Preach It!

No one can tell a woman what is best for her and her baby ... waterbirth, homebirth, hospital birth, doctor, midwife, Unassisted Childbirth (UC) or cesarean surgery ... it is for her and her baby to know. The best we can do is support her to access, trust, and know her own inner wisdom and communicate with the Being within her - the One whose birth it is through her womb and the man. - Janel Mirendah, Attachment/Birth trauma therapist, Filmmaker of The Other Side of the Glass.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Meet A Baby


My first born's first born was six months old the first time I met him. I was so excited. Every grandma can tell you how over the moon it is to see your baby's baby.  The holidays will be a time when many babies meet their grandma and grandpa, and aunts and uncles for the first time - and many of them all at once. It can be very overwhelming and tiring time for the baby and mother, and father.



I'm an attachment and birth therapist and I support babies in the womb, newborns, and infants and their mother and father to resolve issues of disconnect.  In time for the holidays, I'd like to share the story of how I met my own grandson and to suggest ways that you might use to meet your grand babies and others children during the holidays or anytime. The newborn baby is communicating in the womb and immediately at birth. 

My grandson happened to be six months old, but if he were six hours old he would need the very same respect for his boundaries and protection of his need: Mama. And, I would do it the very same way – except that I, as prenatal and birth psychologist, knowing what I do about the critical time of attachment development for first forty days, I would not expect to hold the newborn, even my grandchild, unless it was needed. A newborn baby will “check out” when in arms of even grandmother, and what I share will help you to hold a baby being present with the baby.

I am a craniosacral based therapist and I “work with” babies of any age and I only touch or hold babies who ask or grant me permission. EVEN the newborn baby is capable of responding as I describe here. If you try what I suggest here, with friend's babies, or even offering your baby to be held by other, and if you watch the newborn baby, you will see it: the baby's "no". A newborn baby will communicate clearly to others: “No." "Don't touch me." "Get out of my face” or space.

And, yes, there IS a special undeniable connection between grandmothers and grand babies, and grandmothers should engage with their grand babies. It is wired in us and we grandmothers are meant to serve an important role. We women just need to learn how to do it again. Grandmothers, in relationship with father, and in their absence, were always  - and we still have instinct to be - the protectors and the keepers of the sacred mama-baby bond. In the fifteen year journey of healing the disconnect with my newborn son I've learned what he and I needed is what I can give his son and mother. I have chosen to break the cycle of mama-baby disruption.

I would not want to be pregnant and have me as a mother-in-law, I more than half-joked. I suggested, and we agreed, that I would share whatever I wanted with my son and he would pass along what he thought was appropriate.  I was already so aware of the confabulation of emotions and needs of my own and how it intersected with their rights to their decisions and plans.

When my daughter-in-law and Jackson were in labor 800 miles away there was nothing to but go to bed at midnight. Later I startled awake, sneezing about six times and so loudly that I woke my daughter. I coughed and coughed. I looked at the clock as I was so accustomed to since my other son was deployed. 2:48 am. I knew my son's son was here.  

At six a.m. my son texted that the baby was born about 2:45 a.m. and everybody was good. 

Six months later I was finally going to meet my grandson. Whooohoooo!! Everything in me wanted to squeal with delight and grab him ... like Grandmothers often do , because our babies were grabbed from us.  I was upstairs when my son, his wife and new baby arrived at my daughter’s house.

My new grandson met his two aunts, two cousins, age 3 and 10, and his uncle before I came down.

 I waited a few minutes for them to all settle. I did what I do working with babies, that I've learned is a way of being present with: I managed my own nervous system. (you can see this in the Chapter 10 excerpt in my film, me with working with babies to support the mama-baby attachment).

I came downstairs and into the family room where my son was holding his son. They were about twelve feet away from me.  My son excitedly said, “Jackson!! here’s your Graannny!” I had stopped in the doorway and Jackson turned to me. He had a look of recognition, a little gasp and a smile. Then he did what babies do. He looked at his dad.  Babies seek security with eye contact with their caregiver. I lowered my eyes, looking away so that Jackson could check me out. This is what babies need. Babies are overwhelmed by adult energy and eye contact, and adult's emotional expectations.

Jackson looked back, shyly.  

