RAE DUKE LEARNS THE HEALING POWERS OF RESTORE AND REFORM’S LATEST POSTNATAL RETREAT IN PORTUGAL
THE PERKS OF A POSTNATAL RETREAT
From the initial grogginess of the first trimester to the complementary sleep deprivation thrown in with your new arrival, having a baby sure does take its toll on your body. If you’re lucky enough to have enjoyed a clean bill of health up until your first pregnancy, the privilege of bringing new life into the world will likely have struck you as somewhat of an assault. Yes, a much loved and longed-for one – but one that you will be keen to recoup and recover from nonetheless.
Postnatal retreats provide you with the set-apart time, and childcare, to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. (Quite the alien concept to a new Mum; ‘screw my back, the nappy needs changing / baby needs lifting’ etc.) Yet the postnatal retreats I had come across previously were all such turnoffs. They seemed to be pedaling that unhelpful goal of ‘get your body back.’ There is much wrong with these words when used collectively. Firstly, at no point have you ‘lost’ your body. Rather you have simply allowed it to fulfill one of its functions. Secondly, our bodies will never be the same post children. It’s a biological impossibility (I would imagine?), and nor should we wish to return to the body of a different lifetime ago. There is something so unprogressive and narrow-minded about this view.
I say all this to contextualize the postnatal landscape that the mighty Restore and Reform, with their postnatal holidays in the Algarve, Portugal, have stepped onto. I also want to demonstrate how they are, quite simply, the crème de la crème of the party.
An abiding memory of their postnatal holiday is hearing the comfortingly reassuring line, “don’t worry, this is not skinny bitch boot camp” on my first day. I wanted to kick start my round-up of their programme by passing on this nugget. It had the immediate effects of making me laugh, falling for the team and breathing a sigh of relief. I only hope the same may be true for you!
RESTORE AND REFORM
Lucy Nifontova and Michelle Lewis founded Restore and Reform in 2017. As a patient and physiotherapist respectively, they devised a programme to set Lucy’s recovery from spinal fusion surgery in motion. Away from Lucy’s usual London commute and desk-job in the city, a generous dose of sunshine sitting alongside regular physiotherapy, reformer Pilates with an injuries specialist and soft tissue therapy led to a life-altering transformation. Lucy started the week with very restricted mobility. By the end of the week she was able to complete hour-long Pilates sessions, physiotherapy exercises and enjoy swimming. Together, Lucy and Michelle had achieved months’ worth of treatment in just seven days. Astonishing. And so the duo set out to provide this world-class, bespoke and most crucially, enjoyable rehabilitation for others – whether recovering from surgery, injury or pregnancy and birth.
I gave birth to my daughter in April. Six months on, I was keen to press the reset button. I was lucky and came out the other side of pregnancy relatively unscathed. That said, the full MOT I was given by the wonderful Clare Pacey, a specialist women’s health physiotherapist, was the first time my mind was truly put to rest and all my questions regarding my abdominals, pelvic floor, and episiotomy scar were answered. Clare came to visit me before I flew out to Portugal. (The consultation comes as part of the postnatal retreat.) She was thorough in her taking of my obstetric history and assessment while simultaneously warm and easy to chat to. After examining my post-birth posture, alignment, and doing an internal (really no biggie, I promise), she left me with a set of recommended exercises and tips on how to hold and feed my baby, and run and stand, in the most body-friendly way. The report was sent on to the team in Portugal so we were able to get straight to work on problem areas.
Each day on the programme started with a restorative, mat-focused Pilates class and ended with a sunset stretch class on the Spa veranda. This sandwich was filled with two private sessions, alternating between some wonderful, targeted physio, soft tissue therapy – (Abigail Smith has healing hands for sure), softly strenuous reformer Pilates and baby massage tuition. I’m certain that I became more supple and an inch taller day by day.
All marble floors, dark woods, neutral tones and Zen vibes. Rooms have balconies with comfortable daybeds and bathrooms are fully stocked with Elemis products. A huge TV, high thread count linen and Nespresso machine make for a warm welcome. As do the Portuguese lemon tarts that arrive each evening with the turndown service. Anantara have created a sense of space with their European offering; you certainly know you are in Portugal (with local tiles and cork dotted around).
One of the best services the hotel offers is ‘Spice Spoons’ – a trip out to the local market with the chef to choose some seafood before returning to the kitchens for a cooking lesson with the pros. Kids 4+ can join in the fun – a mini apron is yours to keep! Gurus are on hand to book days out, games of golf or guide you through the wine cellar and boutique.
The childcare available at the hotel is exceptional, so your little one can enjoy the crèche while you plough through your book, poolside. (No need to worry; time to chill and enjoy the hotel and spa is carved nicely into your timetable.)
The full itinerary includes sensory play, naptime and personally tailored feeding sessions for babies from 4 months and toddlers. Football and dance academies take up the reigns once they’re 4. Top things to note: The soundtrack to the Greatest Showman was playing during my visit and the handful of kids there were creating something crafty while singing along word-perfect. Paintbrushes, play dough, bubbles and mini kitchens were in abundance. The staff I met were fun and attentive, adhering to parents’ nap and play routines and later ordering food from the kids’ menus, or choosing specific vegetables to be whizzed up into purees. Bottle sterilizers and warmers were on tap and they happily text breastfeeding Mums when babies are hungry and need a visit! The same team is on hand for evening babysitting, so your family can get to know them over the course of the holiday – either coming to your room if the kids are asleep or taking them out for dinner and a stroll. Dreamy.
I will forever remember this weekend as the moment rehab first appealed to me. From a clinical perspective, it is the most efficient way to get back on track. The team understands your issues and goals and monitors them session-by-session, day-by-day. They’re tracking your progress and communicating with one another so you can lap up the holiday vibes and not give the other stuff a second thought in between treatments. I left refreshed, restored and reformed (!), having met some lovely, talented people, and feeling equipped and empowered with know-how regarding my piriformous muscle and other bits that have taken a pre and postnatal bashing.
The programs run on set dates at Anantara Vilamoura hotel with a UK based holiday set to launch. The perfect week to focus on you, bond with your baby (hello, baby massage classes) and enjoy time with your partner after joining the new parent club.
£1,900 one adult, one programme
£2,025 two adults, one programme
£2,600 two adults, two programmes
The price includes accommodation in a deluxe garden view room, breakfast and all the treatments on the programme.