Learn about communication with the unborn child
Transcript of class held on January 29, 2013 at the Santa Barbara BEBA Clinic by Mary Jackson and Ray Castellino
RAY: Mary and I were talking yesterday about what are we going to do, communicating with our prenates. I’m the father of two kids and some of my fondest memories are ear to belly, thump thumps, and I remember having this long conversation with my daughter because I was absolutely convinced she was going to be a boy and I really wanted a girl and I was really in conflict because I didn’t want to be laying any trips on her and you know she is quite a her, hula hoops and is 33 years old. If you look at pregnancy and the development of little ones from within it is know that at five months in the womb prenates are hearing. Their sense of hearing is activated and working.
We think that babies when they are born already have a listening vocabulary. They are already connecting sounds and feelings and we have seen the very little ones say and speak words. So that is one part and then there is all of this research that has come out that says that when parents talk to their babies before they know how to speak, the more they do that, and the more words that are spoken, the bigger the vocabulary that kids have. There is research that has just come out recently where they are looking at the ability of young people, teenagers, to make compound sentences. The more ideas a person can have in a sentence when they are 19 the less likely they are to have dementia or Alzheimer’s when they get old. This was just this week on NPR. Now, hm. There is the end of life, and here is the beginning of life and we are speaking to the choir here but it is really clear that these little ones within us are souls, they are beings of consciousness and sentient beings. And little ones that are here we are in conversation with you too and thank you for coming with your moms. The most important part is the quality of the connection. The sense of knowing that moms have connection with their little ones, the sense of knowing that moms, dads, partners have connection with their little ones and the sense of connection that mom, dad, partners have together and the quality of the interaction that goes on makes a huge difference for the quality of life for a prenate.
There is one major concept that comes from Jaap Van Der Wal who is a really well known embryologist and medical doctor from Holland, he is a really neat guy. He has this idea that the mother’s body is the outer body of the baby, make sense? Little ones, you are having the experience of yourself within your mother and we think that probably little ones your consciousness is not so differentiated as ours is so we think that the little one’s experience is the mother’s experience plus her experience with her environment. That is pretty profound. The more relaxed you guys can be. The other major thing is going back to Grant Dickly-Reed, who wrote in the late 1940s and 50s, he was the first OBGYN that made the mother more important than the obstetrician and he said if you support the mother you support the baby. If you take that and combine it with what Van Der Wal was talking about with the mother’s body being the outer body of the baby, you support the mother you support the baby and the quality of the communication that you have.
MARY: It is such an interesting topic because culture plays such a big part in how we see babies, how we see prenates and how we relate to them and at what point in their lives do we begin relating to the babies. In some cultures, like in India, they considered the time of conception as the time when the mother and father first think of the child and acknowledge that they want to conceive, that is the baby’s conception and they call to the soul of the baby and the mother goes to the woods and listens for the song from the child to come to her and when it comes she goes and teaches it to her partner and the midwife. Then when the baby is born they sing the song to the baby and then teach it to the immediate family so they can sing it to the baby especially when the child is sick or dying and they teach it to the community so they can all sing to the soul of the baby. That is a very different concept than in America.
When do we consider a child to be relatable? I think of my own family, I was probably six before they really considered I had something of value to say, before they gave me space or time and before that the child is to be seen and not heard or.
When babies are growing inside of our bellies, when is it that the soul enters? When does consciousness begin? Is there consciousness before the form of the human being or is it the form is developing and consciousness enters and they grow together or does the body form and then consciousness comes in? What comes first, the chicken or the egg?
I know when I was pregnant with my first child I related to him so much just in a connecting way just from inside of myself to inside of him and I would think conversations to him and I would really feel like I received something back from him, in a movement, or a feeling or a dream. I would want to know an answer from him and I would dream he was answering me in my dream. There were different ways that we related. I felt so happy that I finally got to have a baby. I wanted one since I was six years old, since they considered I had something to say and finally when he came I was just so jazzed and I was bubbling over with this love, I would put my hand on my belly and he would push back in a way that wasn’t just a kick and a pull back, it was strong enough to let me know he was there. It was like ah, yes, connecting. I think there are early times when our babies are talking and communicating with us.
