Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Mineral Magic

Mineral Magic; by Tessa Mancini Gillen, Holistic Nutritionist and Herbalist

Preparing a nutrient rich mineral broth is an essential skill to be learned and utilized, as it brings healing and rejuvenation to your kitchen and every dish it compliments. Substituting mineral broth for water in many everyday recipes can truly transform your health. When cooking grains, beans or pasta, use mineral broth. When making a soup or stew, mineral broth. Or simply drink it as is, and enjoy this alkalinizing, mineralizing and rejuvenating beverage. It is recommended to gently simmer these vegetables and herbs for 4-5 hours, optimizing the nutrition that will infuse into the broth. I often start a broth before heading to bed, and strain it first thing in the morning. And don’t worry, many of the desired therapeutic compounds found in this broth are not heat sensitive and won’t be damaged from the cooking.

1 1/2 pounds onions with skins, quartered
6 celery stalks, with leaves, chopped
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1/2 pound shiitake or maitake mushrooms
2 1/2 pounds yams, chopped
1 small celery root, chopped
3-4 pieces dried kombu
1/4 cup dried wakame
5 or more cloves of garlic (crush/chop and allow to sit for 10 minutes before adding to broth)
1 bay leaf
Handful of Calendula Flowers (omit if pregnant)
1/2 bunch fresh parsley

Heat a heavy-bottomed stockpot (with pasta strainer in) over medium heat and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Add 3 TBS of water and cover the pan. The vegetables will release their own water content, known as sweating.
After 5 minutes, remove the lid. add mushrooms, and cover the pan again to continue sweating.
Add yams, celery root, seaweed, garlic, bay leaf and fresh calendula, and cover with filtered water. You want the vegetables to be covered by 2” of water. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4-6 hours.
Add in the fresh parsley during the last hour of cooking.
When the stock is finished, strain by removing the pasta strainer and press as much of the liquid out as possible. You could also strain using cheese cloth, pressing the solids to get as much of that golden liquid out as possible.
Once cooled, store mineral broth in canning jars for up to one week in refrigerator. If freezing stock in canning jars, be sure to leave 2 inches of head room at the top of the canning jars. Or fill ice-cube trays or other freezer molds with broth for easy and accessible use when needed. This allows for a few quick cubes here and there, without having to de-thaw a whole jar. Enjoy.

For more info on Tessa’s upcoming classes or her individual consultations on fertility and perinatal nutritional health, please contact Thrive at (707) 387-2088.

Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Introducing Solids; What, When & How, with Tessa Mancini Gillen

Finally, we made it. Six months. This milestone feels big, somehow bigger than the others. Life is starting to feel light again, and we have somehow transitioned from the deep and dark room of newborn land to a much sweeter space of existence. With all the light and joy that this milestone brings, introducing food may be one of the bigger highlights. Breast Milk has been the cornerstone for this human’s existence. And for good reason. Full of fatty acids, antibodies, nutrients, protein, and fat, it truly is the perfect food. It also contains quite a bit of sugar, making your baby’s introduction to food a sweet, satiating one. Have you ever wondered why Breast Milk is so sweet? I used to believe that it was full of sugar to send the signal to our brain that it was a safe food, and yes, please eat more: positive feedback. And while this still rings true, a deeper understanding leads me to include the role of sugar being necessary for feeding our gut microbiome, the true cornerstone for health. Our gut health affects our mood, our ability to digest food, assimilate nutrients, and eliminate waste and toxins. Our gut health can be a huge indicator for which diseases we will be susceptible to later in life, including diabetes, obesity, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and more. 90% of serotonin (the happiness hormone) is made in the digestive tract, over 70% of our immune system resides in the gut, and at birth we are starting from scratch. Newborns have a gut free from bacteria, which begins to populate with hundreds of thousands of microbes, critical bacteria that will have lasting impacts on your child’s health. These bacteria need one thing to thrive and survive. Sugar. Which is conveniently found in perfect proportions in Breast Milk, the perfect baby food. But there does come a time when your baby’s nutritional needs will increase, and solids will need to join the party.

Introducing solid food too early can increase the risk for developing allergies and intolerances. Your baby’s digestive tract is not equipped to handle most foods until around 6 months, when digestive enzymes begin to develop. Without these enzymes, your baby is unable to digest most whole foods. In Ayurvedic tradition, babies are given small amounts of spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, amchur, sumac) on the tongue to help increase these necessary enzymes and begin to build-up the digestive fire.

As intestines begin to mature, they secrete the protein immunoglobulin A (IgA), which acts like a protective paint for your baby’s developing digestive tract. IgA not only coats the digestive tract, it prevents the passage of harmful allergens into your baby’s system. This protective IgA exists in very low numbers in the early months and does not reach its peak production until 7 months of age. As the digestive tract matures and develops, the body is better able to become nutritionally selective, filtering out offending allergens, making this a great time to start introducing some gentle, safe whole-food options.

