Roasted Dandelion Root Chai

 

Roasted Dandelion Root Chai2Once the leaves start changing colors, I don’t know about you, but I crave warm cups of something starting around 2 o’clock.  In fact, right now, I have so many warming, nourishing drinks on the roster, that I’m thinking of starting a whole series, “2 o’clock Pick Me Ups!” This Roasted Dandelion Root Chai is the perfect thing.   Steeped in raw milk, and sweetened with a little honey, these herbs deliver flavor and nutrition simultaneously.

 

Dandelion Root is a mild, bitter herb, digestive tonic.  Dandelion Root nourishes the liver, an important organ for hormonal production, detoxification, and blood building. 

Dandelion Root is an herb I often use in my midwifery practice. In pregnancy, dandelion root is useful for high blood pressures, swelling, gestational diabetes, and anemia.   Because it is a digestive tonic, warming, and a blood builder, this is a super nourishing drink postpartum as well!!

 

Here are some more uses for Dandelion Root:

  • It increases digestive enzymes, helping to break down our food. Wonderful for people with food sensitivities or allergies, or anyone on the GAPS diet. 
  • This digestive tonic is expert at relieving constipation
  • By helping your body assimilate the iron that is available, and liberating iron stored in the liver, dandelion root is often given to combat anemia as well. 
  • It is a good remedy to stabilize hormonally induced mood swings
  • By supporting the liver, dandelion root also builds blood, thereby strengthening you as you drink it!
  • This is an excellent drink to take for heartburn, the dandelion root  helps the indigestion, the spices stimulate the digestive juices, and the milk cools it down.  The honey, well, the honey just tastes good! 
  • Dandelion root helps with skin issues, itchy, rashy skin calms down with daily ingestion of dandelion root.

Dandelion root IS a bitter, so without changing the properties of that, this recipe briefly roasts the dandelion root to make it slightly less bitter. It’s delicious and lots of people find it an effective substitute for coffee!  All of the herbs and spices can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs

 

Roasted Dandelion Root Chai
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2 parts roasted dandelion root
  2. 1 part cinnamon (sticks or chips)
  3. 1/2 part dried ginger root
  4. 1/2 cardamom pods
  5. 1/2 part star anise
  6. 1-2 cups of whole, fresh milk
  7. Honey to taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the dandelion root on a cast iron skillet. Roast until it turns golden, or you can smell it. About 3 minutes depending on the amount you use.
  2. Crush the rest of the herbs in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Add all herbs to milk.
  4. Gently heat on medium low heat until bubbles begin to form on the top of the milk, or to about 115 degrees.
  5. Remove from heat and strain into mugs.
  6. Add honey to taste.
Adapted from Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality
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Ultrasound: Helpful or Harmful?

UltrasoundSo, it’s all a little abstract, other than the nausea, and maybe some sore breasts, you are still basically feeling like yourself.  You can’t imagine that in a mere 9 months you will balloon out and eventually birth a baby, one with a personality and a destiny all its own. This is when the siren song of the ultrasounds starts calling.  It would make you FEEL pregnant if you could see the baby.  It would make it all real. I remember one mother, frazzled and besought with four children under the age of 7, finding herself pregnant unexpectedly again. In between the meals and meltdowns, she found herself in such anxiety as she anticipated adding a fifth to this already busy household. The finances were tight and there was no family  nearby to help.  She’d never had an ultrasound in any of her other pregnancies.  We weren’t clear about when she conceived, so I  suggested an ultrasound.  That ultrasound was the best medicine for this distraught mother.  Once she saw that little heart, she fell in love.  It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was hers, and that was enough to readjust her mental state. And there have been studies that have shown that women who have ultrasounds in the first trimester not only have a greater degree of attachment to their babies, but also consume less alcoholic drinks! Peeking into the mystery of human gestation is fascinating. It can also be an important tool in certain pregnancies. I’d like you to think about what an ultrasound is, from your baby’s perspective.  Similar to the echolocation system of bats, whales, and dolphins, ultrasound works by sending out high frequency sound waves, which hit the body of your baby, and are reflected back onto the probe.  These sound waves have been recorded to be as loud as a subway train coming into a station, or 100 decibels.  Most ultrasound technicians will tell you anecdotally, that babies do indeed move away from the probe once its placed on the mother’s abdomen. Ultrasounds also generate an intense amount of heat. The amniotic fluid and other affected tissues absorb the energy from the ultrasound which increases the heat in the cells being examined. The fetus has no way to perspire, and so heat can cause trouble with fetuses. Depending on the timing of the heat exposure it can cause growth retardation and developmental defects.   Doctors and midwives frequently caution women against taking hot baths, so why would ultrasounds – which generate more heat than a bath – be repeatedly used? Frequent ultrasound has been associated with an increase in left-handedness amongst males, which by itself is inconsequential, but does indicate some level of brain involvement.   It is also increasingly linked with autism.  And just so you are fully informed, ultrasound is not only encountered when you see your baby on the screen.  Dopplers for listening to heartbeats during pregnancy, and continuous fetal monitoring in labor are also forms of ultrasound. Unlike the larger ultrasound machines, the Doppler uses continuous ultrasound rather than a pulsating form. I know, I know, you’re barely pregnant, and I’m already frightening you!  Don’t fear, there is much you can do to lessen the ultrasound exposure in your baby.

  • Surprise! It’s a ? Embrace old fashioned surprise.  Orange, yellow, green, brown, teal, are lovely baby colors for any boy or girl you may produce
  • Ask your health care practitioner to use a fetascope, a stethoscope designed to hear a fetus’s heartbeat. They work beautifully.
  • Ask for intermittent fetal monitoring in labor, rather than continuous monitoring, which exposes baby to a lot of ultrasound. Or consider a birth center or home birth!