I said, “Hi, Jackson.” As I looked away. I slowly moved closer looking at him briefly and looking away to allow him to see me.  Babies can not handle too much adult energy and eye contact.  At one point about six feet away his comfort level changed. He was no longer excited. His breath changed. He kept his gaze with his dad, and he “hunkered” in against his dad.  This is communication. It is so subtle, yet so obvious when one realizes it.  I stopped and I said, “Oh, I’m too close. I’m sorry.”  I stepped back. Checking in with him. Looking away.  This was only a minute or two in duration.  When Jackson’s body relaxed and he smiled, I moved closer again and he was comfortable with me. When I was a few feet away I did not touch him. I never, ever touch babies without their permission unless to keep the child from harm - even when mothers ask me to. His dad was so excited to introduce his son and mom. 

My son said, “Don’t you wanna hold him?”

And, I said, “Not yet. I want him to let me know when he wants me to, when he is comfortable.”  

My son laughed, “Oh, geez, you are so weird, Mom.” 



"Well, yeah," I laughed. We had determined that years ago. We sort of grew up together.  He was born when I was still 18.

I'm not the eighteen year-old mother he was born to 16 years before, thanks to him.  I am the evolving mom, woman, and grandmother he has helped raise and inspired.  I'm known as the Baby Whisperer, the Baby Keeper, and even Baby Lorax now. Honoring my son's son and his mama is part of me healing with my son.

I “moved my attention” from Jackson, telling him that I was doing so - because babies his age are hurt by attention that just disappears. I turned my attention onto my collective family.  That was all Jackson was ready for and I respected his needs.  We had a family brunch and during that time as I engaged with my other two grandsons, and with my family, I would catch Jackson watching me with interest. I would smile at him. Then I would look away and let him watch me,  so he was comfortable.  Yes! It is almost like flirting.


After brunch we went to my older grandson’s football game. By then it has been two or 3 hours. 

At some point during the game, I was standing by my son who was holding Jackson, and we were just chatting.  I felt Jackson’s foot and I looked down and then at his face. He showed me a teasing smile. He reached with his foot and poked at me again.  Touching us is one of the ways that babies let us know that it's ok for us to touch them. Engaging us with eye contact and vocalization is another. A newborn has the capacity to do this - will look at you and even reach to you. A newborn has the ability to say no. A newborn will look away, or checkout and appear to be sleeping. It is instinctual to seek connection with the mother. So, there is no reason for anyone who is not a primary or secondary caregiver to hold a newborn except to support and provide love and comfort. The baby can be admired in the mother's arms, and believe me, the baby is feeling and sensing and hearing your presence, so the most respectful way is to open your heart, honor the mama-baby, and speak softly, introducing yourself.
I smiled at Jackson and with much joy, but softly, said, “Oooooah, are you ready for me to hold you?"  At that moment Jackson literally leaped from his dad’s arms into mine. I almost lost my balance. As I caught him he came in for a big goobery kiss all over my face.  Then he pulled back and we looked at each other.  Gazed into each other eyes. (actual picture of this). My baby's baby. The eyes are the window to the soul.  This was our moment of deep, respectful connecting; and, it was determined by Jackson’s needs and his pacing rather my need to recapture something missed between his father/my son and me.   



It was my intention, above my excitement as a grandma, to be respectful of his boundaries and needs from our first moment, and to honor his need for his mama.  I held him for awhile ... maybe ten minutes.  I continued to follow his lead and not expect him to respond in a way to make me feel okay, or fulfilled. Adults often need babies to smile or respond to feel fulfilled: "The baby likes me if I can get baby to laugh or make eye contact," and most often the adult overwhelms and intimidates the baby, and can even feel - be - disliked by the baby. I witnessed a older man in restaurant make a huge effort to get my friend's 16 month old son to engage and respond. The boy didn't want to. After three or 4 attempts by the man, I saw this boy give the man a fake response. Immediately, the man turned his attention and left. How rude!  It happens all the time. His mother knew how to support him. That is a key take away here. How to protect your child from anyone and how to repair it when people don't know how to be with a baby.

When an adult does this or says to child, "Gimme me a hug", this is a huge signal that the adult is expecting the child to take care of their emotional need. If they demand it or expect the mother or father to force it, they are very wrong.  When the adult says that, or feels hurt that a child doesn't want to be held or near them, the ADULT needs to STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL ... because they are on big emotional fire.
The adult needs to STOP.  Take a pause and a breath. 

DROP into their own emotional state and own it. Settle their own nervous system.

And, ROLL. Follow the child's communication – body cues.

We need to learn to do this because babies DO want to engage with us; however, children are not meant to resolve or take care of adult's needs - to put out their emotional fire and fix what broke them. What we do, so children learn. So children do learn to interact in this boundary violating way. And we must remember that they are learning from their interactions with us.  STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL. It's a quick way to learn to be attuned to the other person, newborn to elder.

