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Pregnancy is a path unlike any other. It is a beautiful journey, the growth of a new soul, and the transition of a woman to a mother. These nine months are a special time, to be treasured and enjoyed, as the new mother discovers beauty and strength she had previously thought unimaginable. It is also a time for nurturing – by ourselves and by others.
Nurturing, in all its different forms, is essential during this precious stage of life. As a woman’s body goes through its many changes, physical touch and relief are invaluable to her being comfortable and rested. It is also vital to begin to know our bodies better, that we may listen to them at the time of birth. Furthermore, the new life inside us, at every moment, is learning about its new environment, and how to respond to it – and so feelings of balance and relaxation will accordingly be transmitted to the baby.
In times past, and still in developing cultures today, women remained active throughout pregnancy, giving them a good level of fitness and strength for birth. Moreover, pregnancy was surrounded by the honor and wisdom that it deserves; midwives and elders of the community were experienced in the art of childbirth and touch, and knew that nurturing was an integral part of welcoming the soul of the child and honoring the mother.
While our culture may have come a long way from these sacred routes, there is still a lot of opportunity today for our mothers and babies to be nurtured. Firstly, the mother-to-be can do much on her own to become empowered in the birthing process, and feel secure in her own body. The many prenatal yoga classes available in this city, and the differing styles, appeal to a range of tastes and abilities. The openness and strength that yoga provides are perfect for childbirth. In addition, many of these classes provide a community of pregnant women, a support network that prevents isolation and can help to remove doubt and fear.
Second, the partners and/or close friend and relatives of the mother-to-be, can fit naturally into a great support role during this time. Learning how to assist the mother in stretching, therefore enabling her greater flexibility, can provide a wonderful relief that sometimes eludes us in our own practice. Classes such as those of John Holmes help birth partners achieve exactly these skills and also learn massage techniques. John works with couples to bring them into better contact with the breath, and to begin to familiarize themselves with the art of touch. In this way, John can help partners become as supportive and nurturing as possible. Any birthing woman will testify how soothing and relieving touch from a loved one can be. The beauty of someone close to you learning massage, is that that person is much more available than an outside therapist, and we may well feel more comfortable in his/her presence and in directing that person.
However, while the transmission of a partner’s love can be soothing and nurturing, a professional massage therapist, who has undergone training in a variety of modalities has a solid knowledge of physiology and of exactly how to relieve specific discomfort. She will also be devoted entirely to you for the duration of the massage, and will employ a range of techniques. Professional therapists like Lisa Swanson, for example, have trained for hundreds of hours, backed up by hands on practice every day. Therapists like this can be a Godsend to women with aching backs or wrists. Lisa’s in-depth training in Swedish massage and deep tissue, and experience working with injuries and tight muscles gives her a clear heads up on the pregnant body.
Lastly, let us all take advantage of the support available to us in terms of mother wellness centers such as Mother’s Haven, based in Encino. Places such as this are filled with experienced women who can relate to every aspect of birth and motherhood, and act as a wonderful support both in the range of nurturing arts available, and as a keystone in the maternal community. Support, such as this, is invaluable in the precious months approaching and immediately after birth.
Claudia Lewis Brainard