Postpartum Healing

I’ve wanted to take the time to sit down and write an entire blog post devoted to postpartum healing and recovery since I gave birth back in September. My body continues to amaze me every day with all that it has been through over the last 15 months and all it continues to do to help feed and nurture my son all while healing itself.

Birth is such a magical experience, but it does take a toll on our bodies. Not only do we need to recover physically, we also need to make sure we are mentally and emotionally recovering. I wanted to share a few of the steps I took to let my body heal itself naturally during the first few weeks postpartum.

Thanks to some wonderful advice from my amazing midwife and doula, I think my body healed very nicely.  I do want to point out that I am not a medical professional and it’s important for you to talk with your doctor or midwife to find what your body needs. What works for me might not work for, or even be healthy, for you!

Healing Physically

While my birth was an all-natural, non-medicated home birth, I did end up having a few set-backs that were not in my birth plan. I ended up having to be catheterized and I had an episiotomy that required suturing (I talk more about that in Ellis’ birth story). Due to these things my body was more prone to infection after birth, so my midwife suggested a lot of natural supplements I could take to make sure my body stayed healthy and healed properly.

As soon as my baby was born and in my arms, my midwife wanted me to eat something. I wasn’t hungry, but did as she said and ate a little something right away. Next thing I knew my husband and my birth team were taking turns getting me to sip various different drinks and take tinctures.

The first thing I was offered to drink was a homemade labor aid I had made ahead of time mixed with liquid chlorophyll. I was also given blue cohosh tea and cotton root bark right after Ellis was born. One was in the form of tea, the other a tincture.

Here’s a quick look at everything I’ve been taking to help my body heal naturally:

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  • Liquid Chlorophyll — My midwife recommended I have a 16oz bottle of liquid chlorophyll on hand for after the birth. Liquid Chlorophyll is known to build red blood cells and can help speed the healing of wounds. I lost a lot of blood during labor (half a quart is normal for a vaginal birth, I lost at least twice that much) and my midwife said I handled it very well. She recommended that I drink the whole bottle by the end of the week. Brendan mixed it into orange juice for me, and I drank that three times a day.

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  • Arnica — To help with the pain of cramps and bruising, I took 3 small tablets of Arnica every 4 hours. I had a bit of internal bruising and had some slight cramping of the uterus while nursing, so the Arnica was a homeopathic medicine to relieve that.
  • Motherwort Tincture — A Motherwort tincture by the brand Wish Garden was included in our home birth kit. I took this tincture to help with the cramping of my uterus, and it also helped with mood swings due to hormone imbalance. I took half a dropper full of this tincture a couple of times a day. I simply held the tincture under my tongue for 30 seconds and then swallowed. After I finished this tincture I started taking a Baby Blues tincture by Wish Garden, which has Motherwort and St. John’s Wort.
  • Vitamin C — There’s a lot that goes on in the body right after birth, that’s for sure. To make sure my immune system stayed strong and healthy, my midwife recommended I take 3,000mg of vitamin C a day. This was especially supposed to help keep my immune system functioning properly so I didn’t catch any illnesses.
  • Garlic — Garlic has natural antiviral properties and helps to strengthen the immune system to keep illness at bay. My midwife told me that I could eat foods cooked with garlic cloves, but I knew that I wouldn’t be in the kitchen with a newborn, so I opted for the garlic in supplement form and took that 3 times a day.
  • Goldenseal Root — Goldenseal Root is used for internal bleeding, bleeding after childbirth, and vaginal pain and swelling. My midwife had me take this 2 times a day.
  • Echinacea — My midwife told me to take an Echinacea supplement 3x a day for 5 days. This was to help strengthen my immune system so that I didn’t get sick.
  • Phytolacca Decandra — My milk came in 3 days after I had Ellis. My breasts were so swollen and engorged during those first few days and it was very uncomfortable. I have a lymph node on my underarm that is very sensitive to hormone imbalance and will become swollen when things aren’t right in my body. When my milk came in my lymph node became swollen right along with my breasts. My midwife recommended that I use a warm compress on it and also for me to take Phytolacca Decandra to help with the swelling and draining of the lymph node. Thankfully my local health food store had it on hand!

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  • Herbal Sitz Bath — An afterbirth herbal sitz bath from the brand Lucy’s Garden was included in our home birth kit. My midwife recommended that I get a sitz bath that I could put on the toilet and use. I took a sitz bath 2x a day for 15 minutes.

Aside from the above, I did lots of resting, iced my perineum using frozen maxi pads that had aloe vera and witch hazel or raw coconut oil on them, and I used a natural cooling perineum spray by Earth Mama Organics.

The only non-natural things I used for my healing were an over-counter numbing agent my midwife used when she did my sutures, and then I think I took 2 ibuprofen within the first couple days of giving birth for the swelling. And that’s it. No epidural, no IVs, no numbing perineum spray, etc.

Brendan took such good care of me in the first two weeks after having Ellis. He cooked for me, did laundry, changed so many diapers, brewed my herbal sitz baths every day, made sure I was keeping up with all of my supplements, fixed my chlorophyll orange juice, and made sure I was eating and drinking enough water.

I think we mamas underestimate how important it is to simply rest and let our bodies heal after giving birth. I followed my midwife’s advice and stayed inside and didn’t drive for 2 weeks. If you are able to stay home and have someone care for you during the first 2 weeks (or the first month) after giving birth please do so! In doing so you’ll be able to give your baby the attention they need while also giving your body time to recover. Take this time to focus on healing and getting to know and bond with your baby.