Because I intended to be attuned to Jackson and I wanted to support him to feel secure, I felt him become uncomfortable after ten minutes. TEN MINUTES!? In six months!? I am the Grandmother, after all!! SO WHAT!?  I'm the adult. He is the baby.  HE NEEDS his mama. He'd had enough time away from his mama.  Had enough of me. Seriously, folks, when you just have to hold that baby, believe me, it's very unlikely that the baby wants you and you are on emotional fire.  Nature programmed us to want mama. I felt/saw my daughter-in-law's unease too and her wanting him. I felt/saw he wanted to nurse and I said to her, “He is becoming uneasy and wants you. I think he wants to eat.” (what his dad calls breast feeding! and I said it to validate her.) She said she was about to say that he wanted to eat.  She was so relieved - she didn't want to have to fight her instincts for her child vs her mother-in-law's on-fire emotional needs.



Many people in the generation who are grandparents now were not breastfeed and did not breastfed their children. Women were taught to feed baby every four hours, to let baby cry it out, and that it was better for baby to be in institutionalized care of others so she could focus on financial equality. THIS, my friend, is a source of FIRE for everyone, especially grandmas. 

So many times grandparents feel this "constant breastfeeding" is an “excuse” by their daughter or daughter-in-law to “not let them hold the baby.”  Sometimes it may be,  that a mother does not want even her family member to hold the baby. But the truth is that babies need to nurse on demand, frequently. The truth is - eons of doing it and now research confirming it - that mama is "home base" and where babies feel safe. This is especially true in gatherings.  They feel safe because the mother's body - her heart and nervous system - are still assisting baby to self-regulate and to adjust to the world.
The truth is that babies need their mothers, and nature has provided for her to provide that.  This new (but old) way of caregiving is not thee way most grandparents learned and believe is "normal."

Forty years of science has confirmed what we know: Babies are programmed by nature to attach to a primary caretaker. They are meant to be exclusively in their mother’s arms through the first nine to 12 months of age. This is now known to be the “last trimester” where important brain development around secure attachment need to happen. 
 
Babies really do not want or need to be held by anyone but people who will be primary and secondary caregivers. Grandmothers were meant to be secondary caregivers, so the engagement of the grandmother early on, in a way that promotes and secure mama-baby attachment is vital.

If you are meeting a new grandchild, a new niece or nephew, please try the process I shared here to meet your new family member. ANYTIME you are with another person's baby, child or even teen, STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL.  This is critically important for the newborn and mother relationship; and, your support now will pay off in big ways later if are you in baby's inner circle.  In the long run, if you use the process and you respect the baby's boundaries, if you regulate your own adult emotions, and if you respect the energy of eye contact, then the relationship you foster with your baby family member will be one of great trust of you. When it is time for the child to expand his or her circle, you will be the secure and trusted ring around him or her.  You will be a  safe person in their world.  Nothing could be more important.


Three years after Jackson was born his sister joined us. Elise was also about six months old when we met. Her mama lead the way in introducing us, in part based on the experience with Jackson and in part because she is so awesome. She said, “I know you want to let her come to you.”

Several hours after we met.
We met over the huge ottoman.




Update, 1-9-2014.

I've lived 1000 miles away until a few months ago, since I wrote this in November. I have seen Jackson and Elise on Thanksgiving and Christmas and a couple of times a month.


Last week when Elise knew I was coming, she did a "Graaaannnny is coooomiiinnng" dance. Upon my arrival, she did an adorable dance around the room. Even though my heart may be popping, I still wait until she comes to me. I don't grab her.  Maybe your grandchild or niece comes running to you. Awesome. The point is for you the adult to moderate yourself, in relationship to the child and respond to the child's communication to you.  Child communication is often behavioral, non-verbal. When they do begin to speak we need to honor them.

While I was there last week I sat by Elise as she was watching a video on a Kindle. She was not eating the blueberries in a bowl between us. I asked, "May I have a blueberry?" She looked at me, then the berries, and then eye to eye again. She said firmly, "NO." I smiled and said, "Ok." She went back to her video. Yes, she IS almost two!!  It thrills me to honor her "no" and her boundaries, and "let her" have "the power."
It saddens me that there was a time, with my own children, and I see it all the time, that adults, in this situation, will feel threatened or upset, and then tease making a game of seeing the child's responses of being upset. Laugh at their response to be teased and their no overridden:  "Ooooh, I'm gonna take one!" or with pouty face, "Why can't I have one? Don't you wanna share with me?" "Grandma can't have one of your berries? You are so mean" while enjoying seeing the children's painful reactions. You are teaching the child passive-aggressive behavior. It's actually teaching bullying. Or the adult will chastise the child, making child feel guilty, or force the child to share. Or guilt their adult children to make the child comply.

