This past Sunday, I (along with Lucy French and Megan Messinger) shared a practical support story to a group of new ACCESS volunteers. While I was speaking, I realized that I felt I wasn’t getting across the sense that, despite some of the hard facts of this story, everything really was all right, all along. The young woman was OK. I was loving what I was doing and I wasn’t crazy. After the three of us shared, I felt that the group looked excited, but overwhelmed. I started thinking about how it would feel to hear these stories; how intensely they fall upon the minds of people who are probably not used to sitting in this kind of emotional space.
The training was about to move into the “self care” section right after we were done. Good thing.
The experience reminded me of the integral role self-care plays in this practice. Doulas often need to be nudged into taking care of themselves. The last time I supported a really, really challenging birth, Nickie Tilsner said, “I want to know what you’re doing to take care of yourself” and I started crying, because I hadn’t even noticed my own needs.
I learned my lesson. I get massaged. I share my stories at least three times, with the right people. I write in my journal. I go to yoga and walk with my bare feet touching the ground. I cook and cry and get held.
Lately, I’ve been collecting herbs, many of which I use in my doula practice, but would work for anyone. This week, I was inspired by an article I read on nettles, written by herbalist Tessa Mancini Gillan on her blog, The Mahini Maven Chronicles. It focused on nettles for the pregnant person, but I am using it all for myself.
Gillan states a lot about of lovely facts about nettles, but this is my favorite self-care warranting part: “This plant is an energy changing, brain boosting, super stinging, whole body vitalizer. With usages so broad that virtually every body system benefits…”
Although the nutritional benefits of nettles are numerous, I was interested in the boost of seratonin they’re purported to give. I was also hungry to be outside, in the forest, harvesting this tricky plant. It is part of my self-care regimen.
Nettles can still be found in forests or foresty areas, near creeks. I suggest the more coastal forests, where the air is cooler, because you want to pick nettles before they go to seed. They sting like hell, so wear gloves and bring scissors and a bag. Once you pick a bunch, you can dry them for teas or infusions, or you can steam them with garlin, salt and olive oil. You can also use them to darken your hair.
If you can’t harvest, buy some dried nettles from an herb or natural foods store. Make ice tea, Drink it all the time. It will make you feel good.