In this article, Jackie Gorman explains the Jamu tradition and the Fourth Trimester. She outlines what they are, why they are important and how she came to love supporting women through them.
We mothers spend, on average, nine months carrying our babies and preparing diligently for their imminent birth. We nest, we buy things, we deck out the nursery. During pregnancy, we take extra special care of ourselves. Maybe we are more careful to ensure our diet is nutritious, we take supplements, and if we are lucky we receive a prenatal massage and do some yoga or pilates. With birth drawing nearer we might consider birth preferences, spend time meditating and practising our breathing.
Once the moment arrives, it is common for mothers to realise that they underestimated just how fundamentally life changes when we become parents. Also often underestimated are the unexpectedly deep and lasting effects that the experience of pregnancy and birth can have on us physically, emotionally and mentally. Add into the mix the hormonal changes that accompany us through this transition to motherhood and it can easily become overwhelming.
My Jamu Story
During the five years that I lived in Singapore my son, Lachlan was born and I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful friend at antenatal classes. Her name is Hana and she has Malay/Singaporean heritage. We immediately connected and I enjoyed a few prenatal massages with her during which I became interested in the Jamu ritual of care. After Lachlan was born I experienced it first hand.
Although we did not participate in the complete confinement the two or three-week program of care and highly warming nutritious foods turned out to be a fantastic decision. I benefited greatly from the resting and healing and it planted a seed that never went away and eventually grew into my current business, Nurture by Touch.
What is Jamu?
Jamu is an ancient ritual that dates back centuries within the Malay, Indonesian, Chinese and Singaporean cultures – all with their own culture-specific variations. It is an all-encompassing term that refers to several traditional postnatal healing rituals and processes including massage; healing herbs applied to the abdominal area; binding and wrapping of the abdominal area, and specialised lactation teas.
Jamu is the postnatal nurturing aspect of the confinement period that mothers in our Asian cultures may experience. It also involves very specific cooking, lying in and resting, restricting visitors, not leaving the home, bathing and showering do’s and don’ts, placenta preservation and nutrition, family help in the house with cooking and cleaning, family support in helping the mother to breastfeed and bond with her new baby and more.
The Fourth Trimester
For our Western cultures, Jamu is part of what is commonly called the Fourth Trimester. It is also sometimes aptly named ‘The Golden Month’ of between 30 and 40 days following birth. It is a time in which we may allow for a vast amount of healing and incorporation to occur. We have not only birthed a baby, but we have birthed ourselves as a woman and as a mother. It is a right of passage to slow down, to heal, to bond, to sleep, to not rush outdoors or receive too many visitors (other than your immediate supports), to settle into breastfeeding and to eat well. In some cultures this is traditional, in our Australian / Western culture, it is surprisingly rare.
Not a minute goes by that I don’t love this work. It’s a privilege and I have found where I want to be. I passionately believe in this care and service. I have returned to Singapore again for more training and this month I head to Indonesia to the Jamu College for additional postpartum care training.
Working as a Certified Jamu Practitioner I am honoured to be able to spend two to three weeks with mothers following their births in the sanctuary of their homes. I massage their bodies with a very specific Jamu technique, bind and wrap the abdominal area and prepare and apply herbs to the abdomen to support the healing process and any post-birth symptoms that may be experienced. At the end of the treatment, while mothers are resting, I prepare specific teas to help support lactation and breastfeeding. I also work in the ‘space’ of maternal anxiety and post-natal depression in which we address and talk about what mothers may be going through.
For the Dads
In the past four months, I have received a handful of calls from dads asking me about my work. Men also go through a transition. They become dads and they see their partner become a mother and the effects this can have on her can also impact our beautiful men. ‘Post Daddy Blues’ is a book I’m currently reading.
In the conversation with these dads, their train of thought in reaching out was always the same. How can we help her? How can we ‘fix’ this? How can we help her restore? How can we support her? To the fathers I say, you can help her by taking her down this fourth-trimester path of healing and restoring.
Our babies are so well taken care of once they enter this world of ours. It’s now time, beautiful woman and mother, to take a look at yourself too, to restore and heal within the fourth trimester of care.
Jackie Gorman is a Certified Jamu Practitioner in Postnatal Binding, Wrapping and Jamu Massage. She is uniquely qualified to nurture mothers at home for two to three weeks following birth. As part of her business, Nurture by Touch, she also offers support for infants with reflux, colic and wind/constipation utilising her skills as a qualified Paediatric Infant Massage Instructor & Consultant. She also helps support mothers through maternal anxiety and postnatal depression following birth. Find her on Instagram, Facebook or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.