What to expect when you’re no longer expecting
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
BECOMING a Mumma is a beautiful but intense and tiring transition. You're lucky if you get to take a shower some days, right? I mean seriously - nobody tell you this! How on earth are you supposed to find time for a postnatal massage, right?
Yes, juggling new routines and pre-existing family demands means mothers of newborn babies often put themselves last. I remember, early on, how somehow, “being a better person for my baby” alleviated the ridiculous “Mother’s Guilt” I felt at taking time away for myself.
But here's a tip: you will say “I am a better Mum” after taking time to look after your own wellbeing.
Parenting a newborn is a huge anxiety-inducing challenge indeed and , but thanks to the rising consciousness due to books like “The First Forty Days” and “The Fourth Trimester”, women in the western world are realising self care is not a luxury, but a necessity.
What is the best time for a postnatal massage?
Well, pretty much everything Mother Earth Massage offers has been born out of a need I felt lacking during my own pregnancy and child-raising journey. I am solo parenting remember, but I gratefully had my Mum who would care for my son in the early months so I could retreat for some inner-sanctuary time and return feeling somewhat more capable. However, that wasn’t until he was older. In the beginning it was hard. I’d often get a phone call to come home barely 30 mins in. There wasn’t really anyone in that first six weeks accommodating the “can I bring my baby?” question and I desperately wanted to take my “Little Cub” along with me - knowing he was more settled if he could smell me or hear my voice. Plus, I quickly learned I could feed the little booby pig into la-la-land within minutes if unsettled.
And so, this postnatal service with soul was born from a yearning. A yearning for something I had to skip because I had an unsettled babe when I wasn’t around. The yearning was somewhat selfish too, as I really missed seeing my clients on the other side, having supported them during their pregnancy to a point where I would often feel teary after saying goodbye at their last ‘birth ready’ massage. I don’t know how many times before I actually got around to offering more postnatal services about five years ago that I wrapped up my day with a sob in the shower at 'losing' another client, knowing in all likelihood I wouldn’t see them until they were pregnant again. Several years ago, postnatal massage just didn't happen; it really has only gained momentum in recent years with the boom of postnatal Doulas and postnatal self-care books.
So YES! A massage with your babe in the ‘breathing room’ is something I welcome!
So what are my postpartum massage options?
BIRTH 0 - 6 WEEKS
1. Bring Bub In
You can bring your newborn up to 6 weeks old if you wish. This is often that bliss stage where they pretty much sleep through anything, anywhere. While it is more relaxing when you come by yourself, it is not always possible – I get that. Even though it’s not always a totally Zen experience, for some, where the other alternatives are not an option, it is better than nothing. And it's your baby so, hey, often you don't want to be separated in the early weeks.
So, if bringing Bub, the first several minutes are the time to feed your bub to sleep if staying with you in the massage room or if already asleep, often coming upstairs onto the verandah but leaving him in the car capsule or transferring her on to the couch once in the massage room is ideal. Try to book your massage around Bub’s sleep time if you’ve got a routine. You’d be surprised how “they know” that you need some time and sleep soundly right up until the ding of the bell and your closing breath on the table.
2. Leave Bub at Home
Over the years, I’ve noticed the most ideal option is to leave Bub at home with expressed milk for the carer (and a muslin cloth smelling of you can often do the ‘trick’). While you have to contend with your own ‘mother’s guilt’ at taking a couple of hours out for yourself (what a thought I know!) the reality is having no ga-ga goo-goo sounds or necessity to respond is soooo much more relaxing for your nervous system.
If you’re a return client without Bub, you will also have 15 mins to relax with some fabulous postnatal reading from the bookshelves and enjoy a yummy brew for 15 mins to settle in. If you’re a new client, you receive a magnesium rich foot spa while you fill out the paperwork. You may not have experienced the tummy lying cushion during pregnancy, but let me say it is equally blissful postnatally as the booby holes are cut away so there is absolutely no pressure on engorged breasts, nor on any sensitivities like cesarean scar or swollen tummy. During the massage, the experience is about allowing you to totally switch off.
