The Sauer on Sauerkraut (A DIY explanation on the most underrated condiment)

Getting creative in the kitchen can be something a lot of us find intimidating. Between time, financial situations and reliance on convenience foods, we forget that a lot of those jars or bags of “this and that” can be made simply at home at a minimal cost.

I’ve always been one to experiment in the kitchen. Living with Celiac disease along side other food intolerance’s, I’ve learned that food isn’t just about fixing that initial hunger feeling but finding sustainable energy sources depending on what point of the day I’m eating, what the weather is like, how busy my work week is or the more enjoyable aspect of what I feel like eating.

Lately I have been experimenting with sauerkraut—a fermented cabbage condiment that most of us use along-side sausages, hot dogs or pierogies. As the weeks pass, I have learned sauerkraut can easily adapted into most dishes or at least used as a side dish or as a simple appetizer salad topping to kick-start our digestion before larger meals. It’s easy to make, delicious in flavor and holds many incredible health benefits.

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When we read the ingredients list on a jar of sauerkraut, it should be a very short list: salt, cabbage and maybe a little bit of this or that for some added flair. But why do we find ourselves intimidated by this simple jar?

Because it is pure science that many of us have been lead to believe we shouldn’t try at home. Leave it to the pros. Well let me tell you, it is MUCH easier than it seems and most definitely not scary. Most of the time, a fermentation crock is used to create the kraut but I have been using jars in a moderately cool room.

So let’s begin to understand the how’s and why’s of making cabbage go from a crunchy ball to a sour, flavorful nutritional powerhouse condiment.

Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. This is when the good bacteria present on a fruit or vegetable called lactobacillus bacteria converts sugar into lactic acid. This acid is important because it is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of bad bacteria yet leaves all the healthy nutrients that our bodies need(it also gives the fermented foods their tangy flavor).

Sound familiar?

Most of us have heard these lacto terms being used when we talk about probiotics or foods like yogurt and that’s exactly right! Since lactobacillus is already present in our mouths, our gastrointestinal tract, and our vaginas (to name a few important places) we use these healthy gut bugs to boost our abilities to digest and optimize nutritional intake with a bacteria our body already knows and loves.

So how do we do it?

When we make sauerkraut, we slice the cabbage and then sprinkle and massage with salt to draw out the liquid and gases from the leaves. This creates brine that, in turn, creates an anaerobic fermenting environment.

Whoa whoa, big word big word.

In simple terms, when we massage the liquid out of the leaves, anything that is within the brine is in a “healthy growth zone.”
Anaerobic fermentation means no oxygen. This is the environment we need to ferment the cabbage because the bad bacteria that most of us are afraid of creating needs air to grow. If we minimize the products exposure to air, we minimize the bad bugs.

So how can we do this?

When I make the kraut and press it into the jar, I use a portion of the cabbage leaf to create a barrier that holds the loose cabbage down and allows the brine to cover all aspects of my creation. This cuts out the chances of my batch being exposed to air. Then I wrap the top of the jar with cheese cloth or a piece of paper towel and an elastic band for a number of days—usually 7-12. This allows air flow to the brine but keeps any dust or other bacteria’s out.

At the end of these days, I take the cloth off, remove the top piece of cabbage and any other pieces of cabbage that may have defied the barrier I created and entered air territory (it is okay if there is a bit of mold on top, just scoop it off and let the processes continue) and cap a lid on the jar.. After a few bites of course.

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Sounds intimidating? I also thought so.. at first.
But then I started reading, called my best friend (who is the most amazing mentor and chef I have in my life), and dove in hands first.. Literally.

I started with very small mason jar batches to ensure my cost would stay low if I made a mistake but as the fermentation days passed, I realized my confidence was the only thing holding me back and quickly started experimenting with flavors. Each batch came out more magnificent than the next: I figured out flavor profiles that I liked for specific cuisines, protein choices or vegetables, incorporated lots of spices, played with the amount of days and salt added, and had delicious results.

I also recognized my skin clearing up, my bloating and discomfort after meals going down and my energy levels improving.

So I looked it up and this food medicine holds so many more benefits that I had imagined:
– high in dietary fiber(which is good for both your digestive and cardiovascular health)
– high in vitamin A, C, K, B.
– high in iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper.
– boosts immunity
– increases digestive enzymes
– reduces inflammation
– high in antioxidants

Plus any other health benefits from added ingredients you may desire!

So, I dare you to give it a shot. Test out your confidence, grow some bugs. It’s much easier than keeping a house plant alive and you’ll feel the results within the consumption of your first batch!
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(beet ginger kraut on zucchini noodles with almond sweet potato black bean meatless balls)

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Jars of Sauerkraut:

1 head of cabbage- red or green
about 1 tablespoon of salt
* the amount of salt you need is dependent on any other grated vegetables or spices you would like to use. You may have to create a quick brine with water and salt to completely cover your vegetable creation if you do not massage enough liquid out.

  1. Peel off the first few outer layers of cabbage and set aside. Finely slice the cabbage and vegetables and place into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and begin to massage and squeeze the chopped leaves for 5-10 minutes. Let the leaves sit for a few minutes to see the water draw itself out. If you feel the need to massage the leaves for a bit longer, do so.

2. Pack the wilted leaves tightly into a jar—pressing them down with your hands. The brine should begin to rise to the top of the jar. When you reach the neck of the jar, take a portion of the cabbage leaf you initially set aside and press it into the top of the jar. The brine should raise above the leaf—this is a good thing!

3. Wrap the top of the jar with a piece of cheese cloth or piece of paper towel and secure in place with an elastic band. Put the jars onto a tray and set in a room for 7-12 days. At the end of these days, take off the cloth and remove the top leaf. If there are any bubbles or mold, scrape it off as the material underneath will be okay. If you are concerned or your end result smells rancid, use your best judgement around consuming or discarding.