While many parents introduce oatmeal and rice cereal right around this time, it may not be as beneficial as once thought. Around 6 months of age babies nutritional needs go up, including iron and zinc, neither of which exist naturally in fortified rice cereal. Also, these tiny digestive systems are still developing, and with limited enzymes available, grains can be tough for babies to digest. In fact, it can take over 2 years for the enzyme amylase to really kick into gear, which is needed to break down both rice and oatmeal. If there is no amylase, there is no break-down, leading to discomfort and irritation for the wee ones. No thanks, I’d rather introduce REAL unprocessed foods, foods that contain all the necessary enzymes and minerals to benefit my babies growing nutritional needs. And I’ll take that without the discomfort and irritation.

So you are 6 months in and your baby is eager to eat some REAL food. What should come first? Surveying other cultures around the globe, the answer isn’t clear-cut. There are many different approaches that share the underlying theme of introducing REAL food. In Oceania, the Yafars chew up fish and then feed it along with liver to their babies. The first foods for Inuit babies include seaweed and “nuk-tuk” (seal blubber) and in Puerto Rico, common first foods include potatoes, mashed boiled plantains, rice, mangos, and many other tropical vegetables and fruits. In Indonesia, babies are given rice pudding mixed with liver and veggies, and in Japan babies are given miso soup, and raw fish is given to babies under 2 years of age. Herbal teas are frequently given to babies around the world, and all of these variations in infant feeding help to show us that there is never just one way to introduce solids. Make your babies first bite flavorful and nutrient dense, and choose real, organic and non-refined options.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

When introducing new foods or spices, wait 3 days between new introductions, and be mindful of any food allergy symptoms.

Common Food Allergy Symptoms Include:
1. diarrhea/ constipation
2. vomiting
3. swollen face
4. rash/ skin irritation
5. wheezing

Common Allergenic Foods:
1. dairy
2. soy
3. peanuts & tree nuts
4. shellfish
5. wheat
6. eggs

Foods To Be Delayed Until At Least 1 Year Of Age:
1. Honey
2. Nuts/Nut butter (There are mixed reviews on this. Some studies say introduce early and some say wait. There is no definitive answer.)
3. Shellfish
4. Cows milk. Between 9-12 months, fermented dairy may be ok. The fermentation breaks down the milk lactose into simple sugars, which are more easily absorbed.

First foods to introduce:

Banana: Conveniently contain amylase, an enzyme needed to break down carbohydrates that is not present yet in babies digestive systems.

Pear: Known to be anti-allergenic, pears also offer digestive support in alleviating your baby’s constipation. Pears (cooked) are known to be very gentle on a baby’s stomach, making it a good choice for those with reflux.

28522_396366871515_2228200_nAvocado: One of nature’s perfect foods for babies, this gem is easily digested and contains over 25 essential nutrients including iron, copper, magnesium, and essential fatty acids that help the body to function optimally. Avocados also help the body to assimilate and absorb these key nutrients, truly optimizing your baby’s nutrition.

Nettle: Introducing nettles provides your baby with a good boost of iron, not to mention a whole tool-box full of vitamins and minerals. Nettle also contains acetylcholine, which is necessary for optimal brain development, and essential fatty acids, making this earthy green superfood a true whole body vitalizer. Try pureeing fresh nettle leaves with a touch of breastmilk (until smoothly processed), or simply make a tea.

For more information on introducing solids, and some clever ideas on how to get the essential vitamins and minerals into your growing baby, join me for Introducing Solids; Baby’s First Bite at the Thrive Birth Center. April 16th, 12-2 pm

Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Where You Birth Matters, Part Three: Are Birth Centers Safe?

With the upcoming screening of the locally produced documentary Why Not Home? The Surprising Birth Choices of Physicians and Nurses, we thought it was a good time to have a community conversation about the importance of birth location. 

In Part Three of this series, Melissa Wiseman, LM, CPM, looks at why the studies show us that birth centers are not only safe but ideal for low risk families. Enjoy! 

Are Birth Center’s Safe? A look at the studies, your choice, and why it works! 

More and more families are seeking the care of midwives for their pregnancy and birth. Some preferring hospital birth with Nurse-Midwives and others choosing home birth or birth center care with Licensed Midwives. The choice of where you give birth is highly personal and is based on your own set of values, ideas and knowledge about birth. We give birth where we feel safe and despite the past century of being told that hospital birth is the safest place for birth to occur, women who give birth in free standing birth centers are experiencing much better outcomes.

