Tag Archives: pregnancy

Walnut Brownie Energy Balls (with a Divine superfood twist-vegan/glutenfree)

From breastfeeding to errands and work schedules, it can feel overwhelming to prepare snacks at home that are high in nutrition and easy to eat on the go. When I was making this Walnut Brownie Energy Ball recipe, I wanted to create something that was easy to prepare and tasted like a treat without the sugar crash to get myself through my daily errands. With only three steps to make, these energy balls are quick to assemble and even easier to eat!

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With the bitterness of walnuts and richness of chocolate, the base of nut butter and dates provides a creamy texture for these energy balls. The recipe itself is very versatile depending on your pallet. Try playing with the amount of walnuts and coconut flakes if you want something with less bitterness. There is also an option to add sweetener to the recipe if your sweet tooth desires!

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You can also change-up the type of nut butter you use.  I used peanut butter when I made these but the possibilities are endless: cashew butter, pumpkin butter, or tahini.

I also wanted to try out Harmonic Arts new Divine Feminine Herbal Tonic Blend so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. With a rich amount of adaptogens and hormone regulators, the Divine feminine Blend is an opportunity to reset your body and create balance within the many cycles and systems of your body.

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As each person has different needs, the addition of this blend is not a required element of the Walnut Brownie Energy Ball recipe. If you are breastfeeding, you may be interested in adding Brewer’s Yeast to turn these into lactation energy balls, or maca if you want to stick to one herb.

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The key to a good energy ball is making something that is tasty, nutritious, and easy to prepare. Try exploring with this recipe as a guideline and create something that you’ll want to make again!

Walnut Brownie Energy Balls
½ cup chopped and soaked dates
¼ cup nut butter
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup hemp hearts
¼ cup coconut flakes
1 tsp Harmonic Arts Divine Feminine Blend *if desired
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

*¼ cup chocolate chips if desired
* 1-2 tbsp sweetener like honey or maple syrup if desired

Using a hand emulsifier, pulse dates and nut butter together until smooth (If using a food processor, pulse walnuts until they are a desired consistency first and remove. Continue to use food processor on pulse setting as to not over-mix the batter once all ingredients are added).

Add in remaining ingredients and fold together using a spatula. Taste batter and add sweetener if desired.

Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls using the palms of your hand. Roll in coconut or hemp flakes if desired.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze.

 

With Love, From Ficus.

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

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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Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

After the birth of your child, you begin to structure a routine with your baby– When to feed, when to sleep, when to change their diaper. These tasks are part of the bonding experience but they can come with some unexpected discomfort. With repetitive hand movements and lifting of your newborn is the chance to develop symptoms of Carpal Tunnel- an uncomfortable tingling or pain in your hand, wrist, and arm that occurs when your median nerve is compressed. Located on the palm side of your hand, the carpal tunnel is a space between your carpal bones and your retinaculum ligament that protects your median nerve as well as many ligaments that attach your forearms to your fingers.  You can think of your carpal tunnel as a safe space for the nerve that is in control of the mobility in your hand and wrist to lie within your arm. When this nerve gets pinched or compressed, many symptoms can occur: – weakness in the hand, wrist and fingers – numbness in parts of the hand and wrist – numbness or tingles usually starting in your fingertips and working its way through your hand – pain starting in the fingertips and working its way up your arm. carpal tunnelhttp://www.westwoodhealingarts.com/tendonitispg.html Although pre-pregnancy factors like obesity, thyroid disorders, arthritis and diabetes can increase your chances of Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, many women without these disorders can still experience acute to severe symptoms during post partum and in some cases, during pregnancy (around the second trimester). Some women may experience slight tingling while others have to incorporate strategies into their new role to prevent damaging their wrists and hands. But why is this happening? When pregnant, your body is doubling your blood volume to provide to your baby, placenta and daily growth. This increase in liquid can add pressure to many parts of your body, including your median nerve and that is when you start to experience Carpal Tunnel. With a combination of swelling and repetitive motions, you start to get the tingling nerve sensitivity in your fingertips and wrists. Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel tends to resolve itself in the weeks or months surrounding your labour as long as you tend to its needs. There are many strategies that you can incorporate into your routine to reduce the stresses of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on your wrists and hands: -stretching your fingertips and wrists multiple times a day- especially if you have a job that requires repetitive hand motions – massage your arms and hands to help with blood flow – stick to a clean diet free of additives and excess sodium – look into adding anti-inflammatory substances like turmeric and cinnamon into your diet – sleep with your hands by your side, not under your pillow (relieve that pressure!) – reduce time texting and typing if you can – wear a wrist brace or wrap- especially when lifting your newborn or other objects – acupuncture – essential oils with a carrier of arnica or coconut oil (try frankincense, helichrysum or lemongrass) As I always recommend, talk to your health care provider about the symptoms that you are experience and the methods of treatment you are taking. Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can leave a new mother with feelings of anxiety, frustration and disappointment. It is incredibly important to take care of your hands and wrists to prevent the tingling from over-staying its welcome and causing excess stress. The most important thing to remember is that unless you have a genetic predisposition surrounding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it will go away in time. For extra support surround Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, please feel free to email me at ficusdoulaservices@hotmail.com For a video on stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTxQqu9USC4   With love, from Ficus. http://www.ficusdoula.com ficusdoulaservices@hotmail.com

