This post was written by Rachel Brinker, founder of Proud Mama Support Services in 2013, when she was five months postpartum. Happy Holidays to all the Givers in the world!
It’s Winter Solstice and Christmas time. I was recently invited to meditate on the following question: “Who are you during this season? What are you made of? What are you called to do, to be during this season?” In a delicious moment of silence, I had the following insights:
This year, I am foremost a mother of small children. This year, I am THE GIVER.
I give my milk. I give my sleep, my time, energy, love, and patience to my children. I give them my mental space.
Not just in this holiday season, but in this season of my life, I am the giver. I give my family the gifts of healthy food, structure and routine, security and safety, reassurance and a steadfast presence that can be trusted.
I’m ok with this (and I’m a feminist). The Giver is not the same as The Martyr. Martyrs operate as though their greatest worth comes from fully giving up themselves for others, with no hope or expectation of ever getting one’s self back. Givers know they can grow within themselves through the practice of giving. They find a deep well on which to draw from to nourish themselves so that they can do the work of nourishing others. It’s not the same as losing yourself. It’s making a long term investment in relationships that really matter.
I’m at peace with this role, because it is one of many seasons in my life. I can give this much because this is the season to do so, and I know that I will be replenished.
Someday, a soon day in the course of my whole life, no one will need me to turn the food I eat into milk for them to drink as their sole source of sustenance. No one will need me to rock them back to sleep at 2am. No one will need me to help them learn how to use the toilet, or how to button their shirt. Someday I will get a full night of sleep, and someday I won’t need to make anyone’s lunch but my own. Hell, someday someone will make lunch for me.
As exhausting as life is right now with a five-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, this is how it’s supposed to be during this season of life. It Just Is. And it won’t always be. More space and time will open up for new pursuits, new challenges, and new dimensions of my self.
And to be clear, I sure as hell don’t always feel this gracious about my role. But today I do, and that is something worth writing about.
Did you know that acupuncture can bring relief for a lot of common discomforts in pregnancy and postpartum, including morning sickness, headaches, and swelling? Learn more about the benefits of acupuncture for pregnant and postpartum women below. We are excited that our new team member, Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac. can bring acupuncture and massage to our clients right in the comfort of their own home!
Benefits and Uses of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Pregnancy Care
By Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac.
Though its often not the first thing people think of when they think of pregnancy care, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a long history of use for aiding in and preparing for conception, alleviating symptoms and problems during pregnancy, and helping with labor and the postpartum period. The great thing about using acupuncture during pregnancy is that it is very gentle and safe and has virtually no harmful side-effects for mama or baby. It can be used at any stage of pregnancy, and increases the overall well-being of the patient while also addressing many problems and discomforts.
Here are some of the things acupuncture is most often used for:
Nausea and vomiting – a common, but miserable side-effect of pregnancy, nausea is sometimes hard to shake! A few regular acupuncture sessions can help control nausea, bringing it down a notch or two and making symptoms much more manageable.
Pain - acupuncture is well-known for being able to alleviate pain of all types. From normal aches and pains of pregnancy to sciatica and carpal tunnel, this can help! I often use bodywork as a helpful adjunct to acupuncture treatment.
Breech presentation - there is a well-established, very simple protocol that has good rates of turning breech, especially when used before the last few weeks of pregnancy. It is totally non-invasive and doesn’t even require the use of needles!
Pre-birth treatments – these are a wonderful way to prepare your body and mind for labor! Weekly treatments from 37 weeks on help prepare the body for birth by balancing energy, calming the mind and emotions, helping open the pelvis, ripen the cervix, and get energy moving in the low belly. Reports also suggest that these treatments decrease complications during labor and may even shorten its duration.
Labor stimulation - a gentle, easy approach to jump-starting labor, this has become a popular method to try for post-due mamas, and those approaching the window for medical induction. It doesn’t force the body, but can be the little nudge it needs to get things moving.
There are also many other issues that can be addressed with acupuncture, including:
-constipation and hemorrhoids
-urinary tract infections, acute or chronic
-carpal tunnel, sciatica and other nerve impingements
-fatigue and insomnia
-anxiety, depression and emotional swings
-vaginal irritation and yeast infections
-high blood pressure
-stabilizing and supporting pregnancy for someone with a risk for miscarriage
In addition to all these symptoms, acupuncture and massage are just great for you! They help decrease stress, calm emotions, increase immune function and generally nourish the body/mind and spirit. Who doesn’t need that?
Here are some questions you might have about acupuncture, along with some answers:
Q: How many treatments will I need to see results?
A: It usually takes more than one treatment for acupuncture to be really effective. It works cumulatively, building up its effects as treatments progress. Some things will only take a few treatments to resolve, but others may be longer term issues that take some time and commitment to truly get better. After the first session, I will do my best to give you an idea of how your condition is likely to respond, and how long it might take to see results.
Q: Do the needles hurt?
A: The needles used for acupuncture are extremely small and thin, and generally cause very little discomfort. Most often, you feel a small poke as the needle passes through the skin, but not much else. Some patients report feeling interesting sensations of energy moving, pressure, or a tingling/bubbling sensation. I am always careful to work within your tolerance level, and will stop or adjust if anything feels too strong or painful. In addition, acupuncturists are trained to use many methods other than needles for specific kinds of therapies. These other methods are often used during treatments in addition to acupuncture and can be used in place of needles for sensitive patients when needed.
Q: Is acupuncture safe, especially during pregnancy?
A: Yes! Acupuncture is extremely safe, and can be used at all stages of pregnancy. Acupuncturists go through extensive training, and are well-versed in cautions and contraindications for pregnancy.
