Here is a lovely project which one of my pregnancy massage students did for her Diploma: I hope you enjoy it! It is longer than the project needs to be, but I have kept it all as it was such a heart felt journey
Sacred Pregnancy & Birth
The role that pregnancy massage can have to honor, support and celebrate the sacredness of the journey through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
By Jocasta Crofts
Introduction – Sacred pregnancy
As I have been giving sessions in the past year, one of the questions that has arisen over again is, how can my pregnancy massage help women to remember their sacredness, their connection to mother earth and to creation itself? How can I honor and celebrate their divine feminine mama-ness as they create, grow a new life and birth it? Modern life is busy and the sacredness of pregnancy and birth, as a rite of passage and a spiritual journey, is no longer practiced or honored, it has been forgotten.
“Pregnancy is a very special time spiritually. Women seem to experience the world from a much more inner place than usual, when they are carrying a child. There is a natural inclination to withdraw from the world, to move at a slower pace and with a stiller mind, closer to meditation. For all the physical aches and pains, pregnancy can be a state of grace, when a woman is at her most radiant.” 2
“The sacrament of birth – The passage of a new soul into this plane of existence. The knowledge that each and every childbirth is a spiritual experience has been forgotten by too many people in the world today – especially in countries with high levels of technology” 3
“When a child is born, the entire Universe has to shift and make room. Another entity capable of free will, and therefore capable of becoming God, has been born. In that way, every child’s birth is exactly like the birth of a world teacher. Every child born is a living Buddha.” 4
Mainstream Western culture has, for more than a century, regarded birth primarily as an event that separates mother and baby. Viewed from this place, birth as a sacred event has been ignored and forgotten. Instead, the possible risks and dangers are emphasized, even when birth goes perfectly well. I feel that it is essential that the sacredness of pregnancy and birth be valued alongside our technological societies’ approach to it. I experience that pregnancy massage, offered as an act of devotion, honoring and blessing can bring a sense of re-connection, calm and confidence to help women to trust their beautiful, creative bodies at the same time that they prepare selves in the best possible way for labor and birth.
I wish to explore this approach to pregnancy massage. In this piece, I’m not focusing on the physical and practical benefits that pregnancy massage offers. It doesn’t mean that I don’t work with massage techniques, or have some depth of understanding of what to look for when assessing a pregnant woman’s physical needs during a session. All of that is very important and necessary for the woman and baby’s safety and to actually give relief and release for the discomforts that arise in pregnancy, birth and post partum. This writing is about the inner journey of spirit of woman, as she creates a new life and brings it fourth.
“Traditional societies have typically regarded pregnancy as a sacred period in a women’s life – a time when the pregnant woman must be treated with special care and reverence by the other members of her society. As the carrier of new life, she embodies the miracle of creation in her very being, linking the generations with her every breath. Pregnancy confers upon her a special status in these societies that simultaneously determines how everybody treats her and also lays out special tasks and responsibilities that she has to attend to in a conscientious way throughout her pregnancy. Such preparation and conscientiousness greatly increase the chances that both she and her baby will safely come through the passage of labor and birth. Equally important, the mother’s best interests and those of her baby are not seen as antithetical to each other. Indigenous societies value women’s ability to give birth and work to ease women’s passage into new motherhood.” 5
Pregnancy as a meditation
“The deep drink: I was once told by a Buddhist monk that the most important things in our lives are the deep drinks, the moments and experiences we should soak up and enjoy. Growing a baby is the deepest drink from the well of life and even when you are feeling yucky, hold onto that vision.
Slow down your mind, be present with yourself and growing baby and invite the quiet in. As previously suggested, meditation can take many forms, It can be sitting in a peaceful place doing deep breathing, or it can be an act of releasing chatter in your mind to maintain conscious presence while engaging in everyday tasks.” 6
Three days after my waters broke, and a day before I gave birth to my son at 27/5 weeks, I had a special meeting with one of my spiritual teachers. She said to me, “Pregnancy is a nine month meditation”. In the case of myself, and my son, it meant that instead of giving birth in Goa at a beautiful pregnancy centre near the beach, my last trimester of this meditation happened in NICU (Neo Natal Care Unit) with my son in an incubator. This was his artificial womb.
