Echoes from Your Birth

Have you ever felt that something has greatly affected the course of your life, but you don’t know what it is? You may find an answer by learning about your birth experience.

From early childhood on, I was convinced that I was adopted, although looked exactly like my dad, with no rational basis for this view. My awareness of lifelong feelings of abandonment with a strong sense of not really belonging to my real parents eventually led me to my own field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. In my doctoral program, when asked to get my birth history, the light went on. I had a difficult birth and was separated from my mother with a six week hospital stay. This important fact was never discussed with me. There had been no opportunity to bond with my own parents or them to me, which is why we all felt like strangers to each other. No repairs were ever made which could have saved me from unnecessary imbedded anxiety.  Resolving these early issues over time gave me the gift of self compassion. Also, my nervous system relaxed for the first time in my life. The events that surrounded my birth had been completely overwhelming. I was not given the opportunity to slow down and to integrate my earliest experiences until I was an adult. The baby part of me could finally feel loved and wanted by my adult self.

Being born should be one of the greatest moments in life. If you have a traumatic beginning, full of interventions and interruptions, there may be stored emotional wounding until it can be resolved. Many of us experience a traumatic birth, which may or may not have been preventable.

My greatest joy is that now I help babies, kids and adults heal from their gestational, birth and early life traumatic imprinting. I want everybody to feel be freed of early shock and trauma that they received. This process of repair is an easy one with infants but more therapeutic remediation is required with adults. You can have the gift of a great start in life with re-patterning and choice.

February 4, 2010 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

Are You a Good Mother?

Newborn babyEvery mother asks herself, “Am I good enough?  Am I doing something that is harming my baby?”  Often, comments from relatives or friends, parenting books, or even parenting blogs, can reinforce these doubts.

Donald Winnicott was a famous British pediatrician and psychoanalyst who devoted his life to studying what is best for mom and baby. He stated that every new baby must receive “good enough mothering”. What does that phrase mean? In Winnicott’s view, each ordinary devoted mother develops a unique, loving caretaking style that needs not reflect a perfect mothering theory. There is room for daily mistakes and imperfections.  However, he emphasizes that it is important that the infant and mother  have time to become bonded to one another and  form a loving unit or “dyad” during the first early months of life, when all infants have continuous needs for care, feeding and emotional interaction.  Winnicott states that society’s important role is to nurture the earliest mother-baby bond, as the child’s dependence upon his own mother is the foundation for healthy emotional independence. The job of the father and family in these earliest months is to support the new mother with food,  love and understanding, so that she can fulfill her role of mothering  to develop the infant’s basic trust within his own family and world.

Rather than trying to be “perfect,” each mother can simply pay attention to really getting to know her baby’s needs, disposition and personality. This involves responding to baby’s nonverbal cues, figuring out the nature of his cries, and providing lots of holding, eye contact, and talking. She also needs to trust her maternal intuition and gut feelings about what is best for her own baby – and not worry about all the advice she gets from friends and family. It is normal for a new mother to temporarily withdraw from the world for the first two months to assure her baby’s protection and well-being. Winnicott called this process “maternal-preoccupation.”  It is important to care for your baby from an open heart, rather than from a fearful, worried place.

A longer version of this piece appears  in St. Louis Kids magazine.  Click My Articles to read it.

November 9, 2009 at 3:04 am Leave a comment

How to Cope with Infant Trauma

crying-newborn-baby-photoOften I hear people say that that “it is a good thing that the baby was so young” when he or she was exposed to traumatic events in the womb, infancy and early childhood as the child can’t remember or feel these incidents. This harmful view implies that the child is OK nonetheless.  Until the 1980s, the medical and psychological professions believed that babies had “infantile amnesia” prior to age three.  It was thought that babies could not feel pain from medical surgeries and were not capable of remembering, as they were in a preverbal state without a fully developed brain.  New evidence in prenatal and perinatal psychology, including research and writings by David Chamberlain, William Emerson, and the neurobiologists Alan Schore and David Siegel, have shown that prenates and young babies do have emotions, feel pain, and are capable of memory and intelligence.  Parents need to understand this topic in order to prevent, recognize, and heal early trauma.

This is an excerpt of a longer article, which you can read by clicking here.

November 1, 2009 at 3:04 am Leave a comment

Reduce Your Risk of Premature Birth

Premature BabyPremature births are rising at an alarming rate in the U.S, 36% in the past 25 years.  Being born prematurely reduces the time that the baby has to grow and develop. It is the major cause of infant death and is associated with developmental delays, mental retardation, and mental health issues.  Studies show that even a few extra days in the womb can make a huge difference in positive outcomes for the baby.

