I was inspired by several things. A big inspiration was my patients. I wrote the book because I wanted them, and other mothers here, to have the good care that all mothers deserve.
Chinese medicine was important too. In the Chinese medical tradition the care of mothers after childbirth is very well-developed and comes from a deep understanding of the energy changes of the human body around birth and the postnatal period. It really allows the mother to rest and restore her strength in her own time and gives good reasons for doing this. If the mother is cared for properly in the six weeks after childbirth, it’s believed that she can also improve her general health and cure old, chronic illnesses.
My mother-in-law inspired me hugely. She comes from a West African tradition which also places a lot of importance on good care for the mother and makes her the centre of attention for 40 days after childbirth. When my mother-in-law told me about her traditional practices I was amazed and excited to hear how similar they were to the Chinese ones. From there, I went more deeply into researching the subject and talking to women from around the world about their postnatal care. It has been really fascinating to learn from these mothers.
There seems to be in this day and age a lot of pressure for women to look good straight after they have given birth? Why do you think this is?
Modern western society encourages women to have it all, to have good jobs, be good partners and look good effortlessly. The media and current celebrity culture reinforce this idea, especially of looking good. Unfortunately it puts tremendous amounts of pressure on women to get their pre-pregnancy body back, and it’s unrealistic and potentially harmful to their health. After birth the most important thing is to be resting (not exercising) and eating well, having a nutrient-dense diet, and not cutting back on good ‘carbs’ or trying to lose weight. This is a recovery period and it should last six weeks.
Women look good when they are healthy and feel calm and rested. And they look good when they can relax from normal duties and have time out ‘to go on honeymoon’ with their babies. In the Vietnamese tradition, where women are well-cared for after childbirth, it is said that a woman is the most beautiful she will ever be after the birth of her first child.
You are an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and teacher. That sounds like someone who is very compassionate, have these fields always been of interest to you?
I started off as a French teacher in my early 20’s. Then I went off to see the world and spent the next few years travelling around, mainly in Asia and the Mediterranean.
At one point I was living in Turkey, near a village where people needed medicine and care for a lot of different sorts of (mostly) minor health problems, and I wanted to be able to help them, but couldn’t. I had probably thought of it already, but I remember being there by this village and deciding to train in some kind of medicine. So I ended up going to England, I found Chinese medicine and have loved it ever since. My old teaching background finally came in handy many years down the track when I was teaching in acupuncture schools here and In Australia.
Treating patients keeps teaching me to be compassionate and I am grateful to have work that offers this sort of an opportunity.