Barefoot and pregnant…in my massage room.
As soon as I finished massage school, I kicked off my shoes and socks and have massaged in my bare (clean) feet ever since! I just feel more comfortable barefooted: grounded, comfortable and stable. I prefer to be in bare feet at home and while squatting and deadlifting too!
What I didn’t expect was I was setting myself up for some seriously achy feet late in my pregnancy!
However, my sore, tired feet were definitely the least of my pregnancy worries while working as a Massage Therapist. I finished working at 35 weeks pregnant and now at 37 weeks I am nesting, resting, enjoying working out and being outdoors before baby arrives.
Many of my amazing colleagues and friends gave me fantastic advice on how to survive pregnancy while working as a self-employed RMT. It’s hard to know how you will feel while pregnant, but I thought I would share some of this wisdom and some personal experience of my own.
It is important to note that every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. So what worked, or didn’t work for me may not be relatable to you! The number one rule of being pregnant: Listen to your body!
How to Thrive During Pregnancy
Before pregnancy – There are a few things I suggest are important to consider before becoming pregnant.
- Maternity leave – To pay into Employment Insurance (EI) or not, that is the question as a self-employed therapist! This is an extremely personal decision and I think it’s important for each person to do their own research and discuss with their partner. (Government of Canada Employment Insurance information). It is important to know that in Canada once you start paying into EI, you must continue to do so for the remainder of your self-employed career.
In my life, it was a better and simpler decision to work hard at saving money to allow myself a few months of maternity leave and have my partner, Shaun, take parental leave which he is entitled to through his work. What an amazing opportunity for him to bond and spend time with our son or daughter!
My flexible plan is to go back to work two half days a week after being off work for five months. This will obviously depend on how my family is doing and if, mentally and physically, I feel ready!
- Mental Preparation – Honestly, I have struggled being pregnant. While I’m so grateful and excited for Shaun and I to be having a baby soon, I have struggled with the lifestyle change more than I expected. Growing another human is HARD!! Much harder than I expected. I do wish I had mentally prepared myself a bit more for the fact that I might have to slow down more than some women have to, that I might feel nauseous every day, that I may not sleep well and that I needed to gain more weight than I thought I would. Again everyone is different, but I do think it is important to note that some of us will find it a big change from what life is normally like.
- Get strong – I cannot believe how good my body has felt during pregnancy! I have had almost zero complaints about aches and pains during and outside of work. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I actually think it has a great deal to do with the fact that I was/am fit and strong. Strength training is a huge passion of mine, and the benefits have clearly served me well during pregnancy. Being able to lunge, squat and press helped me stay strong at work. Having strong posterior muscles (glutes, erectors, rhomboids, etc) have helped me to stay balanced with all the extra weight that I have gained on the front of my body. Having a strong core also makes it easier to support yourself while leaning over and onto a massage table.
Oh the hormones, nausea and exhaustion! Luckily, not every woman experiences a terrible first trimester and I hope you are one of them! Unfortunately, I was not so lucky. Here are some tips on making it through!
- Scheduling – are you able to be flexible with your schedule? They call it morning sickness, but many women experience it in the morning, the afternoon or the evening or in my case all dang day! If you are able to schedule your clients during the times that you feel the best, I suggest doing so.
- Eating – nausea and food aversions are a challenge for anyone. But for a massage therapist with a hard, physical job, food is necessary to keep you energetic! In my case, if I didn’t eat, I threw up. My strategy became to eat a few bites of food after each client. This seemed to keep my nausea controllable and my energy high. Find things that are appealing to you and snack on them all day. Most recommended were high protein foods that would keep me feeling fuller longer and blood sugars stable.
- Planning – soon you will be telling everyone that you are pregnant! So exciting! So this is a good time to think about how long you would like to work. Your clients will want to know so they can take full advantage of you while they can!
I hear most women start feeling really good during their second semester: a lot more energy and a decrease in morning sickness. Time to take advantage!
- Scheduling – If you’re feeling good and are trying to save money for maternity leave, I suggest trying to work as much as you’re comfortable, while not overdoing it. Likely, you will want to drop your hours down during your third trimester.
- Eat healthy and Eat often – My trick was to make a large healthy meal (or normal for me before pregnancy) and divide it into two or three smaller meals. I would then eat these smaller meals throughout the day to keep my energy high. This also helped with my constant nausea. I ate like this my entire pregnancy. Remember you’re nourishing not only your body but your baby as well!
- Constant advice – be ready for opinions and unwanted advice from EVERYONE! I have to say, most of what I experienced was fantastic and useful advice! You will be flooded with people being excited for you and maybe some clients making you feel a bit guilty about going off work for a while (“can’t you just bring baby to work with you?”). Remember everything is your choice and you should do your own research into what is best for you, your body, your baby and your family.
As baby grows, so will you! This may leave you feeling heavy, large, hot, fatigued and starting to get uncomfortable. Lucky for me I have had a lot of energy during my third trimester and my arms are long and ape-like so I didn’t find massaging uncomfortable. I actually loved going to work and worked five days a week until 35 weeks! Sure, I decreased my hours a bit but I was still doing four to five 60 minute massages a day. Working helped keep my mind off of being nauseous and my nervousness of labour and delivery.
- Grow some thick skin – People will tell you anything and everything while you’re pregnant. I had comments on my body: “You need to get a handle on your weight gain” and “I hope you’re still exercising.” A lot of comparison with other women: “Oh my sister was way sicker than you” or “my friend was still running until 37 weeks.” The horror stories of birth: “36 hours of labour and 4 hours of pushing and she still had to have a caesarian section.” And the tough love: “It’s not about you anymore.” My normally overly sensitive self was left feeling down and defeated after some comments. While some things can be hard to hear, at some point, you have to just let it all go and know you’re doing your best.
- Put your feet up – One of the best pieces of advice was someone telling me to book a significant break in my day to put my feet up. I found in the last month of working I needed to sit down and put my achy (and still bare!) feet up for least 20 minutes. It’s also a great time to eat and cool down (baby makes your body feel like a furnace!). Sometimes longer breaks are good for fresh air or having a quick nap if needed.
- Listen to your body – This has to be the best but also a challenging thing to do. Some women will feel amazing their entire pregnancy and will work a lot more and longer than I did! Some women will be a lot more active than you and I are. And some will need to be on bedrest or stress leave. Everyone is different, so do what is best for YOU!
Other Things To Consider
- Stay active – If you were into some activity before pregnancy, try to continue to do some form of it during. You have a physical job and you need to keep up your strength and endurance for it! You are about also about to do the most challenging workout of your life when labour begins! I think it’s very important to be fit and strong to push out a baby, recover well after a vaginal or caesarian birth and take care of your new baby and yourself. At 37 weeks pregnant, I still strength train 2-3 days a week. I crave fresh air and so I walk most days. I swim and oh man, does it feel good! Do what you enjoy, but again listen to your body.
- Electric table – I was so lucky to be able to work with an electric table. The further my pregnancy went along, the higher I needed to set my table. If you have access to one, use it.
- Your memory might suck! – There were times where I questioned whether I had massaged the other side of the body already, where I couldn’t remember the name of an easily identified muscle and had no clue the name of the person on my massage table. It is and was such a weird feeling! One trick I did use with new clients was to say their name several times within the first few minutes of meeting them. It seemed to help solidify their name to my memory during the massage!
- Be Proud – You are growing another human and that takes a lot of work, physically, mentally and emotionally! My favourite piece of advice came from my good friend and fellow massage therapist, “Be gentle with yourself. You and your body are doing amazing things and you should be proud!”