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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Halloween

Yes, my children will be trick-or-treating tonight. I am not a fan of this “holiday” but I am also not a fan of always going against the grain, so to speak. My oldest went to school for a few years and living in the united states, well, Halloween is almost everywhere. We live in a city so there is no escaping it without a huge fight. And because of having 3 kids, (eventually 4) old enough to trick-or-treat, I am not in to being the helicopter mom counting how much candy everyone is eating as we are walking. That just takes the enjoyment out of the night for everyone. I’d rather appreciate my kids excitement while myself enjoying the work and effort that people have put in to decorating their homes, than micro managing my kids.

I struggled with Halloween, released my resistance a bit, then struggled with it some more, then allowed it to be what it is. I go back and forth with this event and in all honesty I wish it didn’t exist or that I lived somewhere where the celebration of it was based around folk tales and spooky gatherings rather than candy.

But I live here. And my kids LOVE it. They love to dress up and they certainly love the candy! So I’ve let it go (mostly) and we go trick-or-treating. They never end up getting all the candy they gather because we very sneakily manage to make them think they ate it all.

There are two things that bother me about trick-or-treating:

  1. The sheer amount of “bad” candy and it what it does to a person’s health
  2. The lack of enjoyment of some (my) children at all the decorations and effort that goes in to making Halloween festive and being focused on how much candy can be acquired instead. They definitely stop and look at what people have created but it is only an afterthought. Personally, that is my (only) favorite thing about Halloween: the decorations and costumes.

For those two reasons I have started to do these things:

  1. Have them eat fiber and protein before we head out for trick or treating. Last year I had them drink this smoothie. This year I plan on having them drink a large cup of green soup, made with kale, broccoli, celery, beans and a few other veggies for flavor. We don’t leave the house until their cups are empty. They know this, they drink up 🙂
  2. And this year I am starting a new tradition of playing walking Halloween Bingo. I printed these off the internet. The kids seem excited about it, so we’ll see! The game will be very simple, as they just need to spot the things that are on the card and get an adult to check it off for them (to make sure they actually saw it and to also hopefully spark a conversation about the decorations they are seeing). If they fill out their whole card, they get a prize (non-edible). My hope is that in between running from doorbell to doorbell they will slow down and take the time to appreciate where we are.

Now, I know that not all children are not in to candy and not all children rush to fill up their bags, but I have 3 kids old enough to trick-or-treat, and when one of them is in that mood, it is so quick for the others to follow, and all it takes is for one running child to get all of us running. Hoping to slow things down this Halloween.

Please let me know if you have any “tricks” for your family so that you can all still enjoy the “treat” part of this celebration without too much back lash 🙂 Always looking for new inspiration over here!

 

 

Congee

Congee is a rice porridge originating from China and other Asian countries. Congee is soft, warm and mushy, requiring minimal effort to digest, making it a perfect comfort food for when you are under the weather, recovering from surgery, or like myself, recovering from childbirth. It is so versatile as it will take on the flavor of what you pair it with.

I started eating congee at the end of my pregnancy, and it was a staple in my diet for the first few weeks postpartum. I continue to eat it because I just fell in love with the possibilities of flavors it promises.

Because this recipe makes such a large batch, I started freezing small portions in zip lock bags that are easily defrosted for a quick add in to most meals. I’ve mixed it with soup, curries, chillies and other veggie one pot meals. During my first weeks postpartum I would add it to simple veggie broths for a little sustenance. I’ve had it sweet as a custard (see below), or just with milk and fruit. Your imagination is the limit here!

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White Rice Congee (from the book The First 40 days)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups white jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup white sticky rice

 

Steps:

  • In a large pot bring the uncooked rice with 1 quart of water to a boil, or enough to cover the rice by 1 1/2 inches, to a boil
  • reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, until the grains soften and open up.
  • You’ll want to stir often and add water as its being absorbed. I usually end up adding up to 4 cups of water throughout the cooking to make sure the rice stays moist and becomes pudding like.
  • Eat hot or store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

 

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Savory Congee with parsley pesto

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Sweet Congee Custard

  • Stir in one whole egg while heating it up, with a splash of milk and some honey and it tastes just like custard!
  • add in whatever you like to have to a sweet bowl! Here I have black sesame seeds, cacao nibs, bananas, cinnamon and coriander powder.

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Coconut Haystacks

This is a very quick (if you have an electric hand mixer), very simple recipe here that I got from the book The First 40 Days.

