A Helpful Question

There are short exchanges and small remarks that can leave you feeling a little silly. The following exchange did just that and occurred at the beginning of our antenatal class:

“Do you both believe your/partners body is capable of making and growing a baby?”

Without hesitation we both answered “Yes” just as we think most people would.

It was then remarked:

“Then why would you think that a body that is capable of such a feat, would not be perfectly capable of giving birth to that same baby!”

It illustrated how irrational some of our fears really were. In that one little exchange a confidence and calmness was instilled, that stayed with us throughout. When we were worried or nervous for no apparent reason one of us would ask the other that question and found it comforting.

When you are feeling worried or anxious about your impending birth try asking yourself that same question and hopefully it will help to dispel those irrational fears many of us have.

-J

Your Baby Can Talk!

Okay, not talk, communicate, just not in the conventional sense. The early noises that generally pre-curse a cry can be differentiated and do mean different things. Then there’s the body language, some obvious and some individual to the child.

Let’s start with the cries:

Priscilla Dunstan teaches that babies make sound reflexes. Much like sneezing and hiccuping that have recognisable patterns (when sound is added to the reflex), so too do babies cries.  She outlines 5 of these sounds in ‘Dunstan’s Baby Language‘. We found this to be extremely helpful, but not fool-proof, as all babies vary in their annunciating. The five sounds she outlines are: 

NEH – Hungry
EH – Upper Wind
HEH – Discomfort
OWH – Tired
EAIRH – Lower Wind

Not all babies will use all these sounds, according to Priscilla, some you may hear a lot, others occasionally and some never. We have heard all 5, lucky us, but some have been very rarely used or heard.

The sound for hungry is NEH, the neh coming from the suckling reflex. We did not hear this properly until our little one had his tongue tie snipped at 4 weeks, until then it was more an EH (which DBL teaches is upper wind). Once the tongue had been freed we heard it multiple times a day and used it to our full advantage. 

We have had some difficulty differentiating between our little ones EH and EAIRH sounds, most likely our bad ears (We certainly don’t have Priscilla’s photographic memory for sound). We would try to help ease lower wind pain and promptly get a large release of upper gas! We have heard these fairly regularly and only time will tell if our ears become trained to know the difference between these two. 

The discomfort sound HEH didn’t really appear to us until around 4 or 5 weeks. Maybe we missed it, maybe we kept him so comfy he had no use of it (I doubt it, but enjoy a bit of wishful thinking). We found if we weren’t paying attention it could be missed entirely or mistaken for playful sounds. They were not loud or abrupt, but more akin to rapid or heavy breathing. This developed into the typical sounding HEH as he grew and became more aware. We would hear this sound several times a week.

The tired sound of OWH (yawning reflex) first appeared at approximately 6-7 weeks. By approximately 9 weeks old we had heard this no more than a couple of times. It was very distinct and we understood it immediately and heard it more as his night-time sleeping increased and his daytime sleeping reduced.

 

Body language:

Body Language can be ambiguous and not always as straight forward as DBL’s pre-cries. Some are common and easily understood whilst others completely individual to your child. Here is a list of some examples we have found or had mentioned to us. Your baby may do some if these or none of these. Even if they do, it does not necessarily mean the same thing.

Ear Pulling or Hiccupping; May mean your baby is getting tired.

Gaze aversion; May mean your baby is tired or over-stimulated.

Pulling up legs; Can simply be a reflex action to indicate upset, not always an indication of abdominal pain.

Going red; Can mean the little one has been crying for too long or is overheated, not necessarily in pain or constipated.

Blue outline to lips; Could mean your baby has trapped wind.

Sticking tongue out, putting fist in mouth or fidgeting; Could mean your baby is hungry.

Rooting (A head-turning and sucking reflex towards a stimulus, apparent in young babies); Generally indicates hunger.

Clenched fists tightly; Can indicate hunger. Their fists become loose when sated (it’s more noticeable once grasp reflex gone somewhere around 2-6 months).

Head butting, head shaking (like saying no) and drooling; Can indicate hunger.

Wiggling down when on shoulder or throwing in direction of breast; Can also indicate hunger.

I hope these make communication with your little one easier and less frustrating.  Bare in mind your little one is as individual as you are, as are their queues and body language.

 

Good Luck!

-J

Empathy Is Key

Our approach to bringing up our child is driven by empathy and trying to understand the world from their perspective. We all too often encounter parents and parenting styles who base their decisions upon what’s best for the parents and not what’s best for the child. We feel that the child should always be at the centre of all decisions effecting them.

Sadly, in the self obsessed, insecure society we live in, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Parents clothe their children in items with slogans aimed at the parents, for the parents. We see slogans such as “I love my mummy and daddy” and can’t help but wonder if it’s the parents own insecurities being soothed or their thoughts and hopes being portrayed through their child. It’s clothing not designed for the child, but for the parents own sanctimony and often passed off or justified as being cutesy! Some practice controlled crying or ‘cry it out’, a technique that merely teaches your child to give up, give up crying, give up expending precious energy trying to get the parents attention. It merely stifles the childs external pleas for attention and exacerbates the stress it already feels. Dream feeds are used to keep the baby asleep and “sleep through”, again for the parents benefit. Much to the detriment of the child as dream feeds (including other regimented feeding schedules) merely teach the baby to eat when they’re not hungry and these patterns can be carried into later life.

