Closing the Bones

A postnatal ceremony offered by Oxfordshire Midwifery Practice – Sarah Ifill, Meg Miskin and Liz Nightingale

As a group we like to offer new mothers the opportunity to feel honoured and appreciated for the work they have done during pregnancy and birth, and continue to do in nurturing and caring for their babies. We have started to offer our clients a Closing the Bones ceremony which usually takes place once their babies are about two months old.

Our Closing the Bones Ceremony came about by drawing together threads form various global traditions which seek to help the mother replenish the energy she give out during the childbearing year.

We start by asking the mother and her partner to ensure that she has time to have a lovely relaxing bath, perhaps with candles, scents she enjoys, or calming music. Her partner will care for the baby during the ceremony and bring the baby to the mother if a breastfeed is needed.

In a nice warm room, usually her bedroom, wearing just pants, we snuggle the mother under warm towels or blankets before the first part of the ceremony.

The mother is massaged gently and lovingly with essential oils (which we supply) that she has chosen. These will often be often be warming in effect. When she is lying on her tummy, moxa is then burned over the sacral area so she can feel the warmth, again gently and slowly. The use of moxa forms part of the Chinese tradition of Mother Roasting – offering back to the new mother some of the heat energy she has given out during the birth and replenishing her for her mothering work ahead. We then ask the mother to lie on her back and each of her chakras is warmed with the moxa, starting at the base chakra and rising to the crown chakra.

The last part of the ceremony is borrowed from the Mexican midwives’ traditions. A rebozo (or shawl) is used to hold the mother’s body starting at the head and moving slowly down to her feet and then rising again to her head. A midwife sits either side of the mother and each position is held firmly but gently for as long as seems right at the time. The midwives use intention, mindfulness and sometimes internal prayer whilst holding the mother in this way and Closing her Bones.

Most mothers find these processes very relaxing and calming. Some experience releases of pent up emotions they may not have expected. As midwives and birth workers, we too feel calmed and healed by offering this healing and often very quietly walk away leaving the mother asleep of certainly deeply relaxed. We just don’t want to break the spell that has been cast.

It is such a privilege to work closely with women and their families as independent midwives and birth friends. It feels right and proper for us to offer these wonderful women something in return for this privilege.

Here is how we might explain it to our clients:

Ideally you need to have had a lovely soak in a warm scented bath before we arrive.
Wrap yourself in a dressing gown with just your pants on.
Then when we come two of us are going to massage you head to foot for about 15-20 minutes. Then we Moxa your chakra points (the roasting bit!).
And finally two of us will systematically wrap you with a rebozo (a large piece of cloth) starting at your head, then at 7 points down your body to your feet, and then back up, thereby closing your bones. It works physically but also on a spiritual and energy plane as well.
We give thanks for your body’s wonderful achievement of bringing your baby Earthside and ask for closure where you have been physically and emotionally open to birth her.
We will ask for strength from all you guardians to protect and nourish your body and spirit and keep your womb safe until the time comes for another baby if that’s to be.