Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mother's Milk Tonic

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Ayurvedic medicine believes that most mothers after giving birth to a baby have an aggravated vata dosha, an element that relates to air and wind.  There are things that aggravate vata, here is a list; irregular routine, staying up late, irregular meals, cold, dry weather, excessive mental work, too much bitter, astringent or pungent food, traveling, and/or injury.   If you ask me, the first three could relate to all mothers, pregnant, postpartum, nursing and beyond!  I have found this Ayurvedically inspired milk tonic to be wonderful, not to mention delicious, in grounding and warming me.

1 cup of whole milk (preferably raw)
5 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 2-3 inch cinnamon stick
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
1-2 tsp ghee
honey to taste

Add the spices to the milk.  (My husband swears that you have to bite the cardamom pods until the crack in order for them to taste authentic.  So if you want "authentic", bite away.... ) Heat the milk on the stove until it forms bubbles. Take the milk off the stove and strain into a mug.  Add the ghee. The ghee makes it even hotter somehow.  Wait to taste it until it cools slightly.  Add the honey to taste.

The oiliness, warmth, and gentle spices all team up to tame vata imbalances. It is wonderful as a night cap, its spices lingering in your mouth as you drift off, infusing your dreams.  For pregnancy, it is a great source of calcium and healthy fats.  It is wonderful for pregnancy induced insomnia or stress.  For postpartum, it gently  ignites, or shall I say, reignites, the digestive fires while nourishing new mothers.  It is also great for nursing mothers as the spices can be calming to the digestive system and can help cranky  babies.  For mothers with grown babies, or between children, it is a wonderful way to nourish yourself after a long day of raising those babies! 

This post is a part of Monday Mania!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Frankincense during Pregnancy

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Lately, I have been amazed at the healing power of essential oils. I've had them in my herbal repertoire for awhile, but rarely thought of them as healing, more just as something that smells nice when you are sick, or gives my cleaning products extra oomph. A friend introduced me to DoTerra, a line of Certified Therapeutic Grade essential oils, and I have to say, I am sold.  The lemon really smells like lemon.  A few drops of lavender on my children's feet before bed, and they start slowing their roll!  A whiff of their Whisper blend and I feel oh-so-feminine!

For your pregnancy healing needs, I find them to be exquisitely suited to the overall state of pregnancy.  They are gentle, yet effective on the physical level, but also can work on the subtle emotional states as well. In pregnancy, it seems like everything is absorbed into the emotional or spiritual state of the woman.  The overdue bill, the toddler's regression to thumb sucking, the carpal tunnel, can all seem overwhelming emotionally and physically.  Essential oils can really address these issues on all levels.

Frankincense has been associated with mothers and babies since the birth of Jesus, when the three wise men brought the newly delivered mother and babe, gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.  I was then surprised to see this quote (from this book , more on this excellent book in a later post!) by the Prophet Muhammad urging mothers to smell frankincense while expecting:

"Let your women-folk use frankincense when they are pregnant for verily, the child in the womb  will turn out to be a man with a strong heart, and should it be a girl, she will have a beautiful figure and wide hips."

He (peace be upon him) also said that Mary burned it while giving birth:

"The best incense is frankincense. It was the incense used by Mary when she was giving birth. The house in which frankincense is used shall never be approached by an envious person, a sorcerer, a devil, or a witch."

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Because it is an anti-inflammatory and an anti-arthritic, it is also good for many of pregnancy's physical ailments.   A drop or two on sore hips, or any other sore joints can help ease the discomfort associated with the increasing weight of pregnancy.  It is also a good immune system stimulant, so a couple of drops massaged into the bottom of feet can help pick you up when you are feeling run down. Also, it can be good for headaches, which many mothers suffer from, especially in the summer months.

If anything, its scent will calm your nerves and center you. After reading the above quote and smelling the Omani frankincense that DoTerra sells, I'm recommending it for all expecting mothers, and packing it in my birth bag!  Try it for yourself and see how healing this powerful, ancient scent can be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Self Care for Midwives, Doulas, and other Birth Attendants

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I often feel as if I go through a mini postpartum after I attend a birth.   The first couple of days I'm on that natural birth high.  The mom's pheromones are known to affect the dad, turning him into a softer, more sensitive partner, but why not the other people attending her labor?  I find myself generally a more gentle and appreciative mother and wife in the first few days after a birth, not to mention weepy!  And then, either the sleep deprivation sets in, or my hormones come back to their senses, and I can turn into a cranky, overtired woman, almost postpartum myself!

This past year though, I have found a few things that help me reset my clock and nurture myself post-birth. After all midwives, doulas, and anyone else attending a labor and birth, give their all.  It is almost impossible to be with a woman in birth, and be only half present.  We are so giving, that at times we lose sight of our own comfort and needs. I  have found the following things to be simple, yet effective in helping me care for myself so that I can keep on caring for others.

1.  YOGA 

Sometimes I forget to breathe at a birth, or feel my feet on the ground.   I do find most births grounding in nature, but at times we midwives hold our breaths,  and then forget to exhale.  We often get into funky positions and stay there for a long time.  It is usually late at night by the time we get around to suturing, and we find ourselves tired, and in a hunched over position for another hour or so.  Let's face it, this is when stir ups would be useful!  And then of course, we have to gaze and adore the bundle of cuteness curled up next to its mother, that's the best payment!  All of these positions entail a hunched over posture.

I have found restorative chest openers an antidote to this predicament.  Supta bada konasana, or reclined angle pose is my absolute go to after I get home, even if it's 4 am. Take a bolster, sit at it's edge, and place the soles of your feet together in bada konasana.  Lean back over the bolster so that your chest is forced open.  Feel the breath move all the way up into your collarbones.  Feel them smile at you! 

The photo above is also a great pose to open your chest, and relieve tight shoulders. It can easily be done after that tough suturing job! I also like to just do savasana on the floor for a few breaths. Feeling myself on the floor helps me to slow down and reenter my body, and come back to the present.  What a gift yoga is! 


It turns out that arnica is not only useful for mothers after childbirth, but for midwives too!  Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, is great for easing soreness and exhaustion in birth attendants.  It is also useful for jet lag, something we could use to describe the feelings after a night or two sans sleep.  I put it in my water bottle at the birth, and take it for a day or two, refilling it when I refill my water.  It has really helped me to reset my clock and to feel not so achy the next day.  It will often give me a second wind if I need to stay up for the day, this is why it's used for jet lag.  I have found this aspect of arnice helps immensely as well.  Naturally, I am a night owl (didn't I pick the right profession?!), so if I let myself, one birth could through me into months of late nights, but since I am not in college any longer, this lifestyle is not conducive to my life now. Arnica helps me stay away from this pitfall and maintain somewhat normal hours...for a midwife!


Birth is beautiful, amazing, a miracle, and any other superlative you want to attach to it. It is all of those things and more.  I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to witness this act of creation.  But, I am also a midwife, and do believe part of my role as a midwife, is to guard the parameters of safety for mother and babe. This is a huge responsibility.  At times I  find it can make me tense and over vigilant.     That's when I reach for my Rescue Remedy,  a flower essence known to calm panic, relieve stress, and be useful in emergency situations.  Rescue Remedy, sometimes called Five Flower Essence is very calming and gentle.

I hope these tips are useful to you midwives, doulas, dads, sisters, friends, or anyone who is blessed to attend a birth.  If you have anything you do after births to help your recovery, please share.  All too often we neglect our own health  in order to serve others, but this won't take us very far. May we all take care of ourselves so that we can keep on helping the mothers and babies of the earth!