By Bridget Wood
As I lay enveloped in pillows, my body surrendering to the soft futon mattress and the confident, intuitive and measured movements of my Shiatsu therapist, Marian, it dawned on me, yet again, why we must transform the way we treat pregnant and new mothers. But the thing is, nothing in our society will change if we are not willing, as women, to claim it for ourselves.
In a culture that celebrates outward vestiges of success, achievement and progress, where is the room for slowing down, retreating inward and nurturing, that pregnancy and early motherhood demand of us? When we attempt to circumvent our natural rhythms and impose control, what happens? Commonly it’s a blueprint for heightened stress, fractured relationships, post-natal depression and childhood illness.
A 1998 report by WHO on Postpartum Care of the Mother and Newborn acknowledges the postpartum period is often neglected by maternity care and makes little contribution to their wellbeing and future health. This is in contrast to traditional cultures where the health of the mother in the postpartum period is considered to be of vital importance. For example, in Japan if a baby is ill, first the doctors would look to the health and well-being of the mother.
Our standard Western approach is to treat the symptom, not the cause, and to look at the baby or child in isolation, failing to recognise the profound interconnectedness of the mother-child dyad.
The work of the pregnant mother is to understand herself, her needs, and how to give presence to who she is, so she can then meet the often demanding, all-consuming nature of caring for a newborn and parent in a way that nurtures her child’s spirit.
One of the myriad ways to promote nourishment and healing for a mother in pregnancy is Shiatsu, a Japanese body therapy that works on bringing balance to the whole body through ensuring the energy of the body is flowing freely so that the body’s natural healing mechanisms are triggered. A form of Oriental medicine, the therapist’s fingers, hands, elbows, knees and feet are used to place pressure along the energy lines (meridians) so the energy (Qi) flowing through them becomes balanced.
In Japan, many midwives are trained in Shiatsu and live with mothers in the postpartum period to perform Shiatsu massage daily so that the mother is in an optimal state to care for her newborn, a priority adopted in many traditional cultures who focus on the nurture of the mother in this early, critical period of healing and baby’s adjustment to the world.
Laying there on the futon, my limbs folding and bending in an energetic dance in response to Marian’s movements, I shook off the injected judgements that this was ‘indulgent’ and gave myself to the wisdom of my body and mind, and 2,000 years of ancient practice in healing. It surely has a thing or two to teach us, don’t you think?
Thank you to Marian Jarvis at Balance Complementary Medicine for the divine experience. Balance Complementary Medicine focus on achieving optimal health and wellness at a physical, mental and emotional level, believing that good health is not just the absence of disease but a feeling of complete wellness.
Bridget Wood is Director and Events Manager of Suburban Sandcastles and Co-Founder of Nourishing The Mother. She's a lover of life and connecting people to themselves through wisdom, introspection and quality questions. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a desire to understand the bigger picture of human behaviour and how the world works, Bridget is on an inspired path to learn more deeply who we are beyond the limitations that we, and our society and culture, place upon us.