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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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.