For a long time, babies were considered to not be conscious beings. We believed that they didn’t know or feel and they didn’t remember so it didn’t matter what happened in pregnancy or how they were born. Birth became more technical and physiological. The focus was on the numbers? What are the Apgar scores, how long did the baby live and how long until the mother and baby left the hospital, was it cost effective? Rather than, how did baby react to birth and how soon did baby and mom get to connect in a new relationship once the baby is out of the womb, how long before the baby breast fed, how long did the nursing relationship continue and what was it that supported or distracted from that, how was that baby’s health when they became adults and how did this early time affect their health? They weren’t looking at things like the spiritual emotional well being of the family and the baby and the mom.
We are beginning to catch on in our culture. When Ray was talking about how even while inside the womb the baby is having the experience of whatever it is that the Mother is going through and we are actually starting to see the moms talk to their babies. When it is the first time that the Mother talks to the baby it can feel really uncomfortable or embarrassing to her. I teach prenatal classes sometimes and I’ll have the parents talk to their babies and there is a lot of giggling that goes on because it isn’t something that is commonly seen in our culture. When can we connect with our babies and how can we do that? In Africa they have actual ceremonies where people get down on their knees and talk to the mother’s baby through her belly, to welcome the child into the community. They have done ceremonies in America where they welcome the child into the community, and to the mother’s body, and into this life. I think we have something to learn from all of them.
RAY: I had about forty thoughts while you were talking! There is a researcher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, head of the women’s studies, I had lunch with him several years ago when I was out there. This guy is really neat, he was doing two-hour ultra sound studies with moms, which I don’t advise, but the stuff they learned watching babies in the womb! His statement was that everything a baby does right after they are born they have to practice in the womb beforehand. They suck their thumbs. The 1962 TIME magazine had the Leonard Nelson images, baby on the front of Time magazine, in the mailbox, sucking its thumb, a revolutionary thing. Woa to see a picture.
There is all this scientific stuff of pictures of babies doing things in the womb, sucking thumbs. In order to breathe they have to breathe amniotic fluid, they have to exercise their lungs. We know you are doing it already little ones. There are folks who are doing studies of twins, ultra sound studies of twins, and it is very clear that these twins are communicating with each other and when they watch their behaviors after they are born they see they are extending patterns that they had in the womb. Like if one is above or below, or one is more aggressive the other is not, they see all that stuff going on after birth that was going on in the womb.
The technology, to all of us natural folks, someone on the outside is saying this is happening, and in our families if you just get quiet. I remember just lying on the bed with Sandra when she was pregnant with Sasha, it is really clear there is more than one set of consciousness hanging out on the bed there. I’m guessing two of you are pregnant, maybe more. Do you want to say anything about how you communicate with your babies?
CLASS PARTICIPANT: What Mary said about being embarrassed, it really was. I have to encourage myself, you can talk out loud it is okay. I let her know that I really appreciate her movement because I get so excited, oh ya that’s right you are in there, you are moving, you are well! I usually respond to her movement by touching back, talking to her I do less but I encourage myself to do it.
RAY: Little one, your mom is telling us about talking with you.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Sometimes with this pregnancy and the last, feeling it’s challenging to distinguish what is me and what is her. The imagery I get when I am connected with her. I think that is her. It’s her. So what I felt from you is that you have a really big heart and sometimes I feel all warm and golden when I feel in tune.
RAY: Thank you. You guys just notice that just your talking to this little one, how it changed the energy in the room? I remember I was called to cottage hospital one time and a family was there and they ended up birthing by C-section and I only met this couple once and grandmother called me and I went to the hospital and when I walked in I was introduced to all the people there and the first thing I did was I turned to the mom and I said can I talk to your baby? I started having a conversation with the little one and just let the little one know what was going on and the mom took a deep breath and relaxed and it was the first time in that whole experience that she felt someone consider her baby. That is a more extreme circumstance but what you just did now, not just the quality of what is going on with you and the little one you are carrying, it affects all of us in the room. Think about that in the context of family.
MARY: Good. Just that statement: “When I think of you or feel you I feel all golden inside” that is such a beautiful image to hold the baby in. When I think back to my pregnancy with my son, I can still get the sensation of that type of connection with him. So visceral.
