Interview with a Thriving Postpartum Mom

by Christine Devlin Eck

Ashlee did some wise planning before her baby was born and learned some valuable lessons from her beautiful cesarean birth.  This postpartum interview with her can teach us about some key factors in her strong recovery.

Ashlee Wilkin

Clearly, moms and families need more support after a baby is born than is provided as a standard professionally and socially in our culture.  But ancient cultures from every continent include well rounded support traditions for new moms and babies. Today there is a grassroots traditional movement growing to help instill some simple yet powerful aspects of support for new mothers including:  

-Family and community support and organization

-Nutrition specific to mothers needs

-Massage and body therapies to support postpartum healing

-Recognition that this is a vulnerable and significant time

Women are often well prepared for childbirth, and ill prepared for postpartum.  As a modern day society we are beginning to understand this in a clearer way and to problem solve.  Ancient cultures around the globe have long standing traditions that covered the above support structures.  Some of these traditions live on to the benefit of daughters and granddaughters who receive the care. In many places traditions have gone by the wayside as modern medicine has taken over as the dominant model of care.  

There are countless stories of hardship postpartum, and statistics remind us that women and families struggle from little support, limitations in modern medical structures, lack of knowledge and ill planning.  However, there are a growing number of stories out there of postpartum women thriving, and receiving family and community support in a way that is truly beneficial.

This is one of those stories.  

My name is Christine Eck, and I have the privilege of working with Ashlee Wilkin as part of The Center for Sacred Window Studies.  Ashlee has served mothers for several years as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, a birth and postpartum doula and a massage therapist. When she became pregnant with her own baby, she knew a thing or two about how to plan for postpartum.  

Ashlee’s planned home birth was unable to happen.  She had a beautiful cesarean birth in the hospital, and shares her story of birth and postpartum in this interview with me.  I was particularly interested in how she gathered her community around her to help out in a truly supportive way during her postpartum window.  I also asked her to talk about her cesarean birth recovery, and how this is different, and needs extra specific supports different from a vaginal birth.  

Ashlee’s story is truly beautiful.  Listening to it can help us learn what effective support and recovery can be.  

Thank you Ashlee for your time and your wisdom!  

Video Interview with Ashlee Wilkin by Christine Devlin Eck

Nourishing the Mother With an Ayurvedic Postpartum Diet

It is very important to keep our newborn mothers nourished. By newborn mother, I mean a mother who has recently given birth. For the truth is, the mother herself is reborn every time she gives birth. This is a tremendous opportunity for positive transformation, as long as she has access to the wisdom and support she needs to thrive.

The food that she eats after birth makes a significant impact on her postpartum health and breast milk supply. Following an Ayurvedic postpartum diet will give her the nourishment and rejuvenative power she needs to thrive. Learning the basic principles of this diet is a big step towards a positive rebirth and a nourished postpartum recovery.

The Fundamental Principles of An Ayurvedic Postpartum Diet

These principles are the foundational aspects of a healthy postpartum diet according to Ayurveda. New mothers who incorporate them into their diet will reap the rewards of a healthier postpartum recovery and more nourishing breast milk supply.

Pacifying Vata

Vata dosha is a combination of the air and ether elements, which become significantly out of balance after childbirth. Symptoms of excess vata can include dryness, coldness, spaciness, pain, anxiety, fearfulness, insomnia, as well as constipation. Eating foods that are warming, moist, oily and grounding will help pacify vata.

Easy To Digest

All new mothers experience sensitive digestion after birth. A tremendous amount of energy is exhausted during birth and consequently, the digestion becomes weak. Foods need to be easy to digest in order for them to provide nourishment to the new mother, as she rebuilds her digestive fire.

Well-Cooked

All foods should be well-cooked. Food that has been cooked until soft and mushy, will be easier to digest and assimilate. Avoid raw foods for 6 weeks after birth, accept sweet raw fruits.

Well-Spiced

Adding lots of warming, digestive spices is key to rebuilding the digestive fire after birth. Spices that are beneficial for postpartum recovery include cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, basil, fennel, black pepper, fenugreek and dill.

Naturally Sweet, Sour and Salty Tastes

Focus on sweet, sour and salty tastes. These 3 tastes will help build healthy tissue and promote a strong recovery. Avoid white sugar and table salt.

Lots of Healthy Oils

It’s very easy for a new mother to become depleted and dehydrated after birth. Eating lots of healthy oils will nourish and re-hydrate their depleted tissues. Ghee (clarified butter) is the oil/fat of choice for postpartum rejuvenation. Unrefined sesame oil is a great dairy-free option.

Fresh

New mothers need food that is fresh and full of vitality. Food that is over 6 hours old starts to break down, becomes difficult to digest, and loses its vitality. Because of this, it is not recommended for new mothers to eat leftovers.

Vegetarian

In Ayurveda, we focus on feeding mothers a sattvic vegetarian diet. Sattva is the essence of purity, and is high-vibration and life-affirming. These qualities encourage healing, rejuvenation and love, which in turn promote a strong postpartum recovery and balanced emotional state.

By following these basic Ayurvedic principles of postpartum diet, new mothers can create a solid foundation on which to build their strong postpartum recovery. Eating a nourishing postpartum diet will not only lead to vibrant health, but will ensure a high quality breast milk supply as well.

By Ameya Duprey, contributor to the Center for Sacred Window Studies, Ayurdoula, Massage Therapist, Blogger, owner of www.shakticare.com

*Individual perspectives by contributors to the Center for Sacred Window Studies Blog may vary and are intended to provide a wide spectrum of viewpoints for the benefits of mothers, babies and all individuals.

The Serenity in Surrendering

A new mother’s needs vs. social expectations

I’m an Ayurvedic Consultant and Postpartum Doula.  I direct a program to teach this to others.  I know the importance of the 42 days and the serenity in surrendering to this time of healing. Working with mothers before, during and after their transformation into motherhood is a mission and a passion for me.  So why was it so hard for ME to sit back and surrender to being cared for?!?  Surrendering is hard, yet the serenity in it is real.  Practice…it gets easier =)

Yes, the world moves fast.  And of course our modern society, far removed from ancient medicine, has little room for honoring the sacredness of birth and postpartum.  Yet, even when my radar was up about what I should be doing (and not doing…), I was itching to get back into my regular activities.  

Body Time

Ayurveda identifies the 42 days after childbirth as a “kayakalpa”, or “body time”.  Our senses are heightened, our tissues are ready for renewal, and the opportunity for receiving benefits from ANY conscious care is exponential.  

In most ancient cultures and in many traditional cultures today, mothers are given seclusion with their babies.  They are brought specific foods, they are kept warm, and family and friends take over mom’s responsibilities. And because it is built into the fabric of that culture, mothers expect and know how to receive this kind of care.  

Unfortunately, there is little tradition to fall back on for many of us, and reaching out to solicit specific support from friends and family can feel hard. Downright presumptuous and intrusive sometimes! When care is lined up from professionals: birth and postpartum doulas, food preparation, herbal support, placenta preparation, lactation consultants, massage therapists, etc., family members may wonder why all this luxury is needed when generations before have “gotten by” without all the extras.  Sigh.

Well, I am reinforced in my efforts by the ants in my own postpartum pants to jump back into action when I KNOW in my cells that the opposite is needed. Perhaps when mothers insist on their own extra support, daughters will remember. And then granddaughters will get stories of Grandma’s sacred window. They’ll hear stories about the family and friends who stepped in to bring food and take care of the kids.  Then when their own time comes, they will have seen it done, and expect it for themselves.

It’s not just about knowing what to do.  Surrendering into the sacred window is about recognizing that these 42 days are TEMPORARY.  That the time to get back into action and pick up the pace will happen. It most certainly will, and if there are older children in your life, it will happen with a vengeance.  There is serenity in patience. Surrendering to inaction is opposite to how I feel on a daily basis outside of my postpartum windows. I am moving most of the time! I have found rhythm in facilitating the lives of 4 children, numerous animals, work and maintaining a partnership with my husband.  To lay back and receive….ASK for things….keep out of the ongoing activity happening downstairs and within earshot, is a different type of rhythm, and one that takes getting used to.

Nature’s Law

In Ayurveda, (nature’s law)  life is comprised of different elements, which combine in different quantities in each season, during each time of life, times of day, and also each individual’s constitution of body, mind and spirit.  The balance of the elements is affected by change and circumstance. After a woman has a baby, the elements of air and space (Vata Dosha), are heightened. In the body, an excess of vata dosha can cause dryness of the skin, and hair.  It can cause digestion to be irregular, and gas to be present. The mind can feel restless, spacey, or anxious. Pile these symptoms onto a mom who has had little sleep, is recovering from childbirth, and is trying to integrate a new person into the family… it can be a recipe for major overwhelm!  

Yes, there are preferred foods that can help a mom be nourished in the right ways.  And yes, gentle postpartum oil massage is amazing for reducing vata on so many levels.  Absolutely, a group of friends and family who can bring food and help out with mom’s responsibilities is SO important.  These things will help reduce the feeling of restlessness. But sometimes there needs to be more.

The Serenity in Surrendering…

We can go on and on about the benefits of structured meditation, of specific breathing practices, pranayama techniques, and the like.  And these benefits are real, vast, and wonderful. If there is a specific meditation and pranayama practice in your life, this can be used during postpartum to counterbalance the sway of hormones, fatigue, discomfort and transformation that colors the postpartum window.  However, for many women who do not have a regular structured practice, I suggest something more simple and accessible.

I suggest surrender.  Sinking back into those pillows and breathing deeply while my babe rocks that awesome latch that took 6 tries to get right.  Surrendering to letting someone else help the screaming toddler in the kitchen downstairs. Filling my lungs and body with breath (prana) as I lay there (knowing I should be napping but can’t quite make it happen) and repeating the rhythm over and over again.  By gosh – it is helping and somehow I’m feeling better!

I suggest surrendering to dragging myself out of bed when he’s up yet again to nurse, thinking of all the millions of nursing mothers who are in solidarity with me around the globe.  I’ll sleep at some point =) My breath, my baby and me gently rocking in the chair in the quiet dark bedroom. My husband softly snoring and the kitty curled up at my feet. This is peace, for this moment.  I’m tired, I smell like breast milk, and I have this wonderous being snuggled up to my body who is a gift from the universe.

I can just be.  I can be tired, and I will sleep fully and deeply and uninterrupted again.  I can be slow, and I will be running behind my little one as he toddles surprisingly fast through the house next year.  I can be quiet, and I will be social with my friends and family when the time comes. I can be cared for and I will care for others when I am healed and ready.  I can surrender to now knowing that each day I am gifting myself with energy for later.

Surrender takes practice and it takes reminding.  I can put a little message next to my bed that reminds me to surrender.  I can wear a little token around my wrist or neck that reminds me to be here, now, doing this surrendering business, because later I’ll thank myself.  Breathe, sink back, surrender. Notice the soft sounds my baby makes, and how my breasts respond, aching to nourish him. Notice how the light lays on my bed, I’m rarely here during the daytime hours.  Notice how my heart has grown larger, to take in the love I have for this new being who has graced my life. Taking pictures of his ten little toes, and a selfie or two of us during these precious slow moments.  Sigh (of contentment).

Next time I feel the urge to go take care of something, I touch the token around my neck, or take a deep breath of surrender.  The time will come. Now is for me, for him, for us.

Working as a Team of Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregivers

Working as a Team of Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregivers

Replacing the Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula sole practitioner model with a Group Practice:

How this model can better support the caregiver and the caregiving in general.

 

Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula care is hard work, especially in cultures that do not have awareness and practices in place to support a new mom and baby.  By working as a team of caregivers to provide a diverse range of services, Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregivers can be sustained in their work, as they strive to offer the best they can to new mothers, their babies and families.

In talking with other Ayurdoulas, or postpartum caregivers who integrate Ayurveda into their practices, it is clear that it can be draining at times for the caregiver.  We feel devoted to serving her and to helping her retreat into her Sacred Window. We come committed to applying appropriate nourishment, body, mind and spirit support, and to help her bond with her newborn baby.  

Between planning and preparing, cooking and cleaning, bodywork and herbal support, consultation and advocacy, we often find ourselves wearing multiple hats. We provide an array of services, and do an incredible amount of work for one person.  Then we return home and find we have little left for family and obligations waiting. This is a drawback of the field, that it is not practiced widely enough for there to be a system in place to support it.

We (the team at the Center for Sacred Window Studies) believe that support for the mother is applied before any hands on action is taken.  It is the caregivers ability to embody the qualities we want to instill in the mother that will be her first medicine. It is our embodiment of love, support, patience, calm and a grounded presence that will create the healing environment which mom can surrender into her cocoon of care, knowing she is held safely.   Continue reading “Working as a Team of Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregivers”

The Story of The Center for Sacred Window Studies

Our school was born out of a love for mothers and babies, the desire to see a legacy continue, and the determination to see the culture behind the postpartum window shift for the better in our modern western culture.

My name is Christine, and in 2009 I was a student at The Kripalu School of Ayurveda and pregnant with my second child.  I began to wonder how I could apply the traditions of Ayurveda to myself and hopefully have an easier postpartum experience than the first time.  A classmate recommended The Sacred Window School.  As soon as I connected with Ysha Oakes, I knew I had come to the right place.  I now had answers to so many questions about how to make this postpartum window better!  I felt empowered, I felt inspired, and I enthusiastically drank in all of the knowledge I could before my baby was born.

Continue reading “The Story of The Center for Sacred Window Studies”