Tea for two

ImageThe combination of tea and cookies could probably solve the world’s problems! I personally know it certainly can rescue a dreary day or cement a friendship.

 But can it save a new mom and her precious nursing relationship to her baby?  I knew a childbirth educator that wisely said that a breastfeeding class was much more important to take than a childbirth prep class because childbirth can last a couple of days (max) while breastfeeding can last years.

 As for my own personal experience, I intellectually knew that breastfeeding was hard but, somehow decided that my journey would be easy (it’s natural and intuitive, right?). After a great pregnancy and a beautiful birth, how could we not help but take to nursing like ducks to water, right?  WRONG. Due to a combination of anatomical things (her: high palate me: flat nipples) and inexperience on both of our parts, we spent the first couple of weeks postpartum with our lactation consultant, nervous about weight and proper number of poos. There was a breast pump and a nipple guard and jiggling, rubbing a sleepy baby to just keep sucking.  Eventually, we got the hang of it. It really is a tremendous learning curve and, now, I feel like I could breastfeed while jumping on a trampoline or riding a horse  (maybe not but, we have certainly adventure-breastfed walking down a rural path in Vermont and in the main office of the Brooklyn post office).

One of the reasons that there was such a hustle and flurry  so early on was that we needed to establish my milk supply. I think this is something that just about every breast feeding mom worries about in the initial phases of nursing- how do I know and trust my body is making enough? This issue of supply can be revisited many times during the nursing relationship; things like dehydration, anemia, sleep deprivation, going back to work, the return of menses, transitioning to solids, etc. can cause our milk production to dip.

 Imagine at any one of these moments, sitting down and taking the time to have a cup of tea and a cookie. I think the notion of just slowing for a moment to really enjoy the nurturing warmth and aroma of a nice cup of tea and the small, sweet treat a cookie can provide is almost as important as the ingredients contained within the snack. However, Divine Daughter’s Milky Mama tea, does contain a tasty combination of galactagog herbs- designed to replenish (or establish) a healthy milk supply and maintain production. Likewise, these cookies, contain a mixture of nutrients that are good for nursing mothers (hint: make up a big batch prenatally and store the dough in your freezer, that way you can have a quick cookie whenever you need one).

 Oatmeal Nursing Cookies*

 Image cup raisins

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ cups rolled oats

½ cup wheat germ

¾ cup pecans, chopped

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, soak raisins in melted butter and vanilla for 1 hour. Add eggs and sugars; beat well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, oats, and wheat germ. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips by hand. Spoon onto greased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Sit down, take a deep breath, and enjoy!

 

* I like this recipe from Mother Rising but there are lots of other excellent nursing cookies recipes on the internet including from this page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Healing touch

Image

Touch is a vital part of our well being. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and is covered with nerve endings primed for sensory stimulation.

We know that skin-to-skin for newborns, immediately after birth, is a best practice for babies as it helps to regulate temperature and beings the bonding process. Continued skin-to-skin throughout the newborn period assists success with breastfeeding through smell and oxytocin production. Positive, frequent touch gives babies body awareness and self-esteem. We know from studies done with orphans that babies whose physical needs (food, diaper change) were clinically met but, were never held, failed to thrive.

Touch promotes oxytocin and so a massage or slow dancing or even holding hands can help labor start or progress. Touch is also a “primitive brain” sense and can direct an experience into sensory processing and away from too much distracting thought.

Touch is universally healing and reassuring and self-touch can often be transformative leading to greater compassion for and grounding in one’s own body. In the context of birth and pregnancy, we need to touch that which we have journeyed through.  Touching the bellies and hips and breasts that have made, birthed and sustained our children.  Our bodies that have held, loved and nourished our families, partners and private selves in moments of casual affection or times of deep emotion. Our relationship with our bodies, as women, is already fraught.  Pregnancy can often change or exacerbate those feelings and it can be challenging to know that our bodies will never “go back” to what they were.  They will always bear some mark of the journey into and through motherhood. At the very least, we can come to know these marks: these stretch marks, incision scars, these curved places and soft places, the newly wide and the different colors and textures we may notice. Own them – they are yours and your children’s. Respect their landscape.

Ritualize them though rubbing and telling their stories- out loud or within the quiet of your own heart.  Divine Daughters makes a balm for C-care (C-Care and Scar Balm) specifically for that intimate scar, and our Hemorrhoid Salve contains herbs that speak gently to the skin which would be nourishing to rub on stretch marks during pregnancy and after. This body blessing comes from Tami Kent’s amazing book on the pelvic floor, Wild Feminine.

 

Exercise: Body Blessing

 

Bless my feet and legs; let them walk with the grounding energy of the earth.

Bless my pelvis, that I may hold my values as a woman, make space for my creations, and release what no longer belongs with me.

Bless my vagina; may I be clear about what I bring into or release from my body or life.

Bless my feminine organs, that I use my creative potential in ways that are beneficial and sustainable for my spirit.

Bless my belly; may I be in my place of feminine power.

Bless my hands and arms; may they cultivate and receive a joyful bounty.

Bless my heart and chest, that I receive and give fully the love I share with others.

 

Bless my breasts, that I nourish myself as lovingly as I nourish my creations.

Bless my throat and head; may I speak my truth and clarify my visions.

Bless the paths behind and ahead of me, that they may transform what I carry into the future.

Bless the place I now stand as a woman; may I be fully present in my body and life and celebrate the blessings of this moment.

 

This blog post on body image in motherhood made me cry and this is a beautiful project that owns the way real post partum bodies look.

 

 
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sink or swim

Image

In most families adapting to the needs of an additional member comes with a certain degree of stress. The stress appears out of the mist, usually around day 2 or 3 postpartum when tide of birth hormones recede. Expectations of the joys of parenting meld with the reality of sleep deprivation, increased responsibility and any number of other bumps in the road that have arisen in the process of childbirth and initiating breastfeeding. Fall out can scatter around your household in many directions, and strike at any time. My postpartum experience felt a little bit like guerilla warfare at times. For an hour or two I would be on top of everything then all of a sudden all hell would let loose – the cat would throw up, baby would cry non stop for an hour and my 4 year old would transform our somewhat orderly house into a battlefield of disarray. Adaptogenic herbs were incredibly helpful in the early weeks following the birth of my second baby. I was taking Divine Daughters ‘Harmonize, Balance and Replinish’ postnatal vitamin syrup. Adaptogenic herbs are at the foundation of this formula. Shatavari, ashwagandha and astragulus are herbs which build energy in the body. They are fortifying and strengthen Qi. The energy grows and is released slowly and unlike caffeine which is ultimately depleting these herbs restore adrenal reserves. The result of these adaptogenic herbs can be noticed reactions to a situation that you would normally find stressful. For example, in the situation I described above, instead of hollering and weeping – a response well within reasonable parameters of the circumstance – it simply didn’t phase me that I was in a chaotic moment. I didn’t feel like my nerve endings had been just been cauterized by an amateur physician, more like the disarray lacked importance and wasn’t worth fussing over. This experience made me realize that the way I react to situations isn’t based entirely on my personality, but on how much energy I have available to apply to the world around me. Here is a recipe for a simple adaptenogenic syrup that may very well change your life!


1 tablespoon shatavari

1 tablespoon ashwaghanda

1 tablespoon maca

1 tablespoon cinnamon powder or 1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon ginger


Bring the above formula to a boil in 1 quart of water. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for half an hour. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain herbs with cheesecloth, pressing hard to get the last drops of goodness out of the roots. Combine the decoction you have just strained with an equal amount of honey (buckwheat recommended) and 1 ounce of brandy. You have your syrup! Take 2 – 3 tablespoons a day as needed. We love hearing your feedback from recipes like these, our facebook page is a great way to let us know how herbal medicine is supporting your process

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seat of your Soul

ImageIn my life before my pregnancy and baby, I was a birth worker. I worked in a clinic doing prenatal care and very often attended births. Through these experiences, I came to know the female body in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I spent hours looking at diagrams of the way the internal organs shifted to make room for a growing baby, looked at the dilation of the cervix in response to the pressure of a descending head, felt bellies to get a sense of where babies were positioned, assisted in the delicate tissue stitching of a repair, and knew various positions and techniques to help shift a baby down through the pelvic bones. I can say with great certainty that I had an excellent sense of anatomy and pregnancy/labor/postpartum process and how the two things worked (mostly) perfectly together.

When I got pregnant, this understanding only amplified and the knowledge quest got more intense. I understood more about hydration and blood volume, about the size and shape of my own belly, about what to eat and how to move, about the changing chemistry of my hormones. I took several classes to get a sense of different childbirth techniques.

One of the most important pieces of learning that I did for my self and my pregnancy process was to read Wild Feminine and to take a class on the pelvic floor. Lara Kohn-Thompson will be offering this class again starting on April 14th at Bend and Bloom Yoga in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In all of my years of birth junky-ism I never really considered “the pelvic floor”: this amazing seat of bones and ligaments and muscles- that slides and stretches to provide a nest for our powerful uterus and the energy, emotion and creativity that lies therein.

The combination of this book and class made me think much more deeply about the fluidity and elasticity that I possess on both a physical and emotional level. They inspired me to find where ease flowed and where I encountered resistance. How to gently nudge and push to stretch, or how to slow down to breath and nourish and listen to stay steady and safe. They encouraged me to take a look at the energetic connection between my fertility and my creativity and the needs and abundance that were present in these processes.

Herbs also played an important part in connecting to and maintaining my pelvic floor. I was able to pay much more attention to how fortifying red raspberry leaf felt in my pelvic muscles and post partum, how I could nurture the healing of my pelvic floor through drinking “Restorative Uterine Tea”. Physically, this tea helps the uterus quickly shrink back to pre birth size and firmness but, also emotionally it provides the support to feel empowered and comfortable in our new “seat” as mother.

I look forward to continue to deepen my relationship with my pelvic floor as my moon time returns and am curious to see what awakens or is revealed when I am ready to prepare for another baby.  I hope that I will help my daughter listen to her own deep and wise intuition that springs from this place and that she will always feel deeply rooted in her own body.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Belly bonding

Image

Where are you feeling your baby kick? The beginning of the 3rd trimester of pregnancy is a great time to start tuning in to which way around your baby likes to sit in your pelvis. A fun way to explore baby’s position is to map baby out on your belly. Once you start to build an idea of which way around your little one is, you can take an eyeliner pencil and draw an outline of their shape. This creates some really special photos. Spinning babies is a great resource for baby mapping. The outline a step by step way that you can identify the parts of your baby. They also have a publication called ‘The Belly Mapping Workbook’ which walks you through the process of belly mapping in baby steps. Babies are always moving in utero and once you think you know which way around they are all of a sudden they have changed their positioning and set up shop somewhere new. Babies can move around right up to the last moments of pregnancy and sometimes the onset of a few contractions is what helps them to settle themselves in a good position for birth. If you are mapping your belly we encourage you to embrace it as a bonding tool, and don’t let it weigh on your mind if your baby appears to be posterior because all it takes is one swift swivel to change that! Another fun way to bond with your belly in the 3rd trimester is to pick a song which you love and make it your baby’s song by playing it to your belly with headphones and singing it to them. Doula extraordinaire Penny Simkins encourages the families that she works with to pick a song for their baby in utero. Your baby will come to know this song and you will notice a familiar response to it if you sing it to them when they are born. I had a song that I love which I played to my baby in utero. Ironically it’s a song by a gruff voiced recovering adict and references cigarettes and prostitutes – but it is beautiful none the less (100 days by Mark Lanegan)! After about 7 – 10 plays of the song over 2 weeks I would notice him respond instantly to it in utero. Shortly after he was born I had my husband sing it to him (my throat was burnt out from pushing) it was amazing to see my baby warm so softly with reassurance to the music. 10 months later we still sing it to him and it melts him to sleep. Belly mapping and playing music are enjoyable and accessible ways to initiate your bond with your baby before they are born. As I’ve been writing this post I’ve been thinking about something my mother shared about her pregnancy with me. She said she didn’t feel at all bonded or connected with me when she was pregnant and was anxious about how it might be for her when I was born. Then after a challenging labor when she looked into my ‘wee beady eyes’ that was all it took, she was swept away on that oxytocic high and she never looked back. Bonding with your baby during pregnancy is wonderful if it happens, but if it doesn’t, be encouraged about what will happen when you actually get to hold, look, touch, feel and smell the sweet scent of your baby once they are born. The feeling of connectedness will come when the time is right. This may be at 28 weeks pregnant, birth or 4 weeks postpartum.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Raspberry leaf