RAY: The quality of the sacred.
MARY: We really believe that babies have memories about their experience in the womb from what the children show us after they are born and as they are growing up. They can show us imprints of interruptions or interventions that happen in pregnancy or during the birth but they also can show us imprints that are positive, healthy, connected, love rich, as well as the imprints of interruptions or interventions, ones that are more of a wounded type of imprint. And just that beautiful statement and connection that you had with your baby is creating the more loving type of imprint. That baby has a sense of you from being inside of you and growing under your heart. Really lovely. Sometimes I have to remember that when I am seeing the babies that we work with, they are showing us other things besides the difficult challenges they may have. They show us the healthy moments as well. I want to look for those moments in the story too.
RAY: To piggyback on what Mary just said, a number of you have been in womb surround workshops that we do. I do two a month with seven people. It’s a workshop where there is a circle of people that take on the characteristic of a womb, so it’s a feminine form, and each person has a turn over five days and each turn is 2 ½ to 3 hours. In every workshop there is one, two, three people that moves into a memory of something that occurred when they were in mother’s womb and this is with adult people our age.
In my experience, being with folks, touching the memory of the experience in their mother’s womb. It is amazing how profound that experience is on our present life and the constrictions that our moms had which usually came out of a lack of support for her. Her family system, her social system, didn’t have enough layers of support so she was in stress when she was pregnant. Trying to handle a job, or 3 or 4 or 5 other things thinking that is the way to be and managing layers of stress that keep her and her baby in overwhelm. It is actually common in our western cultures so then the adult people are working on their attachment styles and how they connect with their loved ones now, their husbands and wives and partners. There is all this stuff that comes down that goes back to how their own mother and father got together, what were the stresses that went on during the pregnancy, how they were born. The folks are still living and working under that experience.
MARY: How did the mother do self-care for herself?
Nobody’s life is perfect and stress free. And this is not meant to make anyone feel guilty for what has already happened. A lot of times when pregnant moms are living in the fast lane, working and eating on the run and pushing away the cues of tiredness from their body, and they are not able to lay down and rest their bodies, there just is not enough support in their lives to do that, the stress hormones are released from the mother’s body into the amniotic fluid. That baby marinates in the stress hormones in the amniotic fluid. With the pregnant mother who has a lot of stress in her life, it is found that the baby’s nervous system develops in a way where they are preparing to meet the world on the outside where the pacing is fast, where the level of stress is at a higher. It actually affects the way the brain develops. The primitive part of the brain will develop more which holds the fight, flight, freeze.
When a mother is pregnant and is able to eat when she is hungry, drink when she is thirsty, rest when she is tired, the baby has a sensation of that. As the stress hormones start to build with tiredness, the mom lies down and goes horizontal and baby gets that sense of how a feeling of well-being comes into mom’s body. Then mom gets up and moves through the rest of her day with a sense of rejuvenation. The baby is already learning from the mother’s pacing how to care for themselves as they grow up because they are having that experience in her body in that early time. So when the baby feels tired later in their life, they will register the stress hormones, the implicit memory will cue them to want to go horizontal, rest, restore, then get up and go through the rest of their day with the sense of well being.
What do they call it - your first “school womb”? So they are getting lessons from you about how to live their life and how to pace themselves and how to nourish themselves and how long after the cues of hunger do you feed yourself or how far do you push yourself and all of that is just permeating their whole being. So a lot of times the behaviors of the young ones of how they eat or don’t eat or if they eat on the go or if they sit chew and digest or how it all gets expressed is what they have already been learning from us in the womb.
I saw my own eating habits come out in my children and I was like oh my goodness, why didn’t I slow down more!? We could actually have a meal and connect with each other but no, where did they go? Oh that one is under the table, that one is on top of the cupboard. We got as a family to a place of connection during our meals but it took a bit. And it took me slowing down and pausing, for them to learn how to do that. I kept trying to get them to do that but I had to realize, oh I have to get myself to do that first! Sit down, chew my food, and eat slowly. I always eat slow but often on the go, in the car.
