Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting over “oh poor baby”

Worried sick. That’s what I’ve been. Picking him up at every whimper to coddle him. He needs extra loving care. He is traumatized by everything that’s happened to him. Oh, poor baby.

Those are definitely the thoughts and language that I’ve been using when talking about Ethan since he stopped growing in utero at 26 weeks and was born very, very, very small. And then spent three and a half months in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit).

He’s doing great now. He’s been home for three weeks and thriving. Yet, I have definitely had those “oh poor baby” thoughts despite all of this. Despite the doctors telling me that he looks great. Despite the dramatic improvement in how our son interacts with us and his sister.

I came to realize that the “oh poor baby” mentality is not fair to him, or his sister for that matter, this weekend when he was crying hysterically.

Well not to confuse everybody, but the "ah ha" moment actually started because of Aria. (I'll get back to Ethan's freak-out session in a minute.) She's been really fussy lately. Rebelling, perhaps? And I was wondering what's going on with her. Is it normal baby stuff like gas, hunger of tiredness? Or is she wondering why she's not the sole center of attention anymore? So I asked Lior, "Am I treating them differently?"

I realized that I was. When Aria is fussy and needs to be held, I say to myself, "Oh she needs a swaddle and a pacifier. I'll pick her up and hold her." When Ethan cries, I frantically wonder "Oh my God, what's wrong with him? I don't know what to do. Is he okay? What do I do? What do I do?"

And in that moment when I was freaking out because Ethan was freaking out (and Aria was burying herself in her swaddle to drown out the noise), I realized that I wasn't helping him by freaking out and imposing on him the "oh poor baby" mentality. "He needs to be treated differently."

It dawned on me that I am really not helping him (or myself) emotionally either. I'm the mom. He is four months old. He needs me, just as she does, to take control of the situation and figure out how to help him. And not to freak out, because then they will freak out. A cough is just a cough. A sneeze is just a sneeze. A vomit is just a vomit. And a cry is just a cry. Just as I treat Aria when she's upset. Like a normal baby. That's all.

With that moment of clarity, I reached for a pacifier and a swaddle, and I picked him up. And I realized that I am judging him unfairly - and unjustly for that matter. Babies are incredibly attuned to the energy we send them. I see this unfold every single day. The babies read my energy and respond in turn. And my own insecure thoughts, and even worse, the "oh poor baby" ones, can hinder his ability to thrive. To become self-sufficient. To grow and develop.

And it's not fair to Aria either. She's been telling me this for weeks now.

I realized that I needed to process everything that had happened with the pregnancy, the birth, and the post-partum period, accept it, and let it go. I believe I’m there now, and I am already seeing changes - big changes - over the weekend and this morning.

Here’s how I am doing it: First, I became aware and mindful that I was projecting judgmental thoughts and feelings. I didn’t blame myself or feel bad about it. I simply became aware and set an intention to change it, to turn it around. Next, I meditated on changing my thought patterns. I consciously became aware of my thoughts while feeding both Aria and Ethan. And I mindfully focused on non-judgment. I kept repeating the words: “Non-judgment, non-judgment, non-judgment.” And I automatically, you could even say intuitively, became present. I began focusing on my breath and on how grateful I am. I felt this incredibly healing, positive energy come over me. And I exhaled. It was great. A moment to savor. They were both eating vigorously, and they both looked content.

And then suddenly, with my mind clear of clutter, I began to notice a change in him. He was growing before my eyes, smiling, eating more, crying less. I saw that he is thriving. He could very well have been doing this all along, but I finally saw my son – as he is – for the first time. A healthy, thriving baby.

I am going to continue practicing presence and gratitude with both Ethan and Aria, especially while feeding them. And I will continue to be mindful of not judging them. Accepting them for who they are.

And I’m starting to realize that my children are teaching me incredibly valuable lessons that are helping me grow in my relationship with myself and with others. Perhaps if I begin to perceive myself with non-judgment, I will thrive more and more. I will see myself for who I really am and live my authentic self more naturally. And perhaps by practicing non-judgment with myself, it will be easier to practice non-judgment with others, and then those relationships will flourish and people will have the space to feel like they can be truly authentic with me.

I'd say that that’s a pretty good goal. Be with myself and others in non-judgment, with presence. I have a feeling that this isn't the last of the lessons that Ethan and Aria will teach me over the years. But I'm savoring this one for now.

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