I recently was asked to be a part of a postpartum series on IG Live with the wonderful, Panqueztani aka @indigemama. In that IG Live, I shared my experience and story with miscarriage and loss as an Indigenous birthworker. In case you didn’t make it to the live, I’m going to share some main takeaways from our conversation here.
If you’re here, you know me as Constant Motion Woman, or Pearl and that I’m an Indigenous birthworker focused on postpartum care. A service I offer is Indigenous miscarriage care. I’ve held space and supported others who have experienced miscarriage and loss before I experienced my own pregnancy loss.
I remember the first time the loss of a loved one hit me hard and had me question all of the Why’s. It was my late cousin who was about 7 at the time. He had meningitis and didn’t make it. I was in the fifth grade when this happened, just a few years older than he was. And I remember everything so vividly. We have the same birthday and each year, I wonder what he would be like if he were here today. Each year, I honor him and his life. My little 10 year old self, didn’t realize that was the beginning of my relationship with loss, grief, and death.
Fast forward to my second ever patient I had as a doula. I was a part of a team of doulas and we took shifts when a person was admitted to the birthing center. I got a call to support a mother who had a still birth, a full term pregnancy but their baby was no longer living inside their womb. I immediately had a bodily reaction to this. The pain, the deep grief, and tears I had in that moment made me question if I could even support someone else experiencing loss. I told my supervisor, “I don’t think I can do this.” But creator and my supervisor, had a way of saying, this person has lost someone they really love and just need someone to be there for them. That, I could do.
I got my doula scrubs on, grabbed my badge, and went to the birthing center. While I was there, it was very somber. I was not there for the delivery of the baby as my shift ended. I will never know if my presence helped this person in such an emotional moment. When I got back home, I bawled my eyes out. Washed my body off with cedar, drank cedar tea, and smudged off all of my doula gear. I prayed for her, her body, her baby, and her relationships. I prayed her baby would be back with the ancestors in a beautiful way. And she may never know that I was doing that. Perhaps, it was meant to be that way. It was a pivotal moment in my life and my work as a doula. I never thought I would be stepping more into that realm until I moved back home.
During the pandemic, I was living in the Twin Cities. I was a part of a doula group there and we teamed up for our community. I’d get a call from my niijikwe that a mother in the area had a pregnancy loss and she needed support. So a group of us would come together between 2020 and 2021. One of us would cook a meal for the mother, her family, and us doulas. Someone would boil cedar tea and prepare the medicines for a ceremony. Someone would help watch their littles while they were going through the ceremony. We would all pray together, sing songs, smudge, and wipe down the mothers using our intuition to pay attention to the places on her that needed more work. We would pray and eat the meal that was prepared together. Have counsel and talk about what we learned, how they can take care of themselves, and anything they need to do for their specific healing.
After that, one of us sometimes would put the discard items into a sacred fire if they didn’t have access to a fire pit. Then, we would go home rested for work the next day.
And now, since moving back home and experiencing my own miscarriage, it is clear that this is work I’ve been called to. Something that Panquetzani pointed out to me when we were on IG Live recently, was how Creator put me in that spot of being with my second ever doula client who had a stillbirth. And of all the doulas on our team, I was called to take the first shift. And everytime I got a call to support this, I did so knowing what they were experiencing, without having experienced it myself first.
In December 2021, I experienced miscarriage in my body for the first time. To say it changed me is an understatement. It changed me. Time nearly stopped and went extremely slow. I was present in each moment of the bleeding. Noticing each sound around me that I had dismissed before. Not caring about my duties as much as I had before bleeding. Taking time off for myself to rest was the best thing I could have done for my healing. I remember laying in bed, bleeding, and not doing much other than having tea, eating warm foods, and crying.
My miscarriage was my rebirth. I experienced both bringing life into my womb and death. A sacred duality that makes a miscarriage womb so connected and open to the spiritual world. It was an experience that has further shaped how I approach supporting others in miscarriage. These are the Indigenous tools that guided me in healing my womb, tending to my spirit, and caring for my emotions after a miscarriage during the pandemic.
Listening to my intuition. Even in the first moments that I bled, I knew something was off. I knew that this was most likely a miscarriage happening. My intuition told me, even before I ever had it confirmed with a provider. I knew. In having teas for my womb’s needs, I let my intuition guide me to the ingredients. It led me to a nourishing, blood building, energy clearing, and warming tea that made me feel so centered. I thanked all the ingredients so many times as I drank each sip. It was so good. Honoring your intuition and letting it guide you is deeply ancestral and a valid Indigenous way of knowing what to do next.
Plant knowledge + relationships. Aside from my intuition guiding me to the ingredients for my miscarriage tea, it guided me in which plant relatives to call upon for my healing. I had some medicines in our medicine storage that were calling to me and I knew, when I saw it and held it, that they were the ones to help me in my womb healing. It was based on what we had available and in our medicines, using what we had. There is always more to learn while building a relationship with our plant relatives. And I am grateful to know how to work with cedar, especially for miscarriage. I also worked with juniper berry and cinnamon as medicines for my womb and spirit. Knowing how to respectfully harvest and work with plant relatives takes patience, listening, and reciprocity and wonderful mentors.
Journaling as a sacred practice. Allowing my emotions and thoughts to run on the pages of my journal instead of in my mind, took a weight off of my spirit in ways that honored every stage of grief I was experiencing. I was able to process, hold, and then release emotions that were filling up my energy, thoughts, and heart space. It allowed me to take the load off in a gentle and receiving way. And I continue to use journaling as a sacred practice beyond the postpartum care after this miscarriage.