There are a few gnarly parts of childbirth that are hard to ever really be prepared for. For me, the gnarliest part of all was what midwives like to call “The Ring of Fire.” That’s when the baby’s head starts to poke its way out of your lady parts. It hurts. A lot.
For some mamas, this painful part of childbirth also acts as a motivator, This is the time when some mothers get to reach down and feel the fuzz of their baby’s hair for the very first time. If you aren’t too squeamish you may even get to take a peek using a small mirror. Knowing your baby is right there often helps mothers make it through that final exhausting push.
Through you and your doctor or midwife will surely do everything possible to keep your precious perineum (that’s the thin strip of skin between your anus and vagina) intact as baby’s head pushes through, you won’t always succeed. Frankly, tears and episiotomies are a very typical part of childbirth, and while it may be excruciating at the time, the body can and does heal after it’s over.
Whether or not you need stitches after birth, your vagina and perineum will have gone through a lot by the time you get home. While you won’t be able to soak in a clawfoot tub anytime soon, you can dip your most delicate parts in a sitz bath of soothing herbs and salts to help soothe pain and encourage healing. This mixture is also an incredible replacement for plain water in perineum bottles used to cleanse stitches.
- 2 quarts (1.89 L) water
- 1/4 cup (60 g) sea salt
- 1/4 cup (8 g) dried lavender buds
- 1/2 cup (15 g) dried chamomile
- 1/2 cup (30 g) dried calendula
- 1/2 cup (30 g) dried plantain leaf
- Bring water to a boil in large pot, then turn off heat to stop boiling.
- Add salt and herbs and allow to steep until cool (about 30 minutes).
- Strain and discard herbs.
- Store infused water in a 1/2-gallon (2 L) pitcher and refrigerate between uses.
There are several different ways to make use of this soothing herbal infusion.
- Fill your peri-bottle with a mixture of 1 part herb bath and 1 part hot sterile water, then use as directed by caregiver.
- Fill a sitz bath with 1 part herb bath and 1 part hot sterile water, then soak until water cools (about 15 minutes) once per day.
- Soak sani-pads with herb bath before putting them into the freezer. The cold packs can be used like ice packs on sore lady parts.
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Cover courtesy of Spring House Press
Excerpted with permission from The Handmade Mama by Mary Helen Leonard (Spring House Press, 2018).