Introducing Taproot Midwifery

handheartmemeHello everyone!

I want to officially announce the opening of my midwifery practice: Taproot Midwifery!

Bloody Show has been more or less defunct as a blog for awhile now with the challenges of finishing midwifery school, becoming licensed, and getting my own practice up and running. I will not be blogging in this space anymore. The good news, however, is that I will continue to blog at Taproot Midwifery. You may see some familiar posts in the beginning, but there will be lots more to come. It seems appropriate to graduate from the space I blogged as a student to my current space now. Please feel free to wander over and check out my new blog here.

Source of Strength: Herbs for Birthworkers

Without further ado, I bring you the first post in our multipart series on Herbs for Birthworkers, guest posted by the fabulous Alexis J. Cunningfolk from Worts + Cunning Apothecary.

Source of Strength: Herbs for Birthworkers

As an herbologist who has been involved in the birthworker world for many years and is partnered with a midwifery student, I work with a lot of birthworkers in my practice. The needs of on-call birthworkers require herbs that hold a certain quality of flexibility and adaptability that reflect the often unpredictable hours and demands of the birth world. We need herbs to lend us strength when negotiating overculture systems of health that don’t always respect our holistic models of care. Or herbs that remind us to take care of ourselves in the same ways we compassionately tend to our clients. Herbs are excellent allies for birthworkers and when used conscientiously and consistently they can be very effective remedies.

First, a very quick breakdown of general self-care:

  • Eat Well
  • Sleep Well
  • Love What You Do
  • Love Who You You Do It With
  • And Love All that is You 

Assess and redress any shortcomings on the list above – always strive for surplus love.

We’ll begin our series of Herbs for Birthworkers with a brilliant group of herbs that are known as adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help us to adapt – especially to stressful situations. Birthworkers, at our best, could be called the adaptogens of the birth team.

Adaptogens are fantastic daily tonics as their healing qualities are best experienced over a long period of time helping the body to find balance and build up its reserves of strength and adaptability. For birthworkers, in particular, adaptogens help us to be present by supporting flexibility in all of our body systems, which is needed when you’ve had three hours of sleep in the past 24 hours and you’ve just been called to your next birth. And you can’t find your shoes. Or the car keys.

Let’s begin!

Part I : Adaptogens


YARROW Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is an exceptionally useful herb for healers. Known as the “Wounded Warrior, Wounded Healer,”[1] Yarrow is for those folks who are always on call – the ones who are the first in and the last out in any endeavor and who are prone to ignore health needs until they are lying flat on their backs.  The lesson of Yarrow is to follow our own good advice and health recommendations for vital living, healing, and resting that we share with so many others in our practices as birthworkers and healers.

If you generally present as the most strong and able in the room, but often feel the most sensitive and bruised, Yarrow is your ally. If you push yourself to the limit when it comes to serving others, Yarrow is a great herb to incorporate into your daily life. In and out of hospital settings filled with all sorts of viruses, intense chemicals, harsh lighting, and other environmental pollutants, Yarrow is for you. Find yourself missing meals or eating at odd hours of the night and early morning? Yarrow is a bitter herb that aids digestion and should be considered.

Yarrow is an everyday tonic with the skills of a crisis manager. It helps those who feel they must always be the strongest to be able to express their vulnerabilities in ways that restore true fortitude.

How To Use Yarrow:

As a bitter-tasting herb, I usually recommend Yarrow as a tincture, either extracted in alcohol or glycerine, for daily use. Consider 1 – 10 drops up to three times daily. For situations of acute indigestion or fever, a hot tea of Yarrow hourly is best. Learn how to make a medicinal cup of tea here.


MACA Lepidium meyenii

Maca is a generous little tuber native to the Andean Mountains of Bolivia and Peru. Thriving in such a high altitude and harsh climate, Maca is a tremendously sturdy plant that has adaptogenic, restorative, and aphrodisiac qualities.

Another herb for folks who work long (and odd) hours, Maca is an adrenal tonic, helping folks step back from the verge of burnout so many birthworkers find themselves looking at the edge of. Maca restores our vital reserves, supporting our adrenals with alkaloids that have a beneficial affect on our hypothalamus-pituitary axis, and feeds our bodies with multiple vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, zinc, fatty acids, and amino acids.

Attending long births or have you been overdoing it for too long? Get yourself some Maca. Feeling weak and overexposed? Maca may be your mate. Are you exhausted? Hi there, my name is Maca.