Q: What can I expect in a treatment?
A: Normally, a treatment session involves an intake interview, where your medical history and health concerns are shared, and a treatment, which could involve acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and/or massage (all treatments are discussed before being administered, of course!). Lifestyle and dietary recommendations are sometimes also given. In addition, Chinese herbs may be suggested or prescribed if they are appropriate. Almost all patients report feeling very relaxed at the end of the session.
Q: Is it necessary to have a western diagnosis for a condition before seeking treatment?
A: No! Chinese medicine has its own unique system of diagnosis, involving feeling the pulses and looking at the tongue, that allows a practitioner to treat virtually any condition without any kind of western diagnosis. That being said, however, certain conditions are, of course, important to discuss with a doctor, midwife or other health professional.
Q: What is unique about a treatment with me (Ashley)?
A: I have a particular passion for working with pregnant women and new mothers, and have dedicated much time and research to learning about how to best care for them with Chinese medicine. I also often incorporate bodywork into my sessions to aid in relaxation and add a nurturing touch to all my treatments. In addition to having a sweet and calm presence, I am truly dedicated to holism in life and health and strive to treat patients on every level, meeting and supporting them wherever they are on their journey towards wellness.
by Sophie Grow
Eight years ago, I was excited to attend my first birth, the birth of my niece. Now, I realize that back then I had NO IDEA how to support a pregnant woman, let alone a woman in labor.
I was 24 years old and I remember I had just gotten my first iPhone. It was a generation 3 and I was really excited to take pictures of my new baby niece. I was young and hadn’t had children, but I had been a nanny for many years and was skilled in childcare. I thought I knew what a mother was experiencing. I thought she was just tired and a bit sore. She’s just tired, right?
I visited my sister-in-law in the hospital as a mere spectator. I didn’t know about supporting a mom with supportive words to bear witness for her experience. I never connected with her. I thought she had all she needed. I thought that since she was a strong independent woman, she didn’t need support.
She came home after an unplanned cesarean and collected her baby from the NICU. Knowing what I know now, this transition time is very critical for maternal mental health. Women and their babies need a support network of nurses, doctors, pediatricians, and county nurses to compliment family and friend support. If there are holes or delays in that safety net, mothers and their babies can suffer.
But I didn’t know that. I thought once they were home from the hospital, everything was fine with my sister-in-law, her husband, and their sweet baby. I made a mistake that so many well-meaning and supportive family members do: I made the assumption that my sister-in-law was too strong to struggle and that having a baby isn’t that hard once the birth is over. I was uninformed and ignorant of the complexities and scope of postpartum recovery. She didn't show me her vulnerability during that time because witnessing it was something I had not earned. I thought I was there for her, but in truth I was critical of her. Why does it look so hard for her? Why is she struggling? Isn’t having a baby such a gift? Why does she look so burdened? She’s so lucky. I was jealous she had started a family. I thought I wouldn’t struggle like that when I had my babies. I. WAS. WRONG.
Recently, after listening to my sister-in-laws tell her birth story again in her own words and reflecting on her postpartum experience as a professional postpartum doula, I now see the holes in the support I offered her then. (The details of her birth that are shared here are done so with her permission).
Now I know that birth isn’t just a physical trial, it’s an emotional and mental trial as well. The marathon of birth doesn't end at delivery of the baby.
If I could go back and support this woman who I admire, who is such an important part of my life, I would know the right questions to ask. I would listen, validate, and support her without judgement, and without making assumptions about her experience.
I would feed her more,
Let her rest more,
Help her breast feed,
Help her relax,
Help her more with chores,
And be there to help more with the practicalities of a c-section recovery.
I would know that physical recovery and adjustment to parenthood takes longer than 6 weeks. Most women feel it takes a full year.
I would pick up on the trauma in her story and acknowledge it. I would give her numbers for the county health nurse and contacts for postpartum mental health support professionals. I would encourage her to go to the mom and baby groups, knowing she is a social person and needs friends who are dealing with similar struggles. I would tell her about our perinatal group support meetings and encourage her to go, whether or not she felt like she had a diagnosable postpartum mood disorder.
I would tell her that she was doing a wonderful job. I would smile and rub her feet while she played with her baby. I would sit with her when she is feeling her lowest low. I would tell her she’s good enough and deserves love and light. I would tell her it’s normal to feel pain and sadness and loneliness. I would tell her she would be well soon with time and support.
Now, I know I can truly provide non-judgmental compassionate support for where the mother is in her journey without needing to change it or fix it for her.
I can work to provide peace of mind.
The truth is, new mothers DO know what they want and need from others. It's just hard to ask sometimes. Sometimes accepting help is hard, as well. As a postpartum doula it’s my job to help her pause long enough to recognize her own needs, and to help make them get met as best I can.
I bring a hot cup of coffee in a clean mug to mom while she sits on the couch and snuggles baby. I make sure her favorite nursing shirts and bras are clean and folded. The kitchen counters are cleared and sinks emptied. Her fridge is filled with prepped snacks and meals. Her stomach is full of nutritious food and her body replenished with fresh water. The baby’s diaper is changed and she’s bundled in a swaddle. Baby sleeping beside me while I fold laundry. Mom rests in her bed, or showers alone, or relaxes by watching her favorite show. I show mom and dad how to bathe baby. I make play dough with big sisters. I organize the outgrown baby clothes while playing Legos with siblings. I demonstrate how to bottle feed or breast pump. I help prep a back-to-work plan.
But most importantly, I listen to the mother. I listen to the father/partner. I listen to the siblings. I listen to the stories. I am present for them and model how to be present in the gift that is the moment rushing by us.