 What do women and their partners need to know? First of all, you can avoid many of the causes of prematurity, including smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, and drug and alcohol use.  Ask your doctor about microbiogical screening in early pregnancy to treat hidden infections, including of the vagina, kidneys and bladder.  If you have chronic illness such as hypertension, diabetes, or lupus, you need to monitor them carefully.  Your risk of premature birth also increases if you are African-American, under 18, or over 40.

Today, many couples use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive.  A common practice has been to implant several embryos, which often results in multiple births.  Unfortunately,   these children are at a much higher risk of premature birth.  A recent study from the March of Dimes highlights the risks of multiple pregnancies and prematurity associated with IVF.  Please read it if you’re considering fertility treatments.

October 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

Do You Know What Your Child is Feeling?

parents listening to their childMany parents today sacrifice to give advantages to their young children and teens, such as  going to the best preschool, college, extracurricular lessons or trip abroad. However, these same parents often don’t take the time to know what their children are experiencing and feeling day-to-day.  Unfortunately, time spent on day-to-day communication does not seem to be on the top of parenting priorities.  

When a child has an experience, but can’t talk about it, that experience can be meaningless for them.  The psychologist Rollo May so wisely stated: “Anxiety comes from not being able to know the world you’re in, not being able to orient yourself in your own existence”. As a teacher and therapist, I see both children and adults who lack opportunities to be heard and related to in authentic ways.  They often are suffering silently.  Reflecting back another person’s feelings is actually an easy skill to learn. All it takes is to observe, ask questions and empathize.  Is your loved one feeling sad, mad, glad or scared?  Reflect that back to them with genuine concern. Put yourself in that person’s shoes without judgment. “I see that you are feeling very mad, can you tell me more about that?” “I am sorry that you feel disappointed that your friend was mean to you at school.” These simple expressions of empathy go a long way to establish bonds of trust, safety and love.

 We all need to feel that others, especially loved ones and family members, care about us and know what is going on in our lives.  When our children experience our love directly and get that validation, they grow emotionally and develop interpersonal skills. Children and teens can’t get this on Facebook. They need old-fashioned face-to –face or heart-to heart relating. Spending time regularly with your child, before bed or at the dinner table, is essential to understanding your child, who needs you to be there for him.

October 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm 1 comment

Learning from Smart Babies

Dad-Baby AttunementInfant research, which began in the 1970’s, has been revealing for three decades that babies are much smarter than we think, beginning in womb. Moms and dads tell me all the time about the amazing capabilities of their infants — but then, they usually say that whatever their child did  must have been a random event. They don’t give their child much credit.  As parents, we need to be fully aware of who our babies are and what can teach us! Babies are themselves master teachers who are conscious and present to each moment, can compassionately pick up on our feelings and needs, and imitate others’ sounds and actions.  Babies are always learning, sensing and feeling at a very rapid rate because their open minds function without a filter. Alison Gopnik, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has written a new book, The Philosophical Baby, in which she identifies how the baby’s pure mind and heart is awakening our own spiritual qualities. She summarized her ideas in a recent article in The New York Times.

Remember, that, as a new parent, you are learning exponentially from your baby about the value of expressing love, having a sense of wonder, joy and spontaneity in daily life. When we consciously interact with our children through their play, there can be a true meeting-of-minds. Neuroscience tells us that this sharing of minds, which occurs through mutual eye contact, is the primary dynamic through which the infant brain develops. Your close eye contact with your baby builds their basic trust with another in an enriched environment. The quality of this kind of interaction also allows us as adults to feel met by another and to enjoy peak emotional moments. We can share the wonder of children’s growing abilities and appreciate the heart opening within us.

As you provide daily care to your babies, remember that they are smart and that they are teaching you every moment.

September 9, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

Getting Your Baby to Sleep

Mother's KissIt is natural for new parents to think a lot about their baby’s sleep needs, patterns and routines. All babies need to be placed on their backs for sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. Of course, every baby is different and some babies settle better than others based upon many factors. Generally, newborns do not sleep for any long period of time because their tummies are so small and they get hungry. They wake up to feed and to be soothed. With these youngest of babies, up to six months (before eating solid food), it is critical that you respond to their cries quickly.  Receiving this kind of nurture helps the baby establish both basic trust that you will meet their basic needs.  This is critical to developing a secure parent-infant bond.

