I just gave a closing the bones massage to a new mother. She was only one week post birth.
When we sat down to have the pre-massage chat (I always want to hear about how the birth went, and what the mother is hoping to get from the ritual), she explained that she only felt able to justify the cost of the massage to herself because it happened to be on her birthday.
I felt so many emotions when I heard her say this. I felt sad for her (she just grew and birthed a whole new person, and yes didn’t feel she deserved nurturing). I also didn’t feel surprised, because in our culture we don’t value motherhood, we place value on the baby only, all the presents are for the baby, and it can be hard to justify spending money on yourself. I also felt brought back to my own experience as a new mother (and so had a lot of empathy for her), and finally I was reminded why we need to change our culture so much around what normal postpartum support looks like.
There is still so much work to be done so that nurturing new mothers becomes seen as the norm once more, rather than an indulgent luxury.
When I was a new mother myself, I didn’t feel able to justify hiring a postnatal doula, but I bought tons of useless stuff for my baby. Not having hired my birth doula during the postpartum is one of my biggest regrets, and I wrote about it in my blog, I wish I had hired a postnatal doula.
Before booking the massage, whilst still pregnant, this mother had already voiced her hesitation at paying so much money for a massage.
£120 might seem like a lot, right? But compare this to the cost of the average pram, or of all the gifts that people buy for the baby. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on nurturing the mother? If a bunch of friends got together to buy a new mother a voucher for this type of bodywork post birth, it would cost them the same amount each as some of the bouquets of flowers or baby toys that most new families receive, and if would have much more of an impact.
(note: because I too worry about charging too much, and it is a theme I see within the cohort of students I train to offer this ritual, I have also written a separate blog in which I break down the price of the massage, and you’ll see that, for what I provide, it really isn’t a lot of money.)
Every time I give a closing the bones or a postnatal recovery massage, I can see how it is a need, not a luxury, and this instance was no exception. The changes a mother’s body undergoes whilst pregnant, and somewhat in reverse after birth, plus the process of birthing itself, surely these warrant giving the body some love, some nurturing, some reverence even? And surely, having a treatment designed to help the body feel good and heal faster, and to give a window of deep rest, especially whilst battling with the demands and tiredness that looking after a newborn entails, should be the norm rather than the exception? After all, the mother singlehandedly grew and birthed a whole new person, surely she should be celebrated as the goddess that she is?
Today, after the massage was finished, the mother said it was amazing, and way beyond her expectations. She said she loved everything, and that she couldn’t find the words. She said that it was so much more than a massage. She mentioned telling quite a lot of people about it. I was grateful that she loved it, and also grateful that it reminded me why this work is so important.
Much more than a massage is a word I had heard many times when I had given this ritual. It isn’t something one can be told about, it has to be experienced for oneself. The experience is different for everyone. It is a ritual, a slice of time for yourself, to be held and nurtured, to feel heard, to have your feelings and experience validated, to remember what it feels like to be safe. It is a gentle, nurturing and healing process of rocking, massaging, and wrapping, which can have healing effects at every level, physical, emotional, and spiritual. I should know, especially as I’ve had similar massages done on me recently by other people, and it was deeply healing.
PS: I was delighted to be booked for a repeat massage by this mother a week later. She said that this time she wanted it just for herself, not because there was a special occasion.
If you want to learn to offer this ritual, I offer an online course called the Postnatal rebozo massage and closing ritual, and I am running a rare live postnatal recovery massage course near Cambridge on the 18th of July with osteopath Teddy Brookes.
Here is a little video of what the closing the bones and the postnatal recovery massage look like.