Christine Anderson, mama, massage therapist, postpartum doula, and Our Seva Motherhood Circle community member shares how her personal awakening during her own sacred window (first 40 days post birth) stirred up her inner activist and propelled her down the path of caregiving for birthing families. Today, Christine is currently pursuing a certification in Ayurveda Postpartum care that will bolster her own personal transformation process and provide even more customized care to the families she serves. Enjoy! <3
Q: As someone dedicated to working with women/mothers and advocating for sustainable care practices, what inspired you to get into this line of work? Did your own path into motherhood have any influence?
When I began massage therapy school 10 years ago, I was so inspired when we began the prenatal massage segment. I cannot specifically put my finger on the one thing that was the big draw for me. Something about supporting birthing parents during their prenatal journey sounded and seemed like it could be so sacred and beautiful. I shared this dream with a friend and her response was, “You should look into becoming a doula.” At the time I don’t recall ever hearing the term doula. That simple, supportive statement really got the ball rolling for me.
In 2013 I learned I was pregnant with my daughter. JOY! After supporting families with massage therapy, I too would now get to experience the sacredness and beauty that I heard so many birthing parents talk about. We secured a birth doula, I maintained regular chiropractic and massage therapy appointments, participated in weekly prenatal yoga classes and stayed active. I was excited. I felt amazing, powerful and beautiful. I LOVED being pregnant. My birth experience wasn’t 100% my ideal scene, however I truly loved those 16.5 hours. I was able to find strength and motivation in developing a rhythm with our doula the moment she entered our home. I truly believe my birth experience would have been very different, and perhaps I’d be singing a different tune about my daughter’s birth. I felt so in love with my daughter, my partner and the beauty of my birth experience. I could not wait to get home and settle into motherhood.
Two days into “settling into motherhood,” I realized I felt so much more confident in my prenatal and birth periods than my postpartum period. It was as if I was drowning and there was no support around me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with breastfeeding. I’m quite active, so resting and sleeping while baby slept didn’t even sound appealing. Why would I sleep when there are other things to be done around the house?
Everyone said I wouldn’t get sleep the first year of being a parent, so this routine of 2-3 hour naps for me was just something I needed to get used to. As I’m typing this, I just want to go back, reach out to my newly postpartum self, take the laundry out of my hands and say, “It’s ok to rest.”
It started to dawn on me that in my circle of friends, colleagues and birth professionals, there was little (if any) dialogue around postpartum support. I was sharing my experiences with a birth doula, and she said, “Maybe you should become a postpartum doula.” A what? What’s a postpartum doula? Why has this not come up in conversation from friends, family, colleagues, clients, even our midwife group until now? Why don’t more families know about this type of support? I felt the same drive to learn more and add another layer of support for birthing families in the community. I enrolled in a postpartum doula training the next month, and began working with families through a local birth and postpartum support organization. It’s been inspiring to hear and feel the energy bubbling in our community surrounding postpartum support. This energy is fueling my fire and my work and offerings are only just beginning.
Q: You’ve recently embarked on a journey to become a certified Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula. Can you share what sparked your interest in Ayurveda and how you believe this ancient wisdom can become an ally for women on the path to motherhood?
Somewhere in middle school I first learned about yoga and Ayurveda through an article in SEVENTEEN magazine. Four flashcards with yoga poses were conveniently perforated, and I was always up for something new. Perhaps following the instructions in the magazine, I would turn the lights low, light a candle and explore these things called “yoga poses.” Looking back it seems like an unlikely initial introduction to both, however the tear-out flashcards showcasing four yoga poses stayed tucked in my journals for years. I didn’t have friends or family interested in Ayurveda, so I tucked curiosities away with the flashcards. It wasn’t until I returned to yoga after my collegiate athletics career that I allowed my interest in Ayurveda to resurface.
My desire to begin the training was two fold. I have been exploring opportunities to learn more about Ayurveda for my own personal support over the years, and blending this desire with learning postpartum support practices seemed like a perfect fit. Ayurvedic practices and concepts can help lay out the framework for a beautifully personalized and healing Sacred Window for all birthing parents. It’s through personal exploration that I’m learning how to nurture myself more through Ayurveda.
One of the challenges I faced when first beginning this journey was a fear I would have to completely shift how I eat, breath and live in order to fully experience the gifts Ayurveda has to offer. What relief to learn I was wrong!
I was gently encouraged to begin by focusing on one or two concepts that resonated with me. From there, I was able to add an additional practice or idea when I felt called. It truly is an individualized learning experience, which is reflective to how personalized postpartum support can be through the optic of Ayurveda.
Q: As women and mothers, there are many unsupportive cultural narratives that create tension and clouded perspectives when it comes to confidently forging our own paths. What “unspoken spaces” of personal transformation do you feel need more attention or a gentle rewriting?
One of the best gifts we can offer others is a supportive space to be heard. Our current society seems to be holding tightly to the concept of, “Hurry up and have your baby so you can get back to work.” During our brief postpartum periods, pressures surrounding bedtime routines, breastfeeding and acting as if we have it all together are all too real! No wonder postpartum depression rates are so alarmingly high in our nation. My heart strings are pulled every time a birthing parent apologizes for “breaking down” and letting the emotional layers of parenthood pour from their heart. Our emotional challenges are not separate from our physical being. I believe realigning our priorities surrounding postpartum care to include more open spaces supporting our vulnerabilities is imperative to our personal and collective healing as birthing parents.
Q: The most direct way we can care for our communities is to place importance on caring for ourselves. In regards to inner wisdom – what does it sound like for you and how do you access it?
Answer: Inner wisdom is the voice inside of me offering gentle whispers of love, guidance and support. She is a blend of my ancestors, the Spirit of the Universe and personal experiences. Somewhere in my early stages of motherhood, I felt some of my walls begin to crumble, and I began to love and embrace my Inner Wisdom more. When I am not ready to listen to her (which for me tends to be fear getting in the way), she has no problem raising her voice or presenting learning opportunities. I’ll eventually hear the message, which is typically softer the first time around.
This concept of tuning into our Inner Wisdom circles back to offering spaces for folks to be heard. If I am not pausing to connect with my Inner Wisdom, then I am choosing to be distracted and often dilute her messages.
Look around us. We are seeing this everywhere right now. To be honest, we’ve been seeing and hearing this for years. Our nation’s Inner Wisdom is suffocating, which is why everything feels so loud right now. Her gentle whispers were not enough. If the noise is getting to you, turn inward and allow the volume to turn down. Your Inner Voice is waiting for you.
Q: If you only had 5 minutes to pause and find that steadiness within, how would you spend that time? Is there a way you can ensure this practice in pausing is sustainable and routine?
Breathwork. It is the most easily accessible form of support for me. If I am able, standing outside barefoot while focusing on my breath can feel incredibly stabilizing. If I am inside or wearing shoes, I visualize my roots digging down deep into Mother Earth, intertwining with other roots from the most majestic, nurturing trees my mind can create.
Q: Any go-to resources you’d like to share to inspire continued personal transformation or connection to our omnipresent wisdom within?
Beautiful Chorus has been my musical savior the past six months. Their music is authentic, divine and pure love. I often hear their music and mantras pass through my awareness exactly when I need them to.
Join Our Seva Motherhood Circle
In the Our Seva Motherhood Circle private Facebook group, we explore what caregiving looks like through all stages of motherhood, including the sacred role of our own personal caregivers (birth & postpartum doulas). As a community, we focus our efforts on awakening the wisdom within, finding a beautiful melding of our inner authorities and the ancient wisdom that guides women so intuitively. If this conversation stirs something within you, I’d love for you to join us!