7295416642_8f7222dfdaUltrasound is a useful tool in many situations, and as a midwife I am frequently grateful for it’s many uses.  Here are some things that ultrasound is useful for:

  • Placental location - this is important for mothers who have bleeding later in pregnancy, and for VBAC mothers to ensure that the placenta is not covering their previous scar.
  • Threatened miscarriage – I often refer mothers to the ultrasound technician when there is bleeding in the first trimester and we are unsure if the pregnancy is viable or not. If it’s not we can use herbs and things to help if necessary, and if we see a heartbeat, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Sometimes you just get that nagging feeling that there’s two in there.  My hands can tell, but we still need to look at the position of the twins and confirm.
  • Uncertain dates.  If a woman is uncertain of when she conceived, a first trimester ultrasound will tell us an accurate due date. After the first trimester fetal development is more varied and so a dating ultrasound is not as accurate after the first trimester

Ultrasound is a useful tool, but like most technologies in modern American maternity care – overused. One or two ultrasounds are most likely harmless, it’s the repeated use that many practitioners employ  that is of concern.  Almost always a laying on the hands is just as good.  My favorite part of the prenatal visit is checking the baby’s position. There’s so much that my hands tell me about baby in that moment, and this is useful to me throughout the pregnancy and labor. In the postpartum, I feel like I’ve known this baby all along too! Make sure your doctor or midwife is skilled in palpation, the ancient art of using ones hands to feel the baby. Those bumps and lumps mean something to a skilled maternal practitioner, and are often more adept at determining position, weight and overall health of the baby. Photo Credit, Photo Credit 3

Baby Treasure Baskets

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Have you ever looked at the baby section in toy stores?  Flashing lights, tinny songs, hard plastic, jarring colors, whew, it leaves me overstimulated and cranky, so imagine the effects on baby!   When babies are born, anyone with a beating heart will attest to their spiritual nature, the openness of their being. They absorb our moods, scents, voices and colors.  We swaddle them, cover their buggies with a blanket, hold them close, and eschew loud noises around them.  Instinctively we know that they need to be attached, held and protected.

But then baby begins to move around, to slowly unfold and wake up to his surroundings.  He begins to develop a will.  He wants to be picked up and carried all the time.  This stage can begin to wear that still fragile new mama down.  You’re still not sleeping through the night, your body hasn’t adjusted yet, and you may not have either.  How will you ever get the floor swept?! If you walk into the above mentioned toy store for distraction, you’re likely to drive yourself even crazier with all the noisy toys you bring home.

You don’t have to go far to find simple playthings,  instead search your cupboards and closets, or your local thrift store.   Silk, cotton, wool, all of these natural materials nurture and enliven your child’s senses, all the while conveying the world’s warmth.  What better lesson is there to give a baby, that the world is a warm and inviting place filled with beautiful treasures?! Baby Treasure Baskets are a new mama life saver and make unique and economical baby shower gifts.  They will keep baby entertained, and give you that much needed break! Here are some suggestions to get you started.  I’ve included some links to actual toys, but really, babe will enjoy a wooden spoon and a bowl just as much.

-First, find a basket.  Fabric lined baskets are nice. I think thrift stores exist to sell ridiculously cheap, but quality baskets.  I can’t leave without one. babytreasurebasketCollage

-Silk, soft to the touch, and wonderful for peekaboo, is great for nourishing baby’s sense of touch.  Find a silk scarf in your closet or a thrift store and add it to the basket.  Sarah’s Silks make playsilks brilliantly hued.  This is one gift that will stand the test of time, they double as pirates bandanas, ropes, capes, fairy skirts, etc…

Wood is sturdy, yet carries a warmth and softness that plastic just doesn’t.  Add some blocks to stack, spoons and bowls to bang and thud, and a rattle to shake, baby will keep busy long enough for you to pour that cup of tea!

-Soft cuddlies and/or soft balls made of natural materials like wool or cotton. If you are a super mama, and can squeeze in some knitting or simple sewing, it only adds to the baby’s experience.  This book is a wonderful starting point for homemade toys for baby.

– The possibilities are endless for baby treasure basket, customize to your baby, and be sure to keep it interesting by switching toys in and out.  As babies get older, they enjoy more of the sorting type toys, so include those at the appropriate age.

 

If this is a baby shower gift, be sure to add something to mama, because she’s going to have some time now to kick up her feet and put her nose in a book.  Rahima Baldwin’s classic, You are Your Child’s First Teacher to round out the Baby Treasure Basket gift!

 

This post is shared at Thank Your Body ThursdaysOld Fashioned Friday, Party Wave Wednesday, Natural Family Friday, and Keep Calm Craft On.

Inductions: Just Say, “Wait!”

InductionsThe other day I realized that I now mark time in terms of babies born. July 2008 brought Maryam, Omar, Julian, and Sofia. If I want to think back to say November 2009, I think of Asiya, Malachi, and Caroline. Living in a season-less California, births mark times and seasons more concretely than weather can. It would be a lie to say that they always arrived at the most convenient times, when my cold was gone, on the weekends when babysitting is free, or at a civilized hour. No. Babies come when they are meant to come. As much as I would like, I have no control over when that hour descends. Even now as I write this, a sunny weekend approaching, I am hesitant to make plans as I am waiting on a baby.

If I were another type of practitioner, maybe I would consider inducing this client. It would be nice to have it out of the way, with a free weekend sprawling before me. If so, I wouldn’t be so off the mark. In 2007, a large study of 18,000 deliveries found that 9.6% were early births (‘early’ was not defined in this study), and the reasons for them being early were non-medical, i.e. practitioner or patient convenience. Indeed according to the Center for Disease Control sources, the average length of pregnancy has fallen by seven days since 1992!

No one really knows what kicks off labor. It is a complex interplay of mother and baby hormones that each tell the other that the time is near. Mom’s cervix softens, telling baby’s lungs to mature. Baby’s lungs mature and mom’s uterus develops more receptors for oxytocin, the hormone that makes the uterus contract among other things. Like all other bodily processes, it is hard to isolate it from the whole, and interference often shows up in other ways later.

This thought provoking look at early elective births by California Watch looks at the reasons why inducing early for non medical reasons is now thought to be contributing to poor maternal and infant mortality rates in America. There is a reason babies play a major role in deciding when they are born. A 2009 New England Journal of Medicine study found that elective cesarean sections resulted in respiratory and other adverse outcomes for neonates. The brain, eyes, and nervous systems all are formed in the third trimester. According to California Watch babies born early through C-section and/or induction are nearly twice as likely to spend time in the neo-natal intensive care unit.How can women prevent this scenario? Show any of the above information to your doctor. Like an old college friend of mine threatened with induction at 41 weeks asked, “How can I go nine months with perfectly health pregnancy, and NOW all of a sudden I’m high risk?!” Good question. She answered it by delivering at 41 and a half weeks, a perfectly healthy baby girl, au natural.

