Julia Monorchio is a Registered Massage Therapist practising at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. Visit www.nurturingnomad.ca to book services and find out more!

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself!

My name is Julia Monorchio and I’ve been practicing as a registered massage therapist (RMT) since 2007. I have postgraduate training in prenatal massage and labour support, and I’m in the process of training as a childbirth educator, so most of my clients are people who are getting ready mentally and physically for the incredible challenge that is birth, or people with new babies who are entering a new phase in their lives. I love how being an RMT allows me to provide great continuity of care, from before a person becomes pregnant, throughout her pregnancy, and after baby arrives, when I get to massage the new parent(s) and teach them how to massage baby.

I am also a single mom to a rambunctious and intelligent 6-year-old boy, and in the past I have worked extensively as a historical researcher in the field of aboriginal land claims and rights research. Traveling, textiles and food are three of my favourite things.

2. What kind of services do you offer at the OBWC?  How do you think pregnant clients would benefit from your services?

I offer a range of services, from massage therapy to labour support (birth doula work), to infant massage workshops, to private comfort measures classes, all with the goal of helping people feel comfortable and safe, helping them relax, soothing their aches and pains…

Massage in general is known to alleviate muscle tension and soreness, improve joint health and mobility, support the healing process and immune system functioning, and encourage optimal scar formation (including c-section scars). Massage can also improve mental wellness by reducing depression and anxiety and creating greater mind-body awareness.

Prenatal massage specifically offers both physical and psychological benefits to promote a healthier pregnancy, such as reducing swelling in the hands, legs and feet; decreasing muscle and ligament discomforts like leg cramps and pelvic pain; reducing low back and hip joint pain related to postural and functional changes; supporting the parent-to-be as she prepares for the marathon of birth; nurturing a highly-developed sense of body awareness and comfort in one's own skin; lowering anxiety and insomnia … the list goes on.

Clients love coming in for postnatal massage because they can bring their babies for the first few months. Postnatal or postpartum massage can go a long way towards decreasing stress and symptoms of depression, relieving muscle tension and pain without medication (great for nursing parents), and easing fatigue.

As a labour support provider (birth doula), I use my RMT skillset and enhanced knowledge of comfort measures to provide non-pharmaceutical pain and tension relief. I help labouring people stay confident and in touch with their bodies, and work to foster a safe and happy experience with my positive and open attitude. My clients love that they can get to know me during their prenatal appointments and also come in for massage throughout their pregnancies. And for those who may not be planning to have doula support at their birth but who have a partner or companion who wants to learn to 'be a doula for a day', I offer private classes in essential comfort measures that can be used to support labouring people, where students can learn and practice hands-on techniques, and learn how to maintain proper biomechanics to reduce the potential for strain while acting in a supporting role.

Every week I run a very affordable infant massage workshop here at the OBWC to coincide with the Centre’s free parenting and breastfeeding drop-in, in which I aim to help newer parents and caregivers learn about bonding with baby, helping baby stay calm and soothing baby’s gastro and teething complaints. I also do infant massage as part of a postnatal exercise class for moms and babies offered by Susanne Reinhold of Kangaroo Fitness. This class is great for moms with babes-in-arms to enjoy a healthy and fun way to meet other moms, chat, and exercise.

3.  What is unique about what you do?

When people come to me for a massage, I'm not looking at them as a one-hour commitment; I am truly invested in their long-term happiness. My practice is atypical because I get to build strong relationships with my clients as I follow them throughout their pregnancies and beyond, sometimes attending their labours as well. I often work with other professionals to make sure my clients have access to a host of services (e.g. appointments that involve massage and acupuncture from one of the NDs practicing at the OBWC, exercise classes that incorporate massage and education, etc.).  From before a person finds out she's pregnant, to helping her learn infant massage as a new parent, I'm there. I am so lucky I get to watch my clients and their babies grow, and support them through nurturing touch every step of the way.

Clients like me because I am friendly and non-judgmental, have great listening skills and an awesome sense of humour, and am endlessly patient and thorough, especially when it comes to body work. I work WITH them to help them achieve their goals; it really is a two-way street.

4.  What do you like about working out of the Wellness Centre at the OBWC?

Everything. The Wellness Centre is a beautiful, well-equipped facility (especially my cozy, lovely, multifaceted treatment room, which I use for everything from massage to prenatal visits, to a space for hosting tea with other birth professionals with similar interests).  The staff are friendly and professional, and I have access to a range of other health care providers and amenities for my clients (naturopathic doctors, pelvic floor physiotherapy, excellent exercise programming, breastfeeding support, public health nurses), as well as access to midwives which is a great opportunity for learning.  In addition, I can easily schedule birth centre tours for interested clients!

5. Anything else you'd like to add?

I am grateful for the opportunity to help women whose life circumstances impede their focus on their health and pregnancy by volunteering as a birth companion through Mothercraft Ottawa, an organisation that matches low income women, including refugees and other newcomers, with trained birth support.