I saw Jessie of Moksha Soul Massage promote her infant massage class on Facebook and new I wanted to include her in my interview series! I was so thankful she agreed!
Me: So let's jump into it- would you mind giving us an introduction about yourself!
Jessie: Sure! I'm a licensed massage therapist in the state of Maryland and I've been practicing for 16 years. I'm second generation so I've seen and grew up with the magic of body work and massage. Over the years I've had experience in a lot of different fields and populations. My specialties have come to be reproductive health- fertility, gestational pregnancy, postpartum. I also specialize in Oncology massage and I teach infant massage. I've been teaching that for 9 years and I'm so excited that I'm finally at a place where I'm focusing on these areas. I do see "regular" bodies but these are the folks I'm most passionate about strive to base my practice around.
Me: That's awesome. What a gift, especially for oncology massage, I've never heard of that but that has to be so important for people that are going through that.
Jessie: Yes, it is! And it's really amazing how many clients I've had over the years that I'm helping with fertility and prenatal work that I was seeing for oncology originally that I got to witness that sacredness of the transition to becoming parents and to see it come full circle.
Me: I'm sure it's so nice for you to have that closure for you. Ok, obviously we are focusing on the reproductive massage and the infant massage class. Since my audience and I are all on the Eastern Shore of Md the virtual class I think is so amazing! First, I wanted to ask you what brought you to specializing in those things?
Jessie: It kind of fell into my lap! The oncology part- I always had an interest in working with cancer patients who were living and thriving with cancer through the end of life. And my first student clinic client was a cancer survivor with double implants and I still remember that day and all that went and encompassed it. I went into massage school right out of college, graduated on Sunday, and started massage school on Monday. My first career path was working in a nursing home that I volunteered in. I never intended to use my bodywork for end-of-life care but that kind of fell into it. As I started working more and more into massage and doing home visits the attraction to supporting people who were pregnant just flocked me. I never wanted to work with pregnant people, I'm going to be very honest. I was terrified of it! I had no expectations to work in reproductive, oncology was where it was at for me!
The first spa I worked at while I was working at the nursing home had such a long list of gestational clients who were trying to get on the schedule and they couldn't fulfill it so they were like you have to go get this training, we don't have a choice! From there every practice I was at, the pregnant people just kept coming! It was really weird, I had a fabulous instructor, and because of the way she talked about the sacredness of carrying life within you and the sacred of connecting with a human body while they are carrying a life that attracted me because it was so similar to working with cancer patients. So I decided I was interested in doing that work but I wasn't putting it out there, it was just happening. That made me more interested in supporting my clients postpartum.
While supporting them postpartum I wasn't really seeing them back in the practice because they were afraid of not finding a sitter or didn't want to be away from their baby. We started shifting the conversation to this is your time and you need this as part of your recovery from birth and we started coming up with different ways to best support these folks. We got creative about what that looked like so people were more comfortable coming and bringing their baby with them. I was still struggling with getting my postpartum clients to come in and that's when I started teaching the infant massage classes. Then I could assess through the classes what resources do they need. From there that's when I was like this isn't about me turning over infant massage class clients into massage clients but a way to give them what they need so they can be connected so they can be truly taken care of. Otherwise, they would be waiting for that 6-week postpartum appointment and wouldn't be getting all of this. That's why I became so passionate about these infant massage classes- I could see them, in person- before the pandemic- and be able to have that direct connection while helping them build a community of support so they could have play dates, go for walks, talk about real things that postpartum folks tend to avoid. There are so many benefits of infant massage but these classes really became critical for these families. And even now while it's all virtual I am still able to get them connected to the resources they need. I could talk about this for days!
Me: That's awesome, it's more than what you're actually doing but also providing community and that's so essential because postpartum can be so isolating. It's so beautiful that you do that and you're looking at the big picture. It's like a little dose of a postpartum doula.
Jessie: Yeah! And that really comes into different forms- and it really comes down to knowing the resources in the area because I'm very particular about who I refer to.
Me: So now we can get into what infant massage is- it seems kind of self-explanatory but if you can kind of explain and talk about the benefits and why parents enjoy it?
Jessie: Infant Massage is a nice activity to do I have a lot of families who just want to have an activity to do with your baby. When I very first started I had a very good friend who had a baby so she was one of my practice families. She said that she wished she could go from birth to basketball, she wasn't sure what to do in the middle! So I went postpartum and did 3 weeks in a row. It became her daily activity and she felt productive!