RAY: So there is this guy, Peter Nathanielsz, some of you might have read his books, he has presented at APPPAH, the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health. He has done a number of studies where they study sheep. Why do they study sheep? Sheep have a relatively short life span, 2, 3, 4, years. What they have been studying is what is the effect of the ewe, the female sheep’s diet, when she is pregnant and how does that effect the aging process of her offspring when they get old. Some of the people that are funding some of his work are folks that are studying gerontology, they are studying the process of getting old and going toward death and they are making 1:1 correlations between the quality of life when we get old and the quality of life we had in the womb and the quality of nutrition that we have in the womb. 1:1 correlation. It flips right over. We are talking nutritionally, communication, quality of life, the nature of support that we give our mothers and fathers and partners. That quality of support is absolutely essential for not just the health of the mom while she is pregnant and the health of the baby while she is pregnant with the baby but the life of the baby as he or she grows up and becomes an adult and gets as old as we are.
So there is one thing that we have seen in the work we have done in BEBA now, this year is our 20th year, we had a birthday celebration last Friday some of you were there thank you for coming. In the 20 years of work, where there are about 170 families in the BEBA group and Mary and I have worked with a lot of families on our own and we all have families we have worked with in our own private practices but one of the things we have seen with the kids as they grow up, of the families we have worked with when they were young and they were pregnant is these children have a skill that most adults don’t start to get until they are either in their late teens and twenties or really get into their late twenties or thirties and the skill is called differentiation. The ability to know that I am myself, you are you, I can track myself and I can receive sensory input from you, have a sense about who you are and have a sense about who I am in relationship. Okay now the neurology to have a sense of self and a sense of other and to be able to track communication between the two, just the neurology of it takes gestation plus three years of life to get laid down and functional. The neurology takes three years plus a pregnancy for it to be fully engaged. Then it takes another set of years into the teens and twenties until we really mature in how to use it.
The skill of differentiation says I have a sense of myself and I have a sense of myself in relationship to you, not just that, but it also says I have a sense of differentiation with the people that I came from. It says I have a sense of myself in relationship to my mother, my father, my grandparents and the generations before them and not only that but I have a sense of coherency in the history that they brought to me as I came into the creation.
There are a couple concepts here that are actually quite big. But the thing we have been seeing with the kids from BEBA as we have watched them grow up is that these kids as children often have better differentiation skills than their parents. That is something astounding. And the kids that are actually the best at it are the kids whose parents talked with them when their babies were in the womb and the moms are going through something and having a hard day and you go “little one it’s not you, I’m just having a hard time, I have a big feeling going on and you aren’t causing it!”
For a parent, or like mom and dad, having some kind of spat and talking about something serious and it gets out of control and they say things they wish they didn’t say and then something settles and they have some conversation. When mom is pregnant and or even not and the kids are growing up we are able to say to the kids as adults “hi little one this is a mommy daddy conversation going on right here and it is a big conversation and you don’t have to do anything about it.” You can’t just mouth the words. If you just mouth the words it isn’t a real thing. The little ones know when they are hearing the truth and when they are not. They know when they are feeling the truth and when they are not, we think. If you are in earnest, just say “This is something we are taking care of here.” Kids that grow up in that kind of environment, and it begins in the womb, what we observe with the kids that we see in the families that are raising the kids this way is that the kids 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13-year-old kids are displaying differentiation skills where they can see their parents having a hard time, they can have some perspective on it and actually have their own lives. That is profound. That is a skill I didn’t have a clue about until I was in my 30s. I’m kind of on a soap box about this here.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I wanted to share I never got the differentiation thing. I was never able to differentiate. I was everywhere, kind of like in the others, I didn’t know what was me, I was gone. That was scary.
RAY: That is a major life skill to have. What we observe with the kids growing up in this style of being is that they are growing up knowing how to differentiate their own experience from their parent’s experience and they have a coherent sense about where they come from and what their lives are about.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I didn’t know how to do that when I was pregnant and I was the same, I didn’t have that skill. I was learning it as I was doing it, we learned it together when my son was in my belly with support. I would differentiate and I would do it for myself and for him and we would do it together.
RAY: Then as he grows up you keep doing it. I’ve watched my own kids and her kids, you watch those kids, they have a strong sense of themselves in relationship to themselves and their parents and each other and the family. It’s a very cool thing.