Here are some tips for preventing the dreaded post-dates:

  • Drink lots of red raspberry leaf tea throughout the pregnancy. I can’t say enough on this wonderful uterine tonic. It provides all of the minerals a healthy uterus needs to do it’s job.
  • Walk, especially hills. I’m not sure what it is about hills, but I’ve sent many women packing up and down the beautiful hills of San Francisco in order to get labor going.  Being fit, a side effect, may be what helps to prevent post dates.
  • Have sex. Yes, as the old adage goes, what gets the baby in gets the baby out. Semen contains prostaglandins which help soften the cervix. An orgasm cannot occur without oxytocin flooding your system, once again, the hormone which causes contractions.
  • Visualization can help relax you and allow your mind to turn off. Sit in a quiet, undisturbed place and visualize a head down baby, distending the cervix and rotating down and out of the pelvis.
  • Adequate healthy fat intake throughout the pregnancy, but especially in the third trimester, cooks a baby just right! We know that healthy fats are needed for baby’s brain development and that the most brain development happens in the waning weeks of the third trimester. If baby is getting what he needs in terms of development, there will be no need to leave early, or hang on too late in order to soak up the nutrients. Eat lots of  pastured eggs, wild caught fish, grass fed meat and coconut oil. Supplementation of cod liver oil, never hurt either.
  • Eat 6 dates a day starting at 36 weeks.  I’m not kidding.  A study in Jordan looked at a group of women who consumed 6 dates a day starting one month prior to their due date compared to a group who at none.  The results were clear,  the date eating women had a significantly lower need for induction of labor, had a much higher incidence of spontaneous labor, and dilated faster and more efficiently.   Wanna know the secret to the dates?  They contain a naturally occurring form of oxytocin!!

Sometimes inductions however,  are unavoidable, even necessary. I suggest these final things only as a means to naturally induce labor when an induction is unavoidable. Use with wisdom.

  • A homeopathic induction of Cimicifuga and Caulophyllum is a gentle way to start labor. Take one remedy every half hour for three hours, alternating the remedy each half hour. Do this every morning until labor commences. The strength should be 200C
  • Herbal inductions can be used as well. Black and blue cohosh along with cottonroot are a potent mix of uterine stimulating herbs. A half dropper of each every hour for three hours. I have heard some herbalists comment that this isn’t enough because our bodies metabolize herbs quickly. Consult with a person who knows if my recommendation doesn’t kick things off.
  • Acupressure points that you can squeeze yourself are also effective. The two I like are located in the webbing between your thumb and index finger and the other four finger widths above the inside of your ankle bone.
  • And finally, there is the dreaded castor oil. This is a last ditch resort. Castor oil makes for a messy birth. In fact, that the whole reason it works, it irritates your bowels, thereby irritating your uterus, or so the theory goes. I have seen it work many times. A castor oil milkshake is one way to tolerate it. 2oz of castor oil, some ice cream, and some juice. Drink it up!

As the Bible says (I’m paraphrasing), to everything there is a season, this includes babies. I rather like that my years and seasons are marked by a soul’s entrance and not by my vacations or plans. Inductions can have long lasting effects on mother and baby. It’s best to wait for the dance of hormones to begin. Just like we can’t force the long days of summer, or rush the chill or winter, neither should we unduly force a baby’s birth. To everything there is a season. I can’t think of a better reason to put off my plans than a birth, so for this weekend, I’ll stick around here and maybe next year I’ll think back to November, and remember the particular way the sun fell as a baby, for now nameless, was born.

This post was shared at Thank Your Body Thursdays, Old Fashioned Fridays Natural Family Fridays, and Party Wave Wednesdays.

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The Healing Hour

healing hour

No matter what type of birth you have, the first hour after birth is meant to be savored. Both mother and baby have made it. The hard work is over and the instinctual acts of attachment and bonding are about to begin. Baby has so much work to do, learn to breathe, digest, find the food, etc..but these lessons have not begun yet.

 
Think of this hour as an exhale, a big exhale after the bated breath of labor. No one needs to intervene, weigh, assess, or even show the baby where he is to get his nourishment from. Mom and baby know exactly what they are doing, it is a state of expansion after the contraction(s) of labor.Recently, a fellow midwife deemed this hour, ‘the healing hour’. Labor is a huge event, mother and child each feeling the grandness, and difficulty of it, and, they just need a moment to catch their breaths.An hour is not an exact measurement, but I find it nice to really try to guard that sixty minutes closely. Today’s world moves fast enough, it impinges on every area of our life as it is, birth should be an exemption. For one hour, no visitors, no texts, no phone calls. Take advantage of the biological imperatives so firing in these moments, the baby’s alert state, her large searching eyes, mother’s oxytocin level the highest it will be in her life, take these and so many other reasons and fall in love. It is a love that cannot be weighed, swaddled, assessed, but one that in the moments after birth is begging to happen.If this isn’t enough reason to keep antsy nurses and fidgety midwives at bay, here are some more by the legendary Michel Odent. I have summed them up and clarified in certain instances. The full article can be found here.

1. Baby needs to breathe. Who is a better teacher of this, mom or incubator?

2. A short but crucial period, that will never be repeated. Ethologists have observed this period in birds and mammals and have concluded that it should never be disturbed. Why do we disturb it?

3. The first hour as the beginning of lactation. Babies have instincts too. Place them tummy to tummy between mom’s breasts and watch them find their own nourishment. Also skin to skin has been shown to increase success in breastfeeding.

4. Metabolic adaptation. Babies use less of their precious glucose and fat when on mother. They use more when screaming from across the room, or being passed around to relatives. They can enter hour 2.

