Mother’s Day for Women Who Are Not Mothers

pic of woman with ballonsI am in my late 30s and I am not a mother. Many beautiful, amazing, successful women I know are also not mothers for various reasons. Some of us hope to be moms one day, some of us are very happy without children, and some of us are not sure about motherhood. Some are actively trying to become a mom but they have fertility issues and the gods have not decided that it’s time.

For those of us who are not mothers, Mother’s Day can just be another day or it may be really difficult and painful or it might just be annoying: Why don’t we have a day to celebrate our contributions to the world and receive a brunch discount?

If you’re having a tough go of it, consider the possibility of turning this day upside down. It may be easier said than done, especially if life without a child is not a choice and you feel a void. Women are more than our children though. We have value beyond the human babies we may or may not produce. We birth an infinite number of beautiful, magical, important things in this world. Consider treating this day as an opportunity to honor other parts of your creative self and nourish your yin (feminine energy). Here are three ideas:

  1. Express your creativity—cook, paint, sculpt, write, dance, play music, or just consciously and with awareness BE yourself in the world— however loudly or quietly you are comfortable with. Generate with intention today.
  2. Be sexy. Whether you have a partner or not, buy yourself some lingerie or a special toy, run errands commando-style, dance naked in your living room, share a fantasy with a lover—whatever activates your pleasure center.
  3. Sleep late and have a lazy morning. This is something people with children in the house are generally not able to do. Take advantage of your ability to wake up whenever the f*k you want. Find ways to relax and even revel in your bed. Make it luxurious.

From the Garden: Dandelion Greens

Foraged edible dandelion flowers and greens in bowlMay marks the beginning of fresh greens season in the Northeast, and top on the list of nutrient-rich, super foods are dandelion greens. Rich in calcium and iron, Vitamins A & K, amongst many other nutrients, they can be helpful for restoring minerals during and after your period. Herbalists recommend drinking an infusion of dandelion greens starting in the third trimester of pregnancy to increase milk production. Dandelion greens also deep clean the liver, they are a diuretic and are used to break up kidney stones, and they regulate blood sugar so they are great additions to a spring detox.

This super food has a bitter bite that can be mellowed by combining the leaves with something a bit richer, like nuts, or something sweeter, like beets.

To eat, wash the leaves and cut off the bottom stems, then mix some of them raw into a rich basil pesto or your favorite salad mix, sauté them lightly with your favorite healthy oil and garlic, use them instead of spinach in cooked dishes, or incorporate them into your morning juice.

 

 

Transitioning Off of Chemical Birth Control Methods

Contraceptive pill blister pack hanging from line on pink backgroundMany people find natural birth control methods to be effective but chemical birth control methods that contain hormones (what I’ll call CBCMs in this blog) save the day for many women. This includes birth control pills, IUDs with hormones, the ring, and the Depo Provera shot, which afford women and their partners many benefits and freedoms. That said, women’s bodies change because of CBCMs and we become dependent on them. When we go off of CBCMs, our bodies experience a kind of withdrawal and it can take up to about a year for the body to figure out its natural cycle again. The effect of this transition varies for each person but common negative symptoms include weight gain, bloating, acne, erratic emotions, missed periods, and spotting. On the upside, many women say their sex drive increases and they have more energy.

Here are a few tips to help ease your transition but above all, be gentle with yourself and your body:

1. Let people close to you know what’s up so they can be understanding and compassionate if they end up on the receiving end of your rant or cry-fest.

2. Increase dark leafy greens like turnip greens and spinach, asparagus, beets, citrus, ground flax seeds, and beans and legumes such as lentils and pinto beans. Many studies show that CBCMs can deplete some nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, and zinc so you may be going into your transition with a deficit already. This makes you more vulnerable to emotional spikes and inflammation. You may experience more energy after going off of CBCMs because your body is better absorbing these nutrients so focus on foods with these particular minerals and vitamins and take advantage of the opportunity to replenish your supply.

3. Be kind to your liver. Hormones are processed through the liver which acts like a traffic cop for hormones—it directs hormones to different places. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and experiencing a lot of stress can cause kerfuffle in this vital organ, slow down your transition or increase the severity of symptoms.

