We have forgotten how to nurture mothers
Birth changes women. Physically, the process of growing and birthing a baby will alter your body forever. Emotionally and spiritually, something tremendous has happened. A woman has become a mother. She has changed, opened and grown.
In traditional cultures all over the world, the great journey of birth is followed by a prolonged period of rest, massage, warmth and nurture for the newborn mother. The mother’s experience of birthing needs to be recognised, honoured and healed before she can fully step into her new identity.
But something is missing from our western culture. We have forgotten how to nurture mothers. Yet mothers are greatly – sometimes desperately – in need of nurture, rest, healing and recognition. Closing the Bones is a traditional Ecuadorian treatment and ceremony where we honour, massage, wrap and care for the mother in the sanctuary of her home. I am deeply privileged to be able to offer this remarkable therapy for women in the Essex area.
Pregnancy and birth – opening and closing
Pregnancy and birth is a time of opening. A woman opens her body to her partner and a new life begins. As the child develops and grows, the uterus stretches and expands to make space. The mother’s internal organs move and shift to accommodate the baby. Her ligaments soften and loosen, especially around the pelvis, to prepare for the great opening of birth. Once labour is established, the cervix softens and widens until there is enough room for baby to emerge into the world. The mother allows and welcomes this massive opening up of the most intimate parts of herself. When she holds her baby in her arms, her body and mind has been on a remarkable journey. Now she needs to travel home again.
Closing, healing and recovery
After opening, there is a need for closing. The mother who has travelled beyond herself to bring her baby home needs to return to herself again. This is essential to her full recovery.
Almost everywhere in the world, birth is traditionally followed by massage of the mother and baby. These treatments are often accompanied by heat, binding and wrapping of the mother’s abdomen and legs, special foods and drinks, bathing and special ceremonies. The new mother is nurtured, held, touched and cherished as she completes her journey into motherhood. She is supported to spend intimate time with her baby and is given a holiday from all the usual demands of daily life as a woman.
This time of seclusion, rest and renewal normally lasts around a month. It acknowledges the profound and wonderful achievement of the mother in bringing a new life into the world. Songs may be sung and ancient poems recited. The mother is honoured by her family and society. I am convinced that today’s Essex mothers need this love and honour just as much as ever before.
Rocking and wrapping
During a Closing the Bones treatment, I rock and wrap the mother’s hips and abdomen with a rebozo (traditional long woven shawl). I also massage the belly and pelvic area with healing essential oils, using a blend specially chosen to meet that woman’ s particular needs. This can help with removing tension in the joints of the pelvis and lower spine, removing compression on the ligaments supporting the uterus and bladder, releasing fascia and opening the sacro-iliac joints. The pubic bone is re-aligned and then all the pelvic joints are supported to relax. Tension held in the pelvic and abdominal areas is released, with a profoundly healing effect.
Recognising birth experiences
Here in the UK, once a woman gives birth, all the attention is on the baby. Having been the focus of attention for nine months and through the birthing process, the mother seems suddenly to be relegated to the role of servant to her new offspring. Provided she is not acutely unwell, we tend to assume she can just get on with feeding and caring for her baby and the rest of her family.
It seems hardly surprising that we have an epidemic of postnatal depression, anxiety and loneliness among mothers. Particularly if a birth was medically straightforward, everyone assumes that the mother can simply put it behind her and get on with the job of mothering. But even a birth where there were no “complications” can leave a woman feeling a deep need for closure and understanding of the tremendous experience she has been through.
When Closing the Bones, I always offer mothers an opportunity to talk about their birth experience. Sometimes they will have little to say at the outset, but powerful memories and emotions will arise during the treatment. This can be a wonderful opportunity to welcome and acknowledge feelings which may not have been recognised before. The safe space created by the Closing the Bones ceremony enables experiences held in the body to be felt and released.
Unique for every woman
Closing the Bones is new for every woman. The ceremony is her special time, and I always tailor each treatment to her particular preferences and choices. Music or silence, aromatherapy oils, herbal teas, poems and song – everything is designed to create a special space for re-integration, wholeness and re-birth.
Try to plan for a quiet few days after your Closing the Bones treatment. You will probably feel different – hopefully rested and refreshed. Maybe cleansed and stronger. You may continue to work through the feelings which have emerged for some days and weeks to come. Be kind to yourself.
Closing the Bones is important because mothers are important. You are important – not just as your children’s carer, but as a whole and beautiful person in your own right. Closing the Bones honours you – as a mother, as a woman, as yourself.
How can I find out more?
Closing the Bones was introduced to the UK by doula Sophie Messager. You can read more at her website https://www.closingthebonesmassage.com/about/
Karen Lawrence is a fully qualified Bone Closer, having trained under Sophie. She is also a Registered Midwife, Health Visitor, Specialist Pre-and Post-Natal Yoga Instructor and mother of seven children. Karen can travel to your home for the treatment if you live within 30 minutes drive of Billericay, Essex, UK. She may be able to travel further in some circumstances. You can contact Karen and book your Closing the Bones treatment at her website https://thecalmspace.co.uk/closing-the-bones-postnatal-massage/
 Kitzinger, S., Rediscovering Birth, Pinter & Martin Ltd, 2011, p.236-242.