Plus, don’t take this the wrong way, if you’re a Pappa-Bear reading this in search of the perfect post baby gift for the love of your life, but it’s true that having your baby all to yourself for a wee-while makes you realise even more just how A-MAZING your woman is for being on call 24/7! Plus the bonding is strengthened between the two when there’s no-one else to hand Bubba too as you find your own rhythm and confidence and soothing techniques.
3. Have Bub Nearby
The middle way is to bring hubby or a carer with you to your Mother Earth Massage. Whether you’re a return client or a new client, you will have 15 mins to settle and feed Bub in readiness for your partner to take Bub/older kids to a nearby park across the road or the corner cafe, Bardon Thyme, the op shop or 24/7 bookstore. That way, you are nearby should Bub need a feed or can’t be settled.
Due to the structure of the booking system, extended time to settle Bub is not an option, but quite often I can continue massaging while Mums give Bub a feed, whether you’re side lying or you sit you up. Bub is often settled within minutes. Bringing Bub and carer along with you is the best option if you a/ feel you might suffer separation anxiety or b/ know your Bub or Hub might not last 2 hours without you.
This option is a fun outing for all, and often ends with feeding babe on our verandah before heading to the nearby café for a treat, to nearby Mt. Coottha for some gentle earthing time or home for a rest.
Unfortunately as of 2020 after ten years in business, Mother Earth Massage no longer offers a mobile service in the comfort of your own home. If you are strictly within a strict postnatal confinement period, please text or call me to discuss your needs and I'll see if I can squeeze you in.
How is massage helpful during the different postnatal periods?
The postnatal period is defined as the six weeks following birth, during which time the physiological and anatomical changes of pregnancy and birth are mostly reversed.
Massage is completely safe after natural birth and no waiting time is necessary. In fact, massage within the first week or two of birth can help ease the ‘baby blues’ that is often experienced 3-5 days after birth when the milk is coming through.
Many changes occur within 10-14 days and it is advised to receive bodywork during this time. The ongoing rate of recovery varies depending on your health and the labour process. However, it is safe and highly recommended to incorporate postnatal massage into your recovery plan as soon as you are feeling ready.
6 Weeks - 18 months
In western society, women are expected to bounce back from birth within weeks, but the reality is it can take up to several months for the body to stabilise. Relaxin stays in the body for 6-8 weeks or longer, so ligaments and joints in the pelvic and lumbar area may still be feeling painful.
A phrase "mothering the mother" (Kennell et.al 1993) values the importance of a mother's health in order to be at her optimal for her child. As Heng Ou writes in The First Forty Days – “It’s time to change our ways, to pick up the threads of knowledge that we forgot and weave them into a new kind of fabric to hold the mother. We must do it for ourselves and for our children, because the way women become mothers profoundly affects the way their children awaken to this world. When you take care of the mother, you take care of the child”.
Whether you seek the support of a Doula, friends or family or take it upon yourself to step away on a regular basis, support for the intense transformation into motherhood is essential. Finally, in the Australian culture we are slowly changing our collective belief around the self-worth and indescribable value that comes from taking time to self-nurture.
In western culture, the lack of support increases physical, emotional or chemical stress to the body. It's during this time that many mothers experience health issues, especially chronic muscular pain which can be due to long term postural issues during breastfeeding or unbalanced carrying and co-sleeping positions.
Weeks or months of a bent neck while hunching over with rounded shoulders during breastfeeding can cause tension as the pectorial (pec) muscles at the front of the chest tighten while the rhomboids at the back in between the shoulder blades become chronically painful as they lengthen and weaken. With experience in Remedial Massage and Personal Training, Mother Earth Massage’s postnatal treatments can help correct poor postural habits before the pain becomes chronic. This incorporates releasing the tight muscles and teaching corrective exercises to strengthen weak muscles.