4. Reduce or cut out sugars. Sugar produces hormones, such as insulin, that can mess with your other hormones. Give your sex hormones extra space to figure themselves out by staying away from sweets including fruits, processed flours (i.e. anything that is not a whole grain), yeast-products including beer, and all other alcohol. In addition, the pH in your vagina changes when you go off of CBCMs and you may be susceptible to yeast infections which thrive on sugars. Especially if your sex drive increases, cut out those cookies and keep your honeypot free and clear for more fun things than yeasties. 😉 (If you do fall prey to a yeast infection, check out Curing That Not-So-Fresh Feeling for all natural remedies. )

5. Tone your uterus with herbs such as red raspberry leaf and dong quai. Your reproductive system may be really confused but red raspberry and dong quai contain properties that particularly support your womb, enrich the lining, and blood flow. They are particularly great if you are not getting your period. If you don’t have an acupuncturist, herbalist, or naturopath who can advise you, Yogi Tea company makes a Women’s Moon Cycle tea as well as a Women’s Energy tea that are great and have each helped me bring on my period many times.

Nurturing New Mamas So They Can Nurture Their Babies

cooking grandmaThose of you who are pregnant are each doing something that to me is the most powerful, magical thing a human being can possibly do. You are making another human being!! That is mind blowing. It takes blood, water, hormones, minerals of all kinds, and just the right mix of environmental and psychological efforts to make that happen. Everything your body has to give is given to this project—to grow the human and then birth it… Amazing!

Whether you have a Cesarean or a vaginal birth, your body is at its most powerful when you birth that baby. And like many superheroes, after you do that, your body is incredibly depleted. It has just been through a tsunami on top of a hurricane on top of a tidal wave. Your nutrients are depleted, hormones and organs are all over the place, you’re exhausted not just from that but from the new little one who’s now out in the world, completely reliant on you, and on its own, unpredictable schedule. But there is a huge gaping hole in the American medical community and in our culture for new mama support during this time. It is shocking to me how little we do as a society to nurture these superheroes amongst us.

In many communities around the world, new mothers are taken care of by the community. The pregnant woman moves into her mother’s house during her last trimester, or vice versa, or elders and other people in the community create a bubble around the women: they simmer bone broths for days on end, give oil massages to help expel remaining fluid and stimulate circulation, they clean the new mother’s home, watch her other children… A new mother’s body, home, and spirit are cared for so that she can care for her baby and ride the inherently bumpy waves that come with the transition from pregnancy to motherhood.

The American medical industry however has become a factory and even doctors who are interested in supporting women during the postpartum period are not taught these tools in medical school. In addition, people are no longer taught the traditions of their ancestors, family members live far away or have work obligations or too few resources to step up in the way that people in other parts of the world do. One of the primary reasons I founded Wooden Spoon Wellness is to fill this gap through one-on-one coaching, Healthy Mama Baby Showers, cooking classes, health food market tours, and, when necessary, personal catering. My aim however is to put myself out of this business and equip communities with time-tested, natural tools that people around the world have used for generations to better support new mamas. This will require radical cultural shifts but I believe it is possible.

 

Holistic Approaches to Fibroids

Girl practicing meditation,with mandala on the backgroundHow many of you have had a fibroid or know someone who has had at least one? According to a 2010 study by the National Institute of Health, 8 out of 10 black women and 7 out of 10 other women will develop at least one of these noncancerous tumors during their childbearing years. While fibroids do not always present problems and doctors do not recommend treatment for many people, this is an alarming frequency. Fibroids can be a major issue. They can contribute to fertility problems, very heavy periods, and abnormal bleeding during pregnancy leading to anemia. They can grow and press on organs leading to bladder infections and severe constipation. They are also used as a reason to perform C-sections instead of vaginal births. Many people are able to live with fibroids without problems and sometimes they shrink or go away on their own, particularly after menopause. These tumors are unpredictable though and little is known about their origins or their progress so many women live in fear. From a holistic standpoint, what can be done?

While the precise reason for fibroids is unknown according to Western medicine, connections have been found between fibroids and high levels of estrogen so treatment plans tend to include ways to regulate hormones, ensure proper estrogen absorption, and cleansing the body of excess estrogen. Herbs, exercise, yoga and massage have been helpful for people in toning the uterus and moving stagnation. Some recommend removing plastics that contain estrogen-producing substances. [1]  Diet is believed to be able to help as well:

  1. Reduce or cut out foods that inflame your system: all sugars and processed grains. This includes white sugar, corn syrup, white rice, white flour and even supposed “whole grain” products that most often still contain white flour. When in doubt check the ingredients. They all lead to spikes to your blood sugar and cause inflammation throughout the body. Caffeine, alcohol, and drugs also lead to inflammation and, especially if your body is already inflamed from stress, your other hormones, such as estrogen, go out of whack and you produce even more inflammatory chemicals thus feeding the fibroid. [2]
  2. Be sure to eat a lot of fiber and astringent foods each day– vegetables, dark, leafy, and bitter greens, herbs, and legumes. These help cleanse the intestines and help the liver eliminate excess estrogen. [3]
  3. Eliminate from your diet foods with hormones. Eat meat, eggs, and dairy products from organic sources or at least sources that do not use growth enhancers. [4]
  4. Eat foods that contain phytoestrogens which are compounds that come from plants that block estrogen. This includes flax seeds, sesame seeds, and legumes. [5]