I remember there was a family that came out from Michigan with an adopted little boy he was 3.5 years old and they pulled the trailer out with their car and drove out and stayed in one of the parks here and I worked with them for several days in a row and I have done work out there so I would visit them when I was out there. The stories I’m telling I have permission to share. The mom and dad come in this one day and they told me the story of what happened in the morning in the trailer. Mom and dad got in an argument and their three-year-old boy looked up and said “Mommy and daddy you guys are mad. I’m going to go outside and play, let me know when you are done.” That for a 3.5/4-year-old kid is a rather profound thing to be able to do. Like he knew that his mom and dad had to work something out and he also knew that it wasn’t his fault, and this was an adopted boy which makes it more complicated. That family worked their material it was really amazing to see them. I saw them last year when I was in the Detroit area and that boy is now 21 years old and he fixes cars up and flies airplanes but for him to be able to say I’m going to go outside and play you guys work it out. That was the kind of thing my mom used to say, you guys work it out and come back when you are done, which is kind of bass ackwards. Kids need the presence of adults, prenates need the presence of adults.
MARY: They need that to get a sense of themselves because it is through our reflection of them that they get a sense about who they are and how we see them. That is powerful. That babies get a sense of themselves by how adults see them and reflect to them. You know how you can gaze endlessly at a newborn and in this love and this beauty you see wholeness and you see them looking through your eyes straight to your soul and that gives them a sense of who they are by how we are seeing them. Not just getting a sense of themselves through themselves but it is in relationship.
RAY: Questions or thoughts?
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I was thinking about my daughter and the differentiating aspect and knowing oneself and I did not understand the concepts of differentiating myself before I had her or when I was pregnant and I wish I had done more even as a baby or a young child but when I could recall it, which I learned at BEBA thank you, I learned to differentiate especially emotional awareness and I can testify that she is way ahead of me in being able to differentiate my emotions and herself as well as with friends, teachers, adults, and I didn’t even really pull that up in myself very quickly or very often you know compared to somebody that has this knowledge before.
I have a question about the times that maybe aren’t so great, the stresses you are under, and also two things, the stresses you are under when you are pregnant and addressing them, the differentiating is one but maybe there is more you can say about that. The other is when you are seeing prenatal signs in an older child. I have sensed possibly that it is going back to times that are prenatal.
RAY: What do you see?
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Something emotional happens that maybe I didn’t differentiate.
RAY: You see that in your daughter?
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Yes, something I was hoping to come back and work on that with my daughter.
MARY: Nobody’s life is perfect and nobody can take care of themselves perfectly 100% of the time according to what their needs are- to eat or sleep or drink. Some things in life have to continue on especially if we have older children when we are pregnant, siblings to the prenate. The way I work with my clients is I have them recognize when self-care is needed and when they tend to override those signals and to catch the signal earlier and to act on it before they have done the pattern of what they had been taught to override for how long. I never saw my mother rest unless she was sick or really exhausted and then it was justified rest. So I grew up and chose a career that would guarantee that I would always be tired - I became a midwife. I really know how to push past the tired and I can stay up for days and nights in a row and I can keep going until all the jobs are done and Tara was one of the people who taught me how to rest.
RAY: Any one of you want to lie down you are welcome to!
MARY: The first process workshop that I took from Ray, Tara was the assistant and she was sleeping.
RAY: I told her she could! I’m leading the group.
MARY: I was so not understanding this; I was thinking, “Ray, your assistant is sleeping! Do you see that? It’s so wrong. She is not doing her job and she is a really bad assistant and what is going to happen? It is all going to fall apart, wake up please!” And she slept and she was so conked out and she totally laid down and she slept and I was not understanding this at all. Then four or five process workshops later it was starting to sink in a little bit. Oh, maybe that is okay… and then maybe twelve process workshops later that I was assisting and I finally could say “I’m going to close my eyes a little bit, everybody is okay, and still alive.” I know I have definitely nodded off even in sessions now.
RAY: Yes, you have, I look over at Mary and she is going…
MARY: We both have.
RAY: No, just she does it!
MARY: It really took me rearranging inside myself to know that I can actually rest and I don’t have to feel so guilty. What is that, why can’t I just sit down and take a breath and look at this beautiful green meadow outside my window? Wow, this is a really deep imprint!