A recent article Maternal Outcomes in Birth Centers: an integrative review of the literature presented maternal outcomes from 23 quantitative and 9 qualitative studies of 84,300 births planned to occur in freestanding birth centers throughout the United States and internationally.   The outcomes were certainly favorable for healthy, low-risk women who choose to give birth at a freestanding birth center. These positive outcomes included higher rates of vaginal birth and lower rate of cesarean birth, greater perineal integrity and fewer episiotomies, less use of oxytocin for labor augmentation, and less use of epidural or other pharmacologic pain management. A review of this magnitude is a highly valuable comparison tool, especially if you are pregnant and deciding whether a hospital or birth center or home birth is right for you.

In addition to this study, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released a statement that healthy low-risk women should be supported in their choice to give birth in birth centers. So, what is it about birth centers that promote better outcomes for you and your baby?

Midwifery Care provided in birth centers

Women report greater satisfaction with the comprehensive and individualized care and a more egalitarian relationship with their midwives, where a personal connection helped them to engage and be an active participant in their care. When we provide you with unbiased information, access to high quality clinical care and ample opportunities to make your own choices, then will we really see superior outcomes for both you and baby. professional-bubble

A place where your choices are respected

Women who are respected as the prime decision maker throughout her and her baby’s care feel a greater sense of empowerment. Becoming an empowered voice in your care and in the care of your baby is essential as you transition into parenthood. We encourage you to be engaged and active participants in your care, and in turn your midwives trust and respect the informed choices the you make.


IMG_0741-Edit-1200x800It is a home away from home

Birth Centers are home-like environment that is set up specifically to promote uninterrupted, natural birth. Birth suites are often spacious with a large tub, should you choose to labor or birth in the water. The layout is created to ensure safety and privacy during birth, each piece of furniture carefully chosen for both comfort and function, and our cabinets are stocked and organized to hold the necessities for labor and birth.

Baby on a Scale

Out of sight, not out of reach

In birth centers, your midwives give you the room to labor and give birth without pressure to submit to common interventions such as pharmaceutical labor induction, augmentation and epidural pain management. These are still accessible, but do require a short car ride to the hospital to obtain. Because these options are associated with risk of further interventions and cesarean section, they are best used when only absolutely necessary. To promote the most physiologic birth and best possible outcomes, healthy low-risk women should have the opportunity to go into labor when their baby and body is ready. They should also have the space to labor and give birth on her own terms with the watchful guidance of skilled midwives through the process.


But what if something goes wrong?

Complications can arise in labor and birth and such is life, we don’t drive with our airbags out just in case they don’t do their job and inflate on impact. And it certainly doesn’t mean a healthy low-risk woman needs to give birth in the hospital “just in case”. Because midwives are experts in normal birth, midwives are especially good at identifying patterns in labor that are not following the normal progression for birth. Remember, there are yellow lights before there are red lights. With the undivided attention your midwife, she can address issues that might arise in a timely and dignified manner. You are the number one priority of your birth team! As midwives, we are readily equipped to treat some of the more common complications that may arise in labor, birth or in the immediate postpartum. If there are more complex or emergent issues, we are able to make a timely transition to the hospital.



The choice around where to give birth is only for you to make. But the tides are starting to turn as we are seeing our health care system encouraging healthy, low risk women to seek birth center care. And why? Because our mamas, our babies and our outcomes are strong.

~Melissa Wiseman is a licensed midwife practicing at Thrive, Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, and all around birth nerd. 

Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Understanding the Psoas: The Muscle of the Soul

By Lyla Moore

The psoas (so-as) muscle is actually a pair of muscles found deep within the core. It originates from the lumbar region of the spine (middle low back) and wraps around into the pelvic area, attaching at the hip with the help of several strong tendons. In animals, we call this muscle the tenderloin. Ilio-Psoas

From a physical standpoint, the psoas is responsible for stabilizing the base of the spine. When the muscle is tight or injured, we experience low back pain, sciatica, disc problems, hip degeneration, knee, and pelvic pain. It is engaged when we are sitting, running and walking. As you lift your knee to take a step, the psoas contracts. As the leg swings back, as it does while running, it lengthens the muscle. If you sit for long periods of time, the psoas remains in a contracted state, and this can lead to habituated tightness. During pregnancy, the tone of the psoas can effect the decent of the baby and even fetal position. Maintaining a healthy psoas eliminates low back pain and leg pains, opens and centers the pelvis and hips, which ultimately can support you in bringing your baby into the world with more ease.

From a mind/body standpoint, the psoas is the major muscle which is activated during the fight or flight response, when we respond to stimuli with primitive, primal survival instincts. It is spoken of as the muscle of the soul in Daoist healing traditions. A healthy psoas is linked to our ability to thrive, blossom, and become ourselves fully. Our self expression, self actualization, and speaking our truth, are all emotional aspects of the psoas. And for this reason, along with the physical importance, it serves us well to create awareness around our psoas.