To have this consciousness brought me to a sense of calm in my being. It gave me a focus, a way to hold the experience with great purpose and respect. It allowed me to sit with whatever was happening, to sit with what is, and so pass through the roller coaster of emotions and feelings that came with the post-natal hormones and realities of becoming a mother to a very premature boy who was undergoing major surgeries and suffering from many infections. It was a life/ death situation, moment to moment. I made the four months that Indra was in NICU a meditation of being present, loving Indra in each moment as though it was the only moment there was. I was calm, my milk flowed double fold even though I was double pumping every three hours. The nurses would often comment on how I seemed so relaxed and yet totally ready to act at any second. My only regret is that I did not know to practice this in the first six months of my pregnancy. When stress levels are lower, it directly impacts the type of pregnancy and birth you have. Seeing pregnancy as a meditation may not have stopped Indra from coming early, but I would have had a fuller tool kit for growing him in peace and tranquility.
“ It is equally important to slow down and consider what is going on emotionally for you. Your body is changing, your emotions are spiraling, and your relationship with your partner is shifting. Introspection is critical as you prepare to step across the threshold to motherhood. There was a time when women gathered with their sisters and experienced pregnancy in a sacred way, when stories were passed down from elder women to young mothers. They were taught how to embrace pregnancy with reverence and to honor the first breaths of life as their babies entered the world. Today, women have to search to find this type of support and many women end up facing the roller coaster of pregnancy feeling very alone.” 7
During the last year, as I have been giving pregnancy massage to my clients, I have noticed how, very often, the mothers say that they are so busy with their work, lives, relationships & families that they have very little time to even think about their growing child, let alone to tune in and be in a space of meditative communion. The massage space seems to be a time when they can switch off, relax, rest, regenerate and also connect to their own inner feelings/fears, and to their growing child. I have often noticed, that when the mother and I enter into a quiet, relaxed way of being, present and listening to what is happening in each moment, the baby seems to respond well. It is as if s/he knows that we are tuning into the state of pregnancy itself and we are really there with her/him. Also often when I am holding the belly with Reiki flowing through, or working with Qi, or simply holding the belly with a loving resting touch, the baby will move towards my hands. S/he seems to like the subtler energy and the quality of vibration that is being offered.
“I then asked Mrs S how she felt about some belly work. She said yes to it and so I began by simply holding her belly and sacrum for a long time, to allow her time to get used to it. The baby gave a kick and it felt like a hello.” – session with Mrs S
Pregnancy as a meditation can also be practiced at every moment in our lives and takes many forms. “When you reframe the traditional practice of meditation to look like everyday life, such as being mindful and present when you do daily tasks like washing the dishes or driving, it can become a friendly asset to your pregnancy experience.” 8
Sometimes it’s through taking time out to consciously create and time and space where we can relax, still the mind and come more into the present moment and in touch with our inner world, our feelings, our heart; connecting to our selves and our baby to commune and BE together. I feel that the pregnancy massage sessions I offer as spaces where woman can be reminded/guided/supported to turn in and find a more meditative space in which to open and rest.
“Let your body rest. Deep breathing goes hand in hand with a meditative mind and if you can give yourself the gift of surrender during this time of feeling tired, you will be doing both yourself and the baby a favor.” 9
Rite of passage
Almost every culture sees giving birth as a profound rite of passage, the woman is making the journey from maiden to mother, bringing a new life into the world. When a woman gets pregnant, she has the opportunity not only to birth a baby but rebirth herself as well. Modern western parents to be, often march into parenthood relatively unprepared and missing the point: the pregnancy and birth are actually divine and sacred moments in a women’s life.
“Once upon a time women went into pregnancy supported by their community. It may not have been a glamorous time, but back then women stood beside pregnant and birthing mothers. Babies came onto the planet much of the time with midwives, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters guiding them out of the womb. This was a rite of passage. It was real and raw and natural.” 10
When a woman comes to me for pregnancy massage, I feel very strongly that I am there to support her journey through pregnancy, birth and post partum for any part that she asks me to be a part of. I try to honor her journey as the sacred rite of passage that it is. Birth and bringing a newborn baby in is a massive event in anyone’s life but many busy, western women are not in touch with the idea of it being a rite of passage and might even feel uncomfortable about it being named as such. I feel sensitive not to put my own ideas and feelings of what the pregnancy and birth experience should mean to anyone else. I try to listen and hear what it means to each woman as they experience and live it. When a woman comes for her massage session, I might ask a couple of quiet questions such as, “How are you experiencing your pregnancy?” or “Do you have any plans to celebrate your pregnancy with a mother blessing or a baby shower?” I might talk about changes that I experienced when becoming a mother, such as life no longer being simply about my needs and wants, but what this child needs emotionally, physically, spiritually. I might talk about the feeling of service I feel towards my own son. Or how birth is a doorway into new life and how magical that is to me that we can bring fourth a new life.
