Midwives, Doulas, Partners- Creating the Team

1782131_245335285646945_1471368041_nI have always wanted to be a mother. The whole bit. Being pregnant and birthing, and all the glory and rewards that comes afterward for the rest of your life! It’s totally a glamourous, accolade filled job, right?! When thinking about the birthing process I knew I wanted a home birth with a midwife as support. I never envisioned a hospital birth, in fact it terrified me that there was a possibility that I might have to deliver my child in a hospital of all places. You never know what can happen in birth, so many opportunities for learning, surrendering and letting go. When I met my lover, the woman I would create my family with, things became more tangible. We moved into our first home together and upon walking into a room in the basement I said- “This is a womb chamber, I will give birth here.” And so here we are, 3.5 years later from that exact moment. My ideal dream would be to birth in a warm ocean under a full moon with dolphins as midwives but I settled for a home basement-kiva birth instead. SongoftheTreeSpiritsCharlesIn my mind a midwife was an ancient wise healer, a soul birthing facilitator, a witch with medicinal herbs that would do ceremony with me, give me tinctures, wisdom and strength. She would have scraggly grey hair like Susun Weed or  a calm demeanour like Ina May Gaskin. She would see my soul and the soul of my babe and work with us intuitively. She would rub my ripe belly with her wrinkled hands, “Ah, yes, you are a sparkly one indeed, what an old soul!”, she might say with a twinkle in her eye and tell me something magical about my growing baby with an all knowing smile. She would give me a balm to stretch my cervix or a tea to ease my anxiety. I would feel safe and trusting and warm and held in her presence. She would be like another mother or grandmother that would support me in unfolding, trusting and moving through the most transformational time in my life with grace and ease. This was my vision. Maybe I read too much Starhawk. When we found out we were pregnant after calling our sperm donor the midwives were the second call. We knew it was difficult to get a midwife. We were lucky enough to have appointments with three different clinics. And finally we selected one, the one I had wanted from the beginning. I basically harassed them for weeks to get an appointment. My reasoning initially was because I had been to the opening ceremony of their clinic years ago, I liked the hospital they were aligned with if, goddess forbid, I would end up there, and they appeared to share similar beliefs as I did in terms midwifery practices. We were also recommended by a friend to a queer midwife within the practice which felt really good to us. 394px_Eucharius_R_lin_Rosgarten_Childbirth We met finally after some mix up with appointments and though my dreams of the old wise woman were starting to evaporate I felt comfortable with a young, strong, well researched, friendly, queer midwife. I also agreed to have a student present but I did not know I was agreeing basically to have the student act as my primary midwife. Things went a bit wonky from there. Appointments were canceled at a moments notice without rescheduling, the administration- gatekeeper to the midwife- was slow, unorganized, unprofessional and seemed to have no idea what was going on! When I asked for a care package, which had been offered to me but was forgotten after the first appointment, the administrator, who hardly even looked up while I asked her said, “Um I don’t think we have any of those. Um, yeah, I’m not sure, maybe next time you can ask your midwife for one?” Our first really big issue came when the midwife was sick and the student took over and messed up some dates on the triple screening tests which were time sensitive. It isn’t very reassuring when you are calling back your midwife clinic to ask them about something you researched on google MD because they f’d up! And that is when things got very challenging between Cheryl and myself. “Negligent” was her word for the whole practice. She was enraged and felt unsafe with the whole experience and was ready to find another midwife. I don’t know what happened for me exactly. I was angry as well, and irritated, and didn’t fully trust them but was kind of defeatist perhaps. Like I’d settled or didn’t quite care as my initial dream had faded and didn’t want to put the effort into finding another alternative. It was good enough.  I trust they can deliver babies even if they can’t answer phones! Cheryl said I was just being stubborn and not wanting to be wrong about my choice, but I think I just let it go. “My pregnancy is great, the baby is healthy, as long as they show up to help with the delivery I don’t really care”, was my attitude. “But that’s the problem, I just have this feeling that they won’t show up!” was Cheryl’s feeling. It can be difficult being in a relationship with another intuitive strong willed woman! I honour and respect Cheryl’s wisdom and point of view, as she does mine. We both see things completely differently at times and can settle on an agreement but sometimes it can be hard. And this wasn’t a should we paint the bedroom grey question, it regarded the safety of our child. What if she was right? What if I was now being negligent and not following the signs? What if something went wrong at the birth? She would never forgive me, I would never forgive myself. It was complex. And at what point does a birth mother’s feelings trump the other mothers or parents? Does that happen? Is it equal all the way? I claimed the birth as mine. I carried this being for 9 months, I am ripping open my body and soul to earth it, it will be my choice, who is there, and how this goes down. Was a comment I had made previously, possibly selfishly. If I were with a man would all these decisions be solely left up to me? I wonder if there is something that comes up differently when two women are creating their family together? witches   We are a team. I am relying on my partner for support and she is relying on me for support and to make healthy choices for our child. Was this just an amplification of her fears or was there something to this intuitive feeling she had? It was really stressful for us to be in a power struggle and my hormones were getting more and more squishy in the last months. I wanted to feel closer and safe, not polarized and far apart. This is the point when I decided to get a doula. A meditator between all the worlds. I had recently reconnected with a friend who was giving me pre-natal yoga classes and happened to be a doula. I had thought, “I have midwives, my mom and my partner I don’t need a doula”, but it became clearer as we got closer in the third trimester that I really needed to feel extra support that was there 100% for me. This became one of the best decisions I made! Amanda Montgomery  was an amazing goddess sent. She was strong, intuitive, easy going and a wealth of knowledge. I felt that I could call her and check in on weird feelings, swollen labia, irritated emotional jags and express my anxieties without judgement. But most important of all I trusted her. And equally importantly Cheryl trusted her as well. So with this addition to our team we both felt more supported and although we weren’t in full agreement this eased the tension between us. Cheryl was secure in knowing that Amanda would show up and I got my extra wise woman support. ***As you will see in our Birth Story to come…. Cheryl’s intuition did come to fruition in that our baby just happened to choose to be born in the 8hr window when NEITHER one of our midwives were on call! We did have 2 completely wonderful midwives from the collective that we had never met before who attended the birth and supported us incredibly! Babies always know when to come! ***