On an emotional level, Maca reconnects our heart to our core strength, helping us to continue on as powerful, present, and compassionate in all we do.

How To Use Maca:

Maca has a malty taste that many folks find to be quite pleasant which is why I generally recommend it in powdered form for daily use. Simply mix 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of Maca into your smoothies, juices, cereals or syrups and enjoy. Maca can also be taken as an extract, 1 – 10 drops daily up to three times a day. Alternatively, Maca is easy to find at health food stores in capsules and might be the most convenient way for some folks. The benefits of Maca are best experienced over long-term usage, so consistent use is important.


TULSI Ocimum sanctum

Tulsi, also known as Sacred Basil, is a no-nonsense, up-in-your-aura, fire-breather of an herb. Tulsi is dragon medicine, old world basilisk herbology and one of its greatest gifts is the relentless pursuit of what-is-good-for-you. So if you have a habit that’s not serving you (like eating mindlessly, talking mean to yourself or refusing to acknowledge the wisdom of what you have to offer the world), Tulsi’s going to burn it up and rebirth you from the ashes.

In addition to being an adaptogen, Tulsi is a digestive aid, stoking our inner digestive fires. The herb moves heat through the body, which if you find yourself often in cold, sterile hospitals, or are generally someone who tends to be colder, Tulsi is helpful. Tulsi is also gently detoxifying, helping to remove harmful substances from the body. As an incredibly intelligent herb, Tulsi relaxes when we need to be soothed and enlivens when we need stimulation. Clever herb, that Tulsi.

Find yourself feeling cold and sluggish after a birth? Try Tulsi. Feeling stagnant and lacking direction? Tell Tulsi about it. If you are a bit odd, spiritually-inclined, and worried that you may be slightly broken, Tulsi is an ally and will help you find strengths in the cracks and crevices.

Tulsi helps us release that which no longer serves us and take up only that which feeds our deepest needs.

How To Use Tulsi:

My absolute favorite way to experience Tulsi is as a glycerite. Tulsi tea is delicious, whether from the fresh or dried herb, and the herb can be incorporated into juices, smoothies, and general food preparations (it is a Basil, so use it as you would Basil in cooking). If taking as an extract, whether glycerite or alcohol-based, 1 – 3 drops up to three times daily is a great daily tonic.

Next time we’ll be exploring Nervines!

♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦ ☆ ♦

Interested in learning more about incorporating herbology into your daily life?

Check out my how-to section for more free tutorials and support the work of ecstatic herbology for the masses by purchasing a fine copy of my ebook, Morning Mischief: Fully Enchanted Herbal Recipes for Delicious Awakenings + Resolute Magnificence. Yup, it is chock-full of color, cleverness, unicorns, and it’ll inspire you to integrate herbal healing into your daily routine!

Contact me at wortsandcunning {at} gmail {dot} com for more information on private consulations, workshops, and teaching. Be sure to browse the shelves of my Apothecary at Poppy Swap or Etsy for remedies for you and your clients.

[1] Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2009.

Introducing the Herbs for Birthworkers Series

I am so pleased to bring a multipart series about herbs for birthworkers written by the incredible Alexis J. Cunningfolk, the herbologist at Worts + Cunning Apothecary! (Full disclosure, she is also my partner, but I am not lying when I say that she is an excellent and engaging herbologist.)

But more importantly, dear birthworkers, this series will help you take care of yourself. And that is so important it is impossible to overstate how important it is. If you’re like most birthworkers I know, you know that this is crucial to your wellbeing and your continued ability to practice, but you find it hard to make this a priority in your life. I know you’re busy, I know you keep strange hours, and I know that especially if you are a student, you may have very little control over your schedule (not to mention be struggling with financial issues due to the nature of apprenticeships). That’s why this is even more important for you than for everyone else. I promise.

Let me tell you that I, for one, am incredibly invested in not getting burnt out. I am just becoming a midwife and I want to be able to practice and serve families for a good long, long, long time. I look around and I see many many midwives who are burnt out or who may be mentally willing to continue but physically their bodies are putting on the brakes and breaking down to force them to take care of themselves. Either way you slice it, this is no good. This series will give you tools for self care, not burning out, taking care of yourself when you keep very odd hours, and much more.

Keep reading – Source of Strength: Herbs for Birthworkers.

On Passing the NARM

Hello folks! This is just a quick note to thank you everyone who has been rooting for me this whole time. I found out late last week that I passed the NARM!!!!