Hot Molasses

If you are a fan of the flavour of molasses, hot molasses is the drink for you! Filled with iron, B vitamins, manganese, selenium, calcium, and potassium, molasses is a sweet alternative for coffee in the morning or an additional nutritional boost if you are on the brink of anemia. Blackstrap molasses is made by boiling down raw sugar three times to make this nutritious, thick and sticky liquid. It is important to use blackstrap molasses as regular molasses is only boiled down twice and this style of boiling does not obtain the same nutritional density. If you have gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, be cautious of the sugar content in molasses and make the choice to use it as a supplement or not.

Most women have found themselves to have anemia or low iron at one point in their life or another. Even I have trouble keeping my iron at a healthy level but try to incorporate iron rich foods into every meal. If you find that you are feeling tired and sluggish or feel like you’re removed from your body, you may want to get your iron and ferritin levels checked with a blood test. Boosting your iron levels can not only physically make a difference to your body but can help with your mental state as well. If you are trying to become pregnant, you can request to get your iron levels checked to see if you should incorporate more iron rich foods into your diet. Obtaining optimal nutrition before you are pregnant can make a huge different throughout your pregnancy and delivery.

As you reach the third trimester, your midwife or doctor will check your iron levels to ensure that you are not suffering from anemia. It is not irregular for iron levels to come back low during this time because you have been making enough blood for you and baby. By incorporating iron rich foods into your diet, you can raise your iron levels in a way that is less harsh on your system. Most women find that iron supplements constipate and cause other digestive upsets but if you are able to draw iron naturally out of the foods around you, you can avoid these feelings altogether. Some examples of iron rich foods are greens like spinach and kale, dried fruit like apricots and prunes, red meat, beans, and of course, molasses!

So if you are a fan of molasses, give a cup of these hot molasses drink a try.

Hot Molasses Drink:

16 ounces of milk/alternative milk of your choice
1 1/2-2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
dash of nutmeg and cinnamon

Put your milk of choice in a pot over the stove and turn to med-high heat. When the liquid is hot, whisk in molasses and spices. At this point, the liquid may get a little frothy on top and it’s absolutely delicious! Transfer into mug and enjoy!

Lemon Molasses drink:

16 ounces hot water
1 1/2- 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
Lemon wedge

Dissolve molasses into a cup of hot water and squeeze lemon juice on top. Enjoy!

Essential Oils

Scents have always had a way of calming people and bringing them back into a moment. I can always think back to my grandmother and the sweet smell of cinnamon warmed apples baking in her oven or walking through Fernwood in the spring to find myself greeted by lavender on the street corners. I can even remember the smell of eucalyptus being rubbed onto my chest when I was a sick child and needed to clear up my air passages.

If you take the natural oils from these substances—may the oils come from the roots, leaves, bark, stems, you are creating an essential oil. The processing isn’t as simple as just collecting the oils though. They will need to be distilled and cold pressed to extract the oils and this can take a lot of work but in the end, you are left with an essential oil. Most of us will choose to source out companies that have a respectable crop and harvesting system to buy essential oils from. With these oils, you can incorporate Aromatherapy into your daily routine. Aromatherapy is used to enhance physical and mental wellbeing by promoting relaxation, pain relief, emotional support, skin support and many other aspects of life by stimulating brain function or absorbing through the skin into the bloodstream. Many of the oils have antifungal, antiviral, soothing, calming, and nourishing qualities making them a useful alternative for not only our bodies but for cleaning surfaces as well. These qualities also make essential oils and the use of aromatherapy a perfect form of alternative medicine during pregnancy.

From reducing anxiety and tension to enhancing sleep quality, the use of essential oils can be blended into any trimester and labor. With a world of oils available, most women can find at least one or two scents that resonate with them during their pregnancy and can even be useful in their postpartum period. If you find an essential oil or blend that works with you, you may find it increases your quality of sleep, reduces tension and stress, balances the body, clears the skin, minimizes cold and allergy symptoms and increases your overall mood. When diluted, essential oils are safe to use on baby as well and can even help with diaper rash or increasing milk supply.

While there are three main ways to incorporate essential oils into your pregnancy, I am going to focus on two. The third way to use essential oils is by ingesting them and I do not want to promote ingestion as there are many different qualities of essential oils available and one kind may be harmful. The other two ways of using oils is aromatically and topically.

When using Essential oils aromatically, you can inhale the oils directly from the bottle, place a few drops onto your hands or use a diffuser and fill your home with the aroma of your choice. This is great for emotional support, respiratory support and sleep support. Try taking in a deep inhale of the scent while thinking your favorite mantra or qualities and feelings that you would like for you, your baby, and your family. On the exhales, breathe out qualities you don’t need or feelings that are holding you back. This practice is a great addition to your morning and nightly routine as it can set your mind up for a day of positive feelings and relieve any stresses at night that you might have picked up throughout the day. Try stimulation scents like citrus or peppermint in the morning and calming scents like lavender or sandalwood at night.

When using Essential oils topically, you can directly place the oils onto your skin or dilute them in carrier oil. This method is ideal for spot treating pains and skin irritations. It is also wonderful for immune support or allergy relief. It is always best to test the oils on a patch of skin before applying to multiple places on your body. I only apply oils directly to the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands. If I use them anywhere else, I dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil—usually coconut. Some other carrier oils are jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, avocado oil, calendula oil, or arnica oil (you can make a great muscle treatment for sore legs and joints). My favourite skin moisturiser is using a base of coconut oil (1/2 cup), shea butter (1/4 cup), add in two capsules of vitamin E, a pinkie nail sized dollop of rosehip oil, mixed with lavender and rose essential oils until you get a desired scent. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to water with a splash of witch hazel to make a facial toner—I like lavender, tea tree and rose.

Essential oils are a great way to enhance your pregnancy but there are some oils that come with warning. Clary sage is an amazing essential oil to use during labour but it should be left untouched in your pregnancy until you are full term. Its powerful induction properties can help jump start contractions and give baby the strength to move down the birth canal. Applying clary sage to the beautiful baby point (TCM) in my experiences can get baby moving quickly. You can also mix clary sage with coconut oil to smooth over your belly. A combination of clary sage, lavender, bergamot, grapefruit, peppermint and rose can be added into a spritz bottle to help relieve nausea during active labor and provide another wave of power for you to work with contractions. Sage can also decrease milk supply in not only essential oil form but as a culinary herb as well so once baby is here it is best to avoid it in all forms. Peppermint as we know is an amazing digestive aid especially when it comes to nausea. You can apply a few drops of peppermint to a warm facecloth and place over your eyes or around the back of your neck to relieve symptoms of a cold or headache. It should be used with caution in the postpartum period as it may decrease milk supply. That being said, if you are trying to decrease milk supply, you can combine peppermint and clary sage and rub onto your breasts as well as the highest point between your shoulders and neck and see if it will help.  Fennel can help with milk production if you apply it with a carrier oil or onto a facecloth compress onto the breasts. This essential oil should only be used for a few days at most as it may increase urination. If you have high blood pressure, it is best to avoid peppermint, rosemary and clove as they will increase your blood pressure.
If you are using essential oils on your breasts and are breastfeeding, it is important to wipe the breasts before a feeding period. Using a hot cloth, you can wipe the remaining essential oils from your skin. The oils will have already released their healing properties into your bloodstream after a few minutes of application so it is okay to wipe off if you need to feed right away.

Although essential oils are used to enhance your pregnancy instead of harm, they should always be used at your own risk. Each body will react to oils differently than the next and some scents may make you feel ill while others will invigorate you. If you are using scents during labor or having someone who is planning to make you a calming labor spray, make sure you are alright with the smell before you fill your birthing room with it. If you are birthing at the hospital, it is best to smell the oil directly from the bottle in respects to the other birthing mothers and sensitivities of staff.

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Here are a few of my favorite oils with their healing properties:

Lavender: Good for all stages in pregnancy, calming, reduces stress and tension, aids in postpartum depression, calms skin tenderness(acne, bruises, bumps, rashes), sleep support, seasonal allergy support, grounding, prevents stretch marks, helpful in healing after labor, decrease high blood pressure, mastitis, safe for household cleaning.

Lemon: Good for morning sickness, uplifting, seasonal allergy support, digestive support, aids in postpartum depression, increases lymphatic function, cools the body when applied to the feet, invigorating, great oil to use in the morning.

Bergamot: Uplifting and calming, relieves anxiety and tension, soothes muscles, cooling properties, balances female energies, aids in postpartum depression.

Rose: Promotes skin healing, relaxation, reduces scarring, promotes elasticity.

Peppermint: Aids in morning sickness, reduces headaches and tension, helpful during transition, mental clarity, helps urinate during labor, reduces nausea.

These are only a handful of oils and their descriptions. If there was an oil you are interested in using during your pregnancy, please feel free to e-mail me and I can give you suggestions on blends and application processes.

Ficus
http://www.ficusdoula.com
ficusdoulaservices@hotmail.com