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.
Sarva is a mother, Natural Therapeutic Specialist, Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula, Ayurvedic Doula Mentor & Trainer, Herbalist, Gem & Flower Essence Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, & Infant Massage Instructor. She lives in Kansas City, MO.
How did you come into this work? What drew you to Ayurveda and to postpartum care?
From the first moment I was able to work, jobs working with babies and the youngest of children happened to be handed to me. I was going through my own journey of struggling with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder, with no real support other than being offered medications to treat superficial symptoms. Something about providing such gentle, loving, nurturing care to the most vulnerable human beings–and the love that poured between the babies in my care and me–initiated an internal process of healing for me and gave me a purpose & reason to keep going. I recognized that caring for babies was my soul’s work.
Many years later I was still caring for babies when I found my way to the New Mexico School Of Natural Therapeutics where I learned natural, holistic healing and was given the solutions that healed the root cause of the struggles I had faced. As soon as I graduated I knew I wanted to specialize in the holistic healing modalities I had learned there toward caring for babies and children, but I couldn’t find anything that had the deep answers I was looking for until I found Ayurveda. That’s when everything started falling into place.
That’s when I discovered that if I want a baby to truly receive the best start to life possible, it has to start with his/her mother’s care and from their I discovered my role here on Earth to be a protector of women during childbirth.
Who have been your most valued and inspiring teachers in learning the sacred work of Ayurvedic postpartum care and mother care?
It’s difficult to choose only a few to name as I have so many deeply gifted teachers to thank for guiding me and sharing their wisdom.
Ysha Oakes who taught me the system of Ayurvedic new mother and baby care. I feel I am doing nothing more than carrying on her dear and precious work, and I am awestruck by the movement she has initiated here in the United States.
Ahara Vatter who taught me the art of new mother’s abhyanga, marma therapy, Ayurvedic baby massage, and how to unwind a baby’s birth trauma.
Robert Stevens who taught me the philosophy of nature cure and how to remove dysfunction and trauma from the human being by going all the way back to the birth body, or better yet, starting as early as when a being has just been born or is still in the mother’s womb; and who taught me that a true picture of health is on all levels–physical, pranic, astral/emotional, and mental/causal–and includes feelings of unconditional love in the heart.
Sunny Bueck who taught me how to hold space for another individual, how to feel and balance the energetic body, and how to make and utilize potent vibrational medicines that are gentle enough for the most fragile of human beings including newborns and new mothers.
And my spiritual master who initiated me into the spiritual lineage I am in, Keshava Bharati Maharaja, who taught me that the love between a mother and her child is the closest thing in the material world to love of God, and that is why ensuring or restoring the bond between mother and child is so important.
Is there anything else in particular you’d like to share about your own learning journey?
Every baby & every mother I have worked with has gifted me an entire world’s worth of wisdom. The very first time I cared for a new mother in the postpartum time I was so nervous! I thought surely I didn’t have enough wisdom yet, that I wasn’t ready yet. But being there with a mother & her newborn, holding space for them, and caring for them in the best way you know how in the moment is the greatest teacher of all. That is what sends this wisdom down to the depth of your bones.
If something is True, it expands. Ayurveda & this Ayurvedic system of postpartum care are True. Which means your work will be ever-expanding, ever-deepening. I find that extremely beautiful. So if any of you are just getting started, don’t worry, you are ready & you will be constantly ever-expanding.
What other modalities and wisdom traditions do you enjoy weaving into your work?
I have a deep affinity with plants & plant medicine, and I am trained in western herbalism as well–so I love making extremely magical herbal medicine formulas for mamas and babies that combine the traditions and wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine making with some of my most beloved western herbal allies. I always incorporate Ayurvedic herbs, western herbs, flower essences, homeopathic remedies, essentials oils, and hydrosols (floral waters) into the layers of support I offer a new mother.
I also love to bring ceremony into the way I do the more practical things she needs, such as the way I wrap her belly or prepare her herbal baths & teas, so that she feels truly honored, seen, & held.. so that the initiation she went through during the birth of her baby gets deeply acknowledged.
Tell us about your journey into teaching Ayurvedic postpartum care. What inspired you to start training other Ayurdoulas?
