#YearofDeepListening (1)

The Year of Deep Listening | April 2022

Parenting Journey: Silence The Noise
by Alison Ford, Inclusive Education Coordinator - Child Protection Team, EtonHouse International School Orchard
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When my husband and I became parents, there was a lot of noise. The baby, yes, but that was to be expected! The unexpected noise came from other sources… well-meaning family and friends, parenting websites, blogs, social media and various other outlets. It was overwhelming. I have always been a ‘planner’ and pride myself on my organisation and research skills; my travel itineraries have been shared multiple times with friends of friends and beyond. But now we were planning our biggest adventure and there were so many things to consider. So many things to Google! So much Googling. 

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Let me explain. Parenting does not come with a handbook (it should). But even before becoming a parent, there is pregnancy to navigate: eat this/don’t eat that; take this supplement, but not that one; drink this tea, but not that one; exercise, but not too much; take care of your mental health, rest, relax… etc. It’s a lot! Early on in the pregnancy, we came across the Positive Birth company from the UK, a resource for positive parent-led birthing experiences, and it resonated with me and my values.

Delving further into the website, I learned about hypnobirthing and that became the foundation for the positive birth that we wanted. Our due date came and went and having taken my maternity leave already, I had four blissful weeks to rest, nest and prepare. I meditated daily, using my hypnobirthing recordings, and took long walks in our local nature park. A daily yoga session helped me to feel further grounded and connected with myself. I was very much in tune with and listening to my body as we prepared for this momentous occasion. 

As expected, babies don’t follow the rules and our boy arrived two weeks late by unplanned caesarian section. When the doctor told us what would happen during the surgery, I replied calmly and with a smile ‘OK’. He was shocked and replied that most women don’t respond like that! I laughed and told him I had been ‘meditating’. In truth, I was calm because I felt in control. My husband and I had approached the birth as a partnership; listening to each other, our excitement and fears, and creating a plan of our hopes for the birth that we could share with the medical team. Despite this unexpected change of plan, we were OK. The choice was ours to make and we did so feeling empowered. By listening to ourselves, our needs, our feelings we had removed the fear from what could have been a very frightening experience. 

So back to the noise. I was then, and remain now, utterly overwhelmed by the amount of information available to new or expecting parents: how to birth your baby, feed your baby, bath, dress and soothe your baby. How they should sleep. What to do if they don’t sleep. ‘Cry-it-out’. Fading method. Co-sleeping, crib vs bassinet… it’s exhausting! And that’s even before the baby arrives. Then once you have your little bundle of joy, they grow - quickly! - and the next thing you know you are researching toddler recipes and Baby Led Weaning sites like Solid Starts (which is revolutionary, by the way) and… phew! You get the picture. 

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It was around this time that I read for the first time ‘The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog’ by the child psychiatrist, Bruce D. Perry. A tough read in places, Dr Perry tells the stories of individuals impacted by traumatic experiences in childhood. He explains what happens to a child's brain when impacted by severe stress or trauma, and how his non-medicinal interventions helped clients to ease their pain and become emotionally healthy adults.

One story stuck with me about a foster mother who would cradle and rock the children in her care to soothe them, even long past infancy when they were six or seven years old. This woman had no formal clinical experience or training in child development. She was using her intuition and instinct to care for her wounded ‘babies’ and the results were profound. Dr Perry theorised that children’s brains could be healed in this way. Through authentic human connection with a caregiver meeting them at their emotional level. 

Theme Of the Year - Apr

Suddenly, there was clarity. The noise was silenced. For our children to thrive, we didn’t need all the websites and guides and blogs and online courses and everything else that was clamouring for our attention (and money!). We just had to ‘listen’ to ourselves and to our babies; to connect with them authentically, and to meet them where they were. Like our ancestors have done for thousands of years. I know that this might not come as easily or as intuitively to all parents and this is in no way meant to diminish the very real challenges of becoming a mother, or father for that matter. Post-partum (post-natal) depression is real. Post-partum anxiety is real; as I experienced myself despite all the preparation and self-care. Parenting is hard enough without all the noise from outside influences. My husband and I have now learned to drown out the noise and to listen to ourselves and our child. Our instincts drive our decision making as parents and this is how it should be. How we, as humans, have evolved to be. 

Anything else is just noise.

 

Alison Ford

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