5. Thermoregulation. Babies stay warmer on mom, and they also learn how to keep themselves warm when sleeping near her. The womb didn’t have great temperature variations, so they must adapt to the extremes on the outside and it takes awhile for them to be able to do that.

6. The bacteria. When placed skin to skin baby starts to colonize mom’s bacteria, the bacteria he/she will be living with, and already has antibodies to from it’s time in the womb. This is extremely important for babies future health.

7. “The greater the social need for aggression and an ability to destroy life, the more intrusive the rituals and beliefs are in the period surrounding birth.” Wow! No comment!

I keenly remember each of my children in this first hour, both unique and different, yet I still see it in them now. These moments you can’t have back. Talk to your midwife or doctor about this hour before you deliver. Tell them you want to postpone the weighing and measuring and any assessments until afterwards. Have a no cell phone rule in this hour. Everyone can wait, but your baby is present now, and he is looking for his mother, he is looking for home.

Photo Credit
 

Herbal Fertility Spa

 

herbalfertilityspaI have three kids, but I have spent a total of 21 months attempting to get pregnant.  Instead of relinquishing more control with each passing month, I often became more panicked, desperate to find whatever new fertility trick was on the horizon.  Acupuncture, hips piled on top of pillows after each attempt, I’ve even forced my husband to cut out of Sunday brunches early in order to conceive.  Perhaps if we had adopted an ancient attitude, nurturing our bodies for a period of time  before conception, not only would we see those two little lines faster, we might have promoted even more vibrant health in ourselves and our children.

Instead of seeking out pregnancy, I should have had the mindset to seek out fertility. Women in tribes, societies, and worlds before ours have actively sought fertility and adopted fertility promoting practices.  It is a mindset that promotes health and self care. It is not a grasping at straws, but rather an acknowledgement that health promotes fertility. In our harried culture we go from boardroom to bedroom, expecting results as fast as a tweet gets tweeted.  Then when the period rears its red head, we panic and seek the quickest fix to our supposed “infertility”.

As one of the midwives I apprenticed with always told the busy Silicon Valley women we served, “If the train doesn’t stop, or at least slow down,  before you deliver, the slowness of a newborn will come as a great shock.”  That train needs to start slowing down now, when that little soul is just a glimmer.  Here’s my favorite way to slow down, some self pampering; self pampering is great at any stage of life, but developing these practices now can create strong habits of self care throughout motherhood.

Full of herbal, natural goodness, the herbs chosen for this spa are fertility enhancing, and hormone balancing.  Choose one recipe, or choose them all.  4173702194_485093558fWhichever you choose, be sure to savor your time  and visualize the little soul traversing the universe to end up home with you!   If you are in the  preconception phase of your childbearing, please sign up for the first module of my Birthrite courses, the Preconception Module.  The Herbal Fertility Spa is one of the many bonuses.  Charting your cycle, best times to conceive, the three C’s of conception,  Green Clean for Baby, and much, much more are included in my Preconception Module.

Back to the spa treatment. I would bet that you have most things on hand, and if not, you can substitute what you do or go on to the next step. I would say that as long as there is a bath, a significant slowing down, and some poetry, your fertility will improve!

Herbal Fertility Spa

1. Begin by brewing a pot of Fertility Enhancing Tea.  Add 1TBS of coconut oil to each cup of tea. It’s delicious and your fertility hormones thrive on the healthy fats in coconut oil.

2.While it’s brewing wash your face with a cleanser.  My suggestion is  Almond Meal Cleanser – 4 tsp almond meal, 2 tsp of dry milk powder, and 1 tsp sugar.  Mix and apply to a damp face.

3. Apply a clay mask. Clay is wonderful at drawing out impurities in the skin. Add 1 TBS to a glass of water and drink that now too.  Clay binds to heavy metals and removes them from the system, an important step to take before conceiving.  Mix another TBS of the clay with enough water to make a paste, apply to face and let dry. 

4. While the mask dries, read some poetry.

5. Warm the Ginger Infused Fertility Oil (see recipe below) and massage your belly, uterus and hips.  ginger

6. Steam a washcloth in hot water, remove mask.  Apply Apple Cider Vinegar toner with cotton ball.  Mix 1/4 cup of water to 1TBS apple cider vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil if desired.

7. Step into the shower armed with your favorite scrub. Mine is a Brown Sugar Scrub – 1 cup of sugar to 1/4 cup oil.  Rub into skin, again concentrating on hips and pelvic region in order to bring circulation to the reproductive organs.

8.  Step out of shower and pour yourself another cup of Fertility Enhancing Tea.

9.  Take a bath with magnesium bath flakes dissolved into the water and a few drops of essential oils. Don’t forget a candle!! Magnesium is an important fertility nutrient for both men and women, and absorbing it trans-dermally, through the skin, is the best way to get it.

10. Soak and sip as long as you like, feeling deep nourishment, health and well being from the inside out.

11.  Dry off, moisturize, and slip off to bed, or put the Herbal Fertility Spa to the test!

Here are the recipes for Fertility Enhancing Tea and Ginger Infused Fertility Oil, both are very simple to make. Ingredients for both can be found here.

Fertility Enhancing Tea
By increasing vitamin and mineral content, balancing hormones, toning the reproductive system, and just tasting delicious, this Fertility Enhancing Tea will have you feeling great in no time!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 parts red raspberry leaf
  2. 2 parts red clover
  3. 2 parts nettle leaf
  4. 2 parts peppermint
  5. 1 part chamomile
  6. 1 part dandelion leaf
  7. 1 part oatstraw
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired. And always add 1 TBS of coconut oil to increae the fertility enhancing properties!
  2. Drink 2-3 cups daily for optimal benefits.
Notes
  1. Parts refer to the part used for measurement, a teaspoon, a tablespoon, an ounce etc…It doesn’t matter what you use to measure, only that you use it consistently while making the recipe. So in this recipe, if you use a tablespoon, it would be 2 tablespoons of the first four ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the last four. It’s always a good idea to taste a little of your tea before you make a big pot, that way you can add more herbs for flavor if needed.
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Ginger Infused Fertility Oil
Ginger is a wonderful kitchen herb. Imparting warmth and circulation wherever it goes, ginger is an ideal herb for conception. Giving yourself daily belly rubs, with a special focus on the uterine area is great for fertility. It is also useful for sore backs, stiff joints, and as a chest rub for colds.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 TBS chopped ginger root
  2. ½ cup of oil, coconut, olive, almond, or sesame oil
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients to a sauce pan. Simmer on low heat for at least two hours, up to eight for increased therapeutic value. The oil shouldn’t get above body temperature, or you will cook the ginger. You should always be able to put your finger in the oil without burning it! Cooking this oil, should impart a spicy ginger scent to your kitchen. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth or an old T-shirt. Squeeze the ginger to get all of the oil out. Bottle.
Notes
  1. Massage starting at the belly button in a clockwise motion. Start with large circles covering the entire belly. Progressively use smaller strokes until you are just massaging the lower belly and reproductive organs. You can also massage into your hips, which can increase blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/
Photo Credits
Photo 1
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 This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave WednesdayWellness Wednesday, and Old Fashioned Friday.

