When I was pregnant, I very much had the attitude ‘I’m not sick, I’m pregnant’ and would feel really uncomfortable when people would very kindly offer to do things for me, like carry my bags or offer me their seat to sit down when I waddled into a room. I would cringe slightly inside and politely refuse any offers of help and carried out my day as if it were any other. Then at 30 weeks I found myself going into early labour, being rushed into hospital and quite quickly giving birth to my son who was then hurried into NICU. Sitting by his incubator and looking at all the wires going in and out, I felt helpless and wished he was still inside me where I could protect him. As I was coming to terms with what was happening, I was stricken with guilt; I thought about why things had turned out the way they had and I started to blame myself for everything…. I blamed myself for the time I climbed to the top of the soft play centre at 20 weeks, ducking and diving from sugar crazed children to rescue my daughter who was too scared to come down on the slide. I blamed myself for not opening the window when painting the spare room and breathing in toxic fumes, getting stressed at work, staying up late, for forgetting to take my vitamin tablets and for all the times I did not accept the kind help when offered. None of these reasons were the cause of my son coming early of course (and I know some of them are ridiculous), the medical staff wasn’t sure, but expected I had an infection which triggered an early labour, this didn’t stop me from thinking of all the possible causes (real or unreal) and what I could of done to have prevented it.
After 6 weeks in hospital, I was eventually able to take my son home and I couldn’t wait to start giving him a massage. In hospital I felt he had experienced so much negative touch, from heel pricks, eye drops, to wires being placed in and out that he didn’t know anything different and I wanted him to feel something pleasurable. As a qualified Infant Massage Instructor I was aware of all the hidden benefits of massage; when you massage your baby you produce a hormone called oxytocin, a happy, calming hormone something we were both in need and would both benefit from! As I massaged my new bundle of joy, I would think about all the good it was doing; supporting healthy brain growth, relieving any growing pains, aiding a better sleep. It was also an opportunity to bond and spend quality time with my son, something that was limited at the hospital. What massage did most importantly, was enable me to feel back in control, understand my son more and I started to feel less guilty too! As my son grew and continued to thrive, I could get a sense of his enjoyment too, he would smile with anticipation and physically relax each time I gave the cue for a massage. Infant massage is not something you just do for babies either, my son is three now and still enjoys a massage, (having his back massaged is his favourite) and I’m pleased to say I have a happy, healthy boy, which I believe is an outcome from massaging, despite his early arrival into the world!
‘The effects of infant massage are not always immediate, but last a life time’
By Sue Brown