When my daughter was born lots of people recommended that I take a baby massage course. I’m not sure if they thought I was having any issues bonding with her. I had to have an elective cesarean because she was in a breech position. We had received a post natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome for my daughter. I wondered why I wasn’t feeling that strong bond as we lay beside each other in the hospital. Could it have been the diagnosis? Back then I didn’t realise that because I had a cesarean delivery I had not experienced the explosion of Oxytocin that other mothers receive when they give birth naturally. This could have had an effect on bonding with my daughter which was a standard outcome of the procedure.
In the first month…
Doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, paediatricians, social workers visited. My daughter had to undergo a battery of tests to check her stomach, heart, eyesight, and the standard hearing tests. I was given good advice, sympathetic looks, bad advice. I didn’t know how to feel. For my birthday two weeks after Síofra’s arrival into the world we had our first heart appointment in Crumlin. We had to park ages away. Little did I know that I had an infection from the surgery. And I walked as best I could to the hospital from the car. I paid as much attention as I could to the news that she had a small heart defect and that they would monitor it over the next few months and see how it went. This is just an example of everything I was trying to deal with while also shedding my skin as an independent woman with no children and becoming a mum.
I think some people thought we were in denial.
Maybe we were. But we had waited a long time for our daughter. So health issues apart we were delighted she had finally arrived. If we could have stayed in our bubble we would have been happy. But everyone wanted to talk about Down Syndrome, how we were feeling, her health. We had so many appointments. Being a new parent neither myself or my husband had developed our confident NO at that stage!
My Mum was really determined that I should go to the baby massage course in the Down Syndrome Centre.
Her friend was the instructor and according to my Mum was lovely (and I eventually discovered that this was true and not something my Mum just said!)
But I wasn’t ready. I had other plans for Síofra and I.
Swimming lessons was something I wanted to try. I wanted her to love the water as much as I did. Unfortunately she didn’t. But I persevered. (Two years later she loves it!) I wanted to go to Mum and Baby Yoga. This worked well for both of us. I felt supported and I got some exercise and I enjoyed it.
Eventually I plucked up the courage and took myself and Síofra to the Down Syndrome Centre on a Monday morning for our first Baby Massage Course.
Obviously with all the appointments and health issues and time spent in hospitals I knew on so many levels that Síofra had Down Syndrome. I told people who I didn’t even know. Anyone who peeped into the pram was told. Despite this it was a big step for me to go and meet other Mums who’s children had the same diagnosis as mine. Up until then I had to face so much else, hospital appointments, Public Health Nurse appointments, Early Intervention visits from social workers and physio. But on some level I didn’t want to connect with Down Syndrome. I was afraid of what it would mean for her and her future and what it might mean for me. By going somewhere with other babies or children with the same diagnosis I would have to face the reality of what life might be for Síofra. There were so many potential problems according to everyone that I met that I was afraid to face.
At the class we were all in the same boat.
First time Mums, second time Mums, all needing to chat about the things we had in common, breast feeding, feeding, sleep, in our case hospital appointments. I have since realised that it’s the same for mothers of typical children. You want to tell your story, you want to hear other women’s stories. You need support. You need empathy. You need to talk it all out.
The massage for Síofra was easy to learn. It was lovely. Relaxing. It was fun.
Síofra enjoyed it and I didn’t feel under pressure. I felt supported by Bridget the Certified Infant Massage Instructor. And every week I got to know the other Mums. Some of them attended the same Early Intervention Service as I did and so we really got to know each other.
Subsequently I used many of the massage stroke techniques to help ease symptoms of colic or constipation that Síofra experienced.
When I realised that I wasn’t going back to work in advertising…
that I needed to find something more meaningful to do with my career I first found yoga. But then I thought of how much I enjoyed my course of Baby Massage. How supported I felt, how relaxing it was. I realised that it would be a wonderful addition to all the ways that I could help families.
I am now a Certified Infant Massage Instructor.
I wouldn’t have embarked on this career change without my daughter’s diagnosis. Needing extra support has connected me to people on a different level. I am so grateful for that.
I run classes in Holy Cross Parish Centre in Dundrum on Wednesday afternoons and Park Community Centre in Firhouse on Friday mornings. Please visit www.enchantedyoga.ie/schedule for more information.