I really had to work to allow myself to rest before I was completely exhausted and could not go on. I know how to do that so well and I can probably go beyond most of us and it has it a place that has value when I am at births, and there is a place in support of my body where it is not good. So when I’m working with pregnant families I work with them to catch cues that their bodies are giving them about being tired or hungry in an earlier place. When we have to push beyond our early cues that we are tired or hungry etc., to communicate to the baby that is what is happening and I don’t want to do that right now and I’m really sorry but we have to go this one more hour to get this done and then we are going to lay down.
You can also differentiate what is happening with your partner if you are having an argument, let the baby know that they didn’t cause it and they don’t need to take care of it, they don’t need to be the prenatal therapists and try to regulate the tension and the stress in mom’s body. The merging happens so easily when they are in the womb.
RAY: Again I had about twenty-five thoughts there just waiting for a few to come back. I really appreciate your question. Okay so what about when life is stressful and we are pregnant. That happens. What Mary just said is really really important. There is a big thing about, in our culture, there are two things. There is the self-concept who we think we are and how we think we are supposed to be and we are encultured to sit in nice rows and desks and perform and get jobs done and stuff. But in really human terms what goes by the wayside are real human needs. Our incorporated money oriented world does not look at the needs of mothers and babies and families in any real way at all. Those of us that are in the one percent that have some sense of sanctity of life and perception that our babies, our prenates are sentient, there is something we are doing we actually have to stop and pay attention to what our own personal needs are. Which is different than any idea I have of myself about what I think I have to get done because I grew up having some expectation on me.
So when you look at basic need: eat, sleep, poop, pee, human contact. Very basic needs, you look at those basic needs, and we attend to those needs our babies do better. One to one correlation. We are talking about prenatal communication. What we do communicates something to our babies. For me to actually, I love that story that you just told because it is like to just stop and give myself permission to say I need to take a nap. And then to have the support to be able to do that and to reassess what our real expectation that fit what our human needs are as mothers or fathers just for ourselves. If we are single parents it is a whole other layer or layers that go in there too.
It appears to us as we watch your children grow up that the more communication that is straight forward and honest that those children have about what is really going on in the family, what really are the stresses, the more capable the children are to be with them. One of the things we can do with any of this information is we can take this information in and then go home and beat ourselves up with it because we are getting some nice lofty ideas here. But in real life there isn’t a day that goes by without some kind of stress happening. The question is when something stressful happens can I actually stop and give myself a few moments to take a couple breaths, call a friend up, or talk to somebody who can be real with me, my friend here, my friend there and just like connect with somebody who can be real with me and just say “Hey I need some support right now.” The more often that I do that, the less stress I have in my body. Really simple.
MARY: When we do that amongst our friends or our work it usually is not just us who are needing rest and it often reflects to them their own need for the same thing. Like at birth I used to feel like I couldn’t leave the mother’s side to eat, or rest, or pee, in a long labor because then I wouldn’t be doing my job so I would push myself past that tired or hungry place in order to do what I felt I was really there to do. Learning this other part that when I was at a birth and I went and laid down it allowed the mother to finally fall asleep or the father to lay down and rest and it really gave permission for the family dynamics to shift in that.
Just today I was on a conference call with three women getting support from three women for a situation I was in. I didn’t mention that to anyone in my family and I get off that call and I check in with my daughter to find out she was getting support for something. We were doing it simultaneously not knowing what the other was doing. So you aren’t the only one who needs whatever you are needing in the situation you are in and it just supports everyone around you to have that reflection.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I wonder if sometimes it doesn’t go the other way too, I notice at times my daughter will name what she is in the middle of and I can realize oh right I’m in the middle of that too but she is the one differentiating for me sometimes because she learned it better than I did. It can go both ways.
MARY: Definitely. So many times my kids are like oh thank you! I remember Marco was two, my son, and I had just been in this argument with his father and he had witnessed the argument and my husband went off and we had this bathroom with a rug on the floor and it was a spacious comfortable bathroom and I was sitting on the floor and he comes over and puts his arm around my neck and he says “Daddy get in here! I want daddy in here! Daddy, Sit!” Alex sits down and Marco says, “Kiss mommy” and so he did and he goes “Good”. It was like he knew what we needed to do and we sat and talked in a different way than we had been. I got up and went into Marco’s room and he was sitting in his room kissing his teddy bear. He knew what the need was. He didn’t have to sit in the tension but he knew what needed to happen and went and did that with his own stuffed animal.