Please, please do not do this. You are on emotional fire when you do. Your own childhood is the fuel source. Stop-Drop-and-Roll. REGULATE YOURSELF, and remember that your goal and purpose as grandmother or friend or stranger is to support, nurture, and protect a young child who is learning from you. Follow the baby or child's cues.  I call this "being present with" and it is a way of being with present with anyone of any age or relationship.

We must, especially as mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and others, think about how WE wanted and needed to be treated as a baby, toddler, and child or teen. If you can't, then just think about how you want to be treated today. 

That is what a baby and child wants and needs; not how we were treated.
 
Click on pic to enlarge
 Recently, a colleague/friend in child abuse/CPS activism posted this blog on her FB with this status:

"My DEAR friend ("The Babykeeper") has such important things to say about meeting the new baby. I have kept this in my heart & mind since she first clued me in. I cannot count the number of times a parent has thrust a baby into my (or others) arms when they clearly weren't ready. This just happened at a park. I asked the baby's permission and waited to receive it - everyone thought I was weird; but when the strangers baby was ready for me, we had the most amazing interaction. I am a HUGE BELIEVER in respecting the baby."

Nicole: Thank you for all you do for our voiceless little beings L Janel! You are changing the world!

L Janel:  With your help! How have you noticed your interactions with child and adults since seeing the sentience of babies and honoring their only need - to be near mama?

Nicole:  I have changed beyond measure because of you! In the past, I'd be the first to scoop that baby (love) right up. Not any more. Having their permission is SOOOO worth the wait. Another day at the park had me feeling so sad and protective. There's a mom (who you have heard me talk about) that takes anyone's baby right out of their arms if they don't know how to say no. She just did it a few days ago, and the little guy clearly didn't want to be with her - his body language was CLEAR! There really wasn't much I could do -- except, get close enough and talk to him, "oh little guy, you want to be with mommy, I hear you. I'm sorry no one is listening to you! I am, and I'm sorry." He always catches my eye and gives me the sweetest little look. He (and several other babies) have the same reactions to me vs the baby-mojo-stealer. She is so clueless AND selfish, I'm hoping she will eventually pick up on the message I'm trying to convey. You know I am outspoken, but sometimes, I know saying something so direct will make things worse so I'm trying to set an example. At least the babies feel my respect for them; I hope it's enough to help.

L Janel: It's ok to speak on behalf of the baby -- and talk to her about it. When we realize it is for the baby and the mother would want to know ....  And you nailed it .. right on about how to talk to baby.

Nicole:  Janel, here is an interesting part of one of the baby interactions I wanted to share: we were at a park in Santa Cruz and I was sitting next to and having a lovely chat with the baby girl's mom (as our boys played). The mom did offer to let me hold the baby, and I asked the baby if I could hold her and her body language was clear, "NO!" I didn't push it, and i did not take it personally. I am a stranger, she wanted to stay comfy in mommy's arms. She was only 4 months old. About 30 minutes of sitting and chatting and also acknowledging baby calmly, her mom tried putting her in my arms and I said, "i don't think she wants to, it's ok, let's respect her wishes". Her big brother, Cole's age (5) came over, and took the baby into HIS arms and we both spoke lovingly to her. Her entire demeanor changed, and her "big" brother looked at me and said, "she's ready now, do you want to hold her now?" It was amazingly intuitive of this little boy. I was so impressed with him. He handed me the little baby girl, and she relaxed immediately in my arms. It was a beautiful moment for all. Ok, i will admit, when they handed me the baby bottle to feed her i had an incredible urge to want to nurse her LMAO!!! I haven't fed a bottle to a baby in i-don't-know-when and it was strange. But we figured it out. She cuddled and snuggled more and more INTO me and fell asleep. YOU would have been proud.

Janel: I am so  proud ... you know it ... oh my gosh.. you are so amazing. Such an amazing story all around with big brother. My heart is so full ..

And once you start seeing this a whole new world opens up and you see that these souls are so there.

7 comments:

hinckleyyummymummy said...

a lovely article that I can really relate to.
I took part in a project called babywatching with my 1month old until he was almost a year to help with attachment in children.
They were never allowed to touch him, but on the last session they all wanted to say a 'proper goodbye' which to them meant being able to hug and cuddle him. So we had a different session.
They were still not allowed to do anything to him, but just sat on the floor and we waited, he moved from me and back to me various times, but by the end of the session all children (around 30) and had cuddles, kisses and been climbed all over. they thought it was wonderful and Tim was completely relaxed with the whole process.
It really does work

Tiffany Jones said...

