More than five years ago now I began dabbling in the idea of soaping as a business. Hobby soap crafting was a part of life for seven years before it hit me that I could make this a gig...that I loved and build something from it. At the time I was employed as a genetics lab manger, playing with plants at a molecular level. Although, I absolutely adored this position, I found the politics of research to be stifling. The idea of spending my life chasing grants to be gainfully employed, constantly having to prove to a financial institution the research that mattered to me was not only valuable, but important to the betterment of humanity. Then came the deeper philosophical question for me...was this research important and how? Was I truly making a difference by showing genetic relationships among plant populations or determining the diet of herbivores? I know...there are many ways one can argue that this research is of utmost importance or conservation policies, and in fact those arguments were exactly what allowed for funding so I could get paid twice a month. Although, deeper picture, does this make a difference? So we know this animal is eating these plants and we used a really cool technique to figure it out...but truly does it matter to the animal? He already knows what he eats. Will we make a difference in these animals'’ lives by identifying this information? Does it make a difference for humanity? Better yet, how much of this information is even reliable...because as we all know science is truly hypothetical and filled with “best guesses.” So there I’d sit in the peace of the lab (labs really are great places to work, incubators for deep thought) and think of what my life path truly was, because although I loved the place I worked, loved the people I worked with, I knew this wasn’t it, babe.
The birth of my son led me down a path of stay-at-home mom life with a newborn and a two-year old. I soaked up every minute I could, although, I spent a lot of my time feeling utterly alone. Yes, these two sweet star beams were my amazing every day, although I often longed for an adult to speak about deeper concepts than what “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” had to eat. This is the truth many stay-at-home parents are ashamed to admit. Also this is the truth I never fully grasped until I was in the home full-time. It’s lonely. The work is daunting most days, often times you realize by the end of breakfast you’ll never actually achieve whatever made-up, self-imposed, standard you’ve created in your sleep-deprived chaotic mind. Though I tried...and those early years with two, I did so many of the over-the-top achievements I believed I needed to fulfill. It was in the midst of crafting, hiking, and enriching two children who were actually just as content in the backyard eating mud, I realized I may be a bit under stimulated in some aspects of my life.
During this time, we were heavily on the detox of life and home train due to my daughter’s persistent eczema flares. No dyes, no perfumes, no gluten, no dairy, no...no....no...if you’ve gone to battle with eczema this list is all too familiar and really that’s what it feels like after awhile, a giant list of restrictions. Although, our mama love is real. I did an elimination diet, basically eating bananas, chicken and sweet potatoes for six weeks before introducing one potential trigger at a time per week. Do you know how many bananas and sweet potatoes it takes to fill up a nursing mother of a four-month old?! Though, I persisted, and we found dairy and gluten as potential triggers. Relief, right?!? No. No. No. She still would have flare ups, for no apparent reason and I’d stay up late trying to isolate whatever could be causing my baby this misery. I tried every.single.OTC lotion, potion, salve, and soap. We had thousands of dollars in useless products that irritated her even more. This struggle is real and if you’ve been there my heart feels so deeply for you, because I know exactly what it’s like. One night when she was about five months old I remembered my soap-making hobby and decided I could fix the issue myself and it was time to do so.
I started with our now ever-popular “Bedtime” blend. I incorporated oatmeal, lavender buds and essential oil, and chamomile flowers. All plant oils as the base, eliminating any animal
products that could potentially trigger a flare-up. I calculated the highest percentage of residual oils possible so it would moisturize her skin and gently clean it. My first Aster Earth batch I poured into a cake pan. My soap-making mentor used to provide all the equipment, so I had no molds at my house. But I had a need and a passion to help my baby.
I cut the “soap cake” in irregularly shaped rectangles after awhile and gave her a bath.
Now, I’m not going to tell you this soap stopped all eczema in its tracks and that it’s the panacea for all skin issues, though, the itching slowed. The red bumps began to fade, the discomfort disappeared over time and I saw first-hand how sometimes all the chemicals in our environment can overload these tiny body systems. I also witnessed how changing one source of the chemicals can greatly alter the condition. So you best believe I didn’t quit making her soap. I often had bars left and would give them away to family and friends to try.
When baby brother came along, I had been giving away my soaps to anyone who would try them for 2 years. Naturally, after I adjusted to two tiny humans to care for instead of one, I saw the path clearly. Soaping was no longer a hobby. It was my way to help ease the discomforts so many of us have in our most precious, beautiful skin. It was my way to extend my love and open my arms wide to show just a bit of kindness and softness in this crazy world. It was also my way to carve out some sense of self after coming back up for air in the sea of motherhood. Soap therapy is real. That lovely Aster Earth lather you covet is mutually beneficial for me, you , and our Mother Earth. Keep it soapy, loves. In deep gratitude always.