Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
Charlotte is an instructor at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, an Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula, and a licensed massage therapist. A self proclaimed “professional grandma”, she brings healing to new mamas in San Antonio, Texas.
Charlotte’s journey into Ayurvedic Postpartum care was one of following divine wisdom.
It all began with a meditation practice to which she is still very devoted. Her love of cooking and viewing it as a meditative experience led her to cook meals at the ashram she attended for meditation. She then had a skin flareup where she started breaking out in hives. To self-heal, she used one of Dr. Lad’s cookbooks “Ayurveda for Self Healing,” through which she healed. At this point she already had a love of working with pregnant women as a massage therapist specializing in prenatal massage. Charlotte also became a birth doula. As a birth doula, she would offer suggestions for the mother to have support such as a lactation consultant, maid, or a psychotherapist. She later studied Ayurvedic Postpartum care with Ysha Oakes.
This was just the beginning of a long path to supporting new mothers through Ayurveda and healing practices.
Charlotte describes the role of an Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula as paying quite a lot of attention to restoring the mom through several different ways: “We also do all the normal stuff any postpartum doula would do such as breastfeeding support, support with meals, support with siblings, or just general family, also a wise listening ear. Our approach is sometimes just asking ‘What’s going on today and what’s your immediate need?’ Then going from there.”
In most Western cultures, the focus is deeply on the baby (as it should be). But Charlotte also reminds us that Mom spent so much time and energy carrying that baby, and there are so many hidden needs of her body. Her body is doing restorative work, bringing the uterus back to where it needs to be, maybe producing milk for the first time. And she is learning about breastfeeding and learning more about her own body. At the same time, she is addressing all these body image ideals in our American culture to come back to a pre-pregnant state immediately.
Ayurveda teaches to be gentle with yourself and eat a lot of gentle nourishing food with quite a lot of fat.
Charlotte explains, “If you look at the principle: Let food be your medicine, that is absolutely true. Just work with the foods that are good for your body.”
There are a few ways families choose to support themselves postpartum. These can be hiring a Night Nanny, a Western-style Postpartum Doula, or of course an Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula. But what’s really the difference? Charlotte breaks it down for us.
A Night Nanny is there to take care of the baby at night.
They will bring Baby to you strictly for breastfeeding if that’s what you are doing, or offer a bottle if you have pumped, or if you are using some kind of supplementation. It allows the birther to sleep. Sometimes rest, especially if you are so wired, is what you need. That’s when a night nanny would be a great option. But, Ayurvedic Postpartum care doesn’t advocate for having a night nanny consistently. You need to learn to work around baby’s schedule and integrate baby into your schedule. That’s what family is.
A Western-style Postpartum Doula is generally someone who has breastfeeding experience, or holds a specialty lactation certification.
Many do household tasks. The big difference between that and an Ayurveda Postpartum Doula is we do a lot more slow, restorative cooking. Where a “normal” Postpartum Doula might do quick meals for you, offer snacks, warm up food that you already have frozen, and some housekeeping.
As an Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver, Charlotte’s care involves a lot of slow cooking and body work.
She gives moms warm oil massage or if the birthing was by Casarean-a type of acupressure called “marma” using points that focus on supporting post birth. These include points for calming the neck and shoulders and the brain, for boosting lactation, and for healing from surgery. Charlotte loves to offer options to moms and make them feel comfortable with the care. She also tries to integrate the family as much as possible; one of her offerings is infant massage instruction.
“When a woman gives birth, basically her intuitive channels and everything is wide open – her channels for loving and loving the baby. And if she is properly supported, the love just opens up. Whereas if she doesn’t get the support she needs, things just kind of shut down. Your postpartum period can affect you for many many years. Depression and all kinds of issues. It’s good to take the time for yourself postpartum and allow people to take care of you. It’s not pampering — it’s restoring yourself so you can be strong in the world”.
While hiring someone to pamper the mom is great, Charlotte also reminds moms not to forget about the village: all the people that can step in to support you, even if it’s just for an hour. Also, don’t count out the men who are willing to do something nurturing or someone who can pick up the kids from school or take siblings on an outing. If you are having a baby shower or birther blessing, have guests select from a list of tasks you might need help with postpartum.
“I wish every woman all the time knew how to take care of herself best, and sometimes that’s listening to your intuition, taking a breath and asking yourself what you need right now.”
Charlotte has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we are so lucky to have her here at Center for Sacred Window Studies educating future Ayurvedic Postpartum caregivers.
Listen to the full podcast interview below:
Written by Danielle Kramer, CSWS student. Podcast courtesy of Nicole Hunt, CSWS student.