childbirth, and child raising
Conception, and the ensuing experience, opens a
magical door into the world of the child, and my reality will never be the same. Pregnancy
and child raising are an amazing time of our lives! Creating a human being within, senses
coming so alive, emotions strong. Giving birth, nurturing life, giving so much of
ourselves. A time to connect with our intuition and the dynamics of life.
As creators, there is a need for us to be careful and
responsible, but in today's world we face so much confusion. This is especially relevant
to those attempting a raw food, vegan or fruitarian diet and for those who would like a
natural home birth. There is little information on raw food in relation to pregnancy and
lactation. In general, the medical profession seems to reject it as insufficient
nourishment. As with any diet, if not balanced and varied this can be true. We are a
minority, not catered for and largely unsupported by mainstream society. It can be
difficult at times. It is different for everyone and I cannot claim to know all the
Choosing this lifestyle was choosing to live my truth. It has
involved really looking at society, at my own conditioning, and continuing to question. My
inner truth has discouraged me from surrendering to the mainstream, while not rejecting it
I was 20 years old when I began to let go of refined and
cooked foods and put my trust in mother earth. Wow what a beautiful truth! Such heavenly
tastes discovered, old cravings lost as my taste buds regained their sensitivity. I went
from vegetarian to raw food with no transition. My body wanted cleansing. I fasted a few
times for two or three days only.
After a year on raw foods I discovered I was pregnant. There
was comfort knowing I had healed, to some extent, this body that was to become also the
body of our child.
I had been pregnant once before on a poor diet and
experienced nausea and vomiting for weeks, eventually having an abortion. This time I
didn't vomit at all, but occasionally felt nauseous during the first couple of months.
Yes, I craved cooked food-especially bread. With lots of support from my partner, and a
fixed mind, resistance wasn't too hard. We made sprouted breads and seed cheeses, even raw
pizza! Pumpkin seed cheese is great and full of zinc for the growing baby.
We had been travelling for the first few months. Upon
returning home we let go a little and started eating some steamed/baked vegetables.
Occasionally I'd have goats' yoghurt or toasted sprout bread with avocado. I felt it was
important, both emotionally and physically, for me to heed my cravings. It seemed my body
needed something from these foods that perhaps it wasn't getting or hadn't adapted to
getting from raw foods. Forcing down raw salads every night was sometimes unthinkable;
they seemed hard to digest whereas a few steamed vegies or sprouted bread with a green
salad went down easier.
I had lost so much weight during those first months from
stress, travelling, dietary restrictions and perhaps poor absorption. Friends and even
people I hardly knew were worried. It seemed impossible to put weight on, and this was a
stressful time, reading all sorts of books on nutrition, trying so hard to do it right. I
couldn't understand why there was so much concern when I thought I was doing everything so
well. I soon discovered that my B12 levels were low. My iron was low, and although this is
natural it put me at a higher risk of haemorrhaging while giving birth. Taking the
responsibility into my own hands, keeping as far from doctors as I could, I couldn't
afford to shrug it all off. To think I knew it all and dismiss it would be foolish and
irresponsible, but to worry about it was just as bad. Why could other women eat junk food,
not give a damn and get away with it?
Of course there was much misunderstanding of raw food, and in
my heart I knew a natural diet would give this child the best start, but I didn't want to
use this pregnancy as an experiment. My endurance level was low. One day in town required
two days for recovery with plenty of sleep. This is another sign of B vitamin deficiency.
From the beginning I had been losing muscle rapidly. It appears that a strict diet during
pregnancy and lactation might require careful food combining to meet protein requirements.
I began taking spirulina. After a few weeks my B12 and iron levels increased. I had miso
or tempeh occasionally-anything rather than a B12 injection that was being spoken of.
This is not to say that I wasn't healthy, just that the baby
seemed to be taking a lot from my body. I felt great most of the time, which is a good
indication that my diet wasn't too deficient. Generally I had plenty of energy, walked a
lot and did yoga nearly every day. I found pregnancy yoga classes were fantastic. Diet
being only one aspect of the pregnancy didn't prevent this from being a beautiful time of
my life. Rest and relaxation were essential. Denying this to myself would be denying the
baby. I learned yogic techniques which took only 15 minutes and energised me completely.
From this experience I would recommend women not to be hard
on themselves. I would have enjoyed the pregnancy more and perhaps put on weight if I had
listened to my body's yearnings. I feel it would be possible to do this with mostly raw,
natural foods and a little creativity. The benefits are undeniable. If I was to do it
again I wouldn't rule out the possibility of eating eggs occasionally and would probably
include more grains in my diet, even brown rice. It seems there are two extremes.
