powdered and encapsulated, some also make a tincture or eat their placenta whole. The placenta is full of minerals, especially iron and hormones from pregnancy and labour. Some women find that consuming their placenta helps balance the hormones and emotions after they drop on the third day postpartum. Others find they are too sensitive to it and can’t take it. When looking for someone to encapsulate your placenta always make sure they have training in blood borne infections and proper clean technique.
Rescue remedy is a combination of five flower essences created by Dr Bach. Like homeopathics they contain the vibrational imprint of the flowers and are especially good at balancing emotions, releasing grief and trauma, reducing anxiety and fear and reconnecting the spirit withe the body. Four drops can be taken at a time as often as needed.
Information in this post and on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of practice experience and research by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem.
by marikare | Oct 22, 2018 | birth, body wisdom, chinese medicine, doula, family, postpartum, Ritual, traditions |
As most people wonder when I begin to speak about mother roasting, I imagine you are also wondering, what could mother roasting be? Is it publicly roasting mothers with our words or could it be cooking them in a human sized roasting pan? Fortunately, I can reassure you it is neither, well no quite! Mother Roasting is an ancient form of caring for a mother after birth. As SacredPregnancy.com so beautifully puts it “Mother Roasters are CAREGIVERS that nurture new mothers after BIRTH while supporting their RECOVERY + JOURNEY into motherhood; as EVERY woman deserves to be welcomed into MOTHERHOOD through GENTLE + LOVING + CARE*.
The history of Mother Roasting can be drawn back to nearly every culture around the world and today it is still practiced in many Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin and Indigenous Cultures. All of these cultures recognize the great care a mother needs after birth in order for her to be able to give back to her family. By sealing up the gateways of birth, returning the organs and bones to their normal places, protecting and supporting her back, keeping wind and cold from entering her body, nourishing her with rich, healing, milk-enhancing foods and teas and giving her permission to take care of herself, a mother is able to take the time to heal, integrate motherhood, bond with her baby and seal her story of birth. The different practices vary from culture to culture from sleeping on warm furs beside the hearth to having moxa sticks heat your womb and back, having your belly bound with a bengkung (Malaysia), Haramaki (Japan) or a Faja (latin America) to having your pelvis and womb massaged by a skilled practitioner, but all of these practices are meant to allow the mother to heal, transition and bond with her baby.
Here are two examples of how a mother may be supported if she lives in Malaysia or Thailand:
In Malaysia, The Pantang/exclusion period lasts for 40 days during which the mother’s belly is massaged and bound every day for a minimum of 3 days up to 40. This is done to allow the organs and bones to return to their original places. A week after the birth a stone or metal ball is heated in the fire and then wrapped in a cloth and rolled along the mother’s body. In Malaysian culture, the mother is thought to enter a cold phase after birth, thus she eats only foods that will heat her up and her body is warmed with massage and wrapped to restore her to her normal temperature.
In Thailand, during the pregnancy, the father will collect special smokeless firewood. After the birth the father will create a fire for his wife to sit near or he may place a special bed over the fire. The fire keeps her body warm while the smoke purifies her and keeps evil spirits away. The Thai recognize that after birth the mother is weak and exhausted and her uterus is still filled with harmful fluids, therefore they warm up her body to help recover her energy and to push out the fluids. Her body is not only warmed by the fire but also with hot water that she bathes in and drinks and basic warm foods and traditional medicines that she eats.
In the West, I often see mothers who feel the pressure to be continuously productive and bounce right back from birth like nothing ever happened. I have heard many say that it is their jobs as mothers to serve and there is no time for self-care. I think this is one of the greatest misfortunes of our Western perspective, how are we to raise our children to our greatest ability and their greatest success if we are not giving back to ourselves. One of my wishes for all mothers is the opportunity to honour the babymoon and the transition they have gone through, to ask for and receive the support they need from family, friends and community and to take time for themselves. I know 40 days may sound like a long time but even a week or a few hours a day to enter into a sanctuary with your baby and take time to relax, nurture, heal and honour can make the greatest difference in a mother’s life, her baby’s and her whole family’s.
Priya, Jacqueline Vincent. Birth Traditions and Modern Pregnancy Care. 1992. Element books ltd. Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK. Pg. 108-116.
Johnson, Deborah. With Child: Wisdom and Traditions for pregnancy, birth and motherhood. 1999. Chronicle Books. USA. Pg. 70-73.
Body Shop Team, Mamatoto. 1991. Virago Press ltd. London, UK. Pg. 120-129.
Originally published in Birthing Magazine Spring 2015
For more info on Mother Roasting Treatments and packages http://marikareidhall.com/birth-medicine/