This is my first time making coconut haystacks the more traditional way as I have been making the raw version, that I call Rawcaroons, for years now.  I have a basic version, the almond rawcaroon, a lemon one, raspberry flavor, and there are probably a few other flavors in my recipe repertoire as well, if you are up for the search 🙂 I have definitely made many more flavors just cannot remember if I have blogged about them all.

While I LOVE the raw versions, they can be heavy on the digestion and they take so much longer to make. Since I am still in my early post partum days I am continuing to be mindful of my digestion and choosing foods that feel gentle and not to heavy.

These were wonderful! They don’t hold up as nicely as the rawcaroons as they are more fragile, but so worth it! I hope you enjoy!

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Ingredients:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 TBS pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 or 3 drops rose water (optional)

Steps:

  • Preheat over to 350*F
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites until a stiff peak forms (this is my first time using my hand held mixer with eggs whites, and oh man was it easy and quick!!)
  • Gently mix in all other ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix!
  • Drop tablespoons of the batter on to a greased or lined baking sheet
  • Bake for 8 minutes and check. They need to be slightly golden brown. The book says 8-12 minutes here, and I did mine for almost 20 before they started to brown on the top! They got crispy on the bottom and I actually liked that as it added a little caramel flavor 🙂
  • Remove from oven when done to your liking and let cool 5-10 minutes.

 

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These are the perfect snack for me to have around the house for a quick pick me up or little treat with my tea.

The First 40 Days (post partum)

This is a book review, illustrated with my own personal experience and the intro to a lot of my upcoming posts. 

 

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This book, in my opinion, should be read by all expecting mothers. Wether it’s your first or your 6th child, if you are pregnant and haven’t read this book yet, I strongly suggest you do.

I was given this book by my friend Marisa Belger, the co-author of this book, and while I was not pregnant at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, was gifting it and suggesting it to pregnant women, and I wished this book had been written when I was pregnant with one of my first 3 children as it is full of beautiful nourishing recipes, thoughtful tips and deep wisdom.

As luck has it, I ended up getting pregnant with my fourth child, Haumea, and had her a few weeks ago ❤

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So now I am home and I get live The First 40 Days, that were entirely inspired by this book. I am on day 24 now.

The idea of the first 40 days is a cultural thing. Many cultures around the world observe the first 40 days postpartum as one of deep healing, gentleness, inward living and care for the new mother and baby. One where neither the mother or baby leave the house and where they both spend their time just being with each other with minimal distractions and lots of nourishment, love and self care. A time where family steps in and comes to take care of the new mother so she can focus all her attention on baby. We don’t have this tradition in the US unfortunately. Quite the contrary actually!

In the US a mother is viewed as strong and capable if she is out and about with her newborn just days after giving birth. Extra bonus points if her physical body bounces back quickly. “Wow, you are so amazing being out with your new baby and you barely look like you have given birth!” Women are proud to show up places with their newborn in tow. “I got this, I can have a new baby AND be social AND even go back to work! I might even throw a welcome party for my baby”

There is pride in that. And I get it because I was like that with my first 3 babies. I was physically capable of doing it all and so I did. I was proud to be able to do it all. Since when has busyness become a badge of honor? I wore that badge with pride. Thankfully because of who I am and my genetic makeup I was able to handle the lack of early self care without it depleting me too much. But while my physical body was handling it fairly well, how was my emotional body really doing during those times?

This time around I am PROUD to have made the commitment to SLOW DOWN. I am PROUD to say I am staying home with my baby and doing the bare minimum. Because of who I am (physically active, social, mother of four, self imposed obligations of taking the kids out of the house and entertaining them often, self imposed duty of cooking from scratch), making this commitment to do the bare minimum took more work than it would have to just go back to living life the way I usually do. And boy do I need this time at home. I think it’s worth mentioning that I live in San Francisco, a big city with lots to do, lots to explore and lots of people to see. If I lived in the country or a more remote place, taking this time at home might not feel like such a big deal. I also think it’s worth mentioning that my mother passed when I was a child, and my father and step mom live in France. My husbands mother isn’t around either. So this leaves us with no grandparents to help us out and no mother figure to take care of me.

I am being very mindful of my diet. While I am usually someone who eats well, balanced and varied, the way of eating suggested by The First 40 Days isn’t only about the “healthy” factor, it’s about the nourishing and healing factor. While previously I would eat big salads and drink smoothies and smoothies bowls, because really, those things are healthy and packed with vitamins and yummy things, so why wouldn’t I eat them? This book has given me new isights on how to gently care for a body that needs comfort and warmth.

