"So I just...pull some out of this tank and put them in with the turtles? How many?" I ask, holding the blue net just above the water.
"As many as you can catch. Just not all of them," my client says.
Hello, I'm a professional postpartum doula, and I feed guppies to turtles. It's not uncommon for clients to make a list of things for me to do while I'm in their home. Small jobs that tend to pile up that aren't easily done or remembered when one is cuddling a newborn all day (and night) long. Usually it's something benign, like catching up on laundry, feeding a hungry toddler (or mama!), and doing some light cleaning. That day, it was sacrificing a few dozen prolifically breeding guppies to some hungry turtles. Normally I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to anything fish-related, and I'm also a bit of an animal-lover, so this was an unorthodox request I might normally balk at. But it ended up not being too hard to honor it for my client, and kind of fun to show her toddler how the turtles snapped up the tiny darting fish. In the end, I chose to support my client by helping her get something off her long to-do list while she healed and bonded with her baby.
So, what else might* your postpartum doula do for you? Check out the list below:
Are you pregnant, and wondering what to do with your placenta when all is said and done? Maybe you have one tucked away in your freezer, newly discovered after a recent spring clean of the freezer-burned leftovers (not judging, I may have done this...). Either way, here you are, searching the internet for answers.
Placenta encapsulation, placenta smoothies, placenta tacos...the internet is rife with information on how to make your next postpartum meal gourmet - with your placenta.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about using that incredible tree of life organ to relieve or prevent postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum depression, increase milk supply, and any number of the purported uses claimed by ingesting your placenta postpartum. Personally, I've used a tincture, I've eaten placenta "truffles" (because, chocolate, hello), taken placenta capsules, even blended it raw into a smoothie. But not everyone wants to eat something that just came out of their body.
So, here are five things you can do with that awesome organ, that aren't eating it.
1. Bury it in the yard - "Planting" your Placenta
Dig a hole and place your placenta inside. Easy as burying a body. Er...It's really more beautiful than it sounds. I've seen pictures of people making special ceremonies about it - read a poem, wrap the placenta in a (bio-degradable) package or basket, make it part of your postpartum recovery. Bonus points if you ask your mother-in-law to do it (just kidding) or your postpartum doula (not kidding - they probably would!).
You could include some flower bulbs or plant a tree that will bloom over the top of it and grow with your baby!
There are actually a lot of cultures that do this, believing the placenta is the "twin" of their baby, deserving of a proper and respectful burial.
2. Make a placenta print
Not sure where you would hang this one, but it's a great conversation starter, at least.
Quips aside, I think these really are a beautiful way to preserve your placenta. Different kinds of paint/food color can be used so you can still ingest it (if you want). I love how easy it is to see the "tree of life" the placenta represents for your baby when it's printed like this.
One thing to be wary of: the print needs to be done when the placenta is still relatively fresh, so it's not possible after freezing or after lotus birth (see below).
Every woman deserves a #positivepostpartum. That's right, including YOU! I'm giving the gift of a #positivepostpartum with THREE incredible postpartum prizes!
There's a huge rush in our culture to get our "pre-baby body" back. On one local support group facebook page I often see the question, "I'm 3 (or 4, or 5) weeks postpartum and feel great and have stopped bleeding. Can I start working out?" And as soon as we hit that 6 week mark and get "approved" for exercising, many of us are off through the gate.
I'll start by saying this: slow down, mamas! Regular exercise is not appropriate before that 6 week mark - it could set back your healing and cause further issues (like worsening diastasis recit, an abdominal separation, or causing pelvic organ prolapse). So many postpartum cultures recommend staying indoors and relatively inactive for the first 40 days. Take this time to rest and bond with your baby. And if you're feeling REALLY restless, try these six postpartum-approved movements.
Confinement. Xuo Yue Zi. The first Forty Days. Ansei. Sitting Month. Baby Moon.
Whatever you call it, the first six weeks or so after a woman has a baby are a universally acknowledged time of much-needed recovery.