 

 

 

Hormone Balance and Enhancing My Fertility Naturally

Written: 2/13/2018

It wasn’t until mid-summer last year that I felt the first true signs of what people call “baby fever”. Up until that point, I hadn’t felt the desire to have children and I was content with just being married and sharing my life with Brendan. Of course, I wanted children one day, but we were both content to enjoy our lives together in our small downtown apartment. Every time we would see screaming, crying kids out in public we would both look at each other and say “We’re not ready for that”. But somewhere over the course of the summer I felt a shift in my body and my mindset.

I had already been reading books on modern maternity care and I had been following several bloggers who were first time mothers, and I found myself dreaming of what it would be like to be pregnant and carrying a babe of my own some day. Once the desire to become pregnant started to flourish, I decided it was time to take my health to the next level and focus on balancing my hormones and naturally boosting my fertility.

Doing the Research 

It was actually around the same time last summer that I dealt with a lot of strange and sudden bouts of anxiety, and hormone imbalance. There were days when I stressed about my body, weighing more than I wanted to, and having anxiety attacks over the foods I was eating. I also dealt with stress due to work and just generally being unhappy with what I was doing. I even had a hive-like rash at one point that covered my entire body for a whole week. I never determined whether the rash was caused by stress, consuming too much soy, or a combination of the two because I didn’t go to see a doctor. But, I had done some reading on how too much soy can affect estrogen levels in the body and cause hormone imbalances. Anyway, I was feeling low on energy, stressed out, and just unhappy. So I decided to put my focus on hormone balance, which was the first step towards boosting my fertility.

I read Woman Code by Alisa Vitti and it was so eye opening. This book teaches women how they can balance their hormones and enhance fertility naturally without having to take a pill that’s packed with synthetic hormones that just mask symptoms of PMS and create a sort of synthetic menstrual cycle. I have never taken birth control pills and I never will, but this book was about so much more than just simply coming off the pill.

In addition to learning about what foods we can eat during each phase of our moon cycle, or menstrual cycle, this book opened my eyes to how harmful chemical-based cleaning products can be on our bodies and how they can disrupt our endocrine system.

Purging My Home of Chemicals 

Since the beginning of 2017, I had already slowly been incorporating more natural, chemical-free cleaning products into our home. But reading this book just gave me the extra push to really get serious about it and get rid of every toxic cleaning product I owned.

I have now successfully switched over to using natural hand soaps in the kitchen and bathroom, natural dish washing liquid, natural dish washer detergent, natural soaps and shampoos, natural tooth paste, natural lotion, natural antibacterial cleaners, natural glass cleaner, natural toilet bowl cleaner, and natural laundry detergent and natural dryer sheets. The products (mostly Seventh Generation) use plant-based materials and essential oils as the cleaning ingredients and are not harmful to people like chemical-based products are.

Fertility Boosting Supplements and Herbs 

In addition to switching to all-natural cleaning products, I cut out soy where I could, and started taking adaptogens like Ashwaghanda, Tulsi, and Maca root powder regularly to help with stress, and I started drinking more fertility boosting herbal teas such as Red Raspberry leaf tea and Nettle tea. I also took Evening Primrose Oil, Vitamin E, and B12 in supplement form to help increase fertility. And by the time autumn rolled around, I was feeling much better, had fewer anxiety attacks, slept better at night, and had less painful periods.

I also downloaded and started using a free cycle syncing app called Flo on my phone to help me track each phase of my period and to mark down any symptoms I had. This allowed me to see patterns that my body went through during each phase of my cycle and helped me better understand what was going on with my body and how to naturally alleviate certain symptoms. And, of course, it allowed me to keep track of when I was ovulating and most fertile.

Timing – Listening to my Body and Trusting God 

With autumn on my doorstep, I was still looking for ways to enhance my fertility and reading up on modern maternity care in anticipation of whenever Brendan and I decided to try getting pregnant. But we still hadn’t talked about it a lot, and I was still feeling a bit unsure as to whether I was ready or not.

Come November I really felt a big shift in my mindset and my body – and all of a sudden all I could think about was getting pregnant and having a baby. I believe this is the sensation that some people refer to as “baby fever”. All of a sudden, my body felt ripe and ready to carry, and my heart had softened towards the idea of children. Brendan and I talked about it a little, and then we talked about it a lot. And we began praying that if we were really ready and the time was right, that God would open my womb and allow us to conceive.

Soon I started thinking of when I wanted to get pregnant and what month I wanted to have a baby. Did I want an autumn baby? Or did I want to wait a bit and have a spring baby? Or what about a lovely summer time babe? I quickly realized that it was silly to get caught up in the planning of when my future baby would come, because God’s timing is perfect and He knew the perfect time for my baby to come. So, after talking and praying about it, Brendan and I decided that we would start trying and we would leave it in God’s hands whether or not we conceived.

Since this was my first time trying to get pregnant, I had no idea whether or not I would get pregnant right away, or if it would take months of trying. But I listened to the signs and signals my body sent to me, and I had a positive feeling that after the first try I was indeed pregnant and that this was God’s perfect timing. And so it was.

I definitely believe that incorporating those fertility boosting supplements, teas, and adaptogens helped prepare my body for carrying a baby. I feel that getting rid of chemical based cleaning products that act as endocrine disrupters helped me too. Will I ever know for sure if these things truly helped boost my fertility? Probably not. But it sure didn’t seem to hurt my ability to get pregnant.