Wednesday, 21 November 2012

No woman should be lonely at her birth

I received a letter today from a long lost friend. I have not seen her in years and was not really aware of her situation now. She had been in my life when I was pregnant with my 2nd and 3rd child. She was a newly trained midwife then who arranged a belly cast for my third child, had helped me at a big exhibition, had done early morning yoga with me and had offered to come to the birth if my midwife could not make it. We lost touch when she left midwifery. Her letter has really moved and touched me.

Firstly because it was a “letter” – you know, a real one that comes in the post. Secondly, because she has written it with such raw honesty. Thirdly because I realise now how incredibly fortunate I have always been to have such a great network of support around me when I was pregnant. My friend is not so lucky. She has just moved to a remote part of France and is 8 months pregnant with her second child. She has no family there, no friends, no support network, no phone, no car, no computer and she is terribly, terribly lonely. She wrote asking that I remember her for her blessing way and that if I could send a small token for her to open or receive on that day it would make her feel connected to the “wise women” she has known in her life.
As I read the letter in my small living room surrounded by my 5 noisy boys the tears began to flow down my cheeks. Slowly one by one they stopped what they were doing and asked me what the matter was. I could not get the words out to describe how sad I felt for my friend. The pain was so deep inside me – a pain that a woman can feel for another woman who has been denied the most fundamental support when she is about to bring a new life into this world. Of course she has the support of her partner, but she is missing the loving empathetic support of other women.

I can not be with her for the birth, but I can give her some of my time. With the loving support of my husband I will fly out to spend a night with her, to cook for her, to massage her, to go for a walk, to play with her daughter and to listen to her. All women need love, care and support when she comes to the end of her pregnancy so if you know anyone who is approaching that time, take an hour or 2 to spend time with her, to cook her a meal, to write her a letter, to let her know that you thinking of her. It will mean so much to her. So thank you to my sisters, my mother and my friends who did that for me. It is something I will always treasure.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Give your children a head start - word by word !

Language is one of the most powerful and influential ways to shape your child. The words we use and how we say things have an enormous influence on the way our children develop, how they behave and most importantly how they feel about themselves. 

Children will inherently do what they believe you expect them to do, as all they know about the world and how they fit in is from you. If you continually tell them they are clever, smart, funny, that they can do something, that you are proud of them - they believe this without a second thought. In the same way if a child is told they are stupid, no good, bad, naughty, trust you to do that, how can you be so silly - then they will also believe it to be true, and consequently behave accordingly. Not only does this make them feel those things, it also gradually wears away at their confidence and self esteem - the two things which hold people back more than anything else in the world. 

Children’s inherent need to be accepted by people around them, their amazing pace of development and their acceptance of things at face value means that they take everything in and are extremely suggestible. Young children do not yet have the little voice in their head that says, “what if, I must, I shouldn’t, If I do this, then this will happen etc.”, so they simply accept everything that goes on around them as they way things are - They have no other comparison.

There are two particular patterns of language which can have a major influence on your children. One is the “don’t do that, or xxx will happen” and the other is speaking about the behaviour of the child and not the identity of the child. 

The first pattern which is so common and yet can so often have the opposite effect is the use of “Do not do xxx”, especially when followed by “or yyy will happen”. Children’s minds are extremely literal and take in words at face value. Our brains are not capable of “NOT” doing something; we have to actually do it in our mind before we can think ‘not’ to do it. Let me give you an example. If someone were to say “Do not think of a Pink Elephant” what happens - You have to think of one, so as not to. Or if I say “ the cat is not chasing the dog”. The same applies. So by telling a child “do not touch that”, “don’t fall down or “don’t spill your drink”, they must get an image of touching, falling or spilling first. This has then actually given them the idea or suggestion to do exactly what you are asking them not to do. By making your suggestion in a positive way, that is by telling them what you DO want you are far more likely to have the desired effect. Such as ‘keep you glass upright, get safely down, keep your fingers away from the door’. You are both telling them that you expect them to succeed and so you are giving them an image of succeeding rather than failing. 

