What is Closing the Bones?

Closing the Bones is a traditional South American postnatal ritual, given to mothers within hours of giving birth. It can also be given days, weeks or even years after birth and still have amazing benefits. The mother is rocked, massaged, soothed, physically and emotionally supported with the manta and soothed from head to toe.

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Why do mothers need it?

In our culture there is little to honor the mother and the amazing work her body has done in creating a new life. It is common to give gifts for the new baby, but rarely is the mother herself and the hard work her body has achieved is acknowledged!

IMG_3124When we look at other cultures around the world, it is common that new mothers are cared for and nurtured so that they may in turn nurture their new baby. The postpartum period of 40 days is often recognised as a time when mothers are vulnerable and need support to regain their strength.  Traditional practices may heal the body after the intense work it does during pregnancy and birth, as well as allow rest and relaxation enabling the body to recuperate. Special foods or some type of body work may be given such as massage or binding with cloth.

 

Towards the end of pregnancy joints soften and become more flexible. During birth the pelvis physically opens so that the baby can be born. It is important that the pelvis realigns correctly otherwise this can lead to pelvic instability; the pelvis supports the weight of the spine and head and can be the seat of unresolved trauma.

Closing the Bones is about physically closing the pelvis again: the massage part of the treatment cleans, renews and moves fluids and hormones, stimulates the immune system and helps tone muscle and tissue. The massage also has osteopathic benefits – tension in the lumbar spine is released (this area is subjected to a lot of pressure during pregnancy); helps remove bladder and uterus tension caused by compression on the bladder and suspensory ligaments of the uterus, improves function for the sacro-iliac joint,   enables the pubic bone to move back into position and helps to loosen gluteal attachments and fascia. Fascia is a tissue that encompasses the whole body and can tighten with stress.

The ritual of Closing the Bones also has an emotional benefit. Many women who have received it have spoken of how they felt a release of emotions that had been held since they had given birth or from their experiences of becoming a mother.

The ritual begins by ‘rocking’ the pelvis using a manta (also known as rebozo in mexico) followed by a complex abdomen and pelvic girdle massage using a warming oil and then finishing by tightly wrapping the hips with the manta.

The mother is then left to rest for a short time and to enjoy the comforting feeling of her hips being held in this way and her emotion to flow in a safe and supported way.

What do mums say about their Closing the Bones ritual?

“Sarah gave me a ‘closing the bones’ massage three weeks after having Austin and it was a wonderful experience. She created a calm and relaxing atmosphere and really put me at ease. Her touch was warm and gentle, whilst the rebozo wrapping felt strong and supportive. My hips felt amazing after struggling with pain through most of my pregnancy. I highly recommend this postnatal massage, a chance to think about your body at this time of adjustment.” Becky, mum of four 

A Closing the Bones treatment can be a wonderful gift for a new mother; it can also be helpful even years after a birth when the mother feels she has unresolved emotions. Please visit my website here for more details and how to book your treatment.

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Two important dates for women around the world, both in the month of March – International women’s  Day (8th March) and World Doula week from the 22nd March.

To celebrate Women’s Day locally, Taunton Area Unite Community, produced a display of ‘postcards’ with nominations for inspirational women – both locally known and worldy famous, British and International. Nominees included Dr. Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, to Debra Searle, the first person to row solo across the Atlantic. Some women were nominated for their politics and passion for human rights such as Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who initiated a non-violent movement for democracy, and Malala Yousafzei an advocate for girls right to be educated. Local nominees included a GP, Dr. Catherine Lewis, who works hard to dedicate time to all her patients, midwife Kate Hopwood who provided much needed support to her nominee, and Frederica Smith a local councillor and campaigner and founder of RAFT (Refugee Aid From Taunton) which sends aid to refugees all over the world.

Behind all the nominees is passion, commitment, drive and strength. When I am working as a doula, it is the strength of women that is most apparent to me. Women’s physical strength to cope with their labour and the challenges it often brings, but also their emotional strength to ride the highs and lows that birth and postnatal life bring.

I was very much humbled to be included in this display. My nominee put my name forward because of my commitment to providing birth, breastfeeding and postnatal support in my community. Behind my commitment lies my passion for supporting parents – I want every mother to feel confident in herself to birth her baby, and in turn parents to feel confident in caring for their baby and able to make decisions that are right for their family.

You can see the digital version of the display here

World Doula Week begins on March 22nd. After a conversation between myself and some of my doula sisters, we developed an idea to celebrate the week with a patchwork quilt. We took our inspiration from Ina May Gaskin’s idea ‘Safe Motherhood quilt‘ which is a commemoration of women who have died from pregnancy related causes. With time not on our side (!) we decided to create a virtual quilt made up of photos of doulas, and even developed our own collective noun – a cuddle of doulas! As our patchwork grew, so did we as a visual collective force of women who are united in supporting and enabling women and their families through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

You can see the ‘quilt’ here

Knitting and doulas – a yarn of pattern, rhythm and relaxation.

Last month I attended a hospital birth. In the weeks before the due date the mother-to-be and I met several times and discussed what she felt she may need to make her birth comfortable. These included suggestions of relaxation techniques – visualisations and ways to focus on releasing tension. We also discussed massage or touch – did she like firm or gentle touch, on her back, feet, or hands? We talked about music, positions for birth, and the practicalities of the support I could offer.

A few weeks after our last antenatal meeting, the mum called me to let me know her labour was beginning. Once she felt her labour was beginning to settle into a pattern, she rang again to ask me to make my way to meet her at the hospital. When I arrived she was very happy sitting on her birthing ball in the early stages of labour. The atmosphere in the room felt relaxed and happy as I chatted with the mum and dad to be.  

As her labour progressed, the mother became more and more inward focussed and I felt confident that she was finding her own rhythms and ways to concentrate on what her body was telling her to do. Our chatter ceased as the mum fell silent through each contraction as the sensation demanded more of her attention. I had brought some knitting with me and after two false starts of the pattern, I got into a rhythm myself, of knitting a baby hat. I found that knitting had exactly the effect I had read about – instead of focussing solely on the mother, I could relax and focus on my knitting. Perhaps this sounds a little odd – surely doulas are meant to ‘be there’ for the labouring mother, by her side, supporting her physically or emotionally, not getting on with a craft project! However, knitting can have a much deeper effect than just creating a piece of clothing….

The French birth expert, Michel Odent wrote of a renowned midwife, Giselle,  who often knitted at births she attended. In his article ‘Knitting needles, cameras and fetal monitors’ (1996), he focussed on Giselle’s knowledge of physiology of birth and the importance of privacy and darkness for a woman in labour. He wrote how a woman may feel less observed by a midwife whose attention appears to be focussed on knitting. Odent still talks today of the importance of labouring women having privacy and not being watched.

Odent later wrote how repetitive tasks are an effective means of reducing tension. Labouring women can be particularly sensitive to atmospheres or feelings within a room – if those around her are stressed or anxious the mother may pick up on these feelings and in turn become anxious herself. Anxiety and fear produce adrenalin  – this hormone counteracts the effect of the hormone oxytocin, which drives labour. The converse is also true – if the atmosphere in the room is one of calm, then the mother is more likely to feel relaxed, allowing the free flow of oxytocin and her labour to progress.

Odent suggested that if a woman is aware that her midwife is knitting, then she may feel reassured that all must be well with her labour and that the midwife is not worried about what is happening. Knitting helps to keep adrenaline levels low, creating a relaxing sense of security all round.

When I knit, my mind can clear of the chaos of the day and I can become almost meditative as I relax into the rhythm of the clicking of the needles. When in labour, women need to be able to switch off the ‘thinking’ part of their brain and tap into their instinctive thoughts to guide them through their work of bringing their baby into the world. Many women find a rhythm or a routine to help them focus, yet relax, and in this way I feel I share a connection with the mother.

I hope that the baby’s hat that I completed is a reminder for the mother of how strong she was in labour, how her mind and body carried her through her labour, how she was able to use a rhythm to keep relaxed and focussed and – perhaps – how my relaxed state empowered her to have the birth she wanted. 

Hello!

Welcome to my first post as a new blogger!

I hope to share with you articles on the subject of birth, breastfeeding and the journey through early parenthood that I feel may be useful, inspirational and informative.

I would like to start with this is amazing story of a mother being enabled to do something she never dreamt she could – but you may need the tissues when reading it!