I have been feeling amazing everyday. My kids are being cared for by community so that they are not bored at home everyday, I am being fed nourishing meals by my community as well as the great prep work I put in while I was still pregnant, and I am receiving healing sessions from my community as well. My husband is being a rock star dad and taking the kids places as much as he can when he is not working in order for them to have fun and for Haumea and I to spend time alone. My brother is also staying with us and being helpful with the older kids so I don’t need to rush out of bed in the morning and can take my time nursing and snuggling Haumea. Not only do I feel great physically, I  have also recovered the fastest from all 4 births, and my emotional well being feels stable, centered, grounded and patient. I never thought this is the way I would feel after bringing a fourth child in to this already rambunctious home of mine. I know things will shift when I start to interact with the outside world more, and I feel so ready to take that on. Adjusting to life with a newborn in this way is setting me up for success as I am integrating in a peaceful, quiet way.

Not only that, but I am getting to spend such amazing quality time with my baby. Time that would so easily slip away if I were at the playground with the older kids, or in the car going places while she is strapped in her car seat, (probably crying because that is not where she wants to be), or at park meet ups or strapping her in and out of the carrier so I can shop and run other errands. We will eventually get to doing all those things. But being able to spend HER first 40 days out of the womb in such a thoughtful, low activity way, in the comfort of an intentional cocoon, I imagine is a much sweeter transition than being brutally thrown in the chaos of what can sometimes be this modern life. I get to spend long moments singing to her, massaging her, rocking her, soothing her, snuggling her. And the other kids are learning to treat her gently as well, honoring her space, her quietude and her transition.

This time at home is allowing me to replenish and feel ready to take on whatever shape my life will take once I start leaving the house again and having more obligations and duties. And it’s allowing me to fully tune in to Haumea so that I can make choices that are considerate of her once life resumes it’s busier pace. Although I have a feeling this time we are spending here is going to shift my perspective and desires around how much we do and how often.

And I attribute all of this to the inspiration I got from The First 40 Days. Before reading this book I felt like I was good at birthing, post partum and integration of a new being in our life. I would have not expected the amazing difference my inner world would experience by taking these committed 40 days. Because making this commitment goes beyond staying home for 40 days, it also involves being committed at caring for myself, on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. I journal, I write, I sing, I perform self massages. I oil my hair and take baths. I stretch, read and meditate.

I want to point out, that while I wished I had had this book with my first baby, I feel like this book is even more relevant to me now that I have several children. For those of you who are mothers, you might already associate with the fact that we can put ourselves last as mothers, or feel like we have too much going on already to take the time to nourish ourselves properly, be it with food or self care. It’s so easy to fall right back in to the “I need to do so much for everyone around me, if I have time I will do something for myself after” mentality.  So making this commitment during my pregnancy, talking to my husband about it and making sure he is on board and gathering my tribe, my community to support us all during this time, was even more necessary now that I have been a mother for 9 years than it was 9 years ago when my first child was born.

This book is a must have in my opinion. Unless you are a lucky person who comes from a culture who already honors this tradition and have been raised with these principles. For me, a lot of this information was new and I am so incredibly grateful to the women, Heng, Marisa and Emily, who put it into words and turned it into a book so that the rest of the world can learn about it.

And I am incredibly grateful to my husband and my community for supporting me in my decision. Even though this time spent this way is a necessity for the well being of myself and baby, because of the world we live in, a part of me cannot help but think of it as a luxury, a luxury I am blessed to be able to take in this fast paced, go-getter, keep moving and do do DO! world we live in.

 

A Birth Story with a Recipe :)

September 14th, 2017

 

Drinking ceremonial hot chocolate as my contractions get stronger. I am waiting for you baby as you work your way to the birth canal. It is now 9am. I feel strong, confident and ready. Connecting with you in early labor feels sweet. You are gentle, patient and peaceful. No intense emotions or feelings of being rushed. I am eager to meet you my love. We got this. We are working together and in harmony. I love you.

Last night at 11pm is when it became clear that labor was starting. I felt this surge of hormones, I started getting fidgety, slightly irritable, impatient and warm. “The tub! We must blow up the birthing pool!”; “We need to move the TV, my birth altar is not set up!”; “I have to go to the bathroom, NOW and Taru is in there! Why is he in there!?” Oh shit this is happening. Am I ready? Running through checklists in my head. Do we have all “the things?” Did I prep enough? Do we have enough food? What are we missing? Leif where are you?? Oh right, you’re blowing up the pool…. I was so tempted to ask him to stop doing that so he could come upstairs and move the TV for me, but I decided to sit on the couch and practice patience. The baby was definitely not coming NOW. I won’t give in to my frantic mind. Slow down. Breath. Wait. I am so ready for this. I’ve been so ready. I have everything I need and I AM everything I need.