As I give the massage, I send a deep message of reverence, care, love and tender specialness to the mother and baby. I don’t say anything unless it feels invited, but I try to give this message through my touch and intention. Pregnant women really do deserve to be celebrated for what their bodies have done and are about to do. As a woman begins to live in the mother-world, no longer living in the realm of maiden, I feel there is an awe and reverence that I try to show or share with the mother about her as a creatrix of new life.
“Birth is the archetypal rite of passage for a woman, containing the essential element of any ritual: separation from normal life, a profound transition during which the participants occupy a timeless time, followed by re-entry into society in a changed state. It can also be seen as a holy sacrament; the entry of a soul from another plane into this earthly dimension. Birth has always been and still is, a momentous event, attended by great hopes as well as genuine risks, and one in which people call on a variety of powers for support and protection.” 11
Touch is the first language we speak
Much has been written about the benefits of massage and healing compassionate touch during pregnancy, birth and post partum. Pregnancy massage is ancient practice used in many cultural traditions by midwives, wise women, and birth partners.
“Every culture has beliefs, mythology, traditions and rituals regarding massage and childbearing. Traditional midwives of Jamaica have elaborate massage routines for every stage of labour. The Jamaican midwife may rub the woman’s abdomen with toona leaves, massage the body with olive oil and ease transition pains by patting the belly with a warm, damp rag. Zapotec midwives of southwest Mexico accurately detect the position of the foetus against the spine through massaging the pregnant mother’s legs and evaluating tension and vital energy flow. Mayan uterine massage, practiced by granny healers and midwives, encourages reproductive health and enhances childbearing.
Prenatal massage and compassionate touch during the childbearing year are more than a primitive practice or luxurious pampering; they are an essential and vital part of holistic maternity care. The medical model of birth ignores and trivializes the therapeutic value of touch during pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy is a healthy, primal and life-giving process. Compassionate touch of the mother during pregnancy and childbirth is essential for the development of maternal touching of the infant.
Comforting touch can take place as hand holding, back rubs, a gentle touch on the forehead, hugs or massage. Therapeutic touch can be expressed through various modalities of simple touch and healing bodywork, such as energy work, massage, acupressure and reflexology. Comforting and therapeutic touch can be interchangeable; the only difference, in certain scenarios, may be intention. Together they form the cornerstone of compassionate care as a birth partner.” 12
There is no doubt that pregnancy massage can be of great benefit. I would like to look at some of the aspects of touch that speak to me of the deeper experience of the Touch that can be found within a simple massage session.
In Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May talks about an experience of touch, which she first experienced with a monkey. “She took hold of my finger in her hand – it was a slender, long-fingered hand, hairy on the back with a smooth black palm – and I had never been touched like that before. Her touch was incredibly alive and electric. There was so much concentrated feeliness in her hand that I felt this warm glow travel from her to mine, on up my arm, and then I felt a nice electric rush spread over my whole body.” 13
She goes on to say that everyone “is potentially that powerful and sensitive, but that most people think so much and are unconscious of their whole range of sensory preceptors and receptors that their touch feels blank compared to what it would feel like if their awareness was one hundred percent. I call this “original touch’ because it’s something that everybody has as a brand new baby, it’s part of the kit. “Many of us loose our ‘original touch’ as we interact with our fellow being in a fast or shallow manner. As I transmit the knowledge of spiritual midwifery to other women, I feel that compassion and true touch are of foremost importance.” 14
This “original touch” that she talks about feels very real and important to me in the work not only of midwives but in pregnancy massage.
“In the Zen tradition, a line of succession of Zen Masters is supposed to be linked together by transmission of mind – pure thought transferred from mind to mind with no words. I think that with midwives there is a similar kind of transmission that can take place and link them together, and that is a transmission of touch.” 15
To see touch as a transmission is very powerful. To me it conveys the idea of passing down the wisdom, care and love of generations of Midwives, wise women, birth partners, through compassionate, wise, healing touch. This speaks not just of comforting touch or therapeutic touch, but of something ancient, deep and sacred. The blessing touch of the midwife often takes the form of a “laying on of the hands” or prayer.
“Touch is the primal language of life; the language that speaks to the deep mind of a laboring woman and the awakening senses of an infant. Massage and healing touch enhance the body’s natural ability to sustain health and give birth.” 16
Touch is the first language we speak. The first nerves to mylienate in the growing foetus are those to do with movement and touch. I have mentioned “original touch”, a transmission of touch, a compassionate caring touch, and to add to these, maybe a quiet, listening touch is profound enough.
“One of the most important aspects was the intimacy I experienced – a touch that was simply about me being pregnant and growing a baby and completely different from the medical touch of midwife appointments or even the corrective touch of the cranial osteopath. It was just about me being with me – supported by another woman.”