Holistic approaches consider other influences as well. Fibroids are the manifestation of excess according to Ayurvedic medicine [6] and qi (energy) stagnation according to traditional Chinese medicine. [7] Practitioners of these healing methods look at various aspects of your life when treating fibroids. For example, these are some things they might consider: The bodily functions and spaces that are meant to support your creativity are feeding and supporting something that does not serve you–are there other areas of your life where you are holding onto and potentially even feeding something that does not serve you such as a behavior, an idea, or a memory? Another way to think about this is that a process that would normally be routine, regular, cleansing (your menstrual cycle) is more intense than it would normally be– are there other areas of your life that are messy, unpredictable, cluttered that could use a good cleansing as well? This could mean letting go of past experiences, cleaning your home space or office, creating order in your calendar, visualizing space in your life and in your womb, etc.

This is certainly not to say that if you have a fibroid you have brought this on yourself or that letting go of past issues will fully heal you. Rather these Eastern approaches treat the mind and the body as a whole and believe that one cannot be healed without the other.

Ultimately, a good acupuncturist or Ayurvedic practitioner, in consultation with your doctor, can help you address your specific case and create a comprehensive plan tailored to your particular situation.


[1] Hethir Rodriguez, “The Best Natural Remedies for Uterine Fibroids,” Natural-Fertility-Info.com; Poliquin Group Editorial Staff, “10 Ways to Lower Toxic Estrogen Load,” PoliquinGroup.com, 1/25/12.

[3] Rodriguez.

[4] Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom 125.

[5] Poliquin Group Editorial Staff.

Curing That Not-So-Fresh Feeling…

Enjoyment - free happy woman enjoying sunset4 natural ways to stave off an emerging yeast infection:

  1. Reduce your sugar intake or better yet, cut it out altogether. This means all sugars including fruit and alcohol. Sugars feed the yeasties and help them multiply. You’ll do yourself a huge favor by turning down that mojito or piece of mango…
  2. Eat 1-5 Tablespoons of virgin coconut oil each day. Coconut oil is a powerful anti-fungal and the fatty acids it contains disrupt the cellular structure of the Candida (yeast).
  3. Use a cleansing suppository. Suppositories can help bring back a normal pH to your inner environment and make it inhospitable to unhelpful bacteria. Vitanica’s Yeast Arrest is a great homeopathic insert that can be found on Amazon. You will want to wear a pad for a few days, changing the pad regularly. While these magic bullets help return your hoo hah to the honeypot it is meant to be, note that it may weaken some birth control methods, such as condoms, for 24 to 48 hours after it clears your system.
  4. Yogurt, not to eat. If you are experiencing itching or burning, yogurt can help. Buy a plain, full fat one with several probiotics listed in the ingredients, such as L. acidophilis, L. bulgaricus, and bifidus. Do not buy one with sugar. Smear the yogurt to best of your ability all over being sure to put on a pad and cotton underwear you don’t care about afterward. I typically apply before going to bed, leave it on overnight and rinse immediately in the morning. Reapply as necessary.

PMS: Managing the Body’s Preparation for Cleansing

Woman with stomach issuesStress and busy times can exacerbate your bodies’ preparation for menstrual cleansing and spark emotional and physical roller coasters. However, certain foods can help calm PMS symptoms.

In addition to cutting out processed foods that inflame cell walls, food rich in Vitamin A, Omega 3 fatty acids, and iron can balance your hormones. One hard-boiled egg a day for example, provides Vitamin A and essential fatty acids. They are also really easy to make and can last in your bag for several hours if you’re on the go. Delicious on their own, with a little salt, or if you want to spice it up Moroccan-style, dip the egg in salt and cumin powder. The cumin provides iron that is helpful to integrate into your diet in advance of the iron loss you will sustain during your period.

If you do not eat eggs or want to switch it up, try a sweet potato. One medium size sweet potato contains over 400% times the recommended daily value of Vitamin A and has twice the amount of calcium as a regular potato.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds which are packed with B vitamins, magnesium which helps absorb calcium, iron, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or cultured butter and a pinch of salt for a delicious breakfast or side dish.