“Babe, can you please move the TV so can I set up the altar?” He had come back upstairs and was as fidgety and excited as I was “Oh my god, we’re having a baby!”.

Setting up the altar allowed me to slow down, tune in to the energies I was calling in for this birth: gentleness, patience, strength, warriorship, breath, connection with baby, softness. And it allowed me to connect with all my goddess friends who provided objects for me to put on my altar. Once that was done, I decided to take a shower and try to get some rest as the contractions were still mild and far apart.

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My sleep was frequently interrupted with contractions and trips to the bathroom, yet I was grateful to be able to rest. Around 3:30am the intensity picked up a bit and I had to focus my breathing in order to allow for the contractions to pass. But again, I was able to fall asleep in between them. At 6am they got stronger still and I was laboring in bed until about 7:30am when the kids came in. I decided to get up and wash my hair, because if baby is coming today, when will I get the chance to wash my hair again? Plus I want to smell nice for myself while I am in the heat of labor. The shower seemed to have slowed things down a bit so I tried to stay on my feet and move and dance and cook. I made curry in the crockpot. I was feeling somewhat impatient again. Is this going to pick up? Are the contractions going to get closer together soon? Or am I going to be mildly laboring for days? Can we just get this thing done? The mood swings between impatience and staying in the moment were an added indicator that labor was really happening. “With each breath, I oooooopen my cervix”; “Come on already, get stronger and drop that baby!”; “I gently welcome your arrival in due time baby”: “Why am I still smiling  and not crunched over my exercise ball in contraction agony??”.

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It’s 9am and the kids are outside playing with Leif. I make myself a ceremonial hot chocolate, light the candles on the altar and say my quiet thanks to all my support team, present at the birth and energetically there. I set up a few symbolic items next to me on the table (a felt heart for love and gratitude and softness, a butterfly for transition, change and happiness, a clear quartz crystal for amplified energy and connection to spirit). I pull out my journal and start writing. This is what I need to slow down and become fully one with what is happening. No more impatience, no more fidgety energy, it’s time to drop in and connect with baby.

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I feel strong, confident and ready. Connecting with you in early labor feels sweet. You are gentle, patient and peaceful. No intense emotions or feelings of being rushed. While I kept on expecting those and almost calling those in, I am grateful this is not how you are doing this right now baby. I am eager to meet you my love. We got this. We are working together and in harmony. I love you.

 

After this little focused moment of drinking and journaling, things started picking up. I let my midwives know that it is almost time, and I get to work. I walk and dance in order for gravity to work with me. I hum with each contraction and invite baby to drop. I don’t rush. I allow baby to set the pace and I allow myself to get taken by the pace of each contraction. My biggest work here is to fully surrender and relax as much as possible in to each contraction so that baby can do it’s thing. I stay on my feet as much as I can as gravity will help baby to drift downward more easily. Baby is doing most of the work here and I am supporting that as much as I can. I manage to step out of my own way and I surrender. That is my biggest work right here, right now. I have stopped wanting to rush the process yet a part of me wonders if this will be a long birth as everything feels so….peaceful. I keep on expecting things to feel so intense and draining. But it never really gets there. The contractions hurt, and they demand my attention and focus, and as soon as they are over I am able to be fully present to the outside world, not too caught up in my active recovery. This is a new way of laboring for me. I am aware of what is going on around me. I feel when Kekaula, my 5 yr old boy, comes to me and comforts me. I hear Tika, my 9 yr old daughter, and respond to her when she asks me if I need anything. I feel it when Leif, my husband, and Jolan, my 3 yr old son, come and use the tuning fork on my sacrum when the contractions feel very intense. The tuning fork helps so much in managing my pain.

 

Kristin, my doula and dear friend, arrives. She looks beautiful in her white dress with large green feathers. Festive and radiant. What a gorgeous gift to get to see her during this beautiful and physically painful and demanding time. She sprays me with some delicate essences and puts a cold cloth on my neck. I didn’t know I needed that until she did it. It’s the little things.