– Mrs B S
Spiritual massage therapist
Before I began to write this piece, I Googled the words “Sacred pregnancy”, “birth” and “rite of passage” and a few books came up. I ordered them. What became clear as I read them is that my role as a spiritual, integral, responsible, pregnancy massage therapist has an overlap with the work of Doulas and Midwives. This includes the practice of touch and massage for different reasons and being a spiritual support.
“Before Western medical practices displaced traditional midwifery, the touch and massage of a midwife or birth attendant was a central component of prenatal care around the world.” “The traditional midwife primarily utilizes comforting touch, therapeutic touch, blessing touch, greeting touch and diagnostic touch.” 17
“I think that a midwife must be religious, because the energy she is dealing with is Holy. She needs to know that other people’s energy is sacred.” “By religious, I mean that compassion must be a way of life for her. Her religion has to come forth in her practice, in the way she makes her day-to-day, her moment-to-moment decisions. It cannot just be theory.” “Great changes can be brought about with the passing of a few words between people or the midwife’s touching the woman in such a way that great physical changes happen.” “For this touch to carry the power that it must, the midwife must keep her self in a state of grace.” “If she is to have touch that has any potency. A person who lives by a code that is congruent with life in compassion and truth actually keys in and agrees with the million-of–years-old biological process of childbirth.” “Love, compassion and spiritual vision are the most important tools of her trade.” “Every single person alive has a perfectly unbroken line of ancestors who were able to have babies naturally back for several millions of years.” ‘She uses the millennia-old, insights and intuition as her tools.” 18
When I work with pregnant women, I certainly do offer them a massage that is based on technical understanding of what massage needs to be for them. I also feel can offer more than just a technical, practice feel-good massage if it is wished for. I am growing in my practice of offering a space where, if it is wanted, there is a space for Spirit and the sacredness of pregnancy to enter. I feel I have an open hearted loving spirituality that has no name of label and I am there to honor and bare witness to the women I care for. I am considering creating a massage space that could consciously allow space for ceremony or ritual – where we are working with spirit to bring connection, joy, inner peace and healing into our lives and into the lives of our families and the friends we share them with. I have not, as yet worked out what form this might take, but it could include flowers, blessings, singing/sounding, positive visualization and meditations connected to the baby, the birth, the divine feminine mother and sacred pregnancy.
“To be a midwife is to be with women. Every culture and every era has had its wise woman, its sage femme, its crone, it’s priestess. These women are the lamps that light the path for the women in their community. They show the way to go: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes even physically. They are moved to do so by a divine calling and recognized in their work by the women in their community.” 19
In my sessions, I often begin the massage with a time of stillness, a time where we can arrive into the space, physically settling down and beginning to feel into the body, and energetically tuning into ourselves, the baby and the space we are in, inside and out. To support this process, I ask the mother to take her attention to her breath and watch it. Often with this witnessing, the mother will begin to relax, breathing slower and deeper. It is not always the case, and it is not the purpose of the request. The focus is more simply to begin to connect with the breath and see how it is and how it changes as we focus on it. I tune into my own breathing as well as my client’s breathing. Then we add the image of the baby breathing – mother and baby breathing together as one and separately; finally all three of us breathing together. I invite the mother to imagine her baby floating bathed by amniotic fluids inside the water sack and describe it as an “Oceanic womb” – with the same salinity as the waters we once lived in before we begun our evolutionary climb up out onto land.
I find these images very strong, with a feeling of connecting us through the millennia back to our beginnings of life. It offers an awareness of the pregnancy, opening the whole massage to life’s beginning.
“Your baby lives in water and can breathe water! They are like little amphibians until the chord is cut and they breathe on their own. The buoyancy of water is supportive, warm, and comforting for a baby, just like it offers you comfort when your body aches.” “Water is the most supportive element there is for a woman”.