4. Put the lid on the jar, refrigerate, and use your kraut lovingly in many dishes!

With Love, from Ficus.
http://www.ficusdoula.com

 

Because you were Wild

 

This is a letter derived from the thoughts of some of the women that I went to school with. Shortly after our final days together, we learned that one of our own would be starting the journey into motherhood. It was an example for all of us as doulas and future parents that pregnancy is a time of physical and mental growth. Her hardships and moments of self realization shaped us. She let us in in ways we never could have expected.

Reflection: January 6/7 2014

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We were all chosen to be space keepers– no matter where we moved on to. Some of us were chosen to be her doulas– I was one of them. The night before her birth, I spent the evening tossing and turning in a pain that sent me to a different dimension. It was as if an animal was ripping into my wombspace, sending heatwaves through my veins and making me physically ill. I had never felt that way before. It was hours of recognizing something was taking over my being, my frame convulsing in a pattern so familiar yet unknown. It was something that had to pass on its own, something that didn’t seem as if it was mine. And then it went still.

The next day, I received the welcoming message to make my way over but time was not something that baby needed, time was not something that would hold purpose. Mother and child took the reigns on their rhythm.

The birth transformed them faster than we could have imagined, faster than mother could have imagined and a year later, we still sit in amazement for all that her, her partner and child have created. 

To the women who have become my tribe:

We are all streams leading to a pond of greater purpose. No matter where we are in this world, our light and love is intrinsic to the divine womanhood, to the goddesses that ground our intention. I feel you within the tides of my being, you create the shore line to my authenticity. We are sisters, we are one.

Happy birth day L, J, R.

From,

the Sisters,
R, A, C, S.

 

Because you were Wild.

I met her many moons ago, a spirit I learned to observe from afar until I could begin to understand her energetics.

She was quiet, she wasn’t still.

I could always feel her stirring and creating, learning and contributing to healing.
She tried to let her power remain unknown, but then you were created.

Her body shifted and swirled through a rhythmic wave of sensations. You sent her to places she could never create in a frame of mind that placed importance on money or social structure.

You sent her to the wild.

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As she created the space to grow, you showed her how to let go and transform. You showed her that she is divine and that between the two of you, you were going to tumble with an intention neither of you could predict. Her focus was your health; your focus was so much more than that. You showed her internal love, the ebb and flow of give and take.

You wanted her to feel, and you would never let her forget it.

With a connection I could only dream of, you demanded the desire for raw gratitude. You pulled down, you pulled from the sisters, the mothers, the fathers, the spirits. You demanded she feel you with her eyes closed, and she did. Her barriers broke and exposed the light I always knew was there, but it shone brighter than my eyes could see.

You wanted the world– She blinded us with your power. You reached for the elements and within the womb space of divine sensation, she presented them to you. You unearthed her world. You showed her what it was meant to be.

Your mother is a kind soul who without words knows exactly what your heart needs.

Grounded… Serene… Connected.. Rhythmic..

Because you were wild…. She fought for you, for your bond. She chased her own wildness and clung to her soul with each step in the dark. You have such a brave mama, and I have no doubt you will sprout and grow to be a courageously glorious woman like her.

 

With Love, from Ficus.
http://www.ficusdoula.com

Finding Balance within the Holidays

Finding balance within the holiday season has been something most of us have struggled with for years. From having visitors and family over to dinners and endless days of navigating through shoppers, it is easy to say Christmas is quickly overwhelming. We lose hours of sleep, eat meals that may not be the most nutritious and over-schedule to a new degree. It is hard enough on a human body but if you add pregnancy hormones, cold weather and edema, a growing baby and some of the discomforts that come along with specific weeks of pregnancy, you may feel as if you don’t want to leave the house.

It’s hard to find the time to care for ourselves when so much is going on but here are a few self-care tips to hopefully ease some of that holiday stress.
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1) Breathe.
You think you’re already doing it don’t you? In and out, in and out, we saturate ourselves in oxygen all hours of the day, but how often do you stop to think about breathing? When you draw attention to this mindless process, you may realise that your inhales are short and may only extend your chest. Try drawing in air and feel it roll down the back of your throat and into your belly. Feel your belly fill and slowly allow it to exhale.
That is a breath. It is releasing and full; It allows more of your cells access to oxygen, a vital element to our every moment. It provides mental awareness and flow within us.
Try bringing awareness to your breath in periods of stress or during conversations or activities that you may not be too fond of doing. Your breath will always be with you, slow and steady. You are in control of it and if you can turn your focus inwards, you are reminding your body of your power and connection to the elements. Try connecting to your breath in the shower, while driving, even when you’re walking into someone’s house. A few minutes a day of breath awareness can change more than a few minutes of tomorrow.

Here is a little article on the power of breath for you to enjoy.
http://nabeelafsar.com/2014/05/20/the-benefits-of-mindful-breathing/

 
2) Snack.
We all know the holidays are full of snack trays and meals. Look in any direction and you will find an advertisement for a peppermint mocha frapped eggnog  something or other or a tray of meat and cheese, cookies, crackers, nuts and my personal favourite—chocolates. Indulging is part of the holidays. We love to eat with people. Food is a language of its own and there’s no questions asked about why we always pile into the kitchen during any party: everyone loves food.
There is, however, a personal limit we all have to make when it comes to some of the highly processed treats we may have in front of us—especially if we are nourishing not only our body, but a placenta and a growing baby.
Try and watch how many cookies, crackers, and cakes you take in especially if they are made of highly processed ingredients. Crackers are a delicious vessel in my eyes, but vegetable slices or seed rich crackers are always a great alternative. If you know that your family or party isn’t too big on alternative options, be the person to bring them. Change their minds on ingredients and show them that flax and hemp crackers or cucumber can carry that cream cheese dip or hummus just as well as the saltines.
Better yet, bring something without telling them exactly what the base is made of and see if they can tell the difference.

