A Well-Nourished Possible Woman
If you've known me for some time, you probably know how much I love to eat and how appreciative of Mother Nature, our Planet Earth, I am, and how I strive to live in balance with her and in harmony with her cycles and my own inner cycles. Right. And I live in Los Angeles, in the heart of the second largest city in this country! This IS a hell of a big city. It's tough to have to do so much driving, to have to deal with traffic and so much chaotic energy all the time. And yet it has been a great teacher to me.
Not long ago, I heard the phrase "Birth work is Earth work". And that has definitely resonated with me on a deeper level. I know that I'm doing Earth work even though I currently spend so much time indoors and in the car! You see, if I were living right now the life of my dreams, I'd be frolicking in the fields and doing all that I can to live off of the land, in a community of like-minded souls, growing most of our food, having my children learn life skills from other adults and serving that community as the mid-wife (with woman) that I am. I am dreaming of that - will it ever come true or be possible? I do not know and right now, it doesn't matter, because I know better days are coming our way as a family. But I digress...
The point is I am grateful for my life as it is. I do enjoy the conveniences of the city and I keep dreaming of more space, more feet on the ground, more fresh air! I know that everything is perfect and that I am doing my best with what I have in the moment. And there's always room for improvement. I have been learning to better take care of myself and also the women that come to me. Most of my clients also live in the city. Learning how to nourish our bodies and slowing down as modern women and mothers is a BIG part of my personal journey: let it start by me. For instance, it wouldn't work for me to tell my clients that drinking herbal infusions is good for them, if I didn't do it myself! Or tell them to move more, receive a massage, take walks in nature, be in silence with the ocean or whatever it is, if I don't do it myself!
Let it start by me. When I change, everything around me changes. If I want a better world and intend to serve women for many years to come, taking care of myself is paramount and priority. This is the only way I can inspire the women I work with to do the same. For most of us, having lived or coming from a disconnected background (with different degrees of that disconnection), nobody taught us how to take care of ourselves, how to nourish our bodies, how to rest, so that we could thrive and not be depleted for life as mothers, for example. Nobody talked to us about postnatal depletion or how we are not actually meant to be sentenced to a life of dry prune pleasureless beings after menopause! I've heard it from different sources: menopause is liberation because finally all our energy is not being used to create potential life, it's being kept inside of us and the potential for pleasure and fulfillment is there, so we can soar as the wise crones that we are meant to be!
I started having perimenopausal symptoms at the age of 39. Since then, I have been on this journey of uncovering the truth about my body and learning how to better support my system so that I can live a long thriving life of service. It is one of my most passionate topics. I am now 44 years old and my children are now aged 21, 14, 12 and 10. If you are pregnant and think this conversation does not apply to you, I will invite you to take a pause right now and stick with this reading because it does apply to you too. Also, this is not a definite anything, or a recipe of any kind. These are just my thoughts and some of the practical changes I have been implementing. I do what I can - I am a "possible" woman and mother: imperfect and "just perfect" at the same time.
There's something to say about our modern lifestyles in cities too. Maybe you'll identify with this to a certain degree, maybe you won't. But I've said the following for many years: modern family life with each nuclear family "in their little square space" so disconnected from nature with little to no family or community support and childcare, *especially* for postpartum mothers and parents with small children, is INSANE. We were not designed to birth in captivity or live confined to our apartments without other human beings. We need other people, we need fresh air, sun shine, clean mineralized water, nutritious whole foods from the animal and plant kingdoms, movement, pleasure, art, fun, creativity, fulfillment, love, connection, a sense of belonging and the "list" goes on and on. Can you see how I want to go frolicking in the woods? But I digress again...
In my pursuit to understand what my body was telling me, that I probably had been dealing with intense postnatal depletion which could be accelerating the menopause process (perimenopause is a liminal space before menopause and can take up to 10 years), I have been learning and implementing small changes in my current life so that I feel more nourished a little bit more every day.
So first the herbs started calling to me. I am not an accomplished herbalist, (yet) but thanks to traditional midwifery, I started learning about plants and their medicine. I don't have a garden (like I did once upon a time for a brief period when I was starting my whole healing journey as a woman and mother after the birth of my second child) and I don't grow my own plants yet. Mostly, I’ve been working with dried plants that yes, I purchase online from big suppliers. All my herbs are of organic source, and I make teas, infusions, tinctures, and herbal oils that I use for my own health and well-being and also for clients. Thanks to this plant calling, I have started doing a beautiful course online with Kami McBride about Plant Communication. And oh! the insights and amazing things that have started happening to me since I joined this class are just unbelievable and deserve a post of their own.
Working with subtle plants has been transformative and I am humbled by these teachers that have inhabited our planet for so long... And so something I had desired for a long time came true to me: psychedelics. During one of the hardest periods in my life this time last year, after being abandoned by my midwife teachers, my dear fried and soul-sister Athanasia Medenas invited me to her "It's Written in the Stars" retreat in Joshua Tree. I had the most transformative amazing experience there with psylocibin, sitting ceremonially with these ancient mushroom teachers. This beautiful Earth medicine has been helping me so much, shedding whatever doesn't serve me anymore and helping me get closer to who I truly am! I am so grateful for them. In full disclaimer, I am not suggesting that everyone needs to work with mushrooms or something else to heal. I believe the medicine will come to us if and when we need them and are ready.