“Women and water belong together. They are made for each other and they thrive off one another. Water represents the flow of our emotions and feelings and allows us the space to cry when we need to, bleed with other women, and cleanse our spirit in the holy waters of the sea. Many women choose to have their babies in water because they see the mother wisdom in their baby swimming from the mother’s sea to the open waters of life. The transition moves from one natural environment to another that they are used to. This is one of the several ways to birth your baby.” 2
Sisterhood of women
“A midwife must have a deep love for other women.” “The true sisterhood of all women is not an abstract idea to her.” 21
Pregnant women need the love, care and support of other women. When a woman comes to me, I feel a great sense of connection to her because I am a woman and a mother, as well as being a healer and massage therapist. I know what I needed on my journey to motherhood, I am aware that many women don’t get what they need. Every little bit counts for a lot and goes a long way. I feel, that as much as I am able, I am there for them and with them. I hope that they understand this through my intention, what I say, what I give through my actions and my hands. At the end of each session, I tell them that I am there if they wish to call, or need any help. They just have to ask. My part, as massage therapist, possible guide and sometimes friend, feels very right, natural and necessary in the circle of support that I feel all women should have and do greatly benefit from as they walk through their journey to motherhood. I feel I can physically and emotionally help her join with her higher female self, her power as a creator of life. I feel that I offer a needed a bit of extra support that complements midwives by offering holistic practical and emotional support to women during pregnancy and birth. We build up a relationship through regular massages and it can be comforting to know there is someone constant when you have no idea who your midwife will be.
“It wasn’t some generic massage, Jocasta really took time to connect and feel my energy, bringing my awareness to the amazing life inside of me and helped me embrace my complete womanliness. The whole experience left me calm, relaxed and empowered.” – S
I once heard someone say that young mothers need to be mothered by older mothers. I experience that sometimes I am offering mothering, sisterhood, grandma energy, wise woman wisdom, therapist healer holding, help and touch – these roles and archetypal energies change, depending on the needs and wants of each woman and baby in each moment and session.
“Mrs. B-S said that the sessions were very important for her, not just for the bodywork I gave, but also more importantly for the holding, listening, caring, feminine space. She had not been able to find that nurturing loving space anywhere else and has felt so lonely and isolated for a lot of her pregnancy because she has moved across the country far from her girl friends, family and known alternative health practitioners she would have been able to call on before. She thanked me very deeply.” “I massage her face and stroke it like a grandmother does to a little girl. I tell her that I am feeling grandmother energy and she says that she has been thinking a lot about her grandmother who is now dead. She talks about how she doesn’t get this kind of nurturing touch from anyone, not her mum or sister or friends and feels very isolated as she has just moved to this tiny village and doesn’t have her old support network of friends and therapists to call on.” – session with Mrs B S
“Your baby can hear and feel, and should know who will be there to support her as she transitions from the coziness of your womb into the arms of her tribe.” 22
Bonding is all about connection – to the baby, to ones higher self, and to our divine spirit. Bonding with the baby is only one aspect of this connection, as it is equally important for a woman to have a deep relationship with herself. What does it mean? It means living in awareness so the baby learns how we care for ourselves is just as important as how we care for others. Bonding and connection are not sound bites; they’re part of a lifelong journey that grows and changes over the years. It is important to get to know ourselves again and again, because as we change over the years, it’s important to mark those changes so that we are open to the flow of our lives. Becoming a mother is a redefinition. Even if it’s the second or third child, each time a woman becomes a mother, she is redefined once again. Through daily meditations these connections can be kept alive and in our consciousness.
During the six months that I carried my son in side me, I found it was often hard for me to connect or bond with him. I was going through a lot of grief at the reality of being a single mother, without the supportive encircling energy of a man and father. One friend told me that I was capable of making my whole community into role of father, and that is what I felt I was doing. I was really happy to be pregnant and totally committed to bringing him into to world with love and welcome but I found it hard connect to him. Each morning and evening I said a small hello and good night, but somehow I couldn’t go deeper than that. The two ways that I found it possible to be in communion were when I was sitting in a meditation called Diksha where one receive a shower on your head of Universal energy through the givers hands. The other time was when I received pregnancy massage. It was something about making a space where I felt held and safe enough to tune in, and also to have the care and loving hands on my belly during the pregnancy massage whilst I was able to let go. Being a single mother means having to hold the whole thing together, to be the mother and the father; it is not easy to let go and relax. So the pregnancy massage was such a gift to help me felt held and cared for.
It was only when my son was face to face with me in an incubator in NICU that I finally felt the deep ability to bond with him, because I could see, smell, touch and sing to him.
“What does it mean to be bonded to a baby? A mother and baby have a connection like none other in the universe. A mother is the sole source that sustains her baby and her body is made to grow, birth, and feed a baby. This is the miracle of being a woman. Every mother in the universe knows that there is no other feeling like holding your baby for the first time. There are no words to describe that feeling and that deep connection that occurs. In that moment, time stops and everything in the world is perfect because you are holding your baby. Your instincts kick in and instantly you know what to do. Reflect on how you already feel about your baby. Are you connected or are you struggling with feeling bonded to your baby? Be honest with yourself. Even if you are not experiencing bonding feelings, it’s important to take notice of this now, and not judge yourself. Some women do not feel bonded to their babies before they are born – don’t worry. You may need to hold your baby to feel that bonded connection.” 23
Loving and listening to the body
“Your body is a temple, a sacred space, and will create and honor and house the most precious being in the world, your child”. 24
Massage can help women to stay loving towards their body whilst pregnant – plus being a real treat for the hard work that it is doing in growing a baby. Having a positive self-image is very important as the body changes size and shape. During the massage I touch the mother’s body with great care, love and tactile sensitivity. I wish them to feel beautiful, pampered and honoured for the hard important work they and their body is doing. I have always loved bodies and touch them with a feeling of great friendliness. A woman is especially beautiful as her new body blossoms into a mother’s body. These new curves are luscious and full of life.