 

Try these brownies from Minimalist Baker for example—They are so easy to make and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t like them.
http://minimalistbaker.com/vegan-gluten-free-black-bean-brownies/

 

Find your protein source! There is always a way to either find a direct protein like meat or nuts or create one through a combination of foods. Protein can help take away some of the jitters of too much sugar or caffeine, it ensures that we have a stable energy source instead of a high followed by a crash and if you are experiencing morning sickness or food hang-overs, protein can help put your body back in check. If you are always running around, try keeping nuts in your purse. Make up some hearty salads with a quinoa, lentil or bean base and all in all sorts of veggies, fresh herbs or meat of your choice. A lot of the time we will crave sugary items when we need protein so try eating a piece of chicken or handful of nuts, maybe some cottage cheese or something with protein before reaching for a piece of cake to get you through.
I cannot tell you how much protein you need for your blooming body so it is best to take not only your physical stature into account, but your lifestyle factors and accessibility to specific protein rich items.
Here is a list of some foods that contain protein.
http://www.mynetdiary.com/protein-foods-in-diet.html

 

 

3) DRINK.
You know when you’re going back and forth from work to the store, picking up kids, hiding gifts or volunteering and then it hits you? That awful feeling of did I even drink a glass of water since I got out of bed? It leaves you light headed, feeling weak and can change so many chemical components within your body. Did you know your blood volume doubles during pregnancy? That is only one of many good reasons why it is important to be aware of your liquid intake. Water flushes toxins, it keeps your cells hydrated, it can be a vessel for many nutrients like when you have soups, broths, or herbal teas.
Again, I cannot tell you how much water your body needs to stay hydrated, but the recommended amount is 2 litres for an average body. If you are not drinking 2 litres a day to begin with, try increasing your liquids to that amount. Buy yourself a lovely reusable water bottle and add things like cranberries, lemons or limes, cucumber, hibiscus or herbal tea bases to keep yourself sipping. Yes, sipping.. All day long! It will help keep your electrolytes in check and ensure that your digestion is always in motion. If you find that you are waking up in the night to urinate more frequently than you would like, try taking in most of your liquids before mid-afternoon and avoid mugs of tea after dinner.

 

Here is some information on how to choose herbs for your stage of pregnancy (try making some mocktails, jazz the holiday season up!)
http://avivaromm.com/herbal-medicines-in-pregnancy-safety

 

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4) Kick your feet up, stay a while.

Yes, stay a while. Find the things that make you feel loved or calm and stay within those moments and put your feet up. Winter can be a harsh time for our bodies especially in the way of edema—swelling from excess fluids remaining stagnant in our body. Allowing your limbs the chance to defy gravity and stretch out can help with these discomforts—especially if you have been spending a lot of time on your feet. If you have the ability to rest your feet on a chair and gently rub your feet or stroke upwards from your feet to your thighs, you can gently relieve some of these discomforts. You can also include essential oils like rosemary or clove to bring extra awareness or warmth to areas of your body that may need it. *please be advised that these two oils have been used to raise blood pressure and must be used at your own risk.

Here are some tips from Modern Mom to help relieve swelling.
http://www.modernmom.com/e67a33f4-3b3d-11e3-be8a-bc764e04a41e.html

5) Release.

The holidays can be full of stress. We love our family and friends but there are times when it is just too much. In this society, we tend to take on more than we can handle and find difficulty in saying no. Add in the financial stresses and pressures of the holiday season and you may find yourself at a new breaking point. I only have one thing to say about these feelings:

Release them.
It is a beautiful thing to find the time to break down. We may have been told over and over that we need to hold it together, that we need to get everything done and smile, we need to be good and truthful. One major part in all of this that so many people skip is being honest with your feelings. If you feel like you need to cry, make the time to release the tears. Release your feelings and the sensations. Creating tightness and holding onto the things that do not serve you may only create tension or problems down the road. When you move this negativity or stress out of your body, you create the space to fill it with something that serves you. It is a beautiful thing to release, and it is even more beautiful to recreate. Shed, become aware of your boundaries, say no to something that brings you no pleasure, say yes to something new, say yes to comforts, say yes to your feelings. They are a part of you and you deserve the space to experience your feelings no matter what they look like.
The holiday season is a time for love, for laughing, for creating memories. I wish you all a wonderfully warm and safe holiday season full of experiences that you may treasure for the rest of your life.

With Love, from Ficus.
http://www.ficusdoula.com

50 Years Since Birth- A visit with my grandmother about the birth of my father.

Yesterday I made time for a brief visit with my grandmother before heading home from work. I felt the need to stop in and see how she was feeling about something that I thought was an incredibly big deal. Today, December 3rd is a day that has always overwhelmed me in the most amazing way.

50 years ago today she gave birth.
50 years ago today she gave birth to my father.
50 years ago today she gave birth for the last time.

My grandmother has always had the same living room set up. She has two giant comfy chairs, one for her and one for my papa, facing a couch that the parents have always sat on leaving us grandkids all over the floor. On the special days when it is just her and I, I curl up on the couch and she sits ever so quaint on her chair telling stories of the old days and pointing to the different photos that hang on the walls. On her 75th birthday, my dad and his four siblings gifted her a photo of all of them together—something that has not happened since they all lived together back in their youthful days. Now they’re all grown up with their own children, some grandchildren. I have no doubt in my mind that she looks at that photo every single day and thinks about the children she raised.

We spoke of the olden days. We spoke of how proud she was to not only raise 5 wonderful children, but to actually love them. She told me stories about her friends and how it seemed as if they weren’t the happiest being mothers. Even though she had to work to ensure food was on the table, she told me she never regretted having any of her children. She was grateful for each one and thankful to be a mother. Their age gaps worked well–she started having kids young enough to recover easily after each birth, and everyone seemed to get along in a way that kept them strong. No questions asked, they just did as they were told or needed to do. Everyone slept in the same room and took on their own responsibilities as they got older. She laughed when she thought of days where my dad learned to peel vegetables for dinner, he was no older than 5.
“If they could learn to put their toys away, they were able to help out in other ways too. They just did as they were told. Your Aunt thought your dad was a toy doll when he was a baby. He was the same size; she even brought him to show and tell once because her teacher didn’t believe he was so small.”

 

I don’t know how many people get this kind of one on one time to learn  about the most important man in their life, but I am so thankful and so fortunate. I’ve always loved my grandmother. Losing my  other grandparents at a young age has taught me to cherish her in ways I am not sure I could describe. Her stories and memories have always meant the world to me. To know who she was before I existed as a physical being is incredible.

 

She told me details of his birthday.

Weighing only 120 pounds, my grandmother gave birth to my dad. He was born weighing only 5 pounds 3 ounces at full term. She felt great throughout the pregnancy with no complications but he arrived as only a tiny thing.
The part of the hospital where your dad was born isn’t there anymore. It was between the two wings, a wooden structure. The day he was born was cold. The windows were rattling and the drapes on the inside picked up on the draft. It wasn’t going to kill me to give birth. I was sure I was going to freeze to death.”

 


Her eyes were bouncing back and forth between me and the photos on the wall. She looked so proud to tell me about him and to know that I actually cared about what she had to say.

“He was so small when he arrived. They had to put him into an incubator because it was just so cold. Your dad’s dad wasn’t in the room. I am glad he wasn’t in the room, I don’t think he would have handled it well. Most dads didn’t handle it well back then. It was easier for them to be called in after the baby was born and we were cleaned up. I was okay with him waiting outside, women handle these kinds of things much better. Now things are different if they are able to do their research and are willing to open up and be aware that it may not be pretty. But even then, sometimes it’s just better for them to wait outside. One time when I was pregnant with your uncle, I had a mild back ache at 6:30 in the morning so I drove myself to the hospital and your dad’s dad was off work at 7:00. At 7:15 I gave birth to your uncle, he was the biggest baby I had, and then the staff called home at 7:30 to let your dad’s dad know he had another son.”

 

She spoke so simply, yet with such inspiration–bouncing back and forth ever so slightly between memories of each child. She had all the things she needed, guiding herself with the hospital staff, guiding herself time and time again through these life changing moments.

Many months ago she gifted me the books she used to learn about her changing body during pregnancy. The information was factual, not misguided, and most of it is still relevant to what we know about birth today. She didn’t over complicate things; she knew her body well enough to read into sensations. She birthed like a warrior.

50 years ago today, my grandmother gave birth for the last time. 50 years ago today, my grandmother gave me the greatest gift a girl could ask for. Simply, purely, the greatest gift I could have asked for.

Happy birthday Dad. You challenge me to acknowledge myself and all the things I can be, the things around me, and the steps that I need to take to find strength within vulnerability. You raised me with the ability to love to a capacity most cannot understand–sometimes I don’t even understand. You raised me to laugh, you raised me to fight for what I believe in, and most importantly you raised me to be who I wanted to be.
You were raised by a woman who let you be. You were raised in a family that worked together not because they had to, but because the value and roll of each family member was organically created.  You were raised by someone that has played a motherly roll for many more people than she can remember.

And I am the luckiest human in the world because I have you both.

Happy 50th anniversary, Granny and Papa Eddie. You are so important to me and I love you both tremendously. May you continue to grow, and may we all continue to learn.

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With Love, from Ficus.
http://www.ficusdoula.com

Little Hands

Little hands, so small and strong, grasping my own as we bounce against the forest floor.
I can feel the vibration within my shoes as they hit the soil, so damp and serene. They feel wrong. They feel unnecessary here. It all seems unnecessary, except these little hands in mine. She looks up at me in a way I could never experience anywhere else. These little hands, they kindly grasp my own in a way that lets me know she trusts me, the environment, and whatever is in front of our next step.

Little hands, ringing through the forest. The land is damp, the smell of cedar and erosion is present but you and I both know this is what we live for. To feel the wilderness, to breathe deeply, to run at our own pace. Your eyes lead mine to so many things I forgot to see, forgot to acknowledge. Your thoughts never run through my head at a discredited value, for you remind me of so many things I may have thought I grew out of, grew out of out of ignorance for the world around me. You don’t remind me of what it is like to be young, you remind me of what it is like to be present.
Little hands, so small and warm, you show me what it is like to live in this world.

I see myself in you. I see what I used to be, what I used to be able to achieve. As time has passed, I’ve forgotten a lot about the importance of life—I’ve thought more about the materialistic: jobs, people, money, rent. What you remind me to do is be in tune with relationships. Not just romantic, not just between human interactions, but the interaction with the soil beneath me, the air drifting in and out of my lungs, the wind twirling our hair. The things that I cannot replace– the things that remind me of what is necessary and what I have placed importance on. Little hands, you are necessary. You are loved.

Energy Balls Two Ways

As we all get used to the shifts of fall, may that be school life, work life, new baby life or general shift of the seasons, we can feel our energy rising and falling. With these Fig Coconut Cashew or Oatmeal Chocolate Galactagogue energy balls, you can guarantee that your body will feel more energized and nourished.

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Whenever I start thinking of a recipe, I consider not only the nutritional value of the product but how practical it would be for someone else to re-make my recipes at home. There is nothing worse than finding a recipe that you really enjoy to find out that you may not have all the equipment or ingredients needed to fulfill your dreams of eating that product all the time. One of the biggest issues I find around many of the recipes for energy balls is that they call for a food processor. Although I own one, I decided to create a step-by-step recipe and directions without the use of my processor to make this recipe user-friendly. If you have a food processor, you can throw all ingredients into the food processor and let it do it’s magic of course.

Another issue a lot of us face when we follow a recipe is batch sizes. Sometimes you end up with way more than you thought and they might go to waste. The greatest thing about energy balls is that you can make them as big or little as you would like and they have a long shelf life.

In my recipe for Energy Balls Two ways, I create a base recipe that I then divide into half and mix into two different flavours. If you’ve met me, you know I am addicted to dried fruit dipped in any nut butter, so I decided to make Fig Coconut Cashew energy balls as well as an Oatmeal Chocolate Galactagogue energy ball that is full of lactation support. Fun to make and nutritious for not only for the breast feeders but the whole family, these energy balls are some of my new favourites.. And barely lasted through today.
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Energy Balls Two Ways.

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Ingredients for the Base:
1 tbsp coconut oil
¼ cup cashew butter (can exchange for other butters)
¼ cup dates
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped cashews
dash cinnamon

Mix coconut oil and cashews butter together until you can no longer see coconut oil chunks. Chop dates and raisins until they are very fine and almost develop a paste—try pressing them into your cutting board and chop. Stir in remaining ingredients until combined.

Divide the base into two bowls.

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Fig Coconut Cashew Energy Balls:
To the base, add in:
¼ cup finely chopped figs
dash cinnamon, dash cardamom (if desired)

Mix all ingredients together. Press dough into teaspoon sized balls in the palm of your hand, refrigerate to harden. The coconut oil will hold them together once it is cooler than room temperature.
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Oatmeal Chocolate Galactagogue Energy Balls:
To the base, add in:
1/8 cup chopped chocolate chips
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp brewers yeast
¼ cup rolled oats
1 tbsp honey

Mix all ingredients together. Press dough into teaspoon sized balls in the palm of your hand. Put balls into the freezer—This is an important step to help the chocolate glaze harden against your energy balls.
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Optional Chocolate Glaze:
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp honey

Whisk all ingredients into a bowl over low heat. Once the coconut oil is melted and combined with the honey, take away from heat and place cold energy balls into the bowl. Using a spoon, gently toss the energy balls around in the glaze. You will see the coconut oil begin to harden against the cold energy balls. Take the energy balls out of the bowl and place onto plate so they don’t stick together.
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Try them today! Switch around some of the butters, nuts, or dried fruits to create new flavours. Energy balls are incredibly forgiving and with a little experimenting, you could end up making a new favourite on-the-go snack.

With Love, From Ficus.

Ficus Holistic Doula Services
http://www.ficusdoula.com

I’m Sorry, But You Need to Let Me Go. – an experience with miscarriage and the partner I tried to stay friends with.

“I’m Sorry, But You Need to Let Me Go.”

I was approached by someone very close to me who experienced a loss in their younger years with a partner who many years later turned into a good friend. She never really took the time to analyze their friendship and how the loss of her child would affect who they would become. Now is her opportunity to speak out about her experience, and I am so happy to share her feelings. It is hard to lose a child, especially when you were so young. It is even harder to carry that weight for so long and feel like you couldn’t talk about it. Thank you for opening up—I want to validate you and let you know you are loved.

With Love, From Ficus.
www.ficusdoula.com

“I’m Sorry, But You Need to Let Me Go.”
– an anonymous letter to the man I once almost had a child with.

I know that years have passed, and we have grown a friendship that is much different than back then, but you need to let me go. I know that we have both become different people, you following your career and me following mine. We have gone on many adventures since the days we were dating, since the days we altered who we would be to each other, but you need to let me go.

I know that you don’t think about what happened when we were dating, but I do.

I know that you didn’t create the space for me to talk about losing my baby—our baby back then, but I need it now. I needed it then and you asked me not to talk about it. Maybe that was your way of dealing with it, was pretending that it never happened.

But I needed that closure; I needed that time to talk to someone because it affects me every day.

Every time I see you, I think about it.
Not because I love you and I wonder what our life would be like together, because I don’t, but because you never acknowledged what I needed. You never acknowledged that we could have brought a baby into this world—A real human into this world who would be someone and mean something to someone. It makes me question our friendship and how I can sustain it while trying to heal from an experience you disregarded.

I’m sorry, but you need to let me go.

You need to let me go because even to this day, you are still selfish. You need to let me go because to this day, I need to be selfish and speak to you about what happened because you never ever gave me more than a few minutes to be vocal about it. Yes, we have been great friends but I can’t give any longer. I’ve been so supportive for so long about all the passions you have but you have failed to give me the time to talk about mine:

 My passion of being a mother one day, my passions about relearning everything through the eyes of someone who lived inside of my womb.

I’m sorry, but you need to let me go.

Because I’ve written endless diary entries, seen endless counsellors and therapists to try and deal with this heartache, not because I think the right decision would have been to keep our child, but because you never let me tell you about how it hurts that my body didn’t have the ability to work with our child to stabilize that first trimester.


I’m sorry, but you need let me go.

Because your language and actions have impacted how I feel about a romantic partner and being able to become a mother in the future so much that I am afraid of telling my current partner the details. I don’t want to blame you for my dishonesty with this subject, but your treatment towards me to this day has caused enough shame and anxiety that I now suppress my memories during that time. And I don’t want that. I want to honour what memories I have of that child: the rush of hormones, the dreams I created.
I’m sorry, but you need to let me go.
Because I can’t hold onto our friendship any longer and act like part of the gang.
Because I am not just a friend or an ex-girlfriend.
I was the mother of our child.
You were the father of our child.
And you needed to focus on where you were going in life. I understand that too, but a child would have made an impact on your plan.
More than anything, I wish that it would have made an impact on where you were going.
But I am trying to grow, come around in circles from that day where I found out our child didn’t make it so I can grow, I can become a mother and I can rid my cells of the shame you helped me create around the loss of our baby, my baby.

I’m sorry, but you need to let me go.

Because I need that room to grow into a mother, and I can’t help but see you as the same person you were so many years ago.

With this letter is my release of all that I can expect from you, my opportunity to make something for who I want to be with someone I want to be with.

So I’m sorry that I couldn’t say this sooner,

But you need to let me go.

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Making Informed Decisions Before Your Birth

We’ve all heard the birth stories about the parents who goes in with their ideal birth plan and end up with a number of procedures that they felt were unnecessary. They might have thought I won’t have to have a c-birth because I have had a healthy pregnancy or I am going to birth at home because that was what I was able to do with my first child. There are a number of reasons why we don’t focus on the fact that birth can change paths so quickly but it is something that needs to be recognized.
Here in the Comox Valley, I am fortunate enough to be part of the Comox Valley Doulas– a collection of empowering birth advocates who get together once a month that have worked as Doulas amongst other titles within our community. Every time I walk away from a meeting, my mind races with many ideas of how I can integrate my training to be a better doula, how can I help families recognize their strengths, how can I open up their ability to make informed decisions during their birth?
And then the answers started to hit me: It starts with the power we have as individuals to make informed decisions outside of the critical moment. If I can help women understand many avenues of birth that they are not focusing on, will they feel the power of consent when it comes to procedures? Will they feel like they are making the best choice for themselves and their baby when they say “Yes” or “no” to something because they know what their medical care is talking about before hand? Can I help them take away the fears surrounding interventions before they may or may not be approached with them so they can keep their confidence as a birth warrior?
The answer: I know I can.As doulas, we cannot speak for you. We cannot replace your consent with our own and we cannot speak on your behalf. No matter how close we become during your prenatal care, it is a line we do not cross. We can ask you questions, we can help you look for answers, but in no way, shape or form can we put our voice where yours belongs. So what can we do? We can help you search for the answers to questions about interventions, inductions, tests and monitoring during your pregnancy so you are confident in your words if these situations come up. We do not doubt your abilities to create your birth wishes (we love those wishes) but in a world where birth is unpredictable– may that be because of hospital staff, stress levels, positioning of baby or even lack of sleep, it is so incredibly important to be able to speak confidently for your body and your baby.

So where does this all begin? The minute you find out your pregnant! Our minds swirl through ideas of morning sickness, when to tell people, when to have a baby shower, who is going to be at the birth, who is going to watch previous children, what will you eat and most importantly what kind of caregiver are you looking for.
The first step in your pregnancy is not only finding a medical caregiver (may that be a doctor or midwife) but finding a medical caregiver that has views similar to your own.
This basic relationship and understanding of your body in connection with their level of care is vital for your confidence and keeping the birth power flowing during labour. You can look through your community for different practitioners and ask them questions about their intervention rates, how they feel about everything from episiotomies to c-births and what kind of medications they feel comfortable working with. If there are views or statistics they bring up that make you cringe or feel uncomfortable, you CAN keep searching for the level of care you and your baby deserve. Just like interviewing a doula, it is important to find that your birth support is on the same page as you. You want that emotional connection and understanding of the birthing body, the changes that might happen to you before you sway into transition and the choices you need to make immediately after the birth of your child. You want to understand, you want to be judgement free and most of all, you want to be empowered.

So how do you do this? It may sound like you’re going to university, but research.. And lots of it. You might groan or drift off through parts of it, but this birth will only happen once and feeling like you are prepared will keep you calm and proactive in the deep waves of labourland. It doesn’t have to be all textbooks and articles– you can ask your healthcare provider for answer, you can ask your friends for their birth stories, and your doula can guide you through materials as well(We’re really good at finding information in your study language). The goal is to remove fear associated with some of the unknowns of pregnancy and birth. If you can understand even a little bit of what doctors are talking about before you make your way to your birth location, you are removing the negative reactions within your body and keeping your labour hormones flowing (removing the fight or flight response). There are lots of resources available and I really mean lots.. So let’s work together to make your choices during birth yours!

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Here are a few questions you and your birth partner can ask prenatally about tests and procedures:

– What is the reason for this test and how will the answers effect my pregnancy and baby?
– Will this procedure be repeated through my pregnancy/birth and what are the risks associated?
– What does that “insert big word here” mean? Can you walk me through what it means for my baby and my body?
– How urgent is this treatment? What are the risks associated with waiting?
– If I consent to this treatment, how long after am I able to walk/leave the hospital?
– If I consent to this monitoring, will I be able to continue with movement?
– If I consent to this intervention, how long does it last and flow through my body? How does it effect my baby in the womb/after birth?
– This is a procedure I was strongly against, can you provide a less invasive alternative?
– How/when do you suggest episiotemies/epidurals for your patients?
– What interventions do you seem to use the most? What interventions does your back-up colleague seem to use the most?

-Can we please have some alone time to discuss this option? I need a minute to make an informed choice.

Best wishes exploring your options, and remember, this is your birth, your body and your baby!

With Love, from Ficus.
Ficus Holistic Doula Services
http://www.ficusdoula.com

3 Hair Care Products for Labour

In today’s society, having the best products for your pregnancy, labour and postpartum period has almost become a fashion statement as much as it can be a necessity. The brand- name and gently used products are coming in from all angles—your parents are buying them for you, your best friend has them and you’re eyeing up something new. It’s an incredible situation to be in– being able to sift through all the materials someone has created to make your journey easier. The only downside to a lot of these products are they may become expensive, might require a bit of time to figure out how use or might not even be feasible down your birth path.

What if I told you there are a few products for comfort measures in your house right now? What if I told you there is a high chance a group of them were hanging out on your vanity or in your bathroom?

When I am working with a mother and her birthing partners, I love to show everyone some easy ways to relieve the pressures and sensations that the mother may experience. One of the things I love to highlight are acupressure points (pressure applied to specific meridian points on the body to relieve or enhance sensations and health following Traditional Chinese Medicine) and massage to connect and comfort the energy within the birth gathering. The things I choose to share with clients are meant to encourage them to be a part of the rhythm of labour, feel confident they can comfort the mother no matter where the birth journey leads and encourage baby that the transition from womb to earth side is welcomed and supported.

So what are these things lying around the house that are easy to use, install confidence in the birthing partners and relieve sensations and enhance relaxation in the mother? 

Bobby Pins
Hair Combs/ Brushes
Oils
Bobby Pins:

Bobby pins are an amazing tool for pin-pointing acupressure point. Although the fingers are an amazing way to apply pressure to these energetic points, using an isolated point like the end of a bobby pin can enhance results and ensure that the mother will get the relief she needs (Also, as a birthing partner your fingers and thumbs won’t be as stressed from applying pressure). When you think of acupuncture (using very thin needles to enhance/change the flow of energy at meridian points within the body), they are using isolated pressure. The bobby pin head allows us to access these points and welcome the mother’s body to the sensations of labour while comforting her through them.

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Hair Combs/ Brushes:

Do you remember that feeling when you were little and your parent would brush your hair for you? Or when you get to the hairdresser and they’re giving you a shampoo wash and you can’t help but melt into that chair? Let’s bring those feelings into labour land. The three R’s of labour are Rhythm-Relaxation-Ritual. This can be incorporated into breathing, movement, support—everything. Using a tool like a soft bristled brush to sweep through the mother’s hair, down her back or up her legs to softly relieve the crampy leg feelings can be incredibly soothing. It gives her something to focus on, something to match her breath with and as the partner, you can be close to her without exerting too much energy (save that for the hip squeezes).
Using a comb in labour can be useful for acupressure points as well (here they are again- SO useful). Along the bridge of our hands where the fingers meet the palms are a line of points that can be used to relieve that pressure of a sensation coming on. The teeth of the comb go along the finger line and the mother can squeeze her hands around the comb. When she is able to control and release the pressure using combs, the partner is able to apply comfort measures (to both the mother and themselves) in another area. Maybe you can sneak an hours nap in or run to the bathroom to freshen up. The possibilities are endless!
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Oils:

Oils are wonderful! They moisturize our hair, they carry essential oils, and they can be massaged into the skin! Coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, avocado oil—we all have our oil preferences and guess what? They’re all great. Putting a small amount of oil into your birth bag can be a life saver (as long as it doesn’t open- I always keep mine in a zipped plastic bag). You can easily soothe the mother’s body with a dash of oil in your hands and a drop or two of her favourite essential oils. ( check out my blog post to learn a bit more about essential oils and some of my favourite properties https://theficusandthedoula.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/essential-oils/)
Some of the most useful oils for labour from my experiences are clary sage, lavender and citrus oil like grapefruit or lemon. Our senses are powerful as are the oils. If you are in the hospital, be aware that they most likely will not allow you to use essential oils, but that’s okay! You can still use your carrier oil to massage her feet and shoulders or any tension spots she may be feeling. You can rub over her belly and speak welcoming words of love and comfort to baby and change the mother’s state of relaxation.

So there it is folks! Easy to find around the house, easy to use and most definitely useful when it comes time to welcome the newest member of our universe. I hope that you can find these tips helpful and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at ficusdoulaservices@hotmail.com.

With love, from Ficus.
http://www.ficusdoula.com

10 Tips for Postpartum

The first few days after labour hold some of the most incredible and raw moments of our life. With a whirlwind of hormones and what seems like a never-ending flow of visitors, the beginning stages of the postpartum period can work new parents and baby to a whole new level. We can never figure out exactly what to expect as parents, support, doulas, other children or pets during the welcoming of a new baby in the house hold. This new human has lived the first 9 months of their lives in a universe where every motion, both physically and energetically, was understood and greeted with the most giving and selfless response from their mother. After the ceremonial shift of labour, we spend a lot more time questioning what our new child is trying to share with us. Are they hungry? Tired? Need a diaper change? In pain? Sometimes we can energetically tune into these sensations and other times, not so much—and that is completely okay!

Growing as a family and developing a routine takes time: we learn to pick up on cries, learn about which breastfeeding holds work best and try our hardest to keep the meconium off the clothes grandma and grandpa got for our newest family member. We pour energy and love into showing our babies that their well-being is the central focus of our attention. We ask our friends and (sometimes) family members what were the most important parts of developing their initial routine.
As a doula, I have had the chance to watch a lot of new parents come full circle with what can be a highly emotional transition period in their lives. Partners rely on each other and those in their close circle to give them the support they need to experience their true potential as a new parent.

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Below is my list of must do “life-hacks” to help ease some of the bumpier moments of postpartum. I hope that you will be able to incorporate some of these self-care methods (may they be for mental or physical care) into your routine.
And remember, you are an amazing parent, amazing partner, and with each passing day you will grow closer and more in tune with your baby and the new rhythm you are writing together.

1) Oily Bums: Meconium is the first stools a baby will pass outside the womb. It is sticky, it leaves stains that you will remember for the rest of your life and it can be tough to wipe off babies bum. Don’t worry, meconium will soon shift to newborn stools as they start to digest milk. Until then, try coating babies bum in coconut oil to help you wipe off the dark-sticky meconium. If there is a protective layer between the skin and feces, you can save a lot of time during changes and get that baby wrapped back up and snuggling in your arms.

2) Blow Dryers and Bodies: Does it seem absolutely insane to say that a blow dryer can be your babies first best friend? Think about it: While in the womb, babe listened to every breath, heartbeat and fluid flow through your body– it was warm, it was comfortable. My very first clients (my heart still remembers the look on their faces when they showed me) kept a blow dryer near their changing table. It was like a good ole’ Western: diaper and onesie came off, blow dryer turned on. Their “gun” was drawn and baby didn’t cry. He looked comfortable, relaxed. The slightly warm air blew over his fresh earth-side skin and the noise seemed to remind him of something he had heard before. Completely genius if you ask me—just make sure you keep a good gauge on the temperature of the air blowing towards your new baby.

3) Postpartum Pads: You know those icy-cool pads the hospital (if you birthed at the hospital) gives you after labour to help soothe your perineum? If you know what I’m talking about, you might have just made an “ohh yeah” accompanied with an exhale and the drop of your shoulders. Well, you can make them at home! And guess what? When you make them at home, they last a lot longer than your time at the hospital! Here is a link to my recipe for postpartum pad. Spend your last few days before labour prepping these comfort-saving pads or put your friends to work getting them together for you.
https://theficusandthedoula.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/diy-postpartum-padsickles/

Which leads me to #4.

4) Take Advantage of your Visitors: It doesn’t matter if they are your Mom, Dad, Friends, Cousins, Dogs. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR VISITORS! The little things during postpartum can add up very quickly. Ask your friends to set up a meal train—get a list of your favourite foods together during your last trimester and have a friend arrange freezer meals and fresh food drop off. Ask your visitors to get laundry on when they come in the door and take the garbage on the way out. It is 100% okay to ask for help or tell visitors that it would be appreciated if snuggle time had helping hands. Even if they only want snuggles, try and sneak into the shower or grab a nap—take advantage of them!

5) Have a postpartum massage arranged: Child birth is a life changing event. It changes our cells, our perception and the way that we love. Parents deserve release and massage is an incredible way to do this. There have been many days where I have crawled onto my clients beds and massaged their legs, letting them drift off, breast feed, or release whatever words or thoughts that come to mind. Reminding the mother and father that they are feeling not just for baby, but for their partners and most importantly themselves can release any trauma or tension they might be carrying. It is completely understandable to carry worry and stress when you are learning what your new family means, and it is  100% necessary to be reminded with touch of how loved your soul and the body your soul chose are.

6) Fresh air: Just do it. Walk away from technology and find the elements. Clarity comes with elimination of the unnecessary and nature is the ultimate reminder of what we need. Even if you end up parking beside the ocean or sit in your back yard, find the space to eliminate the extra waves in our world that can so easily take over our time with the moments we only experience once.

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7) Breastfeeding support: Galactagogues and pressure points, la leche league and mothers groups. The amount of resources both online and through community programs is endless. Breastfeeding can pose as a challenge for a lot of new mothers and if it remains difficult, there is a high chance of shifting straight to formula (and that’s okay IF that is what you wanted to do). I am not here to tell you that you didn’t try hard enough, but I am here to ask if you have found the support you need to feed however you choose to. It is okay to say you’re trying and it’s hard, it is okay to say you’re engorged, it is wonderful to find what works for you. That is where I want you to be, the state of euphoria where you can bond with your baby during the many times of nourishment. Seek support if you need it, there is no such thing as shame when it comes to growing with your baby.

8) Prunes, Psyllium and H20: Yep, loosen those stools. Remember pushing and all the sensations your perineum and surrounding area experienced? Well, that area needs to heal and bowel movements create energy in the same areas. If you increase your fibre and water, constipation and harder stools can be kept to a minimum allowing for optimal healing. This can be incredibly helpful if you experienced hemorrhoids or any sized tear during the actual birth. Increasing your water intake is also a necessity if you’re breastfeeding. Try sipping water all day long and enjoy more soups and fresh fruits and veggies to keep your liquids up. Herbal teas can also include galactagogues and calcium magnesium to help with cramping and milk production!

9) Comfort Measures: Don’t forget to take care of you. If you’re lying down, take a minute to stretch your legs! Use arnica oil or homeopathics to help with postpartum healing. Ask your best friend to make that cake you love and savour it. Wear those track pants with the holes, you know.. The ones you swore you would never let your partner see you in. Incorporate aromatherapy into your day to day. You deserve to be comfortable! Use pillows to get into a comfortable position when you’re feeding or resting.

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10) Write: Postpartum is a time for growth. We meet our most challenging moments and overcome them. We begin to shift into a new being with the ones that we’ve created. They teach us so much—about them, about ourselves and about the things that truly matter. One day, maybe just one day, you will want or need to reflect back on this time. Writing is one medium that can help heal and renew our spirits. Even a sentence a day can patch our thoughts back together 5 or 10 years down the road and most importantly, let us reflect back to what it was like to be in the moment. This might be beneficial for trauma healing– it could also be a way to help with any “empty nest” feelings. Doodle and dabble in language, see what comes up. Who knows, you could find a piece of your puzzle that changes your perception in a way that you never expected.

For those of you seeking extra help during postpartum, many doulas are available for postpartum shifts in the day as well as overnight. I am available for both of these services even if I was not your birth doula. Please contact me for more information.

With love, From Ficus.

Ficus Holistic Doula Services
http://www.ficusdoula.com

A doula diary with tips, tricks, recipes and comfort surrounding pregnancy and child birth.