Parents often get exhausted and want to take action to get the baby to sleep.  There is a lot of advice on this subject! One well-known approach, developed by pediatric sleep expert, Richard Ferber, uses a controlled crying method. Although this approach, which advocates letting the baby cry at intervals, usually works, it is controversial. There is sufficient brain research to suggest that baby’s brain is not sufficiently developed to understand why he is being left alone with no comfort, which can be emotionally traumatizing to him. I join the ranks of other sleep experts, William Sears, Pinkie Mc Kay and Elizabeth Pantley, who follow a gentler approach to getting the baby and toddler to sleep.

Here are some helpful sleep tips: 

  • Swaddle your newborn and try using a sleep sack with older babies.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine by the time your baby is six to nine months old (may vary according to your baby’s development).
  • Provide a relaxing, winding down period at least 45 minutes before bedtime.
  • Create a bedtime ritual with bath and story.
  • Give opportunities for the older infant and toddler to learn to self soothe while still awake.
  • Relax with your child by talking softly, singing lullabies and using gentle touch.

For good advice on sleep issues, read The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears.

Sweet dreams to you and your baby!

September 1, 2009 at 1:28 am 1 comment

Crawling in the News

Grady and Benji 006Did you crawl as a baby?  

In a June Scientific American article, David Tracer, an anthropologist from University of Colorado, is reported to be questioning whether crawling is necessary for normal human development. Many indigenous cultures carried their babies on their backs, perhaps for hygienic reasons. They benefitted from being close to their mother’s bodies and from having that rhythmical sway. Children from Paraguay, Indonesia and Mali are not culturally encouraged to crawl, but seem to turn out OK. 

I have baby pictures of myself spending a lot of infant time in a playpen.  According to my parents, I did not crawl.  As a child, I was not athletic and had hand-eye coordination problems.  In college, I studied the theories of Glenn Doman and Carl Delacato, who advocate the importance of motor crawling in infants and for adults who have missed this developmental step, which promotes right brain development and eye convergence. Later, I was taught how to crawl as an adult, in a movement class with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, a somatic educator who founded the school of Body-mind Centering.  I personally benefitted from motor re-patterning. Learning to alternate my left-right, arm-leg movements helped my gait become smoother and improved my balance.

As a movement educator, I have seen that crawling is developmentally important for infants and for children with learning disabilities. I have encouraged hundreds of infants to crawl with hours spent doing tummy time.  See my earlier post on this blog, entitled Born to Move.

The bottom line here may be that babies need to be physically close to their mother or father, to be carried or worn on the back, and to have the opportunities for movement exploration that crawling affords.

August 26, 2009 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Conscious Babies in Womb

embryoYes, as amazing as it sounds, babies are conscious in the womb! They are sentient beings who are recording their first experiences in utero and deeply affected by their earliest imprinting which may be positive or negative. Early traumas received can greatly impact a child and adult’s core belief’s that influence later patterns of learning, psychological well-being and health.  Babies need to know that they are wanted and loved from conception on and deeply appreciate having conscious parents who plan for them, bond with them and protect them staring in utero.

Welcoming Consciousness, by Wendy Ann McCarty, Ph.D., is a new book that presents an innovative model of infant development that includes consciousness of the prenate. I consider this book a must read for all expecting parents, parents and infant professionals! I love her beginning words, “When we recognize, acknowledge, and support the sentient being entering human form, we re-constellate our theories, assessments, intervention, parenting practices, and foundational ways of being to support wholeness from the beginning of life.”

 Dr. McCarty, formally a labor nurse, has spent the last 25 years doing pioneering clinical work with infants and their families. She developed an expanded view of fetal and infant memory and capabilities that I honor as a prenatal and perinatal psychologist.  We therapeutically assist babies to clear birthing and other traumas. They reveal amazing stories about their gestation, labor, birth and early infancy through gestures and body language!

Here are some basic ways to help an infant release and repattern prenatal pain:

  • Slow down the pace
  • Bring love and compassion to the baby about what he /she has experienced
  • Follow the baby’s bodily cues
  • Reflect back to him what is he is doing and feeling
  • Differentiate the past from the present

As a parent, you can support your baby by acknowledging his consciousness, experiences, feelings and needs.  The first step is to listen and watch.

August 12, 2009 at 1:45 am 1 comment

Becky on TV

On Wednesday, July 29, I appeared on the Great Day St. Louis television program (KMOV, Channel 4, in St. Louis) to talk about the effects of maternal stress on babies in the womb.  Watch the interview here.

August 3, 2009 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

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