RAY: Alright so we have been talking about support and we have been talking about communications with our preborn kids right and one of the things that we do when we sit with families is we look at the layers of support that mom and baby have and dad has or partner has within the family. We do this routinely. We just look at, our question has been for a long time, what quality of support best serves baby and mom. We are talking about this in relationship with communicating with our preborns because as we are saying what we do also communicates to our kids.
So over a period, we have been working together what ten years? Okay so we have looked and assessed a lot of families with this and what we find is there is a quality of relaxation that mom and baby can get if there is two layers of support to the baby, two layers of support to the mom, and two layers of support to the midwife. That if those layers of support are there what happens is the babies really flourish. Now whether you are in a single parent family or a dual family we have seen couples with kids behave like single parent families but whether you are in a single parent family or a couple family look at your families in relationship to the number of layers of support.
MARY: So we would like you to do the exercise so get yourself in groups of threes and what we will have you do is one of you be the baby, one of you be the parent, and the baby will just lean into the parent, and the third person will be the support person, Each of you will have the opportunity to be in each role.
RAY: Also maybe you could structure it different with the pregnant moms. The pregnant moms get support and then we add one more layer to that. Just do one layer first, so whoever is the baby lean into the mom, or the pregnant mom lean into one other person.
MARY: Just notice how much you are leaning into that person or not leaning. If you are holding yourself or if you are allowing yourself to lean into that other body. Babies are getting two layers of support and just notice how that feels for your body to get two layers of support and what it feels like for those of you with a baby in your belly. For those of you who aren’t touching anyone yet if you can just lean in and offer support to those who are being leaned on and pregnant moms just notice what happens to yourself when the next layer of support comes. And then we are going to add one more layer of support so you can each see how that registers as well.
RAY: So what Mary is just suggesting just now is within your group just actually share with each other how it was for you to experience the layers being added and you start from the littlest one to the next one to the next one.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Does that mean we actually have to get out of this position?
MARY: You can debrief right where you are!
RAY: I wonder if we could just have a few people share about what it felt like to have the layers coming in maybe one or two of you could share.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I was the baby, I will share. I immediately cuddled into momma’s arms and that was easy, that was Maggie and she was behind me and it just felt very warm and all encompassing. I could feel Victoria to the side, she wasn’t actually coming into the role yet and I could just feel her presence and once Vicki came in behind Maggie, it shifted from that soft laying back to really feeling strength and foundational so it sort of felt like I felt strength and a pillar energy behind and foundational and supportive and once Mary came, that encompassed not just feeling from behind me but all of us felt like it was one unit of foundation of strength just solid very solid.
RAY: So you can feel each layer.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Yes, very clearly.
RAY: Thank you very much.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I’ll share. I wasn’t expecting to notice much of a difference when the next layer came in but it was really interesting for me that once I laid back on her I was immediately worried about being too much weight for her, squishing her, about her not being able to breathe, and as soon as the next layer came in I could still feel her leaning against me and pushing against me with her breath but there was no more worry about suffocating her.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I found it fascinating too that as the first layer of support as the other layers came in behind me that I could relax more and more so it was like this interesting thing of being able to support in a relaxed state. It was like wow. It was a big aha!
RAY: Aha, ya. Just with that we got two guys in the room and all the rest women and a couple little ones. From the perspective of dad or partner there is a whole thing in this exercise about what does a support person do? Support people what did you do?
CLASS PARTICIPANT: We were there.
RAY: Just being there What we see is the dads, partners, or support people you know at birth if they have the capacity just to be in presence and to position themselves in a place where mom can lean on them and they have some sense of stillness and attentiveness and not doing, everybody relaxes more. If you look at the way our modern world is, everybody is in to doing, but especially the male world, you know us guys have all of these ideas of who we are supposed to be in order to be a dad or whatever when the simplest thing is just to be there, to be in awe, and in some ways be a pillar where mom can lean on him. The role of that position is so profound and so simple. We see over and over again the difference in the births when you have competent support, who is not into doing is just in to being.
