It's fair to say award-winning journalist, consultant and freelance beauty director Joanna McGarry knows beauty inside out. Currently studying for a degree in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, she is expecting her first child, which made her the perfect person to try out our maternity treatment.
'Filed under ‘things they don’t tell you about pregnancy’ is the surprising truth that for many women, the notion of touch – a caring touch – while growing a baby, sort of disappears. I’d become quite protective of my growing body, and – admittedly – a little unnerved by my rapidly changing shape.
So, save for the well-meaning hands I find cupped across my belly from time to time, and the warmth of my husband’s arms, I’d made myself an island, moving through the world with an invisible force-field around my body. And for the first trimester, my love for massages was, obsequiously, put on the back burner.
Now that I am 26 weeks pregnant - past the halfway mark, but still with a seemingly unending path ahead of me – the self-care benefits of body treatments can now reinstate their presence in my life. And so, to Cowshed Shoreditch to trial the Udderly Gorgeous Full Body Care treatment – 90 minutes of dedicated beautifying for expectant mothers.
My therapist, Madeleine, had a gentle demeanour, and throughout, asked if I was comfortable, and should I be uncomfortable at any point, to let her know. And comfort, really is the thing when it comes to maternity treatments. Just sitting on the sofa can involve an endless merry dance of cushion positioning and weight-shifting.
The first part involved me straddling a stool and leaning my head, chest and arms onto a pillow placed at the lower end of the massage bed. Here, Madeleine was able to access the full breadth of my back and took to tenderly dry-brushing, before applying a soft exfoliator cream and enswathing it in wet hot towels (oh, how I love these hot towels). I could virtually feel the blood rushing to the layers of my flesh it hadn’t reached for aeons. I didn’t want it to end.
I then mounted (there really is no graceful way of getting onto a massage table at 6 months pregnant) the bed which was raised, bent and draped with towels to accommodate lying on my back. There is much necessary conjecture around the safety of lying on your back versus your side during the second and third trimester, but since I was supported in a relaxed but technically seated position, I didn’t deem it in any way a concern. In fact, once my legs were raised into a V shape, it was, undoubtedly, the most comfortable position I’d found my body in, in months.
Madeleine tenderly massaged my neck, shoulders, arms, upper chest and legs, My calves – scarcely touched now (or shaved for that matter) - practically purred with relief. My feet were warmed by her hands and softly nestled in oil. Honestly, I craved a little more footwork, after all, it’s these guys that are carrying the weight of two lives right now.
Finally, a light, soothing facial, most of which I have no recollection of because, by then, I’d slipped off suspended in that place between sleep and consciousness, so that when I was roused some time later, it felt that only minutes had passed. It had been over an hour. And – for me, this such a rarity and so is testament to the power of a treatment.
That my knots tucked underneath my scapula weren’t quite kneaded out by the end of the treatment is by the by; for one, it’s not medically sound to pummel the pregnant body. Rather, it’s the therapeutic care and tenderness of touch that pressed into my soul and eased the stress, fatigue and soft-tissue tension. Research tells us that massage has untold biological benefits; by tapping into the nervous system, it stimulates the endocrine system and increases seratonin levels, the hormone responsible for calming the mind.
And it did. Those ninety minutes were a precious pocket of time in which I was simultaneously caring for myself and being cared for; a time which, come May, will likely be so fleeting as to be obsolete. And for that, it’s worth grabbing with two cupped hands.'