I constantly felt disheartened by my personal limit of how many postpartum mothers I could help at once. For many years I was the only Ayurvedic doula in my area, and every time I turned a mama-to-be away because I was already booked for her due date, I had no one I could even refer her to which I found a bit heartbreaking honestly. I was also trying to be an entire village for each mother in my care which was exhausting, and I was deeply in need of teammates. I have a very clear vision of what kind of care I want to see every mother on Earth receiving, and I can not possibly provide it to them all on my own!
One day I was pondering this while staring at a beautiful allium flower called Star Of Persia blooming in my garden. It had a spherical center with spikes shooting off from the center in every direction. At the end of each spike was a star-shaped flower, or in other words, another center
with spikes shooting off in every direction. I suddenly saw myself as the sphere in the center, I saw that I was meant to teach Ayurdoula care, and I saw that every person I teach would be one of those spikes shooting off from the center of the flower. Each spike–each person I teach–in turn becomes the sphere in the center of her own flower, and I saw the petals of the star-shaped flowers as all the people she teaches, touches, helps, and supports. And it continues on like that indefinitely.
I saw for the first time in that moment that the only way I can help as many women as I am here to help is by teaching other Ayurdoulas. There is no other way.
Before that moment, I had never even considered teaching other Ayurdoulas. Now I have found that I have never loved any work more in my life than sharing this wisdom through teaching. I don’t think there could ever be too many teachers or too many Ayurdoulas. We need as many as possible.
Interestingly, I later learned that Star Of Persia flower essence medicine brings order to new growth, serenity to chaotic situations, helps you to birth the new into your life with a gentle forgiving view of self, and helps you stay centered within the energy of birth. Truly amazing.
How do you work towards health equity? What do you think are the most important things caregivers can do to work towards health equity?
This lays heavy on my heart & I am constantly seeking a solution. This is a systemic, societal level issue.
In relation to post-birth care, for a long time I was attempting to address the issue by offering my services at very reduced rates, hoping to make it possible for every woman to receive support from me. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I ended up reaching my breaking point after caring for 2 postpartum mother and charging them only 1/3 of the rate that I needed to be able to feed my family–I worked 30 consecutive days in a row with them when I was 32-38 weeks pregnant before going on maternity leave with no further compensation because I am self-employed. I had been planning on a home birth, and we didn’t realize that our insurance (which we get through my husband’s tribe) wouldn’t cover a home birth until after we already had the bill. I was unable to pay rent, didn’t have enough food, and of course could not afford any postpartum care of my own. I also had a much more difficult time recovering from the birth because I worked too hard while pregnant.
That’s when I first realized that by offering these discounted rates, I was doing nothing more than treating a symptom of the issue as opposed to the root cause; and when it comes down to it, I really only helped such a small amount of women doing that compared to how many women are out there struggling. Unfortunately, the root cause is an extremely dysfunctional society that is keeping us separated from each other & has removed cultural wisdom that should be passed down from generation to generation. We the people have little voice in changing this society.
The best solution I currently see is bringing the wisdom and culture of mother and newborn care back into the hands of the people.
I don’t encourage my doula students to offer extremely reduced rate services like I did unless they are truly in a position of overflowing abundance where they can give without becoming depleted themselves. What I do encourage is educating the people as a whole as much as possible.
I have friends from Nepal who shared with me all about the gorgeous culture of post-birth care for mama and newborn that literally every woman in Nepal receives after the birth of her baby. They told me, “We don’t have anything too fancy there, not even hot running water.” So what do they do? They fill a tub with water and herb leaves outside every morning & leave it in the sun to warm. Every afternoon, mama and baby get a mustard seed oil massage infused with special herbs outside under a sheet that is hung to shade them from the sun, and then soak in the sun warmed water. Afterward, baby falls into a deep sleep & mama is free to rest or do what she wants while everyone else prepares her special meals and takes care of the household.
Imagine if we were not disconnected from each other & from the wisdom of how mothers and babies need to be cared for. Imagine if we weren’t afraid to massage each other & we all knew how to. Imagine if our mothers and grandmothers had taught us the wisdom of how to feed a woman who has just given birth & how to prepare special meals and herbal preparations for her–even where to go to gather those herbs.
A new mother needs a whole village of wise women to care for her. If we can simultaneously re-unite with each other, especially within our own villages, and then get this wisdom back to all women so that it starts being passed down from generation to generation once more, nothing could stop every woman from receiving what she needs. It is time for us to reunite and take back the wisdom that is our birthright.
What challenges do you see caregivers face in postpartum work, and what supportive measures do you feel could smooth these challenges?
