Recently I had the pleasure of being in a room full of birth workers, there to learn the importance of the closing the bones massage.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of it. I hadn’t until it popped up on Sophie Messager’s facebook page and, knowing of her from her work in the birth world I decided to see what it was all about.
In all honesty I still wasn’t sure before I got to the workshop. A “way to support a woman’s recovery after childbirth; a way to celebrate the amazing abilities of her body; and a way to create a moment of stillness.” Ok….sure, that sounds interesting but what does it actually mean?
The technique itself is really quite simple – some scarf wrapping and rocking work to release tension and bind the hips (literally closing the hip bones), and some gentle hand massaging. Yet the power it brings and the importance it symbolises is astonishing. The emotional release that we all felt both receiving the massage and also giving it was really touching – even if we couldn’t quite put our finger on what emotion was releasing, it felt good to share it with people who were in the same headspace as us and were there to hold us both literally and metaphorically.
As I reflected back on the day with a group of friends (part of that ever-growing, ubiquitous tribe that we all need) I realised that it’s not the physical aspect of the massage that touches me so much, although it was glorious to receive it and I shall, incidentally, be teaching my husband to give it so that I can receive it often! No, it was what it represents.
When a baby is due to be born, if you’re lucky you’re thrown a baby shower by your friends and family. A lovely ceremony to celebrate the baby’s imminent arrival, but how much is the mother-to-be celebrated for her role in the event?
After a baby is born, they receive beautiful outfits and teddies and you might get a few bunches of flowers. Lovely, and appreciated, but how do they celebrate the journey you’ve been on? How do they nourish you and nurture you?
Throughout our pregnancies we’re submerged in a patriarchal, medicalised system where we cover all things physiological but it’s rare we get the opportunity to honour and love the journey we’re on. To take the time to connect with our growing babies, the changes that are happening within us both in body and mind. Why do we not recognise the importance of this?
It seems that in the western world in particular we’re in a race to show how well we’ve adapted to our new lives as parents. There’s a race to see who’s out of hospital quickest, who nips round Tesco soonest, who’s back on the school run…why? Why are we not encouraging others, ourselves even, to take our time over those first few days post-birth? To be at home with our new addition, to learn them, to take care of ourselves, to recover and appreciate what our bodies have been through? And this stretches on into our journeys as parents; we are so quickly thrust into the treadmill of day-to-day life that we forget that we’ve done something amazing.
And that has to stop. Taking care of our babies and our children and our homes are important yes, but as the saying goes – you can’t pour from an empty cup. And I really believe that if we start our life as parents by acknowledging and celebrating the feat of what we’ve done through pregnancy and labour we can cherish our roles both within ourselves and in others – filling our cup with love and respect for us so that others can love and respect us equally. So, for me, this is where closing the bones comes in. Yes it feels nice, and yes there may be a physiological benefit to having it done, but it’s our time to reclaim the magnificence of who we are and what we’ve done – whether that’s having babies or simply being the wondrous woman that you are.