Often women don’t feel sexy and attractive, they may have feelings of being undesirable and ugly. I feel that if they can take notice of all of their feelings and acknowledge them, they have a chance to be kinder towards themselves and even to celebrate and embody their pregnant body joyfully. I feel that we are perfect in every moment and I try to mirror this to my clients through my touch and, if appropriate, through words.
I like to bring pregnant women deep into their senses, because it helps them to re-connect to their bodies. I often use rose oil on the face, and a little jasmine oil in the hair. Rose helps to open and connect to a heartfelt space. Jasmine brings on a sense of beauty and sensuality. Pregnant women have very good noses. They will smile and say, “Mmmm, what is that lovely smell, it’s so relaxing and smells good.”
I ask the mother if she would like silence or music during the massage and if she requests music; I play Indian mantras that are dedicated to either the Sacred divine or to the sacred mother. If they say they prefer silence, I let them go deep into their own personal silence and don’t disturb except to check about the massage or comfort – unless they seem to want/need to talk. If so, then we talk.
I wish each woman to feel beautiful and “Be” in her beauty. I have consciously worked to make the room where I give my home sessions beautiful and welcoming. I have chosen especially beautiful bed sheets for the massage mattress, which are pink and green (heart colors in the chakra system) and all my pillows and towels are a bright beautiful vibrant pink color. I am also thinking that I might expand this practice of celebrating the beauty way by making sure I have fresh flowers in the room and maybe even a single flower as a gift for the mama to take home.
“Location and ambience – The setting for classes sends a powerful meta-message to the unconscious of new parents.’ “ I felt it was important to teach Birthing from within classes in a home-like setting, unaffiliated with any medical institution.” ‘A relaxed, informal setting, puts people at ease, normalizes having a baby, and energizes class interaction. This more active involvement in childbirth preparation set the stage for more active involvement in childbirth.” 25
I experience each woman as one aspect of the divine feminine and, for want of a better word, I see the Goddess in her. I think many women would not feel comfortable if I talked about this to them as it is not a part of their personal lives. However, I do increasingly experience it like this as I am working, so I feel that my respect and reverence towards them is conveyed through the whole experience of the session that I offer, especially during the massage it’s self. This is not to say that we don’t chat or crack some good jokes and have a laugh too because humor is very important and being down to earth about the blood and guts hard work of being pregnant, and being a mother, is also very necessary. But I feel that the reverence for the sacredness of the divine feminine mama needs to be remembered and given space to be. Especially when modern western life has led us so far away from this. I offer a space where women may naturally allow this part of them selves to just be there as much as any other part of them – whether they are conscious of it or not.
“Being busy women, who rarely slow down, we sometimes need our bodies to take over and ensure that we get the rest we need, which is why you are feeling tired and run down. Listen to your body and rest! This is Mother Nature’s way of helping women honor and respect the process of creating a human being” 26
“You just need to take care of you. Listen to your body. Surrender to your body. It knows what to do – so let it. Rest when it asks you to – eat when it says you’re hungry – drink” 27
Contacting the unconscious – visions, images & dreams
During my own pregnancy, at four months, I had a very strong clear dream. I saw my son and his eyes were so full of love for me. I could see he was little boy and he crawled up upon my lap to breastfeed. I said to him, ‘do you know your name little boy?” and in answer, I saw a black board with lots of nonsense letters and words scrawled upon it. But half way down on the right hand side, in capitals was the name “Indra”. I said, “oh, like India”, because he is half Indian. When I awoke, I looked up this name, a name I had never heard of before and found out that it was the name of a stormy rain god. I had wanted a name connected to water and I felt that rain goes very well with living in England… I was very clear that I was having a boy and that he had chosen his name himself.
