“Gemma do that thing again!”
A labouring mother jumped up and yelled this at me recently, and she wont be the last I’m sure . It was another round of firm and comforting hip squeezes that she needed. These hip squeezes continued for quite a while, we rocked from side to side and alternated hip squeezes and a firm massage for more than an hour. The massages have remained some of her fondest memories from her birth experience. “I honestly felt that I couldn’t go on until you squeezed my hips” she told me later. The right touch can make such a big difference to a birth experience. Too soft and a mother can become enraged (I’ve seen it happen) Too hard and it can feel unsafe and just plain hurt! Touch is such in important part of life from the loving embrace of the womb to the skin to skin contact we know is so important during that golden hour after birth and beyond. As a mother instinctively embraces and strokes her newborn so she too should be held.
Touch is vital for human development, it’s a unique sense in this way. Babies born without sight or hearing will for the most parts develop normal human brains apart from the auditory and visual parts and go on to reach the important milestones in development. Deprive a baby of social touch however and disaster occurs, growth is slowed and self soothing patterns emerge such as compulsive rocking. Cognition mood and self control are all affected and if not treated soon enough with the simple act of daily touch and limb manipulation the negative effects can persist into adulthood… So you get my point, touch is vital for every human being! So with this in mind is it any wonder that in our most primal experience of childbirth that massage or even just the simple feeling of being held by strong and loving arms can have such a meaningful impact. The right rhythm, pressure and intention at the right time is just ‘mmmmmm, perfection’. Massage is the perfect ingredient to any birth and all that is needed is your knowledge, your heart and your amazing hands.
It’s not all back massage and hip squeezes though. The whole birthing body benefits from from loving attention.
I supported a mother who had been standing and pacing for a while by the time she had asked me to join her, she had found a rhythm but it wasn’t serving her achy feet any longer. She was very grateful at the suggestion of some massage for her feet and legs. Once we got going this became the new rhythm and boy did she love it! In fact she loved the foot massage so much that she gave birth with me holding her feet still! Her husband still laughs about it apparently, he holding her hand and me her feet!
The same importance should be placed on loving touch after the birth. The body that has been so often measured, palpated, prodded and of course been on a big journey over the past 42 weeks needs some love and gentle attention. This amazing body needs honouring for the life it has nurtured and given. We tend to put so much emphasis on ‘bouncing back’ after childbirth and a lot of attention (quite rightly) is given to baby, the care with give the newborn mother will only ever have a positive affect on the baby however. Massage improves blood flow, the yummy oxytocin it promotes is great for milk supply, it releases tension and achy muscles, it is also very grounding and brings awareness back to the body, which is so important for a new mother. Honouring one of the greatest and most important of lifes transitions in this way just makes sense. A perfect example of this is the traditional Japa maid in India. She visits the new mother every day for 40 days to help with chores and to massage her, starting at the feet and ending with a head massage. Other versions of this 4th trimester care occur around the world such as the Chinese confinement period that focuses on warming. The Native American approach that focusses on ceremony, ritualistic bathing and sweat lodge… There are so many postnatal traditions that I would love to share with you and massage is a key feature in most!
After one massage session a new mother emerged from her flower bath looking absolutely radiant. I had given her a delicious postnatal massage the traditional closing of the bones. I wrapped and rocked the hips, I gave loving touch and massage to the womb space that had been home just one week ago to the pink chubby baby that now lay sleeping just next to us. That beautiful body that had preformed a miracle was getting the thanks she deserved.
find out more about closing the bone here https://www.closingthebonesmassage.com/about/
I prepared a sacred bath as she lay snuggly wrapped in the rebozo. I felt so warm and grateful at her response to this experience “I feel reborn” and my heart just swelled with love to see her tucked up in bed fresh and radiant, feeding her baby, drinking her nursing tea and gushing over a box of rich and gooey brownies I had made for her. I took a mental picture and revisited it on the drive home and once there sank into a deep long hug with my children. Sigh, bliss
Loving touch matters so very much. I hope you feel inspired to book yourself a massage, or even learn some techniques yourself. Remember all you need is your head, heart and hands.