The next hurdle to get over is getting licensed in California. Just money and time at this point, barring anything completely unexpected.

Taking the NARM and Other News

Hello everyone! I am gearing up to take the NARM next week and am surfacing briefly from studying to say how excited I am to put more time and energy into this blog once I am done with that great big ol’ test.

I am also excited abut what will be appearing here! There will be reviews (including the classroom version of the Business of Being Born and the latest edition of Heart & Hands which I used to study for the NARM). There will be musings on the life of a new midwife. And perhaps it’s exciting of all, there will be a whole series of posts by my love (who also happens to be the herbologist at Worts + Cunning Apothecary) on herbalism and self care for the birth worker. Be excited, be very very excited!

!!!! AKA Science and Sensibility Takes on Gender Variant Pregnancy

With none other than the brilliant CNM Simon Adriane Ellis, who by the way recently did some incredible work helping the ACNM put together their progressive new position statement titled “Transgender/Transsexual/Gender Variant Health Care“.

When asked, many birth professionals will tell you that they’ve never cared for a gender variant patient. Many of us claim that we don’t have the skills or the knowledge to do so. Turns out we’re usually wrong, on two fronts. First, chances are many of us have served gender variant people, without knowing it. And second, we are competent, compassionate, and well-trained professionals who already have what we need to provide excellent care and services to our gender variant patients.

So do not hesitate, do not pass go, and most definitely do not collect $200. Go check it out. While you’re at it, make sure you read the rest of the posts in the Welcoming All Families series which so far has touched on lesbian families and women of size.

Butches with Buns in the Oven!

ImageI opened up my Facebook today to see this fantastic picture and the words “Look guys! It’s our first butch + bun…in the oven!”

I could not be happier with this photo! First off, Chris in the picture has got all kinds of sass, which naturally I love. Secondly, pictures of people who look like me and who are pregnant!!! Someday, maybe I can add my picture(s) to the Butches + Babies blog.

I feel so happy and through the roof because it raises awareness that butches are carrying and birthing children (along with genderqueer and trans folks). When the public thinks of childbearing amongst gender non-conforming folks, my guess is the only image that (maybe) comes to mind is Thomas Beatie sharing his pregnancy on Oprah (or maybe Scott Moore if they’re really radical) as being THE transman who is also a birth parent. THE As in the one and only. A salacious circus sideshow for the public to consume and ponder about how this is even possible. This article announces that Moore is “[t]he world’s second known pregnant man”. This claim simply isn’t true. Trans and other gender non-conforming folks have been getting pregnant and giving birth since, well, longer than Oprah has had a talk show for sure. For sure.

But ay, there’s the rub. Yes I care that there is public awareness of these pregnancies. Yes, I want people to feel like they are not alone in their parenting decisions. To me, however, that’s not the most pressing issue. Most of all, I want there to be good, qualified, culturally competent, and sensitive care givers that gender non-conforming folks can reliably turn to for their GYN and OB care. I never want someone to wonder whether their healthcare provider will mix up their name and/or pronouns, never ever to worry if their body and embodied experience in this world will be treated respectfully or even competently. And part of the problem is that if there’s not public awareness of the pregnancies and births of gender non-conforming folks, then care providers will not feel the push to become competent in this area. To intentionally change their practices to become radically inclusive of all people who need their services. I want to applaud the ACNM for their recent position statement promising to work towards inclusive and competent care for their gender non-conforming clients.

Homebirth midwives, I think, could be ideal care providers for necessary sexual and reproductive health services for trans and gender queer clients as well as for pregnancy and birth. Imagine a homebirth for your beautiful family watching Baba push his baby out in the water into the waiting hands of his love and then snuggling up with their baby surrounded by care providers who know them for who they are and love and respect them. With no social workers coming in moments after the birth demanding to know who the birth parent is, removing the non-birth/non-biological parent from the room and making them sign second-parent adoption papers instead of bonding with your child in those precious first hours. Nobody using the wrong pronouns intentionally and derogatorily. Nobody giving anybody the stink eye, looking shocked, or being confused. And nobody talking about how ideal your breasts are for breastfeeding after you had a long conversation about with your care provider prenatally and explicitly stated that you plan to chestfeed your infant. Just you, your family, and your competent, inclusive care providers that you feel comfortable being your whole selves with.

I fully intend to serve queer and gender non-conforming clients in my (future) midwifery practice. I’m so close to that reality I can taste. Now we’ve just got to get MANA the general population of homebirth midwives on board and we’d really be heading in the right direction.