Mainstream advocates abundant protein, while others advocate nearly no protein. I prefer
the middle path. At a crucial time such as this, forcing ourselves with a restrictive diet
can be harmful, no matter how ideal it may seem. A healthy mind is essential for a healthy
body. A closed, narrow mind surely can only close our eyes to the truth.
Homebirth? Go for it! I recommend it wholeheartedly. To be in
a comfortable sacred space can be the key to maintaining your inner strength and centre
which is so important. It was easy to tune in to my rhythm without the hindrance of stress
or orders. Drugs inhibit the secretion of endorphins (natural morphines) and take away our
control. Birth can be a beautiful and spiritual time for all present, including the baby.
Health and home birth go hand in hand. To have confidence in
a smooth birth without complications, a healthy diet and lifestyle is important. Perfect
health, however, is not crucial. All women can do it, but health should be considered.
The birth of Shenteh was a magical experience for us in the
rainforest of Kuranda. Labour began at dawn as the birds sang. There was a very peaceful
energy surrounding us. Time ceased to exist. I wondered when those endorphins were going
to kick in. In fact, they had kicked in and I felt euphoric, but I only realised this
afterwards. The pain was my world. My partner Kevin, Marianne (midwife) and Barbara
(assistant midwife) took control of everything. Hot towels on my lower back and belly were
a blessing as was being supported in the arms of Kevin. We had hoped for a water birth but
there was no time to fill the pool. It was three weeks before the due date. The birth went
smoothly, but I would be lying to say it wasn't painful. The joy and excitement created a
balance. Also my determination to birth this baby took the focus. It helps to allow the
pain and recognise that it is the miracle of birth at work bringing the grand finale
closer! Resistance causes most people to tense up, which makes the pain stronger. I've
heard that lack of B vitamins decreases tolerance to pain.
Shenteh was born into the arms of her father, then passed to
me. I was trembling from exhaustion, concentrating on delivering the placenta while he
touched her with his lips, which calmed her down immediately. The cord was cut when it
stopped pulsating and the placenta birthed 20 minutes later. Shenteh was then put to the
breast. We cast our eyes upon the most beautiful face, too beautiful to believe at a
I had lost a lot of blood and felt weak. I couldn't stand up
without blacking out. Coconut water helped to replenish lost fluids, but I was still dizzy
upon standing the next day and rested for the whole week. It was a blissful week in
Shenteh's peaceful aura. She was healthy, pink and very alert from the beginning.
Home birth could well be part of a step towards the
empowerment of the female spirit. Women have the chance to awaken an energy within them
that creates miracles, to take control and enjoy birth. I think we underestimate the
awareness of the new born child. To bring them into a peaceful space with the least stress
is a beautiful welcome.
It seems that raising a child requires the same sensitivity
as creating one. Mostly it all just happens perfectly, and we learn as we go along. We had
few plans of how to raise Shenteh, just watched, learned and let her speak to us in her
Food... Breastfeeding has always been her main source of
nourishment. She would watch us eat and as her awareness grew, an interest in colourful
fruits developed. At about 6 months she wanted to taste them and we just guided her on a
taste discovery. Jackfruit and watermelon were obviously tantalising to her taste buds. We
trusted in her natural instinct. After all that's what got us this far! The food she
couldn't chew she showed no interest in.
When she started to develop more of an appetite we gave her
avocado or banana and occasionally she'd have sprouted almond milk in a smoothie. Next,
when she was about 10 months old came a fascination in greens and cherry tomatoes. We
would sit together in the garden with avocado and cherries while I chewed greens for her.
This partially digests them, making it easier for her to eat and to absorb nutrients.
There is apparently more need for iron during teething. She is 21 months old now and has
most of her teeth. She eats with us so she wants to eat what we eat. This includes coconut
(especially jelly), fruit, seed sauces, vegetables and fresh greens, seaweed, yummy treats
like coconut-date balls, nuts and seeds (often soaked), occasional steamed vegetables and
now also sprouted grains. We find that if we give her the freedom to eat some things that
she really wants (nuts or cooked vegetables) she eventually loses interest if they aren't
right. Keeping them from her only makes her desire grow stronger. Salt seems to make her
hyperactive. Breast milk is still her favourite! Shenteh's health is undeniable. Her skin
glows, she has put on weight steadily, without excess fat, is strong, has abundant energy
and is very alert.