Whilst we appreciate these strategies can help make things more bearable for parents of babies who are ever demanding, they come with their own set of compromises, often negative for the child. Most parents, knowing that their decisions could impart some negative outcomes upon their child, would refrain from doing so. This is the crux of the issue, many parents are unaware of the potential negative effects. We need to banish the false teachings of “Baby Whisperers” such as Gina Ford and embrace our children’s needs and respond to them with empathy, understanding their needs and acknowledging in kind.

What we’re really trying to illustrate is how much modern parenting styles are parent focused. When they should be, for the most part, child focused. We need to focus on the larger picture and the long term effects of our decisions. Putting the child at the very core and doing what’s in his or her best interests, both short and long term, should be sacrosanct.

To help us muddle our way through decisions, we very often ask ourselves “Is this decision based on our own wants and needs or our child’s?”. Sometimes we catch ourselves erring the wrong way, but the ability to be mindful, objective and open to our own selfishness helps us keep decisions focused on what’s important, the child.

– J

Hypnobirthing; “Not Hippy Bulls**t”

This is how we were first introduced to Hypnobirthing and it was the perfect thing to say to me! Completely disabling my knee jerk response to something that, to my ears and ignorant mind, sounded very hippy and new age, not at all for us.

Whilst this isn’t the typical introduction most give Hypnobirthing, it was the best and in my opinion the only way to introduce it. The name truly does no justice to the help, information and guidance that Hypnobirthing provides. To the uninitiated, the hippy and new age feel is exactly how it appears upon first look. It certainly was in my case and most people we mentioned it to in the following months. Our tactic, after a few failed attempts, was to explain the process and end with the term “Hypnobirthing”, upon which, many commented, that had we not explained it, they would have thought it just a load of “Hippy Bulls**t” or similar. We almost relished explaining the process to people, just to drop the “H Bomb” at the end and see their reaction.

We went to a baby and toddler show to find out about anything and everything, we were 3 months pregnant and oblivious, we had intended to look around and see the wares that were available and figure out what we needed, wanted and to differentiate between the two. There were lectures, as is often the case, and we sat in on all that took our fancy. The lecture that started this whole process was on BabyCalm, I had had a link to the website open on my desktop awaiting perusal and evaluation for a week or so and it had yet to be even looked at. Now someone was going to save me the time and effort and tell me all about it, brilliant!

We sat, listened and as the half hour or so passed we learnt the basic premise was that every baby was individual and BabyCalm aimed in trying to help you understand the world from their perspective. It also provided a lot of unbiased, factual information and guidance. This suited our intended outlook and we became convinced the accompanying book that was available, would be a very useful tool to have in our arsenal. We then were told there were only a few books left and they were becoming scarce elsewhere, so we quickly marched over to the stall to buy one.

How happy we were, in the months that followed, that we bought it. It gave us great peace of mind and enabled us to understand our little one and empathise far better than we thought possible. It is a book that we shall give, instead of the usual baby gifts, to all of our friends and family in the lead up to their momentous day.

At that stall is where we first heard the term Hypnobirthing and being inquisitive had to ask what it was about; expecting a fluffy, hippy and new age explanation. Our predetermined thoughts must have been radiating from our pores, as we were simply told “It’s Not Hippy Bulls**t”, which completely disabled our opinionated manner and really intrigued me! We were then told ” If you can bear with me whilst I prepare your book and receipt, take a look at this video and I’ll answer any questions after”. It was a video excerpt of a Hypnobirth from a documentary filmed for BBC Three (“Cherry has a baby” with Cherry Healy). This video showed a hypnobirth where the baby was born in an extremely relaxed manner and was so calm the baby appeared to be asleep. Until that moment we had no idea that was even possible and had assumed that birth was a somewhat loud and obnoxious process. Did we have questions after watching this? Hell yeah! How? Can we achieve something like this? Why isn’t everyone doing this? etc.

We decided at that moment, if we could achieve something even remotely resembling that birth, that it would be an amazing feat and we would do our utmost to make it possible. We decided to do a taster workshop on Hypnobirthing as it was the smallest financial commitment we could make and still experience what was to offer, as we were still uncertain about its suitability for us. Still thinking it maybe a little too “hippy” for us. Two weeks later we tootled off to the workshop.

There we learnt, in a nutshell; Hypnobirthing involves teaching the mother to relax, breath and meditate down into a type of self-hypnosis; her only job during labour, is labour. Timing surges (Hypnobirthing name for contractions, we used both), communicating with midwives and any other things that would normally divert the attention of the mother, become the responsibility of the partner. The partner becomes the intermediary and the advocate for the mother, protecting her space and providing a continuity of care that can often be lost in a modern hospital setting. We were taught the bio-mechanics of labour and the processes used in hospitals, where they can contradict each other and how we could work to sustain a calm consistent environment for the mother regardless of the setting. The more we learnt, the more we wanted to learn and the more passionate it made us.

We loved every minute and having been at there for little over 20 minutes we decided that this would be the antenatal class and birthing technique that “fitted”. It fitted with our expectations, our hopes and dreams for a calm birth and our babies introduction into this world.

From that point on we were going to be “Hypnobirthers”! How hippy and new age!

-J