Reflecting on Childhood
Before you even think about having a baby you will start to reflect on your own childhood. You will find yourself examining the ways in which your parents raised you. There may have been ways you were parented which are in direct conflict with your own desire to raise a child. Some of these thoughts and decisions are brought about by the conscious mind. These are thoughts and experiences which we readily recall and sit not far from the surface.
What is far more interesting and far more important is the experiences and emotions which you have buried deep within your subconscious. This is your inner child. Your inner child is the reservoir of all your childhood experiences, positive and negative. To become a 'whole' parent it is really important to focus on your inner child and give healing to her. Otherwise parenting has this nasty habit of unleashing the Jack in the Box to come and get you. The Jack in the Box is an analogy for all your hurts and disappointments as a child.
Our own babies and children can stimulate our own childhood memories extremely powerfully. Our closeness to them can trigger many of the experiences we felt as a child. What our children do is rekindle the dormant emotional memory we had in childhood. It can be triggered by any intense emotion that reminds us of that or a similar event. They cause old emotions in our subconscious to waft up into our consciousness. Parents often make choices based on emotional memories. It is so important to be in touch with your emotions and to question where these thoughts and feelings are coming from.
At the birth of your own child, a parent may feel the emotional memory of their own birth trauma. The emotional memories have been pushed towards the surface because of the heightened sensations. This can result in you reliving your own birth trauma. This is why dads can faint at delivery.
Labour and Delivery
During labour and delivery, the Jack in the Box can come out as the mum experiences another level of pain and a feeling of being out of control. Her inner child is feeling another level of pain sending her to another plane of existence. In order to labour effectively she needs to control her thoughts and her mind. Once the mum starts to panic, feeling an overwhelming sense of loss of control she can hit trouble and an obstructed labour. As a midwife I can spot this happening a mile off. The mums who have been subjected to rape or childhood abuse, in particular childhood sexual abuse are more likely to struggle with their inner child and emotional memory. Any pain or trauma will bring those extremely raw emotions they've tried to bury rushing to the surface. It can feel raw, visceral and totally overwhelming.
In my outreach days as a Maternal & Child Health Nurse I recall being called out to a mum who was 10 days postnatal. Dad was struggling to manage her and was extremely concerned for her welfare. On arriving at her inner-city Melbourne home he led me to her bedroom. She lay on her bed curled up in a fetal position, whimpering and sobbing like a hurt little child. The birth and subsequent exhaustion of those early postnatal days had taken a very heavy toll. She couldn't move off the bed, she was stuck and almost catatonic and felt suicidal. When I got to the crux of the problem she disclosed that she had been sexually abused by her brother. The pain of the delivery and the subsequent unsettled behaviour of a newborn had brought all these feelings back to the surface. This new baby was a girl and she said she felt out of control as she was frightened about how she was going to protect her little girl when her own mother had failed to protect her. She really was in total overwhelm and her inner child was like a raw scab that was getting picked and picked at till it was raw and bleeding. Fortunately, her husband was totally amazing and knew that she needed professional help so had called me.
Mother and Baby Unit
Luckily in Victoria I had access to help and support from the mother and baby units that were located in and around Melbourne. These units allowed the mum to stay and bond with her baby whilst under the care of psychologists and psychiatrists. Every state and territory in Australia should have them but unfortunately this is not the case. The mum and her baby were admitted that very day and we managed to keep her safe and allow her a safe and supportive space to get herself better once again.
This is just an example of what can happen if a mother has a damaged inner child. This is why counselling pre pregnancy can make a huge difference to postnatal outcomes. I'd like to think antenatal care included this as a preventative and positive part of the service and then health care providers can support these mums so much better.
Healing the Inner Child is essential and needs raising as a priority otherwise we are potentially leaving the next generation to disadvantage and negative outcomes. We need to hold and support the mum so she can hold her child.
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