There are a plethora of benefits of why to do this and it depends on your circumstances as well. We have families that are looking for something to do, we have babies who have torticollis, who are constipated, babies struggling with sleep and napping, latching, speech development, general relaxation- babies that are overstimulated easily. Then there is the bonding with the parents, the nonbirthing parent can't feel disconnected so they can have a chance to bond with the baby. If we have babies that are in the NICU it helps to integrate them to the nurturing touch, same with preemie babies. There is so much research out of the touch institute out of Florida on massage in babies.
The other benefit is with other children, even toddlers. This helps them with empowerment and an integrative part of caring for the baby. The lightbulb that goes off with these kids is so powerful when they realize they can do this! One class a mom used the bathroom and the older son who was a toddler, went up to her new baby sister and started doing the facial stroke- all on his own!
Another reason to come to the class is that I help parents and grandparents in how to be grounded, setting intentions, and asking for consent. It helps parents carry over in everything in life. I'm giving them a lot of coaching. We talked about the best time to touch the baby as well as are we going softly because they are coming down or are we going at an easygoing pace because they are alert.
Another benefit is for people who had a traumatic birth. This is a really smooth way of helping reconnect through touch- especially if the parent didn't get to have skin-to-skin right away. A great way to ease guilt they may feel for whatever reason and then reintroduce that connection. It's never too late to do this. I teach this class- between 3 weeks and up to pre-crawling. Then it's valid up to teenage years. I can speak of my dad doing massage that having a parent that could give a massage was really vital.
Me: So awesome! I was gonna ask what ages you recommended for your classes so that's good to know. I love the sibling aspect. I never thought of that. My kids are 3 years apart and I know my daughter would have loved a way to interact with the baby instead of it being like "gentle, gentle careful!" She would have been able to take control over that! Definitely going to be telling everyone about this.
Jessie: People can learn this before 3 weeks, some people want to do it right away. I've had people do it immediately postpartum and what happens is the parents get overwhelmed and that diminishes the value of why we teach the class. It's supposed to provide support and not ass to the chaos you are already experiencing.
Me: That makes sense! So how does the virtual class work?
Jessie: Because we are virtual I don't get to walk around and do pressure checks and there isn't as much side conversation. The virtual class is 3 weeks instead of the traditional 4. It's about an hour- the babies are the boss- so sometimes class does end a little early. If the baby is sleeping or eating I tell the parents "you do you" come, participate, watch. You don't have to do the hands-on. All the classes are recorded and you will get a link. I also have prerecorded classes from years ago if there's a specific topic they want to watch. They get handouts, with different topics we will go over.
Each week we go over a different body section. The first class is a lot of talking. We talk about the foundations and fundamentals then we go over the legs and the feet. I really spend a little more time and we talk about observations. What we are looking for, how to know if they are overstimulated, the length of the strokes. In the following weeks we cover the face, head, arms, hands, stomach, chest, back, gentle movement, and gas/colic routine. If we need to extend it out an extra class we can. If people miss a class they can do a private make up class, but for the most part, people are ok with the recorded class.
Me: That's great. So what's your favorite thing about what you do?
Jessie: All of it! I was just talking about this with my partner. If I was to try something else I would have no idea. I feel like the connection- whether it's between myself and my client or their relationships with fertility clients, or gestational clients with their family and baby, and postpartum and even the oncology clients- it's all about connection.
Me: I get that! Beautiful. One question I have asked everybody I have interviewed so far is what is one thing you wish every woman knew?
Jessie: Oh I got this, are you ready? Advocacy is not a nuisance it is essential.
Me: Amen! Is there anything you'd like to add?
Jessie: The classes are all up on my website, people can get gift certificates if you want! I've found grandparents love this stuff too!
Me: Awesome. Ok, so this is my fun question! If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have to have with you?
Jessie: This question is so hard because most of the things I need require electricity- like my ben and jerry's ice cream! I would need my water bottle for one, two would be maybe a knife for cutting and harvesting, hair rubber bands, bandana. Ok so that's not a full 5 but it's close enough.
Me: If people wanted to connect with you, whats the best way to do that?
Jessie: You can send me a DM on Instagram or contact me through my website.
Me: great, so bonus question! If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Jessie: I'm quirky, passionate, and enthusiastic. Does that work?
Thanks Jessie for joining me and I can't wait for everyone to know about your awesome class!
"the moment a child is born, a mother is born also."