Home Birth FAQ’s

 homebirthfaq1So you want a home birth, but you want to know how they’re going to clean up all of that blood and uh, stuff?  In the hospital it just fell into a neat little plastic bag at the end of the bed, and was promptly whisked away after delivery right?  How will they do that at home?  Does my husband have to clean it all up?  And after all that, who pays for it?!  

Well, I have some thoughts on the matter. Here you go my A to your  frequently asked Q’s. I sure hope this clears up some of those questions (here’s a hint: Chux pads!)

1.   Is home birth safe? – I hate confirming stereotypes about home birth, but it really is the most frequently asked question! Do you ask your OB if hospital birth is safe?  That’s not a bad idea.  Hospital interventions are associated with all kinds of risk and adverse outcome.  Take for example the latest findings that induced labor increased the risk of autism by a whopping 23%!  Cesarean sections increase maternal mortality by six times over vaginal birth.  Cesarean sections have also been associated with infection, hysterectomy, subsequent complications of pregnancy, infertility, and still birth.  But we rarely ask if C-sections are safe.   

“Birth is as safe as life gets” said birth photographer Harriette Hartigan. It’s true.  Most of the time life is well, safe. We get in our cars, hop on planes, swim in oceans, and we’re fine.  Very occasionally,  there’s an accident, a failed landing or a shark attack, and that makes the news.  Birth, in the context of a well nourished, healthy woman, is incredibly safe.  It is even more safe when attended by an experienced and trained midwife.  In study after study (after study), midwives delivering out of hospital have similar rates of adverse perinatal outcomes as those found with a similar population in the hospital. In addition, midwives have lower rates of intervention, inductions, episiotomies, and Cesarean sections than practitioners who deliver in hospital.   My private practice’s Cesarean rate last year was less than 5%. 

Birth becomes risky when we intervene in a natural physiological process. The natural, and hormonal needs of birth require privacy, warmth, intimacy and trust. If we left well enough alone, birth would unfold as easily as a cloud releases rain.  Home birth by its nature, with no anesthesiologist, no cold rooms and bright lights, no strangers, is the perfect stage for a safe and healthy birth for mom and baby.

 

2092010147_43d48070d22.  What about the mess?! How about the placenta?! A smoothie anyone? Mess is such a non-issue.  I ask my clients to have some hydrogen peroxide on hand, and plenty of chux pads.  The combination is all you need to keep surfaces clean and dry.  While the new family is nuzzling and cooing, I usually grab the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some towels, and  go on a search and destroy mission. There may be an occasional drop of blood or two, but they always come out.  

Before my assistant and I leave, we make sure the place is neat and tidy. A load of laundry is started, dishes washed, and the trash is taken out.  You would never know we were there, if not for maybe the birth tub, and the bundle of cuteness in your bed!

Placentas can be frozen, eaten, buried, encapsulated, or yes, tossed.  It’s a personal preference. I just ask that you have two quart size freezer bags for me to store it in.   It’s that easy.

 

3.  How do you get paid? Will my insurance cover it?  Why thanks for asking! Some insurances do cover home birth. Namely PPO’s.  HMO’s, Kaiser, and MediCaid in some states, do not cover out of hospital birth. Although, it’s not always so clear cut. Sometimes, when you need a service that your insurance can’t provide you an get a GAP exception and they will cover the service, even if the provider isn’t in network for your insurance company.  There are some billing companies that cater to midwives and through whom parents can pay $20 and have them verify your insurance benefits.  I highly advise this as they are billing specialists who know which questions to ask in order to have an accurate idea of your reimbursement rate.  After the birth, these same companies for a nominal fee will also submit a superbill on your behalf. I find this, along with a phone call  (or two or three) by the parents to be the best way for families to recoup their costs.  Because typically it’s cash up front, anywhere from $2000-$5000 depending on where in the country you are,  and then reimbursement after the birth.  Here is one father’s account of getting reimbursed for their home birth. And here is a comprehensive list of questions to ask your insurance provider. I find that most families get something back.  Home birth is at least half the price of an unmedicated vaginal birth, and it only goes up with intervention, so for many families and insurance companies, home birth is the most affordable option.

 

2490960003_28a0df17354. What happens in an emergency? What if we need to go the hospital?  Birth doesn’t always stay at home.  For myriad reasons, we may find ourselves in the hospital. My transfer rate is less than 10%, but still, there are eventualities that may land you there. It is a common concern amongst home birth parents, and those that prepare for it, are almost always the ones who stay out of the hospital! I like to go through the emergency plan at the 36 week visit. We write down all of the numbers we need in case of emergency, discuss what it would like and where we would go.  I bring out my oxygen tank, my neonatal resuscitation equipment so that it’s not frightening in case we need to use it. 

Midwives are trained and skilled to deal with emergencies.  We take neonatal resuscitation, and adult CPR training.  I practice the timing of resuscitation breathing on my way to each birth. We carry anti-hemorrhagic medications and are knowledgeable about when and how to  use them.  Midwives are trained in normal birth, so when abnormal situations arise, we can spot them easily and readily.  911 is called and we provide palliative care until the emergency team takes over.