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Your article filled me with hope.

Nidhi Jain said...

This is the most amazing article on interaction with Babies. My four year daughter was so scared to see strangers as a Baby that we almost stopped meeting friends. At times, because other babies were so chilled out and mingled easily, we thought it was her extreme reaction. At times we would try to get her going to our friends. But then of course, she never did that and till now, at four, she doesn;t mingle too easily. Although thats changing now due to her schooling. Reading your article I felt I was so horrible to have thought of my baby as non-mingling...while the reality is that they do it as their own ease n pace! Of course there are many more things that I could not go so correct with, as it was first time for me too.... but yes, we as adults have no excuse, whatsoever. Also, I think what you said about the passive-aggressive behavior is quite right...we forget that by saying, 'Oh, I'm having, but you're not' kind of things, we do arouse a passive negative feeling... may be that shows up when they grow up.
All in all, am really happy to have come across your article.... Thank you so much for letting us know how to handle babies....I simply adore them so so much ....but I'll be careful the next time and also take great care with my future next one! :)

Nidhi Jain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janel Baby Keeper said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with your little one. It speaks to how different we all really are from the beginning. And about her insistence on communicating her needs and preference. Makes me wonder how many of those babies you felt to compare your daughter to are actually babies who had to adjust and for whom there will be consequences if their needs ignored and boundaries violated. What we are taught is "normal" in our society is not.

You also remind me of the power of healing. All is not lost when we learn what we didn't know. At any time... if you were sixty and your daughter was 40 when you read this and felt the, "Oh, my gosh, didn't know" and you feel it in your own body, and you feel the I am sorry,, you have begun to heal it. Your baby feels it. We are that connected.

A Grandma or aunt ..whoever.. who has overstepped babies boundaries reading this who gets it... feels it and in their heart acknowledges it and says I am sorry will shift their relationship.

Janel Baby Keeper said...

Thank you for taking time to let me know. That touches me deeply. Blessed be.

Janel Baby Keeper said...

That sounds like an amazing program. Thank you for sharing that info with me and others.

Buy It!

Part One: The Other Side of the Glass: a Birth Film for and About Men officially released in digital download format on June 2, 2013. Go to www.TheOtherSideoftheGlass.com to purchase a digital download.

Men have been marginalized in birth for a long time. The old joke is that a man was sent off to boil water to keep him busy. I believe they were making the environment safe. Birth moved to hospitals and for forty years women were separated from their partners who was left to wait in smoke filled waiting room. Finally, he would see his baby from "the other side of the glass." Now a man can go in the birthing room and even get to hold his partner's hand during surgery. But they are still marginalized and powerless, according to the fathers I interviewed around the country.

Historically, birth has been defined by the medical establishment. The midwifery and natural birth movement now advocate for need "to educate and prepare men to protect their wife and baby" in medical environment. Seems logical ... if we process with the same illogic that got us here.

Through the voices of men - and doctors and midwives - men share heart-touching stories about how this is not workin' out. A man is also very likely to be disempowered and prevented from connecting with their newborn baby in the first minutes of life.

Now is the time for men to take back birth.

The film is about restoring our families, society, and world through birthing wanted, loved, protected, and nurtured males (and females, of course). It's about empowering males to support the females to birth humanity safely, lovingly, and consciously.

Donors, check your emails or email me at theothersideoftheglassfilm@gmail.com for info to download. Release on DVD is not planned at this date.

FREE online! watch Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 10 at www.vimeo.com/75767434

"Doctor's Voices" - Stuart Fischbein, MD - Part 1

Doctor's Voices - Michael Odent, MD

Human Rights Violations

Resources - Healing Birth Trauma

"The Other Side of the Glass" has the potential to open up feelings that have been denied and ignored for a very long time. How to heal the trauma of birth at any age will be addressed in the film. Meanwhile, these are pioneers in the field.

Raymond Castellino and Mary Jackson - www.BEBA.org

David Chamberlain, Ph.D. - www.BEPE.info

Judith Cohen - www.judithleecohen.com

Myrna Martin - www.MyrnaMartin.net

Karen Melton - www.HealYourEarlyImprints.com

Wendy McCord, Ph.D. - www.WendyMcCord.com

Wendy McCarty, Ph.D. - www.WondrousBeginnings.com

And, many, many more all over the world at www.BirthPsychology.com
In both relationships and life trust begets trust.
Generosity begets generosity.
Love begets love.
Be the spark, especially when it's dark.

--Note from the Universe, www.tut.com

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so children have very little time with their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world." - Mother Theresa