Bonding Classes Maternal Mental Health Motherhood

Bonding. Can baby massage help? A real story

Having had anxiety and depression in the past, on finding out I was pregnant with my first baby, I naturally had some questions around how likely it was that I would get post natal depression.  I hadn’t been someone who had wanted children all my life so wondered if I might struggle with bonding. The midwife explained there wasn’t necessarily a definite link between the two for me but that there was plenty of screening and support once the baby arrived which put my mind at ease a little.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy, apart from regular bouts of bleeding due to a low lying placenta and in the latter stages I developed SPD which was pretty painful. When my due date came and went and two weeks later I was heading to hospital to be induced, I wasn’t even considering how I would bond with the little person we were about to meet. I had a generally good birth experience and little Max arrived into the world.

That’s the hard bit done, I thought… but that’s not quite how it was…

Oh my, what have we done?

We were kept in the hospital for two nights as Max wasn’t feeding, I had been adamant I would breastfeed but it seemed this wasn’t working out. Max was diagnosed with a significant tongue tie. In that ward overnight, exhausted after labour and just needing sleep, Max did nothing but cry and I literally didn’t know what to do. I suddenly felt completely helpless, completely out of my depth and completely alone in those long first nights.

On returning home I thought everything would just go back to normal! No chance!

The lack of sleep in those first weeks is relentless, nobody can prepare you for it. Feed, sleep, change, feed, sleep, change. Sleep when the baby sleeps they say – ha! That never did work for me so I was absolutely shattered.

As soon as Max was born I knew I would do anything for him but I can’t honestly say that I felt any bond with him at first, I just didn’t get what I had heard to be a burst of love for him, how can you love someone who just screams at you no matter what you do?! Thankfully I have a wonderfully supportive husband and family and an amazing group of Mums from NCT.

Once my husband had to go back to work and I was left alone with the tiny screaming human, desperate to escape the house, I looked into classes that were suitable for newborns and came across a local baby massage class. I rounded up a few of my NCT buddies and we started when Max was around 10 weeks old.

This is supposed to be fun!

The first session was traumatic – it took me all my energy to get us out of the house in time and Max cried pretty much the whole way through the class. Is it worth it I thought?!

Practice makes perfect

As the sessions went on, the logistics became easier, practicing the strokes that we learnt in class at home meant that we were both more relaxed in each-other’s company and I learnt to read Max’s cues better. I learnt how to tell when he was tired, bored, needed a boundary, lots of other things beyond the obvious physical needs of food/sleep/nappy change.

As the sessions went on, the logistics became easier, practicing the strokes that we learnt in class at home meant that we were both more relaxed in each-other’s company and I learnt to read Max’s cues better. I learnt how to tell when he was tired, bored, needed a boundary, lots of other things beyond the obvious physical needs of food/sleep/nappy change.

The communication skills that came from spending time together doing the massage strokes were invaluable for me, I could see that he was a human with needs and not just a robot who I could make better by just seeing to the physical needs.

That was the breakthrough moment for me, things suddenly clicked into place. I was able to connect with him and there began our bonding.

Now we are so close, I’m able to communicate so much better with him and he is amazing.

Not only that but when Max developed colic and silent reflux I felt able to do something to help him. Now I know exactly what they’re talking about when they describe the bond between mother and child, for me it certainly didn’t come as naturally as I had expected, but it did come.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your new life as a parent, you are not alone. It is such a huge change in your life and everyone reacts differently. My baby massage course is a friendly space where you can learn the wonderful skill of baby massage for bonding, but you can also chat about your feelings with others who are in the same boat.

Book a place on the next course here.


The Power of Words

Pregnant public property

Why is it when you’re pregnant or have had a baby people seem to think they can make extremely personal comments to you? I spent the last 3 months of my pregnancy fielding comments like

“are you sure there’s only one in there” or even one of my favourites “wow you are absolutely enormous”

which is enough to strike anxiety and doubt into even the most confident of women. 

Thoughtless comments

This week I was walking down the canal pushing my pram in the sun and a man walked past as I was drinking from a can of diet coke says to me “I hope that’s low calorie?” I didn’t really know what to say so carried on walking but actually by the time I got home it had really got to me! I’m really tired, feeling a bit lonely and bored on maternity leave and not exactly feeling my most confident anyway. This is the last thing I wanted to hear. Why is it ok to say something like that to anybody, let alone someone who has produced another human and is doing their best to keep 2 kiddies plus a husband alive?

Post-natal pressure

It got me thinking, how are we supposed to embrace our new bodies when there are people in the world who judge complete strangers like this and feel the need to say cruel things?

Why is there an expectation from society that we will just ‘bounce back’ as though our bodies are elastic, why don’t we embrace that they may always be different because of what they have gone through? Why is different bad?

Why is there an expectation that I should be watching what I eat/drink when actually that sip of Diet Coke is the first thing to pass my lips all day because I’ve had to get a toddler out of the house and sort a 3 month old before going out and I’m always at the bottom of the list?

What is wrong in our culture?

So many cultures around the world respect and nurture new Mums. In China there is the 30 day long ‘sitting in’ period where Mothers aren’t allowed to leave the house, are looked after by relatives and are fed home made lactation inducing meals.

In Japan they have Ansei which is 3 weeks of rest, staying with parents and often the Mum will stay in bed with baby for most of the time. Japanese ladies have low rates of hysterectomies in later life, and the theory is that is related to Ansei as the uterus is given good time to properly recover.

In India the tradition is to stay home for 40-60 days with friends and family cooking meals and giving the mother daily massages.

In the UK you might even be sent home from hospital within 24 hours of having a caesarean section! It feels like we are expected to recover physically and mentally within days or the early weeks and get back to looking our best almost immediately.

The media

If we look at parenting magazines, the covers are adorned with glamourous women with full faces of make up and perfectly coiffured hair, their smiling babies beautifully balanced on their size zero hip. This just perpetuates the myth that we can have it all, the reality is we probably can’t, nor in most cases do we want to.

The reality

Often in those early days/weeks/months of motherhood, a good day is when you have had a shower, or manage a full morning of wearing clean clothes! But of course while the media shows us how we ‘should’ look, how will we ever match up? Does this perpetuate the idea that we should all want our old bodies back immediately and that we should somehow prioritise how we are looking on the outside for the purpose of showing how well we are doing at motherhood?

Of course, if you are able to wash your hair, put your make up on and that makes you feel good then that is brilliant, but we certainly shouldn’t feel that is how we need to look to please other people.

This is why in my baby massage classes, I’m honest about the fact that Motherhood isn’t always Insta perfect and I’m passionate about them being an open forum to discuss the challenges as well as the amazing moments we experience whilst finding our way as Mothers. Its all about creating that little village.

For me, for most of the time anyway, I don’t generally worry too much about what people think about me and how I look but I do definitely feel some pressure to be losing the baby weight. Silly and flippant comments like the one made to me this week don’t help, but I don’t blame him specifically, I just wish our society could change how we think of, value and support new Mothers. Hopefully one day that will change.

If you would like to come along to one of the friendliest groups you will find, just drop me a line.  My inbox is always open x

Blissed Out Babies Jemma's Family
My little family  x