Monday, January 15, 2007

Recipe for a Footbath

My client who's due at the end of the month called yesterday to say she'd been having an excruciating backache since Friday. She also wasn't sure if she was having irregular contractions. And maybe she was losing her mucus plug.

Don't you love it when the signs and symptoms could be early labor or could just be late pregnancy? She actually was just calling to check in, not to ask whether this was "it."

Nonetheless, it seemed a footbath was in order.

The footbath I do with clients has evolved through my own experiences with pedicures, from reading Blessingways, and a little improvisation. I don't advertise it as part of my prenatal package. Rather, I keep it as something to offer mothers who are grumpily past their due date, feeling generally out of sorts, or having anxiety of any sort.

Supplies: very large bowl (I use a salad bowl); marbles; sunflower oil, table salt, fresh flower petals or dried rose buds or lavender flowers; essential oils in assorted scents (I have jasmine, lavender and peppermint); corn meal; 1 bath towel; 2 hand towels

1. Position the mother comfortably in a chair or on the couch. She should be able to relax completely with her head and back fully supported and her feet on the floor in front of her. Play relaxing music of her choice or yours.

2. Place the large towel on the floor under her feet. Then fill the bowl 2/3 full with water. Add marbles and flower petals. Ask the mother if she wants a scent added and put in a few drops of whatever oil she chooses.

3. Have the mother soak her feet for 5-10 minutes. Encourage her to roll them over the marbles.

4. Using a hand towel, dry one foot and apply oil. Shake about 1/4 teaspoon salt onto your palm and gently, slowly, rub it onto the woman's foot. Your feet are amazingly sensitive. Table salt will feel the size of rock salt. This can be uncomfortable if the woman has sensitive feet so check in with her and proceed gently in any case.

Put the foot back in the bowl and rinse any stray salt off the mother's shin, calf, etc. Repeat with other foot.

5. Dry first foot and give a foot and leg massage using either the sunflower oil or a scented massage oil. If the woman is past her due date, you can always spend some time pressing on "spleen six" to encourage contractions. If she's before her due date, take care not to press on it! And regardless of the woman's due date or health, keep leg massage light.

Repeat with other foot.

6. Explain the Native American ritual of rubbing feet with cornmeal to prepare someone for a literal or figurative journey. One at at time, take her feet from the bowl and set them on the towel. Dry with liberal amounts of corn meal. This is messy. You may also need to use one of the smaller towels to get cornmeal out from between her toes afterward!

7. Give her your own blessing for courage, strength, power, etc. on the birth journey head.

Note: for women who do not like their feet rubbed, this can also be done with hands.

I have never regretted doing a footbath. The mothers gush about how good it feels. It gives me a space in which to begin the "touch" dialogue between doula and mother. It can force busy mothers to take a little time for themselves. It honors the mother. Etc. Etc.

With lesbian couples, T$ and I have worked together, to give both mothers footbaths together. I have not yet given dads footbaths (and a few have explicitly asked "Am I next?"), mostly because of time constraints. And priorities.

Nothing against the dads, but let's be honest: I'm there for the women.



Anonymous HollyRhea said...

Dude, thanks so much. I'm copying this and putting it in my doula notebook. What a great idea for an impatient, postdates mom! (prolly keep them from asking for an induction, I'd imagine.)

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds fabulous. I did National Childbirth Classes in London and our instructor told us that a lot of the NHS midwives were also reflexology trained but I never asked for one...wish I had!

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That footbath sounds lovely. I love the idea of marbles in the bottom of the bowl!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Hey, this reminds me! Don't you owe me a footbath?


11:12 PM  

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