Contact... The warmth of our body, our heartbeat and the
security we provide gives children contentment and trust in the world. Shenteh has always
slept with us and we held her in our arms almost constantly, asleep or awake, especially
in the first six months. It appears to have helped in developing her independence and self
Toilet Training... Nappies can be helpful but we only put
them on Shenteh when it was really necessary, mostly at night. Leg movement made possible
by not wearing nappies enabled her to crawl at an early age. It also gave her body
awareness. We held Shenteh in a squat position over the garden from an early age (about
3-4 months) when we felt she might need a wee, which was usually 5 minutes after a feed.
Soon this encouraged a bowel movement which became a habit every morning upon waking and
later in the day. She didn't like doing it in her nappies as much as we didn't like
washing them. She still does this now, but is more aware of what she is doing and can
squat outside herself or go to the potty. Occasionally she still wees on the floor when
she has to go but we don't give her negative vibes about it, just encourage her to go
elsewhere. I feel negativity could be harmful and cause some kind of suppression. The
aboriginals had this theory also. Now that Shenteh is talking more, she usually tells me
when she has to go.
Behaviour... Most of Shenteh's behaviour is a mirror of
ourselves, an imitation. This is how she seems to learn the majority of her actions and
mannerisms. Often we're not aware of it at the time. Therefore if we want her to be kind,
understanding and patient we need to be this ourselves and be aware of when we are
teaching her bad behaviour or speech. Saying 'no' all the time or getting angry is only
going to teach her this way. It pays in the long run to centre myself or to take time out
when I find myself behaving negatively. We allow Shenteh much freedom, giving her the
responsibility of her actions. She is a scientist testing out her environment. If she
wonders off we don't chase her unless it is obviously too dangerous. Usually she will then
become aware that she is going too far away or into unknown territory, and will come back.
Telling her what to do all the time only creates rebellion. She wants to know how to fit
in, and we try to be respectful when telling her what isn't acceptable. Now she
understands so much, so we can often explain to her and then give her an alternative. It
is something we work on together. There are of course times she drives us crazy but we use
these to look at ourselves and usually see her innocence. More than anything she needs to
know we're there for her, supporting her discovery of the world. We don't always hold back
our emotions and responses. She wants to know us for who we are and learns a lot about
what is and isn't acceptable this way. She learns through play. We don't have to give her
heaps of toys because what she wants to learn is to do what we do, mostly. Music has been
a big part of her life (since conception). She plays drums, shakers, harmonica and many
other instruments. Singing dancing climbing and water are also her passions. We also spend
time in the garden with her, planting seeds and watering.
In general, our role is purely to love; to forget about our
own wants sometimes, and see the quality of life she brings; to guide her on an adventure,
to play and explore. The child's simple world without judgement, time or thought can teach
us more than any words in spiritual books.
It is when we enter into this reality that we're able to
really see the beauty of these beings that will delight and elate our spirits so.
Immunity... On a natural diet high in fresh, raw fruits,
vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds, optimum vitamins and minerals are obtained which
builds immunity. Abundant enzymes prevent the pancreas from depletion. The pancreas is an
important part of the endocrine system which is the essence of our immunity. Vitamin C in
all fruits builds tissue in the immune system. Toxins in our western diet accumulate in
the body, overpowering our immunity. Mucus builds up, creating a home for disease. Stress
slows glandular activity and affects our whole endocrine system. So it makes sense that a
natural diet and lifestyle would protect us from much sickness.
Immunisation? We researched this matter enough to see the
harmful effects and their cover up. The hidden facts reveal that most vaccines have not
been proven to work and many have harmful side effects. Modern medicine certainly has its
place, and can be helpful if used carefully when we feel it is necessary. Preventative
health and natural remedies allow our bodies to strengthen and to fight disease.
Breast feeding... What a magical food is breast milk! It
contains all essential elements for the nourishment of the child. Being the lifeblood of
this little creature is quite a gift. To watch her bliss, the security it gives her-it's a
love affair, a beautiful romance. Gurgle; gurgle. Peace and satisfaction in her eyes. For
this I am thankful. To able to give her this peace in times of pain or stress is a
blessing. It's a very giving experience and can be demanding at times (I thought I'd have
my body back after the birth!). Frustration arises sometimes, but is created from within
and can be changed from within. Eventually frustration may start the gradual process of
weaning To begin with, it was all new so we both had to learn what to do, although Shenteh
seemed to know already, which made it easier.