Now that we know more about this important muscle, you may be wondering how you can maintain a healthy psoas. The key is focusing on a deep release of this muscle. It can only lengthen once it has been released. Yoga can be very helpful in aiding the release of the psoas. The simplest pose I would recommend to begin to gain awareness around the psoas would be a simple low lunge. Bend your left knee to a ninety degree angle, and take your right leg back behind you with your knee on the floor. Press the right shin and top of the right foot into the floor and release the tailbone down toward the floor. Even out the hips and lift the chest and you will feel the right side of your psoas in the stretch. Lifting arms overhead while in a low lunge may be tough on the joints during pregnancy. Once you are postpartum and ready for more work, if you lift the arms overhead and move the upper back into a small backbend, you will find even more sensation arise within your psoas. The key to finding release in this muscle is to practice moving through yoga poses using undulating movements, move the spine in a wave like motion, and focus on long exhalations. A gentle or restorative yoga practice will serve you best on your journey toward releasing the psoas.

In so much of our lives we are on go-go mode, and the psoas never gets a chance to release. As we sit for long periods, the muscle contracts and continues to remain engaged even though our bodies are inactive. As you move through pregnancy, and prepare for the intensely primal experience of giving birth, it is a great time to build awareness around the psoas muscle. What I love about the practice of yoga is that it offers us an opportunity for deep awareness within the body, as well as building awareness around how our mind influences our body. Try one of the yoga classes at Thrive to experience a practice designed specifically to support you during your pregnancy. If you’ve recently given birth, you are welcome to attend my Saturday morning Pre/Post Natal class with your pre-crawling baby. Taking time to unwind and recharge is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and to find balance as a mother. Your psoas will thank you for it!

Holistic Childbirth Prep Workshop, Staff, Thrive Birth Talk

Storytelling For Birth, Family, and Community

In our home, stories have a special place in our daily and seasonal rituals. As we gather nightly for dinner, we go around the table, first sharing what we are grateful for and then sharing the stories of our day. We might talk about a moment of tension, a friendship forged, a duck family spotted. After dinner and dishes, we retire to the couch for story time. My partner might tell a classic from memory, or I might retell a traditional folktale while he plays the guitar and my daughter contributes sound effects.

Stories weave our lives together by giving us an opportunity to share our vulnerabilities and accomplishments. We feel heard and supported when we might have felt alone or isolated before sharing. As listeners, we sit in silence, absorbing the ebbs and flows of a narrative taking shape.

Stories also serve to give us a place in our family’s history, as well as our larger community and culture. As Autumn darkens our days and we hang our holiday lights, we gather to tell stories of our ancestors, friends, or family members that have passed. We speak their names to honor their place in our history. For my daughter’s birthday, I open the day by telling her the story of her birth. This is a complex story and every year I carefully build in more of the nuances. It is not lost on me that her birth was shaped by, while simultaneously standing in contrast to, the media’s representation of birth and a woman’s body. It’s important to me that her first experience of birth takes root between her and I, connecting us, like an invisible umbilical cord.

I believe that our stories can take seed in our beings. We hold them tenderly in our bones and body, sometimes dearly, and sometimes in angst. Over the two days in which my labor unfolded, I became deeply connected to all the reproductive experiences and narratives that were shaping my daughter’s birth and my birth as a mother. My reproductive experiences will, no doubt, affect my daughter’s reproductive experiences. The reproductive experiences that we have lived as women affect our births at a multigenerational level. One of the ways that we can positively harness our past and future is to become mindful storytellers, because telling our stories is an act of honoring our transformations.

At Thrive, we have ongoing classes and events that honor the art and power of Story. I teach our Holistic Childbirth Education Workshop, where you will hear the story of the Hormones of Love and the Landscape of Labor. On December 5th, we’ll be throwing a storytelling gala for professionals and families, Stories From the Birth Room. We’ll be joined by doctors, midwives, and other professionals who will share their own stories, some sorrowful, some hilarious, all victorious in the act of transformation. In January, our beloved yoga teacher Sara Woll will lead mamas in finding balance between fear and bliss in her Truth Telling Circle. You can also join Sara in her Prenatal Yoga and Community Tea Time class, or Lyla Moore’s Prenatal and Postpartum yoga classes, where pregnant people and new mothers gather to expand and deepen connection.

If you have a story to share, please let us know. We appreciate the wisdom we gain as we sit to listen to you.

Warmly, Kelly Gray, Center Coordinator, Kelly@ThriveBirth.com


Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Treasure Every Moment As A Mom? No way! ~ Tina Stanley, L.C.S.W.


“Treasure EVERY moment?” Really?