Each area of the country differs in how non emergency transfers are handled, with everything from ER drop offs, to the midwife staying through until the end. Here in the Bay Area it typically looks like this; I phone the Labor and Delivery unit to explain why we are coming in, your chart is then faxed ahead of your arrival.  We go to the hospital and I stay until you and baby are snuggled.  This is a compelling post from a friend/former client detailing all of the emotions that go into a hospital transfer. 

 

2013 Big Push for Midwives_PushMap5.  Is it legal?!  Can I get a birth certificate? Up until the 1930’s most American women delivered their babies with the help of a midwife.  In the countries with the best maternal and infant statistics today, midwifery care is the standard for healthy pregnant women.  Once birth moved from home to hospital in the U.S., midwives were pushed out of the birth room, and are just now, reentering that space.

Check the chart to the right to see if CPM, Certified Professional Midwives (the midwives who attend the vast majority of home births), are legal in your state. 

If midwifery is legal in your state, getting a birth certificate is a piece of cake. I’m not sure what it’s like in states where it’s not legal, but I imagine it’s not difficult.  Here in California, I fill out some paperwork, and you take it to the Department of Vital Statistics, and a couple of weeks later, the birth certificate is in your mailbox. 

 

I hope this cleared some things up.  Keep asking questions.  If home birth is whispering it’s sweet song in your heart, follow it,  you will be glad you did.  If you are in the Bay Area and are interested in my home birth services, feel free to contact me with any further, burning questions!

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 This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, and Wellness Wednesday.

Chickweed Pesto – Antioxidants for the Mamas

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 The benefits of eating weeds cannot be underestimated.  In an article in the New York Times, The Island Where People Forget to Die, about Ikaria, an Island off of the Greek coast whose inhabitants live to be 90 at two and a half times the rate Americans do, they found that wild greens contained 10 times the amount of antioxidants as red wine!  That’s nice, but you said, ‘for the mamas’. I did. 

 

Did you know that antioxidant intake during pregnancy lowers a child’s risk for wheezing when he’s two?  Or that, reduced maternal antioxidant intake can lead to pre-eclampsia, a potentially deadly complication of pregnancy.  Pregnancy naturally increases oxidation in a mothers body during placental development. Women who have higher circulating antioxidants, and other nutrients handle this disruption with no problem.  

   

chickweedThere are many weeds, uh, herbs, that can be consumed. One of my favorite is a sweet little herb called chickweed. It creeps on the ground, with tiny, tiny white flowers blooming along its length.  These flowers are its namesake, stellaria media, as the flowers look like stars.  Indeed, if you look closely enough, they do resemble stars, stars twinkling up from the earth.

    

 But, despite its dainty appearance, chickweed packs a powerful punch.  Chickweed is full of minerals, minerals that many are missing in modern diets.  It’s true, we don’t eat wild weeds anymore, and there’s a price to pay. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, are all found in large amounts in chickweed.  These nutrients are needed for a healthy pregnancy, for proper placental growth and development.  Chickweed is also a great remedy for pregnancy induced anemia. Chickweed contains saponins which actually increase our cells absorption of the nutrients in the chickweed.  It just wants you to  suck up every last nutrient! This humble herb is also being looked at as a remedy for obesity.

    

 So how do we go about eating this uh, weed?  I have a delicious suggestion. Pesto.  Who doesn’t love pesto?   This pesto tastes great dipped on crackers, pasta, or with butternut squash fries. Mmmm!! Is spring in the air for you? Besides being a superb herb for pregnancy chickweed is also good for fertility.    Try this pesto as a delicious way to boost fertility, for both you and your partner. Chickweed’s storehouse of nutrients provides essential fertility nutrients, calcium, magnesium and zinc for both mama and papa.  Breastfeeding, nursing babes looove garlic, so eat some pesto mama.  And if you have little ones in the house, chickweed is good as a poultice on burns, cuts and bruises.  It also tastes great raw in salads.

Chickweed Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 3 handfuls of chickweed, freshly picked is best
  2. 1 handful of parsley, cilantro, or basil (whatever you have)
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 1/2 cup of walnuts or pine nuts
  5. 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  6. 3TBS Olive oil (or enough to make the food processor whirl!)
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Carefully clean the chickweed leaves.
  2. Add the chickweed and whichever other herb you are using to the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Add garlic, nuts, and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Start the processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil until you achieve desired consistency.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Stir to blend.
Notes
  1. If you will be storing the pesto, squeeze half a lemon into it to prevent browning. Browning doesn't effect the taste, only the look of the pesto. Can be frozen as well, so you can enjoy summertime pesto in the winter!
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/

Lion Hearted

Lion Hearted
At four weeks postpartum, I was bending over cardboard boxes, deciding which books I would need for the next year, and which I could part with.  As I straightened up, I tightened the knot on the belly wrap designed to put my fragile insides back together.  To help me pare down my closet, I needed a dear friend, and the unwavering opinion of my fashion sensible midwife.  I guess plaid is out, who knew? The fragile moments of the first couple of weeks post -birth, already seemed like another lifetime’s dream.  By the time my mother came to meet her newest grandchild, her only daughter was in need of some ibuprofen and a shoulder to cry on. Not to mention the help I needed washing the dingy curtains, and packing those aforementioned books. (Note to self: A Kindle is warranted until you buy a house!) It wasn’t an option to take a back seat.  My husband accepted a once in a lifetime opportunity to study with a respected teacher and continue his academic studies.  One short month after meeting my son, it was LA or bust.  I was tending towards the latter. Photo Credit“For every disease, there is a cure.”
Prophet Muhammad

If this were a movie, I would roll the credits first, because without the support of family, friends, and community, none of this would have happened.  It was an outpouring of generosity like no other.  Each night I found freshly cooked food at my doorstep, or steaming from my table.  Clothes for the baby, and even my daughter arrived unbidden.  One talented and creative friend sewed bags filled with activities for the older ones, and baked the best sugar-free, grain-free snacks a gluten sensitive mama could hope for.  My son went to the zoo, and Fairy Land, with an ice cream stop to boot.  The last baby I delivered before I had mine, even made an appearance. And I would be remiss not to mention the presence of a fellow midwife, who truly midwifed me through one of the hardest days of my life.  She was born to do this work. God bless her.  It was awe inspiring and bittersweet, for soon I would be leaving this nest of community and warmth. But first, I’d have to put the Boppy aside, and pack up the entire house.