 

I keep dancing and walking around. Going to Leif for a few support contractions. In all honesty, I like laboring alone. I don’t feel the need to have Leif physically supporting me during the pain. It’s nice when he does yet I don’t seek it out or demand it. It’s almost easier to focus my attention on the work when I am at it alone. I go back to the ball on the ground. My favorite place to be for most of the hard labor. Nancy, my midwife, arrives close to 12pm. Kara, my other midwife, shortly after. I can smell Kristin’s amazing cooking coming from the kitchen. Ghee and onions. Something tasty is being created for us. I am laboring hard by then, yet still present and peaceful. This labor is so different from the others. I am grateful and a part of me still doubts. If things don’t pick up, can our baby be born soon? Is labor supposed to feel so sweet, so serene, so…..perfect?

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I throw up. Ok! I am transitioning! If I had any doubts about it before, I know myself in labor and throwing up is a sign that my cervix is opening up even more and I am moving in to the next phase of labor. And yet. This baby is not intense. This baby is not rushing me. This baby is not demanding of my energy or attention. Its is doing its thing and asking the bare minimum from me. In labor, the bare minimum is still a lot, but this my fourth time, it feels so simple and beautiful almost. Kekaula comes to me often with gentle touches and rubs. He is so sweet, and caring, and thoughtful. His energy quiet and loving. I am so grateful for his presence.

 

I feel the baby drop. The pain has moved from my belly and upper womb space to my pelvis and lower abdomen. And the pain is getting more sharp. It’s going to be time soon. My moans are becoming longer, more focused, more intense. And yet. I’ve experienced such excruciating pain in previous labors, is this all this is going to be? I mean it HURTS, and I want it to be over soon, yet I feel like it could hurt so much more. Or have my pain management skills improved since the last birth?

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“Aurore, do you want to get in the water?” Nancy asks. “YES”. I had been wanting to go in yet a part of me was worried that getting in too early would slow things down. I wanted to get in the water when it was really time to push. And it was time. Baby was ready, I was ready, the midwives were ready. It was going to happen soon. And I was grateful.

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The water is warm and I immediately feel better being in it. But the pool is uncomfortable. We got a cheap kid pool off Amazon because I couldn’t find an inflatable birthing tub for rent and I didn’t want the aqua doula. I was slightly regretting it then. I couldn’t get comfortable as my butt was at the bottom of the pool, making contact with a too hard surface: the ground below me. I couldn’t let my body keep opening the way it needed to for the baby to come out. I try to relax. I can feel Kekaula putting his hand on my heart and keeping it there. Giving me his love and strength as I work hard to get his sibling here. Jolan follows suit and gently touches my face. While I am loving the comfort from my boys I am having a hard time getting comfortable and allowing for contractions to really do their work. We try putting a towel under my bum but that doesn’t’ really do enough. I try to have a few more contractions and invite the baby to keep descending but it’s clear that my favored birthing position won’t work here. I flip over on to me knees, allow for my face to rest on the side of the pool and after a couple contractions there I know it’s time. I start to push. It hurts. I am not a fan of this position but it’s what I have to work with right now. I bear down again and push. I put my hand on my vagina to feel if the head is close. It is. I hear Nancy confirm that. Everyone is in position. Baby is coming. It’s all up to me now. Baby has done it’s part, now it’s all up to me in how long it will take for the baby to actually be born, it’s all in the pushing now. I know this. How hard I push, combined with how much I allow myself to OPEN will be the answer to how quickly we meet our baby. So I push. HARD. I try to ignore the sensation that my anus is turning inside out and about to be ripped off. I feel the head. I hear the voices telling me they see the head. “The head! It’s not all the way out Aurore, one more push.” I push hard and I feel the head completely clear. That took so much out of me. “You are safe, you got this, you are safe”. Kara’s voice in my ear as she hugs my head. I guess the effort this is requiring is being witnessed. It’s not just how I feel, I am actually working really hard to push this baby out. “One more push Aurore, you got this!”. It’s all up to me now. I can get this over with now if I choose. SO I PUSH. And I let out a warrior cry. And I reach down with one hand as the baby slips out of me and is being handed to me from between my legs. It’s done. I did it. WE did it. This was the hardest push of all 4 babies. But it was quick. And it’s over. I am so relieved. I lay back with relief and exhaustion and happiness. “It’s a girl! Is it a girl?” I lift the baby up off my chest. It’s a girl! Welcome sweet face!!!

 

It’s over. Well almost. Maconium is all around me in the tub. I need to get out. I can’t sit in here and deliver the placenta unfortunately. I need to go on the floor mattress. It’s those last little efforts once the baby is out that feel so incredibly demanding. Getting on the mattress is such a feat of strength. As I get out of the tub I feel a gush down my legs. “Ewwww! She’s pooping!” I hear the kids. Brown liquid all over me. Maconium in my waters. A lot of it. This is why you came early my little doll. It wasn’t safe for you in there anymore. Thank you for coming early and keeping yourself safe.