Some of the big ones I see are: a sense of competition with one another, being trapped in a society where caregivers have to put food on the table for their own families which means they can’t just offer their services for free though most would really prefer to do so, the lack of ability to tap into health insurance coverage for their services, society’s lack of understanding in why postpartum care is essential for every mother.
We need to drop the false idea of competition to create teamwork between caregivers and then to educate as many people as possible.
If you had only a couple of minutes to speak with an expecting mama/couple, what would you say?
There isn’t much in a woman’s life that is more physically intense and demanding than labor and giving birth. Anything that is extremely physically demanding requires a period of recovery afterward, such as after a surgery, an illness, or a time of extreme physical exertion. Birth is no different, and requires a recovery time of a full 6 weeks for a vaginal birth, or 8 weeks for a cesarean birth, during which it is necessary for the mother to rest deeply, stay off her feet as much as possible, and be cared for by those around her.
In our society, most people are not aware of this needed recovery time after birth and because of that, we are seeing that many mothers are doing too much too quickly after birth. This is resulting in widespread post-birth ailments like postpartum depression, depletion, overwhelm, anxiety, a colicky baby, etc. When a new mother receives her required period of recovery–when she gets a full 6-8 weeks of rest and nurturing care, and in addition receives very specific types of meals, herbs, and body care that are designed to support her deepest recovery– we see that she will absolutely thrive, stepping into her motherhood feeling calm, grounded, strong, and well healed at the deepest levels with a baby who is equally calm, grounded, and strong.
Ayurveda has a complete system of care for new mothers and newborns that ensures the new mother recovers from birth in a way that actually sets the stage for a lifetime of good health and vitality + gives her baby the best start to life possible.
If this sounds like something you’d like to experience, I’d love to set up another time to chat more deeply with you about what you can do to design an Ayurvedic style post-birth recovery time for you and your beautiful baby.
What’s your all-time favorite postpartum recipe?
I’m trying to choose between about 7 different favorite recipes that I love cooking for the mamas in my care, haha! And then don’t even get me started when it comes to herbal recipes. BUT, when I was a postpartum mama I was surprised this was absolutely my favorite recipe that I literally could not get enough of.
New Mama’s Ayurvedic Oatmeal Recipe:
- Add 1/4 cup oatmeal + 1 cup whole cream top milk + 1 cup pure water + 2 tablespoons ghee + 1/2 tsp shatavari powder + 1 tsp ginger powder + 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder to a pot on the stove.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and continue to simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, then stir in 1 tablespoon molasses + 3 strands of saffron + honey to taste.
- Pour into a large mug to sip on with gratitude while lying in bed with your newborn skin-to-skin at your heart.
Favorite Body Work Technique:
Hands down abhyanga. I was originally trained as a massage therapist in the standard massage techniques most commonly used in the United States. I received my first Ayurvedic massage from Ayurvedic doula Emma Gamelsky as a trade when we were renting office space next to each other. It changed my life forever. I literally never looked back!!!
Now I’m just mesmerized with the beauty of the herbalized oils in combination with the grace and flow of the treatment–and most of all, with the way abhyanga makes every single one of my clients turn into the Goddesses they are right before my eyes as they are laying there on my massage table. It is breathtaking.
What/who inspires you right now in the work of mother care?
Right at this moment I have been gaining so much inspiration from Edward Bach, the developer of flower remedies. I am currently putting together a Flower Essences for Birth Workers Practitioner’s Training so I have spent a lot of time lately reading about Edward Bach and the history of flower essences. He believed that the ills of the heart must be the focus of a healer’s attention. Because of this, I have been feeling extremely inspired to address the ills of the heart in my mama clients in a bigger way by putting this philosophy at the center of my practice.
Greatest Need in the Sacred Window:
To be mothered–with the type of mothering that is a true expression of unconditional love, where you are completely held, completely safe at the deepest levels, and completely nourished with exactly what you need for your deepest healing.
Vision for the Future:
An intact system of post-birth care that is available to every woman–a new culture of mama and baby care emerging in the hands of all those who have been wrongly separated from this wisdom.
Anything else you would love to share with our audience?
This vision for the future is only possible with every single one of you & more. I’m so grateful you are here doing what you are doing. Don’t stop.
Find a way to do it that nourishes you deeply so that you never have to stop. That’s how we will change this world together, one mama & baby at a time.
All photos courtesy of Sarva.