Another BIG part of this work of taking care of my body and soul is nutrition. Thanks to all my studies to become a midwife and a postpartum healer, I've been learning more and more about nutrition and more specifically about women's nutrition that is supportive of women's hormones for all cycles of our lives - menarche, fertile years, conception, postpartum, perimenopause and menopause - which I am now learning is called a pro-metabolic approach. Maybe I should back up a little bit and share that in my dives into what my body was doing a couple of years ago, I read Aviva Romm's "The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution". I had many conversations about it with my dear friend Grace, who is a functional nutritionist and a fellow midwife-sister. She helped me understand and integrate what I was reading about inflammation, gut protocol, adrenal fatigue and what "running on stress hormones" meant, and all the things. We talked about the fact that WHAT we eat is important, but also HOW we eat; the importance of pleasurable movement and consistent sunshine, and so many other things.
Books like The Fifth Vital Sign, Real Food for Pregnancy, The Forth Trimester, the First Forty Days, The Postnatal Depletion Cure, among others have been instrumental for myself and my work. Integrating pregnancy and traditional postpartum healing modalities has brought me this understanding of the nutrients that all women need so our bodies can grow and sustain another life inside of us, then continue to do that work while milk flows from our breasts in the most beautiful proof of love to our babies. When we do the work of continuing to nourish our bodies, during our menstrual cycles and every time we are postpartum (resulting in a baby, or after a miscarriage or an abortion), we can prepare to meet menopause not depleted and "done", but with grace and vitality. I am dedicated to not only nourish myself appropriately, but to share and teach and inspire other women to do the same.
I must say that groups like the West A. Price Foundation and the Root Cause Protocol folks have made a very big impact on me on a personal level and on my work with women. By no means, I am claiming to be fluent in what they both teach and share, but I am doing my best in implementing the changes that I can so that my body is truly nourished. I have been much more conscious about the food that I consume and also how I consume it. For example, I stopped starving my body in the morning to lose weight. I am hungry and I eat. I don't skip toast anymore and will have one (or two) with eggs. I eat and cook with butter and ghee now, whereas I had spent many years not eating butter for some silly reasons. I save bacon fat and season our beans with it now. I only use avocado, coconut oils and olive oil in our home. My kids still drink pasteurized milk (but it's whole and from pasture-raised cows), but I started to heal my relationship with raw milk and I drink it as often as I can. I went back to eating beef liver just like when I was pregnant with my kiddos. I started making chicken liver pâté and I eat it with bread and save it frozen to sneak it into other dishes. I make bone broth regularly, drink it pure, cook with it and share it with postpartum clients. A project I have for this year is to learn to make sourdough at home. I haven't gotten the starter right yet - working on it!
Supplements, you ask? A few, but not too many. I believe the most important one is cod liver oil, which I'm taking happily for the first time in my life. An adrenal cocktail with real vitamin C, magnesium and trace minerals. That's it. I don't take vitamin D anymore because of what I'm learning with RCP. Sunshine daily ☀️ is my medicine. Plus I live in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year regardless of the season. Real high-nutrient dense food. Real food. That's what's working for me. Yes, I still eat pizza and hot dogs and have a great time, but I make most of the food we eat at home and that's very important for me not just because of the choice of ingredients, but also because of the energy that I use when making food for my loved ones - food as medicine. Not to mention sitting down together to eat: I love it and it fills my heart and soul with love!
One of my biggest commitments is to take walks in nature and go hiking regularly by myself and with my family too. Easier said than done! But we're doing ok in our plans and getting out there. The truth is that it's hard for me knowing about our evolutionary mismatch (a term that I love and that explains how I feel when I'm feeling down or kind of claustrophobic inside the apartment) and the reality of still living like a modern mostly sedentary human!... Anyway, I am doing my best. And for now, that will do. Yes, I can do better, with more movement, more time outside, maybe sourcing my food better and all that. And remember: I am a possible woman and mother, not some idealized romanticized version of myself.
Then you ay ask yourself: what does this have to do with pregnancy, birth and the postpartum time? and I tell you: everything! Because when you prioritize yourself, your well-being and learn how to nourish your body and your soul, then motherhood comes easier to you. We have all heard of the number of women having difficulties to conceive these days. What if nourishment on all levels, nutritionally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, is the key? We already know that how vital preparing for a physiological nourished postpartum is for the rest of your life, but we must continue to do this work, giving our body what it needs, taking care of our temple. Remember: we only get this body, we don't get a spare! So let's take care of it the best way we can.
Obviously, this conversation is nuanced and there are many other aspects that I didn't address here, like our sexual life, and our relationship to pleasure, healing our trauma, nervous system regulation, how teeth health is another layer of this whole conversation. The latter being one of my biggest challenges lately because it's taken me so long to embrace my autonomy and take responsibility for my teeth. And then I am reminded that I'm learning, and wanting to have it all figured out in one go is unrealistic and counterproductive, actually, because it overloads my nervous system! So I remember to slow down. And sometimes I tell myself to slow the f* down, Maíra. Take a breath, and another, and another.
So my prayer for you today is that you find inspiration in these words and that you too start to and/or continue to prioritize your health and well-being so you can continue to show up for the people you love and do your sacred work in the world, as a woman as a mother and parent if you choose to. I'd love to hear from you what are your strategies for nourishing your body and soul with more intention and more deeply.