 

Once on the couch it took you minutes to find my nipple and you wanted to stay there for the first few hours post birth. It was so sweet and nice to see you latch on so easily and effortlessly and eagerly. Breastfeeding is a breeze with you. We lay peacefully together on the mattress as I birth the placenta and final birthing details happen (Did I tear? No. How is my blood pressure? Good. Do I have a fever? No.)

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Now I get to take a brief shower while the midwives check you out and make sure all is good with you too and then I get to snuggle with you in bed for a whole week.

 

I love birthing. I love the process, I love the outcome and I love the post birth week. It’s the sweetest week I ever experience. Falling in love with a new being, spending hours looking at her quickly changing features. Figuring out her cues and sounds and signs. The post birth week is one of my favorite weeks ever.

 

Welcome Haumea.

 

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Reflecting on this birth as well as all my other births, here are the things I wish to share.

From my own experience, the way a baby comes in to the world is somewhat of an indication of who this baby is. Who I am in pregnancy, is also an indication of who this baby is. From the moment conception happens, our energies are blended and we influence each other. By looking back on who I was with each pregnancy and how each labor went, and then seeing who my 3 older children are, that information is very relevant to me. I can describe my mood in pregnancy followed with my experience of labor with each child and explain how those impressions are present in each one of my children.

 

Being able to discern where my energy ends, where baby’s begins and where we are blended is something that came with practice and lots of awareness. I was too young and stuck in my ego with my first child to be aware of those things. It’s upon looking back that I became aware of the details and started paying attention in following pregnancies. With each consecutive pregnancy I became more fluent with this understanding and pregnancy became increasingly more spiritual and meaningful.

While this last birth was not the shortest, it was by far the sweetest. And I can say with certainty that the reason for that is because of who I was bringing in to the world and because of who I am at this point in my life. The increased awareness that baby does the work in labor and my job is to step out of the way really helped my body open and soften the way it needed to. Allowing for sweetness to take over. Because as soon as I regarded the labor pains as the actual work and effort that baby was doing to get here, instead of the dreadful experience that is unavoidable in birth, I became so much more accepting of and even touched by the contractions as I was seeing them as an expression of my baby. And instead of wishing the contractions away or struggling through them, I would softly speak to my baby, encouraging her and supporting her as I knew this was an effort for her as well. Isn’t that a sweet reminder of what parenting is all about? Releasing control and stepping out of the way of our children so they can do the work they came here to do, and just support them as best as we can in their endeavors.

 

I’ve always loved labor. I know it sounds kind of crazy but I do love labor. I like seeing how far my body will go, how much I can stretch my physical comfort zone. I like the feeling of working with my baby to allow for it to be born. I like the deep commitment it takes to be fully present with the experience. I like the meditative state that is required to labor naturally at home. I like paying attention to the phases of labor and how I manage myself in each of those. I love how much of a spiritual experience it can be when I allow myself to soften and have contact with spirit instead of being stuck in my pain.  And I really love the feeling of my baby coming out of me, the actual birthing part. There is nothing like the sensation of having life literally come out of me.

I was made for this. My body responds to pregnancy and birth in a way that makes it that I cannot deny that I was meant for this. And I am so incredibly grateful that I got to do this 4 times.

 

 

 Ceremonial Hot Chocolate Recipe:

(I got this recipe from a beautiful book “The First 40 Days, the art of nourishing the new mother”)

*2 cups milk of choice (I use homemade almond milk)

*3 TBS cacao powder

*1 TBS corn meal (for added thickness and texture)

*1 TBS coconut oil or ghee

*1 tsp cinnamon

*dash of cayenne (optional)

*sprinkle of seal salt (optional)

*sweetener to taste, I used about 2 tsp honey

Warm the milk in a saucepan. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until everything is well incorporated. Drink warm.

This gave me some good sustenance for my laboring hours. And when I threw it all up, the coming back out part wasn’t too unpleasant as the flavors were so potent! Sorry if this is TMI, this is a birth story after all…. 😉

 

Healing Golden Tea

No, this is not another web recipe for the famous golden milk. This recipe was created purely in the hopes of healing me from sickness.

I very rarely get sick. Every couple years maybe less? I do get a runny nose or a cough at times, but that’s not really being sick. Being sick is when I cannot take care of my household or anything else because my energy is so low and I just need to rest and take care of myself. Being sick for me is when something is so physically uncomfortable that I need to retreat and put the only energy I have towards healing.

