Rachael Hollinger of Nouris(her) is a certified postpartum doula and culinary chef. Her pursuit is to provide a more peaceful transition into the sacred role of motherhood by offering one-on-one support to pregnant and postpartum mamas, community workshops, and invaluable lived experience. She has also created an incredibly thoughtful postpartum e-cookbook that keeps me coming back for nourishing recipes in times when needed most! Rachael has kindly given the Our Seva readers a sneak peek into one of the community favorite recipes from the e-cookbook (download below).
In this conversation, Rachael and I sit down to talk about the shifting cultural environment around postpartum care and what inspired Rachael to pursue the career/lifestyle path of a postpartum doula. Together, we discuss a mother’s personal power, the challenge of making heart-based decisions, the role of surrender, and a few go-to rituals to smooth the transition from maiden to mother. I hope you enjoy this conversation, as it excites me to know that many women are being pulled into the sacred work of building our mothers.
Q: Welcome Rachael! I’ve been admiring your work with newborn mothers for quite some time and am eager to have a chat. Can you share any personal reflections with postpartum care that may have influenced your desire to pursue the path of becoming a Certified Postpartum Professional?
Well I think that as is typical, most women drawn to this work are done so by their own suffering or loss in some way. We see a need and want to fill it. It was that way for me, I suffered a very difficult and traumatic postpartum recovery with my daughter almost six years ago now, and through that really experienced the hole in our healthcare for mothers. I felt that going back to school to become a postpartum doula would be the perfect marriage with my career in culinary arts that I had already established, and I never could have known how beautifully those two things would dance together! I look back on my own postpartum experience and realize how undernourished, under supported, and just plain invisible I was, even though I didn’t know what to ask for at the time. I love how healing this work with mothers has been for myself in healing my own traumas within early motherhood.
Q: Would you recommend your training with Newborn Mothers to other women looking to pursue a career path in mother/baby care?
Yes, absolutely! If women reading this feel drawn to this work, listen to that voice! The Newborn Mothers Certificate is so phenomenal and much better than most programs you will find in the US specifically in the sense that it’s truly mother focused education. I have an affiliate link with Julia (the founder of Newborn Mothers) that I will share here.
And if you are interested in learning more about the practical ins and outs of this work they can grab my webinar on “Getting Started As A Postpartum Doula” via my website.
Q: Over the last five years (or so) the understanding and appreciation of mother care is shifting into a more sustainable care model. For you and your business, what does mother care look like when a woman truly observes and honors her ‘sacred window’ (the first 40 days) following the birth of a child?
My work is so very mother focused, since I find that the western model of postpartum care is mostly focused on the baby and breastfeeding.
For the mothers I work with that looks like receiving food as medicine. When I cook for a mother I’m really looking at how her body is coping with birth, and healing from it, and then making sure what she puts into her body addresses those deficiencies or concerns.
It also involves body work in the form of massage or heat therapies like baths, and compresses. Herbal work, sleep solutions, breastfeeding assistance, and birth processing are all woven in there as well as some practical support like folding laundry or doing the dishes.
Most importantly though I want to make sure the mother is resting in bed as much as she is able, and that she feels seen and heard.
Coming back constantly to “holding space” for the mother when maybe no one else is, that can be the biggest factor in transforming postpartum into a peaceful one!
Q: They say that how you are cared for during the first 40 days is indicative of how you’ll care for yourself in the following 40 years. How do you think these nourishing and supportive postpartum practices create a rhythm for the following years?
Well I think that the more we practice the better we get right? But practically speaking our bodies keep score, they begin to acclimate to existing with things like balanced hormones, nutrient reserves that are full and ready for whatever the body may need to combat, and so on. One of the biggest improvements we see in women caring for themselves postpartum is that they have significantly easier menopausal transitions!
Q: Creating a pregnancy, birth and postpartum plan that resonates with your heart can actually be a really challenging task with the various care models (midwifery, obstetrics, unassisted, etc) available today. Do you have any tips or suggestions for women who struggle to remain in their power and make heart-based decisions during this incredibly transformative time?
It can be so hard! Especially since our culture tells us as women and mothers to do anything but set healthy boundaries! I remind the women I work with that this is time they will never get back, both with their babies, and with their bodies. The way that they navigate the first forty days impacts their next forty years of health in so many ways.
You will be challenged to make decisions, set boundaries, and follow your intuition so many times during the course of raising a child it’s best to get familiar with being in your own power now, rather than waiting and regretting not having lived and loved the way you wanted to in your child’s orbit from the very beginning!