OK, all you nice old ladies out there. Listen up!!! Please stop telling all the moms with babies and toddlers to “Treasure every moment. It passes so quickly. This time when they’re little is so precious!”  Yeah, yeah, yeah…

Perhaps you’ve forgotten how challenging it might be to treasure the many sleepless middle of the night moments, or temper tantrum moments or cracked nipple moments or baby screaming while you try to take a shower moments or …..(You know I could go on!)

I know I sound cranky and I know you mean well. And I know there is a wonderful kernel of good advice in what you are saying.

However… mothers so often put so much pressure on themselves. As the mom of babies and toddlers, it’s so easy, in the midst of the mess and the chaos, to feel like you’re not doing it right. You should be more calm and cheerful. You should be enjoying it more. You should be treasuring every moment.

As a psychotherapist, I work a lot with moms who are struggling. Good, smart, devoted moms who are having a hard time. They are struggling to keep their heads above water. They are questioning themselves and comparing themselves to others. This is not a rare experience!

And I remember struggling. I remember feeling so sleep deprived that I felt like I had the flu and probably having some days when I wasn’t able to treasure any moment much less every moment.

Now, let me be clear, I am a big, huge fan of being present in the moment and savoring the treasures that are there. I’ll never forget looking down into my babies’ eyes while nursing and just falling into the beauty of that gaze. I’ll never forget the sound of my baby’s laughter or feeling the warmth of their soft, warm bodies snuggled up to mine. But, it isn’t ALL like that and I feel protective of moms who care SO MUCH about being good moms and get bombarded by unrealistic messages and expectations about what being a good mom should be like.

So, nice old ladies, (yeah, I know I’m coming into the old lady category myself, which is partly why I give myself permission to speak to you like this)… next time those words “oh, be sure to enjoy every single moment when they are little” start to come out of your mouth, pause and consider. Look closely at this mom that you are about to address. Remember that she is a unique person having a particular day and your comments may either make her day a little easier or a little harder. Don’t project your nostalgia about the idealized memories of your early mothering onto her life. Smile. Say hello. Maybe say something like, “I remember how wonderful AND challenging those days could be when my kids where little. How’s your day going today?”

Resources, Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Bee’s Books for Birth and Beyond

resources1Put your phones down, resist the urge to look up every sensation that you have on Google and throw away “What To Expect While You’re Expecting”. The title is perfect but the information is fear based and a constant reminder of what can go wrong week by week. Google is no better! More then half of the information you look up about pregnancy is based on another mother’s experience. This can be great if you have questions about which diapers to use, but not when you are looking for medical advice. Pregnant women are already bombarded with opinions from social media, movies and the random bystander that walks up and wants to touch your belly, or better a yet a new mom who decides she needs to tell you how painful her birth was!

My point…. there is brilliant, positive inspiring information out there. Pregnancy has a sharp learning curve. There is so much you want to know, so much to prepare for. Most women have not spent years studying and researching in the ins and outs of growing a baby. So, you’ve got 9 moths to figure it out.

I want you to spend your time reading inspiring information that will get you excited about your growing belly and your upcoming birth! I encourage you to leave fear behind and and step into this pregnancy with confidence and grace. Educate your self on your body’s growing needs, learn about the normal changes in your body, understand your hormones, and prepare for the sacred moments of labor and birth!

Pick and choose from this list. You definitely don’t need to read them all.

Please don’t substitute books, Google, or your friends’ advice for good prenatal care by your Midwife or Doctor. If you have something going on that you are unfamiliar with contact your health care provider FIRST! You will save yourself from unnecessary worry and fear.

Grab a cup of tea, get cozy and enjoy the list….. Bee Lauher, L.M., C.P.M.


Pregnancy Day by Day ~ Sheila Kitzinger

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years~ Susan Weed

Our Bodies Our Selves~ Judy Norsigian

Pregnancy, Childbirth, Newborn, The Complete Guide~ Penny Simkin

Spiritual Midwifery~Ina May Gaskin


Labor and Birth

Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth~ Ina May Gaskin

Birthing from Within~Pam England

The Birth Partner~ Penny Simkin

An Easier Birth~ Gayle Peterson

Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth~ Henci Goer

The Birth Book, Everything You Need To Know To Have A Safe and Satisfying Birth~ William and Martha Sears


