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Mystic Roots Mama – A Holistic Approach to Birth and Pregnancy in Chicago

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Chili Mole Recipe

I’ve been a struggling vegetarian for years. This past New Year’s resolution was to cut the meat out completely, and to minimize the amount of dairy and eggs we eat. I don’t plan to be vegan, but to lean vegan. I came across this recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon on the St. Louis Today website. I made it for my husband last night and he LOVED it. He was very excited by the warm aromas coming from our apartment as he came up the stairs. I’ve made some adaptations for breastfeeding moms (which I am).

This recipe, like any good mole, has a complex flavor, with lots of room to play. Use this recipe, or tweak it and make it your own. The version I started with was very spicy, so I’ve turned down the heat to keep your nursling happy. Its full of nutritious ingredients for the whole family, but especially for nursing moms. Make it on the weekend to eat throughout the week, and the flavors will get better with time!

Chili Mole
3 cans black beans, rinsed
10 to 12 cups vegetable stock or broth (see note)
2 bay leaves
1 ancho (dried poblano) chile, stemmed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped, optional – I omitted
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (see note)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano – I used much less because it can decrease milk supply.
1/8 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper or to taste (Be careful with the cayenne!)
1/4 teaspoon anise seed
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika (see note)
1 tablespoon chili powder, preferably hot
a pinch of ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (15- to 16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 to 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, diced
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, preferably natural
1 tablespoon tahini or 2 tablespoons freshly toasted sesame seeds
1 chipotle chile in adobo, stemmed, optional – I omitted
2 teaspoons adobo sauce, optional – I omitted
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey, optional

1. Place beans in a large, heavy pot; add enough stock to cover them by 1 1/2 inches. Add bay leaves, ancho chile and a generous grinding of black pepper to taste.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add the raisins. Continue cooking until the beans are nearly tender and the raisins have more or less disintegrated, 30 to 60 minutes longer.

3. About 20 minutes or so before the beans are done, place a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and, when it’s hot, onions. Sauté onions until they start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Stir in bell pepper, and poblano; sauté for 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, oregano, cayenne, anise seed, cinnamon, paprika, chili powder and a tiny pinch of cloves. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it just becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

5. Scrape the sautéd ingredients into the simmering beans. Deglaze the sauté pot with a little bean stock, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return this liquid to the beans.

6. Add the tomatoes and their juice and the tomato paste to the bean pot and stir well. Simmer for another 10 minutes, then maintain at a simmer while you continue with the recipe.

7. Place chocolate, peanut butter, tahini, chipotle and adobo sauce in a food processor or blender. Add a generous ladleful of the simmering beans (including the whole ancho, if you can find it) and process to make a thick, highly seasoned paste.

8. Scrape the paste into the bean pot, turn the heat down as low as possible and add a generous portion of salt to taste. Simmer slowly, partially covered, until the seasonings are well blended, about 20 minutes longer.

9. Just before serving, pick out the bay leaves. Mash a couple of ladlefuls of the beans against the sides of the pot to thicken the chili or use an immersion blender. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary, adding agave syrup or honey if more sweetness is desired. Serve immediately or let come to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, overnight and reheat very gently the next day.

**For my next batch, I will use less cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp or less) and add the poblanos and chipotles with adobo sauce, to deepen the flavors.**

Per serving (based on 10): 340 calories; 12g fat; 2.5g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 14g protein; 48g carbohydrate; 12g sugar; 13g fiber; 915mg sodium; 93mg calcium.

Note: A 12-ounce bottle of beer can be substituted for 1 1/2 cups of the stock. If you don’t have coriander seeds, increase the amount of ground coriander to 3 1/2 teaspoons. Substitute 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika for 1/2 teaspoon of the sweet paprika, if desired.

Adapted from “Bean by Bean,” by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman, 2012)

Oxytocin: Hormona de Amor

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Oxytocin (OT) is a lovely, euphoric hormone associated with Love, and is known for its positive effects on well-being and relaxation. It is released during pleasure, and causes feelings of relaxation, empathy, trust, connection, and sexual arousal, while simultaneously diminishing feelings of fear and acting as a natural pain relief. It is produced in both men and women, who have receptors in the brain and reproductive organs [1].

The hormone is released in response to physiological and emotional stimuli:
* Sexual activity (such as nipple stimulation & orgasm)
* Thinking about sexual activity
* Skin-to-skin contact
* Social contact – contributes to social bonding that occurs between lovers, friends & colleagues
* Being kind and loving
* Giving and receiving massage
* Breastfeeding – stimulates milk let-down (smooth muscle contraction moves milk through the ducts)
* Labor & Birth – OT stimulates uterine contractions necessary to birth the baby (the highest levels of OT a woman ever experiences are in the first hours after birth – this promotes bonding between parents & infant, works as pain relief, assists with nursing, etc.)

