Whenever I chat with mums about my love of baby massage, they ask questions like “how did you get started”, “how did you learn about it?” and “how did you train?”. My usual answers are that I massaged both my sons when they were babies, that I trained as a baby massage teacher while I was pregnant with my youngest, and that I’e been passionate about massage being a form of positive communication ever since I trained as an Aromatherapist.
All of which are true!
What I don’t share, or at least haven’t shared until now is much more personal to me.
Baby massage was my salvation when my eldest son was a baby. It was our anchor, something we did every day, amongst the chaos of living life. I never realised what I was doing was anything special: I hadn’t learnt any special techniques, I hadn’t even begun my own personal journey as a massage therapist.
I just instinctively knew that massage was a way for us to communicate and more importantly to connect.
And it was important for me to find a way for us to connect.
When I had H I was a teenage mum, a seventeen year-old studying for my final exams, going through a relationship breakup, trying to get a place at University and watching my lovely Nan die of cancer. Those first few months of H’s life were pretty crap. I felt totally overwhelmed, I was struggling to connect with my son and spent long hours wondering what the fuck had I done.
Postnatal depression was mentioned, but I didn’t want to be that mum. I didn’t want to be yet another statistic. Looking back, I recognise the signs and I see that my difficulties bonding with my son and my disconnection from him were all part of that illness. Hindsight means I often wish I’d taken that help when it was offered.
From the day he was born though, no matter what else was going on, we had an evening rhythm. Towards the end of the day I would bathe him and then rub oil into his body. Even with all the craziness that was going on in my life, it was one of the few parts of being H’s mum that I loved and looked forward to on a daily basis.
Sixteen years ago, I didn’t know that baby massage could raise my levels of oxytocin, that it would help us to bond, or that positive touch is one of the best forms of communication. Yet every night following his bath I would use a little oil and rub it into his hands, his arms, his back and his legs. I would sing silly songs just to see him smile, and blow raspberries on his belly to hear him giggle.
Postnatal depression robbed so much of my first years of being a mum, but baby massage allowed me to feel connected to my son. During those moments I felt like a mum. And now the memories of massaging him are some of the few where I don’t worry I was failing him somehow.