Co-Parent

Be compassionate, and take responsibility 

for each other.

If we only learned those lessons,

this world would be so much better a place.

                                                                                                                       Morrie Schwartz

 

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Were you an only child?  How was that for you?

Were you the eldest, youngest, middle?

Were you a twin?

What was the experience like for you and how do you think you were affected by it?

For many years, I worked with a quirky, fun-loving, compassionate colleague.  She would stop her car to herd mother duck and ducklings to safety across the road, (even if she was going to be late), she would chat to anybody in any queue at the cafe, she wore immaculate outfits with interesting jewellery and made us all laugh with her madcap stories of incidents that could only happen to her!  One such story was the time she lost track of time while talking to some people and suddenly realised she was going to be late.  She rushed back to her motel room removing her shirt while coming through the door and apologising profusely to her cousin… until she noticed that she was in fact talking to a reclining man in orange robes who was looking amused.  Mortified, she quickly withdrew to the next floor to hurriedly dress for the reunion dinner.

She loved working with children and always found their strengths and listened to their needs.  Behind her on the wall she had stuck a cartoon which depicted a health professional being asked, ‘What is the most important thing a father can do for his children?’  He answers, ‘Love their mother.’  If you are like me it may take a while for the simplicity of that truth to hit you.

Breathe in, follow your breathe, rise above your thoughts, (imagine the blue sky above the clouds like you are in an aeroplane), up here, you can feel that all you need and give is love. Repeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bitter-sweet

The art is not one of forgetting but letting go.

And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.

                                                                                    Rebecca Solnit

 

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A sun for Hiroshima – Barry Cleavin

Questions to consider;

Are my thoughts true?

Or just my personal view?

In this moment, do I need anything?  See if you can ask for it…

In 1987, Emily Perl Kingsley described what it was like to have a child with a disability.  In her essay, Welcome to Holland, she writes of the dawning realisation that her baby is not the baby she expected, likening the hopes and dreams of expectant parents as that of planning a trip.  You’re going to Italy and you can’t wait.  You’ve planned this trip for ages and it’s going to be fabulous.  And besides, everyone you know thats been says it’s wonderful.  But when the plane eventually lands you realise, that instead of landing in Italy, you have somehow wound up in Holland.  Slowly and thoughtfully, you realise that being in Holland may just require a different mindset or an acceptance that this journey is going to be different from the one you imagined.

Having a baby brings about change, sometimes not the change we expected or would have wished for.  Who we are, how we live, how we relate are all concepts that can be affected.  Change can cause powerful emotions to rise and fall.  We grow when we don’t deny these feelings but by looking at them fully.  If you can’t discuss your strong feelings with anyone, try writing them down.  I like to use a mantra; ‘All will be well and all will be well and all will be well’,  ‘The best way out is always through’, ‘Everything is working out perfectly.’  I hope you find one that works for you.

A mindfulness technique such as, noticing your lips at different times throughout the day can be interesting.  You don’t have to change anything but the simple act of bringing your attention to one place can lighten your mood.

Further reading:

The Work, Byron Katie

 

 

 

 

Unconditional Love

‘Love is the absence of judgment.’

                                                                                             Dalai Lama

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Rose Quartz – stone of unconditional love

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being.  It’s not ‘I love you for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’  It’s love for no reason, love without an object.

                                                                                              Ram Dass

 

Questions to consider,

Was I always on my best behaviour as a child?  Why/why not?

What is my earliest memory of being loved?

Discuss with your partner or a friend

 

My friend tells the story of driving her husbands bigger car to take her friends out.  After the event they had driven off and her friend asks, ‘Is this your car, Joyce?’  They all suddenly realise that the car they are in may be the same colour and make but is certainly not the same model as her husbands station wagon!  They have stolen a car!  Well, they are certainly in the wrong vehicle, having not paid enough attention to the sticky key or the empty petrol tank sign as they had driven off.  A quick U-turn, return to the parking spot they see Joyce’s husbands car two parking spaces away, waiting for them where they left it.  How could they not have seen it?  With relief that no harm has been done, they park and spring into the station wagon, laughing and vowing to be more present and conscious, next time.

Loving our children causes us to confront how much we love ourselves.  If we wish to parent well, we will have to examine our own traits and behaviours and seek ways to avoid or change in order to be the parent our children need.  Our children are apt to trigger our own internal unsorted conflicts and it is our responsibility to provide a stable emotional climate for our children and remain calm and relaxed, accepting our children as they are.

Practice daily telling yourself or meditating on the phase, ‘I am loved, I am enough’, because it will help strengthen your resolve to parent well, as a misbehaving or upset child, is simply seeking unconditional love.

 

Further reading/listening;

Parenting, 10 Basics of Conscious Childraising.  Karuna Fedorschak

Why you will marry the wrong person, Alain de Botton

Sleepy – beyond measure

‘What is more gentle than a wind in summer?…

More healthful than the leafiness of dales?