That’s what happened on sunday. Thankfully it was on a sunday where my husband was home and we had nothing planned, so I could just set up the living room as an ongoing movie theater and let myself melt in the couch.

When I get sick I do two things: I cut out most foods and I drink PLENTY of liquids. I try to make those liquids relevant to what I am feeling in the moment. This is where this tea came in. I needed something that felt healing, while providing some quality nutrients to help assist my immune system in fighting what I had. What I had was a very sore throat that led up to my ear and create a lot of pain there as well. The left side of my neck and ear were swollen to the point of creating pressure in my head. I didn’t have any mucus so I didn’t want to consume too much heating foods such as garlic. Which is my go to for runny noses and colds. It felt like an infection so I treated it as such.

Lemon Peel: it has all the same vitamins as lemon juice but 5 to 10 times more potent. In my case I used it because it helps against bacterial infections as well as overgrowth of parasites. If I did have an infection, this will help lower it. For a sore throat you can chew on some lemon peel without swallowing it for 5-10 minutes, kinda like gum. I make sure to use organic for this.

Turmeric: helps fight inflammation, increases immune system strength amongst many other things. But those two I mentioned are the reason I used it.

Coconut oil: It helps the body absorb turmeric as it is fat soluble. And also since I was barely eating, it felt good to have a tiny bit of fat in my system.

Ginger: anti-inflamatory, as well as helps lower infections. It’s warming and improves circulation. Good for upset stomachs and digestion.

Mint leaves: helps soothe headaches as well as alleviate inflammation. It has germicidal qualities that help keep bacteria in the mouth under control. And it tastes good 🙂

 

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lemon, with peel on
  • 1/2 to a whole lemon juice
  • 1 large chunk of ginger, the size of a knuckle about
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 5-10 mint leaves
  • dash of himalayan pink salt or any other good salt as long as it’s not table salt
  • Large spoonful of raw local honey, raw is important here, you don’t want to use honey that has been heated as it looses all of it’s nutritional value.
  • 3 cups hot water

 

Steps:

  • put everything in a blender and blend on high until everything is very well combined
  • pour in a thermos and sip throughout the day.

 

I made the is the first day I felt something was coming on and after the first sip I said to my husband: “This tastes like it’s going to heal me”. Not in a bad way, in a potent and delicious way. I very much enjoyed drinking this and made myself one last batch this morning just to be sure. My kids happily drank some as well. We tend to all take medicine when person is sick. Since everything we take at my house is all plant based and usually home made, there are no side effects of taking those while healthy.

 

I really do think that drinking this helped a huge deal in my speedy recovery. 24 hours later and I was already ready to eat again. While I only stuck to soups and fruits to ease back in to “normal living”, I felt good enough to eat.

For other natural home remedies that I have used and liked check out these recipes:

Cough Suppressant

Immunity Boosting Tincture

Multi Vitamins for kids

 

What home remedies do you use when you are feeling under the weather?

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Chocolate Cheesecake (raw, vegan)

Luscious, creamy, rich and delicious, this cake was my birthday present to myself. I have somewhat taken on the raw dessert queen role in my community and I take great pleasure in creating cakes and raw treats for friends birthdays. The time and money it can take to create one of these desserts is a true labor of love. And because I have taken on that role, I rarely get treated by someone else making me one of these desserts. So for my birthday, I made my own cake, because I prefer raw vegan desserts, and because I love myself 🙂

I do not make these desserts too often anymore but when I do I put all my heart into them and this one reflected that in it’s beautiful flavor combinations.

Don’t let the extensive list of ingredients scare you off, this cheesecake is worth every single bite!!

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Sorry for the poor photograph. This cheesecake came out of the fridge right before serving to a bunch of friends and I didn’t take that time to take a better picture of the whole cake. 

 

 

Ingredients: Makes one 10 inch cake

Crust:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 6-8 TBS raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup pitted soft dates (medjool are my favorites for this)
  • pinch of salt
  •  2 TBS water

Steps:

  • put all ingredients but water in food processor and blend until well combined but still loose, not formed into a sticky ball
  • while the food processor is running, scant some water until it starts to get a tiny bit sticky. You might not need both TBS. If you used very sticky dates you might not need to do this.
  • press this mixture at the bottom of springform pan that you have lined with wax paper. This will make taking out the cake at the end much easier.