It’s hard to follow your own advice, though I endeavored.  I rested in bed for two weeks, stayed warm, gave myself warm oil Lion Heartedmassages, ate the best darn food I could. Hell, I even gave myself moxa treatments.  But the looming move crept in and all of my best laid postpartum care plans shrank in response.  STRESS became  a real and unwelcome guest.  Oh, did I mention ‘the shooting’?  There was one, in front of my house, at dinner time.  We had the luxury of leaving that night.  May God help and raise up those mothers who don’t.  It seemed stress was everywhere I turned.

There was however, one burst of nesting which became my postpartum savior.  In anticipation of the move,  my settled pregnant self dove into herbal medicine making.  It was a way to hedge myself against what I knew would become a harried postpartum. Sitz bath herbs, nursing teas,  arnica and St. John’s Wort oils, valerian root, motherwort and echinacea tinctures were all brewed up and bottled before I delivered.  It was a gift to myself and a sure stroke of intuition, for I needed these herbs even more than I anticipated.

Luckily, I had the closest thing I could get, the plant called motherwort , leonurus cardiaca, Latin for lion hearted. Brewing this tincture many moons ago, I had anticipated using it for the afterpains.  Motherwort, or mother’s herb,  is an antispasmodic and a uterine tonic.  And for those first few days, I was taking it every half hour or so to quell the crushing afterpains.  However, motherwort is more than that, it is also a nervine and sedative and often used in the treatment of stress and nerve related disorders.

The move, turned out to be a minor blip in the scheme of things.  My husband and I had to be separated, all told for over a month. (The LA rental market turned out to be less than friendly to a family of 5!)  My little ones and I lived with the most generous brother and sister in law you could ever ask for, for one month.  It was an epic postpartum I tell you.  It was going to take more than some nursing tea to get me through. It was going to take the heart of a lion.

Lion Hearted

This is what the respected herbalist Susan Weed has to say about this herb:

Another of motherwort’s uses is to improve fertility and reduce anxiety associated with childbirth, postpartum depression, and menopause. If used in early labor it will ease labor pains and calms the nerves after childbirth. Take motherwort only once soon after giving birth as consistent use before the uterus has clamped down may cause bleeding to continue. Use one to two times a day in the weeks following birth for easing tension and supporting a woman through the feelings that come with new mothering.

One lonely morning,  as the two year old was melting down, the baby was crying, and my poor six year old looked just plain apathetic, I found the full bottle of motherwort tincture waving at me from my  bathroom bag.  I  took two full droppersful.  My shoulders instantly dropped from my ears.  A plan of action soon formed in my mind (calm the two year old first, always!), and the overwhelm seemed to diminish.  The courage to pluck on grew in this delicate new mama heart.  Throughout the next month, motherwort became my green friend.  I took it morning and night, and whenever the two year old decided to dig in her poopy diapers (yes, you read that correctly.  A habit she developed once moving into the pristine enclave of my in laws!) Motherwort, take me away!  Two droppersful and I could exhale again, feel the ground hold me up, and march on. 

It’s been three months since then.  Ya Sin is four months old, just rolling over, and charming us all with his easy going grin. My 8 ounces of motherwort tincture is long gone.  There are many mornings or mid afternoons, where I could still use it to be sure, but I find myself brewing that nursing mother’s tea now. “For every disease there is a cure”, said the Prophet Muhammad.  While my postpartum was not a disease,  it was excessive and warranted a cure of its own.  I believe in medicine of all kinds.  Each tupperware filled box cooked for us was medicine.  Every phone call or text message to see how I was, was medicine.  For everyone who joined me on my couch and listened, I healed.  These were all cures for my state.  But motherwort certainly lived up to its name as a mother’s herb.  It was the cure for this mother during a less than ideal postpartum. 

I once heard that the medicine you need, is always with you, you just have to be open to it.   That was certainly the case with me and motherwort.  May you always find the medicine you need, when you need it.  Thanks for your patience.  Want to know how I made these tinctures without alchohol?  Stay tuned, I have a post coming up!!

Ramadan – Fasting with Child(ren)

This is a re-post from last year’s Ramadan. The information is still the same and insha’Allah of benefit to some of you. Thank so much for all of your well wishes. Ya Sin and I are enjoying our lie-in. I hope to return to this space more regularly soon!  An early Ramadan Mubarak to all of you. Please keep us in your du’as. 
Ramadan’s many lights and gifts will be here in a matter of weeks. One of the questions I am often asked by pregnant and nursing women is whether or not they should fast in Ramadan. This post is not meant to encourage or discourage women from fasting, rather it is to provide information that can help mothers stay healthy if they decide to undertake even a few days of fasting.Many women say that they would rather fast when everyone else is fasting instead of making their fasts up later. If you are one of those women, I hope this can help prepare you physically for the fast of Ramadan. Studies conducted about pregnant women fasting in Ramadan have found no adverse outcomes in the baby’s birth weights, length, and head circumference. The fast of Ramadan also has not been found to adversely effect milk supply in lactating women, although it can alter the content of breast milk, but without affecting infant growth.Pregnancy can be a challenging time to fast depending on when the fast falls in your gestation. Nina Planck, a real food expert and author, has written a wonderful book called Real Food for Mothers and Babies that breaks up pregnancy’s nutritional needs by trimester. Planck says that in the first trimester, when the organs of your baby are developing, your embryo needs minerals to become a strong fetus. The bones and muscles are doing most of the growing in the second trimester, so your baby needs calcium and protein rich foods. In the third trimester, the eyes, brain, and nervous system are rapidly developing; fats high in Omega 3’s will aid this growth.If we base our Ramadan diet on Planck’s demarcations, what are the best foods to nourish you and baby in each trimester? Fasting in Ramadan offers us only a few exchanges with food, so we need to make each of these encounters nutrient dense and filled with what our growing babes need. You will notice a theme throughout my recommendations and that is good fats and protein. Good fats include, coconut oils, olive oils, fish oils, butter, and tallow. Your baby’s development needs cholesterol. You need good fats and protein to support this. This duo also supports mother’s in their health and well being through pregnancy, therefore you will see multiple mentions of healthy fats and proteins.

