essay on postpartum support printed in fireweed zine

i personally think you should go out and get fireweed zine. it is great. however, due to several requests i am making my essay on holistic postpartum support-printed in fireweed zine #2-  available here. -t

Holistic support for the new mama in a scrubbled-up world.

By traci picard

When a person becomes a mama for the first or 3rd or 9th time there is a special kind of change going on, and it’s intense, it’s never easy and most of the rituals we have relied on since the dawn of time are either gone or cheapened into oblivion. As many of you know it is difficult enough in our current addled society to keep yourself from lying in the road and waiting to be run over without the added burdens and joys of parenthood. However, the transition can be eased with a little bit of perspective, wonderful herbs and a few other healthy(groan…) life choices. I won’t lie, you won’t spin coal into gold but you may be able to work a lesser alchemy and manufacture a shiny nickel.

In the first few weeks your life has been turned upside down. Your identity is replaced, your body upheaved. But I am not going to address the many wonderful ways herbs can help the physical  healing process. I am more concerned with the moment all the excitement wears off and you are left with a big ol’ wtf that seems to stretch out in front of you for the next few years or so. The newness has worn off, your body is a new kinda normal and the world looks very very different…

The world can feel like a hostile place. The coping mechanisms you used to rely on may not work so well now. Many wonderful people succumb to depression, inertia, passing to fit in, constant tension and confusion. However! You are now part of the ancient cycle of mamas living  out the process. You’re doing it! And there ARE ways to increase your chance of making it through postpartum not just intact but stronger, awesomer, fiercer. Ok, maybe you won’t be intact-you may lose something in the process but you will gain too-you trade in your old heart for a bigger more beautiful one which just may need a little extra protection from the cruel world.

I have compiled a list of flexible suggestions to help you make it through the day, the week, the 18 plus years…

* daily movement: make it a priority to get some kind of physical activity. This is not a you’re-fat-lose-weight-guilt-inducer!! Moving about helps stave off the enemy of emotional wellness-stagnation. What this will look like varies greatly for different people. Some like a gentle walk, others hit the gym and yoga can be a nice option too. Try not to get hung up on your ideal-a tai chi video with a toddler “helping” or a walk with baby in the sling is way better for my morale than lying around remembering the fun stuff I did before mamahood. You have a new standard now, and Movement is great for your circulation and is a time to think, get centered, and burn off some of that nervous energy.

*nutrition-delicious nutritious foods help you recover physically and mentally. Especially when breastfeeding you can improve your energy level and stress load with a diet high in good protein and fiber and low in simple carbs and white sugar. Don’t beat yourself up over an occasional lunch of fried clams with a shot of whiskey but aim for good meals and snacks which make you feel awesome. processed foods can get out of the way to make room for a more nourishing approach. A good multi-vitamin can go a long way towards filling in the spaces in your culinary life and a daily dropperful of liquid vitamin B can literally work wonders on the brain!

* community-having a connection with others is especially important when going through this transition. All ages! This  includes other kids, elders, and everyone in between. Finding your community can be a lifelong process with ups and downs. But trusted people who have your back, and you have theirs, who can be called upon in times of need or times of joy are vital to life and sanity. Cultivate your relationships like a gilded garden.

* projects-a life’s mission may sound daunting right now. However, having projects which you love to do, work that is meaningful, education that works for you or any kind of life practice affirms your self worth. I understand that this is hard, especially for those of us without the luxury of a wage earning partner or reasonable cash flow. However, goals power the moment in a way that nothing else can.

* avoid triggers-got a questionable uncle? Fox news? Competitive and creepy  mommy and me clubs? Run! You don’t need to only hang with cheery fembots but those persons who make you feel like crap, question your parenting, put you down or make you feel defensive have no place in your postpartum life. and try not to spend much time facebooking with your childless semi- friends who don’t understand or respect the leaky boob, the family bed or just how bad you really need a nap.

* instincts- post partum is a fine time to admire the way we have still got a certain special something in this techno-peopled world that is kinda magical. Sure, parents magazine and the entire medical industry deny it but mama you’ve got  a crazy awesome instinct inside you that has burst out—make friends with yourself.

* sexuality-post parenthood sexuality is a loaded topic which deserves attention. Yes you can have great sex again-but it takes more. More planning, more lube, more of a sense of humor!  Of course sex may not mean intercourse-just taking time with yourself or a partner to explore your new body can help. Enjoying physical closeness with a trusted friend, self love, a little erotica can all remind you of what gets you sexually invigorated. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing people cannot be parents and sexual beings at the same time-and this is reinforced by society and the media. However you  acquire it an orgasm can be a great tool healing and connection for the body and mind. Allow me to recommend a great book! Check out The Mother’s Guide to Sex by Anne Semans and Cathy Winks. Lots of relevant info for the new mama and the old mama alike!

* process-the birth experience can be transformative and traumatic at the same time. Whether your birth was transcendent and awesome or painful and stressful-or a little of both-the benefits of talking about it, writing, using art, movement or sound to process and come through the whole experience can be very healing. Do it alone or with  a trusted person and start yourself towards understanding what the heck happened!

* nature-the plants are there for you. If you can get yourself out there the birds and soil and worms and water can be profoundly healing. To me, even a vacant lot of mugwort and pigeons restores my faith in the natural world. Look how the earth renews! And you will too. We can take the earth’s advice and grow where we’re planted. Tenacity, community, the cycles of life and a natural flow are all outside our door when we get out of the house and explore. A sense of stagnation creeps in all too easily when we spend too much time indoors. Inertia is a powerful force indeed, and a self-fulfilling kinda force.

* communication- you may not even know exactly what you need. But noone else does either! Now is the time to advocate for yourself. Speak up, communicate your needs and wants to others. Family, partner(s), coworkers, health professionals, random people on the bus….Practice now, as you will advocate for your child(ren) for years-and eventually need to teach them how to communicate!

* oh, yeah-what about herbs?!? Above all else, nourish. Give your body what it needs to heal, to work hard rebuilding, lactating, hauling that sweet little baby around and dealing with sleep deprivation.  Nettles, oatstraw, fennel seed, tulsi, raspberry leaf all work in an infusion. Digestion and assimilation can always use a little help-try burdock root and bitters.

Relaxation takes on a new importance- baths! With or without the baby you can steep your tired bones in lavendars and mints, roses, sage, cinnamon or vanilla– whatever moves you. Don’t have a tub? Footbath! Follow with a massage oil-infuse herbs in a carrier oil or add a tiny bit of essential oils. Don’t forget to give yourself a little of the mamalove you shower on your little one.

For tension and stress skullcap tincture soothes the edges of a crazy world. It is a very multi-purpose herb, gentle yet effective for tension headaches too. Sometimes you need to diffuse the sense of dread that creeps into your day. Also try any combination of passion flower, milky oats,  rose petals, catnip and chamomile in a child-safe tincture blend. Lemon balm helps to restore the sense of humor/levity when it’s been hijacked by life. For more severe tension a little bit of blue vervain can soothe jagged emotional edges well. Each person is different and an herbalist can help to come up with the right nervines for the individual.

The range of experiences we experience after becoming a mother is vast. Sometimes it feels like way too much! And that won’t go away-it will ease, it will fade, it will improve but your heart has a new chamber lady and you’re in for a hilly ride. A fabulous heartbreak. And you are definitely not alone.

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