The second pattern has a more profound effect. So often parents tell their children off by attacking their identity - “you are a bad boy” “you are a naughty girl” “are you stupid or something?” The child takes this literally and feels that they, as a person are bad, naughty, stupid etc. when in fact it is certain behaviours that are inappropriate or wrong in a particular context (i.e. not socially acceptable). Again these feelings slowly wear down self-confidence and self esteem. Children of course need to know what is right and wrong in each circumstance such as running around a restaurant is not right but running around in the play ground is OK. It is therefore so important that you let your child know that the behaviour is inappropriate, so rather than “you really are naughty boy” say “running around in a restaurant is naughty”. Again this will make sure they know what is right and wrong without making them feel bad as a person. 

So here is your challenge. For the next week, really think about the way you speak to your child. Listen to yourself. When you catch yourself giving them negative suggestions, think of a different way of saying it to get the result you want. As you do this more and more, you find that you actually start to see their actions and behaviour in a different way. You start to see them succeed rather that visualizing them failing. The more you see them succeed... the more you find that they do. 

Babies and toddlers really are like sponges. They soak up everything that is going on around them. Their little brains are developing faster than at any other time in their lives. This is when patterns of speech and the way they think are created and set. What better gift can you give them than the power of positive thinking, self-confidence and the belief that they can achieve anything they set their heart to do. You may think that that is a bit over the top as we are only taking about babies. It is not. We are talking about creating a pattern and a way of thinking which will stay with them for the rest of their lives and the lives of their children. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

20 great facts about Oxytocin

I had a great today attending the study day by Kersten Uvnas Moberg on the Oxytocin factor. Kerstin, also known as the "mother of oxytocin" is the world's leading expert and researcher on the powerful hormone oxytocin. The day was organised by Kikki Hansard and attracted 70 doulas, midwives, hypnotherapists and other birth related professionals.

Kerstin took us through a whole host of subjects relating to oxytocin including the chemical properties, the physiologiucal fiunctions of oxytocin, the research, the impact on breastfeeding, bonding and physical well being of mother, other areas of research using the hormone including autism and substance abuse and ended with some very major questions about the challenges that we will face if birth continues to travel down the path of routine medicaisliation, increased augmentation of labour, increased Cesarean sections and decreased breastfeeding.
All in all it was a very interesting and thought provoking day. Here are the top 20 interesting facts about oxytocin which I learnt today

1. It was the first hormone to be isolated and synthesised

2. Because it is predominantly a female hormone, little research was done into its properties

3. It is a very “old” hormone in that it has been around in animals long before mammals came to be

4. Lifes reproductive system revolves around oxytocin

5. Oxytocin is a hormone but is also a neurotransmitter (ie is is produced in nerve cells all over the body)

6. Epidurals block the release of oxytocin as they block the transmission up the spinal cord

7. Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding which increases the activity in the gastrointestinal tract so making the mother use calories more efficiently

8. Oxytocin lasts in the body for about 3 mins but the effects can last upto 3 hours

9. The more oxytocin is released tn the body, the more accumulative the effect, so long term breastfeeding mothers benefit for the affects for years later!

10. Oxytocin increases the pain threshold, increases social interaction and increases curiosity

11. Oxytocin contributes to the healing of tissues!

12. Eating good food produces oxytocin

13. Men also produce and benefit from oxytocin

14. Oxytocin can lead people to being very trusting which may have some drawbacks

15. Rhythmical stroking of the skin (at about 40 beats per minute) releases oxytocion – 5 mins of stroking leads to a reduction in blood pressure for up to 3 hours

16. Oxytocin blocks out cortisol and so decreases stress and anxiety in mothers

17. Babies pummelling the breast is a vital process to release oxytocin

18. Babies who have skin to skin (ie release oxytocin in themselves) cry less

19. Oxytocin is released in pulses of about 90 seconds

20. Hugging stimulates the cells to produce oxytocin which is why hugging feels so good!

A big thanks to Kerstin, Kikki and Nicola for organising the event (and thanks for the lovely chilly con carne and wine in the evening!)

you can see a clip of Kerstin talking about Oxytocin here