Anastasia Griffith on Trusting the Gut in Pregnancy
I had the pleasure of meeting Anastasia a few years ago and have been inspired by her ever since. Many of you have probably seen the likes of her beautiful energy leading up shows like Damages, Copper, and Trauma; However, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing many holistic and spiritual conversations with this incredibly wise Aries. And it’s no surprise that in true Aries fashion, she paused her L.A. life and headed to South Of France where she awaits the birth of her first son. I’m over the moon to share her journey today, and a few of the remedies she swears by.
Trusting the Gut in Pregnancy
A health food devotee navigating the perils of pregnancy
The irony does not escape me.
Prior to learning of my budding babe, this real food devotee lived a life wholly of fermented foods, soaked grains, raw honey, raw milk, green juice and essential oils. I avoided the ‘brain fog’ of sugar and gluten at all costs and had not taken an Advil in over a year. I am now 8 months pregnant, and over the past months I have been taught to be fearful of the very elixirs that I credit as curing me from Lyme disease, leaky gut and a long list of other attractively named ailments last year. At this time, when nutrition and nurturance are my greatest focus, I find myself longingly staring through the window at Moon Juice. The health food dilemmas (what is a fad and what is real) have never felt more like life and death now that I am growing a small human in my belly. So the question is currently even more burning: why is it that the doctor’s advice is so at odds with what I feel, in my gut, is guiding me to true peace and wellness? And what does this really mean for my baby and I?
Gut instinct is intrinsic to motherhood, I am told. I have never been the recipient of such flowing advice (solicited and unsolicited) from friends, strangers, healers and doctors alike, and often this advice is frighteningly contradictory. This is not new to me. While doing my healing I heard endless arguments for and against anti-biotic treatment versus holistic healing with some extremism thrown in for good measure, and I believe the stress of the confusion made me sicker. It created fear, and shame, that I was constantly getting it wrong, that I ‘should’ be doing it differently somehow (beware of that word, should!) I have long felt that FEAR really is at the heart of every nasty word uttered and every self-sabotaging thought. I realized then too that that shriveling feeling, fear, eradicates and cannot exist at the same time as the expansive, blooming state of LOVE.
It was then I realized, for the first time that I had to charter this territory myself. Whatever or whoever filled me with fear, rather than love, was leading me away from where I wanted to be; that doctors, while often brilliant and life saving, don’t always have all the answers. The studies of science can still only go so far to understand our complex human systems. These systems (as I am currently witnessing) are built through a series of little miracles that begins with a soul, a concept science cannot yet explain. In my gut, I had a hunch that when dealing with these metaphysical diseases that seem to be so controversial as to their very existence (like Lyme, leaky gut, autoimmune, chronic fatigue) I had to do what ‘felt’ right. And quickly I made immense improvements. My spirits were back, my bon viveur, my energy. I could once again step out to meet the world half way.
Through my success, healing with the mind/body connection, I am growing slowly more confident about taking the power back to do the same in pregnancy. Meditation, visualization, bodywork and programming of the subconscious mind have once again become essentials for me during these later few months of gestation. As the birth creeps closer, I recognize the importance of the story my mind is telling my body and my baby. I am actively choosing to replace fear with love and giving myself the tools to lean in and breathe through the ceremonial, coming of age that I believe the natural birthing process can be. I am excited.
I have reinvested in my practice of using essential oils in pregnancy and am excited to use these powerful plant medicines to help guide me through the birth (I will report on how this goes!) Certainly for now, I am able to find great reprieve in the use of Ylang Ylang and Lavender oils for relaxation, Clove oil to help with the bleeding gums that can accompany pregnancy, Frankincense and Geranium for stretch mark prevention (so far so good), and delicious Grapefruit oil in my water to curb nausea (to name a few). No more will I be led to believe that Tylenol is safer than a few drops of Peppermint oil for the stress headaches that accompanied my first two trimesters, because these oils were ‘untested’ on pregnant women. When I connect with my body, that brain in my gut, I recognize how much more I trust the gentleness and wisdom of nature to balance my system at this precious time.
This brings me back to my baby diet. Now with my autonomy of knowing back in the drivers seat, I am feeling a million bucks. I am back to juicing delicious green veggies, well washed and eaten fresh, so that I might be able to flood that umbilical cord with goodness each day. I consume soaked seed like grains, as I know these to be relieved of phytic acid and are less abrasive to the gut. I eat raw local honey and an array of fresh fruit to stave off any sugar ‘cravings’ and I eat only grass fed/organic/free range meats and eggs, when available. My body tells me what it wants and I am able to trust these instincts now that I know I am working from my gut and not my mind. And the single most nutrient dense, satiating part of my pregnancy lifestyle? Two words BONE BROTH.
Full of tissue building amino acids, protein and gelatin, essential minerals (calcium, phosphorous, silicon, sulphur, magnesium, zinc, potassium ) that are elusive elsewhere in our diets and good essential fats that we pregnant women need in greater amounts, bone broth provides the ideal building blocks for your budding babe. In recent studies, bone broth has been seen to support the nervous, digestive and endocrine systems, as well as joint and brain function which greatly help the developing fetus at varying stages of pregnancy and can rebuild Mama’s strength before and after childbirth. Certainly having well balanced minerals in the system have been credited to stave off numerous pregnancy related issues including preeclampsia, anemia, hemorrhaging and postnatal depression.
It is a lot to try and mentally be on top of the nutrients your babe needs at each developmental stage of pregnancy and I have found that a cup of bone broth a day gives me peace of mind that I am meeting this little mite’s needs. As I have established, I believe so much of healthfulness comes from peace of mind! Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and this sweet pudding is ideally not making his appearance for another month yet, but frankly, if my doctors were to be believed, his mere existence is a miracle. I am inclined to agree.