More secret than a nest of nightingales?…

More full of visions than a high romance?

What, but thee, Sleep?  Soft closer of our eyes…

                                            from Sleep and Poetry John Keats

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Artist – Rachel Huston

What were your families views on sleep when you were growing up?  Was it seen as a punishment to go to bed early or did your siblings have different bed times than you and how did you feel about that?

Did your parent/s burn the candle at both ends?

Do you remember a time when you were allowed to stay up late and how did your body respond the next day?

Dr Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block says, ‘sleep is the primary activity of the brain during early development…lack of sleep impairs a child’s ability to learn, their emotional well-being…’  The American National Sleep Foundation Guidelines state that newborns (0-3 months) need 14-17 hours,  infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours and toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours – for the full guidelines click on the link.

In her memoir, All Things at Once, Mika Brzezinski tells the story of falling downstairs while carrying her 4 month old baby.   Her baby suffered a broken femur but fortunately not the spinal damage that was suspected.  Mika saw this accident as a wake-up call to just how sleep deprived she actually was and vowed to pace herself and to narrow her focus of what she wanted to achieve.

Short daytime naps support better night-time sleeping for both toddlers and new parents.  Susannah Marriott, suggests this energy-reclamation visualisation, to support you when you are sleep deprived:

‘Think of the energy you expend feeding, bathing, wiping, carrying and empathising.  Imagine gathering back this energy, pulling in shafts of light until you have a pulsating ball of energy inside.  Feel the healing force of this energy and reclaim it.’

Further reading;

Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution

Susannah Marriott, the art of motherhood

 

 

Birth

‘The opportunity to experience yourself 

differently is always available.’

                                                                                                              Rinpoche

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Question the thoughts that come up for you when you think about the upcoming birth, as often the brain throws up negative and unhelpful thoughts when you are struggling with situations that are new or out of your control.

Is this thought true?

Is this thought helpful and will it mean I remain relaxed and positive about the birthing experience?

What do I need to focus on in order to have a positive experience

Focus on that.  And breathe…

I am lucky enough to have seen some amazing places and events in my 20’s; the Taj Mahal at sunrise, a flock of stunning pink flamingoes glide in to feed on a lake in Kenya, the Mona Lisa, gorillas in Rwanda, but nothing could prepare me for the incredible experience of my friend giving birth to her first daughter.  It was mind-blowing and unforgettable.   Unfortunately  we don’t really experience our own babies births like that but if you have a partner, make sure they are in position for the actual moment of birth.  Awe inspiring.

My own pregnancy ended in an emergency ceasaean.  I had laboured all day but it was after midnight when I was wheeled into theatre.  I was in tears as my dream of a ‘normal’ birth was suddenly taken away, along with my partner, who was whipped away to be gowned up for the surgery suite.  The emotional pain lasted longer than the physical as I struggled with, not quite guilt but regret, until one day it didn’t matter anymore, there were plenty of other mistakes I had made with my parenting that were more within my control.

My partner tells the story of driving home alone from the hospital after I had given birth, with the window wound down and opera loud on the stereo, trying to block out the enormity of there’s no going back, we had a baby to care for, for eternity or so it seems.

I went a little stir-crazy the first days after the birth, luckily my midwife advised me to step outside at least once everyday even if just to look up at the sky and let my thoughts drift like the clouds, hear the wind in the trees or smell the air.

Further reading:

Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom   Alice Domar

A Good Birth  Anne Drapkin Lyerly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnant

“The births of all things are weak and tender, and therefore

we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.”

                                                                                                         Montaigne

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Questions to consider

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am not for others, what am I?”    Hillel

 

Do you know the fish story by David Foster Wallace?

‘There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, How’s the water?’

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘what the hell is water?’

Wallace continues, ‘How do we keep from going through adult life unconsciously…we have to remind ourselves over and over, this is the water, this is the water.’

Breathe in – think, enjoy life now, breathe out – think, enjoy life now

My older friends delighted in my pregnancy, it bought back wonderful memories for them and they showered me with love. One told of the tiny butterfly kisses of the first kicks to look out for and another recommended a book I’m so glad I read before I had children, Brainy Babies by Robyn Fancourt.

 

 

So you’re thinking about having a baby…

“Let yourself be silently drawn to the strange pull of what you really love – 

         It will not lead you astray.”

                                                                 Rumi

 

Which of these three questions do you consider the most important to ask yourself?

  1. What can I offer a baby?
  2. What was the highlight of my childhood?
  3. What are my best and worst traits I will model for my child?

Please feel free to share your thoughts

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Some time ago I heard a broadcaster reveal that he hadn’t really wanted children and had only agreed because his wife was very keen.  His children are now adults, and with the benefit of hindsight, he believes that he is a more thoughtful, caring and committed human being because of being a father.

I believe having a well-rounded life includes; connection, contribution and challenge, with or without children.

Further reading:

How to Be Alive: A guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps the World – Colin Beaven

What are Children For? – Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor