Lets talk about after the baby arrives…

The first 40 days is the GOLDEN MONTH

This is such an important topic! There’s so much I’d love to share here that I know will be of benefit to you which is why I’m writing a book on the topic!

According to Chinese Medicine the first 4-6 weeks after birth is known as the Golden Month. This is a time of huge physical and psychological change for you as a woman and is a time that needs much better understanding and appreciation by modern culture.

Most traditional cultures around the world honour the status of a new mother with customs such as the 40 day lie-in designed to support the emerging mother through this raw and vulnerable time.

I’m a huge fan!

I’d love to share with you some of these traditional principles and practices so you too can benefit from this age old wisdom, and gain a better understanding of why it’s so important.

 

It’s all about honouring the MOTHER

These customs are BEAUTIFUL, not just because they’re rich in wisdom that’s stood the test of time, but also for the fact that such customs are rooted in cultures which value the importance of MOTHER.

When a baby is born, so is a mother.

In such cultures, the mother is acknowledged as birthplace of life and the foundation upon which the baby, the family and the entire community grow. Because of this recognition, the culture prioritises care of new mothers as INTEGRAL to the health of all.

Unfortunately, modern culture doesn’t teach women to expect to be treated like a goddess after the extraordinary act of growing and birthing a baby. Instead new mothers are pushed to just get on with it and most often expect this of themselves.

There’s little understanding or appreciation for the unique needs of female physiology at this time, or social structures that adequately support mothers through this vulnerable phase.

In recent decades most traditional practices and wisdom related to caring for mothers after childbirth – and the value of supporting feminine processes – have been lost to a modern world. New mothers are left isolated and expecting too much of themselves, often after a traumatic or disempowered birth. What’s more, new mothers tend to think that there’s something wrong with them if they’re not coping rather then seeing it for what it is – a symptom of a broader cultural issue.

YOU deserve better.

 

Ancient wisdom for modern mammas

The beauty is whilst Western culture may have forgotten its Mother, there’s still much to be gained by looking to ancient traditions such as Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine that maintain a rich living heritage of postpartum customs that honour new mothers.

According to Chinese Medicine, the Mother corresponds to Earth and her wellbeing is central to the wellbeing of the FAMILY, the HOME, the COMMUNITY and the PLANET. In other words, if the Mother is not strong then ALL suffer the consequences. This seems pretty pertinent given the current global crisis for Mother Earth.

Sometimes the call to action to ‘save the planet’ can seem too big and overwhelming. But in the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, where the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, the answer may be as simple as the choice to remember Mother as birthplace and creator of Life and show Her some f**king respect!

 

 

What’s the one step you can take that will guarantee you always make the right choices in pregnancy, birth and beyond?

The answer is Self Love. 

This is the place to begin. Learning to love yourself is so powerful it’s really all you need to do. When you commit to learning to truly love yourself then from this place of deep self respect you’re naturally led to the choices, the behaviour and the attitude that is best for you and your baby’s wellbeing.

Not only that, Self Love and Self Worth are interchangeable. When you love who you are, you allow yourself to receive the abundance of love, support, wellness, personal fulfilment and success available to you. You let go of the self sabotaging thoughts, beliefs and actions that hold you back from living your best life.

Unfortunately most of us have been taught through life experience the opposite of Self Love. 

Most people learn at a very young age to seek love and approval from outside of themselves.

Whilst in the beginning you experience unconditional love, as you grow older you start to learn that certain behaviours meet with approval and other behaviour meet with disapproval. You start to learn that love and approval is conditional upon acting or being a certain way, and because Love feels good and you want to feel good, you learn to modify your behaviour and who you are in order to feel good conditional upon this or that.

As a result you reject the parts of your Self that cause you to feel disapproval or unlovable.

You lose connection to the beauty of who you truly are. This leads to choices, behaviours and actions that are out of alignment with your natural expression of Self.

Little girls in particular are taught to be ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’. Girls are encouraged to be ‘good girls’ and that means rejecting those aspects of their personalities that challenge how other people want them to behave. As girls grow into women this conditioned response to please other people means women frequently put themselves last. When girls aren’t encouraged to engage the assertive and aggressive parts of their personality, it may be hard for them during pregnancy or birth to speak up for themselves and assert their authority and autonomy.

Self Love is the process that reconnects you to the truth of who you are and teaches you to reclaim the parts of yourself that have been rejected throughout your life.

As you learn to love the whole of who you are, you are able to receive with greater abundance.

Self Love is the commitment to knowing that you are worthy of your deep love, forgiveness and approval unconditionally.

Self Love is your Internal Guidance System

When you use Love as your guide, you are always moving toward a state that feels good. It feels good because Love is associated with the expansive vibration of joy, abundance and alignment. It is your natural state of being, the truth of who you are.

Self Love is about always moving towards the thoughts and feelings and actions that allow for you to feel good. You choose Self Love because you care about how you feel and it’s from this place of self care that you allow yourself to receive all you need to be happy, healthy, loved and supported.

Self Love is about honoring your own divinity. That sounds kind of cliché, but it’s something worth thinking about. It’s a powerful act of creation to grow and birth and sustain a baby, and women have that power. Throughout time the Mother archetype has been worshipped as the creator of life, and yet today the value placed on mothering has fallen to an all time low.

In addition to undervaluing the role of mothering, our culture does little to prepare women to be strong and confident mothers.

For example, most of what’s offered as part of routine antenatal care teaches women that their bodies are not to be trusted, that birth is dangerous and that some external source knows what’s best for them and their baby.

It’s no wonder that when the baby arrives women experience doubt and confusion and uncertainty when every step along the pregnancy journey leads women to seek guidance and approval outside of themselves that they are doing it ‘right’ and that everything is ok.

Now, imagine a world where your routine antenatal care supported you to find the skills and resources within to trust yourself, your body and your intuition as you made the transition to motherhood. A model of care that built you up and helped you feel powerful as a woman. What would that look like?

Self Love is the answer.

When you use Self Love as your guide you are connecting to your Internal Guidance System, you are listening to the whisper of your Heart for guidance rather then looking outside of yourself for confirmation or approval. You do what feels good to YOU, and what feels good to you is always the right choice for yourself and for your baby – even if that goes against outside opinions.

Happy Mother = Happy Baby

The world of pregnancy, birth and mothering is full of do and don’t advice, something that preys on the vulnerability of women at such a pivotal time in life. Self Love teaches you to honour and trust your Self and to convey the personal authority that your choices are worthy of respect.

It’s so powerful to know you have an Internal Guidance System; that you have access to inner resources that will always lead you to the right choices.

The very first step is Self Love. It is the one practice that will transform your life.

Are you ready to begin?


Self Love Action Step…

Let’s start with an INTENTION.

For extra power, do this standing in front of a mirror looking deep into your own eyes. If that feels a little strange right now, skip this bit and just speak your intention out loud. You can always come back to doing it in front of a mirror later when you feel more comfortable.

Put one hand over your heart and the other over your lower belly. This connects your Heart with your Womb, a connection in Traditional Chinese Medicine known as Bao Mai that connects a woman’s creative centre with her heart’s desire (the secret to manifestation).

Take a few deep breaths to centre yourself and when you are ready say out loud,

‘I choose to commit to deepening my connection to my Self and to my unconditional Self Love. I deeply and completely love and approve of myself.’

Take a deep breath. Let it go…

Smile into your body and allow that smile to drop down into your heart and to your lower belly. 

Before you finish, take a moment to feel a sense of gratitude for your Self. 

One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it is rich in practical self help practices that have been handed down for centuries because they are grounded in common sense. One of my favourite of these is the practice of prescribing Chicken Broth to women in the post partum period, which is what I want to share with you here.

According to TCM, the process of labor and birth strongly depletes a woman’s Qi (energy) and Blood; birth involves tremendous physical, mental and emotional effort and after birth women are considered to be relatively ’empty’.  This is even more so for women who have had caesarean section or post partum haemorrhage.

It is this Qi and Blood emptiness that leaves women vulnerable to post partum disorders such as low milk supply, post natal depression, insomnia, exhaustion and mastitis. According to TCM, the key focus for women in the post partum should be to replenish what is lost.  Aside from emphasising the importance of plentiful bed rest for at least one month after birth, TCM Diet Therapy recommends Chicken Broth as a powerful way to nourish Qi and Blood reserves.

I’ve been making Chicken Broth according to the following recipe for well over a decade and it is one of the most nurturing and nourishing health practices I know. There is a nutritive quality to the broth that feels so restorative and life enhancing. It is good medicine and your body will thank you for the foresight of freezing a few batches in the later stages of pregnancy.

vegetables for soup

Vegetables for Soup Stock

Delivering a new mama with a big pot of Chicken Soup made from the following broth is one of the most thoughtful post natal gestures I know (right up there with with Post Natal Sitz Bath herbs).


Post Partum Restorative Chicken Broth

The first 3 ingredients are key but the rest of the recipe can be modified according to your own tastes and preferences and what you have available in the fridge or garden.

Organic Free-Range Chicken*

3-4 slices fresh ginger*

splash of Apple Cider Vinegar*

Next add…

6 spring onions, green tips included

1 leek

2 stalks celery

1-2 carrots

3 bay leaves

1tblspn black peppercorns

Then add…

Fresh herbs: choose from any or all of the following

1 large sprig rosemary

Half a bunch of parsley

1 large sprig sage

2 large sprigs of thyme 

Finally add…

½ tspn sea salt 

Directions

Rinse chicken and place in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover (about 3-4 litres). Add fresh ginger and a splash of vinegar. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer. Roughly chop vegetables and add to the pot with bay leaf and peppercorn. You can also add a whole onion, unpeeled (but some find onion disagrees with baby’s digestion). Simmer for a minimum of 3 hours, at least 6 hours is best. Add fresh herbs in the final 30 minutes of cooking time.

Finally, add salt. Do not add salt earlier as it will prevent proper extraction of nutrients.

Allow stock to cool and then strain through a sieve.  The broth can be drunk as is as a daily bowl of goodness, or can be used as the stock to make Chicken Soup. It is not necessary to skim the fat and this adds to flavour. You can pick the flesh off the chicken and use for soup, or for sandwiches, or add to pies or risotto.  The broth can be added to stews, risottos and congee etc, and can be frozen for convenience.

The vinegar helps pull minerals from the bones. Much of the benefits of the broth are to be gained by slow cooking the chicken for at least 6 hours so that the minerals and nutrients are extracted from the bone level. In TCM this is considered the level of the Essence, or Jing, which corresponds to the deepest levels of our life force.  Because of this it is important to choose an organic chicken.


Chicken Broth is powerful medicine and a wonderful source of nutrition when the body is run down or recovering from illness. I’ve found it can be a blessing for women suffering from severe morning sickness who are unable to tolerate most food but are able to drink the nutritive broth.  It is also an excellent food choice for digestive weakness and auto immune disorders. Severely Blood deficient vegetarians will benefit from the occasional Chicken Broth with the understanding that food is medicine. For all women, the Blood nourishing properties of Chicken Broth are beneficial not just post partum but as a regular tonic at the end of menstruation.

For post partum medicine, traditionally Chinese herbs that nourish Qi and Blood are added to the cooking process, in particular  the herb Dang Gui Angelica sinensis which has a well deserved reputation as a herb for women’s health. Most Asian supermarkets will have these kind of soup stock herbs, or you can contact a Chinese Herbalist for better quality herbs.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Chinese Herbs for Soup Stock

If you would like to add extra potency to your broth, I have available for purchase (complete with recipes) the Post Partum Restorative Blend to nourish Yin and Blood. Contact me for more information.

Ok, reality check. Giving birth vaginally is gonna take your perineum outside her usual comfort zone.

It can help to prepare with perineal massage and Vitamin E oil during pregnancy, just like it may help to labor in water or to have a skilled midwife support you during second stage so your perineum has time to stretch. And it’s important to inform yourself about female sexuality and sensuality so you understand the conditions your body needs to relax, soften and open during birth.

But, birth is not predictable and despite the best preparation, sometimes perineal tissue may tear. This is especially so with the use of forceps or ventouse, or where women feel rushed or pressured during second stage. Unfortunately, there is nothing like the discomfort of a swollen, tender, stitched perineum to make you feel miserable where the thought of your next wee makes you cry at a time when a newborn is demanding all your attention.

Like I said, reality check.

The great news is there’s something you can do to speed up healing and provide welcome relief as soon as you feel ready after giving birth – herbal baths and/or sitz baths.  

‘The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day’ Hippocrates

I’ve long been a fan of the ‘art of bath’. People have used the therapeutic powers of steaming and bathing in herbal waters for centuries. You can too. Postnatal herbal baths and sitz baths are a simple, effective and heavenly way to heal the body following childbirth. Best of all, it’s easy to make your own and doesn’t require a lot of special ingredients. I’m going to tell you how.

What is a sitz bath?

A sitz bath is a strong herbal brew that is used to steam and bathe the perineum after birth to promote healing.

The hot herbal water is poured into a shallow basin or sturdy bucket that can be squatted over or sat upon. The herbal steam increases blood circulation, repairs tissue trauma, soothes and reduces inflammation. As the herbal waters cool you then sit in the basin or pour it into a bath to soak. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners commonly prescribe sitz baths to assist with complaints such as thrush, cervicitis, perineal tears and haemorrhoids.

Postnatal sitz baths are best enjoyed from the first week after birth, therefore you’ll want to have gathered what you need during late stage pregnancy. Next to Chicken Soup, this is the most thoughtful postnatal present for your pregnant friends: if she has had tearing or an episiotomy she’s gonna love it!

How to make a postnatal sitz bath

Sitz Bath Herbs

Sitz Bath Herbs

Make your herbal blend from any one or a combination of the following fresh or dried herbs and allow about 1-2 cups herbal blend per bath.  These are common herbs you may already have in your kitchen or garden. If not you’ll find them easily enough at your local wholefood or health shop.

Chamomile flowers : Calendula flowers : Lavender flowers : Rosemary leaves : Sage leaves : Rose Petals

You’re also going to need sea salt of any kind. I like to use a mix of Himalayan sea salt, Celtic sea salt and Epsom salts but plain old sea salt from the pantry will do fine.

Instructions:

Use a square of muslin and pile your herbs in the centre then tie with twine. Or you could use an old stocking to stuff herbs into, tying off to create a bolus. Don’t pack too tightly so that the herbs have room to expand and release their goodness.

Place in a large saucepan with 2 litres boiling water.

Cover and let sit for 4 hours or overnight.

Pour the herbal brew into a shallow basin or sturdy plastic bucket (boil proof plastic). Squeeze bolus to release all the active ingredients.

Add 1 litre of boiling water and 1 litre of tap water.

If you are using a shallow basin you’ll need to be a little inventive finding a way to squat over the basin. It helps to put the basin in the bath so you can use the bath tub for support and then it’s not as strenuous as it sounds, especially after having a baby. It’s easier if you lean forward a little bit, much more comfy then a deep squat. Give it a dry run you’re not sure. If you use a plastic bucket as long as it is sturdy you can sit on the bucket creating a seal with your bottom. Again try doing this in the bath tub. Take care as the water is hot!

Allow the steam to rise and fumigate your perineum for 10-15 minutes.

If you’re using a shallow basin wait until the waters cool and then sit in the basin and enjoy a sitz bath.

OR, you can pour the herbal brew into a warm bath along with 1 handful of sea salt for a whole body herbal bath. This is where you get to lie back, relax and allow the healing waters to work their magic!

Enjoy 1 Sitz bath per day and give your perineum some love.

Further info & suggestions…

Calendula excels at wound healing. Lavender and Chamomile promote healing and also soothe and calm. Rosemary regenerates cells and helps to improve the blood circulation to the area whilst Sage cleanses, astringes and is antiseptic. Rose is nurturing and mends the emotional wounds. But it really doesn’t take a lot of special ingredients. At the very least if you have nothing else available make up a super strong brew using about 5-6 Chamomile tea bags and use to soak your tush.

The herbal infusion can also be used as a wash or compress. A great suggestion is to combine equal parts herbal infusion with water in a plastic spray bottle and use to spray onto the perineum. This is THE BEST TIP for relieving the stinging of urination and helps keep the area clean.

You can also soak a clean cloth in heated herbal infusion and squeeze over the perineum, or use cotton gauze to make a warm compress that can applied externally to the perineum. Do not use cold or as an ice pack. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cold slows the blood circulation and creates blood stasis, preventing proper healing and is a big No No!

Finally, the herbal bath promotes postnatal recovery for all women, including caesarean. The herbs that heal the perineum will also help heal your caesarean scar and your baby’s umbilical cord. If you’ve had a c-section it’s still beneficial to steam the womb the perineum as it will help heal the womb, or go straight to good bit, lying back and allowing the healing waters of a herbal bath to work their magic.