When the Baby is Born, it Belongs to Everyone

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a closet geek. Throughout high school and college I spent much of my free time reading webcomics. Lately, I’ve been checking out graphic novels from my local library (my local library is probably hands down my favorite place anywhere I live) and was thrilled to find the second book in a series about Aya, a young woman growing up in the Ivory Coast in the late 1970s.

In the appendix of this particular book, I found this absolute gem, talking about how new families are cared for in the immediate postpartum period and how, if you play your cards right, children are cared for on an extended basis by the entire community. It makes me think about life in the US and how many of my new families aren’t so lucky to have close friends or family close by to care for them postpartum and how incredibly important it is to have or build community in every time of your life.

In our country, we have a famous proverb that goes like this:

“When a baby is in they belly, it belongs to its mother. When it’s born, it belongs to everyone.”

The “it belongs to everyone” part is really great, believe me. And here’s why:

First, when you give birth, you only stay in the maternity ward for a day, unless you have a caesarian, in which case you go home the day after (not enough room and it’s expensive). But that doesn’t matter because as soon as you get home, you are welcomed like a “queen” by everyone. (Your family will take care of you and your baby for awhile, and that’s great, because you won’t have time to get those famous postpartum blues.) The baby and you are promptly looked after. Your mother heats some water and massages your whole body, especially the belly. Next she slathers you in shea butter and you go shower. Then she slathers you in shea butter again and wraps your belly (if you haven’t had a caesarian of course). Afterward, she dresses you and does your hair (you couldn’t get better treatment at a spa).

During this time, a team made up of your grandmother (if you still have one) and great-aunts takes care of your baby. They massage its head with a warm washcloth (so that its head becomes nice and round) and then its whole body (to make it nice and firm). When that’s done, the baby is washed, slathered in lotino and dusted with “Bébé d’Or” talcum powder or other things, then dressed in pretty clothes.

Meanwhile, another team made up of female cousins, sisters-in-law and tanties* makes a delicious meal, and then it’s time to sit down to eat! You come out of your room beautiful and glowing (thanks to the shea butter) and you enjoy the special meal (that you requested) under the happy gaze of your whole family.

When you have finished your meal, your beautiful baby is returned to you so you can nurse it (yup, that’s right, you’ve got to work just a little bit). After it burps, you put it down to sleep, and you can take a well-deserved nap and rest easy because your baby is being watched over by dozens of people. …

You’re helped in this way for some time. A few days before the aunts, female cousins, and sisters-in-law leave (your mother and grandmother can stay much longer), you introduce your baby to all the people in your neighborhood (even though they’ve all come by your house already to see you). This ritual is very important because you bring them your baby as a sign of respect and consideration. That’s how you get everyone to adopt your baby.

That’s how children grow up in this community. When your children are old enough to play outside, they’ll always be watched by someone and they’ll get scolded by a tantie* or tonton* the minute they’re up to some mischief.

Your children will invite other neighbor kids to come eat at your house because your children have had meals at theirs. They’ll learn about sharing and life as part of a community. You’re probably wondering about the “mother-father-child” bond. Don’t worry, because the others will never get in the way of that bond. Just because you give your children to others for a short time, doesn’t mean they’ll love you any less.

In any event, in our country, we don’t have to deal with those kinds of questions, because we don’t even think about them, and everything goes really well.

After all, we all want our children to be happy.

Excerpt from Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie.

*tantie = auntie or older woman, tonton = uncle or older man


My graduation speech was recently published in the Giving Birth to Midwives Newsletter published by Association of Midwifery Educators. (It also got published here and discussed here by my lovely friend Sky Connelly on the AROMidwifery blog, which I neglected to tell you about.) In addition to my article, there are other absolutely fabulous articles about racism and midwifery education. It is well worth your time to go check it out.

Nationally Rally for Change: A Full Scale Birth Revolution on Labor Day

Monday, September 3, 2012 10am-12pm. Your mission should you choose to accept it:


A massive uprising is on the horizon. Thousands of men, women and children will gather on September 3rd, 2012 as part of a national movement. Improving Birth’s “National Rally for Change on Labor Day” is being hosted in close to 100 major cities, in all 50 states across the country. Thanks to the intricate works of social media, has been able to organize a massive movement to bring awareness to the lack of evidence-based maternity care in the US. One writer coined it as
“The largest women’s movement in decades.”

Are you going? I am! Find out where the closest rally is happening near you.