In several Eastern countries like Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, and Japan, daily abdominal massage and various forms of wrapping the abdomen (in Malaysia called Bengkung Belly Binding) is practiced, bringing warmth and support to a recovering mother.
In Russia women are given an herbal steam bath in specially built saunas.
In China, women are served dishes of pig's feet, sweet rice congee, red date and ginger tea, among others, specifically made to warm her body, keep blood flowing, and help her breast milk com in quickly, easily, and in abundance.
In Korea and India, similar principles apply: women eat and drink only hot or room temperature items, like Seaweed Soup and special curries, to avoid creating "wind" in her body that might prevent healing.
Just about every woman has them or will get them at some point in pregnancy. During pregnancy they can appear on the abdomen, thighs, breasts, and buttocks. Whether it's genetics or skin health that causes them, no one is quite sure. And although some women take them as their "badge of honor" and have a very positive view of their bodies postpartum, most women would rather not have them. There are about a million and one different supposed remedies for stretch marks available on the market today - from DIY "natural" creams and lotions, to essential oils, to expensive serums and pricey potions.
All claim to work, but do they really get rid of the "tiger stripes"?
This is one of the questions women commonly ask once they are introduced to postpartum belly binding. (Still aren't certain what belly binding is or why you would want to do it? Click here to learn more about belly binding.)
The basic answer is YES! You can learn to belly bind yourself postpartum.
Whether your budget doesn't have room to hire a professional belly binder or there aren't any in your area, you can definitely learn this incredible skill and receive the benefits of belly binding postpartum.
However, word of caution: belly binding is tricky to learn, though the technique is simple once you have it down. And since you'll be binding yourself in the first days and weeks postpartum, you'll be tired, bleeding, leaking milk, sleep-deprived, and prone to hormonal mood swings. This makes belly binding yourself difficult, but not impossible, and there are a few things that will make it all the easier.
This is the most common question I'm asked by women when they first learn about belly binding. They range from 3 weeks, 3 months, or even years postpartum. The benefits of postpartum belly binding are many (read about the benefits here!), so it's understandable that these women want to take advantage.
The first question I ask is: what is your motivation?
Is it weight loss? Belly binding doesn't exactly do that, and if that's your main motivation, then belly binding isn't for you.
Or is it support? Belly binding DOES do that!
If your goal is supporting your body to facilitate healing, then belly binding might be for you, but there are a few more things to consider.
Here's what I tell those women who ask me, "Is it too late to belly bind?"
The more you dig in the world of pregnancy and birth, the deeper you will get into theories and ideas around birth. Eventually you get beyond the articles about epidural pros and cons, dangers of pitocin, the magic of natural birth, the politics of midwives vs. doctors, etc.
Beyond these is an Alice-in-Wonderland type world where everything you know about birth is turned on its head and your beliefs are deeply challenged.
My initiation into doula work was brought on by my fall "into the rabbit hole. I have had three beautiful babies, and the preparation for each one took me deeper and deeper into unique cultures, concepts, and ceremonies for birth. Natural Childbirth. Placenta encapsulation. Lotus birth.
Pushing the boundaries of my beliefs has expanded my world-view, my trust in my own intuition as a mother, and my belief in the goodness of pregnancy and birth. So I've gathered a list here of "radical birth practices" that you can explore, and perhaps even apply to your own pregnancy or birth.
Each point is a link, so click on it to be directed to more information.
Birth - fetal ejection Reflex (not actively pushing) - Click here for VIDEO
Water-birth - Click here for list of VIDEOS
Raw Placenta Smoothie
Placenta Prevents Postpartum Hemorrhage
Lotus Birth - Click here for VIDEO
Check your own cervical dilation in labor
Pain-free, even orgasmic, birth
Unassisted or free birth
Birth outdoors, in a backyard or in the wild - VIDEO
Did I miss something? Add it in the comments below!
*These statements are not meant to be taken as medical advice. Be sure you do your own research and take responsibility for the decisions you make in your birth experience. Not all of the methods on this list are for every woman, and only you (and your care provider) can decide if your health permits exploring these "radical" options for giving birth.