One of the main discussions I have had and continue to have with Mums is the issue of crying in newborns.
Crying is such an integral part of our being and a very necessary one. We can cry tears of happiness, sadness, rage, relief, disbelief, awe, jealousy, guilt, pain. There are so many emotions that can bring tears to the eyes. We all know that a good cry can bring with it a huge sense of relief and release. Mother nature is clever…..way too clever to perfect something that is so instinctive for it not to be useful and necessary!!
Crying is Normal
A little baby’s cry is no easy thing to listen to, most people would agree with that. Naturally so because it is their ‘only’ form of communication in those early weeks and months. They communicate their hunger, their discomfort, their pain, their fear all through their crying. The other reason they cry is to DE-STRESS. Many Mothers’ recognise hunger signs and sleep signs, and discomfort signs like when a nappy needs changing, but it is very difficult for mums to allow their babies to just simply cry.
My first experience of this was when my first child was approx. 6months and I attended a conference for a whole day. It was our first big day out together where the usual routine went pear shaped and each person I chatted to smiled and engaged with my baby, and it was all very lovely… until I got home!
After bathing and feeding, I put him down to sleep in my bed where he normally slept soundly, when he started to cry. For one hour my husband and I tried everything we could think of and then I heard a word I so often advise Mums about which was.….Surrender. In my head I knew he was dry, fed, safe and showing no signs of illness. He was clearly letting go of the excitement and over stimulation of the day. I lay down with him on my chest, played some soft music to help centre myself and find that instinctive mothering calm which is always there when we can slow the mind down, and I let him cry, which he did for another solid hour and then fell into a deep sleep until early morning. He never woke for his night feed and woke up his usual happy self in the morning.
I often wondered if I had recognised his stress from the first cry and helped him from that point if the whole process would have been a lot shorter. I feel I prolonged the process because my husband and I got stressed, which stressed him out more, which I believe wound him up more which required more time to de-stress. The value of hindsight is a great thing which forever happens in the world of parenting!! I guess that’s what makes great grandmothers!!
Its important to note that crying is not the cause of stress, it is a response to stress…it is a stress reliever. If a parent feels assured that all of baby’s needs are met (they are clean, fed, safe and healthy) and if a baby is held lovingly in the arms of a parent and allowed to cry undisturbed, this is a release. It’s a letting go and often a deep sleep will follow. I often suggest to parents to imagine they are an ‘empty safe compassionate space’ for baby to just let go. Constantly feeding and rocking and walking around serves to stress both parties out and the situation worsens and habits are formed which don’t serve Mum or bub.
I am NOT advocating leaving a baby to cry it out alone, ever. I am more advocating allowing an infant to know it is ok and safe to cry without being rocked, driven, fed or entertained. Crying to de-stress is natural and healthy. Unfortunately our western culture (despite much research) does not tolerate outbursts of emotion. There has been a small movement toward allowing little boys to cry, though the ‘big ones’ still keep a tight lid. The old ‘man up’ is still very strong. I often advise mothers on long flights or in public places to pretend they are the only one on the plane and to interact gently with themselves and calm ‘themselves first’ to create that soft place for their baby to relax. It can be so incredibly difficult for parents’ when they feel all eyes are on them and they feel everyone is thinking ‘quiet that child’!! All this serves to create more tension. So often we tell ourselves ‘ok calm down, it’s ok for my baby to cry’ when the reality is our entire body is as tight as a drum and we can barely breathe but the head is desperately trying to convince us “its all fine”.
A much more effective way of calming down is to pause and deeply connect with the abdomen which will usually feel tight and uncomfortable but with time and practice when we learn to soften into the abdomen it can become like a best friend!! Over time it will put you in touch with a truth far superior than any story your head can perceive.
Your abdomen is where you hold the big NO to life’s issues and when one learns to surrender to this resistance there is a wonderful wisdom there which can often be wordless, like a simple inner knowing that every parent has.
Often when we first start to sense into our body and soften into the tension being held there a resistance that will arise in the form of fear, sadness or despair (depending on how exhausted you feel!). Initially this can feel very uncomfortable and we zip back up into the head to avoid the feeling. This is like being stuck in checkmate.
The head is firing off its story and the feelings are being suppressed and nothing can move. So one looks at what TO DO. The issue is what TO BE in those moments. The way TO BE is soft compassionate and gentle with oneself. The aim is to focus gently and SENSE in the resistance in the body and simply feel what is there. Don’t label it or judge it or give it a story.
Let your breath just soften and be with it in a gentle curious unknowing way like you are waiting patiently for it to release. You are not aiming to diminish it or get rid of it or gain power over it in any way whatsoever. You sit in an aware space of allowing and if tears or frustration or despair arise EMBRACE it like you would your child or your best friend if they came to you in that state. There is such a release that follows. Our bodies are so intelligent, so much more capable of dealing with strong emotions when we can let go of the mind and soften into the body.
Talk About It
If the situation is just too intense to hold that silent awareness, it can help to just talk to your baby in a manner that simply acknowledges how you are both feeling. It just flows like a calming dialogue of exactly what you are present to in that moment. It might flow something like this….
“we are both so exhausted and I know you are dry and fed and secure so I am just going to allow you to have a good down load and I am simply going to create a soft safe space for you to let go into so your little body can fall into a deep sleep because you are so little and you don’t know exactly what you want you just feel all over the place and you are just starting to learn how to let go and crying is the only way you know how and it is safe and you little body will feel so relaxed when you let all this go”
The truth is this conversation is also to keep you calm and grounded in yourself and you can have this conversation relate back to yourself and to your state and how this is all a learning curve for both of us!
There are times when Mothers have shared that in letting go they lay there and sobbed with their babies and felt a huge sense of release and then both fell into a deep sleep. There is such enormous freedom in letting go of control!! (Believe me I reckon every Mother is a control freak in some form or other, but mainly because we love our children so much). Unfortunately this control can fog things up and prevent us from getting in touch with and trusting our wisdom.
Over the years I have found that anything that I resist in my child through tiredness, fear, worry, judgment has a very special message for me and for my own growth. When I get that message or see it clearly, not only do I benefit but so does my child. Something magically shifts and in that sense parenting becomes a journey of discovery and a very fast track into a profound awareness of oneself in a most positive way.