My Massages

I love massages. I’m kind of a glutton for them, actually. I used to go to a small Chinese herbal medicine shop that did massages in the back room. As sketchy as it sounds, it was, but they did give good massages for cheap, as long as you didn’t mind missing out on the luxuries of a spa. When I moved out of the city, I gave up my massages for a bit, but two years ago I found myself with a gift card to Massage Envy. After a massage, I signed up for a membership, enjoying a monthly massage for just under $50. Hard to beat. The only down side was finding the right massage therapist. Each time I tried someone knew- the first had hands that were just too cold. The second didn’t apply nearly enough pressure. The third didn’t avoid certain areas like I had asked her (I don’t like my arms and legs massaged. Stick mostly to the back, lady). So when I finally found Jean, a woman who used to work in a chiropractor’s office, I was thrilled when she applied good pressure, had warm hands and followed my requests. I continued to see Jean until the day I told her that I was pregnant. Working for a corporation (Massage Envy is a chain), she wasn’t certified in prenatal massage so wasn’t allowed to see me anymore. I was heartbroken. I continued my monthly massages with Anthony, a guy who seemed skilled enough but he was no Jean. On my kind days I would chalk his too light pressure and ineffective techniques up to the prenatal aspect- he was overly cautious. I stuck with it because I needed to relax (it was a difficult pregnancy- worried that my baby would die, and all) and because I planned to see Jean postpartum.

My husband understands the joy I can get in massage- he will frequently rub my back and my neck and tolerates my monthly indulgence. For Valentine’s Day he had arranged for a massage therapist to come to the hospital to give me a massage. He was going to tell me about it on the day itself and the massage was scheduled for a few days later. Labor and childbirth interrupted that plan, but the masseuse was kind enough to make a special exception and do a postpartum one in my house a week after we were discharged. She knew the circumstances and was appropriate when I told her I might cry during it. I did.

I returned to Massage Envy the month after and got to see Jean again. I few weeks later, I received a phone call telling me she was on leave, indefinitely. No more Jean. A friend of mine who also was a regular suggested I try her massage therapist, Nick.

I warmed up to Nick; he was no Jean, but he was good enough. He remembered I didn’t like my legs or arms massaged and he had a good personality. When I first saw him, he said “I see you just had a baby?” When I nodded he said “Congratulations!” and that was all. He often tried to talk a bit during the massage- I know my friend is quite chatty with him- but I wasn’t not much of a talker, especially during those early grieving months. I was always polite back.

One time, after a particularly hard day, I had been crying in the car before I went in for my massage. I was still quite emotional and quite sniffly from the tears. He noticed my runny nose and asked if I was sick. I answered truthfully- no. “Allergies?” he went on. I do technically have allergies, so I felt like I wasn’t lying when I nodded. I had to stop in the middle of the massage a few times to blow my nose.

He remembered the next time I saw him, noting that my allergies seemed better.

The next few massages passed uneventfully. Last week, I went again, eager for him to work out some stress spots in my back. After my recent encounter with a patient, I was feeling more empowered to let people I see regularly know that my baby died. When Nick was chatty, I tried to be talkative back to him. We had talked a little about exercise because I think I strained a muscle lifting at bootcamp, and he mentioned he had gone running that morning and felt awesome afterwards. I told him that I had been struggling with running after childbirth, because of the effects of pregnancy on my pelvis.

I purposely mentioned my pregnancy to try to lure him into asking about my baby. A simple, “how old is she?” or “is she sleeping?” or any reference would have opened the door to me telling him that she died, so I wouldn’t be lying there month after month with my secret.

My efforts were not rewarded. He didn’t ask and I couldn’t bring it up out of nowhere.

So for now, he will continue to think I carry the stress and fatigue of a new mom in my back and the stress and fatigue of a newly bereaved mom will be my continued secret.


Do you have an indulgences to temporarily take you away from your grief?

Has something similar happened to you, where you wish you could blurt it out?


10 thoughts on “My Massages

  1. How would you prefer others to respond to your baby comments or tidbits?

    “Do you have any stories you’d like to share?”

    “Tell me about your baby, if you want.”

    Seriously asking here, as we never know who we might encounter based on the words one speak. It has me rethinking how I would respond to any Mom and her baby mentioning.


    • What a lovely question, Wendy- thank you for asking. I’m not sure I have a great answer, because in reality 99% of the moms who mention a tidbit about her baby will likely be talking about her live one, right? For me, any question would have done in this scenario- how old is she, would have done, so I could have admitted that she died and not felt so secretive. If someone knew that my baby died and wanted to ask, I think “what was she like?” is a good one or something more directive, like one woman asked “how much did she weigh.”
      THis is such a good question, I might write about it and poll the audience!

  2. I hope I’m not being presumptuous when I say that you love talking about Mabel. At the very least, I know that it’s hard for you when she isn’t acknowledged. What about sending a note or email ahead of time? You can tell him about her and all that amazing cuteness (don’t forget to mention her perfectly adorable feet!) and let him know how much or little you want to talk during the session? Just an unsolicited thought…

    • a lovely thought. I DO love talking about Mabel. I think part of my difficulty bringing it up to him is that he’s a guy (is that biased of me?) and from what I seem to know about him, he seems like he’s in a different stage of life- makes me worried about awkwardness. but i’ll think about it!

  3. I feel like I have a lot of practice with this, being gay – that’s another subject that can be a conversation ender, and it’s something I don’t necessarily volunteer to new people up front. You never know how someone will respond, and I vacillate between feeling responsible for giving gay people more of a presence in others’ lives and not thinking it’s relevant and any of their business. The feeling I have now is so similar, the wanting to share but not really knowing how the other person will react; the feeling responsible for ending the silence about babyloss, and thinking it’s not really relevant to the current conversation. It’s a tough one. Like you, I’m trying to find inroads to ensure that people I care about and know I will be spending significant time with know, without making a “big deal” about it. Hard.

    • a fine balance- I feel that sense of responsibility too! Now that i’m in the know of what babyloss moms go through, I want to help advocate, but there are better times and places than others. I’m learning….

  4. Perhaps some people, like the masseuse, aren’t interested in babies and so don’t pursue the hint. It can be tough when you really want to talk about them, because that helps keep them alive. I’ve had situations where I’ve wanted to talk about Hugo but dependent on the circumstances you’re not sure how they’ll respond, so I don’t. That can make me feel crappy.

    • i think that’s exactly the case- I dont think he’s in a phase of life where he’s that interested in babies. I’d love to just clue him in, to take the burden off me and let it be known

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