Q: A woman’s intuition is a force to be reckoned with. How do you guide your clients to reconnect to the wisdom that lies within?
My motto when caring for a mother is to “soothe, not save.” If I am constantly giving her all of my own answers and advice, she will never learn to listen in to her own voice as a mother. I want to work myself out of a job so that she doesn’t need me or anyone else to tell her how to be a mother.
Using our intuition is like working a muscle, it takes time and practice, and so coming gently back to ask the mother what she thinks she wants to do or encouraging her to to ask herself how she feels about something deep down as we discuss it is an intensely needed therapy of sorts.
I think we learn to be in our own power by putting ourselves in situations where our power needs to be utilized.
If I step in and handle each challenge she will never get to experience her own capability.
Q: Preparing for motherhood and motherhood itself is a daily, devotional practice of surrendering and letting nature take over. As you personally step over the birthing threshold once more with the arrival of your second child, what does surrender look for you these days?
This is a very pertinent question for me since my pregnancies in and of themselves require, what is to me, the ultimate surrender. I have the condition Hypermesis Gravadiaum (HG) during both my pregnancies which means I’m so very sick that I have to stay on bed rest for at least the first five months of pregnancy, and then really struggle to function normally for the final months. If you are interested in hearing more about my journey through HG I talk about it openly on my Instagram platform in hopes that it brings more awareness to women suffering similarly.
Bringing life into the world, for me, means giving up most everything I love for nine months before the baby is even born, and in some ways, it makes postpartum feel like a familiar kind of letting go because I’ve been “practicing” for so long leading up to it if that makes sense.
For most women that surrender can come as a shock, in the same way pushing a human out of your body is incredibly shocking!
I think for myself in particular, I really desire to embrace the postpartum with more ease this time around. This being my second, I have those first time parent jitters and questions mostly out of the way and I feel that I am more in touch with my intuition as a mother in general. I really want to let bliss reign, and avoid fretting the small things, trust my body, and embrace change. That’s my goal at least!
Q: Your favorite “life hack” or ritual that every newborn mother must give a try?
Life hack: peppermint essential oil in the toilet bowl before using the bathroom in the early days. This helps relax your muscles so that you can use the bathroom more easily and soothes soreness. All you need is a few drops and I think for something like this you could use a brand that is less expensive, but I for one am a Young Living lover.
Ritual: Warmth! Warm foods, warm baths, warm beverages, warm clothes, warm everything! Your body must stay warm in order to heal and birth deprives the body of heat.
I would also have to add that treating your actual bed as a sacred space can be so rewarding. So don’t allow anything or anyone on your bed that will pop your bliss bubble. This could mean food that doesn’t sound good, visitors whose presence or energy is disruptive to you, books or tv that is heavy or triggering. The bed is your space, protect it!
Q: Question: Your recipe E-cookbook is a stunner! Would you mind sharing one of your crowd-pleasing recipes that new mothers could add into their regular rotation?
Dal is a soup of split lentils used as a common healing food in Ayurveda. It starts with a flavor base of roasted spices, garlic, and ginger, and then simmers into a deliciously creamy, and aromatic pot of pure comfort food. You can serve Dal over rice or by itself with some naan. These anti-inflammatory spices with help your body to combat infections like mastitis while nursing and they are especially important for mother and baby during the winter months.
❋ ¼ C ghee
❋ 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
❋ 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
❋ 1 tsp cumin seeds
❋ 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
❋ 1 tsp coriander seeds
❋ 2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
❋ 1 C red lentils
❋ 3 C water
❋ 1 C coconut milk, full fat canned
❋ 2 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
❋ 1 tsp black pepper
❋ 1 tsp turmeric powder
❋ Juice of one lemon
❋ 1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves
In a large, heavy pot, heat the ghee. Once hot, add the ginger, garlic, cumin, mustard seed, coriander, and coconut. Cook the spice mixture until it becomes fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils, water, coconut milk, salt, pepper, and turmeric to the pot and give it a stir. Cover and bring the contents to a simmer. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft and buttery. Add the lemon juice and cilantro leaves and cook for 5 minutes more. Ladle over rice and serve.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Q: Any “must-read/must-see” resources you’d like to share to inspire reconnection to our innate wisdom as birthing women or the transformation of our culture to “mother the mother”?
A few transformative books on the subject for me have been…
❋ “What Mothers Do: even when it looks like nothing” by Naomi Stadlen
❋ “The First Forty Days” by Heng Ou
❋ “Newborn Mothers” by Juila Jones
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