Diet, Nutrition & Exercise

Eating Expectantly ~Bridget Swinney

Your Vegetarian Pregnancy~Holly Roberts

Beautiful, Bountiful, Blissful~ Gurmukh

Yoga for Pregnancy~ Sandra Jourdan

Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth~ Jeannine Parvati Baker



Natural ChildBirth after Cesarean Section~ Karis Crawford

Artemis Speaks: VBAC Stories~ Nan Koehler

Cesarean Recovery~Chrissie Gallagher-Mundy



After the Baby’s Birth~ Robin Lim

When Survivors Give Birth~ Penny Simkin + Phyllis Klaus

Natural Health After Birth~ Aviva Romm



Ina May’s Guid to Breastfeeding~Ina May

The Womanly art of Breastfeeding~ La Leche League

Breastfeeding Your Baby~Sheila Kitzinger


Newborn/Baby Care

The Baby Book~ Dr. William Sears

Your Amazing Newborn~Marshall and Phyllis Klaus

Nighttime Parenting~ Dr. William Sears

You Are Your Childs First Teacher~ Rahima Baldwin

Magical Child~ Joseph Chilton Pearce


Children’s Books

Baby Come Out~ Fran Manushkin

Hello Baby!~ Jenni Overend

The Twelve Gifts of BIrth~Charlene Constanzo

Taproot Medicine
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Taproot Medicine, an Interview with frieda kipar bay

Frieda Kipar Bay is an herbalista and medicine maker working in Sonoma County. Thrive is honored to sell her medicine and has a deep trust in it’s ability to support and sustain families. A little from frieda’s website: “Taproot Medicine began with my deepest friend, pregnant with her first child, needing a little iron boost. I concocted a (mighty) tasty syrup packed with iron, and watched how tiny sips off the bottle fortified my dear friend during pregnancy. Word spread, and more bottles were made for mothers and menstruating women alike. As each new person took a sip, I witnessed smiles broaden and breath deepen. It’s this human response that has lead me to offer my medicine more widely, and enter this sticky world of selling some ‘thing’ to someone else. I called that stuff “strong woman syrup”, in honor of that deepest friend, the strongest woman I know.”

Below is an interview with frieda about her medicine, motivation, and tips on staying connected with the plant world. We hope you enjoy her wisdom and can come in soon to sample her syrups!

~Happy Birthing
Kelly Gray, Director of Perinatal Education at Thrive 

Taproot Medicine
Taproot Medicine, Honoring The Connection Between Plants and People

Kelly: Tell me about your syrups and how they might benefit our growing families at Thrive? 

Frieda: This medicine was formulated with the birthing mama and healthy child in mind. The Strong Woman Syrup directly effects iron levels in the body–which is so important for growing a baby–and is also made with plants that nourish and tone all the systems of the body. hawthorn to calm the heart, marshmallow for a juicy gut, milk thistle to support the liver, I could go on and on. It’s the kind of medicine that pretty much jumped out of my hands the moment I made it, and I just continue to follow it around as it finds it’s way into others’ hands.
The wellness syrup was formulated as my son started gnawing on the shopping cart handle, and I thought about how many other grubby little kids did the same thing. This formula builds immunity and provides some deep nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamins C, B, and A. It’s also got as much apple cider vinegar that I can get in it, which my grandma used for everything and anything. It’s so good for the compromised or developing immune system, and I use it as the sole sweetener for my young child. It’s food medicine!

Kelly: One of the things that really strikes me about your medicine is how good they taste- what type of feedback do you get from kids?

Freida: The main reason this stuff works is because people take it. Medicine doesn’t have to taste good, but it’s so much more effective when it does. Most kids love this stuff and require some surveillance with how often they reach for it. The only kids I’ve had who don’t like it are 8-10ish year olds, who have been less exposed to alternative sweeteners or herbs. I think it’s a good idea to get kid’s pallets tuned to herbs, it makes them better medicine takers overall.

Kelly: Do you have any tips for parents who are looking to further their children’s relationship with dirt and the plant world?

Frieda: Be not afraid of the natural world! get on your belly, take your shoes off, pick up the earthworm…model for your children how good it feels to be woven into the earth, not just living on top of it. I think the wisdom of being in “touch” with the earth goes deeper that we can know.

Kelly: When I was looking at your website, I noticed your commitment to selling your medicine locally for local people. Why is this important to you and has this created any particular challenges or benefits? 

Frieda: It just doesn’t feel right to ship my medicine to people when there’s so many of us right here! It also feels good to let this medicine be local, not pushing it or trying to extend it beyond where it’s made. You can’t just get the Pacific Ocean shipped to the Ozarks, just because people want it, and I feel the same way about this plant medicine. I do routinely have to turn people away who want to order from the east coast, but I feel like it’s an important statement to make in support of local community.

Kelly: I have a bottle of your Strong Women Syrup in my refrigerator and it might be one of my favorite things in there. On the bottle, it encourages you to take a deep breath and make room for the plants entering your body. Can you tell me more about this and how this works?

Frieda: My first herb teacher, Gail Julian, told me that you’ve got to make space in your body for the medicine to enter. For me, this means clearing my mind for a moment, settling my nervous system, maybe even letting the image of the actual plants come into view. Just like food–it tastes so much better when I slow down and let all my senses be a part of the experience!