MARY: We did an exercise yesterday with a pregnant family and the mother leaned on the father, I rubbed the mom’s feet and Ray supported the father and we sat there and the father made a comment about how it is so different to have the support when they aren’t expecting anything back. Just simple being in simple presence. They both have extended family in the community and a lot of people coming in and it is a different interaction than when you are just being present and supporting.
RAY: It is kind of mind blowing to think how simple this exercise is and what we are looking at is two layers of support. Okay when we look at what our life situation is and our family situation is and what we are used to doing and what our self-concepts are about what we think we are supposed to be doing and there is maybe a number of steps just to look at one’s life.
I look at my life and I look at it in terms of layers of support. Everything I do there are layers of support in it. Everything I do, the whole structure of how we teach, set up womb surround workshops, how Mary works with her birth team, how we do BEBA. Every single aspect of it has attention to the layers of support. Like I’m going to go somewhere and do a five-day work shop tomorrow morning I am catching a plane. I have two assistants, really competent people, while I am facilitating seven people and if that doesn’t work, I can call her or her and a whole handful of people night or day. I haven’t ever called you in the middle of the night though. Oh wait, I have. We have been on the phone with each other in the middle of the night multiple times.
But if you think about it and it’s just like two layers of support what do I need in order to do my life. If I have two layers of support to me that means, there is one two, three layers of support to me if I am supporting you. It feels just like that. The other really cool thing is if I go somewhere and I am by myself and she doesn’t pick up her cell phone I can remember what it feels like and when I can remember what it feels like I have this inner dialogue with my young self with little Ray, say “Ya it’s another workshop and it’s my job to handle this and it isn’t your job to handle this.” They don’t have to deal with the adult world, that is our job to do. And when I add two layers of support to that, gosh, look around the room at these beautiful people, its nine o clock time to go home, had a great time, it’s a good day to live.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: Just clarification, so at a birth if you are following this model, there would be eight people in the room supporting?
RAY: No, 14 (Laughter)
CLASS PARTICIPANT: So for, there is mom and baby one unit, dad is second layer, and then support for the dad.
MARY: Which could be a woman friend of the mothers, or the midwife, or the assistant. All the support doesn’t have to be there in the room. I can call Tara I can call Ray.
CLASS PARTICIPANT: I was going to ask you about that calling somebody, do you ask them can you hold this for me for now or for a period of time or do you consider support while you are on the phone with them?
RAY: It’s like “Hey, I am in this situation, I am not differentiating it very well and I need some help to walk through it.” You tell the story and you walk through it and she says oh remember that time. I was on the east coast having a miserable time at a workshop and I wasn’t able to hold my present age in it. There were so many layers going on in the workshop that I couldn’t hold it and I talked it out with her and just went back and did my job.
AUDIENCE: I just want to share something. A couple years ago I did a paper on secure attachment. I read something so simple, this test that they give children, strange situation it is called. The children that are securely attached when they are stressed they go to somebody for help. They reach out for help. Like oh that is so simple. So if I can learn how to be securely attached I just have to reach out. The next time my husband and I got in a fight I just called up one of my girlfriends and it wasn’t about her giving me the right advice it was just about knowing I wasn’t alone in the world.
RAY: That is such a key, that story you are sharing is so key, it’s like the children that are securely attached reach out when they are stressed. That is a key marker. If they don’t reach out, if they stuff it, or lose it, and they don’t reach out or isolate, they are insecurely attached or avoidant attached or ambivalent attached. That marker being able to reach out, we can just apply that to ourselves. How can I reach out when I begin to feel stressed? So many of us have to wait until it is a big blown up thing.
MARY: Like what you said, you don’t even have to go into the story; it is just reaching out and hearing someone on the other end. They don’t even need all the details, it’s just like hi, I need some connection. Or a new mom will be in a challenging place with her baby or with her mothering and sometimes they have told me that they called me and got my message machine. Just hearing my voice allowed them to feel supported. It can be so simple.
RAY: Thank you all very much, it was really a pleasure to be here with all you guys.
MARY: And thank you to the little ones for teaching us so much!