 

Filling:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours or 30 minutes on hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used cashew milk because I had made some, but any other non dairy milk will work)
  • 2 cups frozen cherries
  • 2 TBS beet powder (optional, I used this to deepen the color)
  • 3/4 cup raw agave or any other liquid sweetener
  • 1 TBS lucuma (optional, I just really like the flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut cream (the thick stuff from the can or if you can, get fresh young coconut meat!)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 TBS soy lecithin

 

Steps:

  • put all ingredients except coconut cream, coconut oil and lecithin in a blender and blend on high until very creamy
  • add the rest and keep blending until well incorporated but do not over blend at this point
  • pour in the pan over the crust
  • put in the freezer for one hour to set then transfer to fridge until ready to eat, about 4 hours. Because I had made it the night before, I put it back in the freezer for 45 minutes before serving. OR make a sauce for the swirls before putting int he freezer.

 

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If you want to add beautiful swirls like I did her is my chocolate sauce recipe. You need to pour this on the cheesecake before putting it in the freezer:

  • 1/2 cup shaved raw cacao butter
  • 1 TBS raw coconut butter
  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 TBS agave

Steps:

  • put everything in a double boiler and melt
  • pour in a easy pouring cup
  • drizzle it over the cake and then take a toothpick or knife to create the designs
  • now put it in the freezer  for one hour to set then transfer to the fridge.

Decorate as you wish and share the love!!!

 

 

 

 

Chai Chocolate Rounds with Candied Ginger

I just really love chai flavors. It’s probably one of the reasons why Indian cuisine is one of my favorites. And you know what I love more than chai? Chocolate!!!! Combining the two was really a no brainer. So here you are friends, my latest chocolate creation, just in time for Valentines Day. Because if you love yourself or someone else, you surely want whats best, and what is better than home made refined sugar free chocolate? I rarely turn down chocolate, even the higher quality store bought one with sugar in it, but if given the choice, I will always go for a home made nutritionally beneficial option.

These little chocolates are so easy to make. I used silicone cupcake molds, but you could use actual chocolate molds, or even an ice cube tray. Just don’t fill that one up to the top unless you want a really thick chocolate!

If chai isn’t your thing, you can always play around with the flavors! Creativity is welcome here 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 100 g. of cacao butter
  • 1/8 cup coconut butter
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp clove powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • dash of himalayan sea salt
  • 2 TBS agave
  • 2-3 TSBP thinly chopped candied ginger (optional, for a pure refined sugar free option) I have made these chocolates with freshly grated ginger and that was tasty also!

Steps:

  • put all ingredients except ginger in a double boiler, or a bowl over a hot pot of water
  • whisk together until all melted and well combined
  • pour in molds, add a few pieces of ginger per mold, and freeze until hard
  • depending on size of molds they can be done in a little as 30 minutes!!!
  • keep in fridge or freezer until ready to eat

 

For some of my other Valentines Inspired recipes click here:

Fudge Balls:

https://anaboreal.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/cherry-cacao-fudge-balls/

Raspberry Ice Cream:

https://anaboreal.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/vegan-raspberry-ice-cream-with-peanut-butter-chocolate/

Pistachio Delight and Nutella Divine:

https://anaboreal.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/pistachio-delight-and-nutella-divine/

Gianduja Chocolates:

https://anaboreal.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/gianduja-chocolate/

 

Cough Suppressant Tea

So simple and so effective. I had a cough lingering for a little over a week. Any thing that lingers for over 24 hours has overstayed it’s welcome. And I take serious action to get back to my fully functioning self.

I went on a field trip with my gardening class to a local farm and as we were walking through the orchard and admiring all the fruit trees my teacher starts talking about the Loquat tree and the healing properties of the leaves. As soon as he said “it is known to help alleviate coughs”, I grabbed a few leaves and asked him how to prepare it. As soon as I got home I made a batch and within a couple days of drinking my cough was completely gone! Not that I am surprised that nature works so well, I am just continuously amazed at the simplicity of healing myself naturally.

So I am sharing this with you, in case you believe in the power of nature as well and you can get your hands on some loquat leaves!

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Loquat leaves have this fuzz underneath them. You need to rub that off gently as it would be unpleasant to drink it.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large loquat leaves, fresh or dried
  • 5 cups water

 

Steps:

  • rub the fuzz off the leaves
  • chop up in large pieces
  • add to 5 cups of boiling water
  • simmer for 5 minutes with a lid on
  • let it cool
  • strain
  • drink a small cup 3 times a day until the cough is gone!

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I found the tea to be a subtle and pleasant flavor. Very easy to drink. You could add fresh lemon and honey to add to the benefits of healing, but I found it effective and tasty as is.