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Herbal Supports in Pregnancy

I will start off by saying I am not a certified herbalist but as a green witch with a love of plant medicine these are some of my favourite plants. Please consult herbalists, naturopaths or other trusted professionals if in doubt or dealing with specific conditions.

RED RASPBERRY LEAF- Rubus idaeus red raspberry leaf

The most highly used herb during pregnancy, labour and nursing. Red Raspberry leaf tea is a friend till the end. During first trimester R.R’s high mineral content, rich in calcium, magnesium and iron build strength and can aid morning sickness as well as leg cramps. It also has a high concentration of Vitamin C.

A nourishing energy to the reproductive system R. R brings increased blood flow to the uterus which supports a healthy growing baby and as well tones the uterus for a speedy recovery. It’s astringent nature also support in slowing bleeding during labour and can help to dispel the placenta.

Taken after labour this herb can support milk flow and bring mineral support back into the depleted body.

 How to use:   Red Raspberry tea can be made from dried leaves (either gather from garden or purchased at a reputable herbal store) Also bought in pre-made tea bags.

Drink hot or cold mixed in combination with other herbs or alone.

Can be made into ice cubes to be sucked on while in labour or during times of morning sickness. Boil ginger root and at a tea bag of raspberry leaf- freeze into cubes and suck on through out labour or periods of nausea.

Brew:

Cup– 1 cup water to 1 tsp Red Raspberry leaf- steep at least 10 minutes

Jug– Boil 4- 5 cups water, Add 2 tbsp. Red Raspberry and steep at least 10 minutes

Vat– To make a huge batch just 3/4 to 1 cup of R.R. 16 cups of boiling water. I pour the herbs and boiling water into a big glass jar, cover with a plate and leave overnight before straining for a strong tea. That can be then watered down to taste, or frozen into ice cubes.

 OAT STRAW- Avena sativa oatstraw

Oats and oatstraw are incredibly kind to the body’s nervous system. High in magnesium calcium and silica supports building healthy bones, tissues, nails and hair in mama and baby. Oatstraw can be a safe energy booster bringing centered energy into the body after nervous exhaustion or a bad nights sleep.

Nourishing to the brain, oats are fabulous for reducing anxiety and creating a calm, alkaline state internally, by improving digestion and bowel function. Oatstraw tea can also improve circulation to the uterus. Oats or oatsraw tea can also be applied as a cold compress to relieve itching or stretch marks, eczema or other rash flair ups.

How to use:

Make an oatstraw tea- purchase at herbal store loose or in bags. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends loose to get more full spectrum of the herbs.

Eat oatmeal for breakfast! I was not a breakfast person but something happened around my second trimester and I needed to eat when I woke up to get me through the day.I actually remembered that my mom had said she ate a ton of oatmeal while pregnant with me. She thought that is why my complexion was one that was more apt to burn. While she ate a ton on coffee ice cream with one of my brothers who soaks up the sun and almost becomes another race. So be warned about an oatmeal baby!