Towards the end of pregnancy, the number of OT receptors in the brain increases dramatically and the mother becomes highly responsive to the presence of this hormone. The physical act of labor causes a surge in this bonding hormone. Similarly, passage through the birth canal further heightens OT levels in mom and baby [2].

Live-in fathers’ OT levels rise towards the end of his partner’s pregnancy. When a father spends significant amounts of time in contact with his baby, OT encourages him to become more involved in the ongoing care of the infant. A recent study by Dr. Ruth Feldman and Arthur I. Eidelman revealed 3 findings (measured at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum):
* Fathers’ OT levels were not different from levels observed in mothers.
* There’s a relationship between OT levels in partners.
* OT levels are associated with parent-specific styles of interaction. It is higher in mothers who provided more affectionate parenting such as more gazing at the infant, expression of positive effect, and affectionate touch. In fathers, oxytocin was increased with more stimulatory contact, encouragement of exploration, and direction of infant attention to objects [3].

So, what does this mean? Keep loving! Be kind to those around you. Be affectionate with your loved ones. Encourage the release of oxytocin in you and others. Parents: snuggle, kiss, play with and talk to your baby!

1. Marsh, Jasmine. “Oxytocin: Hormone of Love.” Sept. 2010.

2. “Oxytocin and the Development of Parenting in Humans” appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 68, Issue 4 (August 15, 2010), published by Elsevier.

3. Palmer, Linda F. “Bonding Matters… The Chemistry of Attachment.” Nov. 2002. .

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What is a Doula?

A doula trusts the process of birth and a woman’s intuition to birth her baby.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
• Tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
• Reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
• Reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
• Reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

~DONA International

Birth doulas are re-creating the woman-to-woman network of the past. Having another woman present to provide reassurance and encouragement has been seen throughout history. Unfortunately, as birth has been taken out of our communities, the experienced loving support of sisters, mothers, aunts, and friends has also diminished. Most women do not share or participate in a birth until they experience their own. This is where a birth doula can be helpful. We understand the emotional and physical complexities of birth, we help to ease fears and anxieties and build confidence and trust in you and your body. We assist to increase the intimacy of the experience for a mother and her partner by managing the fears of both parents and providing useful comfort techniques for the mother that the partner may use, as well. We also help facilitate communication with your maternity care team.
~Adapted from Birth Day Presence

Doulas use a wide variety of comfort measures for pain-management and to help you feel more safe and comfortable, including:
• Massage
• Acupressure
• Positioning for mother’s comfort and to relieve/avoid back labor
• Shower/bath
• Birth ball
• Hot and cold compresses
• Guided imagery/visualizations
• Aromatherapy

We can share ideas about natural methods of starting labor, speeding a stalled labor, and managing back labor, as well. We also help you to fully understand any complications or interventions that may arise.

Doulas have also been referred to as birth fairies, personal assistants and clever hippies. I prefer to be a birth fairy myself!

About Me

I am a new doula, working towards my certification. I have been working towards my goal of being a midwife for the past 2 years. I recently decided, after much deliberation, that I will wait a few years to pursue my midwife dream. The timing is not right in Illinois, where Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are not yet legal. Being a doula allows me to be with the laboring woman, to provide continuous emotional and physical support – 2 of the major draws in working with birth.

Last week, I attended my 3rd birth! I realize with each birth that I have a LOT to learn. During doula training they tell you that just a constant, supportive presence is enough. I’m sure that’s true on some level, but I feel awfully useless at times. The useless feeling is a good thing – it motivates me to learn more quickly and to prepare myself. I’ve spent all of my extra time lately watching videos, reading books, reading information online, etc. Things are coming together.

I’m attending yoga school in the fall. I am extremely nervous. I haven’t had a regular practice over the past year, and now I’m jumping in. I believe that going to yoga school will make yoga a central part of my life. If its not, then my time gets filled up with all kinds of other things. I’ve been going to 2-3 classes per week in preparation, but I haven’t established a regular self-practice at home. I know I should do it first thing in the morning. My body is usually achy and I want to wait until it warms up – and then the morning slips by. Like right now. After this entry, I will take a shower and then do my sun salutations.

Yesterday, we had a gardening day. The front yard had a shady spot with no plants. Jason and I bought some sale perennials at the local garden center. It was like a plant shelter – all the plants that had been overlooked and needed a home. The ferns have some browned foliage and the astilbes are done blooming. I hope with some TLC and some encouraging words that they will prosper. We also got a jade plant! I have wanted one for more than a year. We’ve tried without success to start clippings from friends’ plants. So we finally decided to purchase one. It looks great in our study/family room.

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