Carla found us right around our Kickstarter in 2015 and we started connecting right away.
She had a young one in her life, and was contemplating a future pregnancy. She was interested in all our talk about anti-inflammatory eating, how to work and improve anxiety through the foods you put in your body, and all things we love to talk about.
As we we're dreaming up ideas to write about for Fall, she reached out again telling me she had just had a new baby and her postpartum days were incredibly different because of the influence of a clean diet and the things she'd learned from LMH. We were in constant contact, so I asked her for a post and recipe.
Mother Lovers, she's an incredible chef who is giving us a simple, lovely, nourishing recipe for bone broth - a crucial and supportive food in Traditional Chinese Medicine for women after giving birth - and a really good story. Family is everything to a new mom!
I could drop it low into the TCM philosophy, but that is coming next week. This week, focus on Carla's story and her recipe. If you're up for it, I encourage you jumping into her course that starts in November.
When I had to have an emergency C-section with my daughter Ella, who was breech, I was devastated. I had done everything that my midwives and Spinning Babies had suggested to ensure a positive, vaginal birth experience, but when things didn’t go according to plan I felt like a failure. When I became pregnant again, I prayed every single day that my baby would be born VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section). My worst fear was to have another section because I had a 16 month old to take care of. At 10-weeks postpartum, I could barely walk down our street after having my daughter. I was terrified of the horrific healing process from a section.
For the birth of my son, I envisioned a magical water birth, the kind you might read about in an Ina May book. But my son was stuck in a oblique position that he couldn’t get out of, and after 3 days, I had to once again let go of my plan and give in to having another C-section. My worst fears had been realized. I knew my husband Ed could not take any time off from work. In fact, he was in the office the day our daughter Ella was born. We don’t have family who live near by and hiring a baby-sitter or a baby-nurse for an extended period of time was not in the budget.
Then something amazing happened. My sisters offered to help us.
They told me that I could stay in their guest room with the kids. It seemed like a crazy idea since it’s a four-hour drive from our house. But after being home from the hospital for two days, I knew that I needed to go to my sisters. So we packed up the car and drove to upstate NY, and the kids and I spent the next three weeks with my sisters and Ed came up on the weekends.
Ella didn’t like sleeping in the room with me and the baby, so my sister Jessica took her into her room. She woke up with Ella every single morning and got her fed, dressed and played with her. My sister Stefanie took her into the garden to water plants before work and out on walks with her dog. My friends took her on play dates. My great aunt came over and brought us fresh cooked meals, helped me do laundry and kept me company, so I was never alone.
It was help with all the little things that would have crushed me being alone at home with two kids all day. It seemed like everything with this postpartum just lined up perfectly for me to be fully supported and most importantly, for me to heal.
Maybe the universe had answered my prayers in a different way.
I also had an amazing C-section experience with my midwives (a story I’ll save for another time). I went to wonderful local pediatrician that checked my son and my wound so that I didn’t have to go to another doctor, and my midwives did my one week follow up on the phone, as opposed to an in-person appointment.
I wrote this because I want to share what is possible when mothers get the proper rest and help they need postpartum. It took extreme courage on my part to ask for and accept that help.
And guess what, at 10-weeks postpartum, I am walking about 1.5 miles each day with my son Massimo in the carrier and Ella in the stroller. What a huge difference from not even being able to walk half a block with my first child.
**We suggest giving this recipe to your partner, mother, father, sister, best, or neighbor - someone who is your support person and is happy to cook for you especially in the first 6 weeks postpartum. Once you feel your feet beneath you again, then it's up to you when you want to cook this healing food.
Chicken Bone Broth
Nourishing yourself from the inside out is incredibly important. Here is my recipe for bone broth.
It’s incredibly healing; my friend’s acupuncturist actually prescribed her to drink bone broth for two months following her birth. I drink a cup a day when I am feeling depleted, getting sick or just need a nutritional boost, and this recipe was also one of my daughter Ella’s first foods. You can add herbs and aromatics like garlic, ginger and turmeric if you like and it freezes well!
Servings: Yield varies depending on the size of slow cooker or stockpot. I use an 8-quart slow cooker which makes about 4-5 quarts of broth.
Note: If you are using a smaller slow cooker or plan to cook the broth in a stockpot on the stovetop, divide ingredients by half.
2 pounds of chicken wings
2 pound of chicken necks and backs
1 large carrot, cut into quarters
1 large onion, unpeeled and cut in half
4 celery stalks, cut into quarters
8 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (this helps draw the minerals out of the bones)
Special Equipment: Crock-pot/slow cooker and fine mesh strainer. A funnel is helpful, but not necessary.
Follow directions for crock-pot/slow cooker OR stovetop and then proceed to step 3.
Crock-pot or Slow Cooker:
- Put all ingredients in the crock-pot or slow cooker and cover with water up to the top of the pot.
- Cook on low for 10-12 hours.
- Continue to step 3.
- Remember to halve the recipe ingredients! Put them all in a 4-5-quart stockpot; simmer for 4-6 hours.
- Continue to step 3.
- Once the broth has simmered for the specified time, place a colander over large stockpot or bowl and drain all of the broth, bones and vegetables. Let sit for 30 minutes to cool.
- Strain the broth a second time. Place a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth (or paper towel) in a large bowl or another stockpot and strain the stock once more. Straining the broth twice really makes a difference in the stock’s clarity. Don’t save the meat or bones to use again; every ounce of flavor has been put into the broth.
- Once the broth has cooled, use a spoon to skim the fat from the surface and discard. The broth will last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It also freezes well; see Cooling/Storage Instructions below.
- Place the bowl or stockpot in a large bowl and fill the bowl surrounding it with ice to help cool it as fast as possible. Alternatively, pour the stock into smaller containers (not glass, it will shatter) and do the same process with the ice in a bowl.
- Place cooled stock in containers or if you have room for the pot in the fridge and let cool 4-6 hours or overnight. This way you will be able to easily skim the fat right off the top with a spoon.
- Store broth in mason jars; be careful not to fill past the fill line or the jar may crack. If freezing, using a funnel to transfer the stock is helpful.
- To defrost, place the jar in a bowl of cold water and let it sit for up to 2 hours. You can also defrost it in the fridge overnight. Once defrosted, the stock has a three-day shelf life, and you cannot re-freeze it.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Carla Contreras
Carla Contreras is a mama of two, a chef, and a postpartum health coach. She is the founder of the Self-Full Mama Challenge and writes about healthy recipes for mamas and babies on her website and blog. She lives in NYC.