After he was born, I went for a postnatal massage. It was a welcome break from the very intense experience of NICU that I was living through. As I sank down into the massage, many images of wires, and beeping machines, of my son in pain in the hospital rose up in my mind. I felt that the touch I was receiving was releasing them from being held in my body. I had a space, because of the massage and as I saw, felt and lived them, I could let them go. Finally I fell asleep and then I had a dream that my son was at home breastfeeding. This was so healing. It was a dream of resolution and a certainty that he would make it home to have a normal life. It came from my unconscious deeper and higher self, to support and guide me through the ordeal of having a very sick premature baby in intensive care.
When pregnant mothers come for a massage, I always try to create a space where they can dream, have visions and contact a deeper part of themselves. I try to hold a space for the higher self, of the mother and baby, to bubble up to the surface. This can take different forms. Sometimes the mother begins to talk about memories or dreams and from it – important realisations come forth. Sometimes I get images and pictures in my head, or I get a sense of certain archetypes in the space.
“I move my hands onto her belly and begin to gently massage from right underneath in large circles. Something happens for her at this moment. She asks me to be even more light and gentle and I slow down move into a mix of very slow loving light massage of her belly and baby. She really begins to open and relax. She says she feels that this kind of touch is what she has not been able to give to herself or her baby – the feminine loving touch. I see little flowers in a cottage garden. She says that if she were able to massage her daughter out at the birth with this kind of touch, it would be her dream, come true. I spend a long, long time holding different parts of her belly and giving very loving light massage. Her baby moves towards my hands with what seems to me like melting pleasure, it is very tangible and amazing to feel under my hands.”
– session with Mrs B S
Sometimes, the mother slips into a sleep and when she wakes up, she has seen some dream or image. The key seems to be a length of time where the outside world totally disappears and the woman can totally allow herself to dip deep into her inner world and contact her/her child’s inner being. It comes out of relaxation, creating a resting quality. Slow quiet steady strokes are powerful, or stillness and holding. Silence is often very necessary, or gentle hypnotic music. Being totally present for the woman and her baby is key and also being able to respond if the mother or baby begins to share/communicate with me in words or movements.
“At some point in the session, she talked about seeing the white light of this child’s being when she first met the father and then again when the child was conceived. This seemed to bring her much joy to share. And as soon as we began to breathe at the start and do the leg rotations as she lay on her back, she felt movements in side. This was her first time to feel them and it made her very happy.” – session with Ms L
Courage and hidden fears
“All this prenatal “care”, but no one at the clinic or in her childbirth class asked her, not even once, about her hopes, her secret fears, or her VISION of birth. Yet, insidiously her unresolved grief and self-doubts were affecting her body in ways which undermined her conscious plan to have a normal birth.” 28
In creating a space for the pregnant woman to relax, open and unwind in, I often find that we bump up against hidden, unconscious or even conscious worries and fears. If I am able to let the mother work through those fears, she may be to be able to feel into them, name them and then maybe, let go of them. As the old saying goes, “A problem shared, is a problem halved”.
“She is excited and also has some fear about the responsibility of parenthood. But she has two sisters who already have kids and she is very close to them and to her mum. Plus having a very gentle partner. She is worried about juggling time between her Work and being with her baby, as that is what her friends whom have kids seem to struggle with. She is also worried about knowing what to do when her baby needs something. I talked with her about the support of other mums and how good it can be to talk and share with them. Plus books can help and finally that we learn also through our mistakes…”
– session with Mrs. S
During a massage this fear may show it’s self as held breathing, holding in areas of the body and a general overall tension. By encouraging the mother to relax and connect to her breathing, letting it deepen, she brings her awareness to it. Sometimes, simply by beginning to work on the areas of the body that the mother has told me are causing her pain or discomfort, a lot of holding and tension is released. Some of this is purely physical discomfort, but at other times, there will be an emotional holding that creates the tension. At these times, I often slow down, ask the woman to breath deeper and feel into it a little more whilst I hold the spot. I might encourage her to inhale trust… exhale fear. If the mother is holding her breath, I encourage her to breath out and maybe yawn, or make a sound, or cry. Often after tears, a release will come and then maybe the words spill out. Talking and being listened to are a part of the process of healing. Growing a baby requires so much trust and release from fear. When we sit with our fears and even make friends with them, then we can determine whether any of them are based in reality, or if we can politely ask them to leave. Bringing this level of release to a mother’s awareness can help her towards a lovely transition into motherhood. Not always, but often, towards the end of an emotional release, we can crack a joke and humor returns as a healthy healing balm. I feel it is essential that a mother has a very good, and earthy sense of humor to help her through the gritty hard parts of motherhood.
