Honesty in Motherhood

Emma Rosen, writer, mother, singer and breastfeeding advocate. shares her views about the realities of becoming a parent and why honesty in motherhood is so important. 

emmarosen2

Hands up if you’ve heard phrases like, ‘You’ll forget it all soon enough,’ ‘At least you got a healthy baby,’ ‘You’ll miss these years – the best of your life.’ Did it make you want to kick those people in the shins for brushing you aside?

People do have a tendency to rose-tint parenthood.

The wonderful little bundle, the hours gazing at them, the fulfilment of raising this little human… These things are of course true – I’m not trying to say that parenthood is a constant thankless slog – but it’s important to remember the other side: the difficulty of growing and birthing a tiny human, the mum guilt, the ‘so tired I might die’, or the isolation. None of these things make parenthood bad – rather, they make it real. Human relationships aren’t easy, they’re complex. I’m sure every one of you could tell me the most annoying things about the person you love most or the hard things about a job you love. Everything is multi-layered.

It’s normal to want to put a positive spin on experiences; the issue is that when we sugarcoat our experiences we influence the expectation of others. If pregnancy or parenthood are set up as perfect and beautiful, when our personal experiences are different we feel cheated, or worse, responsible. That doesn’t mean we should be spreading horror stories either, we just need to be honest.

Humans communicate and learn through social stories.

If we were in hunter-gatherer communities we’d be sitting round the fire sharing tales, but we don’t do that any more. We are increasingly isolated and living in filtered online communities. The implications of this are that our personal interactions become so much more important in establishing what constitutes an ordinary experience.

I wrote my book Milk as an honest story of my pregnancies, birth and breastfeeding. It’s a complex story with cultural, social and historical context. My experience was good, bad and every shade in between. I wanted make sure my telling of it was honest in order to help other parents feel less alone or for birth workers to have more empathy. My story is my own and of course everyone’s experience is different. Whilst not everyone is going to write a book about their experiences, you will most likely be talking about them in some form. Be real – we owe each other the benefits of our shared stories.

emmarosen1

Emma Rosen loves all things breastfeeding and volunteers as a peer supporter at a local breastfeeding support group. When she’s not writing or chasing her children, Emma makes YouTube videos, stares at the sea and sings in a band.

Why is your baby crying?

Understanding and responding to your baby’s cries
Lindsey Coates and
Suzi Lister

pexels-photo-1973270

A baby who cries constantly for no apparent reason can put huge pressure on parents and family life. By acknowledging that birth is a dramatic and considerable experience for a baby as they journey from the security of the womb to the outside world it may help to consider that your baby could be expressing their birthing experience through crying and body language.

As well as times of intense physical pressure during labour, a baby may become disorientated, their body flooded by stress hormones or drugs through the umbilical cord, or deprived of oxygen as the cord gets compressed during contractions.
Babies can be deeply affected physically, emotionally and psychologically by the way they are born and this experience can be held in the cells and tissues of their bodies, a concept known as ‘body memory’.

After birth, your baby may be trying to express their ‘body memory’ through body language and crying as they try to communicate their birthing experience.

Needs Crying and Memory Crying

Crying can be for a present moment need such as being hungry, uncomfortable or tired, called ‘needs crying’, and once the need is met the crying stops.

However, constant crying for no apparent reason, called ‘memory crying’, often occurs when your baby is experiencing internal body sensations that relate to an earlier experience (body memory), such as a moment in the birth that was overwhelming. Memory crying is often associated with repetitive body movements, such as, for example, frantically pushing with the legs or swiping an area of the head or pulling an ear again and again. Babies need us to respond to the experience they are holding in their bodies.

How to support Memory Crying

It is well-documented that babies thrive on empathy. They respond to facial expressions and tones of voice. They are conscious human beings. How we are able to listen to a baby after they are born is very important, and by listening with accurate empathy babies can begin to release the tension associated with held experience/ body memory.

If you sense your baby may be memory crying here are some things you can try yourself:

  • Acknowledging that they want to tell their story and that it is ok to cry,
  • Calmly making eye contact and quietly asking what it is they want to tell us or what they want us to understand,
  • Mirroring their facial expressions or hand movements.

Craniosacral Therapy is another very gentle way of supporting you and your baby to come into relationship with body memory using light touch and sensitive listening, enabling you and your baby to begin to resolve held experience associated with birth or womb life. Craniosacral Therapy can also offer support for:

  • early infant feeding problems including colic and reflux
  • neck pain and stiffnes
  • settling the nervous systems
  • developing good sleep patterns
  • establishing and supporting breastfeeding
  • bonding

img_1476.jpg

Lindsey Coates and Suzi Lister are craniosacral therapists who work together to support babies and their families in Kent.   

References: Mathew Appleton (MA RCST UKCP) ‘ Birth trauma. A cultural blind spot’ and ideas from the late John Chitty.