Frieda Kipar Bay
Frieda Kipar Bay
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Thrive Birth Talk with Franchesca Duval on Fertility Awareness

For our third installment of Thrive Birth Talk, we met with Franchesca Duval to talk about her Fertility Awareness workshop which she will be offering at Thrive. In this workshop, Franchesca helps women and partners bridge the gap between science and spirituality while teaching them how to avoid or achieve pregnancy through the Billings Method of ovulation tracking. We wanted to hear from Franchesca on her thoughts regarding the cultural and personal significance of tracking your own ovulation, plus a little bit about what folks can expect to gain from one of her workshops. We know that you’ll enjoy this interview! If you’d like to sign up for one of her classes you can email me directly for more information at kelly@thrivebirth.com 

Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center 

Kelly: What exactly is Fertility Awareness and why are you drawn to teach it?

Franchesca: Fertility Awareness is the process of learning how your reproductive system works so you can read your own signs of fertility and avoid or achieve pregnancy. When a lot of folks think of Fertility Awareness the first thing that comes to mind is the rhythm method which is extremely flawed and a great way to get pregnant if you do not want to. The method of Fertility Awareness I teach is called the Billings Method, it is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. The science behind the method is solid, it can be tailored to any womans cycle and the information is easy to understand.

While I was in college I saw a lot of women go on birth control for weight or acne regulation who were not sexually active, and those women were not fully educated as to what they were taking and how it would effect their physical, mental and spiritual health over the years. I became passionate about teaching this method because I recognize the need for another voice in the world letting women know that there are options other than chemical contraceptives available to them.

There is an interesting campaign by the makers of chemical birth control which says that it liberates women because it gives them reproductive choices. I challenge that campaign and say that the greatest liberation to women is allowing them to ovulate AND educating them on how to prevent pregnancy so their fertility is truly in their hands.

Kelly: A lot of women say to me, “I’m really fertile, that wouldn’t work for me” or “I want to be able to have sex all the time so I can’t practice that.” How do you respond to these types of concerns?

Franchesca: These are great common concerns that have easy solutions. First of all, every woman has a variable window of fertility each month. Some women may skip ovulation all together one month while another will have seven days of fertility in which she needs to avoid unprotected sex. No matter how fertile a woman is, she will only be fertile for one window each month (ovulation can only occur once each cycle) so there will always be time before and or after a womans fertile cycle for unprotected sex.

To the folks who say that they want to have sex all of the time I say go for it and do the best you can to protect yourself, if you feel the absolute need to connect with your partner while you are in your window of fertility then use a condom and know that if the condom breaks there is a high likelihood that you will get pregnant. If you are uncomfortable with using condoms than expand your sexual play, there are many ways to have sex without going all the way to intercourse and most of my couples find that a woman’s fertile time is a great opportunity to get creative and try new things so their love life stays fresh and fun! We gain a great deal of empowerment when we know we are fertile and make choices accordingly as opposed to shooting in the dark and trusting our fertility to a device or chemical outside of ourselves.

Kelly: From a very young age, many women who are sexually active or are considering becoming sexually active are signed up for medicated birth control and given little to no education about how their cycles work. Do you think it’s important to break away from this model of healthcare, and if so, why?

Franchesca: I absolutely believe it is important to break away from this model of medicating our girls early. Chemical birth control plays with our endocrine system, specifically our pituitary and pineal glands which a lot of spiritual traditions believe are our gateways to God and our highest selves. I get a lot of students who say that while they were on birth control they were depressed or felt directionless, as if they were missing a large part of themselves. No one talks about birth control’s role in these emotions and a lot of girls get put on anti-depressants needlessly. Most chemical birth control prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation each month which leads to young girls having a flatline in their emotions and power. When we ovulate we are at the peak of our focus, alertness and attractiveness, women who are ovulating will knock any presentation  out of the park because they are at the height of their personal power for the month. Young girls who are on chemical contraceptives are robbed of the opportunity to step into that place of power and do not find it until much later in life when they go off of the pills to try and conceive.

I believe that every woman deserves the chance to be taught how her body REALLY works so she can make the decision to go on birth control or have an IUD with confidence that it is the right decision for her and not just because it is what is available.

Kelly: How can partners benefit from Fertility Awareness and what do they need to know about it?

Franchesca: This method creates a level playing field of responsibility with contraception where both partners can make the decisions about the best days to have unprotected sex. Gone will be the days of the woman being 100% responsible with her pills or the man being 100% responsible with the condoms. The couple get to deepen their communication and talk it over together with a clear picture of what is going on with the womans fertility and not fumble around in the dark, guessing when the fertile window actually is.