“When a woman gets pregnant, her baby begins to grow and is 100 percent trusting. The baby can only communicate with you through movement and is simply relying on you to do all of the right things and step into motherhood, pure and confident. This is a monumental lesson in trust. It is time for you to look deeply within to see how you believe in your self and the mysteries of the universe. Meditate on how you deal with trust vs. fear and which normally wins that argument in your head. During your pregnancy, you are called upon to have confidence that your baby is growing perfectly and that you will be able to deliver your child with ease and in harmony with the universe.” 29
“Giving birth is an act of bravery and complete trust in the universe, and in our moments of fear and worry, it can be hard to remember that.” 30
Care for all the family
In the year before I began my Pregnancy massage training I had a few clients who were mamas. They came to me for massage both in pregnancy and post birth. They brought their babies and I would work with both the mama and the baby, moving between them depending on what part of the baby’s cycle of feeding, sleeping, playing and being with us they were in. Then a whole family came for a session. I gave the father a one-hour massage, and after that the mother and the baby. The father was there to hold the baby when it would allow. The baby had bad colic and so I gave it some baby massage, then I went back to the mother and worked on her as she breast fed and alone whilst the baby slept in it’s father’s arms. At the end of the session, the whole family felt so different, calm, relaxed, less exhausted, held and healed. These sessions are what inspired me to sign up for Susan’s training, to compliment the massage I already offered, plus to compliment the Baby massage and Developmental movement for babies, that I already teach. I really saw the benefit on helping to hold the whole family throughout the process of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
“Pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period are milestone events in the continuum of life, these experiences profoundly affect women, babies, fathers, and families, and have important and long-lasting effects on society.” 31
“A programme of good prenatal care is essential for the physical and spiritual welfare of the mother and baby. If you were dealing with a couple, the father of the baby must also be included in this programme so that he is well aware of the physiological and emotional changes his wife will be going through and how he can best support her during this special time. In some cultural situations, it is necessary for the midwife to prepare the entire family of the pregnant mother for the birthing.” 32
The Well Mother pregnancy massage case studies included giving at least one session where the father was included and one session where the birth partner was present. I really enjoyed these sessions and felt very inspired to be able to empower the fathers to feel more confident with tools, techniques understandings that would help them with their partner during the birth. The couples really seemed to appreciate having a shared practice, and more than once I heard the mother saying that she’d been trying to get her partner to give her some massage for the whole pregnancy – finally it was happening. In bringing the fathers into the process of massage and helping them to find ways to help, care for and even pamper their partner, they felt more involved, more confident and more able to express their care and love for their partners.
“Our final session with my husband when I was heavily pregnancy was really special and we were both surprised that he enjoyed it too! It was really great to have some tips on how he could help me relax during labor and the lower back massages that he went on to give when I was in labor were lovely! It was a great session to allow him time to stop and feel connected with the baby too.” – Mrs B
I would like to expand this part of the work and offer family massage, either giving massage to all the family, or holding a space for guiding through teaching massage to the partners/birth partners, throughout the pregnancy, birth and postpartum. To bring the whole family into a more sacred and relaxed way of communication through massage and listening healing touch.
“A woman’s confidence and ability to give birth and to care for her baby are enhanced or diminished by every person who gives her care, and by the environment in which she gives birth.” 33
“My Mama Massage with Jocasta was a real rock during my second pregnancy. As a body worker myself I felt really clear about what kind of touch I needed to support me. I experienced a lot change, upheaval and uncertainty during my pregnancy and my sessions with Jocasta gave me a safe space in which to be with my own body – as it was changing, to spend some time connecting with my reality of being pregnant. Her touch felt so safe with scope for deep heart connection and playful exploring. One of the most important aspects was the intimacy I experienced – a touch that was simply about me being pregnant and growing a baby and completely different from the medical touch of midwife appointments or even the corrective touch of the cranial osteopath. It was just about me being with me – supported by another woman.”
In researching and writing this study, I have been surprised to realise how deeply this material touches me. My own experience of being pregnant and giving birth have been revisited and newly understood. Also my understanding that this part of pregnancy massage is interesting, important and inspiring to me. It is informing the direction in which I wish to evolve for my pregnancy massage and also my teaching of baby massage and developmental movement for babies. I would like to bring a little more ritual to my sessions, a little more conscious honouring of the creation that is each woman and child to be. I would like to invite mothers and fathers to re-remember their spiritual connection to themselves and their baby, bringing a deep profound beauty and loving connection into the centre of the circle of their family – to remind them to commune with their higher self’s rather than simply get caught up in the sleepless nights, aches and pains and dirty nappies. Finally I hope I can help to celebrate what a miracle the path of creating and birthing a new life is and honour them for their journey upon it, as well as bringing some well earned relief through an effective and yummy massage.