Bone Broth Recipe:
Used by ancient cultures and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, bone broth is not a new concept, and cooking it as it used to be cooked over a period of 24 to 36 hours will give you entirely different results than the watery cartons we find in Wholefood and Lassens. I have found a slow cooker to be a lifesaver in terms of time and safety, plus these long cooks fill your home with warming aromas at this time of year:
Beef Marrow Bone Broth:
(To make approximately 64oz)
4 (halves) Organic, Grass Fed Beef shinbone, with marrow meat.
1 Knuckle, quartered
(I often also add any other bones I have saved in the freezer, either those that I have used once before, or chicken feet, chicken bones that I have saved. 4 chicken feet would be ideal)
½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 organic carrots, peeled and cleaned
4 stalks of celery (organic)
1 Yellow Onion (organic) peeled and quartered.
8-12 Cloves of garlic, peeled.
2 inches of Ginger, peeled
3-4 Knobs of fresh Turmeric, peeled
Handful of parsley, washed.
2-3 Sticks of Kombe
Preheat the oven to approx. 350 fahrenheit. Place the bones on a baking tray, no need to oil or treat at all. Bake them for approx. half an hour, until they appear somewhat browned and the marrow meat is now a beige/brown colour rather than pink.
Take the bones out of the pan. Place the knuckle and all other bones (other than the marrow) into the slow cooker or the large pot. Pour in the apple cider vinegar, really splashing it over the bones. The acid in the vinegar will help extract the minerals from the bones when boiling.
Using a kitchen towel to hold the bones, scoop the marrow from the bones with a spoon, and eat! It should be deliciously hot and oh so full of goodness! You can serve on a piece of (gluten free) toast or simply as it is, with a small sprinkling of Himalayan salt… It is SO good for you and your babe.
Place the marrowbones with the others in the slow cooker/pot and allow to soak for approx. 20 mins.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker, no need to do so in any order or particularly carefully. Once done, pour in some filtered water until all the ingredients are covered. Place the lid on the pot, and bring to the boil. If you are using a slow cooker, set to high. You want to get the water to boiling point and maintain it at a simmer for the rest of the cook. In a slow cooker that may take a couple of hours.
Once the broth is boiling, turn down the heat, keep it covered and allow it to simmer as consistently as you can for 36 hours. I prefer to skim the vegetables out after a few hours of simmering, leaving in the ginger and turmeric. There is no need for them to remain in for the entire cook, as their goodness is leached much more quickly than the bones.
Allow the bones, ginger and turmeric to remain on a simmer, skimming off any debris or ‘scum’ on the surface periodically. After 28-36 hours you will have a rich smelling broth, with a deep colour that is full of flavor. Allow it to cool. Sieve the pot and it’s contents over a large pouring bowl. You can keep these bones in the freezer to support your next cook. They may still have some goodness. Discard of the rest of the solids.
Some like to put this liquid through a nut bag or a muslin to clarify it, but I feel there is no need. I allow this liquid to cool until I can put it in smaller glass jars and allow it to chill in the fridge. It should turn to a slight jelly consistency when cold. This is the gelatin, and is a good sign!
Reheat as you wish. The broth will be fine in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for up to 6 months. NB if you are going to freeze in the glass jars, please take the lids off before freezing to prevent glass breakage as the broth expands.
One suggestion… try blending a cup of hot broth with a teaspoonful of coco oil or ghee for a creamier, more nutrient dense experience.
Or you may like to add a little fresh ginger juice, or a splash of apple cider vinegar for more of a bite.
This broth can also be used as the base for many soups or sauces, for yourself or your kids… an ideal way to get them to eat these great nutrients.
If all this sounds like far too much work however, you can get some high quality grass fed bone broth from a totally local company following all these ethical guidelines: Brothee: www.Brothee.com or at farmer’s markets around LA (check the website).
There are many courses around that you can find. Or simply listen to CDs and read the books in your own time at home. I recommend Marie Mongan’s book ‘Hypnobirthing’ very highly; it has grounded me in my own body and empowered me with a connection between my baby and I these past weeks. I will let you know if it helps with relaxation during birthing itself! It offers an experiential shift that more head based reading might not.
The Gentle Birth Method – Dr Gowri Motha
Essential Oils for Pregnancy:
Stretch Mark Blend:
Jojoba Oil – 2 Tablespoons
Rose Hip Oil – 2 Tablespoons
Vit E oil – 2 Tablespoons
7 drops Lavender
5 drops Lemon
7 drops Geranium
5 drops Frankincense
Oils for Delivery:
Myrrh - Intensifies contractions/gets things moving (you can also blend with Clary Sage)
Clary Sage - Makes contractions more effective/calms nervous system and brings on labour
Geranium - enhances circulation
Basil - Good for lower back pain
Black Pepper – Good for lower back pain
Lavender (or Citrus Bliss) - delivery room atmosphere
Peppermint can reduce anxiety and hypertension (massage directly on belly) or blend with Myrrh to reposition baby.
Peppermint + Wild Orange in equal parts for Relaxation and Focus
Nausea and Pain Blend:
Dilute the following in a few oz. of carrier oil (fractionated coco oil or jojoba)
Ylang Ylang - 5 drops
Helichrysum - 4 drops
Cypress - 4 drops
Black Pepper - 4 drops
Peppermint - 2 drops
Clary Sage - 2 Drops
Perineum/Pushing Phase support blend:
To be applied to the perineum as the baby is crowning
1 0z Fractionated coconut oil (or something similar)
20 drops Helichrysum
20 drops Frankincense
Photographed by Jamie Arrigo