Men are not doing the day to day sensing and observing that the women will do but they can chart for their ladies. Having the man ask each night what the most fertile sign of the day was is a great way to have him involved so he can help make the decision about unprotected sex. There are great apps for the iPhone, even websites that allow women to track their cycles so a man can check remotely to see if she is entering her infertile time and know to come home with some flowers and sweet moves to put her in the mood!

Kelly: Now the fun question. Really, better sex for the woman and the man? Do tell!

Franchesca: Most couples who are trying to avoid pregnancy have a low level of anxiety around sex because they know that every time they unite there is a chance of pregnancy occurring. Men in particular suffer from not being able to be fully present in the act because they are focusing on pulling out or the condom breaking. When a woman has mastered the Billings Method she will know with complete confidence that she is infertile and when her and her man can have reckless abandon in their lovemaking. The man is able to be fully present with his lady when he knows there is no chance of pregnancy, allowing for a deeper connection in intimacy which every woman craves. The juiciness is put back into the relationship and every month the couple gets to get excited for unprotected sex in the infertile time while exploring other options during the fertile time.

Lisa Flato class photo
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Thrive Birth Talk with Lisa Flato on Yoga, Art, Food and being a Mindful Mama

Welcome to our second installment of Thrive Birth Talk. This week we are joined by one of our yoga instructors, Lisa Flato, to talk about the merging of yoga, art and food in her Mindful Mama workshop. If you’d like to hear more about one of our workshops, or have a specific question for one of our instructors, please email me directly at kelly@thrivebirth.com.

Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center

Kelly: Tell us about the essence of your Mindful Mama workshop.

Lisa: I created the Mindful Mama workshop as a way for pregnant mamas to have a place to gather and share communally in the experience of being pregnant with the myriad of changes we all go through. I firmly believe the practice of yoga while preparing for labor, delivery and motherhood is a powerful way to connect deeply with your baby and yourself. It’s a time to tap into and cultivate your intuitive power, as well as the benefits of physically preparing for the work ahead. We also take the time to create a piece of art, inspired by birth and motherhood. I had this vision that the mamas may want to create a sacred space in preparation, and the art created during the workshop would be a part of this space, in their home or birthing place.

At the end of the workshop we share in a meal that I have prepared. I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people, and I truly love to nurture the mamas in this way.

Kelly: Many of our readers know the benefits of yoga and meditation for the pregnant mind and body, but can you tell us more about the importance of art and sharing food?

Lisa: In our busy hectic world, I feel one of the things lacking for some of us is an expression of our creative selves. The feelings and desires to make, dance, sing, and create are ever present, but the actual act of taking time out for it can be challenging. I want the mamas to have a piece of themselves that they can take home. An expression of how they are feeling. To experience joy, laughter and deep connection in creating art from their hearts. Sometimes the project is to draw, collage, sculpt and sometimes it’s more of nurturing themselves with a homemade aromatherapy rice soak. It’s always a piece they’ve taken the time to sit and think about, to craft with their hands, and simply to sit with.

And what better way to nurture someone then to feed them? Mamas are spending so much time and energy, literally, growing, and taking care of these precious beings, not to mention other people in their homes, and I want them to feel nourished and taken care of, plane and simple.

Lisa Flato class photo
Mindful Mamas at the end of the workshop.

Kelly: Who should take this workshop?

Lisa: This workshop is appropriate for any expecting mama. The standard for a yoga practice is to be very gentle and slow for the first 12 weeks while pregnant, however I feel that if you have a strong practice, and/or a strong desire for time with yourself and community, then you are most welcome. We always modify accordingly. Truly any skill level is appropriate, beginners to advanced. The poses have many modifications, but in general I teach a gentle nurturing style of Hatha Yoga that will definitely help the mama to build strength, from the physical level to the emotional and beyond.

Kelly: What kind of feedback do you get from participants after class?

Lisa: Women who have taken part of the workshops really enjoy the feeling of community and gathering in a group to practice and share. For those who have come throughout their pregnancies, they’ve enjoyed the different pieces of art they’ve collected and one mama even sent me a picture of a vision board we did that she framed and placed in the new baby’s room. They appreciate being fed a meal that is simply presented and that they didn’t spend any energy thinking about. Especially for mama’s with other children at home, this feels like a luxury!

Kelly: This workshop creates a special ritual for the pregnant woman that allows her to connect with herself, her baby and her community. What are your thoughts on ritual and initiation around birth in our culture?

Lisa: All of us need time to slow down, time to reflect, time to simply be. The transformational journey that a women must go through in order to prepare for the role of MOTHER, is one paved with lots of information, concerns and opinions. I like to offer a time for creating sacred space, cultivating intuition, designing rituals to bring into the laboring zone, and supportive ways in which we can lift each other up as women to build strong communities built of trust, faith and sisterhood. Not only in our own bodies and selves, but also in each other.