Exhaustion and fatigue from sleep deprivation also sets in, and lack of sleep can lead to postnatal depression. Massage reduces levels of stress hormones - such as adrenalin, cortisol and norepinephrine - which in some people can trigger depression and anxiety. Massage helps reduce depression and anxiety by producing chemical changes in serotonin levels in the brain that result in a feeling of relaxation, calm and well-being. Mind-set around your ability to cope with external stressors often improves dramatically. And according to researchers like Dr Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. and author of "The Biology of Belief" and "The Honeymoon Effect" - healthy, happy thoughts in turn translate to a strong immune system.
How long should I wait for a massage after a Cesarean Birth?
Massage can be beneficial as soon as you are able to lie comfortably on your tummy and you are out of the acute injury phase, which is generally up to 72 hours. The ease of having a massage during the first several weeks is due to the use of a specialised postnatal cushioning system which optimises comfort and minimises pressure on a C-section scar. It is also cut away to avoid contact with engorged breasts, while still allowing you to lie prone on your tummy. You will of course need somebody to drive you during the early weeks.
In the first six to ten weeks, it's critical to assist healing the scar tissue with gentle massage stimulus to the scar area. Once the initial acute phase of healing has passed, to avoid chronic or recurring pain, the tissue needs to be stretched and the adhesions broken up and mobilised. This helps avoid restriction and increases flexibility and movement in the area. This window of remodelling the scar tissue is the ideal time to seek massage to enhance scar healing.
The best time is when you are still feeling some tenderness but the swelling and pain has reduced. If you leave it months down the track and the pain has gone altogether, it is too late to stress the maturing connective tissue and help optimise the scar tissue recovery through stimulation. The result is limited range of motion. Initially, massage around the scar tissue will help the associated muscles to relax. You will also be taught how to self-massage so you can continue self-healing at home.
Essential Oils to help support the healing of scar tissue and reduce visibility of the scar over time can be used during the appropriate healing phase.
The Toddler Years
Toddler-hood? Where'd that 12-36 months go? There's no doubt, the toddler years take their toll on an already sleep-deprived mother. If you do not look after yourself, you can find yourself suffering from postnatal depletion, a condition termed by Dr Oscar Serrallach in his book Postnatal Depletion Cure. The physical consequences such as lethargy, memory disturbances and poor energy levels are mostly attributed to nutritional deficiencies and you should see a naturopath, functional Doctor or Bio-balance Doctor to get a full blood count within three months of birth so any deficiencies which lead to anxiety and depression can be corrected nutritionally.
It is equally critical to nurture yourself rather than ignore physical symptoms such as aching and painful muscles before issues become chronic. Dysfunctions from postural challenges become chronic, for example, after carrying a child predominantly on one hip or long term breastfeeding or co-sleeping in awkward positions. Ongoing long term pain, sleep disturbances, and feelings of anxiety and insecurity are commonly managed with regular massage due to the hormonal release of Seratonin. Receive an energy boost with a massage designed specifically to meet your needs for busy Brisbane mums near me, in Bardon.
Off the Spectrum
On a lighter note, I had the funniest conversation with a client recently who said she poured fruit juice on her child’s cereal instead of milk and that “pregnancy brain” act of feeling so brain fogged that she began doing daily rituals back to front was the trigger for knowing she needed a massage. She was nearing the end of her second pregnancy (she came to me during her first as well) whilst looking after a toddler and the constant go-go-go just got too much.
It’s worth noting – what are your triggers that let you know some self-care is in order?
For me, I just get plain snappy and cranky with everyone. I feel unloved and run down and resentful, like I’m always giving. I also find my mental state deteriorates. Like, I start repeating to myself “this is never-ending” while I’m hanging out yet another load of washing, whereas most of the time I treat the washing line like it’s my zen space to just breathe and stop thinking. When I start to feel like that for a few days running, I know I need to book myself in for some time-out.
So, wherever you are along the spectrum of motherhood, stepping away and taking time in to rest and restore during an Embodying Motherhood Massage will refill your cup so you have the energy to keep up with your children, with an overflow of love for yourself and your partner as well.
You will not only feel the physical and energetic benefits, but you will be a better mum.
PANDA also operates the National Perinatal Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 to provide support, advice and referral services for women and men with symptoms of antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety.
While the priority is 100% on baby's needs
sometimes you feel lucky if you get a shower that day!