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Guest Blog: It Cost Me a Wetsuit!

Baby massage is a wonderful skill to help you to soothe and bond with your baby, and can be used as your children become older too.  Instructor Anne Nash tells us how massage has transformed her professional and family life.

"It Cost Me a Wetsuit": If I ever wrote a book, that is what I should call it. Or so I was told! I think this will be the closest I'll get to writing a book, so hence the name. To the mum, from my baby massage course several years ago, who suggested it...thank you.

It seemed like a good idea for a job! I wanted to work from home. I wanted to be around for my children as they grew up. What I didn't want to do was to work 12 hour shifts as a midwife. I'd enjoyed the job; though it was stressful, it was very rewarding. When a friend suggested training as a massage therapist and working from home, I thought that sounded like a brilliant idea.

That was 10 years ago. I got a Diploma in Swedish Massage and then decided to specialise in pregnancy and post natal massage. Then came baby massage. I'm not sure where the idea came from. I had never used it, or even heard of it, when my own children were babies. It seemed like a good idea to put my experiences as a midwife and a massage therapist together and train as an Infant Massage Instructor...

Massage therapist + midwife = baby massage instructor!

I got my bumps AND my babies back AND I worked from home. Happy days!

What I didn't realise would happen would be the impact it would have on me and my family, in a more personal way. As I started teaching infant massage it occurred to me after a few months that I wasn't practising what I was preaching. During the 5 week course I teach adaptations for older children and encourage mums to massage their children throughout their life. I never massaged my own children. I never had; who does? It honestly never occurred to me to massage them!

Six years ago I started to set an evening aside once a week to massage them. They were 10 and 12 years old at the time. Sunday night became massage night. My kids loved it.

Gradually I started to notice something. My son, who was a quiet boy, suddenly started telling me about his day; what had happened, what someone had said to him... Interesting! My daughter, who is more chatty also started to share things that were said at school or on social media, what was bothering her, or we just laughed at her funny sayings.

Looking back I now realise something happens around the age of 8 years old which changes your relationship with your child. Children gradually start reading to themselves at night, they start going swimming on their own, they then start going in to town and, before you know it, you have distanced yourself from your children. I think as a mum you subconsciously breath a sigh of relief and think to yourself, "Thank goodness they don't need me as much anymore".

What regular massage did, was to bring me back into their lives on a regular basis. It allowed me access to their rooms. My children in turn became more tactile. We touched more. After a family meal a foot would end up on my lap wanting a massage, which I would happily do! It kept them at the table longer. When my son was 14 he asked if he could practice the massage he'd learnt, on me. How precious!

The other aspect of massage, other than the improved interaction/ bonding, that occurred, was that it physically helped them. I started reading research into the health benefits of massage for lots of common childhood medical conditions like asthma, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, autism, eczema. Basically, massage can help physically but also emotionally, empowering the mum to be able to help her child.

When exams came along, with the stresses that they bring, again I was there to help, massaging each day to de-stress them, helping their concentration, helping them sleep. Research has been done on a group of medical students. Half were given a massage before a maths test and half put in a relaxation room. The half that were massaged did 20% better in their test! My children never went to school before a big exam without having had a massage the night before and also in the morning before their exam. It's our exam routine. I had done my bit, the rest was up to them!

So why the wetsuit?

Seven years ago two things happened to me. The first one I've just old you about, the second also involved massage. I work as a voluntary massage therapist for a Cystic Fibrosis charity. If anyone is in hospital with CF then I go and massage them. I received a newsletter one day from the charity, looking for a nurse who could ski, to take a child with CF to Italy with a children's charity which makes dreams come true. I was a nurse and I could ski. I was also thankful I had two healthy children so wanted to help this young child have the holiday of a lifetime.

I went to Italy.

As I was one of the medical team, each day after skiing I had to take the kids swimming in the hotel pool. I would have fun with the kids throwing them in the water and mucking about. It suddenly hit me: it was like a lightening flash - it occurred to me at that moment that I had stopped playing with my own children.

I never mucked about with them anymore. Here I was having fun with other people's children and I'd stopped having fun with my own. I remembered back to the summer before. We had holidayed in St. Andrews and the kids had been playing in the sea and they'd asked me to come in and join them. "It's too cold," I'd said. Then when they were playing frisbee, "I'm reading my book" and "I've got a bad back". The excuses were endless. For 2 hours I made excuses why I couldn't play with them.

I came back from Italy and said to myself I was going to start play with my kids again. I was not only going to spend more time with them, but in that time I was going to be a fun mum! It cost me a wetsuit! The only way I was going to get into the North Sea and swim was to wear a wetsuit. So I bought myself one.

Not only in the last 7 years have I spent more time with my children but I've tried to be a fun mum. I've body surfed in the North Sea at the end of October, I've taken them camping, spent as much time as I can with them. I try and enter their world. Seven years on, my son is at university and he still likes the occasional massage. He links my arm when we walk down the street together. We are very close. My daughter and I have a date every month. We are off to Majorca together this month to celebrate the end of her Highers. Our biggest date yet! Through their teenage years I have been welcomed into their rooms.

None of this would have happened had I not entered the wonderful world of baby massage!

Anne runs Edinburgh Baby Massage teaching mums to massage their babies.  She also runs an Older Child Massage course for mums to learn how to massage their older children (age 2-18 years - the children don't attend this course).  Email edinburghbabymassage@gmail.com or visit www.edinburghbabymassage.co.uk.