In the first trimester many women often need to eat constantly to keep nausea at bay. Others do better with no food. Either way, your baby has to grow. If you choose to fast during this time, I really like a few foods to help you out. Much of nausea comes from hunger. When you eat, eat foods filled with protein and good, healthy fats. For the suhoor, the morning meal before dawn, try any of the following:

  • Smoothies with egg yolks, coconut oil, milk, and yogurt and lots of fresh fruit. The fruit will give you plenty of the micro-nutrients which your baby’s organs need and the yolks, oils, and yogurt will give you good fats and proteins for fuel throughout the fast.
  • Eggs are a great suhoor meal for pregnant women. Make an omelette with lots of vegetables — again this will give you a mix of micro-nutrients and protein.
  • Oatmeal with lots of butter, cream, milk, or coconut milk. Add nuts and fruits for a complete suhoor.
  • I do recommend eating at least three times a day in Ramadan, the suhoor meal, an iftar meal, and then again about an hour before going to bed. This still provides the same caloric intake, albeit not at the regular times you usually eat.

The first trimester is a big adjustment. Take it easy and don’t push yourself to exhaustion. Read my post on the first trimester, where you will find many tips that you can do while fasting. I personally think essential oils, like lavender, ginger, and geranium go a long way in helping with nausea, fasting or not. Also, fresh air can alleviate nausea for many women. Get out and go for a walk right before you break the fast.

When Ramadan falls in the second trimester, it is perhaps the easiest time for you to fast while pregnant; the nausea has mostly passed, and you have regained some of your energy but don’t yet feel uncomfortable from the weight of your baby. Here are some general tips for fasting and breaking your fast in the second trimester.

  • If you can, try to switch your nights and days. During the day, stay inactive and rest as much as you can. If you need to do anything active, like clean or cook, wait until shortly before the sun sets so that you can eat and drink soon after.
  • Try fasting every other day.
  • Do gentle exercises like yoga, tai chi, or walking shortly before the sun sets.
  • Don’t skimp out on sleep! This is hard in Ramadan, especially during the summer months, but try your best not to exhaust yourself.
  • Because protein and calcium are important this trimester, be sure to include lots of protein rich foods in your meals. Meats, broths, eggs, and lentils are wonderful and healthy choices.
  • Calcium rich snacks can be eaten between iftar and bedtime. Almonds, warmed milk with cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of sugar, yogurt with fruit.
  • Dates, the traditional food to break the fast with, are an excellent way of revitalizing the body after a day of fasting. High in potassium, iron, anti-oxidants, and other minerals, they are also perfect as a second trimester treat.

The third trimester is perhaps the trickiest time to fast. There have been studies that have found that fasting in late pregnancy causes a state of ‘accelerated starvation.’ We should know that our bodies are working hard during this time; the baby’s nervous system is developing connections between neurons, its brain folds are forming rapidly, and its gaining more and more motor control each day. All this while it is packing on half a pound every week. All of this requires an enormous amount of caloric input, so it makes sense that this trimester would be a difficult time to abstain from food. Also, labor could begin at any moment in this trimester. Beginning labor with a caloric deficit is adding an extra challenge to the challenging physical task of labor. Despite that, some women will fast. Whether or not you fast, here are foods that help build healthy brains for your baby:

  • Try eating fish when you break your fast. Fish is easy to prepare and full of healthy fats well suited for growing noggins. Check out Seafood Watch for more information on which fish is best for you and the environment.
  • I love herbal infusions in pregnancy. They are especially great for women facing the great task of birth, and subsequent mothering. Alfalfa, red raspberry leaf, nettles, and oatstraw are wonderful third trimester choices. Drink them mixed or separately. They contain an amazing amount of minerals and micro-nutrients, all of which saturate your tissues and muscles with nutrients that help them work efficiently in labor.
  • Egg yolks, butter, whole fat milk, and all other foods rich in cholesterol can be considered brain food. So go ahead and have eggs and toast with lots of butter for suhoor. Your baby will be smarter;)!

Staying hydrated is actually a bigger concern than caloric intake for fasting pregnant and nursing women. Abstaining from water all day can be a real challenge while pregnant and/or nursing. I suggest that when you eat in the morning and in the evening, drink an electrolyte drink, preferably not Gatorade as it has tons of sugar and other undesirable preservatives. Try this mixed in your water. Coconut water is another refreshing way to replenish your electrolytes. Vitamin Water and Re-Charge are also good choices. Electrolytes help the water replenish and hydrate you. Without them it often seems that the water just rushes through you!

Nursing and fasting is often more difficult than pregnant while fasting. That is simply because while nursing, you also have to change diapers, push the stroller, and carry and nurse the baby. There is more work involved! All of the above recommendations can apply to nursing women. Along with a few of these:

  • Add one tablespoon of coconut oil a day. You can eat it directly off the spoon. Lauric acid is the main ingredient in coconut oil. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid, the primary component in breast milk. This can help keep your breast milk full of the nutrients your baby deserves.
  • Focus on hydration. You will feel thirsty due to the hormones of breastfeeding, primarily prolactin. When you are not fasting, always keep a bottle of water with you and electrolytes are a must. The above mentioned studies have found that lactating women hydrate more than non-lactating women in Ramadan. Remember that and drink to thirst.
  • Stay away from the fried offerings always so present at iftar gatherings. Often they are fried in unhealthy fats full of trans-fats. Trans-fats are easily transferred to breast milk. Be mindful of healthy fats and fulfill your fat cravings in other healthier ways such as butter, meats, fish, and eggs.

Ramadan, however, is not only about the physical fast. Fasting also takes place on the spiritual plane. Fast from the fast-paced world for your baby’s sake. Slow down and retreat deep into the stillness of spiritual practices and a beautiful remembrance. This more than anything is what nourishes mothers and babies, whether or not they fast during Ramadan. I pray you all have a blessed month full of vast openings and a renewed closeness to God. Please remember me in your prayers.

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