Colic...Taking her to the city one day seemed to be the
beginning of our problems. She developed what was known as colic, which seemed to mean a
stressed out baby. I tried taking the breast away from her when she appeared to have wind
and not overfeeding her but this eventuated in a traumatic few days. My milk practically
dried up from stress and lack of sleep (with one screaming baby). So I learned to trust
that Shenteh knew when she needed the breast.
Breastfeeding is a full time job. I've had to let go of many
desires, giving myself over to this. To ensure I have plenty of milk I have to have plenty
of sleep, as growth hormones, which stimulate the production of milk, are released in deep
sleep. It's easy when I look at the positive side of it all: a well nourished, happy baby!
Diet... Food? The more she takes, the more I eat. It's like
petrol in a car-as it burns up and runs out, so do I. Hunger grips me around the neck and
seems to say 'eat or else'. Milk production burns calories. B vitamins provide energy. I
have goats yoghurt sometimes, sprouted breads, seed sauces, kelp, rice, bee pollen and
spirulina occasionally. I question whether dairy is a good food source. If I have too much
Shenteh and I both get a bit of mucus. For this reason I stopped eating it after she was
born and only recently started again. A small amount seems OK, and that is all I crave.
Certain foods, such as almond skins and durian, upset her when she was young, but after
eliminating nearly everything from my diet except papaya I realised that nourishment was
I find my body has its own innate intelligence when given the
chance. Its requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding have been quite specific. I
seem to be balancing myself with acid or alkaline foods, and snacking often. To eat what I
crave when I crave it keeps this balance. Protein and grains have felt necessary and good
food combining has helped digestion and hence improved my vitality.
'A healthy woman should accumulate some fat stores for energy
after birth' - I realised the truth in this once I started breastfeeding. I didn't gain my
full energy or endurance until I put weight on about 10 months later.
Natural Weaning... When the child loses interest-ha!-not
likely-or when the mother goes insane! I haven't experienced weaning yet, but Shenteh is
gradually feeding less, especially during the day. She has always slept with me and still
feeds at night, more so when her teeth are cutting. I'm not sure whether we will give
Shenteh goats milk yet. Weaning off the breast onto a goat's breast seems strange, but it
might be what she needs. I would probably sour it a little and only give it to her
occasionally. I like to give her nut milks and fresh coconut milk Soya milk, as an
alternative to the breast, is a very powerful food and lacking in many nutrients. The
packaged varieties contain oil and are cooked to very high temperatures. I've heard cases
of soya milk causing weight loss and digestive problems. The salt added may cause
The processed, refined foods with abundant additives that I
once fed my body nearly every day sent me out of balance. I often felt anxiety,
depression, lethargy, even from stimulants eventually, but I was so used to it. I wonder
what they do to the foetus and breastfed child. I feel so much more centred and unlimited
in my relationship to the world eating natural foods. This feeling is something Shenteh
already knows well, and all I want is to nurture it. I see that much of my learning has
been for her.
Many native tribes have lived in health without disease for
years. Refined food is not part of their culture, nor are artificial additives. So it
seems it's what we don't eat that's as important as what we do eat.
Shenteh's health is important to me. It extends past the
physical realm. Social and emotional aspects are equally important and all interrelated.
This urges me to allow much freedom into her life: I don't want her to feel like an alien
in society. With the foundation of a mostly raw diet, I feel Shenteh will deal with
occasional 'junk foods' when the times arise. We don't want to set her up for rebellion;
rather, we hope that she may feel at one with others around her. In this way she can see
the broader picture that she is a part of, thus enabling her to choose her direction in
life. If we, her parents, are loving and supporting she might continue to respect our
thoughts and feelings and see the quality of natural foods. From my observation, human
nature is one that desires to know, and experience is sometimes the best way.
We are all on our own special journey. Changing our diet from
what we've known so long can be a challenging experience. We all have differing needs to
keep us emotionally and physically balanced. It takes great responsibility to be aware of
our decisions and actions in the moment. Loving myself and my valuable lessons (sometimes
called mistakes), without judgement, has been a huge step toward health. The life force in
living foods has enriched and connected me with the life force within. It has helped me in
finding this love which seems so important to share with Shenteh, who has given in
Our children deserve the best we can give them. Living with
freedom is giving our children the freedom to be their own beautiful, unique selves.
Sometimes we are unsure. This goes on throughout pregnancy and child raising. It is a part
of life that we can learn to accept. Maybe we will never be sure, but our feelings and
intuition are our best guide.
The above article appeared in the December 1997 (Summer) and
March 1998 (Autumn) issues of REAL News. Permission to reproduce is given freely, provided
that the article is attributed to REAL News. For more information on REAL News, see the
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