Image

Red raspberry leaf is a supreme uterine tonic. It contains fragrine an alkaloid which nourishes  the ligaments and tissues of the pelvis opening up blood flow to the area. In herbal medicine plants give clues to their medicinal usefulness by their appearance and where they grow. For example weeds such as burdock, plantain and yellowdock thrive in soils that are depleted and polluted. These plants can be noticed in abundance around the city in abandon lots. They work in these areas to cleanse and restore vitality to the soil by extracting toxins. They perform the same function within the body by cleansing the colon and liver. A signature that stands out to me from red raspberry is how juicy, padded and vibrantly red the fruit is. It looks like a really rich, fertile endometrium. This is one of the ways in which it improves fertility, by increasing blood flow to the uterus, red raspberry leaf allows the body to invest in building a rich endometrium for a fertilized egg to attach itself to. The benefits of red raspberry leaf tea circulate mainstream culture, along with it’s misconceptions. A common misconception is that drinking red raspberry leaf tea will initiate labor. The tea doesn’t have properties which stimulate contractions and isn’t known to initiate labor before full term pregnancy. It has been recommended as a pregnancy tonic which can be safely enjoyed throughout pregnancy for eons. However, if your body is preparing for labor and an undernourished stagnant or dry uterine tissue is inhibiting progress, red raspberry leaf tea will be successful in opening up those pathways and moving things forward. It’s medicinal qualities are optimized when used consistently over a long period of time. Drinking 2 – 3 cups a day for the duration of pregnancy is an excellent way to support the growth of the uterus, placenta and baby. Having a well nourished uterus at the onset of labor will support the process of birthing both baby and placenta. It is excellent preventative medicine which helps to avoid complications such as post-partum hemmorage. It combines really well with nettle and spearmint tea and can be found in many of our divine daughters formulas, including ‘Nourish, Tone, Support’ our prenatal vitamin syrup.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Supporting the loss of a pregnancy

 
Image
In pregnancy discourse, loss isn’t really talked, it’s whispered. Yet when someone reveals to a friend that it has been experienced in their family, that friend probably someone, who knows someone that also experienced a loss. Loss can be in the form of a miscarriage or later stage of a pregnancy, or it can be a conscious choice in the form of abortion. Whenever it happens it unearths a feeling of profound absence and from that point forward the journey can unfold in many different directions. The individual experience of loss is unique and sometimes lonely, but it almost always benefits from some degree of support. Loss is something that needs to be processed, amongst close friends, within a family or with someone more objective like birth councillor Ellen Chuse. Narrative medicine, which incorporates various art forms as tools to unravel and express the experience can be extremely supportive of loss, creating a pathway to move through the experience instead of around it. Elsa Asher is an amazing doula who works with moms to verbalize their experience and portray it in words or imagery. If you are reading this blog from outside of NYC and are interested in finding a specialized birth councillor near you, you could try reaching out to an established local doula. Doulas are often fully well connected to the birth community and have many resources they are happy to share. There are 2 products on our line that support the body as it transitions from two beings to one. Restorative uterine tea helps the uterus situate itself within the pelvis following birth. The astringent herbs in this blend can also support the breasts as they cease to lactate. Open your heart tincture for moods is a relief to have on hand to lift moods in heavy times. They are really great gifts to offer to a friend experiencing loss, when words have a hard time articulating the emotions that are flowing through the moment.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment