40 days of confinement and a Shiitake broth recipe

 

If you are here just for the recipe, go straight to the end of this  post, as I am starting it with a story about my postpartum days. 

 

My 40 days of confinement, inspired by The First 40 Days, are officially done.  I made the decision to stay home with my daughter for the first 40 days postpartum, eating warming nourishing foods and practicing self care while tuning in to my daughter’s energy, thanks to the book The First 40 Days. Read more about that in this post.

I am so incredibly grateful that I was supported in doing this and I am proud of and happy with myself to have made this commitment. I received such amazing nourishment from friends and family, I’ve been very gentle with myself, and have been relishing on what it feels like to be home with no obligations other than being with my family.

It has been an incredibly inspiring time. I started filling up my days with more reading, more learning of subjects that I had been interested in for a while and just never made the time for, more singing with the kids and more self care. All these things are going to stay with me as I slowly start to re-integrate in the outside world. My daughter is calm and happy. Her siblings treat her with gentleness and love, and we are all around a happy and healthy family. Make no mistake, “healthy and happy” does indeed include sleep deprived, at times frustrated and impatient, and learning to adjust to life with a 4th child while stumbling through past parenting successes that are no longer successes, and needing to find a new path. Thats for a different post. But the appreciation for happiness is only truly possible when one fully accepts life’s challenges as well. 🙂

I highly recommend mothers take this time postpartum. I know this is common for a lot of cultures, but here in the United States, not so much. And if you are like me, with no immediate family near by (other than my sister in law, who is amazing with the kids), or grandparents, then taking the time to just BE with my new born is something that comes with a lot of pre-planning.

Other than making sure there is always someone to be with my older kids, and the endless hours of snuggling with my new love, the two most beneficial things I got out of this time at home was the nourishing foods and the self care.

I really tuned in to my body and followed my gut’s intuition, literally, to feed myself. Unsurprisingly, not once did I crave salads, or smoothies, or anything cold. I stayed away from most flours as the thought of the weight in my stomach sounded too, well, heavy. I was eating a lot of soups and stews and warm oats, with almond milk. Lots of fatty foods such as avocados, coconut and olive oil on everything. No nuts or seeds as is, in butter or milk form was great. I avoided dairy other than the occasional yogurt craving that actually felt good on my digestion and abundant amounts of ghee. No eggs or cheese. Out of nothing other than the lack of desire for them. I am vegetarian so meats and fish and bone broths were not in my diet, though I do recommend eating lots of bone broths for meat eaters as it is highly nourishing and replenishing while being incredibly gentle on the digestion.

As for physical activity, I didn’t do anything for the first 4 weeks other than very mild stretching to open up my chest and get some blood circulating. Since I wasn’t leaving the house I didn’t go for walks. It was hard yet I surrendered easily in to this as I was committed to being with my newborn, at home, away from cold winds or bright sunshine, or harsh noises (we live in a city). At week 4, I started increasing the frequency and intensity of my stretching and adding some mobility drills to get my joints supple and prepared for when I would eventually start exercising again. I would also perform frequent heat massages on myself, on my ankles, elbows, knees and wrists, with sesame oil. At week 5, I started doing some very gentle core awakening exercises added in to my stretching. Week 6 is when I start leaving the house, going for walks on the beach, then to the beach and home. Now, starting week 7, I have started a very gentle and mild exercise routine. It’s not much of a routine really as it is more of a permission to exercise whenever I have the time. With four kids, including a new born, I get to do a couple exercises here and there throughout the day. I have no actual “workout” time carved out yet. And I have not started doing cardio either. I am focusing on rebuilding my core and improving my flexibility, while increasing the intensity of my walking before I start adding anything more intense. Next will be walking stairs and then bike riding.

I will eventually be writing a more extensive post on my exercise regimen with examples of how I am bringing myself back to a place of strength and balance in my own body.

Self care was very important for me during this time. I had friends come over and provide healing sessions. I got some reiki, body talk, sound healing, cranio sacral and massages. When I didn’t have someone working on me, I worked on myself. I performed frequent self massages, took candlelit bubble baths (once the bleeding had stopped, which for me was after 6-8 days). I journaled, read, meditated, colored and drew, and worked on my own vibration either through song or tuning forks. And on occasion I would make myself yummy nourishing foods that weren’t being provided.

Now that the 40 days are up, I am committed to keeping a lot of these practices alive. I am continuing to feed myself gentle foods for the digestion, mostly because it feels really great that way, and also because we are in between autumn and winter and warm nourishing foods are of the season.

I am excited to start feeling in to my body more and more. The hardest part for me is not finding the motivation to exercise but rather making myself slow down and really take it slow. I am strong and can do a lot, even postpartum I can do more than some of my fitness clients, so not getting caught up in my strength and slowing down is a challenge. This is one of those times where I am choosing to NOT listen to my body, as it wants to keep going, but to tune in to my EXPERIENCE and knowledge instead. I know that taking it slow now will set me up for a much more empowering and healthy future.

One of the harder things for me to be coming out of the 40 days is the real distractions and demands that come from having 4 children. I was really enjoying spending all my time with my new baby, massaging her, singing to her, watching her coo at me and responding. Laying luxuriously for hours in bed and nursing and snuggling and not rushing her or forcing her in to anything. Now that the 40 days are done, we don’t really have the support of friends and family in the same way. My husband is working and I am with the kids, who need me to cook for them, play with them, take them places and so on. I don’t mind it as it is my chosen life, but I am saddened that the cocoon phase is over. I still spend a lot of quality time with Haumea, but she is quickly strapped in to the carrier even though she could spend a longer time lounging in bed with me, because the other kids need me. The pacifier comes out way more often than I would generally be okay with just so I can finish making breakfast for hungry and agitated little people before sitting down to nurse her.

Regardless of how you enter life postpartum, it is a huge shift. Wether is is your first or your 4th, it is a huge shift. But entering life postpartum after giving myself those 40 days of “confinement” feels so much more gentle and empowering. While I am tired and have very little time to myself without a child on my body, my mental state feels strong and peaceful. The upsets arise, as they always do, but I generally have the patience to handle with them more peace than I once had. I have my own internal struggles, as well as the shifting of roles and dynamics in my marriage as we navigate this new territory, yet I do not have fear, or frustrations at the unknown.

My husband and I have been disconnected, not in a negative way, just in a way that happens because I have taken on caring for a new born and he has taken on being with older kids more and taking them out of the house when he can. We have always done everything together, and right now we are dividing ourselves to better serve our family. It is a necessary step in the process yet it is time for him and I to reconnect and talk about how we will make our relationship a priority again in the near future.

My capabilities, desires and needs are shifting and I know his are too. Talking about those and understanding where we both are in this transition will help us grow stronger, keeping resentments and attachments out of the equation.

We are all adjusting, and keeping communications open and clear during this time are of the utmost importance if we want to keep on thriving as a couple and a family.

The 40 days are up, and I feel so ready to take on this new life, with all it’s challenges, upsets, beauty and joy.

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Below is the recipe for what quickly became my favorite postpartum nourishment: Mushroom broth that I got from the book The First 40 Days. The first few days, when my digestion was very sensitive and my insides felt like a ghost town, with lots of empty space and gas bubbles, I would drink this  while eating avocados. I didn’t really want much else. As my organs slowly started finding their way back and my intestines had more support I started adding oats or congee to the broth. Now I make it and keep eating with oats or congee as I truly love it. It is becoming a staple in my house.

As with any broth, you can build your own, add or substitute ingredients given what you have on hand. There is no wrong when it comes to making broth as long s you have enough liquid with your veggies!

 

Shiitake Mushroom Broth

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Makes 2 quarts (2L) (I’m not gonna lie, I always wish it makes more, i need to start doubling the recipe…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 leeks, green parts discarded, white parts roughly chopped
  • 2 TBS olive oil or other cooking oil or ghee
  • sea salt
  • 2 cups (85 g) fresh shiitake mushrooms, or 1 cup dried
  • 1/2 cup dried reishi mushrooms (20g)  (optional but I highly recommend it as it adds great immunity properties and flavor!)
  • 1 cup (60g) cremini or white button mushrooms
  • 2 strips kombu (helps with digestion and flavor)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, halved, with seeds is fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 inch knob of fresh turmeric, unpeeled, halved
  • 2 cups (140g) roughly chopped green cabbage
  • 1 loosely packed cup (50g) roughly chopped parsley
  • 2 TBS lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup miso paste (optional as it is my personal add-in that wasn’t in the original recipe)

Steps:

  • In a large pot over medium heat, brown the onions and leeks in the oil with a pinch of salt.
  • Quickly rinse the mushrooms and kombu under running water. Add everything but the parsley, cabbage and lemon zest to the pot, with 3 quarts (2.8L) of water, or enough water to cover the veggies by 1 inch.
  • Cook for 1 hour over medium, low heat, covered.
  • During the last 20 minutes, add the cabbage, parsley and lemon zest.
  • season the broth to taste. Remove from heat and strain.
  • I add 1/4 cup miso paste at this point (this isn’t in the recipe but this is the way I have taken to make it as I love the flavor)
  • Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months

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