You’ve probably heard us talk about Qi, nourishing Blood, Yin and Yang… But perhaps the most significant measure of health in Chinese Medicine is Jing.
Jing, also known as Essence, is what we are made of. It is your personal reserve of energy and is connected to hormones and reproduction, thus, it is a really big deal. The quantity and quality of your Jing governs your health.
Taoist philosophy teaches that childbearing and childbirth are where the greatest amount of Jing are consumed.
There is an abundance of energy utilised at conception, then the support of a fetus through growth and development during pregnancy. At birth, Qi and Blood has waned with the inspiring effort to bring a baby Earth side. From birth, the care and effort to nourish a child as well as healing and recuperate from a dynamic activity requires a new mum to bear a strong constitution before pregnancy.
Many traditional cultures practice an art of deep nourishment focussed around rest, nutrition and restoration in order to recover from birthing, to allay injury and replenish health. It is known as zuo yue zi, or the Golden or Sitting Moon in Traditional Chinese Medicine postpartum care. Attention is given wholly to the mother for 40 days and 40 nights to aid in shifting a new mumma into a deep nourishment phase. The dedication to self care during this gateway allows a mother to “emerge more beautiful and rejuvenated than before”.
Motherhood is often underestimated. It is a fully passionate commitment to presence.
“How you make your way in the postpartum period is suggestive of your preparation and how you’ve led your life. The tiny human in front of you is already downloading their observations of everything you do, say and respond to, therefore, I would imagine, you would want to be at your best.
If you fail to replenish your cup, you age much quicker and become more vulnerable to disease and injury. You open yourself up to what is commonly and possibly highly underreported issues such as postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, birth trauma, breastfeeding difficulties and nutritional depletion.”
Physically & mentally adjusting to the demanding postpartum period of your life.
Within western culture, it is noted that there is a definite recognition of change when a mother bears a child, though there is limited emphasis upon deliberate physical care and support. The female body has a dramatic adjustment after pregnancy with an impact upon mood, chemical/hormonal restructuring, a shift in relationships and status and of course in self.
Feeling ungrounded or spaced out, vulnerable, fragile, sore, fatigued and unsure, can take your attention away from the one thing that requires your undivided and complete self to be available. This should be reason enough to educate and prepare yourself to be ready to nurture, hold and tend to in this demanding period.
To work through postpartum, your role as a new mother is to care wholly and fully for your newborn. This can only be done if you have patience with yourself.
The prime lesson of motherhood is to surrender. It is only when you let go, that you gain mastery. Surrendering control gives you power and calm to move through the demanding and challenging periods of motherhood. It would be pertinent to be reminded, and constantly, that there is no expectation (ever) to bounce back from childbirth within a few weeks. It does yourself, your baby and your family a disservice and for what? Ego?
Zuo yue zi is guided by 4 elements to aid in a blissful transition into motherhood:
Slowing down is the crux of postpartum. And, you’ve earned it. Not that you need an excuse. The time from birth is your moment to focus upon your newborn and be cared for in turn.
“Avoiding excessive stimulation, stress, or change keeps you calm and present. This is the simplest form of you getting in sync with your baby. Presence helps you learn their movements, noises, facial expressions – all clues to their non verbal communication that you will master if you observe.”
Retreating to a space to rest your body, put your feet up, feed your baby in peace and mindfully eat allows you to literally heal and recover from birthing. To be nourished and supported physically and mentally, is the antidote to post birth wellbeing. To be clear, your body including your uterus and organs require time to return to their proper place. This is a gradual process – remember they have been relocated for the past 10 months. Actually, stopping and resting really does mean laying down – not all day but enough so Qi and Blood can gather and accumulate. Gravity from standing is far too much pressure on the reproductive system, so take a seat!
“Let food be thy medicine,” they say and we agree.
There are key foods in Chinese Medicine that will replenish and support your body, mood and hormone health after having a baby. Food should be adequate enough in wholesome calories to provide nutritional support, maintain healing and breastfeeding. Meals are much easier if frequent and small to support the digestion and keep energy flowing through the day (and night) rather than overload it.
Emphasis in Chinese medicine is that foods should be warm in temperature, cooked and easy to digest. You are aiming to eat mindfully and simply with less pressure on the digestion. For example, it is far easier to digest a warm cooked porridge than raw oats in a muesli.
Iron rich foods replace blood loss during birth and enhance your Jing:
- dark green vegetables
- organic animal protein
- egg yolk
- whole grains
These are a prefect supply of vitamins and minerals.
Used as directed, the following spices can promote lactation and warm you up:
Plus they are marvellous digestion enhancers.
Foods that are perfect for an omega 3, zinc and iodine boost include:
- oily fish
- bone broth
These are all very important elements to generate the balance between Yin and Yang.
Don’t forget hydration. Plus avoiding anything cold from the fridge, caffeinated drinks and alcohol will keep a calm baby and evade dry skin, organs and mouth. Water, broths, Chinese herbal teas and soups replace warmth and give you energy.
Pre-birth is your time to be organising your post birth support. And your support comes from those people that have been with you throughout your journey of pregnancy.
Guiding your family into the support network you need before birth refers to such things as defining when visits can take place, for how long and what the barter exchange will be. Yes, the barter exchange. This will be in the form of any type of assistance like bringing a meal, cleaning, changing a bed, shopping for groceries, caring for baby while mum sleeps, showers or eats. It’s all about gathering and stockpiling mumma Qi.
Heat removes cold and is a central theme in Chinese medicine postpartum care. Preserving and building warmth in the body will also heal and rejuvenate. Birthing takes effort and energy to move through and in turn there is much Qi and Blood lost through the process. Traditionally, the concept of ‘mother warming’ or other forms of heating and insulating a postpartum body is the tonic to recovery (think heat packs, belly binding and bodywork). Mother warming is a beautiful technique using heat and herbs to warm you deeply from the inside out. It promote circulation to encourage recovery and can be safely used at home after birthing.
Warming is also in the form of soft, easy to digest food. The digestive fire is low after providing a load of energy to give life to a baby including bringing them into the world. Supporting the digestion builds Blood which equals good breast milk and more energy to give to recovery. Consuming cold salads, indigestible sandwiches, over salted or sweetened snacks and heavy proteins, jams up your digestion. A warm bowl of chicken soup can go a long way.
Rest, Recovery & Chinese Medicine Postpartum
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