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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

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Changing of the Month, Changing of the Moon, Changing of Ourselves.

June!? June?! JUNE?!
Where has the time gone? I feel like I am still in April, maybe even October.. But then the sun comes in and the heat hits my skin and I am reminded that the summer is here. What a beautiful life we lead.
This morning is actually all rain which here on Vancouver Island, we really needed. I was walking through a community garden near my house and the leaves looked parched and strawberries were already coming out. It is an interesting year for growth that’s for sure. I’m sure a lot of you are experiencing that as well as you transform throughout your life journeys.
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This morning has been damp and windy. I have stationed myself under my skylight so I can hear the rain tap against the glass. It is majestic and comforting. The last few days have been filled with creativity and wonder for me—going here and there: Holding space for those who need to vent and talking about parenting ideas with family and friends. I’ve even been hit with a creativity bug and have started making giant dream catchers, sun protection and a lot of nut loaves.
I have officially sent off my bios for the Pacific Rim College, Stillbirthday and Comox Valley Doulas websites. I hope you will all have the chance to check out their pages and the information they have to offer. Endless ideas about pregnancy, self care, comfort and strength can be found on any of the pages and I am so thankful to be a part of them.
It is incredible where our lives can lead us. The opportunities and challenges we come across, the ideas and choices of others that we may agree or disagree with. Oh to be an individual and to love every minute of it. We are all on amazing, unique journeys and I hope you find comfort and curiosity in the path you wander.
This June, I challenge you all to get to know where you live. If you’ve been there for years, find a way to rediscover your surroundings. Turn off that phone and stare at the wildlife, look at the details of the downtown, go into a new coffee shop. Walk through your own house and shift things just a tiny bit, see what memories come up and how you feel about them now compared to a few years ago. Look at your body in the mirror and see the beauty in your curves, in that scar on your knee, in the way you are able to move your limbs. Look through an old photo album and see the memories pop up and then think. Think about where you are now, your accomplishments, the things you place importance upon.
May June be full of reflection and growth, creativity and adventure.

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

DIY Postpartum Padsickles

From dilation and pushing to a small tear and the pressure of a baby being born, our perineum’s take on a lot of stress. When you leave your birthing space, you are handed a small bottle to spray water over your perineum after you use the bathroom since you will be very tender and toilet paper/sanitary napkins will feel rough. If you are birthing in a hospital, your caretaker may give you a few cool pads to wear immediately after labour. But what about when you get home?

Postpartum pads are an amazing way to heal a mother’s perineum after labour. Easy to store and even easier to prepare, postpartum pads can be one of those items you make once your contractions begin. Better yet, you could have a friend make them for you!
They are one of my favourite presents to gift to new mamas as they may not be thinking too much about their own healing after labour. A new baby adds so much excitement to the household: How will you connect and read into signals from your newborn? How is your milk coming in? When was the last time you had a meal dropped off for you? Mom, go away! Or at least do laundry. The little things that we do to enhance our healing can make the world of a difference on our healing time.
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Enriched with aloe vera, witch hazel, a selection of essential oils for healing and the cool cool sensation from the beloved freezer, postpartum pads should be an essential item to keep in the house for the first few weeks after labour.

So here is my recipe for postpartum pads. Give your healing a hand, your body will thank you for it!

You Will Need:

– Feminine Pads (Overnight Maxi Pads work best—your body: your brand choice)
– Witch Hazel
– Aloe Vera Gel
-Essential oils ( I like to use lavender for calming the skin and cell regeneration/ frankincense for tissue repair and to prevent scarring)
– aluminum foil (optional)

Open the pads on a clean surface. With a teaspoon, pour witch hazel over the centre of the pad (don’t get too close to the edges as you will want the pads to soak up lochia still).

Take the aloe vera and spread a thin layer over top of the witch hazel.
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Drop 4-8 drops of essential oil over the witch hazel. You can use a blend of multiple oils or stick to one type and label.
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Fold the pad back together and put back in its packaging (or in tin foil if you are unable to put it back into its original wrapping). Place into the freezer for a minimum of 6 hours before using.

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

Birth Happens: A journey of Wombs in Bloom.

One of the things about birth is that you can never predict when the baby is going to come. A due date is really just an estimated marker, but baby can come any day of the week. One of my dear doula sisters had the opportunity to be present at her sister’s birth. The catch: They live on opposite sides of the country. This is her experience of being a long distance doula and what she did to overcome her expectations of being present during the birth.

Birth happens.

As much as you may try, you cannot predict its unique process. That’s the beauty of it. Having the wisdom to accept that your baby knows when and your body knows how. Be at peace and surrender to the rhythmic waves of your rite of passage. Let others lucky enough watch in awe as you conquer each one.

I was one of those lucky ones chosen to watch another bring new life earth-side. A gift not many receive–The gift of witnessing strength and courage.

Being invited to be in the presence of the most powerful of feminine energies.

To hold space and to hold hands.

To support birth wishes and support new families.

I was chosen to be my sister’s doula.     With four years apart, I was constantly amazed by my big sister. Copying every movement she made, every word she spoke. Once becoming the middle child I came to understand this is quite annoying. But irritating or not, I was to fly back home to Ontario to be by her side. Fresh out of school and trained as a holistic doula, I had travelled to Victoria, BC to pursue a calling from my soul. A calling which had me leaving everything and everyone I knew and I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that this is what I am meant to be doing and there is nothing else suited for me out there. I had been given valuable skills. My mind filled with knowledge, my heart with compassion and empathy. It was time to put all of these to work.

We spoke over Skype and through text messages of natural birth wishes and comfort measures, herbs and skin to skin contact. I gave her resources and advice. She gave me the blessing of my very first client. She wanted a different birth experience than the previous: She wanted to feel empowered and in control. We did not need to meet every month to create a bond. The trust and comfort was already there running through our veins. We had stories and inside jokes, family vacations and family pets. We shared the same upbringing. We were children of divorce and we share the same emptiness in our hearts of an absentee father. I knew just as well as she did what support she needed, and we were both ready to learn, grow and birth together.

With signs of a preterm birth (low cramping, belly drop and already 3 cm dilated) weeks before her EDD we decided it would be best if I flew in two weeks early and we could all prepare together. But baby V was to enter this world at a pace no one could see coming. She was anxious to lock eyes with the familiar voice that calmed her growing body, the woman whose womb created safe and ancient territory. She wanted to meet her mama and no one was going to stop her.

It was settled. I was leaving work and all packed to go. I said goodbye to the animals and my partner and headed out to take part in the most intimate and sacred of moments. I felt fear and disbelief in myself. I can admit that now. The very thought of letting her down shook me to the core. I felt like I needed to prove myself. I desperately needed my family to see that going to the other side of the country had paid off. I would catch myself in this negative space and quickly remind myself of all the training I had received, all of the experienced and enlightened instructors who filled my life with wonder and curiosity. They instilled a yearning for personal and professional growth. My heart was ready whether my brain knew it or not.

Baby V was growing fast and a stretch and sweep was to be done on the day I would be leaving. A stripping of the membranes can take days, even weeks and sometimes they don’t take at all. In case of baby V this was it! Her pathway was within view and she was that much closer to meeting those who already loved her. My flight was at 9pm and I had three layovers before I could get to Ottawa. I tried desperately to change my flight, but in the end my heart knew what was happening. A call from my mother made it real.

“She’s 8cm dilated.” “But I’m still in Vancouver, my flight isn’t for another hour. This is my job and I’m missing it.” I rambled and raged. I sobbed and kicked my luggage. I didn’t care that people were staring. They’d be crying too I they were me!

I had done what I feared the most: I was letting my big sister down.

How could she ever forgive me for missing the birth? How could I ever look into her eyes knowing that I disappointed her so much?  For hours these thoughts ran through my head. I was wondering if she was coping and if she had stayed drug free like she had wished for. Did she feel safe and empowered? Were the doctors and nurses giving her time to labour? Each plane could not go fast enough. I couldn’t sleep; I just wanted to be by her side. I wanted to look her in the eyes and say “You’re doing it!” I knew I couldn’t do any of these things and I felt raw and powerless.

I finally landed in Edmonton, ran into the airport and checked my phone. My sister had birthed a healthy baby girl completely drug free just like we had talked about. She did it! Everyone was happy and safe. Despite the wonderful news, I was still upset about the situation and angry that it was still going to be another 5 hours and another layover in Toronto until I could see my sister and meet my new niece.

 And then something hit me like a ton of bricks; I was being selfish.

I was letting something so special and beautiful hurt my feelings. I was being childish and it needed to stop. As much as I tried, I couldn’t shake my grumpiness. What if I had jinxed myself and my career?

I finally passed out for the 40 minute flight from Toronto to Ottawa. I woke up feeling more like myself. My mom picked me up at the airport, bought me breakfast (finally food!) and then we were on our way to the hospital. All of my anger and resentment towards the situation and me quickly melted away once I walked into that room. I saw my glowing sister and the first thing she said to me was “I did it.” My eyes filled with tears and I replied with “yes you did. You’re a birth warrior.”

I knew I couldn’t turn back time and be my sister’s birth doula but I could use my skills and be her postpartum doula. I stayed for a week to help her and her husband as much as possible. For the first few days, I was on sibling and dog duty. Baby V’s hilarious big sister, A, kept me busy with cartoons and stories of karate. She called her new little sister “sweet baby” and always wanted to hold her as soon as she got home from school. She is in awe of this new life and she is going to be the best big sister.

Then it was placenta time. I was going to be able to give my sister back so many of the nutrients she had shed during birth. I had done a raw dehydration and encapsulated 100 pills but could have easily done another 100, I unfortunately ran out of capsules. She credits these pills for her exceptional milk supply and increase in mood.

I tried to let my sister and her husband sleep as much as possible so I would take the night shift–caring for babe from the hours of 11pm- 6am. I quickly fell in love. She is pure magic. We would stare at each other and I felt like she was looking right into my soul, like she knew who I really was. I wondered what her journey was like and if she remembered my voice from the first time I had talked to her in the womb. I played her sitar when she fussed and within seconds she was either mesmerized or fast asleep. Despite what everyone says, sleeping when baby sleeps was impossible. I couldn’t miss one second of those eyes, that yawn or those impressive farts. I felt capable and proud of myself that I was trusted with this precious being. She felt safe enough to fall asleep in my arms every night and I can never forget our time together.

It was hard leaving and it’s even harder being so far away and not continuing this bond. I love the island and I know that my heart belong to this land, but it stills yearns for the familiarity of home –like the smell of cinnamon that fills my mother’s home. Maybe one day I’ll go back, but for now I have a future to build here and I’m very blessed to know that I am being fully supported by those around me.

I will cherish my first experience with birth and even though it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined, it was still powerful and unique. I grew a new understanding for my sister and what she is capable of. I had always looked up to her because of her sense of humour and for always being the cool one; now I stare up at her with completely different eyes.

She is strong, she is powerful. She is a Birth Warrior!

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