My breakfast of champions was oatmeal. I craved it!

  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or almond butter
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
  • handful walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • a smackrel of honey or maple syrup
  •  a dash of quality cocoa powder or cinnamon

YUM YUM YUM!!!

gingerGINGER- Zingiber officinale

Ginger is a warming herb that works on the digestive system and immune system. Ginger has long been used as a sacred remedy in many traditions from the creation of gingerbread for digestion in Roman times to the use of ginger ale to prevent sea sickness and vertigo for Viking travelers. Gigners medicinal properties are highly regarded in Chinese medicine as a yang stimulating herb and used in hundreds of preparations because of its stimulating nature and ability to carrier other remedies through out the blood.

Ginger tea can promote digestive juices and increase desire for food if you are feeling nauseas with morning sickness (that might come and go throughout the day!) It also supports healthy digestion. Ginger also can aid the body in the absorption of nutrients so if you are not able to keep food down making a very nourishing tea with ginger and other mentioned herbs could be away to continue to receive the nourishment your body and growing baby needs. It can also support digestive functioning if your body is having trouble with constipation during pregnancy.

Ginger also improves circulation which can help maintain energy levels throughout the day during all stages of pregnancy.

 How to use:

Ginger tea hot or cold- When I was starting to feel like I might be coming down with a cold my number one remedy is:

 Ginger Immune Potion  (all measurements are rough estimates)

  • hunk (4 tbsp ish) chopped ginger root
  • 5 cups water

Simmer for 15 minutes then add the following

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. honey

(Possibly a clove or 2 of garlic for extra immune boosting)

  • Ginger can also be combined with Red Raspberry leaf for a tea infusion for morning sickness
  • Ginger can also be taken in capsule form or found in candy format to suck on
  • Ginger foot soak for fluid retention and circulation

NETTLES- Urtica dioica 

Nettle_botanical_drawing

The Tibetan master and Buddhist saint Malirepa is portrayed in images as green because it was said he lived off nothing but nettles for years in mediation. Nettles also contains high amounts of chlorophyll, the compound which supports the absorption of light in a plant and gives plants their green colour.

Nettles, like dandelion is considered a weed, but this weed which grows world wide, has many delightful properties. This deeply nourishing and rich medicine is high in iron, calcium, folic acid and vitamins A, C, D and K.

In early and late pregnancy nettles is supportive to energy levels, strengthens kidney and adrenal function and can be a great remedy for those who are suffering from anemia. Due to it’s astringent properties it can be useful for those who may get hemorrhoids, to be taken as a tea or made into a poultice or put in a sitz bath.

Nettles is a wonderful immune booster and increases our resistance to illness by improving absorption of iron, regulating blood sugar levels and supporting liver function.

In later stages of pregnancy, birth and beyond nettles naturally increases milk production, and it may reduce the likelihood of tearing and hemorrhage during birth.

 How to use:

You can gather nettles and cook in summer with spinach and lemon for a salad, for full connection to the plant and mineral absorption. But nettles does sting so wear gloves to harvest!

It can also be used fresh in tea infusion or dried or frozen for later use in teas.

Some grew in my garden so I harvested for all of these uses and drank dried throughout the winter season. You can find nettels in health food stores loose of pre-packaged.

Potent Pregnancy Potion

I drank a combination of these herbs throughout my pregnancy.

I had grown the peppermint and lemon balm consciously in my garden and the nettles was a friend that popped up all on its own! I had harvested some red raspberry leaf from the raspberry’s that grow at my cottage and the rest was purchased from an herbal store. Drinking this tea always felt deeply nourishing to my mind, body and soul. In early pregnancy when I felt nauseas I would add more peppermint or throw in some ginger and drink at room temperature throughout the day. When winter months and my third trimester hit I upped the red raspberry and nettles which felt like a green infusion to my system and strengthened my reserves. On nights where sleep was intermittent I would add more oat straw or lemon balm to sooth my nerves.

General Pregnancy Tea Tonic IMG_7234

  • 4 parts Red Raspberry
  • 2 parts Nettles
  • 1 part Oat straw
  • 1 part Alfalfa
  • 1/2 part Peppermint
  • 1/2 part Spearmint
  • 1/2 part Lemon balm

celebration herbalsFor pre packaged tea bags Celebration Herbals can be purchased at Noah’s’; The Carrot Common, Hoopers.

To purchase loose leaf teas you can find at Thuna’s on the Danforth; Qi Natural Foods.