Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Help! I don’t feel like a mom! How infant massage helped me bond with my baby

Melinda and daughter
I was so excited for the arrival of my first born child. The nine months went by so dreadfully slow, anticipating the day I would finally hold my daughter in my arms. I had been preparing for her, praying for her, thinking of little else as I went through my days in pregnant bliss. I had all of the skills that a new mother should have. I had been to the child birth and parenting classes. I had babysat since I was 11 years old. I had worked with children for years, and even had a degree in child development! I was ready to be a mom.

Remembering the day she was born still brings tears to my eyes. My long anticipated treasure, perfectly formed and gorgeous (if I do say so myself) was finally handed to me, as my husband snapped photos.  Barely dried off, I held her on my chest and nursed her for the first time. Wow! I couldn’t believe that I was a mother!

We were discharged from the hospital. We settled into a routine at home as the days and weeks passed. And Wow!  I still couldn’t believe I was a mother! I really remember having this thought, this feeling that I REALLY WASN’T a mother, I was just babysitting. I felt a deep, instinctual love for my baby. I had an attachment to her. But, shamefully I still felt like I was babysitting someone else’s baby. I didn’t tell anyone about this feeling, not even my husband. I thought that others would judge me. I wasn’t having baby blues, I wasn’t depressed. I just felt disconnected from my child.

When my daughter turned two weeks, her behaviors changed. She seemed uncomfortable and cried inconsolably for much of her waking hours. We went to her pediatrician and he diagnosed her as having colic, and gave us prescription gas drops. I knew what colic was, and luckily had some tools to use to help keep her comfortable.  I had learned infant massage before she was born, and so I started to massage her regularly. She became more predictable. I knew that after a breast feeding session, she would fall asleep then wake crying after 40 minutes. I would massage her belly and do gentle movements to her legs to help her pass gas.  Then she would eventually go back to sleep. During the day, she would have to be carried most of the time.  I would carry her in a sling when I needed to get things done around the house. From week two to sixteen, this was our reality, comforting a chronically fussy baby.

During this time, I truly feel that infant massage was instrumental in bonding me to my lovely, but challenging, baby.  She loved to be massaged. When she had a quiet, happy moment, I would lovingly stroke her legs, arms, her face and back. The massage was therapy for both of us.  I would talk to her and sing songs as I massaged her. She responded to my touch, to my attention. It encouraged me to have more of this bonding time with her. I felt that I could relax, as she relaxed. When I was massaging her, we focused on nothing else, but each other. Soon, I knew my baby…and I felt like her mother!

Infant massage is a well-researched and documented medical and psychological topic, and I can’t discount the medical benefits of infant massage that I saw in my daughter. Not only did it help her with digestive discomfort, I started to see changes in her behavior.  She was more relaxed and slept longer. Her brain and immature nervous system were actually responding to the physical therapy I was providing. I felt so empowered as a parent, that I was helping her in this way! 

My first born, my precious daughter is now almost six years old.  I still massage her. We curl up in her bed and I’ll massage her face as she tells me about the challenges of kindergarten. We will make up stories together as I draw them out on her back. Her Daddy still rubs her hands, and her eyes get heavy and her breathing deepens just like when she was tiny baby being rocked on his lap. This is sacred time together.  I hope that she will always allow us to share this gift with her.

Melinda Graham teaches infant massage classes at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford. Her next class is a Texas Health HEB this weekend. For more information, click here.

Photo courtesy of Melinda Graham and Robin Cunningham Photography.

No comments:

Post a Comment